United States

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JUNE 23:  US Womens Soccer player Megan Rapinoe (right) addresses the audience while on stage with teammate Hope Solo, at Beyond Soccer powered by streetfootballworld at SFJAZZ Center on June 23, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
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NWSL team plays anthem early to avoid Rapinoe protest; Commish not pleased

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The Washington Spirit wasn’t interested in seeing Seattle Reign midfielder Megan Rapinoe on one knee during “The Star-Spangled Banner”.

So they played it early, and branded Rapinoe’s gesture a “hijacking” of the anthem. All this in front of the league commissioner, who was not pleased.

[ MORE: NASL star eyes USMNT ]

The NWSL club explains the performance of the national anthem was intentionally early, and aimed at stopping Rapinoe from making another “nod to Colin Kaepernick”, the San Francisco 49ers quarterback who has decided to controversially kneel during the playing of the song.

Earlier Wednesday, the Reign issued a statement supporting Rapinoe, saying they would allow their players to act in accordance with their own beliefs.

Here’s the Spirit’s response:

“While we respect every individual’s right to express themselves, and believe Ms. Rapinoe to be an amazing individual with a huge heart; we respectfully disagree with her method of hijacking our organization’s event to draw attention to what is ultimately a personal – albeit worthy – cause.”

Hijacking is a pretty strong word, and the Spirit’s move does carry more than a hint of petulance (You can read the full, lengthy statement here). Rapinoe has a Constitutional right to her form of protest, just as the Spirit fans have the right to blast her for it.

Then again, the Spirit have every Constitutional right to play the anthem early (though I’m no Framer).

But sneaking around the gesture just doesn’t feel right. And NWSL commissioner Jeff Plush was blindsided by the move. His comments are below, and this won’t be the end of this story.

USA 0-4 Argentina: No. 1 team in the world dominates, moving to Copa America final

HOUSTON, TX - JUNE 21:  Lionel Messi #10 of Argentina scores a goal on a free kick in the first half against the United States during a 2016 Copa America Centenario Semifinal match at NRG Stadium on June 21, 2016 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
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It was a humbling experience for the United States in Houston.

Against a far superior opponent, the Copa America run finally came to an end, with Argentina advancing to the finals with a dominant 4-0 win. Lionel Messi ran the US ragged, while the hosts had one shot all night – none on goal.

[ MORE: All of PST’s USMNT coverage | Copa America 2016 ]

From start to finish, Argentina was by far the better team. It all came crashing down for the United States just four minutes into the game. Lionel Messi chipped the US defense, and Ezequiel Lavezzi was all alone behind the back line to head home easily past Brad Guzan.

Down early, the US pushed higher up but still struggled to hold meaningful possession on the ball thanks to the Argentina high press. Messi had an opportunity in the 15th minute when he snatched a wayward Michael Bradley pass and carved through five players, but his shot was saved by Guzan.

[ MORE: Three things we learned from USA 0-4 ARG | Player ratings ]

Argentina continued to get chances, with Gonzalo Higuain through on goal thanks to a quick restart on a free-kick at the top of the box, but a solid last-ditch tackle allowed Guzan to scoop up the ball.

With the top ranked team in the world pushing hard, the best player in the world put his seal of approval on the game. With Chris Wondolowski earning himself a yellow card for a foul at the top of the box, Messi stepped up and buried the free-kick into the top right corner, a pinpoint strike directly into the bullseye.

The US had its best chance on 42 minutes but it still didn’t come close. A cross from Gyasi Zardes flew into the box but just over the head of Chris Wondolowski.

[ VIDEO: Bullseye Lionel Messi free-kick puts Argentina up 2-0 ]

Into the second half, Jurgen Klinsmann brought on young Christian Pulisic, but things continued to get ugly. Gonzalo Higuain snuck behind John Brooks and the US back line, and although Guzan saved the first attempt, the rebound fell back to Higuain and he finished for a 3-0 lead.

There was a scary moment just past the hour mark when Lavezzi fell over the signage on the edge, and appeared to seriously injure his arm, but he walked off under his own power. He was replaced by Erik Lamela. Higuain got a second, on a feed from Messi, leaving the Napoli striker to poke home from close range.

Messi and company saw the final 30 minutes out with ease, holding possession and hardly seeing their goal threatened. With the win, Argentina moves onto the final against the winner of the other semifinal between Colombia and Chile. The U.S. still has one more game to play, with the 3rd place game still to come against the loser of the other semifinal.

Jurgen Klinsmann, Michael Bradley downplay task ahead vs Argentina

SEATTLE, WA - JUNE 16:  Head coach Jurgen Klinsmann of the United States smiles as he walks off the pitch after defeating Ecuador in the 2016 Quarterfinal - Copa America Centenario match at CenturyLink Field on June 16, 2016 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
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The USMNT manager and captain are both proceeding with their preparations for Tuesday’s Copa America semifinal with a sense of normalcy.

No matter they’re matched up with a five-time Ballon d’Or winner or the number-one ranked team in the world.

Ahead of Tuesday night’s contest against Argentina, Jurgen Klinsmann and Michael Bradley are instead ready for the challenge that awaits them while still being understanding of the task ahead.

“We don’t want to make this out to be a Mission Impossible,” Michael Bradley said. “It’s 90 minutes. It’s a semifinal.” Those are all absolute, indisputable facts.

“We are not scared of them at all,” head coach Jurgen Klinsmann said, echoing his captain’s thoughts.

The United States will face Lionel Messi and Argentina with a chance to not only make an enormous statement among world soccer, but to also reach the Copa America semifinals for the first time in history.

However, amid all the confidence, there was also a dose of reality, and Jurgen spun it to hit out at US fans and media, as he has more than once during the successes of this tournament. “There will be setbacks, and there’s also a lot of explanation from your [the media’s] end that needs to be done to the casual soccer fan or kind of the more emotional soccer fan, so we still go through a lot of explaining why certain things happen when there is a setback, how you take that and so on.” You can read the full comment here.

Coming into the tournament, the United States had suffered a number of setbacks over the past year, and many speculated that had the US not advanced from its Copa America group, Klinsmann’s job could be on the line. Now, with the team in the semifinals, that all appears to be well in the rear view mirror.

United States 1-0 Ecuador: Nagbe grabs late winner in 90-minute snoozefest

FRISCO, TX - MAY 25:  Nagbe Darlington #10 of the United States celebrates with Christian Pulisic #17 of the United States after scoring against Ecuador during an International Friendly match at Toyota Stadium on May 25, 2016 in Frisco, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
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The United States snoozed its way through one half and flubbed its way through another, saved by an 89th-minute winner from Darlington Nagbe that gave the home side the admittedly deserved win over an even worse Ecuadorian side.

Ecuador came to Frisco, Texas, as both sides get ready for the Copa America to come just days away, and they each left with little to take from the scoreless draw until Nagbe broke the ice with a minute to go.

[ USMNT-ECUADOR: Player ratings | 3 things ]

The first big chance of the game came just on the half-hour mark, as a beautiful chipped ball from Clint Dempsey over the Ecuador back line sprung Gyasi Zardes free. Unfortunately, the famous Zardes touch saw the ball get away from him and out of play.

The rest of the half snoozed by, and after the break, the US spurned another great chance just three minutes into the second half. A beautiful ball from Michael Bradley reached the far post where Steve Birnbaum, John Brooks, and Clint Dempsey were all waiting, and somehow none of them made contact, instead toppling over each other as the ball rolled harmlessly to the goalkeeper.

Soon after, the US conceded its best chance yet to Ecuador. A great touch by Miller Bolanos sends Angel Mena into acres of space through on goal, but Michael Bradley sprinted from the mid-line to recover and punch the ball out as Mena cut back.

Jurgen Klinsmann switched up the attack past the hour mark, bringing on Bobby Wood, Darlington Nagbe, and young Christian Pulisic. They created a chance with 20 minutes to go as Graham Zusi delivered a ball across the face of goal. It was out of the reach of Pulisic, but it came to Alejandro Bedoya on the far side, who sent it back across the face, again untouched.

As the US took control through the late stages, they got the winner. DeAndre Yedlin sent in a cross that came off the head of Juan Paredes. Bobby Wood won the rebound, heading it back to Nagbe waiting in the middle, and the 25-year-old chested it down and volleyed it in for his first international goal.

The US takes on Bolivia on Saturday before the Copa America begins June 3.

US Soccer legend Abby Wambach announces retirement

PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 16: Abby Wambach #20 of the United States claps following an attendance announcement in the second half against Costa Rica during the match at Heinz Field on August 16, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
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The all-time leading goalscorer in world soccer is hanging up the cleats.

USWNT superstar Abby Wambach announced her retirement from the game on Tuesday. She will be with the women’s team for all four of its December matches, with her final one coming against China PR on December 16 in New Orleans, the last of the 10-game Victory Tour following the 2015 World Cup win.

“After much deliberation and talking with my friends, family, teammates and our coaching staff, I’ve decided to finally bring my soccer career to an end,” Wambach said in a statement released by U.S. Soccer. “While we still have more work to do for women’s soccer, after bringing the World Cup back to the United States this summer, I’m feeling extremely optimistic about the future of our sport. It’s been an amazing, wonderful ride and I can’t wait to see what the next chapter of my life brings.”

Wambach, now 35, began her United States national team career at just 21 years old against Germany in 2001, amassing 252 caps and scoring 184 goals for her country, far and away the most in international soccer history, men’s or women’s.

However, as any pro athlete eventually faces, her production was in a slow but noticeable decline, forcing USWNT head coach Jill Ellis to make a difficult but necessary decision, relegating Wambach to substitute duty for much of the 2015 World Cup. With the 2016 Olympics nearing, Wambach’s retirement will allow the U.S. women’s team to progress without facing a similar situation.

The Rochester, NY native was a fan favorite throughout her career, and became a pioneer in the sport both on and off the field. She announced before the World Cup that it would be her last, signing off from the sport’s biggest competition with an emotional farewell video before the final.