Michael Winograd

U.S. Soccer Presidential Candidate: Michael Winograd Q&A

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PST is vetting the candidates to succeed Sunil Gulati as president of the United States Soccer Federation.

This post speaks with Michael Winograd, a former college and professional soccer player who now works as a lawyer for Ropes & Gray, LLP, working in the firm’s business & securities litigation practice group. His campaign website is https://www.winogradussf.com/index.php

Pro Soccer Talk: Hello, Michael. I hope all is well. We wanted to catch up and hear from you ahead of the big vote in Orlando. How has it been on the campaign trail since you announced your candidacy in October 2016?

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Michael Winograd: “I think the campaign has gone very well. I think the narrative for me began that everybody was impressed and they just didn’t know if I’d be able to make up the ground that I need to, given I don’t have the name recognition that a lot of the other candidates did. And I think that narrative has changed.

“It slowly sort of hit a tipping people where people were saying, ‘now we know him, we’ve all spoken with a lot of media and we’ve heard the same thing over and over again, consistent messages no matter who I’ve spoken to said the same things. We all like him so why not.’ I feel like for a very long time, I was on everybody’s shortlist, I still feel like I am on everybody’s shortlist but now I’ve moved up to number one on a bunch of those lists, I made the final four for the Athlete Council, that call went very well on Friday. I feel I’ve got good momentum going in.”

PST: Can you say which organizations are supporting you?

MW: “I have had meetings with pro leagues, folks in MLS, Don Garber, you know, the NASL. I’ve had meetings with the Athlete Council, I’ve had several very positive meetings with very large state associations from the youth to adult level, and several have texted that I’m the best candidate by far, so we’re going to support you.

“I’ve had a number of cases where people say ‘we voted on the first round and we’re going with a different candidate who we knew and had a relationship with, but if our candidate hits a wall and a lot of things will shake out after round one, we consider you a great candidate and we’ll support you. So there’s been a lot of that and I feel like there’s a bit of a groundswell and I feel good going into the election.”

PST: What have you learned about the constituency of groups and people that make up the U.S. Soccer pyramid?

MW: “I’ve certainly learned a whole lot about the structure and process, but a lot of it was, going into it, one of the reasons I joined this race was because I lived through a lot of the issues people were complaining about.

“I started coaching 10 years ago with my kids and saw how fractured the landscape was, saw that it was a really conglomerate of overlapping and competing business and the consumers, the parents, coaches, kids, didn’t know which product was for what. I lived through my son missing days of school for weekend (Development Academy) games, and my daughter separated from her classmates at the birth-year registration. When that decision came out, the coaches had no idea why that happened. I played men’s league near my town and 99 percent if not all the players didn’t realize there was any connection to U.S. Soccer.

“All of these issues I’ve lived through, so when I’ve got to see the inner workings, I’m a little surprised at how few answers there are. My big question coming in is ‘who’s making these decisions and how are they being made,’ and I’m a little surprised at the lack of transparency and how these decisions are being made.

“What I do know is that they’re not being made pursuing to an inclusive, transparent process. What I mean by that, and this is the first strategic initiative, is that when you have decisions that are critical, they have to be made in an inclusive process that brings into that process, folks that are going to be affected by the decisions. You wind up with better decisions, ownership of those decisions broadly and you wind up with a trust and an integrity because it’s an open process that more people are involved in.”

PST: What are your expectations for the election this Saturday?

MW: “I’m looking forward to it. I’m expecting to meet with a lot of members. I’ve been e-mailing and speaking with them over the last several days as we’ve done over the campaign. We’ll be speaking in front of the regional groups when they have their regional meetings, and then it’s a matter of getting in front of the electorate on election day.

“At the end of the day there’s a lot of momentum behind my candidacy and it’s appealed to all sides of every aisle. The reason for that is not just character and that I have ideas and when people scratch beneath the surface, my ideas are sound and it’s not just the ability to bring people together. At the end of the day, beyond the ideas, I think I’ve got the experience, and people are realizing and seeing it, and I’ve got the skill set and the independence to actually do this job.

“I’ve been practicing law for the last 17 years at some of the most prominent law firms in the world, representing some of the largest companies in the world in their high stakes matters. Getting in rooms with CEOs and boards of companies larger than U.S. Soccer, guiding them, finding compromises between competing groups is something I’ve been doing at the highest level for the last 17 years. I think the fact that I have the complete package is really resonating with folks.”

[READ: Hear from the other USSF presidential candidates]

Brazil tests Willian up front with Neymar and Jesus

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TERESOPOLIS, Brazil (AP) Brazil’s second pre-World Cup training featured Willian in the attack with Neymar and Gabriel Jesus on Thursday, a hint that coach Tite might change his starting lineup.

Willian played with the two star strikers for about one hour in the first training with footballs at the Granja Comary ground in Teresopolis, outside Rio de Janeiro.

[ MORE: Commisso “hopeful” of $500m USSF deal ]

Tite did not use his starting midfield to play with the trio. He also used defenders Marquinhos and Miranda during the entire hour, suggesting former captain Thiago Silva will be on the bench for the moment.

If Willian is brought on to the team, Tite could remove midfielder Renato Augusto from the starting lineup, put Philippe Coutinho in his place, and open a gap for Willian.

Since last year, Tite has said he needs a “pacemaker,” and considers Coutinho one of his main options for the role.

Beijing Guoan’s Augusto is under pressure after unconvincing performances in Brazil’s midfield.

Augusto’s spot is also eyed by Fred, one of the surprises of Tite’s squad.

The midfielder said he admired Brazil players who began a World Cup on the bench and later became starters, such as Mazinho (1994) and Kleberson (2002).

“We can get inspiration from them, these players worked very hard to get their spot,” Fred said. “But if I have to be out I will keep working hard.”

Fred also said he was torn between a transfer to Manchester United or Manchester City.

Fred said he had an offer from City in January, and both were now talking to his Shakhtar Donetsk club about a transfer.

“Maybe after the World Cup I will make the choice,” the midfielder said. “Now I am only thinking about the World Cup.”

Fred said he believes his future is outside Ukraine, and doing well in the English Premier League like other Brazilians such as Chelsea’s Willian.

Tite is counting on only 18 of the 23 players in his squad at training in Teresopolis.

Winger Douglas Costa and Fagner are still recovering from injury.

Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino and Real Madrid’s Casemiro and Marcelo will only join on Monday after the Champions League final.

Training on Thursday was attended by four-time World Cup winner Mario Zagallo.

Liverpool owner Henry reflects on history, takes shots at Suarez, Coutinho

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Terrific AP reporter Rob Harris sat down for a chat with Liverpool owner John Henry, and the American businessman didn’t hesitate to unleash some prime quotes.

Liverpool, of course, is preparing for the weekend’s UEFA Champions League Final against Real Madrid, and feeling its oats a bit.

[ MORE: Ronaldinho marrying 2 women ]

Henry is no exception, saying of departed Reds stars Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho, “They’ll be watching this weekend and could have been playing.”

And his shots didn’t stop with the Barcelona stars. He extended it to all of La Liga. From the AP:

“You don’t want to be in the position where players want to go somewhere else, even if it is a great club like Barcelona,” Henry said. “It’s hard to understand why players would want to go to a league where the competition is so weak. They must play 30 or so meaningless matches per year waiting for Champions League matches.”

Henry also talks about his takeover, selling Fernando Torres, and how Anfield pushes Liverpool past the competition. Read the whole interview here.

Ronaldinho reportedly marrying two women at same time

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Ronaldinho always had a knack for making the difficult look simple.

He’d better hope that skill extends to a pretty unique marital arrangement.

The retired 2002 World Cup champion is going to marry two women at the same time, Priscilla Coelho and Beatriz Souza, in August.

[ MORE: Commisso “hopeful” of $500m USSF deal ]

Apparently he’s been living with the pair since December, having dated Coelho since 2013 and Souza beginning in 2016.

Ronaldinho, 38, co-existed in a three-pronged offense with Lionel Messi and Samuel Eto'o, so maybe?

From Yahoo! Sports:

Bigamy and polygamy are illegal in Brazil, but Ronaldinho’s case is a little different. He’s not planning to marry one woman, and then the other; he’s planning to marry both at the same time. That’s considered a three-person civil union, and they do exist in Brazil. The first one, between two women and a man, was recognized in 2012. Another was recognized in 2015, between three women who intended to raise a child together.

After saving German club, Green hopes to revive USMNT career

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) Julian Green has been the Halley’s Comet of the U.S. national team. He appeared out of nowhere for the 2014 World Cup, scored against Belgium and then pretty much disappeared.

After scoring the goal that saved a German club from relegation to the third division, he’s back with a young American group that has no World Cup to prepare for. And he’s still only 22.

[ MORE: Commisso “hopeful” of $500m USSF deal ]

“It made me much stronger. I’m a different person now. I’m a better player now,” he said Thursday ahead of next week’s exhibition against Bolivia.

Born in Tampa, Florida, Green was 2 when he moved to Germany with his older brother Justin and his German-born mother.

A member of Bayern Munich’s youth system, he was not part of the U.S. pool that qualified for the 2014 World Cup. The winger played for Germany in three qualifiers for the 2014 European Under-19 Championship, then switched to the Americans at the behest of U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann.

He was a surprise pick on the U.S. roster four years ago this week, seemingly to displace Landon Donovan. At 19 the third-youngest player in the World Cup, Green scored in the Americans’ extra-time loss in the round of 16, two minutes after entering. He left Brazil on the list of potential breakout players for the next four-year cycle.

That potential has not yet been fulfilled.

While he played in exhibitions later that year against the Czech Republic and Colombia, his career stalled for club and country. Green was bypassed for the 2015 and 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cups and the 2016 Copa America. His only U.S. appearances were in three friendlies in 2016.

[ MORE: Next USMNT-Mexico date set ]

After Bruce Arena replaced Klinsmann that fall, Green was never brought back. Until now.

“I’m curious just to hear his side of things and see where he’s at,” said interim coach Dave Sarachan, who took over after the U.S. was eliminated with last October’s loss to Trinidad and Tobago.

Green joined Bayern at age 14 and made his first-team debut on Nov. 27, 2013, late in a Champions League match against CSKA Moscow. Bayern coach Pep Guardiola said he expected to keep Green for 2014-15, then reversed course and loaned him to Hamburg. Green made it into just five Bundesliga games that season,

“The coach that wanted me, he gets fired after one week,” Green said. “That was a hard time.”

Green returned to Bayern for 2016-17, and his playing time under coach Carlo Ancelotti was limited to a pair of German Cup matches. He transferred to second-tier Stuttgart in January, had one goal in 10 league games, then was loaned to second-division Greuther Fuerth for 2017-18.

His played regularly, and his career started to revive. On May 13 he scored on a right-footed shot from about 23 yards in a 1-1 draw against Heidenheim, preventing Greuther Fuerth from getting demoted to Germany’s third tier.

“One of the best seasons for me personally,” he said.

He understands why he couldn’t get playing time at Bayern, one of the world’s top clubs.

“At each position there were like three top stars,” he said.

Green started to play a more central role this season, one that could have more of an impact on his team.

“Ancelotti and Pep Guardiola, they always told me my best position is in the middle,” Green said. “The first games at Fuerth I started out wide, and then the last games I started in the middle. And for me personally, I think in the middle is a better position.”

Green’s contract with Stuttgart runs through 2018-19, and he’s not sure which club he’ll be with next season. He knows he can’t afford to disappear from the thoughts of coaches on both sides of the Atlantic.

“To his credit, he’s only 22 years old and he’s back here, and he did it by playing his way back in,” U.S. assistant coach John Hackworth said.

If Green becomes a first-division regular, he could become part of the American nucleus for the 2022 World Cup cycle, a roster led by Christian Pulisic that also could include midfielders Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams, and defender Matt Miazga. Among that quartet, Green is the oldest. He has three goals in eight U.S. appearances and is the only player on this week’s roster with World Cup experience.

“I’d like to see his personality sort of emerge,” Sarachan said. “He’s a quiet kid.”

Green had a hard time believing the U.S. failed to qualify for next month’s World Cup. Given the time difference, he didn’t stay up to watch the match in Trinidad. He figured he’d find out happy news in the morning.

“I took a look at my phone: I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “I thought it was a joke.”

Notes: The U.S. will play Mexico in an exhibition on Sept. 11 at Nashville, Tennessee, the second of what likely will be two home matches during the international fixture period.