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UEFA Women’s Champions League: If you want to see Americans in European competition, this is the place

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Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht) and Jermaine Jones (Schalke) are active in the men’s competition, but compared to the number of U.S. internationals involved in the women’s version of UEFA Champions League, two seems like a relatively paltry number. As the women’s competition’s Round of 32 started today, 27 U.S. players were listed on squads set to take part in this year’s knockout round.

That’s right: 27. There’s nearly one American player per team in UEFA Women’s Champions League, names that range from your top-flight U.S. Women’s National Team talents (Tobin Heath, pictured,, Megan Rapinoe, Ali Krieger) to NWSL players looking to supplement their income (Joanna Lohman, Sinead Farrelly) to players who make Europe their home base on a permanent basis (Christen Press, Whitney Engen, Meghan Klingenberg).

The full list of players is at the bottom of this article, but with the world’s biggest women’s club competition starting in earnest today, it’s worth asking why these players aren’t getting a little more publicity back home. Of course, we know the answer … but stay with me while we build toward it (and, eventually, get to today’s results).

Can you imagine the amount of attention we’d be giving to men’s Champions League if eight prominent players — talents close to or in the national team — were active in the competition? That’s how many players with national team possibilities are on the women’s list. Yet for as much as we hear about the exploits of Tim Howard and Michael Bradley and the Champions League outcomes of Schalke (Jones) and Anderlecht (Kljestan), the European exploits of some of the women’s game’s biggest stars are completely overlooked.

And, of course, this is the inherent sexism of sport at work. It’s sports-level patriotic to write and consume “yanks abroad” updates for the most obscure male talents, most of whom are reported on despite their games being unavailable to watch. But for women playing top-level soccer abroad? Many of whom are not available to watch weekly via internet streams? Patriotism apparently has its limits.

There are a couple other notable, confounding (though not independent) factors. The Women’s Champions League, as a tournament, has yet to capture imaginations like the men’s. It’s getting there, seemingly taking notable steps forward each year, but it’s not at the point where it’s readily accessible to the U.S. audience. You can stream it, but it’s mid-day. And aside from the final, it’s not on television (and being on GolTV makes that claim somewhat debatable).

Second, the women’s club world, while rapidly evolving, still sees a huge disparity between great teams and average ones. The divide often leads to some non-Champions-y results in UEFA’s showcase. Today there were 14-0 and a 7-1 results, both high numbers coming from the road team.

But let’s be honest: The inability to watch game never stopped people from tracking the biggest men’s talents. And with the popularity of the women’s national team in this country, it’s difficult to definitely argue there’s no interest in this type of coverage. While it would be difficult to justify throwing men’s Champions League or Premier League attention at the “WUCL”, it should justify a post vague, one-line “played 90 minutes, team lost X-Y” type coverage.

So what’s left? Where are we left with excuses? A lack of bandwidth to cover it? Maybe. But there may also just be a lack of males playing, and as anything regarding these issues, the reasons may be too confounded to untangle.

But maybe this is a case, of the simplest, most accessible answer is the right one. If 27 U.S. males were playing in Champions League, you wouldn’t have to hear it from me.

(Given the length of this post, I’ve broken the result of today’s Round of 32 action into a separate, upcoming post. Here, however, it the list of U.S. players on squads playing in this year’s UEFA Champions League):

U.S. PLAYERS IN 2013-14 UEFA WOMEN’S CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

  • Ingrid Wells, Turbine Potsdam
  • Alex Singer, Turbine Potsdam
  • Ashlyn Harris, Tyresö
  • Christen Press, Tyresö
  • Ali Krieger, Tyresö
  • Whitney Engen, Tyresö
  • Meghan Klingenberg, Tyresö
  • Lindsey Horan, Paris Saint-Germain
  • Tobin Heath, Paris Saint-Germain
  • Michelle Betos, Apollon Limassol
  • Kelly Ann Henderson, Apollon Limassol
  • Joanna Lohman, Apollon Limassol
  • Tina DiMartino, Apollon Limassol
  • Sinead Farrelly, Apollon Limassol
  • Jasmyne Spencer, Apollon Limassol
  • Gina DiMartino, Apollon Limassol
  • Kristen Nicole Edwards, Rossiyanka
  • Lydia Hasting, PK-35 Vantaa
  • Megan Rapinoe, Lyon
  • Viktoria Alonzo, Thor/KA
  • Thanal Annis, Thor/AK
  • Kayla Grimsely, Thor/AK
  • Chante Sandiford, Zorky
  • Amy Barczuk, Zorky
  • Nick Ashley, Zorky
  • Alyssa Mautz, Zorky
  • Amanda Mcmullan, Fortuna

Morgan, USWNT cruise past Costa Rica 5-0 behind early flurry of goals

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The U.S. Women got off to a flying start in Olympic qualification Group A play by torching Costa Rica 5-0, including goals from Alex Morgan, Carli Lloyd, and Crystal Dunn.

Morgan led the way with a double, including one in the opening 12 seconds – only six passes off the opening kick – that set the record for quickest goal in U.S. Soccer history. Lloyd and Dunn both struck in the opening 15 minutes to make it 3-0 before Costa Rica even had time to blink. Lloyd’s came on a penalty after Dunn was felled for the captain’s 83rd international goal, and then the latter bagged one of her own minutes later on a rebound off a shot by Morgan.

[ VIDEO: Alex Morgan caps off a 12-second, six-pass goal ]

The visitors were able to make it Morgan scored her second after the hour mark to cap the goal tally. Jill Ellis completed her trio of substitutions after the fourth goal and the U.S. saw the game out easily.

The fifth came late on a cross from Tobin Heath that fell to Christen Press in the box. With her back to the goal, the 27-year-old produced a simply stunning first touch, back-heeling the ball down before whipping around the opposite direction to lose her defender and firing home the fifth goal.

With the final whistle, the United States improved their record against Costa Rica to a perfect 13-0. The U.S. will play Mexico next on Saturday before finishing out Group A play against Puerto Rico on Monday, February 15.

VIDEO: Alex Morgan scores goal against Costa Rica in 12 seconds

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The United States got off to a historically roaring start in Olympic qualifying. Taking on Costa Rica in Frisco, Texas to begin Group A play, Alex Morgan opened the scoring in just 12 seconds, taking just six passes to complete the masterpiece.

According to the USWNT twitter account, the goal is the fastest in U.S. Soccer history.

According to CONCACAF, the goal is also the quickest in CONCACAF Olympic qualifying, breaking Abby Wambach’s of 35 seconds in a 14-0 domination of the Dominican Republic in 2012.

[ WATCH LIVE: USWNT vs Costa Rica live online on NBC Sports Live Extra ]

The United States scored three goals in the first 15 minutes against Costa Rica tonight. They will take on Mexico and Puerto Rico across the next five days.

Watch Live: USWNT vs Costa Rica in Olympic qualifying

SAN DIEGO, CA - JANUARY 23:  (L-R) Carli Lloyd #10 of the United States is congratulated by teammate Alex Morgan #13 after a goal against Ireland at Qualcomm Stadium on January 23, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)
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The United States women are set to begin Group A play in Olympic qualification, taking on 36th ranked Costa Rica at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas at 8:30 a.m. ET.

The game takes place after a 17-day camp at the national training camp in Carson, California.

[ WATCH LIVE: USWNT vs Costa Rica live online on NBC Sports Live Extra ]

Other teams in the group include Mexico and Puerto Rico. The Mexicans dominated Puerto Rico 6-0 in the first game.

LINEUP

United States: Solo; Krieger, Johnston, Sauerbrunn, Klingenberg; Brian, Horan, Dunn, Lloyd, Heath; Morgan.

Columbus, NYCFC release new kits to mixed results

NYCFC
New York City FC
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Two Major League Soccer clubs have put their kits out there for the 2016 season. They’ve received a mediocre welcome at best.

Columbus was the first, and their kit makes a bold statement moving away from the traditional yellow and black that so often adorns their regular shirts. Instead, the kit incorporates the Columbus flag onto it. The release has seen quite a negative reaction on social media.

The kit was unveiled at the Columbus City Hall on Wednesday, featuring the traditional adidas stripes, although instead of the usual placement on the shoulders, the stripes come down the side of the torso. Recently, adidas has the tendency to copy general jersey patterns across its multiple properties, so look for this design with other clubs in the near future.

The negative reaction to the Columbus release isn’t terribly surprising considering fans often enjoy sticking to tradition, and backlash is common when clubs deviate from the norm. As an additional hurdle, the color contrast between red and yellow is somewhat stark, lending to the difficult reception. Add in the bright pastel blue shorts and…yikes.

While the club didn’t describe how they will utilize this kit during the season, it’s likely to be the primary (at least for now) as the club release says the kit portfolio also includes last year’s black kit, which is traditionally the away kit.

NYCFC’s release of their secondary kit was more positive, receiving a mixed response on social media.

As you can see, adidas again copied their general outline with the stripes down the side of the torso. However, the German clothing manufacturer did much better with the general design of these kits than the Columbus ones. I will give a bit of personal opinion here: I absolutely love these kits. The ripple effect accentuates the crest with a near-3D effect, and the colors mesh perfectly which serves to assuage the eye from being overwhelmed by a busy design. If there’s any criticism, it’s that without an outline, the Etihad logo tends to get in the way a bit, but that’s nitpicking. Well done NYCFC. Columbus…I’ll leave that one to you all.