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NWSL team plays anthem early to avoid Rapinoe protest; Commish not pleased


The Washington Spirit wasn’t interested in seeing Seattle Reign midfielder Megan Rapinoe on one knee during “The Star-Spangled Banner”.

So they played it early, and branded Rapinoe’s gesture a “hijacking” of the anthem. All this in front of the league commissioner, who was not pleased.

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The NWSL club explains the performance of the national anthem was intentionally early, and aimed at stopping Rapinoe from making another “nod to Colin Kaepernick”, the San Francisco 49ers quarterback who has decided to controversially kneel during the playing of the song.

Earlier Wednesday, the Reign issued a statement supporting Rapinoe, saying they would allow their players to act in accordance with their own beliefs.

Here’s the Spirit’s response:

“While we respect every individual’s right to express themselves, and believe Ms. Rapinoe to be an amazing individual with a huge heart; we respectfully disagree with her method of hijacking our organization’s event to draw attention to what is ultimately a personal – albeit worthy – cause.”

Hijacking is a pretty strong word, and the Spirit’s move does carry more than a hint of petulance (You can read the full, lengthy statement here). Rapinoe has a Constitutional right to her form of protest, just as the Spirit fans have the right to blast her for it.

Then again, the Spirit have every Constitutional right to play the anthem early (though I’m no Framer).

But sneaking around the gesture just doesn’t feel right. And NWSL commissioner Jeff Plush was blindsided by the move. His comments are below, and this won’t be the end of this story.

Hope Solo reveals she won’t play in NWSL for rest of 2016

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Hope Solo hasn’t had the best couple of weeks since the U.S. Women’s National Team bailed out of the 2016 Olympics.

On Tuesday, the U.S. keeper announced her decision to take a step back from her club team as well after receiving a six-month ban from U.S. Soccer.

The veteran American shot stopper took to Twitter to make her decision known, leaving her status unknown with the Seattle Reign in the future. Solo remains under contract until the end of the current campaign, however, it is not known as to how her decision to sit out will affect her financially.

Solo wil be eligible to return to the USWNT in February, but it will be up to head coach Jill Ellis to reintroduce the 35-year-old into the fold.

Following USWNT suspension, Hope Solo takes leave of absence from club

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Hope Solo’s USWNT suspension did not predicate she take time off from her club team the Seattle Reign, but that is exactly what she will be doing.

The 35-year-old goalkeeper will be taking a leave of absence from playing all forms of soccer, the Reign announced. They did not say how long she will be gone.

The club signed 21-year-old Andi Tostanoski as a replacement for Solo on the roster – Tostanoski’s third one-game replacement contract with the Reign. 26-year-old Haley Kopmeyer was given the start in today’s match against the Portland Thorns.

Many believe Solo’s international career could be over after U.S. Soccer reportedly terminated her contract. Despite that, club soccer was still immediately available to her. Even though U.S. Soccer pays her club salary as part of her USWNT deal, that portion of her contract was not terminated, according to reports.

Solo was suspended from international play for six months just two days ago mainly for comments she made following the USWNT loss to Sweden in the Olympic quarterfinals. However, it was clear from statements on both sides that an accumulation of actions, both in the public and private eye, had contributed to her eventual punishment.

Despite her controversial actions and personality, Solo has unquestionably remained the best goalkeeper in women’s international soccer, and has been that was for a number of years. She holds the world records in international appearances, wins, and shutouts for goalkeepers in women’s soccer.

NWSL left embarrassed after match played on ridiculously narrow field

Jeff Kassouf/@JeffKassouf

An NWSL match last night was played on a pitch that fit in the outfield of a baseball diamond. Sure, NYCFC plays on a baseball field, and it’s bad, but not terrible, so how rough could this be?

Let me go ahead and spoil it for you: it was bad. Really, really, really bad.

Due to a concert at their home field Rhinos Stadium, the Western New York Flash hosted the Seattle Reign at nearby Frontier Field, the home of the Minnesota Twins AAA affiliate Rochester Red Wings. The field, made specifically to avoid the dirt baseball infield and somehow deemed legal by the NWSL before the match, was 100 yards by 58 yards. FIFA standards are 100 x 50, and while NWSL standards are higher at 100 x 70, an exception was made by the league office in this case due to the mitigating circumstances. Check out the image:

The aftermath of the game, which has garnered national attention, has resulted in some embarrassing moments for the NWSL. They issued an immediate apology, admitting a mistake in allowing the game to proceed. “The field dimensions were not up to our standards, but due to various factors, the league office made the decision to grant an exception for this evening’s match,” said commissioner Jeff Plush in the statement. “In retrospect, we made the wrong decision.”

But that’s not all. Seattle Reign head coach Laura Harvey was left fuming after the game, and posted a message on Twitter saying they were informed the field was not up to code just hours before the match, only to be told the game would go on despite no improvements made. “At 1:30pm we received an email from the officials that they deemed the field unsuitable if certain aspects of the field were not changed,” Harvey wrote. “At 5pm they did another inspection in which they told me specifically that the field had not changed from 1:30pm, but now they deemed it suitable!”

“For any players/staff to be put in a position like we were tonight is unacceptable,” Harvey continued. “The result and outcome of the game are secondary to what impact this will have on our sport.”

The concert at Rhinos Stadium was a 90’s throwback concert featuring TLC, and was scheduled prior to the release of the NWSL schedule. A number of USWNT players saw the field after their 1-0 win over South Africa earlier in the day, and took to social media to voice their displeasure.

Women’s Ballon d’Or nominees: Three USWNT players, West Virginia junior

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We now know the players and coaches nominated for the highest individual honors in women’s soccer, and there are plenty of connections to the 2015 World Cup champions.

Hope Solo, Megan Rapinoe and Carli Lloyd are nominees for World Player of the Year, while USWNT coach Jill Ellis is up for World Coach of the Year.

Seattle Reign boss Laura Harvey is also up for the latter honor, and will combat the coaches for Canada and England amongst others.

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Another candidate for POY is plying her trade in the American college game, as West Virginia junior Kadeisha Buchanan is up for the honor.

Surprisingly, World Cup semifinalist England did not have a player on the final list.

FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year nominees
U.S. — Lloyd, Rapinoe, Solo
France — Amandine Henry, Eugenie Le Sommer
Germany — Nadine Angerer, Celia Sasic
Japan — Aya Miyama
Canada — Kadeisha Buchanan
Switzerland — Ramona Bachmann

FIFA Women’s World Coach of the Year nominees
Calle Barring – Sweden U-19
Colin Ball – FFC Frankfurt
Farid Benstiti – Paris Saint-Germain
Jill Ellis – USWNT
Laura Harvey – Seattle Reign
John Herdman – Canada
Gerard Precheur – Lyon
Mark Sampson – England
Norio Sasaki – Japan
Thomas Worle – Bayern Munich.