Five takeaways from USWNT’s World Cup win

7 Comments

The U.S. women’s national team are certified ballers and they dominated the 2019 World Cup in France from start to finish.

[ MORE: USWNT World Cup glory ]

From their incredible focus on the pitch to their stand for changes in how women’s sport is treated off the pitch, this is without doubt a truly special squad of players.

What did we learn about Jill Ellis’ squad this summer following their back-to-back World Cup victories?


USWNT played not to lose, and within themselves. Well done, Jill Ellis

When the exciting thing to do is play five forwards and go all-out for the win, people get upset when you don’t do that. Even though it isn’t the correct thing to do. USWNT head coach Jill Ellis (who is the first-ever coach in the women’s game to win consecutive world titles) has constantly had doubters due to the way she sets up the U.S. to play. Purists out there want the USWNT to play like Barcelona in their prime while pummelling teams. Ellis stood her ground and stuck with her philosophy, and her players carried out her instructions to a tee.

The U.S. never trailed in the entire competition and the main takeaway is that they never looked like beating themselves. There were no silly errors. No rash decisions to cost them goals. Nobody really looked out of their comfort zone. Ellis made big calls by moving players in and out of the lineup and got them all spot on. The USWNT may have played not to lose, but they weren’t scared of losing. They knew what they were good at — getting the ball out wide quickly, dominating in the air, turning opposition defenses — and played to their strengths. That is the sign of a perfectly well-oiled machine.


They had the best and second-best team at the World Cup. Now they must be rewarded

“We have the best team in the world, and the second-best team in the world,” Ali Krieger said before the USWNT beat Sweden to cap off their perfect group stage performance. Was it arrogant? Maybe a little. Was it correct? Yup. Ellis could rotate the likes of Christen Press, Lindsey Horan and Carli Lloyd into this lineup with ease and the second XI would have surely reached at least the quarterfinals in this competition.

The strength in-depth of this team was ridiculous and the rests Ellis was able to give Morgana and Rapinoe paid dividends for the semifinal and final. 1 to 23 this was a heck of a squad and plenty of players can feel aggrieved that they didn’t play more minutes.

With this USWNT standing as one to fight for equal pay with the USMNT, it is clear what needs to happen now. The U.S. Soccer Federation needs to make it happen, as the U.S. women’s national team is a juggernaut and one which deserves to be rewarded financially in alignment with how they are recognized internationally as one of the best-ever teams.


Ertz, Lavelle, Mewis a perfectly balanced midfield trio

This midfield trio was a perfectly blend for how Ellis wanted the USWNT to play. Rose Lavelle ran at the heart of opposition defenses whenever she could. Sam Mewis too got forward but also won her aerial duels and harassed opposition midfielders. Julie Ertz was outstanding throughout and moving her from central defense to holding midfield was a masterstroke.

These three were perfectly balanced and although many hated the way the USWNT sat back late in games to protect their leads, having Ertz able to drop into the defensive line and clear and head balls away made perfect sense. Horan was often the odd one out, but it’s hard to argue with the midfield trio as World Cup debutants Mewis and Lavelle will be around for many years to come.


Rapinoe, Morgan steal the headlines, but for how long?

We know that Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan are USWNT legends (not just for their goal celebrations) and both scored big goals at big moments during the World Cup glory. But can we ignore the fact that they both struggled at points during this tournament? Rapinoe is now 34 years old and although she won the Golden Ball and the Golden Boot at the tournament, the USWNT often looked more dangerous with Press and Tobin Heath out wide.

Rapinoe is a wonderful ambassador for the USWNT and will go down as one of the greatest sportswomen in history for the way she has stood up for what she believes in off the pitch, then backed it up with pivotal displays on it. But now may be a good time for her to pass the baton on to the next wave of USWNT stars. As for Morgan, her five goals in the opener against Thailand padded her stats as she only scored one more goal in the tournament. She won a key penalty in the final and put her body on the line as defenders clattered her time and time again, but you got the sense she was frustrated throughout much of the tournament. Morgan, 30, will still be around for a few more years but Mallory Pugh may well push her all the way for minutes between now and the 2023 World Cup.


The initial buzz is incredible, but now comes the hard part

From the celebrations in France throughout the summer with a huge U.S. fanbase, and neutrals, on their side, to the welcome home in the first 24-48 hours, it is clear the USWNT have stirred the emotions of so many people in the USA and further afield. Now comes the hard bit. The U.S. players were celebrating as they arrived at Newark Airport on the tarmac, with plenty of drinks flowing on the charter flight back from France. But there was no real time for them to chill out. The players then embarked on visiting pretty much every single TV network that is based in New York City to appear on morning shows to talk about their journey. And that journey, in many ways, has only just begun after becoming just the second team in history to win back-to-back World Cups.

What needs to happen now is crucial to not only the USWNT’s success in four years time, but how successfully the sport can grow in the USA. Having a strong, deep NWSL still remains a problem and investment is needed to grow the game across the U.S. at the professional level. France, England, Germany and even Spain are putting plenty of resources into domestic leagues and the U.S. needs to follow, and better that, if the national team will prosper. We already saw at this tournament that Europe has caught up with the U.S. plenty, if not enough, and in another four years time you can expect their squad to be even better. The NWSL needs to be the top women’s soccer league on the planet and the lasting legacy from this World Cup win should be that this group of players, and their federation, made that happen.

Hudson-Odoi reportedly agrees to huge new Chelsea deal

Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Callum Hudson-Odoi‘s promise and performance have earned him a very rich five-year new deal, especially given his young age, according to the BBC.

Oh, and his agent certainly deserves some credit, given the rumored and continued pursuit of the Chelsea star from Bayern Munich and other clubs.

[ MORE: Who is Newcastle’s new $50M forward? ]

The Englishman turns 19 in November, and plays primarily on the left wing. Rumors of his departure were rooted in his desire for playing time, and Maurizio Sarri gave him a little more than 1000 minutes in which Hudson-Odoi produced five goals and five assists.

Hudson-Odoi must feel assured of a faster track to regular playing time under new manager Frank Lampard, and Chelsea must feel his ruptured achilles tendon will heal up properly.

None of his 2018-19 goals were in the Premier League, but Hudson-Odoi struck four times in Chelsea’s run to the Europa League trophy.

He missed the last month of the system of the season the aforementioned tendon injury, and he’ll earn close to $125,000 a week on his new deal at Stamford Bridge.

Wow.

That would’ve been the highest salary on nine Premier League teams last season, a tied for 47th in the Premier League last season (Spotrac).

Exactly who is Newcastle’s new $50M striker?

1 Comment

Newcastle United’s club record signing of Joelinton is raising plenty of eyebrows, as fans try to grasp what they have in the $50 million Brazilian.

Suffice it to say that there isn’t an easy comparison.

The soon-to-be 23-year-old scored seven goals with five assists in Bundesliga play for Hoffenheim last season, adding four and two from Champions League and German Cup play.

[ MORE: Man Utd chase Pepe, Fernandes ]

He’s a unit, to be sure, at 6-foot-1 with tremendous leaping ability and a powerful stride. Joelinton certainly has the ability to dominate in the air and hold the ball up like Newcastle’s loan star Salomon Rondon in 2018-19, but he brings better passing than most center forwards.

There’s a temptation to compare him to Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino, another Premier League import from Brazil via Hoffenheim, as Joe Prince-Wright wrote in his morning post about the impending deal.

Firmino was on another level in 2014-15, coming off a remarkably complete seasons for a center forward. He also shoots more often than Joelinton.

What Newcastle supporters will like from Joelinton, what makes him unique for his size, is that he’s a tremendous dribbler. He has trickery to go with his pace, not strictly a locomotive.

His season didn’t have the goals, the Toon will hope, because he was supplying wingers Andrej Kramaric (17 goals) and Ishak Belfodil (16). That could be music to the ears of Miguel Almiron and… whoever else Steve Bruce has to deploy (Yoshinori Muto? Jacob Murphy?).

Joelinton also played less than minutes than the following three comparables: West Ham import Sebastien Haller, Watford target Ismalia Sarr, and Wolves star Raul Jimenez.

Will he be worth the spend? The six-year deal promises profit potential — something Mike Ashley and chief scout Graham Carr are clearly targeting — if he explodes and earns the admiration of bigger sides. As for now, he should be able to provide what Rondon did in 2018-19.

Filipe Luis signs for Flamengo after leaving Atletico

Getty Images
Leave a comment

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) Brazilian veteran left-back Filipe Luis has signed for boyhood club Flamengo after leaving Atletico Madrid on a free transfer.

The Rio de Janeiro club and the player confirmed the move Tuesday on social media.

Flamengo said the 33-year-old Luis has signed a deal until 2021.

Luis has played in Europe for 14 years but left Atletico on Sunday after his contract expired.

The left-back was a starter for Brazil during its recent run to the Copa America title.

With Atletico, Luis won the Copa del Rey in 2013, the Spanish league in 2014, and the Europa League in 2012 and 2018. He also had a brief spell with Chelsea in between, winning the Premier League in 2015.

Flamengo is third in the Brazilian championship after 11 matches, five points behind leader and defending champion Palmeiras.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

MLS expansion side Austin FC name Wolff as first-ever head coach

Austin FC/Twitter
1 Comment

Former USMNT forward  Josh Wolff has become the first-ever head coach of Austin FC, as the MLS expansion franchise crack on with their expected entry into North America’s top-flight in 2021.

Wolff, 42, was the assistant coach for D.C. United before moving to the Columbus Crew were he worked as Gregg Berhalter’s assistant for the past five years. Wolff was then hired as Berhalter’s assistant when he took charge of the USMNT.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS coverage

Austin FC say that Wolff will start his new job after the international window in November as he will continue with his current job with U.S. Soccer until then.

“I know that Austin has a true love of soccer, and it is the opportunity of a lifetime to be part of the first ever major league team of any kind in the Capital of Texas,” Wolff said. “Our stated ambition is to establish ourselves quickly within MLS as a vibrant, attacking side and we want to reflect the diverse, competitive, and passionate makeup of our club’s home, both on and off the field.”

This move makes total sense as former Columbus Crew owner, Anthony Precourt, knows Wolff from their time together in Ohio. Precourt excercized his option to move his MLS franchise from Columbus to Austin which was confirmed in January 2019.

The Crew have since been kept in Columbus and Precourt is now the chairman and CEO of Two Oak Ventures, the entity which owns the rights to operate Austin FC and its stadium, while also holding the title of chairman and CEO of Austin FC. Austin FC’s new stadium at McKalla Place (the stadium and the complex around it looks pretty incredible) is privately funded and will hold 20,500 fans when it is completed.

Hiring a former MLS and USMNT star to lead the team makes a lot of sense and Wolff’s name has been mentioned plenty when MLS jobs have become available in recent years. He was on both the 2002 and 2006 USMNT World Cup squads and his experience across MLS and in Europe have given him a unique coaching style.

There is a lot of respect for Wolff among the American soccer community and his playing philosophy is very similar to Berhalter’s. Wolff becoming a head coach is good news for young domestic players.