Christian Pulisic, Lindsey Horan named top in U.S.; Rodman, Pepi hailed

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As far as U.S. Soccer Male Player of the Year awards, the 2021 addition was among the more obvious honors.

Chelsea star Christian Pulisic lifted the European Cup for his club and led the United States men’s national team to a thrilling win over Mexico in the CONCACAF Nations League to reclaim the federation’s top men’s honors from Weston McKennie.

[ MORE: USMNT beats Bosnia in second-choice friendly ]

Tyler Adams, Miles Robinson, and McKennie were also fantastic this season, while FC Dallas’ Ricardo Pepi won Young Male Player of the Year.

It’s Pulisic’s third such honor, having won the 2019 and 2017 awards after winning the 2016 Young Male Player of the Year. Landon Donovan has won the most with four, while Clint Dempsey and Kasey Keller are next with three.

New England’s Matt Turner finished second in the voting and Salzburg’s Brenden Aaronson was third. McKennie was clearly hampered by his off-field incident with the national team, because his club and country season was otherwise far and away more impressive than the other nominees not named Pulisic.

As for the women’s side, let’s start with Young Female Player of the Year… after the jump.

It feels unlikely that there’s been a young player on the women’s side more promising in recent seasons than Trinity Rodman — Yes, let’s get it out of the way: she is related to longtime NBA star Dennis Rodman — unless its runner-up Catarina Macario.

Does Rodman have elements of what Christian Pulisic brought to the men’s side? Sure, but the 19-year-old seems more likely to fall in the “next Alex Morgan” category. The 2021 Young Female Player of the Year reports for her honor on the heels of an NWSL Championship and Rookie of the Year season.

Macario, 22, is a two-time Hermann Trophy winner who is shining at Lyon in France. USWNT head coach Vlatko Andonovski has done little wrong on his watch, but getting Rodman and Macario meaningful on-field experience at the Olympics feels a tactical error.

Lindsey Horan, an elite and complete midfielder, wins the Female Player of the Year award, having won the Young Player honors in 2013. Horan reached the 100-cap mark this season, the newly-minted Centurion one of few USWNT players to shine in the run to capture bronze in Tokyo.

Carli Lloyd finished second in the voting, an emotional nod to a player with a fine career.

Sam Mewis, reigning U.S. Female Player of the Year, traded to Kansas City

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It’s not often that the reigning U.S. Soccer Female Player of the Year trades uniforms during the offseason, but this is no normal offseason in the National Women’s Soccer League.

Sam Mewis has been traded from the North Carolina Courage to the Kansas City Current for the third overall pick in the 2022 NWSL Draft and defender Kiki Pickett.

Mewis, 29, went to school at UCLA and was selected fourth overall by the Western New York Flash in the 2015 draft, staying with the club when it moves to North Carolina in 2015.

[ MORE: Pulisic details injury return, Chelsea outlook ]

She starred at Man City in 2020-21 before moving back to North Carolina.

Mewis has won an NCAA title, five NWSL trophies, a Women’s FA Cup, and a host of international trophies with the USWNT including the 2019 World Cup.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]

Pickett, 22, played at Stanford and was also a fourth overall pick in an NWSL Draft (2021).

The 2022 NWSL Draft will be held Dec. 18 in Los Angeles, two days after the Expansion Draft is held to help populate new clubs Angel City and San Diego Wave FC.

Eddie Howe, Dean Smith react to disappointing Newcastle – Norwich draw

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It could hardly have gone worse for Newcastle United or visiting Norwich City on Tuesday in a 1-1 draw that left the Magpies and Canaries heavy favorites to be relegated from the Premier League.

Consider that Norwich City had won a pair of games under new coach Dean Smith to pull clear of last place and headed up north to find a gift red card in the ninth minute. What did they come away with? A lucky late equalizer just to take a point from a winless team.

And if you think that’s bad, consider that Ciaran Clark’s sending-off meant that Newcastle’s best chance to win all season became a long shot. Then hopes rose dramatically when the Magpies got a thoroughly deserved opener and seemingly set sail on a path to straighten their season… only to conceded a late equalizer and dip right back into 20th place.

[ MORE: Three things we learned from Newcastle 1-1 Norwich ]

And now, a failure to win Sunday against Burnley — one of the few teams to look as poor as Newcastle and Norwich — would send Eddie Howe’s men into a brutal run of fixtures at least six points behind safety.

So while it’s easy to call Newcastle’s draw with visiting Norwich a win for the visitors, remember that the terrible trio of Newcastle, Norwich, and Burnley also require a fourth team for just one of them to remain in the PL next season.

“The challenge ahead is huge,” Howe said. “We’re under no illusions as to the size of the task. Draws aren’t going to be enough. You need the spirit in the group to deliver what we need. I feel the spirit has grown and that’s going to be key for us. … The whole day in terms of what the fans gave to the team and to me – I loved every second of that. I’m desperate to reward them with the wins everyone wants.”

Howe admits that the Burnley match is already looming large, but Newcastle midfielder Jonjo Shelvey says vibes are still really good around St. James’ Park.

And with the injuries at Watford and overall talent level at Newcastle compared to Norwich and Burnley, maybe he’s right to think that way.

“Everyone stepped up to the plate,” Shelvey said. “We’re confident we can get out of the situation we’re in. We’ve got a huge game Saturday. We’ll recover and go again. I’m not really concerned because I know what we have in the dressing room. We just have to keep believing and stick together. Everyone is buzzing around the place. We’ll keep fighting for these fans.”

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Newcastle is now being relegated in 77 percent of scenarios run by statistical analysis site FiveThirtyEight.com and Norwich City isn’t far behind at 71 percent. No other club is cracking 40 percent, with only Burnley and Watford crossing the 30 percent threshold.

Norwich boss Dean Smith thought the game was more important for Newcastle than his Canaries, who are unbeaten in four-straight matches, but also felt that the Canaries performed as poorly as they had in the three matches of his tenure.

“We knew this was a big game, probably bigger for Newcastle because they had not won yet this season,” Smith said. “Defensively I thought we were good. I told them to keep their heads at half-time because you knew Newcastle would be looking for any touch to win set pieces and free kicks.

“That is how they ended up getting their goal. But the perseverance and character of the players is there for all to see. They kept battling away, they get another point.”

And that’s what both Newcastle and Norwich will have to do — at least until the transfer window opens in January — even if Newcastle fails to beat Burnley or Norwich City slips to a multi-game pointless run: Focus on the next game. So simple to say, but so difficult to execute in a Premier League with fewer and fewer clear winnable games.

Lionel Messi sets Ballon d’Or record, Barca’s Putellas wins women’s award

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Lionel Messi has become the first player to win seven Ballons d’Or, edging Robert Lewandowski to the title as best men’s player in Europe.

The PSG star was joined on the women’s side by Alexia Putellas, who plays at his longtime club of Barcelona. Four Chelsea women’s players — Sam Kerr, Pernille Harder, Jessie Fleming, and Fran Kerby — finished in the top ten.

Copa America and Copa del Rey winning Messi shined for Argentina and Barcelona, respectively, and moves two trophies clear of Cristiano Ronaldo.

[ MORE: Neymar suffers gruesome injury ]

Chelsea’s Jorginho finished third in the voting, giving the Premier League a second-straight year with a top-three vote-getter.

Blues teammate N’Golo Kante finished fifth, and Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema ranked fourth.

Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah was also in the top 10, finishing seventh, one spot ahead of Kevin De Bruyne.

Cristiano Ronaldo skipped the ceremony and finished outside the top ten for first time since 2010.

Gianluigi Donnarumma was awarded the Lev Yashin Trophy as best goalkeeper of 2020, while Chelsea was named Club of the Year.

Three Canadians made the women’s top ten, as PSG’s Ashley Lawrence and Portland’s Christine SInclair were joined by Fleming after winning gold at the Olympics.

Impressive USWNT held by Australia

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NEWCASTLE, Australia — A late goal by Kyah Simon earned Australia a fortunate 1-1 draw against the world champion USWNT and denied the American women a second win in the two-game series on Tuesday.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA

The USWNT scored early again through Ashley Hatch and created the best attacking chances but paid the price for not converting. Simon’s strike in the 88th minute gave the Matildas a morale-boosting draw against the world’s top-ranked team.

The Americans’ star midfield of captain Lindsey Horan and Rose Lavelle didn’t have the influence they enjoyed in the first game won 3-0, and coach Vlatko Andonovski defended them.

“It’s not an easy task to come here against a super good team in a hostile environment,” Andonovski said. “We had the opportunity to create opportunities a little bit faster but they chose to break them down a little bit more.

“But it was a good opportunity to try new things and I was happy they were brave to try something like that and happy with the outcome that we had.”

After scoring after just 24 seconds on Saturday in Sydney, in their first appearance in Australia since 2000, the Americans took just over three minutes to take the lead in Newcastle. Hatch again took advantage of some poor Maltidas defending to bag her second career goal in as many matches.

Australia’s Tameka Yallop turned over possession cheaply which led to Lynn Williams threading a pass to Margaret Purce, who calmly played the ball into the path of Hatch to finish coolly past Matildas goalkeeper Lydia Williams.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Australia almost leveled in the 20th when Kyra Cooney-Cross’ volley from the edge of the box hit the post.

Lynn Williams started the second half as she did the first, tormenting the Matildas defense, and only a fine diving save by Lydia Williams denied the American a goal almost an hour in.

“The last game, their goalkeeper kept them in the game. In this game, our goalkeeper kept us in the game,” Australia coach Tony Gustavsson said.

Sam Kerr, third in Ballon d’Or voting on Monday for the world’s best female player, was kept largely in check by the American defense which swarmed her nearly every time she found possession. But the Chelsea star set up Simon in the 88th.

Simon’s strike deflected off substitute Becky Sauerbrunn and wrong-footed goalkeeper Casey Murphy to the delight of the near capacity crowd of 20,495.

Kerr, with 49 goals for the Matildas, still needs two more to overtake Tim Cahill and become Australia’s top goalscorer in men’s or women’s internationals.

The U.S. has won the Women’s World Cup four times, including the last time in France in 2019. Australia and New Zealand will co-host the next World Cup in 2023, with the tournament’s first match scheduled in just under 600 days from Tuesday.