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Culture shift? Tournament of Nations has three female coaches

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An ongoing shift in women’s soccer has been apparent at the Tournament of Nations – not on the field but on the sidelines.

Three of the four teams participating in the international event have female coaches, a rare majority in soccer.

A year ago, the two teams playing for the gold medal at the Rio Olympics were both led by women, Sweden’s Pia Sundhage and Germany’s Silvia Neid. And Jill Ellis led the U.S. national team to the Women’s World Cup title in Canada the year before.

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Ellis and others in the sport believe that recent events show women are making important and necessary gains in soccer – but there’s more work to be done.

“I think it’s forward-thinking federations that are about hiring competent coaches but also willing to provide opportunities,” Ellis said. “I know we’ve recently hired technical advisers for our academies and they’re all female and I think that’s great. We’ve got to have more coaches out there and more role models for young coaches. I think it’s great.”

The inaugural Tournament of Nations concludes on Thursday night in Carson, California. The U.S. women rallied from a 3-1 deficit to beat Brazil 4-3 on Sunday in San Diego and will face Japan in the tournament’s final match.

U.S. Soccer hopes to host the tournament each summer that there isn’t a World Cup or Olympic competition. In addition to Ellis, Emily Lima is the new coach for Brazil and Asako Takakura manages Japan. The only male coach in the event is Australia’s Alen Stajcic.

Lima and Takakura are former players who are relatively new to their teams: Lima took over Brazil last fall following the Olympics and Takakura was appointed after Japan failed to make the field for Rio. Both are the first female coaches for their teams.

Another sign of a possible culture shift in the sport: Five of the top 10 teams in FIFA’s world rankings are coached by women.

The trend has not been lost on Moya Dodd, a former Australian national team standout and vice president of the Asian Football Confederation who has been a vocal advocate for women’s soccer.

“When given the opportunity, women coaches are phenomenally successful. All but one of the World Cups, Olympic golds and Euros in women’s football since 2000 have been won by female-coached teams,” Dodd said, adding that’s 11 of 12 tournaments at the sport’s highest level.

[ MORE: Liverpool’s potential UCL playoff opponents ]

However, Dodd said any shift is far less apparent below the senior national team level and at the club level, where female coaches are scarcer.

For example, among the 10 National Women’s Soccer League teams, there’s just one female head coach: Laura Harvey of the Seattle Reign.

Dodd also points to the NCAA, where the number of women coaches has dropped. A recent study of women’s collegiate teams by the University of Minnesota gave soccer a “D” grade with just 26.2 percent of teams with female coaches in 2016-17, a drop from the previous season.

“In the U.S.A., the percentage of female college athletes coached by women has halved since Title IX was introduced. It seems that women face barriers that grow higher as women’s sports become bigger,” Dodd said.

In an email exchange with The Associated Press, Dodd added that she sees unconscious bias as one of the biggest obstacles women much overcome.

“The characteristics that are seen as assets in a male coach – being tough, having strong opinions, or yelling at players (like Alex Ferguson’s famous `hairdryer’ treatment) would characterize a woman as difficult, emotional or hysterical,” she wrote. “Yet if she is motherly and caring, she doesn’t fit the definition of a coach. In other words, gender stereotypes work against her at both ends.”

At the UEFA Women’s European Championship, there are six women coaches among the 16 teams that took part. Of the four teams playing in Thursday’s semifinals – England, the Netherlands, Denmark and Austria – one has a female head coach, Sarina Wiegman (Netherlands).

The women’s Euros are played every four years as the premier competition in the UEFA Confederation. In the last edition, four of the 12 teams were coached by women.

Japan’s Takakura gave added perspective when it comes to female coaches: they should be treated the same as men.

“From my point of view I think it’s good news to have female coaches,” she said through a translator. “But as a coach the gender doesn’t really matter; it doesn’t matter if it’s a he or a she. As a coach, you have to educate and develop your players.”

West Ham to friendly neighbors Dag & Red: “Will help save our club”

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English Conference Premier side Dagenham and Redbridge has seen better days, and is getting a hand from a Premier League pal.

[ WATCH: Fred’s vicious free kick ]

West Ham United will pay a visit to Dag & Red as part of the latter’s #SaveTheDaggers campaign, and the March 21 date will cost fans between $7 and $21 to see a top flight side at 6,000-seat Victoria Road.

Dagenham and Redbridge chairman Paul Gwinn said, “It really will help save our club.”

“So please come on down to the Chigwell Construction Stadium for an additional night of football. Bring a friend, or two, or more and we can use the gate takings to help get us back on track,” reads a press release.

Dag & Red was founded in 1992 and climbed as high as League One in 2011, and plays just 2.5 miles from West Ham United’s training ground. Newcastle’s Matt Ritchie and Dwight Gayle are among Dag & Red alums in the Premier League.

It’s a terrific gesture from West Ham, and is even more impressive in the United States where the growing club game is increasingly cutthroat (especially between non-synced leagues).

Angry Di Francesco extremely quotable after Roma loss

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AS Roma manager Eusebio Di Francesco absolutely roasted his charges after i Lupi tossed aside a Cenzig Under-inspired lead to fall 2-1 at Shakhtar Donetsk in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie on Wednesday.

Di Francesco had praise for Edin Dzeko, who assisted Under’s goal, as well as goalkeeper Alisson, but was mostly enraged by his side.

[ MORE: Recap + Fred’s vicious free kick ]

Rather than construct a narrative, we’re going to point out our five favorite selections from Di Francesco’s post-match talk.

4) “The difference was that in the first half we tried to hurt them while in the second we were looking to hold on – to what? I don’t know.”

— “To what? I don’t know” is hilarious. Di Francesco’s side has posted some serious wins this season, including killing off Chelsea 3-0 at home and coming back from 2-0 to draw the Blues at Stamford Bridge. He doesn’t preach sitting back.

3) “There were far too many schoolboy errors – even by players with a wealth of international experience.”

— Schoolboy errors!

2) “I saw two completely different teams out there today. There were lots of players I should have taken off after we conceded the first goal.”

— Again, one mistake by a number of players on Facundo Ferreyra is enough for Di Francesco. He’s not just happy to be here.

1) “I can’t imagine we’d get arrogant just because we’re winning an important game. It’s not as if Roma are used to reaching the final every year.”

— When you’re willing to essentially rip an entire club’s history — Roma’s been to just two UCL quarterfinals since losing the final to Liverpool in 1984 — you’re putting your footprints in new cement.

Europa League preview: Rating every second leg

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Christian Pulisic and Borussia Dortmund are one of many teams with their UEFA Europa League fates realistically in the balance come Thursday’s second legs of the Round of 32.

[ MORE: Sevilla 0-1 Man Utd | Mourinho reacts ]

Aside from a sextet of big teams posting blowouts, there’s still hope for the Round of 16 and a step closer to an automatic berth in the 2018-19 UEFA Champions League.

Basically done

Atletico Madrid 4-1 Copenhagen — 1 p.m. ET
Sporting Lisbon 3-1 Astana — 1 p.m. ET
Arsenal 3-0 Ostersund — 3:05 p.m. ET
Milan 3-0 Ludogorets Razgrad — 3:05 p.m. ET
Athletic Bilbao 3-1 Spartak Moscow — 3:05 p.m. ET
Braga 0-3 Marseille — 3:05 p.m. ET

In four of these cases, the heavy favorites emerged with multiple goal leads and at least three away goals.

Actually done

CSKA Moscow beat Red Star Belgrade 1-0 on Wednesday to win 1-0 on aggregate.

Unlikely, but big club lurks

RB Leipzig 3-1 Napoli — 1 p.m. ET
Villarreal 1-3 Lyon — 1 p.m. ET

In the case of Napoli, their 3-1 home loss to Leipzig was stunning but it’s impossible to rule out a club with such firepower. Villarreal trails by two to Lyon, but is home and dangerous.

Advantage one side, but anyone’s guess

Lokomotiv Moscow 3-2 Nice — 11 a.m. ET
Lazio 0-1 FCSB — 1 p.m. ET
Zenit Saint-Petersburg 0-1 Celtic — 1 p.m. ET
Red Bull Salzburg 2-2 Real Sociedad — 3:05 p.m. ET
Atalanta 2-3 Borussia Dortmund — 3:05 p.m. ET

Salzburg’s two away goals in a draw feels like a one-goal lead, and the one-goal matches are especially interesting. In the case of Atalanta, 1-0 to the Serie A side could undo Michy Batshuayi‘s first leg heroics for BVB.

Wide open

Plzen 1-1 Partizan Belgrade — 1 p.m. ET
Dynamo Kyiv 1-1 AEK Athens — 1 p.m. ET

Yes, nil-nil will get it done for the hosts, but there wasn’t a 0-0 in the entire group of first legs.

De Gea remarks on that save after Man Utd draws Sevilla

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It was probably the save of the UEFA Champions League’s Round of 16’s first legs, as David De Gea slapped away Luis Muriel’s bid to give Sevilla a halftime lead over Manchester United on Wednesday in Spain.

[ MORE: Recap | Mourinho reacts ]

Playing in his home country, De Gea had a massive outing in the scoreless draw.

The defiance of Muriel was De Gea’s second big save of the first half’s closing moments, and one of eight in the match.

“It was a good moment, a good save of course, especially because of the moment in the game. It was the last minute of the first half, it was important to not concede a goal. We defended well. They had control of the game, but it remains open.”

Watch the save below, and then catch De Gea against Chelsea on Sunday as two of the Premier League’s biggest clubs duke it out for Top Four positioning at Old Trafford (Watch live Sunday at 9:05 a.m. ET online via NBCSports.com).