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More a player-coach these days, Christie Pearce having fun

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For Christie Pearce, retirement looks an awful lot like she’s still working.

Pearce, who was known for much of her playing career as Christie Rampone but recently went back to using her maiden name on her jersey, formally retired from the U.S. national team earlier this year.

The 41-year-old defender didn’t walk away from the game entirely. She’s still grinding it out for the National Women’s Soccer League’s Sky Blue.

“My game’s a lot more mental than it is physical. Obviously, I still have my speed and I can run down players,” she said. “But I’m having fun. That’s the best part of it. I had my international career, I’m so grateful for that. But now I get to play with some younger players that give me energy, and I give back.”

As the most veteran player in the women’s pro league, Pearce is eying an eventual transition from player to coach. Sky Blue is a good place to start. The team is full of young talent, including Raquel Rodriguez, last season’s NWSL Rookie of the Year, and dynamic 23-year-old Australian forward Sam Kerr.

But Pearce’s main role is guiding and anchoring a backline that includes Kayla Mills, the fourth overall pick in the league draft earlier this year, and Mandy Freeman, the 10th pick. Both played at USC, which won last year’s NCAA College Cup championship game.

Sky Blue also plays a rookie at goalkeeper: Kailen Sheridan out of Clemson.

Those youngsters are starting to have a real impact for New Jersey. The team is coming off a 3-1 road victory over the Portland Thorns, which popped Sky Blue into third place in the league standings behind the North Carolina Courage and the Chicago Red Stars. Last year, Sky Blue finished seventh among the NWSL’s 10 teams.

“We have very, very gifted young players that have so much potential and that are so fun to work with. Especially myself, being in the back, with a lot of young players,” she said. “Mandy and Kayla are amazing and they get better each and every game. People are starting to figure them out. It’s hard to break down. We have a great unit from the forwards all the way to the back, but our young rookies are doing really well.”

Pearce’s international career spanned two decades, and during her time she played under six national team coaches.

She won three Olympic gold medals and two World Cups. She played on the 1999 World Cup team that won the title at the Rose Bowl then was on the roster for the 2015 World Cup in Canada, joining fellow veteran Abby Wambach in receiving the championship trophy after a 5-2 victory in the final against Japan.

Pearce earned 311 caps, second-most in international history behind former teammate Kristine Lilly.

A New Jersey native, Pearce also played for Sky Blue in the Women’s Professional Soccer League. Pearce was a player-coach in 2009, leading the Sky Blue to the inaugural WPS championship. That league folded following the 2011 season.

When she was honored by the national team at a SheBelieves Cup match against England in March, she was purposely vague about returning to Sky Blue following her international team retirement. She wanted to make sure she could still do it.

“I figured if I went through preseason, I’d make the decision after that, realizing, `OK, can I get through this?”‘ she said.

In the end, the young players were a big reason she came back. And the mother of two has been able to hold her own, despite being twice as old as half of the backline.

“I think the unity among this team is incredible. It’s really special,” she said. “You don’t really see as many people working for each other as a team so early in the season, especially when you have so many new players.”

MLS Playoff bracket, dates set: Chicago, Vancouver host Tues.

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Major League Soccer’s playoff bracket is set. Our staff predictions are coming Tuesday before the first round match-ups, but here’s what we’ll be watching…

[ MORE: Mbappe named Golden Boy ]

The chase begins with Chicago and the Red Bulls, and San Jose heading to Vancouver. The Quakes drew the ‘Caps just over a week ago, on Oct. 15.

First round
(E3) Chicago vs. (E6) New York Red Bulls — 8:30 p.m. ET Tuesday
(W3) Vancouver vs. (W6) San Jose — 10:30 p.m. ET Tuesday
(E4) Atlanta vs. (E5) Columbus — 7 p.m. ET Wednesday
(W4) Houston vs. (W5) Sporting KC — 9:30 p.m. ET Wednesday

Conference semifinals
(W1) Portland vs.  San Jose, Houston, or Sporting KC
(W2) Seattle vs. Houston, Sporting KC, or Vancouver
(E1) Toronto vs. New York Red Bulls, Atlanta, or Columbus
(E2) New York City vs. Atlanta, Columbus, or Chicago

Conference finals
Eastern Conference — Nov. 21 and Nov. 28 or 29
Western Conference — Nov. 21 and Nov. 30

MLS Cup Final
At finalist with best record — 4 p.m. ET Dec. 9

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Who will replace Koeman at Everton?

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Where will Everton turn in search of their next manager?

U23s coach David Unsworth is the front-runner to take over, according to several betting sites — not that we’d partake in such madness — and the 44-year-old boasts 312 career appaearances for the Toffees.

[ MORE: Everton sacks Ronald Koeman ]

As for who else could be in frame for the gig, there are names (quite) familiar and new.

David Moyes — This one is an eyebrow-raiser, as Moyes has had little if any success since leaving Everton and ended his time at Sunderland with a sexist takedown of a journalist. But the 54-year-old Scot spent more than 11 years at Everton before leaving for Manchester United, and it’s not like the Toffees wanted him to skip town. He was thrice League Manager of the Year at Goodison Park.

Sean Dyche — The Burnley boss has overachieved time and again at Turf Moor, and the Clarets are one of the smallest outfits the Premier League has ever seen. A move to Everton could be a big and safe enough step to warrant his affection.

Carlo Ancelotti — He’s said he’s not returning to a manager’s seat this season, but the Italian may relish the chance to take a skillful team and organize it into its rightful potential. And we think he’s do a magnificent job.

Chris Coleman — He’s waffled on staying in his position at Wales, and the club’s absence from this summer’s World Cup must have him eyeing the club scene. He’s hasn’t led a club since 2012, having led AEL, Coventry City, Real Sociedad, and Fulham.

Phil Neville — The Manchester United and Everton playing legend doesn’t have first chair experience, but may be able to rally the troops. His latest stint was as an assistant in brother Gary’s tough, short campaign at Valencia.

Although… his recent prediction record isn’t hot.

Longshots: Mikel Arteta, Luis Enrique, Eddie Howe, Thomas Tuchel, Sam Allardyce, Manuel Pellegrini, Frank De Boer.

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Three seriously injured, 120 detained in Bruges hooligan riot

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BRUSSELS (AP) Authorities are investigating a hooligan riot which seriously injured three people and forced Brugge police to detain 120 following the match between Club Brugge and Antwerp.

[ MORE: Mbappe wins Golden Boy ]

Local police chief Dirk Van Nuffel says one policeman was among the seriously wounded as authorities sought to contain a brawl between Belgian fans reinforced by others who had come from the Netherlands.

By Monday morning all were released but investigators were still seeking to see who was at the core of the fighting. Van Nuffel says such hooligan fighting “hadn’t been seen for years.”

Everton fires Ronald Koeman

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A 5-2 home loss versus Arsenal sent Everton into the Premier League drop zone, and that’s apparently a bridge too far for the Toffees when it comes to their managerial position.

Ronald Koeman is out at Goodison Park.

[ MORE: Who will replace him? ]

Everton sits 18th in the Premier League with eight points, it’s minus-11 goal differential second-worst in the top flight. Its 18 goals conceded are third-worst, and only three clubs have scored fewer goals than its seven.

The Toffees won two rounds in the Europa League, beating Ružomberok and Hajduk Split, but have lost to Atalanta and Lyon while drawing Apollon Limassol in Group E play.

Everton faces Chelsea in League Cup play on Wednesday before a critical early season match at Leicester City on Sunday.

[ MORE: Mbappe named Golden Boy ]

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