Author: Jeff Kassouf

151026 Morgan Kyle Hagan Orlando
Photo Courtesy Orlando Pride

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


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.

Lloyd’s second straight hat trick boosts US women past Haiti

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Carli Lloyd is still delivering hat tricks, just on smaller stages than the World Cup final.

Lloyd had her second straight three-goal game to lead the United States to an 8-0 victory over Haiti on Sunday in a friendly.

Lloyd scored all three goals in the first half for her fifth hat trick and second in three days, then sat out the second half. She also made recent appearances ranging from “Hard Knocks” on HBO to ESPN’s “College GameDay Saturday” before the Mississippi-Alabama game.

“It’s been remarkable because she’s not only playing with her club but making all these appearances,” U.S. coach Jill Ellis said. “To put back to back performances with our team- she’s just a great professional. She’s so mentally strong that regardless of the opponent, regardless of the surface, she just takes the same approach. That’s a high standard that she has for herself, and yet she wants to deliver for her teammates.”

Lloyd also had three goals Thursday night in the first game against Haiti, which substituted for the Australian team mired in a labor dispute. She has 16 goals this year, one more than her previous high set in 2012 and matched in 2014.

“It’s all about improvement for me,” Lloyd said. “It’s all about contributing to the team and continuing to fight like an underdog.”

Lloyd has 14 goals in her last eight matches as the Americans continue their Women’s World Cup victory tour that so far has been a series of routs.

The Americans pushed their home unbeaten streak to 100 matches, going to 88-0-12. They haven’t lost at home since falling to Denmark on Nov. 6, 2004, during a post-Olympic celebratory tour.

Tougher competition awaits with a pair of October matches against Brazil in Seattle and Orlando, Florida.

Lloyd scored her third goal on a header in the 39th minute. She had just missed another first-half goal but her shot off a corner kick bounced off the crossbar.

The U.S. has outscored Haiti 42-0 in six meetings.

Crystal Dunn’s goal in the 17th minute was her second in the two games with Haiti, also marking her first two with the U.S. team. Dunn, who led the NWSL with 15 goals for the Washington Spirit, was among the final players cut from the World Cup team.

“I’ve definitely changed a lot about my game the last few months,” said Dunn, who also assisted on Lloyd’s second goal. “It was about development and that’s what I took away from being this close to making it.”

Julie Johnston scored in the first minute to start the barrage. Amy Rodriguez, Alex Morgan and Heather O’Reilly added second-half goals.

It was the Americans’ first match in Birmingham since 2008, a 5-4 victory over Australia when the U.S. scored two own goals and nearly blew a 4-1 lead. The crowd of 35,753 at Legion Field was the largest to see a standalone U.S. women’s game in the Southeast.

The Americans have won nine straight overall since a 0-0 tie against Sweden in the group stage of the World Cup and are unbeaten in 20 matches (17-0-3) since an exhibition loss at France in February.

With a starting lineup that included two 16-year-olds and three 17-year-olds, the Haitians seldom managed to push the ball across midfield. The U.S. had 39 shots, Haiti didn’t have any.

Kelley O’Hara and Megan Rapinoe both had two assists.

Becky Sauerbrunn made her first start for the U.S. as a central midfielder. Her previous 68 starts came as a central defender.

Iran captain set to miss Asian Cup after husband took passport

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The captain of the Iranian women’s soccer team will miss the Asian Cup tournament as her husband has confiscated her passport in a domestic quarrel, local media has reported.

The dispute between 30-year-old midfielder Niloufar Ardalan and her husband, sports journalist Mahdi Toutounchi, touches on the rights of women in the Islamic Republic. Under Iranian law, husbands can stop their wives from traveling outside of the country.

News of Ardalan missing the tournament came Monday, when Iranian news website reported that Ardalan wouldn’t be traveling to Malaysia for the Asian Cup, which begins Thursday. Ardalan’s husband reportedly wanted her to be home for their son’s first day of school.

In an Instagram post Tuesday, Ardalan said foreign media was exaggerating her case, but also acknowledged she would be missing the tournament. She also made a call for Iran to change its laws governing married women’s travel.

“I am only a national soldier who fights to raise flag of our country,” she wrote. “I wish a law would be approved that allows female soldiers to fight for raising the flag.”

The dilemma of Ardalan, known by the nickname “Lady Goal,” has sparked social media chatter across Iran, with many demanding she be allowed to travel and play.

Women’s sports largely disappeared after Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution. Over time, however, they have gained popularity, especially soccer. Social customs still come into the game though, as the country’s soccer team plays its games with players’ hair covered by hijabs.

Two Islamic countries make the headscarf mandatory for women in public – Iran and Saudi Arabia. FIFA overturned a yearlong ban against players wearing hijabs in 2012.