Moussa Sow

@NISALeague

Q&A with newly-named NISA president Bob Watkins

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The National Independent Soccer Association (NISA) has announced its new president, and made him available for media interviews.

[ MORE: USMNT-Brazil preview ]

ProSoccerTalk spoke with Bob Watkins, NISA’s commissioner and the founder of United States Rugby, about plans for the nascent league. He’s also one of the owners of San Diego’s 1904 FC, the club with connections to Demba Ba, Eden Hazard, Yohan Cabaye, and Moussa Sow.

Other reports have also announced that 1904 FC — formerly an applicant for the USL — will be a founding member of NISA.

ProSoccerTalk: What attracted you to the position?

Bob Watkins: “Excitement of the concept. I’ve been involved with the NASL a number of years ago with the club in San Diego. As that began to collapse if you will, it became apparent to me that a lot of the things that seemed to be not going well could’ve been avoided if it had been an activity looking at it from a future point of view, looking at where soccer in the United States was going, and what could be done to support that. When Peter Wilt and John approached me to look at this activity, I thought it was a different way of doing things. Not necessarily that they were better than anything else, but I liked the concept. It was a little bit more democratic. It was about playing soccer rather than trying to build an empire or change the world.”

Bob Watkins, @NISALeague

PST: When you say “democratic,” what do you mean?

BW: “The league is owned by the owners. All the teams who come into the league subscribe to the league. We don’t have any high financial barriers. It’s relatively modest if you’re looking at MLS or USL, and to me that makes a lot of sense so that groups who want to participate can do it, and there are no geographic boundaries or franchise areas.”

PST: How can your experience growing U.S. Rugby help with a new American soccer league?

BW: “When I looked at this from years ago, and began to think about how do I help develop a club in San Diego, I took the veneer of the sport of rugby on, and took the veneer of the sport of soccer off, and compared them both. Rugby is in its infancy in comparison to what soccer is, and there’s a lot of embedded activity in soccer that is just becoming part of the system in rugby. But if you flip the base to the top, and then build your system based on the enthusiasm, participation, and passion for it, that’s where you’re going to win hearts and minds. We’re here to promote the game, not to promote individual fiefdoms or organizations. What rugby has not had, which is in the process of doing, is building a youth development program.”

PST: You mentioned your time with NASL. Are you concerned with the U.S. Soccer Federation’s support of a new league?

BW: “I look at U.S. Soccer as I look at U.S. Rugby or any other national governing body. They’re there, they command the respect and ability to promote the national presence of the game. We have to build a system that supports that process. If change comes as a result of the way we’re doing things, so be it. We’re not there to change the rules of U.S. Soccer. We’re there to play the game at the base level and make it enjoyable and pleasant.”

PST: Being owner-owned should help, but how do you make sure you follow a good path in terms of expanding/growing the league?

BW: “What one has to look at, is there are certain standards that U.S. Soccer has for professional teams to participate, so we don’t want to drop down in terms of teams like NASL. At the same time, we want to make sure that we’re not ahead of our skis in terms of our ability to manage the growth. One of the challenges that we’re going to have is that a number of teams will be coming into a professional level which is different than the amateur level. We need to support the clubs with as much on-boarding as possible. It’s like taking an amateur player and making them a professional … to compete in the marketplace. Each that comes into the league has to hit the same standards as everybody else has so we can help them promote them, and grow them.

PST: What’s next?

BW: “Timing wise we’re looking at the Fall of 2019 coinciding with the FIFA schedule. Until then we’re building a relationship with each of the clubs, with U.S. Soccer, and fan bases around the country.”

Hazard and Co. set up NASL club in San Diego

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Soccer in SoCal continues to boom.

[ MORE: Sanchez, Aguero swap deal?

The North American Soccer League (NASL) announced Monday that San Diego will have a second-tier team for the 2018 season as professional soccer returns to San Diego County.

In a statement from the NASL it was revealed that San Diego’s new expansion franchise is owned by star players Eden Hazard, Yohan Cabaye, Demba Ba and Moussa Sow, as well as executives with experience of the San Diego market.

[ MORE: Latest Confederations Cup news

Hazard, a star for Chelsea and Belgium, revealed exactly why he believes San Diego deserves a soccer team.

“San Diego is a beautiful place and the love and passion that the people have for soccer made this an easy choice for us,” Hazard said. “My friends and I are honored to turn this dream into a reality and we can’t wait to get started and win some games.”

The quartet do not have a name, logo or colors for the team, but that is expected to be announced in the coming months. Bob Watkins will serve as the club president and Ricardo Campos, former technical director for thew New York Red Bulls, will serve in the front office alongside Katy Temple as the pieces are put in place for another new soccer team in California.

NASL will have 10 teams for the 2018 season with Orange County also joining the league — California added another team to NASL in 2017 in the San Francisco Deltas — which currently shares second-tier status with the much-larger USL who boast 30 teams.

With Orange County and San Diego arriving in NASL in 2018, LAFC to join Major League Soccer in 2018 and a consortium led by former USMNT star Landon Donovan hoping for an MLS expansion team in San Diego (based at the impressive Soccer City complex) in the years to come, soccer in SoCal is booming.

How involved Chelsea star Hazard, Crystal Palace midfielder Cabaye, Shanghai Shenhua striker Ba and Al-Ahli forward Sow get remains to be seen but they’ve obviously seen a gap in the market in San Diego.

Fenerbahce beats Manchester United despite historic Rooney bullet

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  • Sow scores early shocker
  • United drops to 3rd
  • Rooney hits late laser

Fenerbahce scored a 2-1 win over visiting Manchester United at the Sukru Saracoglu in Europa League play on Thursday.

The loss puts more heat under Jose Mourinho, who got a good-looking late goal from Wayne Rooney. The tally was Rooney’s 38th for United in Europe, putting him level with Ruud van Nistelrooy.

Senegalese striker Moussa Sow scored after a minute’s play, and ex-Sunderland man Jeremain Lens netted a free kick for Dick Advocaat’s men.

A draw between Zorya Luhansk and 10-man Feyenoord means United sits third in Group A, as Fener and Feyenoord each have 7 points to the Red Devils’ six.

[ MORE: Europa League standings ]

Moussa Sow hit a 17-yard bicycle kick in between Daley Blind and Marcos Rojo, besting David De Gea barely 60 seconds into the match.

The old cliche of “bad to worse” came around half-hour into the match, as Paul Pogba left the match with an apparent leg injury.

 [ MORE: Europa League schedule ]

Fenerbahce doubled the lead on a free kick at the hour mark. Zlatan Ibrahimovic conceded the kick about 25 yards out, and David De Gea didn’t even more as Jeremain Lens swept a quick shot around the wall. 2-0

Emmanuel Emenike just missed a sliding goal that would’ve made it 3-0 in the 79th minute. Could Mourinho’s men find magic?

Rooney helped, burying a long shot in the 89th minute to make it 2-1. He then had a stoppage time header cleared off the line.

United several corners in stoppage time, but Volkan Demirel collected the last offering to save the day.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Rooney’s goal made history for United.

Africa Cup of Nations roundup: Senegal upset Ghana; Algeria come back vs. South Africa

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Thursday was quite an eventful day at the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) as African powerhouse Ghana were the victims of Senegal’s shocking upset victory, and Algeria went a goal down — nearly two — only to come back and brush South Africa aside with a flourish in the game’s final 25 minutes.

[ MORE: All of PST’s 2015 AFCON coverage ]

Ghana 1-2 Senegal

Ghana were well on their way to a strong opening day result after Marseille forward Andre Ayew converted a penalty kick in the 14th minute to give the Black Stars an early 1-0 lead. But the four-time winners were in for a fight in the second half when Senegal and Stoke City forward Mame Biram Diouf equalized with two headers in quick succession — the first off the post and back into the play, the second thumped into and empty net — in the 58th minute.

Both sides looked decent value for a point a piece, but the underdog Senegalese had other plans in mind. Moussa Sow stole all three points for his country late, late into the game as the Fenerbahce forward beat Ghanaian goalkeeper Razak Brimah with a low drive to the far post in the 94th minute after Diouf placed a square pass into his path at the top of the 18-yard-box.

Algeria 3-1 South Africa

South Africa went ahead in the 51st minute when midfielder Thuso Phala made a surging, late run into the 18-yard-box and was rewarded with a squared pass seven yards from goal. Phala took a touch to settle and fired past Algeria and Philadelphia Union goalkeeper Rais M’bolhi.

Bafana Bafana had a golden opportunity to double their lead when Tokelo Rantie stepped up to the penalty spot in the 54th minute. The Bournemouth forward hit his penalty attempt with great force, but hit the crossbar and watched in despair as the ball caromed 20 feet into the air and spun itself over the goal and out of play. This would, of course, turn out to cost the South Africans dearly as Algeria needed just a breakthrough to pull level.

El Khadra were once again gifted a way back into the game in the 67th minute as South African defender Thulani Hlatshwayo flicked with his head a failed clearance into his own net. An equalizer now in hand, Algeria continued to push for an eventual winner and only five minutes later found themselves a goal ahead as Napoli defender Faouzi Ghoulam blasted a close-range effort past Darren Keet. The scoring was completed in the 83rd minute when Sporting CP forward Islam Slimani slid a powerful effort from 17 yards out underneath the ‘keeper.

[ FULL PREVIEW: PST’s 2015 Africa Cup of Nations preview ]

As things stand, Algeria (+2 GD) tops Group C with Senegal (+1) hot on their heels. In the next round of Group C action, Ghana takes on Algeria (Friday, 11 am ET), while Senegal looks to continue their hot start against South Africa (Friday, 2 pm ET).

Tuesday’s AFCON schedule

Ivory Coast vs. Guinea (11 am ET)
Mali vs. Cameroon (2 pm ET)