@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.

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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.”

Crystal Palace 2-2 Bournemouth: Defoe scores beauty brace

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  • Defoe opens, closes first half scoring
  • Milivojevic, Dann score
  • Key saves from Begovic, Speroni

Christian Benteke missed a stoppage time penalty kick and Bournemouth held on for a point at Selhurst Park in a 2-2 draw at Crystal Palace on Saturday.

Jermain Defoe‘s brace included a gorgeous finish, making amends for Luka Milivojevic and Scott Dann goals.

Palace remains 20th with 11 points, while Bournemouth is 14th with 16.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

A clever short corner caught Palace looking poor, with Defoe sprung all alone — by an illegal pick — near the penalty spot to bury a side-footed offering.

Palace was immediately ready to level, but a timely intervention stopped Mamadou Sakho at the goal line following fine work from Ruben Loftus-Cheek.

The Eagles leveled when Wilfried Zaha was chopped down in the box, and Milivojevic had no problem with his penalty attempt.

Dann used a Yohan Cabaye cross to make it 2-1, but only briefly as Defoe scored this wonder goal (top).

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Jordon Ibe snapped the game back into life in the 70th minute when he forced Julian Speroni into a diving parry.

And it was a hard foul that brought a different kind of vigor to the match, with Lewis Cook‘s sliding challenge on Zaha leading both players into yellow cards.

Asmir Begovic made a great reaction stop when Loftus-Cheek’s deflected effort teased the near post. An ensuing corner was toe-poked wide of the goal by Milivojevic.

Charlie Daniels then cut down Zaha, but Benteke remained ice cold with a poor penalty attempt which was saved by Begovic.

Crystal Palace 2-1 Chelsea: Eagles stun Blues for deserved win

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  • Cabaye breaks CPFC season duck
  • Bakayoko levels with 1st PL goal
  • Zaha nabs winner

Wilfried Zaha‘s return propelled Crystal Palace to their first goals and points of the season in a shocking 2-1 win over Chelsea at Selhurst Park on Saturday.

Chelsea’s been stunned for the second time this season, with Palace joined Burnley as non-traditional powers to belt the Blues.

The win moves Palace four points back of the drop zone, while Chelsea sinks nine points behind leaders Manchester City.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

The first danger? Well of course it came from Crystal Palace, as a healthy Wilfried Zaha dribbled through the box to test Thibaut Courtois with a low shot.

And then… Palace scored! It only took David Luiz clearing a ball off Cabaye’s knee to get past Courtois, but the Eagles will not be complaining with their 1-0 lead.

The lead didn’t last long, with Bakayoko nodding a corner kick off the ground and past Julian Speroni.

Marcos Alonso‘s shot near the spot was deflected out for a corner, and Michy Batshuayi‘s header off the corner was too high for the frame.

Mamadou Sakho then cued up electric returnee Zaha for a terrific finish just before halftime.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

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Cesc Fabregas cranked a 50th minute shot off the cross bar as Chelsea mounted its second rally of the contest.

Davide Zappacosta was introduced to the match when Victor Moses was injured, and helped Chelsea take control. Eden Hazard set Pedro up for a shot that Speroni saved in the 67th.

Charly Musonda made waves this week with an Instagram post regarding frustration wiht his playing time, then subbed into the match Saturday and almost provided an equalizer.

Hazard couldn’t get on the end of a terrific invitation from Zappacosta, and Palace was now 17 or so minutes from its first three points of the season.

PL AT HALF: Palace scores (then concedes); Man City rolling (yes, again)

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We’ve got goals!

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Liverpool’s poor finishing conspired with Manchester United’s defensive style to keep us from witnessing some markers in the opening match of the Premier League weekend, but that’s not continued with most of the 10 a.m. ET kickoffs.


Crystal Palace 2-1 Chelsea

All Palace needed to get its first match of the season was the Premier League champions on the other side. Yohan Cabaye saw David Luiz‘s clearance go off his knee and in to give the Eagles their first goal in 731 minutes, though Tiemoue Bakayoko scored within minutes to level the score line. Mamadou Sakho then cued up electric returnee Wilfried Zaha for a terrific finish just before halftime.

Tottenham Hotspur 0-0 Bournemouth

Hugo Lloris has a nice save and Davinson Sanchez a timely block at Wembley Stadium.

Manchester City 3-1 Stoke City

If this were hockey, likely PL star of the season Kevin De Bruyne would have two assists. First he gave Kyle Walker the ball to cue up a Gabriel Jesus goal, then the Belgian slipped in Leroy Sane for a cross finished by Raheem Sterling.

The last name set David Silva up for City’s third goal, though Mame Biram Diouf pulled one back for the Potters just before the break.

Burnley 0-1 West Ham United

Michail Antonio‘s long-desired goal has the Irons on top in a claret battle inside Turf Moor, but a pair of yellow cards to Andy Carroll have opened the door for the hosts.

Swansea City 1-0 Huddersfield Town

A woeful decision from Town goalkeeper Jonas Lossl allowed Tammy Abraham to put Swans ahead at the Liberty Stadium.

Hazard and Co. set up NASL club in San Diego

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Soccer in SoCal continues to boom.

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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.

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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.