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Rapinoe won’t back down on social issues despite U.S. Soccer policy

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Megan Rapinoe recently earned her spot back in the U.S. Women’s National Team squad ahead of next month’s friendlies against Russia, but the veteran won’t remain silent when it comes to her stance on the social climate of America.

[ MORE: Looking back on USMNT’s big win over Honduras ]

The 31-year-old was scrutinized for joining NFL player Colin Kaepernick in 2016 when they knelt during their respective sporting events, along with dozens of other athletes across the United States.

While Rapinoe admits that the form of protest is up for discussion, she also states that social inequality issues in the U.S. go far beyond that.

“What has surprised me the most, especially post-election, is that people are still sort of arguing against it. It’s really obvious that we have very serious inequality in this country across many different spectrums,” Rapinoe told the Guardian. “Yes, we can talk about the form of protest, or the way it’s done, or this or that. But it’s still not really the conversation that I think we desperately need to have more of in this country.”

A few weeks back, U.S. Soccer announced that it now requires all players that represent the Stars and Stripes to stand when the national anthem is played, and Rapinoe has agreed to do such.

While her days of kneeling on the pitch are in the past, Rapinoe believes she wouldn’t do anything different because she was simply trying to spark discussion amongst the American people.

“I don’t think there’s any perfect way to protest. I think if there was something else being done, something else would have been said about it. I can’t look back and say that I would have done this different, this different or this different.

“I can sleep at night knowing that I genuinely tried to have a really important conversation, or at least tried to open it up. I think I came to it with an open mind, an open heart and tried to get as many people to talk about it as I could.”

Chastain, MacMillan inducted into US Soccer Hall of Fame

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SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) Brandi Chastain looked at the assembled crowd in a tent under the rain and addressed former coach Tony DiCicco, who had just introduced her at the induction ceremony for the U.S. National Soccer Hall of Fame.

[ MORE: USMNT smashes six past Honduras in CONCACAF WCQ ]

“Thank you, not just for today but for every day that you gave me the chance to play for the women’s national team, and for having the confidence in me and the guts to tell me I wasn’t going to be a forward,” she said.

Chastain, a forward on the 1991 World Cup champions and a left back whose penalty kick won a shootout for the 1999 title, was inducted Friday night along with midfielder Shannon MacMillan, a 1996 Olympic gold medalist and World Cup champion three years later.

[ MORE: Player ratings from USMNT’s win over Honduras ]

The ceremony was held before the U.S. men played Honduras in a World Cup qualifier.

Remembered most for pulling off her shirt after her World Cup-winning goal and celebrating in a sports bra, Chastain grew up in San Jose and talked about her early days playing youth soccer in the area, starting with the Quakettes. After winning her first World Cup title, she was left off the 1995 roster. She revived her career as a defender.

“Change is good. Though, scary, it’s good. And I think we would all benefit from seeing change as an opportunity for growth and development, and for a new adventure,” she said.

Now 38, Chastain scored 30 goals in 192 international appearances and also won a pair of Olympic gold medals. MacMillan, 42, had 60 in 176 international games.

“It was always such a massive honor that gave me chills every time I walked in that locker room, whether it was my first cap, my 100th cap or my last cap,” MacMillan said. “It was something that I never took for granted.”

Soccer America’s Paul Kennedy was given the Colin Jose Media Award.

The Hall’s building in Oneonta, New York, closed in 2010 and a new Hall is being built in Frisco, Texas.

World Cup qualifiers: Injured USMNT up for fight?

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Two of the USMNT’s best players have pulled out of the squad due to injury as the Yanks face two massive World Cup qualifiers in the next eight days.

Bobby Wood and Fabian Johnson were injured in Bundesliga play this weekend, a rough start to the week for Bruce Arena as he prepares for a Friday home tilt with Honduras before a March 28 match at Panama.

Johnson was almost certainly going to play left mid or left wing for Arena, while Wood had a terrific chance to play alongside Jozy Altidore in a 4-4-2.

[ MORE: Wenger reportedly wants Arsenal stay ]

Throw in DeAndre Yedlin, and Arena’s not off to a flying start.

The U.S. is dead last in World Cup qualifying after beginning life in the Hex with a 2-1 home loss to Mexico — Wood scored the goal — and a 4-0 humiliation at Costa Rica.

Honduras beat perceived group minnow Trinidad and Tobago after a 1-0 loss at Panama. They also have good road acumen, losing 1-0 at full-strength Argentina and drawing at Mexico in a September WCQ.

Anyone who’s watched early season Houston Dynamo has seen the danger that lurks with Alberth Elis and Romell Quioto in attack, not to mention Anderlecht’s Andy Najar and Tenerife’s Anthony Lozano.

So how worried should U.S. supporters be?

Probably not too much.

[ MORE: Dempsey, Morris score for Seattle ]

Honduras is a good CONCACAF side, to be sure, but the USMNT should operate beyond injury concerns when it comes to Los Catrachos.

The Yanks beat Honduras 2-1 the last time they met, a July 2015 Gold Cup match. That was a lineup that had Ventura Alvarado next to Timmy Chandler, Kyle Beckerman at holding mid, and Gyasi Zardes at left mid. Yeah, seriously. And they won.

Before that it was a 1-1 draw in Florida, and a 3-1 win in the 2014 Gold Cup semi.

Plus, the Yanks were without Geoff Cameron, Clint Dempsey, and Tim Howard in the last round of qualifiers. If that wasn’t enough for Jurgen Klinsmann to keep his job a few more months, than day-saving Arena can’t be excused for not having two wide men and a striker.

Here’s a lineup Arena can use (although his decision not to call in Timmy Chandler because of a one-match suspension is a bit baffling. Will the Bundesliga left wingback get a call for Panama?).

Howard

Zusi — Cameron — Brooks — Beasley

Bradley

Nagbe — Bedoya

Pulisic

Altidore — Dempsey

versus

Quioto — Lozano — Elis

Najar — Boniek Garcia

Espinoza

Izaguierre — Figueroa — Figueroa — Beckeles

Escober

U.S. Soccer ends youth residency program after 18 years

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It produced top talents like Landon Donovan, but now, U.S. Soccer will have to find another way to develop its budding stars moving forward.

[ MORE: Graham Zusi replaces injured Fabian Johnson with USMNT ]

On Friday, the U.S. Soccer Federation announced that it has ended its youth residency program in Bradenton, Florida after 18 years, which had previously helped the country’s top young prospects develop while receiving an education.

[ MORE: MLS Power Rankings — Week 2 ]

The residency program guided players like Landon Donovan and Michael Bradley to the heights of the U.S. Men’s National Team, in addition to 31 other squad members.

“One of our main hopes when establishing the U.S. Soccer Residency Program was that at some point advancements in youth player development would make its existence no longer necessary — we believe that point has been reached,” USSF president Sunil Gulati said in a statement on Friday.

“Not only did the program develop a number of key players for our national teams, it served as a model for academies across the country to follow. With the U.S. Development Academy having achieved high standards in preparing our young athletes, we are now able to impact future American professionals on a much larger scale.”

Instead, the U.S. Soccer Development Academy has become the nation’s foremost resource for helping provide youth players with an outlet to hone their skills. The USSDA currently features 150 clubs within its ranks, including youth academies for the majority of MLS franchises.

Rapinoe says she will respect U.S. Soccer anthem policy

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Megan Rapinoe says she will respect a new U.S. Soccer Federation policy that says national team players “shall stand respectfully” during national anthems.

The policy was approved last month but came to light Saturday before the U.S. women’s national team lost to England in a SheBelieves Cup match. A Fox Soccer analyst posted an image of the rule on Twitter.

The policy comes after Rapinoe knelt during the anthem at a pair of national team matches last year. The midfielder has said she wanted to express solidarity with former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who knelt last season in an attempt to bring attention to racial inequality.

[ MORE: West Ham 1-2 Chelsea | 3 things ]

“It is an honor to represent the USA and all that we stand for – to be able to pull on the red, white and blue to play a game that I love. I will respect the new bylaw the leadership at USSF has put forward. That said, I believe we should always value the use of our voice and platform to fight for equality of every kind,” Rapinoe said in a statement released Monday by her agent.

Rapinoe was not on the roster for the national team for the SheBelieves Cup tournament while she continues to regain her form after knee surgery. She also knelt last year during at least one game with the Seattle Reign, her National Women’s Soccer League team.

Policy 604-1 states: “All persons representing a Federation national team shall stand respectfully during the playing of national anthems at any event in which the Federation is represented.”

U.S. Soccer’s Board of Directors passed it on Feb. 9.

Following the 1-0 loss to England on Saturday, U.S. coach Jill Ellis was asked about the policy.

“I’ve always felt that that should be what we do to honor the country and have the pride of putting on a national team jersey. I said that previously, I think that should be the expectation. That’s our workplace out there and we should represent ourselves and our country,” Ellis said.

It is unclear what action would be taken if players do not follow the rule.

The U.S. Women’s National Team Players Union issued a statement over the weekend that said it was aware that U.S. Soccer was meeting and would be voting on new bylaws, however: “We were unaware of the content of those bylaws amendments, and we will assess the implications of any unreasonable restrictions for our members.”