Ireland v United States

Pregnant Amy Rodriguez to miss NWSL season

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So here’s a new twist for the already hamstrung Seattle Reign. The team that was allocated Megan Rapinoe (who won’t report until June) and Mexican playmaker Teresa Noyola (also contracted with a European club until June) may now be without the player expected to be their leading scorer during the upcoming campaign, though there may have been little way to foresee why U.S. Women’s National Team forward Amy Rodriguez won’t play for Reign FC this season.

Sources confirmed late Tuesday evening that Rodriguez is pregnant, with her and husband Adam expecting the couple’s first child. Seattle Reign FC later confirmed via Twitter that the 25-year-old will miss the upcoming domestic season.

“We congratulate Amy and her husband on this wonderful news,” team owner Bill Predmore said via press release late Tuesday night. “We let her know we are here to support her in any way we can and that we look forward to having her join the club in 2014.”

Putting sports aside, congratulations are in order. The parents-to-be, married since October 2011, are about to embark on a new family. On the list of things that transcend sport, this is near the top. Assuming this is relatively recent news, the joy of days like these should highlight a long life together.

But there are obvious competitive implications, both for the national team and Rodriguez’s new NWSL club.

On the international level, Rodriguez was called into Tom Sermanni’s first national team camp, and there’s no indication yet she’ll miss early March’s important Algarve Cup tournament. Perhaps as important, she won’t miss the vital training sessions and friendlies that define these first weeks under Sermanni’s stewardship. For Rodriguez, a player who was slowly losing playing time under Pia Sundhage, those first impressions are especially important.

UPDATE: Rodriguez departs national team camp, replaced by Bywaters

Come spring, Rodriguez seems set to step aside, but with the type of physical shape in which U.S. women’s national team members keep themselves, she may not miss  many national team opportunities. Christie Rampone legendarily was pregnant as player and coach for WPS’s first title winners. Rodriguez won’t replicate that feat, but if she delivers in late summer, she could be back playing before the end of the calendar year.

Her time out of the team is unlikely to make-or-break her fortunes with the national team, especially considering much of the summer’s focus will be on the domestic season. As far as the national team ambitions of the two-time Olympic gold medalist, the timing couldn’t better.

Domestically, however, the effect is obvious. Seattle loses one of their best players, and with limits on free agency, it’s unclear how the Reign can come close to replacing her probable contributions. An already mixed offseason for general manager Amy Carnell and head coach Laura Harvey just got more complicated. Whereas Seattle looked like one of the winners on allocation day, now no team in the league may be in worse shape.

“Amy’s pregnancy came as a surprise and has introduced some challenges that we are now beginning to work through,” Harvey said on Tuesday.

Expect Seattle to work with the league to determine what kind of roster and salary cap flexibility the team might get. According to the team’s Facebook, they’ve already reached agreements with three free agents and one international.

“In light of the news, we are conferring with NWSL about potential adjustments to the cap and roster,” Carnell said.

If U.S. Soccer does right by the them, Seattle may get some extra room to try and replace A-Rod.

Bremen beats Wolfsburg to leave Bundesliga relegation zone

BELO HORIZONTE, BRAZIL - AUGUST 10:  Serge Gnabry of Germany reacts during the Men's First Round Football Group C match between Germany and Fiji at Mineirao Stadium on August 10, 2016 in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.  (Photo by Pedro Vilela/Getty Images)
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WOLFSBURG, Germany (AP) — Midfielder Serge Gnabry scored twice as Werder Bremen moved away from the Bundesliga’s relegation zone with a 2-1 win at fellow struggler Wolfsburg on Friday.

Bremen and Wolfsburg are level on points and two above Hamburger SV, which is in 18th place and in the relegation zone.

It was a fifth defeat in six games for Wolfsburg coach Valerien Ismael, who won the league and cup double as a player with Bremen in 2004.

Gnabry fired the visitors ahead with a deflected shot in the 10th minute and made it 2-0 eight minutes later, controlling the ball with his chest before prodding home on the volley.

Striker Borja Mayoral, who is on loan from Real Madrid, scored with his chest following a Wolfsburg corner as Wolfsburg hit back moments later.

Midfielder Daniel Didavi struck the post with a free kick as Wolfsburg kept pushing for an equalizer.

Mancini reportedly not interested in Leicester City, De Boer says no

GENOA, ITALY - APRIL 20:  Head Coach of FC Internazionale Roberto Mancini looks during the Serie A match between Genoa CFC and FC Internazionale Milano at Stadio Luigi Ferraris on April 20, 2016 in Genoa, Italy.  (Photo by Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images)
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Two top candidates to replace Claudio Ranieri at Leicester City have reportedly turned down any interest in the job.

Roberto Mancini, the heavy favorite out of the gates after Ranieri’s dismissal, tweeted his support for Ranieri after the news broke. “I am sorry for my friend Ranieri,” Mancini said. “He will be in the history of LCFC, in the hearts of Leicester fans and all football lovers.”

However, the fellow Italian has rebuffed Leicester’s informal advances towards his services. According to Sky Sports, Leicester sent “intermediaries” to “sound out” Mancini’s feelings towards the position, but came back empty-handed. The report states Mancini was turned off to the club after a short and unsuccessful spell there as a player in 2001.

That leaves a host of other names who have been linked to the job, with no clear favorite. One person mentioned was Dutch legend Frank de Boer, who is unemployed after an unusually short stint in charge of Inter Milan. However, De Boer’s agent went public to say he was not ever in the running.

“There is zero possibility that Frank could go to Leicester,” agent Guido Albers told Italian publication Tuttomercatoweb. “I too heard these rumors, but that’s all they are – rumors. I can affirm without doubt that Frank will not become the Leicester City manager. This will 100 per cent not happen.”

Albers explained that De Boer is only interested in joining a club in the offseason, preferring to enter a project with a blank slate rather than joining midseason with particular goals already clearly laid out. With Leicester, it seems De Boer is turned off by the notion of a relegation battle.

Win over Las Palmas again has La Real on edge of CL spot

GETAFE, SPAIN - DECEMBER 11:  Xavi Prieto of Real Sociedad in action during the La Liga match between Getafe CF and Real Sociedad de Futbol at Coliseum Alfonso Perez stadium on December 11, 2015 in Getafe, Spain.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
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All it took was one mistake. Real Sociedad’s Xabi Prieto capitalized, and has La Real once again on the verge of next year’s Champions League.

La Real finished 7th in 2013/14, and 9th in 2015/16, and this year, they’re closer than ever. Preito’s goal on the mistake by Las Palmas goalkeeper Javi Varas gave Real Sociedad the 1-0 road win and has them just a point off a Champions League place.

[ MORE: Antonio Conte pulling from experience to keep Chelsea on top ]

That could be even closer next week, as fourth-placed Atletico Madrid has to welcome Barcelona to the Calderon tomorrow, leaving the door open for La Real to make another move next weekend.

The goal down the stretch is not just to win the games they should, but make the teams above them work. La Real has won seven of their last ten matches, but the three losses came to Real Madrid, Villareal, and Sevilla, all teams fighting at the top of the table. They still have chances down the stretch, with matches against Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Sevilla, and Eibar coming up, with the latter on the docket next weekend.

Conte pulling from prior experience as title race pushes on

WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 18: Antonio Conte, Manager of Chelsea looks on during The Emirates FA Cup Fifth Round match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Chelsea at Molineux on February 18, 2017 in Wolverhampton, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
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Antonio Conte has recalled some painful memories to push himself and his players forward despite their commanding lead at the top of the Premier League table.

Chelsea sits eight points clear of Manchester City, and has the chance to go even further in front with many of the top teams off this weekend, but that won’t give the Italian any better sleep at night.

In the 1999/2000 season, Conte was nearing the end of his 13-year Juventus tenure. He’d won three league titles already, plus two league cup trophies and a Champions League title with the Serie A giants. With a comfortable nine point lead after 26 matches, the club became complacent. They would lose four of their final eight matches, collapsing on the final day in the pouring rain, allowing Lazio to come roaring back to win the title.

[ MORE: JPW’s Premier League picks for Week 26 ]

“I was captain of the team,” Conte said. “I remember after this game I must go to the European Championships with the national team. I didn’t sleep for six days because it was a shock for me to lose the title.”

Clearly, that still haunts him. “I have experienced this,” Conte continued. “When I continue to repeat that there are 13 games, there are 39 points… there is a long time before we can say we won the title. We must be focused, we must go step by step.”

The Blues host Swansea City at Stamford Bridge on Saturday before a trip to West Ham next weekend. If anyone believes the Chelsea players are complacent holding such a significant lead with 13 matches to go, it’s clear that’s not nearly the case. Anything can happen in three months.