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State of the NWSL, after Week 12: Reign FC’s narratives, Rankings of Power, and a look at Week 13

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If an NFL team went 0-8, we’d only watch for the train wreck. Once they broke through, we’d move on. Nobody’s interested in a 1-8 team.

But what if J.J. Watt all of a sudden appeared on their roster? And Adrian Peterson arrived a couple of weeks later? Like the record would matter, at that point. That injection of new talent on a wayward team? We’d tune in just for the spectacle.

That’s why the Seattle Reign have become must-see soccer. Midway through the season, they’ve finally added two of the league’s four most recognizable players, players whose absences had contributed to the team’s 0-9-2 first half. Hope Solo, sidelined through the season’s first two months while recovering from wrist surgery, has returned to solidify a defense that was overwhelmed through May. And Megan Rapinoe, having finished her Lyon sojourn, returned for Seattle’s draw in Rochester, the start of the team’s three-game unbeaten run.

Since Rapinoe returned, Seattle is 2-0-1.

“We’re starting to see the hard work paying off,” Seattte coach Laura Harvey told Equalizer Soccer. “We felt that we played okay in some previous games and decisions and luck hasn’t gone our way.”

That’s an understatement. Between a phantom penalty call (May 25), an out-of-character Solo error (June 9) and another phantom penalty call (June 23), Seattle recently had four points taken in aberrational circumstances. That’s not to say Seattle “should have had those points.” They did, after all, contribute to those circumstances. But it does hint Seattle’s current resurgence started before Megan Rapinoe galloped into town.

It just illustrates the fickle nature of narratives – the angles people like me choose when telling these tales. When Megan Rapinoe returns and Seattle stars getting results, it’s easy to see the correlation and think Rapinoe’s meant so much. And she’s certainly helped, but Seattle was on the verge of a breakthrough before her arrival. Any tale of Rapinoe’s illustrious contributions should note: Seattle’s been decent for a while.

It’s a shame there’s no pithy saying about correlation and causation, because it often bears reminding: They’re not the same. And while the Reign have certainly seemed to get a confidence boost from Rapinoe’s return, her performances haven’t defined Seattle’s wins. People like Christine Nairn, Jessica Fishlock, Keelin Winters and Kaylyn Kyle deserve more credit that they’re being given.

Then again, that may just be my narrative.

RANKINGS OF POWER

In reverse order. The underlying logic: Tomorrow, neutral site, who do we think is more likely to win:

8. Washington Spirit (last week: 8) – An embarrassing loss Friday at Western New York saw Mike Jorden lose his job, replaced by Mark Parsens. The move came after goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris’s post-match comments said the team lacked leadership and direction. Jorden’s response, via Equalizer Soccer: “I hope the Spirit fine her and sit her down.”

7. Chicago Red Stars (5) – A loss at Seattle sees the Red Stars lose two spots, but they’re much closer to 5 than 8 in terms of quality. They’ll be a problem tonight for Western New York.

6. Boston Breakers (6) – A Sunday win over visiting Sky Blue keeps their playoff hopes alive, but with games this week at Seattle and Portland, those hopes could be extinguished by Saturday.

5. Portland Thorns FC (4) – We could write this every week: Portland still hasn’t figured out how to replace Becky Edwards. Against Kansas City, it showed. They’re not the same team defensively, lacking somebody to protect the back line. They’re not the same offensively without that strong holder at the base of midfield. With the attack having slipped to fifth in the league, players are starting to get frustrated. There are rumblings in the house that Merritt built.

4. Seattle Reign FC (7) – It’s not an exaggeration to say two huge wins have turned the club around. The whole club.

3. Sky Blue FC (1) – Were second best in both of last week’s games, and although they got a miraculous point from FC Kansas City, their luck ran out at the boots of Sydney Leroux. They’re a rocket that’s coming back to earth.

2. FC Kansas City (4) – Two more goals from Lauren Cheney have the Blues’ midfielder running away with the MVP race. It’s not even that interesting to talk about, right now. Slightly more interesting: The comparison between her success and Christine Sinclair’s struggles.

1. Western New York Flash (2)- Carli Lloyd scored three times. Abby Wambach added two assists. And Sam Kerr wasn’t even in the country. I feel obligated to remind you: I picked this team to finish seventh.

COMING UP THIS WEEK

Wednesday, July 3

Seattle Reign vs. Boston Breakers (10:00 p.m. Eastern) – Seattle’s strength in the middle guarantees a shakey Boston defense will have to deal with Rapinoe and Nairn. Newly acquired Renae Cuellar could play, a perfect addition to an attack that lacked a true striker.

Washington Spirit vs. FC Kansas City (7:30 p.m. Eastern) – The Spirit haven’t scored since May 16, and as a team, they’ve only scored one more time than Lauren Cheney, who will miss this game and Sunday’s as she marries Philadelphia 76ers point guard Jrue Holliday. That leaves the door open for Washington to spring an upset.

Thursday, July 4

Chicago Red Stars vs. Western New York Flash (2:00 p.m. Eastern) – The teams’ last meeting ended in a draw in Chicago, but with the Flash hitting for four on Friday, Aaran Lines’ team has recaptured their momentum. Their chase for a home playoff game is on.

Saturday, July 6

Sky Blue FC vs. Washington Spirit (7:00 p.m. Eastern) – If Sky Blue’s descent has started, a visit from Washington could give them a needed boost. If they can’t win this, we’ll know they’re in trouble.

Portland Thorns FC vs. Boston Breakers (10:30 p.m. Eastern) – Depending what happens mid-week in Seattle, this may be a must-win game for the Breakers. Cindy Parlow Cone shouldn’t relish the idea of her midfield against Mariah Nogueira, Joanna Lohman, Heather O’Reilly, and Lianne Sanderson.

Sunday, July 8

Western New York Flash vs. FC Kansas City (3:10 p.m. Eastern) – It’s one versus two, per our Power Rankings. The first time Kansas City visited Rochester, they came away with their first loss of the season. The short rest between two artificial surface games could have an effect on Wambach.

International roundup: Schweinsteiger, Keane say goodbye; Denmark bags five

Germany's national team throws their captain Bastian Schweinsteiger into the air after he played his last match for the national team in Moenchengladbach, Germany, Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016. Germany won the friendly soccer match against Finland with 2-0. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
AP Photo/Martin Meissner
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Two mainstays of the international game are done with that part of their career following shutout wins on Wednesday, just two of several friendlies early in this international break.

[ MORE: Five big Deadline Day signings ]

Germany 2-0 Finland

Max Meyer picked up from his remarkable Olympics by firing home, and Mesut Ozil also scored for the Germans in a match that was not about the winner. Bastian Schweinsteiger called it a day on his international career in the win, his 121st cap. The Manchester United man finishes his career with 24 goals, a World Cup title and a EURO runner-up finish. Not too shabby.

Ireland 4-0 Oman

ROI all-time leading scorer Robbie Keane fittingly ended his tenure as an international player with yet another goal, bringing his career tally to 68 goals in 146 caps. Stoke City’s Jon Walters scored twice for the Boys in Green, and Robbie Brady (Norwich) also netted in the win.

Denmark 5-0 Liechtenstein

It took the hosts a half-hour to break down the visitors, but a pair from Feyenoord striker Nicolai Jorgensen opened the floodgates and Andreas Cornelius, Viktor Fischer and Jens Stryger Larsen finished the scoring in a blowout at the CASA Arena in Horsens. It was Larsen’s first cap.

Elsewhere
Turkey 0-0 Russia
Albania 0-0 Morocco
Estonia 1-1 Malta
Norway 0-1 Belarus
Lebanon 1-1 Jordan

Men In Blazers Podcast: Rashford at the death, Spurs draw Reds, Conte-Pep perfect

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Rog and Davo relive Manchester United’s last gasp win at Hull, break down the 1-1 draw between Spurs and Liverpool, and recap perfect starts for Pep and Antonio Conte at their new clubs.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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Five most impactful signings of Premier League Transfer Deadline Day

CURITIBA, BRAZIL - JUNE 26:  Islam Slimani of Algeria (L) celebrates scoring his team's first goal with Essaid Belkalem during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group H match between Algeria and Russia at Arena da Baixada on June 26, 2014 in Curitiba, Brazil.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images
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From panic buys to the resolution of long sagas, Wednesday’s Transfer Deadline Day was eventful and actually exciting.

Some deadline days see a flurry of loan deals and little else, but we had a bit of everything on Wednesday.

Moussa Sissoko finally found a home away from Newcastle, Mario Balotelli is off to France, and David Luiz (!!!) returned to Chelsea.

[ MORE: Every PL move from Deadline Day ]

But, in all honesty, the big names aren’t the Wednesday deals we think will really cut the muster. For those, read on.

5. Enner Valencia, loan with option to buy from West Ham to Everton — Watch out for this one, as the Hammers’ man could pair with Romelu Lukaku to be a potentially devastating problem for opposing Premier League defenses. With Ross Barkley and Idrissa Gueye in the midfield, Everton has done a ton to strengthen its run toward European qualification.

4. Marcos Alonso, permanent from Fiorentina to Chelsea — He’s solid, but more importantly represents an upgrade in depth and experience for the Blues’ back line. Alonso is the sort of back who fits Antonio Conte‘s desires, and will work well behind N'Golo Kante.

3. Dieumerci Mbokani, loan from Dynamo Kyiv to Hull — While Robbie Brady, Timm Klose, and Nathan Redmond got a lot of the headlines, Mbokani was a powerful part of the Canaries’ attack in an ill-fated campaign. At 30 he’s far from a long-term fix, but Mbokani should provide strength and skill to a Hull City side facing a very challenging campaign. Per 90 minutes, no one on Norwich touched him last year (courtesy advanced stats site Squawka):

http://www.squawka.com/football-player-rankings#performance-score#player-stats#english-premier-league|season-2015/2016#norwich#all-player-positions#16#37#10#0#90#08/08/2015#17/05/2016#season#1#all-matches#total#desc#90
Squawka.com

2. Jack Wilshere, loan from Arsenal to Bournemouth We want so badly to make this our No. 1 for many reasons, but can’t take that risk thanks to the risk presented by Wilshere’s injury history. For Jeff Mostyn, Eddie Howe, and the Cherries to win the rights to bring Wilshere to town is big for a lot of reasons. That Arsene Wenger allowed him to go is another. Frankly, this could be a game changer for two clubs’ PL fortunes.

— Honorable mention — Wilfried Bony is a nice pick-up for Stoke, but Bruno Martins Indi gives the club freedom to use Geoff Cameron in other ways. … Georges-Kevin Nkoudou is another good piece for Spurs’ attacking depth ahead of the UEFA Champions League.

  1. Islam Slimani, permanent from Lisbon to Leicester — The Algerian striker was sold on King Power Stadium by fellow Desert Warriors attacker Riyad Mahrez, and now gives the Foxes even more danger whether counterattacking or taking their talents to the opposition. With Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez, and Ahmed Musa joining Slimani, Leicester has the depth to dance in Europe.

Who spent most, made profits on transfers in Premier League this summer?

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 13:  John Stones of Manchester City in action  during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Sunderland at Etihad Stadium on August 13, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
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After a record $1.4 billion was spent in the Premier League this summer, most of the PL’s 20 clubs were throwing around money like it was going out of fashion.

[ MORE: Summer transfer grades ]

There were some huge fees dished out with the two Manchester teams spending almost half a billion dollars between them on transfer fees alone. Let that sink in.

So, that being said, with the summer transfer window slammed shut it is time to crunch the numbers and see who spent the most, who sold well and take a look at the net spend for each team.

[ MORE: Every Deadline Day deal ]  

Below is the summer transfer business from all 20 teams with their total money spent on transfers, incoming transfer fees and net profit/loss listed via information from Transfermarkt.


  1. Man City – Spent: $237.6 million (incoming: $24.3 million) – Net = -$213.3 million
  2. Man United – Spent: $185 million; (incoming: $7.1 million) – Net = -$177.9 million
  3. Chelsea – Spent: $157.6 million (incoming: $45.7 million) – Net = -$111.9 million
  4. Arsenal – Spent: $126 million (incoming: $9.2 million) – Net = -$116.8 million
  5. Tottenham – Spent: $92 million (incoming: $46.9 million) – Net = -$45.1 million
  6. Liverpool – Spent: $89.1 million (incoming: $88.4 million) – Net = -$0.7 million
  7. Leicester City – Spent: $83.1 million (incoming: $59.4 million) – Net = -$23.7 million
  8. Watford – Spent: $75.2 million (incoming: $33 million) – Net = -$42.2 million
  9. West Ham – Spent: $69.5 million (incoming: $13 million) – Net = -$56.5 million
  10. Crystal Palace – Spent: $66.4 million (incoming: $56 million) – Net = -$10.4 million
  11. Everton  – Spent: $60.4 million (incoming: $62 million) – Net = +$1.6 million
  12. Southampton – Spent: $57.9 million (incoming: $84.6 million) – Net = +$26.7 million
  13. Bournemouth – Spent: $44.3 million (incoming: $23.6 million) – Net = -$20.7 million
  14. Swansea City – Spent: $42.2 million (incoming: $54.2 million) – Net = -$12 million
  15. Sunderland – Spent: $35.5 million (incoming: $8.3 million) – Net = -$27.2 million
  16. West Brom – Spent: $29.6 million (incoming: $11.7 million) – Net = -$17.9 million
  17. Middlesbrough – Spent: $27.9 million (incoming: $6.5 million) – Net = -$21.4 million
  18. Burnley  Spent: $27.5 million (incoming: $27.5 million) – Net = -$0 million
  19. Stoke City – Spent: $25.7 million (incoming: $2.5 million) – Net = -$23.2 million
  20. Hull City – Spent: $16.4 million (incoming: $6 million) – Net = -$10.4 million