Leroux of the U.S. celebrates her goal with teammate O'Reilly during the second half of their friendly women's soccer match against Canada in Toronto

Sydney Leroux celebration more about the reaction than the act


“Classless” was the description that came out of the booth of Sportsnet, the network that broadcast Sunday’s game across Canada. Most reading this post were thankfully spared our neighbor’s coverage of today’s Canada-United States match, wherein the celebration of Sydney Leroux’s 93rd minute goal was labeled “way too American” – the type of sly generalization that’s never used in a positive light.

As the ball reached the back of Erin McLeod’s net, Leroux turned to a crowd that had been booing her since her 74th minute introduction. Reaching to the upper-left corner of her kit, Leroux held up U.S.’s centennial crest, displaying it to the crowd as she shuffled twice in front of a section of fans. Then, turning back toward her teammates, she held a finger to her lips, shushing more than those who had berated her over the preceding 20 minutes. The Surrey-born U.S. international was speaking to fans at 2012 Olympic qualifying in Vancouver, the constant stream of people deriding her on social media, and anybody who’d failed to respect the decision she made two years ago, one that led her to represent the U.S. instead of Canada.

“Shh,” she said told them all, a symbol that’s so over-utilized in world soccer as to become cliché. Andrey Arshavin may be most famous for using it, though at the peak of his powers, he was shushing nobody in particular. For the Russian Prince, the action was so obligatory, it became cute. Nobody labeled him classless, but because Leroux’s use was contextually appropriate, it was somehow, paradoxically uncalled for?


And the lifting of the badge? There aren’t many opportunities for people to do the same in international soccer, but at the club level, we see it often enough to be familiar with the practice. Again, Leroux wasn’t breaking new ground.

(Full celebration can be seen in the animated gifs to the right, which were collected from a search of Tumblr.)

So what does it even mean to call that recycled, easily recognizable celebration “too American?” Can we even remember another American evoking those actions? How can something be “too American” if Leroux might be the first U.S. player to do it?

On the surface, Sportsnet’s remarks lazily play into an insensitive trope – the stereotype of the brash American – but said in the context of a 3-0 loss, as boos rained down on Leroux from a near-capacity BMO crowd, the comment carried none of the levity usually associated with the innocent jibes that often target Americans. It was bitter. It was ugly. It was reactionary and slightly venomous. The missive was a xenophobic response to a source of legitimate frustration, one with which U.S. fans could otherwise empathize.

That’s because the States have their own Sydney Leroux: Giuseppe Rossi, the New Jersey-raised Fiorentina attacker who turned his back on the United States to play for the Italian national team. Despite completely understandable reasons for doing so — a cultural connection from moving to Italy at 12 years old; the relative statures of the U.S. and Italian teams — fans of the U.S. national team have never forgiven the former Clifton resident, often ignorantly described his as traitor. As if soccer allegiances ever provide a reason to use such exaggerated labels.

Sportsnet’s comments are of the same ilk. Ascribing any player’s actions to an entire culture should never be done lightly, especially when done in a context that portrays you as upset a talent that could have played for your home nation didn’t elect to put on your uniform. There’s little Christine Sinclair, Diana Matheson, or Desiree Scott could have been done to be labeled “too Canadian,” and if that label did come out, it probably wouldn’t have been used as a pejorative toward Lauren Sesselmann, a Wisconsin-born defender who started for the Canadians today.

You can understand why the crowd in Toronto would boo a player like Leroux, just as you could see a U.S. crowd directing derision at Rossi. We tolerate far more frivolous reasons for denouncing players, just as we put up with far more crude ways of celebrating touchdowns, home runs, and goals from players who aren’t at conflict with the crowd. If Giuseppe Rossi responded to the barrage of negative feedback he’s received from American fans by lifting the Italian flag after scoring on U.S. soil, would that be classless? And if Sydney Leroux uses the common finger-to-lips pose as a rebuttal to her critiques, that seems neither particularly American nor remarkably crass.

If xenophobic commentary like Sportsnet’s becomes common, would if be fair of me to label it as “too Canadian”? Regardless of the source? Or if Sportsnet’s broadcasters don’t like this response, can they lump similar critiques in with their “too American” missive? Or perhaps we shouldn’t go there at all. Perhaps we should just learn not to begrudge athletes their responses, just as we should learn to respect the decisions of Leroux, Rossi, Sesselman, Owen Hargreaves, Neven Subotic, and Jonathan de Guzman.

Sydney Leroux’s goal at BMO did little to change the dynamic between her and her country of birth. Nor did her celebration. The only thing that changed was the language surrounding the conflict. And unfortunately, it’s changed for the worse.

Brad Davis announces retirement at the end of the MLS season

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - MAY 27:  Brad Davis #14 of the United States in action against Azerbaijan during their match at Candlestick Park on May 27, 2014 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

The 15-year career of Brad Davis will come to an end at the end of the MLS season, Sporting Kansas City announced Sunday.

The 34-year-old has spent his entire career domestically, currently with Sporting KC for a season after spending ten years with the Houston Dynamo where he won two MLS Cups in 2006 and 2007. The club made it to the final again in 2011, but Davis missed it with an injury and the team fell to Los Angeles.

Davis also collected 17 caps with the U.S. National Team. He debuted in 2005 in a Gold Cup win over Cuba, but was a late bloomer with the national team, making 12 of his 17 appearances from 2013 or later. He earned his final cap for the Stars & Stripes in the 1-0 loss to Germany in the 2014 World Cup.

“I can’t believe that the last 15 years have gone by so fast and that this journey has come to an end,” Davis told the official Sporting KC website. “Along the way, I have met a lot of great people and have had the privilege to play alongside many great players. There are so many individuals that I look forward to thanking who have made me the person and the player I have become.”

The announcement came just hours before Sporting KC finishes its regular season against San Jose in front of the home fans at Sporting Park. With Kansas City teetering on the edge of the playoff picture, it’s likely they wanted to allow Davis the opportunity foir a sendoff should they fall short of extending the season.

Sporting sits in the final playoff spot on 44 points, level on points with Portland but above on goal difference by a single goal. The Timbers finish their regular season on the road at 9th-placed Vancouver.

VIDEO: Chelsea’s Pedro capitalizes on Manchester United error 30 seconds in

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 23: Pedro of Chelsea celebrates scoring his sides first goal during the Premier League match between Chelsea and Manchester United at Stamford Bridge on October 23, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Just 30 seconds into Jose Mourinho’s return, Manchester United trailed.

A long ball over the top from Marcos Alonso seemed ill-fated with three defenders surrounding Pedro, but Chris Smalling never collected himself and Pedro snuck through, snatching the ball and rounding David De Gea to put the Blues up almost immediately.

WATCH LIVE: Chelsea vs. Manchester United live on NBCSports.com

His goal is the fastest in the Premier League this season.

The game exploded open following the goal, with Manchester United looking for an equalizer almost straight away. Zlatan Ibrahimovic headed over and Marcus Rashford caused problems down the left inside the opening 10 minutes.

WATCH LIVE: Chelsea vs. Manchester United (Lineups & Live Stream)

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 02:  Jose Mourinho, Manager of Manchester United reacts during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Stoke City at Old Trafford on October 2, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Jose Mourinho returns to Stamford Bridge for the first time after being let go by Chelsea last season as the Blues host Manchester United live at 11am E.T. or live online at NBCSports.com.

The Special One returns to Stamford Bridge two places and two points back of the Blues, with Manchester United in seventh with 14 points. Paul Pogba retains his place in the starting lineup after bagging a pair of penalties in the midweek Europa League win. There is just one change for the Red Devils, with Ashley Young making way for Jesse Lingard on the wing.

WATCH LIVE: Chelsea vs. Manchester United live online at NBCSports.com

Henrikh Mkhtariyan misses out after a thigh injury, while Chris Smalling recovers after coming off against Fenerbahce with a slight injury.

For Chelsea, John Terry is still only fit enough for the bench as Gary Cahill and David Luiz in the middle of defense as they look to extend a streak of 10 games unbeaten for the Blues against Manchester United. Willian and Oscar are both on the bench to start after they each spent time away after family losses. Meanwhile, both Cesc Fabregas and Branislav Ivanovic miss out with injuries, the latter of which forces Conte to play a back three with Cesar Azpilicueta deputizing as a central defender, which will limit their width moving forward.

The visitors have struggled at Stamford Bridge, with just a single win there in Premier League play since 2002. This will be the first time these two managers face off, with the two matching up in Serie A play in 2009 but both were serving touchline bans that day.


Chelsea: Courtois; Azpilicueta, David Luiz, Cahill; Moses, Kante, Matic, Alonso; Pedro, Hazard, Costa.
Subs: Begovic, Oscar, Willian, Batshuyai, Terry, Chalobah, Aina.

Manchester United: De Gea; Valencia, Smalling, Bailly, Blind; Fellaini, Herrera; Rashford, Pogba, Lingard; Ibrahimovic.
Subs: Romero, Rojo, Mata, Martial, Carrick, Young, Darmian.

Manchester City 1-1 Southampton: John Stones error leaves City winless in five

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 23:  Nathan Redmond of Southampton scores the opening goal during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Southampton at Etihad Stadium on October 23, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Manchester City remains winless in its last five across all competitions after an error by John Stones at the back sent Nathan Redmond in on net, but Kelechi Iheanacho came on at halftime to salvage a point for the visitors.

Both teams were sloppy early on, with a number of poor wayward passes on either side. Nobody had an effort on goal in the opening 15 minutes, with the only chance coming on a cross from Kevin De Bruyne that flashed across the face of goal just out of Raheem Sterling‘s reach.

City slowly gained control of the match, with poor touches the only thing that let their possessional hold of the game down. Leroy Sane and De Bruyne looked dangerous on the flanks early on.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Unfortunately for the hosts, it would come undone due to a massive error at the back by John Stones. The young defender under-hit a poor back pass to goalkeeper Claudio Bravo, and Nathan Redmond pounced, touching it past a committed Bravo and into the back of the net.

City continued to push forward, and Stones thought he had immediate redemption, finding himself on the end of a beautiful set-piece delivery to tap the ball into the back of the net, but the assistant referee’s flag went up for offsides. Replays showed Stones was onside, but Sergio Aguero was not, and the Argentinian’s attempt to head the ball in the middle of the pack was illegal.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Pep Guardiola yanked De Bruyne at halftime in favor of a second striker in Kelechi Iheanacho. It did little out of the gates, as Southampton held much of the meaningful possession out of the break. Eventually, City worked their way back level, with Iheanacho the man to finish it. Fernandinho found Sane with a long ball to the left edge of the box who picked out Iheanacho, and the young Nigerian finished smartly past Fraser Forster on 55 minutes.

The game appeared to open up in the final 15 minutes. Southampton had a big chance to go back in front, but after substitute Sofiane Boufal found Charlie Austin all alone with space to shoot, the striker gunned his chance straight at Claudio Bravo. On the other end, Aguero charged forward but pulled himself into a tight angle and dragged his shot harmlessly across the net.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

The draw sends Manchester City to the top of the table on goal difference, but they are tied with two other clubs on points as the Premier League appears set for a fantastic title race. Southampton, meanwhile, stays in eighth with 13 points, moving just one behind Manchseter United with the Red Devils about to play.