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USWNT legend O’Reilly to retire after NWSL season

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HAO is calling it a career.

Heather O’Reilly, a three-time Olympic gold medalist and 2015 Women’s World Cup winner, announced Friday that she’ll be hanging up her boots at the end of the 2019 NWSL season.

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O’Reilly has won the WPS with Sky Blue FC, FA Cup with Arsenal, and NWSL titles with both North Carolina Courage and FC Kansas City.

She accumulated a wild 231 caps in a decade-and-a-half with the USWNT, scoring 42 goals.

Only seven USWNT players have been capped more times than O’Reilly.

Lloyd scores twice in USWNT’s rout of Belgium

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LOS ANGELES (AP) The World Cup must be getting close, because Carli Lloyd is looking dangerous.

The 2015 World Cup star scored her first two goals of the year in the opening 19 minutes of the U.S. women’s national team’s 6-0 thrashing of Belgium in an exhibition on Sunday night.

Lindsey Horan and Samantha Mewis added first-half goals on headers after Lloyd scored twice in the air. Alex Morgan also got a goal early in the second half as the Americans showcased their offensive potency in their first-ever meeting with Belgium, a well-regarded opponent that barely missed World Cup qualification.

Jessica McDonald added the Americans’ fifth headed goal in the final seconds of play.

“Obviously it all jelled really well tonight,” Morgan said. “We had some players on the field that hadn’t seen it as much, and I think a lot of players really stepped up. (The World Cup) is such a long tournament, and there are so many variables. We had to make sure every player is ready to contribute.”

Morgan scored on a beautiful pass from the 36-year-old Lloyd, who showed she might be more than a super sub in France this summer.

In Lloyd’s first start of the year, the goal-scoring hero of the Americans’ World Cup triumph in Canada came through with her 106th and 107th career goals, tying Michelle Akers for fourth place on the U.S.’ career goals list.

“I’d be foolish to not take this opportunity and try to seize it,” Lloyd said. “I want to win. I’m a winner. People can say what they want, but I know at the end of the day I can help this team lift that trophy in France, and I’m not going to stop until I can do that.”

The team’s leading active goal-scorer had played only 34 minutes as a substitute in five games this year, and she has been expected to play a reserve role this summer after coach Jill Ellis largely relegated her to the bench late last year. But Lloyd capitalized on her start with another dynamic display of the offensive talent that made her FIFA’s World Player of the Year in 2015 and 2016.

“I’ve said she’s a game-changer, whether she’s on the pitch or coming onto the pitch,” Ellis said of Lloyd. “That’s her role for us. I thought tonight, she was sharp. Fantastic. Played her role perfectly, getting on the end of things and getting results.”

Veteran defender Ali Krieger also made her first appearance for the U.S. in exactly two years, getting back into Ellis’ lineup for her 99th career appearance after going 18 months without a call-up before this two-game set of exhibition victories over Australia and Belgium.

Ellis is expected to set her World Cup roster for France within the next month.

“I have some big decisions to make in the next couple of weeks, so I think part of looking at (Krieger) was to see that,” Ellis said. “We want to get as many looks as we can.”

The Americans scored 11 goals against Australia and Belgium while Ellis examined her depth. And after giving up three goals to the Australians in Colorado, they kept a clean sheet in Los Angeles.

The U.S. team’s first game at 1-year-old Banc of California Stadium just south of downtown LA drew a near-sellout crowd of 20,941 to a friendly match that felt like a celebration of the sport.

The team debuted its World Cup white uniforms in front of a crowd including Natalie Portman, Jessica Chastain, Jennifer Garner, Uzo Aduba and Eva Longoria. The actors all took the field before the game wearing jerseys of players from the 1999 World Cup-winning U.S. team, which was honored on the field at halftime for its landmark championship-winning victory a few miles away at the Rose Bowl.

Belgium was on a 10-match unbeaten streak despite narrowly failing to qualify for the World Cup. Its roster is stacked with talent playing professionally across Europe, but the Americans were superior on both ends.

Lloyd scored an exceptional goal in the 14th minute, finding a crease between two defenders and perfectly directing a long, difficult header off a free kick from Tierna Davidson. Lloyd’s second goal in the 19th minute was a close-range header off an exceptional cross from Crystal Dunn.

Horan then scored in the 26th minute off a corner, showcasing the Americans’ superiority in the air. Mewis also scored on a header seven minutes later off a free kick from Christen Press, who finished with three assists.

After coming on as a halftime substitution, Morgan got the Americans’ fifth goal in the 52nd minute. The native of the far-flung LA suburbs punched home her 101st career goal from a difficult angle after a pretty give-and-go with Lloyd.

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

Pugh stars as USWNT beat Australia in eight-goal thriller

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COMMERCE CITY, Colorado (AP) Mallory Pugh scored twice in her return to Colorado to cap a three-goal rally, and the U.S. women’s national team held on to beat Australia 5-3 in an exhibition on Thursday. Tobin Heath and Megan Rapinoe scored goals early in the second half and Alex Morgan also scored for the Americans.

The U.S. is 3-1-2 in the first six games of the Countdown to the Cup. The Americans have four games left leading up to the Women’s World Cup in France from June 7 to July 7.

The U.S. team will start defense of its World Cup title against Thailand on June 11 in Reims, France.

Lisa De Vanna, Sam Kerr and Caitlin Foord had goals for Australia.

The match at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park was a homecoming for Pugh and Lindsey Horan. Horan is from Golden, Colorado and Pugh is from Highlands Ranch.

Pugh received a loud ovation when she checked into the game in the second half, and she wasted no time in scoring. Emily Sonnett fed her a pass as Pugh was charging in from the right side and she beat Australian goalkeeper Lydia Williams in the 67th minute to make it 4-2.

Just before that, Rapinoe gave the U.S. the lead when she got the ball at the top of the box, worked around to the middle and sent a low shot to the left corner in the 60th minute.

Kerr’s header in the 80th minute cut the lead to one, but Pugh scored in injury time to close it out.

Morgan’s goal was the 100th of her career and came in her 159th match. She tied Tiffeny Milbrett for sixth all-time among U.S. players in career goals.

Morgan got the milestone marker when she fought off an Australian defender to gain control off a pass from Crystal Dunn. She then maneuvered around defender Alanna Kennedy and beat Williams with a well-placed shot to the right in the 14th minute.

The Australians got even when De Vanna got a pass from Foord and beat U.S. goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher with a shot to the far side in the 29th minute.

The Americans turned up the pressure and only a couple of good saves by Williams kept the score tied. She made a save on Rapinoe’s shot from close in and Ellie Carpenter cleared it off the line before it crossed in the 31st minute. Soon after she got a hand on Horan’s high shot and knocked it over the crossbar.

Australia took the lead early in the second half when Foord dribbled through the defense and beat Naeher with a low shot in the 47th minute.

The Americans tied it in the 53rd minute when Sonnett lofted a cross to Heath, and she headed it just past Williams to make it 2-2.

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

LUNA Bar pledges to make up roster pay gap for USWNT

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The maker of LUNA Bar brand nutrition bars has pledged to pay $31,250 to each of the players who make the U.S. roster for the Women’s World Cup, an amount the company says makes up the difference between bonuses for the men’s and women’s national teams.

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California-based Clif Bar & Company announced the planned payments Tuesday on Equal Pay Day, which highlights the gender wage gap.

The U.S. women’s national team filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation in federal court last month alleging gender discrimination.

The players have said in court documents that U.S. men’s team players earned a $55,000 bonus apiece for making the World Cup roster in 2014, while the women earned a $15,000 bonus each for making the 2015 World Cup roster.

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“It’s ironic that one of the most popular sports in the world is still experiencing pay inequalities between women and men,” Clif Bar & Company co-owner Kit Crawford said in a statement. “We are big fans of the U.S. Women’s national team and were inspired to take action and make a difference that matters.”

The company characterized the payments, which total $718,750, as a donation, made in partnership with the U.S. Women’s National Team Players Association.

The USSF has said that the differences in pay are the result of different collective bargaining agreements that set different pay structures for the two teams. The agreements are not made public.

U.S. Soccer asks court to consolidate discrimination lawsuits

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The U.S. Soccer Federation has asked a court to consolidate a gender discrimination lawsuit filed by players on the women’s national team with an action filed earlier by former goalkeeper Hope Solo.

The federation filed the motion Thursday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles. A hearing was scheduled for April 29.

The 28 members of the current women’s player pool filed their lawsuit earlier this month. It accuses the U.S. Soccer Federation of “institutionalized gender discrimination” that includes unequal pay with their counterparts on the men’s national team.

Solo filed a similar lawsuit in August in the Northern District of California.

Solo no longer plays for the national team. Her contract was terminated when she was suspended from the team following the 2016 Rio Olympics. However, she continues to champion gender equity issues.

She told The Associated Press earlier this month that she had hoped her former teammates would join in her lawsuit.

“It was clear that U.S. Soccer was never going to acquiesce or negotiate to provide us equal pay or agree to treat us fairly,” she said. “The filing by the entire United Sates women’s national team demonstrated that they no longer fear the federation by forcefully and publicly acknowledging U.S. Soccer’s violations of the Equal Pay Act and Title VII.”

The lawsuit brought by current national team players is an escalation of a long-simmering dispute over pay and treatment. Five players, including Solo, filed a complaint in 2016 with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that alleged wage discrimination by the federation. The lawsuit effectively ended that EEOC complaint.

U.S. Soccer maintains that the men’s and women’s teams have separate collective bargaining agreements and their pay is structured differently. That means there is no simple dollar-to-dollar salary comparison. Terms of the CBAs have not been made public.

Compensation for the women includes a guaranteed salary and salaries paid by the USSF for their time with clubs in the National Women’s Soccer League. The men get paid based on appearances, roster selection for friendlies and tournaments, and collective performance. The USSF has cited the contracts, as well as the revenue generated by the teams, as the reason for the differences in pay.