Lindsay Horan

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USWNT tops World Cup group with 2-0 win over Sweden

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Jill Ellis said the United States wouldn’t duck France in the knockout stages, and they echoed that sentiment on the field, downing Sweden 2-0 and emphatically winning Group F. The win means they will earn a Round of 16 matchup with Spain, and would likely meet the hosts in the quarterfinals if both teams hold strong in their first knockout game.

The meeting between the two teams was the sixth in Women’s World Cup play, including a fifth straight, both records. While Sweden had its moments, the game was controlled by the favorites and was never really in doubt. The second goal came in controversial fashion, but it had been coming as the U.S. came out firing and scored early in both halves.

It took no time for the United States to get on the board just three minutes in as Megan Rapinoe mishit a corner and sent in a worm burner that somehow squirted through the Swedish defense and fell to Lindsay Horan on the doorstep who was free on a late charge to tap in the opening goal.

After the opener, the U.S. continued to dominate attacking possession, and Crystal Dunn had a pair of half-chances, putting both over the bar. Alex Morgan then got on the end of a Sam Mewis ball and looked for an audacious chip but just missed the far post.

Sweden built into the game by the 20th minute and had a golden opportunity as Kosovare Asllani found space down the right half of the box but her shot was weak and right at Alyssa Naeher. Towards the end of the first half Naeher was tested again, diving to punch away a Sweden cross from the right. Otherwise, the first half was all the United States, looking to break Sweden down to put the game away.

After the break, Jill Ellis made a change to bring on Carli Lloyd for Alex Morgan, the latter of whom appeared slightly dinged up and was brought off as a precaution. The appearance for Lloyd is her 277th cap for the United States, passing Mia Hamm for third all-time with the country.

The U.S. came out of the break as strong as they started the game, and Tobin Heath put the United States 2-0 up from a very tight angle. The goal was reviewed by VAR after replay appeared to show Carli Lloyd offside on the play as she looked to receive the cross which eventually rebounded to Heath, but the referee allowed the goal to stand despite Lloyd’s influence on the play. Also controversially, the goal was later changed by FIFA to an own-goal by Sweden defender Jonna Anderson who was defending Heath on the play.

The goal woke up Sweden who tested Nahaer on two separate occasions before the hour mark, but the U.S. goalkeeper held firm. A free-kick from the left edge of the U.S. box on 70 minutes came close to the near post but no Sweden attacker could get a head to the delivery.

Lloyd had a chance to extend both the lead and her goal streak with a chance in the 90th minute but on a breakaway ball from Mewis she fired her wide-open chance straight at Hedvig Lindahl who stayed strong to make the save. With the win, the United States wins the group with a perfect 3-0 record and a stunning +18 goal differential. They move on to the knockout stage to play Spain in the Round of 16, with a potential meeting with France looming in the quarterfinals.

U.S. Soccer announces Player of the Year nominees

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The USMNT’s 2018 Player of the Year is going to be one of the new breed, while the USWNT’s list of nominees is a bit unusual as well.

Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie, Matt Miazga, Zack Steffen and Wil Trapp are the men vying to become the fifth different name to win the Male Player of the Year in as many seasons.

[ USMNT: Player ratings | 3 things ]

There are three players on the Female list to have won the award in previous years with Julie Ertz, Tobin Heath, and Alex Morgan having laid claim to the honor. Megan Rapinoe and Lindsey Horan are the other two nominees.

The two teams could hardly have had more different years, as the USWNT was undefeated behind a prolific season from Morgan.

The men stalled as U.S. Soccer failed to enlist a full-time coach, leaving interim coach Dave Sarachan to meld new players into a “part-time” system.

Steffen is probably the favorite to win the men’s award, though Miazga and McKennie had some high-profile moments in red, white, and blue. Trapp is beloved by the staff and could grab the award as well, while Adams seems a true long shot.

USWNT star Horan secures NWSL No. 2 seed for Portland

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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) Lindsey Horan scored two goals and the Portland Thorns secured home-field advantage for the NWSL semifinals with a 3-1 victory over the Seattle Reign on Friday night.

[ USMNT-BRAZIL: Full recap | Player ratings ]

The victory gave the Thorns a second-place finish in the league’s standings, behind North Carolina. Portland will host the third-place Reign on Sept. 15. North Carolina will host the Chicago Red Stars in the other semifinal the next day.

The Reign went up early on Jess Fishlock’s goal in the fourth minute, stunning the sellout crowd of 21,144.

Ellie Carpenter had a chance for the Thorns in the 24th minute but her shot from distance caromed off the far post. Horan broke through in the 30th minute to tie the match, blasting a shot that that came back to her after Christine Sinclair was challenged in the box.

Heath curled a shot from distance out of Reign goalkeeper Lydia William’s reach in the 49th minute to give the Thorns the lead before Horan’s second goal, a header, in the 82nd.

Horan now has 12 goals this season, second only in the league to Chicago’s Sam Kerr, who has 15.

Megan Rapinoe did not play for the Reign because of a rib injury that also kept her out of the U.S. national team’s two recent exhibition matches against Chile. Allie Long also missed the game for the Reign because of a right knee sprain.

Portland hosts the league championship Sept. 22.