After Women’s World Cup triumph, Wambach, Ellis face questions about 2016 Olympics

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia – So, what now?

It’s a blunt question, to be fair, but it was the forward-looking inquiry for the United States women’s national team after the last pieces of golden confetti fell onto BC Place’s artificial turf, amid thick haze that blew into the partially-roofed stadium from wildfires to the east.

The U.S. had just won its first Women’s World Cup in 16 years, demolishing Japan, 5-2 in the highest-scoring final in history.

But the Americans are also three-time defending Olympic champions, and the Rio Olympics start in just over a year. The U.S. was also the oldest team of 24 teams at this World Cup with an average age of over 29 years old.

Longtime captain Christie Rampone turned 40 years old during the tournament. She won both the 1999 and 2015 World Cups, the only player on the current team to win two titles.

“It’s been amazing,” Rampone said. “To be put in at the end of the game is truly an honor and I thank the coaching staff for that. It just brings it full-circle for me. Starting with a win and ending with a win, it doesn’t get better than that.”

But Rampone played only 14 minutes in this World Cup, losing her spot as starting center back – initially due to injury – to 23-year-old Julie Johnston. This was Rampone’s last World Cup, but will she try to play at the 2016 Olympics? Will she retire at year’s end?

“We’ll see how it goes,” she told NBC Sports on Sunday.

[MORE: Lloyd the hat-trick hero  |  US peaks at right time  |  Japan implodes]

Rampone is not alone in the dilemma. Midfielder Shannon Boxx turned 38 years old in June; she played only 16 minutes at this World Cup, all against Nigeria.

And the big question that everyone wants to know: Will Abby Wambach retire? Wambach is the most decorated goal-scorer in the history of men’s or women’s international soccer. Her lone tally of the tournament against Nigeria boosted her haul to 183 career goals.

In the moments following the match on Sunday, Wambach was pointed about enjoying the night before thinking about or discussing her future. On Monday morning, she told Fox Sports that she needs time to think about her future.

“Right now, I’m gonna have to definitely re-evaluate in the coming weeks, the coming months,” Wambach said. “We’ve got the 10-game celebration tour that we’re gonna have a lot of fun with and we’ve got to qualify come January/February of next year for the Olympics. So, we’ll see how my body feels, we’ll see what’s going on with some of the other players on the team. It’s an 18-[player] squad, so it’s a harder squad to make. And I just want to be happy and playing really good soccer.”

Wambach’s mom, Judy, said Monday that she was “over the moon” for her daughter, but she isn’t sure what the 35-year-old forward will do.

“She has so much fun doing this, I would hope that she would [continue],” Judy Wambach said. “But she has always said they have to want her to, so it all depends on the circumstances at the time, if she’s healthy and they want her. There’s a lot of young, beautifully talented women behind her now that can take the reins and be successful.”

These roster questions are the latest that stare down U.S. coach Jill Ellis, who faced hefty criticism for the team’s uninspiring play in the first four matches of the World Cup before being anointed for her tactical changes from the quarterfinal stage onward (some changes were made by force due to suspension, but it’s irrefutable that Ellis nailed the United States’ tactics in the final two games).

[LAULETTA: Wambach gets the World Cup title she has so long desired]

Ellis said on Monday that she hasn’t yet discussed the future with Wambach or some of the other veterans, but the English-born U.S. boss will have to trim her 23-player World Cup roster to 18 players for the Olympics. The last player cut from this United States World Cup team was Crystal Dunn, who has largely played fullback for the national team but has, since being inspired by her publicly perceived snubbing from this U.S. squad, gone on a tear in the National Women’s Soccer League, scoring a league-leading seven goals in 11 matches for the Washington Spirit.

“Crystal was on the cusp and it was a really hard decision, but I know we’ve got a lot of quality and there’s some players that maybe I haven’t seen,” Ellis said. “I’ll continue to look at the NWSL games and look at the youth teams and see what’s out there.”

A usually stoic Ellis was visibly ecstatic – to use her word – on Sunday night and Monday morning. This World Cup victory was about the here and now, but it was also about sending the veterans out – with “out” at least being in terms of their World Cup careers – on a high note.

“It was one of the priorities for me,” Ellis said. “As much as you want this for your country and you want this for these players, those women have given so much and to send them off with a World Cup, I get emotional thinking about it, because that was a big, big part. I want their legacy – they’ve done so much for the game and now to leave their mark and people talk about them, and this generation now has their next set of heroes.”

That appreciation for the outgoing generation is a longstanding part of the U.S. national team’s culture. Hat-trick hero Carli Lloyd handed over the captain’s armband when Wambach checked into the final in the 79th minute, and Wambach handed it over to Rampone after the game. Rampone, in turn, made Wambach wait with her at the back of the procession for the gold medals, so that the two multi-generational legends could lift the World Cup trophy together.

That sort of togetherness isn’t lost on the new stars of the team, including the player Wambach has most directly influenced, forward Alex Morgan.

“Me and Abby spent a couple minutes sitting down in the locker room as everyone was celebrating,” Morgan said. “It was a pretty special moment for me, knowing that – I actually asked her if it was the last time we were going to play together ever on the field together, starting to tear up, and she said, ‘no, we have a couple more months together, probably.’ So, that made me smile a little bit.

“Abby, like I said before the World Cup final, she’s the glue to this team and I love her so much. She’s such a great friend of mine and it’s not only her, though. It’s honestly some of the other players like Christie Rampone, who has worked so hard and is Captain America to us. So, it’s some of those players that we look up to, still to this day.”

Wambach started three of the seven games at this World Cup but played only 25 combined minutes in the United States’ final three matches. She said last week that her time on the bench this tournament has taken years off her life, and she now knows how stressful it is for her parents to have to watch matches from the stands.

“I said it to her: ‘Now you know what it’s like to sit there patiently,” Judy Wambach said Monday.

Now the world waits patiently to see what Wambach and some of her teammates will do.

Mourinho comments after leaving Dele Alli out amidst PSG links

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Tottenham Hotspur scored five times in Sunday’s win over Southampton, but Jose Mourinho’s comments after leaving Dele Alli out of the team will have elicited plenty of buzz.

So will rumors that Paris Saint-Germain is among the clubs seeking the English attacker’s signature.

[ RECAP: Southampton 2-5 Spurs ]

Saying “I want a balanced squad” and that he has too many forwards to dress right now — yes, even before Gareth Bale suits up — Mourinho explained his thoughts on the forward.

From Football.London:

“I’m not responsible for the market. I’m not able to answer your question on that. I can only say I left eight players behind training. They are a big group and Dele was among this group. The same way a squad is a puzzle and in the same way so is the bench. I cannot have three wingers and a number 10 and then no defender. Dele stayed out but probably Tuesday he will play.”

Journalist Fabrizio Romano reported that Spurs have been trying to offload Dele over the past few days and that Real Madrid did not want to take him on loan as part of the Gareth Bale deal.

The 24-year-old was hooked at halftime of Tottenham’s season-opening loss to Everton and has cooled off considerably since an early rejuvenation under Mourinho last season.

Dele has 62 goals and 55 assists in 223 appearances for Spurs, but just 16 and 14 in his last 77 dating back to the start of the 2018-19 season.

The knock on Dele has been that he’s a poor trainer, something the player laughed off when Mourinho pointed it out with a smirk during a meeting caught by cameras during the club’s “All Or Nothing” series.

Dele has three goals and six assists in 37 England caps and would still fetch a decent transfer fee, though he hasn’t appeared for the Three Lions since 2019.

Is it time to sell? Spurs run the risk that Dele’s value may never quite rebound anywhere near its heights and could dip quite a bit lower if he stays out of favor in North London. And Bale’s salary isn’t going to pay itself.

USMNT forward Gooch crafts long solo goal for Sunderland (video)

Lynden Gooch goal video
Photo by Leila Coker/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images
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Former Premier League mainstay Sunderland is still toiling away in League One, but American forward Lynden Gooch enjoyed the competition on Saturday.

The Californian, 24, is a Black Cats lifer having joined the club at age 17 in 2012. He’s stuck with the club despite two relegations after his 11-appearance Premier League run in 2016-17.

[ MORE: Reyna gets first Bundesliga goal ]

Gooch came off the bench with Sunderland up 1-0 and delivering the second goal of the game within four minutes of his entrance.

There was some comical defending on the play, though we’d like to say the American bewitched Oxford United with his 20th senior goal for Sunderland to go with 17 assists in 126 outings.

Sunderland drew Bristol Rovers in its league opener and sit fifth on the table.

Gooch has made four substitute appearances for the USMNT but none since 2018.

Son, Kane team up four times in Spurs’ big win over Southampton

Southampton - Tottenham Hotspur
Photo by Andrew Boyers - Pool/Getty Images
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Southampton – Tottenham: Heung-min Son and Harry Kane beat Southampton by four on Sunday at St. Mary’s.

Okay, okay — Kane’s goal and four assists to Son joined some early goalkeeping heroics from Hugo Lloris to do the thing for Tottenham Hotspur and give Jose Mourinho a 5-2 win over Saints.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ] 

Danny Ings opened the scoring and completed it with a 90th-minute penalty to account for both of Southampton’s goals.

Tottenham’s first win of the season had plenty of sluggish moments after a Thursday trip to Bulgaria and Ralph Hasenhuttl had Saints firing early before petering out to lose a second match to start the PL season.

Saints go to Burnley next while Tottenham hosts Newcastle after a Tuesday outing at Leyton Orient in the League Cup and a UEL trip to Macedonia to meet Shkendija on Thursday.


Three things we learned from Southampton – Tottenham

1. Spurs carried by Lloris, clinical forwards: Tottenham had just one shot on target in the first half as offside denied both teams several goals and Hugo Lloris made some fantastic saves to deny Ralph Hasenhuttl’s men a halftime advantage. Kane’s assists to Son were just as good as the South Korean’s technical finishes, Spurs inviting fans to daydream of the star duo being joined in attack by Gareth Bale next month.

2. Kane-DB: Harry Kane channeled Man City star Kevin De Bruyne with his four assists, all of them pretty fantastic. There were two “no-look” huge crosses to go with some terrific hold-up play and flicks in the midfield. Kane had 3, 4, and 2 assists in the three PL seasons since collecting seven assists in his 29-goal 2016-17. He’s on four this season and added goal late.

3. Europa League Thursdays ask a lot: With all due respect to Southampton looking very good after two losses in two competitions, Spurs lagged out of the gates in our first reminder of the season that Europa League travel can suck the life out of legs. Tottenham had to work very hard in Bulgaria on Thursday and it’s difficult not to lay much of that at the feet of the UEL.

Man of the Match

Well it has to be Son, doesn’t it? Even with Kane adding a late goal, the South Korean’s clinical finishing was everything and more to Spurs’ win.


Southampton – Tottenham recap

Spurs had a third-minute goal — a delightful one at that — taken off the board when VAR spotted Heung-min Son offside in the build-up. The goal that would’ve been saw Harry Kane deploy supreme technique to turn and volley into the goal.

Ex-Saints man Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg was bladed by teammate Oriol Romeu in the fifth minute, a yellow card welcome back to St. Mary’s.

Hugo Lloris made an outstanding reaction save when a set piece fell for Che Adams near the spot and the Englishman smashed an effort on frame.

Son was offside again when he broke through on goal but saw an odd-angled shot saved by Alex McCarthy.

A third goal came off the board but it was not offside, Lloris sliding to head the ball into the air and onto the arm of Danny Ings before the Englishman finished his chance.

Brilliant dribbling from Moussa Djenepo cued up another Adams chance at the back post and the forward calmly touched to hammer a shot that was blocked by a splayed Ben Davies.

A partially-cleared James Ward-Prowse free kick rolled to Djenepo, who zipped a shot through traffic and off the post. Close.

Kane had another ball in the goal off a Lucas Moura cross but the Brazilian was offside before passing into the box.

Ings got his goal in the 32nd off a long ball from former Spurs man Kyle Walker-Peters, taking advantage of a confused Eric Dier and slashing a shot past Lloris from in-tight.

VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

A Lloris save on Stuart Armstrong just after halftime led to Tottenham’s second goal, Son running onto a Kane pass for the second time.

The biggest factor in the game was the offside flag, as both Saints and Spurs saw numerous chances rightly called off by the assistant referees.

Son completed his hat trick and Kane’s hat trick of assists in the 64th minute, Spurs carving up Saints to exhibit a flattering score line.

That frayed Saints’ last nerve, and another amazing pass from Kane cued up Son for 4-1. Kane would get another when he followed up substitute Erik Lamela’s 82nd-minute shot off the near post.

Newcastle – Brighton: How to watch, start time, team news, prediction, odds

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Newcastle v Brighton: A pair of sides that impressed on the opening weekend of the 2020-21 Premier League season — but only one of them with anything to show for it — will meet at St. James’ Park on Sunday (Watch live at 9 am ET, online via Peacock).

NEWCASTLE – BRIGHTON STREAM LIVE

Newcastle United were far and away the better side in their season-opening victory away to West Ham United last weekend, while Brighton looked the better part of Chelsea’s equals for 54 minutes but ultimately fell to a 3-1 defeat at the Amex Stadium.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]  

Here is everything you need to know ahead of Newcastle v Brighton this Sunday with team news, odds, stream link and more.


Team news: Newcastle v Brighton (INJURY REPORT)

Newcastle will be without five players — Matty Longstaff (thigh), Martin Dubravka (ankle), Fabian Schar (shoulder), Paul Dummett (thigh), Dwight Gayle (knee) — leaving Steve Bruce with an increasingly thin squad, but he’ll be able to trot out the same XI that beat West Ham on Opening Day.

Jose Iquierdo (knee), Florian Andone (knee) and Christian Walton (ankle) have all been ruled out for Sunday, with rising star Ben White passes a late fitness test after picking up a minor injury last week.


What they’re saying

Newcastle manager Steve Bruce, on starting with a win: “I’m like everybody else, we all like to get off to a start and we couldn’t have had a better week in terms of results. The players have hit the ground running, which was always part of the reason why we went after who we went after. We’ve got a chance to get off to an outstanding start.”

Brighton manager Graham Potter, on Newcastle: “Newcastle will be strong. They were worthy winners at West Ham and they will be a tough test for us. Impressive, the business they have done. They have added to the squad and they will be really strong. Everyone knows what Andy Carroll brings to the team and physically he is very strong, and aerially he is strong. Him and [Callum] Wilson will be a strong partnership.”


Odds and ends (full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet)

There’s almost nothing to separate Newcastle (+160) from Brighton (+185) as the oddsmakers see Sunday’s clash a near-tossup. Even the draw (+210) isn’t far out of line with either side winning.

PointsBet is our Official Sports Betting Partner and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on PointsBet for the first time after clicking our links


Prediction

At the risk of placing too much importance upon a game in week no. 2, this one has the feel of an important litmus test for Newcastle. West Ham have been chaotic for quite some time now, but Brighton, despite finishing 15th last season, have appeared far more stable and trending upward under Potter. They’re likely a mid-table side this season, and Newcastle could be, too. In the end, it ends Newcastle 1-1 Brighton.


How to watch Newcastle v Brighton stream and start time

Kickoff: 9 am ET Sunday
Online: Stream via Peacock