China v United States

How U.S. women’s national teamers have done, past the mid-point of the NWSL season

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Just over halfway through the NWSL season, here’s how prominent U.S. national team members have fared during the first year of the new women’s domestic league.

… WITH FLYING COLORS

Lauren Cheney Holiday, FC Kansas City – Perhaps surprisingly, Holiday has been the league’s best player, sliding into a playmaker’s role in which she’s rarely been used in before. The product leaves her second in the league in both goals and assists. The former Lauren Cheney missed last week’s games while getting married to Philadelphia 76ers point guard Jrue Holiday, hence the name change.

Bottom line: 11 games, eight goals, five assists, and the league’s leading MVP candidacy

Sydney Leroux, Boston Breakers – A strong week has Leroux up to a league leading 10 goals, and while some midseason questions gave the impression Leroux’s professional debut was becoming a rocky one, her response has led the Breakers back into playoff contention. Talent-wise, she is the full package, and since summer arrived, she’s been converting those talents into goals.

Bottom line: 11 games, 10 goals, one assist

Heather O’Reilly, Boston Breakers – As performances start to wane with the busy summer schedule, O’Reilly’s renowned intensity remains undeterred. Playing two games in four days last week, O’Reilly’s energy was vital to Boston’s four-point week. While much of her effort is being still applied down the flanks, O’Reilly’s also bolstered Boston’s efforts through the middle, making her one of the more valuable players in the league.

Bottom line: 12 games, three goals, five assists

Christie Rampone, Sky Blue FC – The U.S. captain has been the league’s best defender, and while her team has leaked goals at times, it’s to be expected given the youth that surrounds her. There’s no way Sky Blue’s at the top of the league without her.

Bottom line: 13 starts, only three fouls committed

Becky Sauerbrunn, FC Kansas City – Has been the leader of one of the league’s best defensive pairings, her ability on and off the ball making her Rampone’s only rival for league’s best defender.

Bottom line: 12 games, one assist, only one foul committed

source: Getty ImagesAbby Wambach, Western New York Flash – You may have heard more about when Wambach wasn’t playing than what she’s done on the field, but between the lines, Wambach has been one of the league’s best players, and certainly its best forward.

Bottom line: 11 starts, seven goals, four assists

IF ONLY THEY WERE HERE MORE

Carli Lloyd, Western New York Flash – Has been one of the league’s best attacking midfielders, but a shoulder injury’s seen her limited to eight games. One of those featured a hat trick, though.

Bottom line: Eight games, seven starts, four goals

Megan Rapinoe, Seattle Reign FC – Has been solid since returning in the middle of June, though her real effects have been on the team’s confidence and lineup. Seattle’s playing like a team that knows it has the talent to match its ambitions, and with Rapinoe at one wing spot (and some other moves), the Reign now have an XI capable of challenging anybody’s.

Bottom line: Four games, three starts, one goal

Hope Solo, Seattle Reign FC – Gave her team an immediate boost when she returned in late May from wrist surgery, then had a memorable mistake that cost her team a game against FC Kansas City. Since she’s ranged from great to good, more than you’d get out of most goalkeepers.

Bottom line: Six games, 39 saves, 1.00 GAA, no shutouts

GETTING THE JOB DONE

Nicole Barnhart, FC Kansas City – Until this last week, Barnhart’s solid but unspectacular performance still made her one of the league’s best keepers. Lately, however, the unspectacular tag has been dropped as Barnhart’s made some crucial plays for the Blues.

Bottom line: 13 games, 46 saves, 0.85 GAA, seven shutouts

Rachel Buehler, Portland Thorns FC – Part of the joint-best defense in the league, and while she’s still prone to the occasional error, her leadership has been valuable next to rookie center back Kathryn Williamson.

Bottom line: 12 starts, playing every minute she’s been available

Ali Krieger, Washington Spirit – Had a strong start to the season and is one of the few fullbacks in the league that’s providing a consistent, credible threat going forward. Like her teammates, has shown some signs of disillusionment as her club’s struggled.

Bottom line: 12 starts, one goal

source:  Alex Morgan, Portland Thorns FC – At times, she’s struggled, making her broader success look like the product of the U.S. national team’s approach. But as the year’s gone on, her game’s started to round out. Unfortunately, it has yet to yield the kind of numbers that will draw fan attention. Like Krieger, her fortunes (or, misfortunes) are starting to reflect her team’s.

Bottom line: 12 starts, five goals, three assists, league leading 51 shots and 29 shots on goal

MIXED BAGS

Ashlyn Harris, Washington Spirit – The popular goalkeeper has been betrayed by an inexperienced and ineffective defense, but she hasn’t done herself any favors while trying to organize them. Mix in a couple of soft goals, a few great saves, and you have Harris’s uneven season.

Bottom line: 11 starts, 50 saves, 1.73 GAA, no shutouts

Kelley O’Hara, Sky Blue FC – Has struggled as much as any allocated player. Has played left wing and struggled, showing her present and future are probably at left back. Too bad her team has a rookie (Kendall Johnson) that’s performing well in that position.

Bottom line: 12 games, 10 starts, three assists

Others: Heather Mitts was allocated to Boston but retired before the season started; Amy Rodriguez announced her pregnancy before the season started and will not play this year; Amy LePeilbet’s knee inury has kept her out all season; Jill Loyden’s has returned from a broken hand but has failed to make an appearance for Sky Blue; Tobin Heath joins the Portland Thorns this week after playing in Paris until June; Shannon Boxx made two appearances for Chicago before undergoing surgery; Lori Lindsay (Washington) and Keelin Winters (Seattle) are both U.S. allocations but have failed to figure in recent national team camps.

‘Gabigol’ finally starts to pay off transfer in Inter win

BOLOGNA, ITALY - FEBRUARY 19:  Gabriel Barbosa # 96 of FC Internazionale celebrates after scoring a goal during the Serie A match between Bologna FC and FC Internazionale at Stadio Renato Dall'Ara on February 19, 2017 in Bologna, Italy.  (Photo by Mario Carlini / Iguana Press/Getty Images)
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ROME (AP) Gabriel “Gabigol” Barbosa began repaying his 30 million euro ($32 million) transfer fee by scoring his first goal for Inter Milan in a 1-0 win at Bologna on Sunday.

Seven minutes after coming on, Barbosa tapped in a cross from Danilo D’Ambrosio in the 81st minute to secure fourth-placed Inter its ninth win in 10 Serie A matches.

Barbosa had been hailed as the next great Brazil striker when he signed a five-year deal after transferring from Santos in August. But he struggled in his first five months at Inter.

“I’m happy for him. He had a bit of a tough time at the start. But now he’s starting to click,” Inter coach Stefano Pioli said.

Garbosa was preparing to offer his teammates and coaches a Brazilian dinner to celebrate his goal.

“The dinner is more than welcome,” Pioli said.

With captain Mauro Icardi serving the second game of a two-match ban for dissent, Inter labored for long stretches.

Inter forward Rodrigo Palacio wasted a great chance directly in front of the goal 12 minutes in following a cross from Ivan Perisic.

But substitutions proved decisive and Inter has now scored 13 goals in the last 15 minutes of play this season – the most in Serie A.

“It’s always a good sign for a coach when you have a squad that believes until the end,” Pioli said. “We struggled between the lines and were slow maneuvering but we still worked hard. The team believed until the end and that perseverance paid off.”

CHIEVO VERONA 1, NAPOLI 3

Napoli bounced back from its Champions League loss at Real Madrid with a comfortable away win that extended its unbeaten streak in Serie A to 14 matches.

Lorenzo Insigne opened the scoring with an effort that improved on his goal in Madrid. After collecting the ball at the left side of the area, Insigne dribbled in and launched an angled shot around two defenders that flew inside the far post.

Napoli captain Marek Hamsik slotted another into an empty net and Piotr Zielinski made it 3-0 before the hour mark.

Riccardo Meggiorini pulled one back for Chievo midway through the second half.

Napoli moved into second place, one point ahead of Roma, which was facing Torino later.

OTHER MATCHES:

Attack-minded Zdenek Zeman made an immediate impact on last-placed Pescara, which routed Genoa 5-0 in the Czech coach’s first match back in charge since leading the club to the Serie B title five years ago.

Substitute Gregoire Defrel scored twice as Sassuolo came back from a goal down to beat Udinese 2-1 after Seko Fofana’s spectacular volley had put the hosts ahead.

Also, Mauricio Isla gave Cagliari an early lead before Fabio Quagliarella equalized for Sampdoria midway through the first half in a 1-1 draw.

Andrew Dampf on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/asdampf

Harkes speaks for first time since FC Cincinnati sacking

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 6:  John Harkes (Former captain, US men's national team) joined Budweiser, the global official beer of the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil, to celebrate the Final Draw on December 6, 2013 at the Brazilian Ambassador's home in Washington DC.  In partnership with Budweiser, the global official beer of the FIFA World Cup?, Garibaldi created a commemorative work of art representing the 32 countries competing in the tournament next summer and their quest to be crowned the best in the world  (Photo by Kris Connor/Getty Images for Budweiser)
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As far as non-MLS news goes in the U.S., Friday’s announcement that John Harkes would no longer be managing FC Cincinnati came as a great shock to the American soccer community.

[ MORE: David Villa shown red card via MLS’ video replay ]

The former U.S. Men’s National Team player was sacked on Friday without any true warning, however, reports have suggested that a power struggle between Harkes and president/general manager Jeff Berding could have spurred the decision.

Assistant coach Alan Koch has been tabbed as the replacement for Harkes at FC Cincinnati after joining the club from the Vancouver Whitecaps II side.

Harkes had this to say following Friday’s shocking development:

“Although my time here was cut short prematurely, I am extremely proud of this team, the work I put in and all the accomplishments of the players and coaching staff of the inaugural season in the USL. To build something from scratch was special. From the time I signed my contract, a full eight months prior to the first match, the process of building a team, creating a relationship with the fans and the city, drawing on the passion of the city and its soccer community, and creating a major league soccer environment in a major league city was completely gratifying.

I thank God for the life he has given me and all the blessings in it, especially my family and friends. Their unconditional sacrifice, love and support has been incredible. I would like to thank  Carl Lindner III and the entire Lindner family and the owners for believing in me and giving me this opportunity.  I want to recognize the inaugural group of players for taking a leap of faith and congratulate each one of you for creating a special atmosphere for the fans. To the players we worked so hard to bring in this year, I’m disappointed that I didn’t have a chance to work with you but perhaps our paths will cross again. To the soldiers in the front office who worked tirelessly, thank you. And finally, to the incredible fans and supporter groups of FC Cincinnati – you are some of the most passionate and educated supporters that I have been around as a player and coach! Keep supporting and growing the game we all love.

In the words of the great coach John Wooden,
“Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming. Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”

In Cincinnati’s inaugural season in USL, Harkes helped lead the Eastern Conference side to the playoffs after boasting a 16-6-8 record during the regular season.

Bielsa returning to Ligue 1 to take charge of Lille

MARSEILLE, FRANCE - AUGUST 01:  Olympique de Marseille head coach Marcelo Bielsa watches the action during the preseason friendly match between Olympique de Marseille and Juventus FC at Stade Velodrome on August 1, 2015 in Marseille, France.  (Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images)
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Controversial coach Marcelo Bielsa will take charge of ambitious Lille for next season, signaling his return to French football after a chaotic end to his spell with Marseille.

Lille said in a statement on Sunday that Bielsa will replace interim coach Franck Passi on July 1 and has been given a two-year deal.

[ MORE: FA Cup roundup — Premier League sides underwhelm in 5th round ]

“Marcelo Bielsa is without a doubt one of the most respected and influential coaches in the world and it’s a huge satisfaction for Lille,” said Marc Ingla, a club director. “It also proves the ambition of our club.”

A former Argentina manager, Bielsa is highly rated as an innovative, attack-minded leader who brings the best out of his players.

With Lille hiring Bielsa, Lyon already settled into a new stadium, Marseille recruiting aggressively under new American ownership and Monaco challenging Paris Saint-Germain strongly, next season promises to be an even more competitive one in France.

A more entertaining one, too, now that Bielsa is back and likely to give the French media plenty of headlines.

Bielsa stunned fans and the club’s directors when he quit Marseille last season, after just one game of the new campaign. The 61-year-old Argentine was taking charge of his second season and was a fan favorite when he suddenly quit.

He was out of contract but had struck a verbal agreement with the president to extend his tenure.

[ MORE: Fifth-division Lincoln City shock PL side Burnley in FA Cup ]

Then, just before putting pen to paper on his new deal, he changed his mind, alleging that Marseille officials amended the terms of the agreement at the last minute. He had previously publicly criticized Marseille’s president in a vitriolic outburst during a news conference because he was angry at the club’s transfer policy, saying it had signed players over his head.

Controversy seems to follow Bielsa, who in football circles earned the nickname “El Loco Bielsa” (Crazy Bielsa), due to his driven personality, single-mindedness, tough talking and relentless determination to do things only on his terms.

In the summer of last year, he quit as coach of Italian side Lazio – just two days after the Italian club announced it had signed him.

In football terms, Bielsa made much of his reputation more than a decade ago.

At club level, he won three Argentinian titles with Newell’s Old Boys and Velez Sarsfield – reaching the South American Copa Libertadores final with Newell’s in 2002. Later on, he also guided Athletic Bilbao to the Europa League and Spanish Cup finals in 2012.

With Argentina, he won gold at the 2004 Olympic Games and led Argentina to the Copa America final the same year.

Lille’s new owner Gerard Lopez, the president of the finance group Genii Capital and former president of the Lotus Formula One team, previously spoke about Bielsa in glowing terms.

Lopez recently took over from Michel Seydoux – a French businessman and film producer who was club president since 2002 – and Lopez is keen on rebuilding Lille with talented young players in the same way Monaco has done.

On the final day of the transfer window last month, Lille signed six players aged 23 or under. Dutch forward Anwar El Ghazi, who joined from Ajax, scored his first goal for the club on Saturday.

[ MORE: Kane’s hat trick sees Spurs sail past Fulham, into FA Cup QF ]

The club’s scouting network is also likely to be very strong in South America, with Bielsa working closely alongside Luis Campos – who is an advisor to Lopez.

Campos previously worked with Jose Mourinho at Real Madrid and then for three years as a technical director with Monaco.

The well-connected Campos oversaw the arrival of several promising young players at Monaco – including highly rated attacking midfielder Bernardo Silva – and they have blossomed so much that Monaco is top of the league and has scored more than 100 goals overall this season.

Lille is playing catch up.

Although Lille qualified six times for the Champions League during Seydoux’s tenure and clinched the league and cup double in 2011, results have dropped and the northern French club is currently in 14th place.

The club’s youth system – which produced players such as Chelsea star Eden Hazard – has not been so successful in recent years and this will also be an area for Bielsa to improve.

FA Cup draw: Chelsea to host Man Utd in QF; Arsenal vs. Lincoln?

FA Cup draw
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Chelsea and Manchester United were drawn together on Sunday in one of two potentially all-Premier League ties in the 2016-17 FA Cup quarterfinals.

[ MORE: FA Cup roundup — Premier League sides underwhelm in 5th round ]

Middlesbrough will host Manchester City should the Citizens get past Championship side Huddersfield Town in the two sides’ fifth-round replay (0-0 draw on Saturday). Tottenham Hotspur will host Millwall in a volatile London derby, while fifth-division Lincoln City will visit either a fellow non-Football League side in Sutton United, or PL giants Arsenal.

Full FA Cup quarterfinals draw

Chelsea vs. Manchester United
Middlesbrough vs. Manchester City/Huddersfield Town
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Millwall
Sutton United/Arsenal vs. Lincoln City

[ MORE: Fifth-division Lincoln City shock PL side Burnley in FA Cup ]

The weekend’s FA Cup results

Burnley 0-1 Lincoln City — RECAP | REACTION
Huddersfield Town 0-0 Manchester City
Middlesbrough 3-2 Oxford United
Millwall 1-0 Leicester City
Wolverhampton Wanderers 0-2 Chelsea
Fulham 0-3 Tottenham Hotspur
Blackburn Rovers 1-2 Manchester United

Monday’s FA Cup schedule

Sutton United vs. Arsenal — 2:55 p.m. ET