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Walking through Week 16 of the NWSL season

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For the first time since the season’s early weeks, the NWSL has a new leader. The spot Sky Blue FC held down for months was taken by FC Kansas City on Wednesday, the Blues’ win over the Breakers vaulting Vlatko Andonovski’s team from third to first. When FCKC collected three more points at Sky Blue late Sunday night, one of the preseason favorites had consolidated their perch atop the league.

It really is Kansas City’s world, at this point. On form, they’re clearly the best team in the league, carrying a nine-match unbeaten run out of this weekend’s action. They have the league’s best goal difference (+13), are four points clear after their win in Piscataway, and have the league’s best player (Lauren Holiday). They’ve scored the most goals in the league, are tied for the fewest allowed. They’re positioning themselves for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and have no discernible weakness. Even their trouble getting production out of their strikers is offset by the brilliance of Holiday and Erika Tymrak.

The team that has the best shot to catch them is Portland, though the Thorns found a way to stymie their own momentum this weekend. Up two with 15 minutes to play, Portland still managed to drop points at home to Chicago (for the second time this year). Though they’re only four back and have two games in hand on Kansas City, Sunday’s disappointment brings new questions about the league’s other preseason favorite.

Here’s what happened in Week 16 of the NWSL season:

Wednesday, July 24

FC Kansas City 3, Boston Breakers 0 – A game dominated by FC Kansas City didn’t see it’s first goal until past the hour mark, but in that closing third of the match, we saw two unusual things for Kansas City. First, though our Week 16 look ahead worried about the staying power of a team so dependent on two stars, the Blues found goals from other places: Merritt Mathias and Courtney Jones. Second, after spending an hour struggling to see their control payoff, Kansas City switched from their normal 4-2-3-1 formation to a 4-2-4-0, bringing on Teresa Noyola for Melissa Henderson. Waves of attacks started hitting a Boston defense that had lost its focal point, leading to three FCKC goals in the final 19 minutes.

Implications: Boston’s playoff hopes were already in critical condition. After this loss, they were on life support. Kansas City, on the other hand, ran their unbeaten streak to eight games, a lopsided result leaving no doubt as to who’s the league’s top team, right now.

NWSL Standings

Pos. PST
Rank
Team GP Pts. +/-
1 1 Kansas City 19 35 +13
2 6 Sky Blue FC 18 31 +6
3 4 Portland 17 31 +6
4 3 W. New York 17 27 +11
5 7 Boston 18 23 -0
6 5 Chicago 18 23 -6
7 2 Seattle 18 18 -9
8 8 Washington 17 7 -21

Thursday, July 25

Seattle Reign FC 4, Chicago Red Stars 1 – Seeing their own unbeaten run snapped last weekend in Kansas City, Seattle took out their frustrations on the visiting Red Stars, setting their season high in goals while squelching the momentum behind Chicago’s playoff push. Two goals from Megan Rapinoe, doubling the total she carried into the game, were augmented by Kaylyn Kyle’s second and Liz Bogus’s first, with only the Jen Hoy’s first professional goal keeping Hope Solo from finally collecting a clean sheet.

Implications: Seattle’s playoff hopes remain more mathematical than practical, but the benefits of this late season run can be seen at the turnstiles. If the Reign had just faded away after a disastrous start, it’s unlikely 2,017 would have driven to Starfire on a weeknight.

For Chicago, the loss kept them four back of Western New York with five to play. With no remaining games against the Flash, each dropped point leaves the Red Stars that much more dependent on Western New York hitting a banana peel.

Saturday, July 27

Washington Spirit 2, Boston Breakers 5 – For the first time since May, Washington scored from open play, Diana Matheson recording her seventh goal of the year in the second minute. The Spirit repeated the feet later through Conny Pohlers, the German opening her NWSL account, but a season-high five goals allowed sent them to their 12th loss of the season.

Washington was playing with a makeshift defense, injuries forcing three non-defenders into their back line, but they aren’t the first team to have to take evasive action (Seattle did so for the first two months of the season). But when Mariah Nogueira, Lianne Sanderson, Rhian Wilkinson (below), Heather O’Reilly, and Cat Whitehill got onto the score sheet, Washington did become the second NWSL team to give up five (Boston, vs. Sky Blue, June 1).

Implications: The same week it’s announced goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris will play with Sweden’s Tyresö this fall, she allows five goals, one very clearly preventable. As her public comments precipitated the firing of Mike Jorden and his staff after the Spirit’s June 28 loss in Rochester, it’s worth considering what we’ve learned about the Spirit in the month that’s followed. The team is 0-4-1 with a -7 goal difference in that time, worse results than they were getting before Harris spoke out (1-8-3, -14). Jorden may not have been the right coach for Washington, but it’s also unclear the extent to which he was contributing to Washington’s problems. We should be careful where we drive our buses.

As for Boston, they’re in the same boat as Chicago: Waiting for Western New York to screw up. Four back with four to go, at least their playoff hopes are alive, even if we the Flash should be planning to travel on August 24.

League Leaders

Goals Assists
Sydney Leroux (BOS) 10 Lauren Holiday (FCKC) 8
Abby Wambach (WNY) 10 Lianne Sanderson (BOS) 7
Lauren Holiday (FCKC) 10 Abby Wambach (WNY) 6
Diana Matheson (WAS) 7 Heather O’Reilly (BOS) 6
4 tied at 6 3 tied at 5

Sunday, July 28

Portland Thorns FC 3, Chicago Red Stars 3 – One of the wildest games of the year saw Christine Sinclair finally break through (two goals), Meleana Shim continue her rise from obscurity (three games in a row with goals), but Portland’s defense collapse in the last 15 minutes. Alyssa Mautz completed her unlikely double in the 75th minute, while Julianne Sitch’s 86th minute equalizer gave Chicago an unlikely and needed point.

As entertaining as the match was, the  couple of tantalizing stories were in the details.

  • Lori Chalupny, one of the league’s four best players this year, gave way for Mautz in the 18th minute after one of the worst tackles of the season left the former U.S. international unable to put weight on her right ankle. A clear red card foul was only shown yellow, with Heath going on to record two assists.
  • Alex Morgan was removed from the game in the 74th, which would normally we no big deal, especially with the team up 3-1. But Morgan appeared, shall we say, less than thrilled when replaced by Tiffany Weimer, almost despondently looking on  in isolation from her teammates as Chicago rallied from two goals down. Morgan’s effectiveness has been much debated throughout the season (conclusions vary),  but Sunday’s was a picture’s worth a thousand words moment, snapped up by the cameras covering the league’s weekly national television game. (Morgan wasn’t available to the media after the game.)source:

Implications: At the beginning of the season, people talked about Portland’s defense as a relative weakness, though throughout the campaign, it was one of the team’s only strengths. Now that the attack is improving with the addition of Heath, have the defensive issues finally manifest?

For Chicago, it was a dramatic point but not the best result. They close the week four points behind Western New York but with two games marked off the schedule. Their playoff push is blunted.

Sky Blue FC 0, FC Kansas City 1 – The last time FC Kansas City visited Piscataway, a controlling performance was offset when Monica Ocampo found two late goals. This time, given a chance to put four points between themselves and the former, long-time league leaders, FC Kansas City wasn’t so generous. A typically commanding performance came good when Courtney Jones redirected a Lauren Holiday corner past Brittany Cameron for the game’s only goal, though if it wasn’t for a remarkable late save from rookie defender Lindsi Lisonbee Cutshall, Kansas City’s result would have better reflected their control of the game. (Nobody’s gif-ed that one.)

Implications: Sky Blue are still struggling. Almost assured of a playoff spot, they can spent the next four weeks trying to find a formula that will work come playoff time. Unfortunately, that formula won’t include right back Caitlin Foord (initial recovery time of 6-10 weeks for her sprain has her out for the rest of the season).

Kansas City runs their unbeaten streak to nine games ahead of a pivotal match in Portland. By that time, the Thorns could be within a point, depending on their mid-week result against visiting Sky Blue. Regardless, a win a JELD-WEN could pave Kansas City’s path to home-field advantage, with season-ending games against Boston and Chicago giving Kansas City the potential to carry some momentum into the playoffs.

(All GIFs were found searching Tumblr, with Becky Smith laying claim to the Portland grabs.)

Sergio Aguero charged by FA, could miss Manchester derby

BOURNEMOUTH, ENGLAND - APRIL 02:  Sergio Aguero of Manchester City during the Barclays Premier League match between A.F.C. Bournemouth and Manchester City at Vitality Stadium on April 2, 2016 in Bournemouth, England.  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
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Sergio Aguero did not get away with it.

In the second half of Manchester City’s 3-1 win against West Ham United on Sunday Aguero appeared to elbow Winston Reid in the face in an off the ball incident.

As soon as that happened, perhaps Jose Mourinho made a call to his friends at the English Football Association…

The English FA believe it was intentional and Man City’s top scorer from last season has been handed a charge which could lead to a retrospective ban.

That is likely to see Aguero, City’s main man up front, miss the Manchester derby against Manchester United on Sept. 10.

Ouch. Couple with a calf injury, not a good few days for Aguero.

Here is the statement in full from the FA as Pep Guardiola has been dealt a huge problem ahead of his first Premier League showdown against arch rival Mourinho.

Sergio Aguero has been charged for an alleged act of violent conduct which was not seen by the match officials but caught on video.

The Manchester City forward was involved in an incident with West Ham United’s Winston Reid in the 76th minute of the game on Sunday [28 August 2016].

He has until 6pm on Wednesday 31 August to reply.

Off the ball incidents which are not seen at the time by the match officials are referred to a panel of three former elite match officials.

Each panel member will review the video footage independently of one another to determine whether they consider it a sending-off offence.

For retrospective action to be taken, and an FA charge to follow, the decision of the panel must be unanimous.

10 deals to look out for on Transfer Deadline Day

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 01: Wilfried Bony of Manchester City celebrates scoring the opening goal during the Capital One Cup Quarter Final match between Manchester City and Hull City at Etihad Stadium on December 1, 2015 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Chris Brunskill/Getty Images)
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As the seconds tick away, Premier League teams will become more desperate.

[ MORE: Latest transfer news

The summer transfer window for PL clubs closes at 6 p.m. ET on Wednesday and there seems to be plenty of business still to be done by all 20 teams.

[ MORE: Wilshere to leave Arsenal? ]

Below is a look at the top 10 players to keep an eye on in the next 24 hours or so, as deals for them to move elsewhere already seem to be in motion.


  1. Jack Wilshere (Arsenal): English midfielder wants to head out on loan. Juventus, Roma are interested, plus several PL clubs. A mercurial talent who just needs to play regularly.
  2. Wilfried Bony (Manchester City): Out of the picture completely at City, Bony could head to West Ham, Stoke or Everton. Powerful striker who needs to regain confidence.
  3. Islam Slimani (Sporting Lisbon): Leicester have apparently had a huge bid rejected for the bustling Algerian striker, but should up their offer to bag him.
  4. Saido Berahino (West Brom): This guy is always around on Deadline Day and that’s the case again. Stoke City are now the main contenders with Palace signing Remy and Benteke.
  5. Adrien Silva (Sporting Lisbon): Portuguese national team midfielder has said he wants to join Leicester but Sporting aren’t keen on losing him. Has a $50 million release clause.
  6. Marcos Alonso (Fiorentina): Chelsea could be set to seal the signing of the left back. The versatile Spaniard is good on the ball and had previous PL spells with Bolton and Sunderland.
  7. Mamadou Sakho (Liverpool): Told to go out on loan by Jurgen Klopp, it is believed he turned down a move to Stoke. Could the French international arrive at West Brom?
  8. Samir Nasri (Manchester City): Pep Guardiola lambasted Nasri for being overweight during preseason and although he appeared as a sub last weekend, he could be off to Sevilla.
  9. Lamine Kone (Sunderland): Everton and Chelsea are said to be battling it out for center back who had an impressive finish to last season. Powerful center back, worth over $25 million.
  10. James McCarthy (Everton): Crystal Palace, Sunderland and Leicester are interested in McCarthy with Ronald Koeman not seeing the Republic of Ireland midfielder in his plans.

Hull City sign Ryan Mason in club record deal

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Hull City have finally got the green-light to sign new players and this one is a biggie.

[ MORE: Latest transfer news

Ryan Mason, 25, has signed from Tottenham Hotspur in a club-record deal believed to be for a fee of around $17 million. Sunderland had also been in for Mason but he chose to sign for Hull on a three-year deal.

Mason has seen his playing time dwindle at Spurs over the past 12 months and the energetic two-way midfielder has moved to the KCOM Stadium to reignite his career as he enters his prime.

[ MORE: Wilshere to leave Arsenal? ]   

Following in the footsteps of former Tottenham players Michael Dawson, Jake Livermore and Tom Huddlestone in switching Spurs for Hull, Mason is ecstatic to join the Tigers.

“I’m delighted and excited to be here,” Mason said. “I can’t wait to get started and I see this as a massive opportunity for me.”

Mason will provide a calming influence in midfield as the Spurs academy product is comfortable on the ball and able to time his runs from midfield well when he gets forward. He has one England cap to his name and has experienced Europa League action with Tottenham after joining them as an eight-year-old.

Starting the Premier League season with just 13 fit senior players, caretaker boss Mike Phelan has finally been able to add to his squad and it is the biggest indicator yet that Phelan will be handed the job on a permanent basis when the sale of the club from the Allam family to Chinese investors is ratified in the coming days.

Goalkeeper David Marshall arrived earlier on Tuesday from Cardiff City and it is expected that striker Will Keane will come in from Manchester United, plus others could arrive.

After two wins from their opening three games of the PL season, these signings further lift any gloom which was hanging over the Yorkshire club following a tumultuous summer as manager Steve Bruce walked out and their owners were heavily criticized for not adding reinforcements.

Man United’s Bastian Schweinsteiger admits MLS “an option”

BORDEAUX, FRANCE - JULY 02:  Bastian Schweinsteiger of Germany celebrates victory after winning  the UEFA EURO 2016 quarter final match between Germany and Italy at Stade Matmut Atlantique on July 2, 2016 in Bordeaux, France.  (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)
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Bastian Schweinsteiger has not given up on playing for Manchester United again but the captain of the Germany national team already seems to be looking ahead to the future.

[ VIDEO: Hope Solo loses it ]

Schweinsteiger, 32, only signed for the Red Devils last summer but following Jose Mourinho’s arrival as boss the legendary German midfielder has found himself training with the reserve squad and surplus to requirements.

[ MORE: Wilshere to leave Arsenal?

Speaking ahead of his final game for Germany, a friendly against Finland in Dortmund on Wednesday, Schweinsteiger revealed that although a move to Major League Soccer isn’t an option right now, it will be in the future.

“The transfer window there is already closed. That’s why it’s not possible now,” Schweinsteiger said. “My dream still is to play for Manchester United. If I get a fair chance, I believe in it. I believe in my abilities. Until my suspension it went really well last year, after that the two injuries happened. But America is naturally an option.”

So, Schweinsteiger to MLS in 2017?

It certainly seems to be a possibility, especially if United waive any transfer fee for the German midfielder so they can get his hefty $262,000 weekly salary off their wage bill.

Looking at Schweinsteiger’s options, both Minnesota United and Atlanta United will join MLS in 2017 and could be interested in signing a high-profile Designated Player to ramp up interest about their arrival in North America’s top-flight. Frank Lampard will be out of contract at New York City FC this December, as will Steven Gerrard at LA Galaxy.

If some of the big boys in MLS are looking for a marquee signing who can sell shirts and provide veteran leadership in midfield, Schweinsteiger may well be their man.

Even if Mourinho doesn’t think he can still do it, Schweinsteiger put in some decent displays for Germany as they made the semifinals of EURO 20016 and when he was fit last season at United he certainly didn’t look out of place sometimes the pace of the Premier League caught him out.

Let’s not forget, 18 months ago Schweinsteiger was still a regular for Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga and played an important role in several runs to the UEFA Champions League semifinal stage.