Becky Sauerbrunn

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Trio of USWNT players stay in locker room for national anthem

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USWNT players Megan Rapinoe, Sydney Leroux and Becky Sauerbrunn were among players from both the Seattle Reign and FC Kansas City who did not appear for the national anthem at a NWSL game on Sunday.

Rapinoe was the first USWNT player to kneel during the national anthem as she joined the protests led by NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick calling for racial equality and against police brutality.

With several NFL teams on Sunday taking a knee during the anthem and the Pitstburgh Steelers, Tennessee Titans and Seattle Seahawks staying in the locker room during the playing of the Star Spangled Banner, U.S. President Donald Trump has responded angrily to sports teams who decided to kneel during the national anthem.

Here’s more info from Sounder At Heart on SB Nation:

This time Megan Rapinoe is not alone. Several players from both teams joined her, staying in the locker room during the flag and anthem ceremony.

Elli Reed, Megan Rapinoe, Madalyn Schiffel, Lauren Barnes and Diana Matheson from the Reign did not take the field. Former Sounders/Reign player Sydney Leroux was among the FCKC starters who were not out for the ceremonies. Yael Averbuch, Becky Sauerbrunn, and Desiree Scott round out that group. Sauerbrunn is currently the United States captain. Leroux and Rapinoe are both regulars with the USWNT.

With U.S. Soccer bringing in a new bylaw earlier this year which states players must stand for the national anthem, could we see male and female U.S. stars following this option by not going out onto the pitch for the national anthem in upcoming international games?

All eyes will be on USWNT captain Sauerbrunn, plus midfielder Rapinoe and Leroux, during the anthem when Jill Ellis’ side play against South Korea on Oct. 19 and Oct. 22.

The actions of Bruce Arena’s USMNT side will also be heavily scrutinized ahead of their upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Panama and Trinidad & Tobago on Oct. 6 and Oct. 10 respectively.

Women’s national team and U.S. Soccer intensify talks

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Talks between the U.S. women’s national team players and the U.S. Soccer Federation intensified over the weekend in the ongoing effort to reach a deal on a new contract.

The latest negotiations come on the heels of an agreement between USA Hockey and its women’s national team for better compensation following a threat by players to boycott the world championships. The Irish women’s national soccer team also said it would skip an upcoming international match in a labor dispute.

“There is no question that women athletes around the world are sending a strong message,” said Molly Levinson, spokeswoman for the U.S. Women’s National Team Players Association. “They are demanding fairness and equality and they are changing the game for the future.”

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The 2015 Women’s World Cup champions have been without a contract since Dec. 31. Talks were stalled when the players parted ways in late December with attorney Rich Nichols, who had been executive director of the USWNTPA since late 2014.

The players’ association has met numerous times with U.S. Soccer since the union brought in a new executive director and legal representation earlier this year.

The terms of the previous collective bargaining agreement remain in place unless either side files a 60-day notice of termination. Neither side has filed.

The latest negotiations come a year after a group of players filed a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that alleged wage discrimination by the federation. The players maintained male national team counterparts earned far more than they did in many cases.

Becky Sauerbrunn, Meghan Klingenberg and Christen Press were elected player representatives at the team’s January training camp. In February, Sauerbrunn expressed hope that a deal could be struck before the National Women’s Soccer league opens play this month.

U.S. Soccer pays the salaries of national team players in the NWSL and the terms are spelled out in the CBA with the federation.

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“I think the tone is really positive at this point,” midfielder Megan Rapinoe said earlier this year. “I think that we’re excited to collaborate with U.S. Soccer and hopefully get the best deal, not only for us but for them as well in this partnership going forward. I think we’re still very committed to the mission and the goals that we’ve had from the beginning for this CBA, and that’s to get a deal that fairly reflects the work we do on and off the field and our value on the market.”

The USSF has maintained that much of the pay disparity between the men’s and women’s teams results from separate collective bargaining agreements.

The women’s team had set up its compensation structure, which included a guaranteed salary rather than a pay-for-play model like the men, in the last labor contract. The players also earn salaries – paid by the federation – for playing in the NWSL.

The women receive other benefits, including health care, that the men’s national team players don’t receive, the federation has maintained.

The players’ EEOC complaint is still pending. On the anniversary of the filing last week, Rapinoe went to social media to both mark the occasion and support her hockey counterparts.

She posted: “On the 1 yr anniversary of the EEOC filing, we send best wishes to (hash)USWNT hockey in their (hash)2017WWC. Let’s (hash)changethegame (hash)beboldforchange.”

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Last week, just days before hosting the world championships, USA Hockey and the women’s national team reached an agreement to end their wage dispute and avoid a boycott on home ice.

The push for better wages and conditions extended Tuesday, which marked Equal Pay Day, to Ireland, where women’s national team players have threatened to boycott a match on Monday against Slovakia.

The players say they’re not compensated fairly by the Football Association of Ireland for the time they have to take off work to compete. They also want to be paid for matches and would like their own team apparel – something they currently share with youth players.

Men in Blazers podcast: BlazerCon special with the USWNT

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At BlazerCon, World Cup Champions Ali Krieger, Heather O’Reilly and Becky Sauerbrunn discussed their magical summer, meeting the President and the future of the women’s game with Fox Sports 1’s Katie Nolan.

Listen to the latest pod by clicking play below.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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The USWNT is performing exactly how Jill Ellis wants, but will it work against the best?

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It doesn’t look pretty. In fact, it looks quite clunky. Solid possession is at a minimum, the midfield can’t seem to get a hold on the game, and long balls often stifle creativity.

But despite what the eye test is telling us, the USWNT is performing exactly as Jill Ellis wants.

The biggest question now isn’t whether they’ll start playing better anytime soon. They already are at or close to their best. This is the apex of what we’re going to get. Don’t expect anything prettier, don’t expect anything more fluid, or you will be sorely disappointed.

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No, the question isn’t when this team will peak. Ellis has this club playing a strictly defense-first mentality, and with just one single goal conceded all tournament, they’re playing at optimal levels.

Julie Johnston has emerged as the team’s best player, and her center-back partner Becky Sauerbrunn is happy to operate at peak performance in her shadow. While television analysts clamor for the wing-backs to bomb forward and provide some help to the patchy creativity up front, Ellis has Meghan Klingenberg and Ali Krieger sitting comfortably in defensive positions on the flanks.

So when you consider this team has conceded just one goal through four matches so far, and they’ve scored just enough each time, Ellis doesn’t care about any other numbers. While analysts, journalists, and fans clamor the “yea but,” none of that matters to the USWNT right now. That is why, when they found themselves scoreless at halftime against a clearly inferior Colombia side on Monday, nobody looked panicked, frustrated, or concerned in any fashion – they had kept the other team scoreless, and knew that one or two were on their way into the back of the net at some point, no matter how awkward the goalscoring was destined to look. Here’s the expected goals tally for that match:

Sure Alex Morgan is still far from her best. Sure Abby Wambach looks less and less useful. But 0.2 xG for an opponent is a complete and total defensive shutdown, and that’s priority #1 for Ellis. Sure it ain’t pretty, but it’s worked – so far.

And that is the elephant in the room. Not if this team will peak, not if this team will start to look more fluid, more attacking, more cohesive up front; none of that is going to happen. No, the true question mark plaguing this team is do they have enough to hold teams like Germany, France, or Japan off the scoreboard?

When you play to concede zero rather than score three, that is the biggest concern. Sure, the United States has given up just one goal all tournament, but in the only match they did concede – the opener against Australia – it truly felt like they were in trouble. They also drew Sweden, but taking 0-0 to extra time in the knockout stages would feel like advantage US. It’s when the USWNT concedes a goal that the plan begins to unravel.

And that is where the concern lies. The attack of Germany has utterly decleated nearly every defense it’s faced thus far. Can the United States truly play a defensive style and expect to come out with a 1-0 win against a team like that?

Jill Ellis has this USWNT performing exactly how she wants it to at the moment, but when the time comes to put her money where her mouth is so to speak, the fate of the United States’ World Cup hopes lies firmly with the back line. If they can hold the best attacks in the world off the scoreboard, the United States will rumble, bumble, and stumble its way across the finish line to hoist the trophy that has so eluded Abby Wambach and the rest of her teammates. If they can’t, they will go home empty-handed.

Three things learned: Morgan relieved to get back in scoring column

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EDMONTON, Alberta – The U.S. eked out a 2-0 victory against Colombia on Monday in the Round of 16 in a match that was hardly a dominant display from the American. The win puts the U.S. through to the quarterfinals against China on Friday, but the Americans are yet to play their best soccer.

U.S. players say they are still coming into their peak, and that improvements are tangible. Here’s what we learned from the United States’ 2-0 win over Colombia:

A weight lifted off Morgan’s shoulders: Alex Morgan scored her first goal of this World Cup in her second straight start. She said she was initially looking to cross the ball on the sequence, but a goal’s a goal. That’s all she really cares about.

“It’s definitely a little bit of a sigh of relief,” Morgan said. “Just as a forward we always want to score goals. We’re expected to score goals. We needed that breakthrough at that moment after not converting the penalties, so it was a breath of fresh air after I scored.”

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The goal was Morgan’s first since March 4 against Switzerland. Morgan admitted that the recovery process from a bone bruise in her left knee that kept her most of April and all of May became worrying in the homestretch ahead of the World Cup. She said she had “a minor freak-out three weeks before the World Cup” when she still wasn’t back to full training, saying that sometimes she gets inside of her own head too much. Now, however, Morgan is only looking forward.

“I don’t remember the last goal I’ve had with this team and that’s not a good sign,” she said.” So I don’t want to look back and see when the last one was, because now I’ve scored and it’s a fresh start moving forward. But I’m happy at where I am with the team. I think we’ve been building the last couple of games. I think that in the second half we had a pretty dominant performance and I’m looking forward to playing China next.”

U.S. extends shutout streak: The United States’ defense has been its best asset this tournament, and while Colombia never looked overly threatening in the final third, distribution out of the back by the Americans was less than stellar. It’s something that will need to improve against China in the quarterfinals, but even on an off night, per se, the U.S. extended its shutout streak to 333 minutes, last conceding in the opening half-hour of the tournament against Australia.

“They are very good in tight spaces and so they got out pretty well, so we had to be OK with them having the ball at times,” U.S. defender Becky Sauerbrunn said. “I think defensively, as a team, we did really well in keeping them away from dangerous areas.”

Colombia is for real: Colombia will leave this tournament having sent a message to the rest of the world that they won’t be pushovers at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Colombia’s disciplined first-half performance frustrated the U.S. and Las Cafeteras hardly looked out of their depths physically or tactically.

Lady Andrade was largely bottled up but showed moments of that impressive flair that made for an exceptional tournament. Colombia’s midfield gave the U.S. trouble with the extra player in the middle of the park – a concerning trend for the U.S. – and controlled the ball through large stretches.

“I think that in the future, any team that has to play against Colombia as an opponent will realize that it is a team that is very complete, very mature,” Colombia coach Fabian Taborda said.

Indeed, the world took notice. Had that game been played at full-strength the entire time, the result could have been much different.