<span class="vcard">Jeff Kassouf</span>

NBC to stream all 15 matches of CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying

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All 15 matches of the CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying tournament will be streamed live on NBC Sports Live Extra, in addition to up to four matches airing on NBCSN. The eight-team tournament takes place from Feb. 10-21 in Houston and Frisco, Texas, with the top two teams advancing to the 2016 Rio Olympics.

The all-important semifinal featuring the United States — assuming the heavily favored U.S. women, who are three-time defending Olympic gold medalists, make the semifinal — will be aired live on NBCSN on Feb. 19. The tournament’s two semifinal winners will advance to this summer’s Olympics on NBC.

NBCSN will also air the United States’ final group-stage match against Puerto Rico on  Feb. 15 live at 8:30 p.m. ET. The United States’ group-stage match against Mexico on Feb. 13 will be aired on delay at 9:30 p.m. ET, and the tournament final on Feb. 21 will air at 11 p.m. ET.

CONCACAF approached NBC about broadcasting the tournament just over two weeks before it is set to kick off. Such a quick turnaround made for extremely limited TV windows, which are scheduled months in advance.

The U.S. women will compete in Group A in Frisco, Texas, against Mexico, Costa Rica and Puerto Rico. Canada — the other team favored to advance to the Olympics — will compete in Group B in Houston, Texas, against Trididad & Tobago, Guatemala and Guyana.

New Zealand qualified for the Olympics earlier this week, joining hosts Brazil and Colombia from South America, France and Germany from Europe, and South Africa and Zimbabwe from Africa. The final five spots at this summer’s Olympics will be filled by two CONCACAF teams, two teams from Asia and the winner of a four-team playoff in March between Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the Netherlands to determine the final European bid.

2016 CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Championship Schedule

Frisco, Texas – Toyota Stadium
Houston, Texas – BBVA Compass Stadium
Times U.S. Central (U.S. Eastern in parentheses)

Group A: USA, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Costa Rica
Group B: Canada, Guatemala, Trinidad & Tobago, Guyana

Wednesday, Feb. 10 (Frisco)
Puerto Rico vs. Mexico                                   5 p.m. (6 p.m.)
USA vs. Costa Rica                                    7:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m.)

Thursday, Feb. 11 (Houston)
Guatemala vs. Trinidad & Tobago                  5 p.m. (6 p.m.)
Canada vs. Guyana                                           7:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m.)

Saturday, Feb. 13 (Frisco)
Costa Rica vs. Puerto Rico                              12:30 p.m. (1:30 p.m.)
USA vs. Mexico                                                 3 p.m. (4 p.m.) NBCSN at 9:30 p.m. ET

Sunday, Feb. 14 (Houston)
Guyana vs. Guatemala                                     12:30 p.m. (1:30 p.m.)
Trinidad vs. Canada                                          3 p.m. (4 p.m.)

Monday, Feb. 15 (Frisco)
Mexico vs. Costa Rica                                       5 p.m. (6 p.m.)
USA vs. Puerto Rico                                          7:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m.) LIVE on NBCSN

Tuesday, Feb. 16 (Houston)
Trinidad & Tobago vs. Guyana                         5 p.m. (6 p.m.)
Canada vs. Guatemala                                      7:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m.)


Friday, Feb. 19 (Houston)
Group B winner vs. Group A runner-up          4:30 p.m. (5:30 p.m.) ***
Group A winner vs. Group B runner-up          7:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m.) ***


Sunday, Feb. 21 (Houston)
Semifinal winners                                            4 p.m. (5 p.m.) NBCSN at 11 p.m.

***USA’s semifinal, should the USA advance, will air LIVE on NBCSN

Sydney Leroux pregnant, will miss Olympics, NWSL season

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Sydney Leroux is pregnant, she announced on Monday, and will miss this year’s Rio Olympics and the 2016 National Women’s Soccer League season.

Leroux hasn’t played a competitive match since the 2015 World Cup ended in early July. She had ankle surgery following the United States’ triumph at the tournament.

FC Kansas City just traded for Leroux in a deal announced on Jan. 13. Coach Vlatko Andonovski and director of club operations Huw Williams told The Equalizer that the club had worked on the trade for Leroux for a year.

She and husband Dom Dwyer, who plays for Sporting Kansas City in MLS, announced the news on their social media accounts on Monday.

Couldn't be happier to share this with the world. Coming soon….. 👶🏽⚽️ #LittleDwyer

A photo posted by Dom Dwyer (@ddwyer14) on

An FC Kansas City representative tells The Equalizer that Leroux’s pregnancy was not known prior to the trade. FC Kansas City had traded away forward Sarah Hagen in October before learning a few weeks later that starting forward Amy Rodriguez is pregnant and will likely miss the entire NWSL season and the Olympics as well. She is expecting her second child in mid-July.

Leroux was a late scratch for Saturday’s U.S. game against Ireland, a 5-0 win. Having not played the second half of 2015, Leroux was on the bubble to make U.S. coach Jill Ellis’ 18-player roster for the Olympics. Leroux was on the U.S. team which won the gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics and the team which won the 2015 World Cup.

Expansion NWSL club Orlando Pride adds Morgan, Kyle, Hagen in trades

151026 Morgan Kyle Hagan Orlando
Photo Courtesy Orlando Pride

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Orlando is beginning its new era in the National Women’s Soccer League by acquiring one of the sport’s top players.

The expansion Orlando Pride announced Monday they traded for Portland Thorns and U.S. women’s national team star Alex Morgan. Morgan’s husband, Servando Carrasco, plays for Major League Soccer’s Orlando City.

In the deal with Portland the Pride also picks up Canadian Kaylyn Kyle, in exchange for Orlando’s first selection in the expansion draft, the No. 1 overall selection in the 2016 college draft, and one international roster spot in 2016 and 2017.

In a separate deal with FC Kansas City, Orlando acquired the rights to Sarah Hagen. The Pride also receives Kansas City’s second-round selection in the 2016 college draft, in exchange for Orlando’s second-round 2017 college draft pick.

Morgan, who was a member of U.S. national team this summer when it won the World Cup this past summer, received some of the loudest ovations Sunday during the national’s teams exhibition win over Brazil in a game played at the Orlando Citrus Bowl Stadium.

“Bringing a women’s team here, it’s so special for me to be able to have a place called home for myself and my husband,” Morgan said Monday. “It’s special to be one of the first female footballers to represent this club…This city has embraced this sport, embraced this club and I’m really excited to be a part of it.”

Orlando City and Orlando Pride president Phil Rawlins said the player acquisitions on Monday will give the Pride a solid foundation heading into the expansion draft.

“Signing three players with the caliber of Alex, Kaylyn and Sarah, clearly demonstrates the club’s intention to be successful from the very start,” he said.

The 26-year-old Morgan is easily one of the most recognizable names in women’s soccer today.

In two seasons with the Thorns, Morgan has scored seven goals in 18 games.

Morgan scores, US women beat Brazil 3-1 in World Cup victory tour game

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ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) If professional women’s soccer fever is about to descend on Orlando, the city got a great first taste of it.

Alex Morgan, Crystal Dunn and Stephanie McCaffrey scored to help the U.S women’s team beat Brazil 3-1 in an exhibition game Sunday before an announced crowd of 32,869 at the Orlando Citrus.

The U.S. extended its home undefeated streak to 102 games with the win on its World Cup victory tour. The Americans tied Brazil 1-1 in Seattle on Wednesday night.

Morgan scored in the ninth minute off a pass in the box from midfielder Tobin Heath to put the U.S. ahead.

Brazil’s Cristiane tied it in the 45th minute. But a minute later, the U.S. went back up for good after Lindsey Horan took Meghan Klingenberg’s corner kick and tapped it to Dunn, who then slipped it past Luciana. McCaffrey added another goal just before the final whistle.

U.S. coach Jill Ellis said she wasn’t surprised that the team was able to bounce back from needing a late goal to force a 1-1 draw in their matchup with Brazil last week in Seattle.

“The culture and the expectation and the competitiveness without our team, I don’t think it ever allows us to be complacent,” Ellis said.

For the second straight match, the U.S. team bid farewell to retiring players. Sunday was the final international match for 29-year-old U.S. midfielder Lauren Holiday and 31-year-old defender Lori Chalupny. Holiday finished with 133 national team caps, and Chalupny had 106.

Morgan easily got the loudest ovation from the Citrus Bowl crowd when her name was announced during pregame warmups.

She then ignited the crowd early when she split a pair of defenders before maneuvering outside of Brazilian keeper Luciana to get a clear shot.

“I’m happy with my performance,” Morgan said. “I took a look back at the last game and looked at things I could have done better, the execution and all of that. So I feel like I connected with Tobin. I feel like I had a lot of good chances. Brazil is a really good team and has been in residency training together. We haven’t necessarily been training together since the World Cup. So today as a good showing and just a little bit of what we’re going to expect next year in the Olympics.”

The goal by Morgan could have been a preview of sorts for the hometown Orlando crowd.

Morgan was the center of reports last week that she could soon be dealt from the National Women’s Soccer League’s Portland Thorns to the expansion Orlando Pride, which begins play next year.

Neither team has confirmed the deal, but the Pride has a news conference scheduled for Monday. Morgan’s husband, Servando Carrasco, plays for Major League Soccer’s Orlando City.

When asked about the potential deal on Saturday Morgan said only that there were on-going negotiations, though she acknowledged having met Orlando ownership through Carrasco, and praised the budding soccer culture in Orlando.

She said playing Sunday that playing in front of the Orlando fans only crystallized that belief.

“To have 33,000 fans was a huge showing and just a huge representation for what this city can bring for the women’s team – the Orlando Pride – so that’s really exciting for us to see a new team coming into the NWSL,” Morgan said.


Ronaldo sets scoring record, lifts Real Madrid to top of La Liga

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MADRID (AP) Cristiano Ronaldo set up a goal and scored another in a three-minute span on Saturday to help Real Madrid defeat Levante 3-0 and take the provisional lead in the Spanish league.

Ronaldo set up Marcelo’s goal in the 27th minute and scored his own with a well-placed right-footed shot from just outside the area in the 30th, allowing Madrid to surpass Villarreal atop the standings.

Substitute Jese Rodriguez closed the scoring in the 81st.

Madrid reached 18 points from eight matches, two points more than Villarreal, which hosts third-place Celta on Sunday.

Defending champion Barcelona, still without Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta because of injuries, has a chance to join Madrid with 18 points when it hosts Rayo Vallecano at the Camp Nou later Saturday.

Real Madrid got the win despite playing with a depleted squad because of injuries. Coach Rafa Benitez was without defender Sergio Ramos, midfielder Luka Modric and striker Karim Benzema, who had scored six goals in as many league games this season.

“We can take a lot of positives out of today’s game,” Benitez said. “We won 3-0 despite all the problems that we were facing and we leave with the team ahead (in the standings).”

Madrid was coming off two consecutive draws in the Spanish league, including a disappointing scoreless result against lowly Malaga in its last game at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Left back Marcelo opened the scoring after a nice give-and-go play with Ronaldo, who fed the Brazilian inside the area for a left-footed shot into the far corner.

Ronaldo added to the lead less than three minutes later from the top of the area, using two quick touches to set up a firm low shot that just barely beat Levante goalkeeper Ruben Martinez.

“We were missing a lot of people and Cristiano took on the responsibility,” Benitez said.

It was Ronaldo’s sixth league goal and 11th in all competitions this season.

According to UEFA, it was Ronaldo’s 324th goal with Madrid, allowing him to surpass Raul Gonzalez’s mark as the club’s all-time leading scorer, but Madrid credited its player with the feat when he scored in a game last month.

Rodriguez sealed the score on Saturday by clearing a defender inside the area and firing a left-footed shot into the top of the net.

Although Madrid dominated from the start under steady rain at the Bernabeu, Levante had a few good chances on counterattacks. But Keylor Navas was outstanding in goal again, making a few very difficult saves, including a remarkable one on a close-range header in the first half.

Forward Gareth Bale, who was coming off an injury, was substituted at halftime.

Levante has only six points from eight matches and could drop to last place in the 20-teaam standings depending on other results this weekend.