Always the focal point of the attack, Wambach exceeds all expectations in breaking goals record

1 Comment

HARRISON, N.J. — With history set as the backdrop, Abby Wambach exceeded even her own expectations.

The U.S. Soccer centennial banners lined the field at Red Bull Arena, celebrating 100 years of the federation’s existence. But 160 was the only number that would matter by night’s end.

Wambach had a hat trick inside 30 minutes and scored a fourth goal in first half stoppage time to reach 160 goals, breaking Mia Hamm’s previous world record of 158.

“My teammates know me super well,” she said. “At halftime they were like, ‘you are such an extremist. You are all or nothing. When you want to do something you just do it.’ I’m very much like my father in that way.”

Wambach credited her teammates for setting her up throughout the night – and throughout her career. Even on a night when the world’s attention focused on Wambach, the 5-foot-11-inch forward couldn’t help but try to pass off the spotlight.

“I really through and through believe it in my heart, I’m only as good as my teammates allow me to be,” Wambach said. “Yes, I score a lot of goals and yes I put myself in positions to score goals, but they do to. And I can’t thank my teammates enough.”

Her teammates, however wouldn’t allow the focus to be anywhere but firmly fixed on the No. 20 shirt in white.

“Honestly, we’re always looking for each other,” said Alex Morgan, who has now assisted 13 of Wambach’s 160 career goals. “Abby, after she scored three, she was like, ‘OK, can we please get it to you now? Can we pass it to you? Let’s go. We’re always looking for each other up top. Making runs for each other, so I think that we play well together; we play selflessly and it has shown in the success of the team.”

Goal No. 159, which gave Wambach sole possession of the record, came when she emphatically headed Megan Rapinoe’s corner kick into the net

“She was on two at that point, so obviously it was going through my head. Just put something good – let her get up there and try to grab something,” Rapinoe said of her thought process on the corner kick.”

Even given Wambach’s prowess, Rapinoe didn’t think the record was reachable pregame.

“I can’t even believe it,” Rapinoe said. “I didn’t think that she was going to have a hat trick tonight, to be honest.”

Now Wambach wants to move on from the hype and focus on getting ready for the 2015 World Cup — a trophy that continues to elude her. And her focus on the record isn’t about herself, it’s about helping Morgan break it “in much less time than I did.”

Wenger: I’ll decide my future in September

Leave a comment

Arsene Wenger, former manager of Arsenal for more than 20 years, is famous for many things. One is either his indicative nature, or ability to show prudence when making decisions, depending on how you see it.

Wenger has been without a job for the first time in more than two decades, and he’s been taking his time deciding on what his future will be. There no doubt have been plenty of offers for him, whether to be a club coach, national team coach or a media pundit on any number of television networks across the globe.

[READ: Salah named to UEFA POY shortlist]

“I decided not to decide,” Wenger said in an interview with Corse Matin while on vacation in Corsica  “I was intoxicated (with soccer) so long that I made a promise to make no decision until September.”

In a follow-up question about whether he would go into another field, such as politics, Wenger rejected that, so it appears he still sees his future in soccer. But in the meantime, he’s been busy playing sports and relaxing by the ocean.

“Yes, (it’s been) very good,” Wenger said of his time off, “even better than I thought. When you have been as busy as I have been, you always fear a little emptiness.

“But I quickly organized myself in this new stage of my life, I do a lot of sport, here I eat with my friends, copiously, I talk a lot too, I can stay for hours watching the horizon, I read all day, at the moment a book by Philip Roth, I Married a Communist.”

In the question and answer, Wenger also backed former Arsenal star Thierry Henry to take over at Bordeaux, as has been rumored, though he warned he wasn’t sure if Henry was truly ready to sacrifice everything to be a manager.

“Yes, he wants to do it, he is intelligent and he has the qualities,” Wenger said. “The existential question that we always ask ourselves is whether we are ready to sacrifice our life for the coaching profession.”

Salah, Ronaldo and Modric on UEFA Player of Year shortlist

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Mohamed Salah‘s magical season for Liverpool could help him usurp what had been a hegemony at the top of UEFA’s yearly awards.

[READ: Morata admits to struggles in Conte’s system]

Salah, along with former teammates Cristiano Ronaldo and Luka Modric were all nominated for UEFA’s Player of the Year award. Salah led Liverpool to an improbable run to the Champions League final, scoring 10 goals and dishing out five assists in 13 Champions League matches.

Ronaldo of course won his third-straight Champions League title last season and fifth overall while leading all goalscorers in the competition for the sixth-straight season. And Modric, starring for Real Madrid along with Ronaldo before the latter left for Juventus, won his third-straight title and led Croatia to the World Cup final in Russia.

Here’s the rest of the top 10. The Men’s Player of the Year, along with Women’s Player of the Year and Champions League Best XI will be announced on August 30. Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have combined to win the last four awards.

4. Antoine Griezmann (Atlético & France) – 72 points
5. Lionel Messi (Barcelona & Argentina) – 55 points
6. Kylian Mbappé (Paris & France) – 43 points
7. Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City & Belgium) – 28 points
8. Raphaël Varane (Real Madrid & France) – 23 points
9. Eden Hazard (Chelsea & Belgium) – 15 points
10. Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid & Spain) – 12 points

Morata admits difficult adapting to Conte’s system last season

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Alvaro Morata, coming off one of the worst 12 months of his career, is off to a fast start.

If you ask the Spanish striker, it’s thanks to the manager.

Speaking to Chelsea TV, Morata described how he struggled during the 2017-2018 season thanks to former manager Antonio Conte‘s more direct style of play, which forced Morata to play more with his back to goal and control long balls in the air.

[READ: Bale powers Real Madrid to win]

“I think for me the most important thing is the mode we play,” Morata said, praising the 4-3-3 formation the Blues play now under Maurizio Sarri. “Last year it was direct, I had to protect the ball in the air and that’s not my best quality. Now I can attack the spaces, play one-touch and go into the area for the crosses which is better for me.

“The last year was very hard for me, not just with confidence. The injury [last season] was very bad for me and my head, but when the ball goes into the net everything changes. Your mind isn’t blocked anymore and I hope now I can score a lot of goals.”

Morata provided a cool turn and finish for Chelsea in its 3-2 win over Arsenal on Saturday, a classic touch after a season in which Morata didn’t look like himself. It kept Morata home for the summer, having missed out on Spain’s World Cup campaign, which ended in defeat on penalties in the Round of 16 to Russia. Perhaps a Morata high on confidence could have helped them.

With Olivier Giroud more suited to play a game in the air or a hold-up game, it appears that Morata is in position to take advantage of the change of playing style, and we could see his best this season for Chelsea.

Tottenham to host first Champions League fixture at Wembley

Getty Images
1 Comment

What seemed like a given was finally made official on Monday. Tottenham will host its first UEFA Champions League match at Wembley Stadium.

[READ: D.C. United wins fourth in a row]

The club announced that its first Champions League match, set to be held on either September 18/19 or October 2/3, will be held at England’s national stadium, as safety concerns have kept the new White Hart Lane from opening on time. The draw for the Champions League group stage will be held on August 30, following the conclusion of the Playoff Round, which is set to get underway this week.

Tottenham has already moved upcoming fixtures against Liverpool and Cardiff City to Wembley Stadium, but the venue for Tottenham’s highly-anticipated home match against Manchester City on October 28 has yet to be determined.

Due to the stadium delays, Tottenham can also apply to the FA to play their League Cup match in September on the road, regardless of the draw.