U.S. Soccer

U.S. WNT Opens 2016 with 5-0 Win Against Republic of Ireland in Front of Record Crowd in San Diego

SAN DIEGO (Jan. 23, 2016) – The U.S. Women’s National Team opened its 2016 campaign with a dominant 5-0 shutout against the Republic of Ireland at Qualcomm Stadium in front of 23,309 fans, a record crowd to watch a WNT game in San Diego.

It was all USA from the beginning as midfielder Carli Lloyd scored three goals in 28 minutes with her first coming in the sixth, and was assisted twice by Alex Morgan, who was celebrating her 100th game with the WNT. The scoring duo swapped roles just before the break as it was Lloyd who provided the assist for Morgan for a 4-0 halftime U.S. lead.

Forward Mallory Pugh, the captain of the U-20 Women’s National Team that will compete at the U-20 Women’s World Cup in Papua New Guinea later this year, came in for Morgan in the 58th minute of the game to make her USWNT debut. At 17 years, 8 months and 25 days, she is the youngest player to make her debut in the last 11 years of the program and became the 19th player to score in her first cap when she added the fifth and final goal of the game in the 83rd minute of the game.

The WNT is now 12-0-0 all-time vs. Ireland. Of the 12 meetings, seven have seen the USA score five goals.

Up next, the USWNT travels to the Lone Star State to begin the 2016 CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Championship from Feb. 10-21 for a berth to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Goal Scoring Rundown:
USA – Carli Lloyd (Alex Morgan), 6th minute: Alex Morgan ran deep into the attacking third down the left side and crossed the ball on the ground. An unmarked Carli Lloyd outran the defense and finished with her right foot into the back of the net. USA 1, IRL 0 (SEE GOAL)

USA – Carli Lloyd, (Alex Morgan), 21st minute: Tobin Heath began the play with a deep run on the left flank and crossed the ball towards the back post. Alex Morgan headed it on goal but Ireland’s goalkeeper Emma Byrne punched it out. Carli Lloyd took advantage of the poor clearance and headed it to the back of the net from close range for her second goal of the day. Carli was shaken up after she knocked heads with an Ireland defender on the play but was okay and retuned to the game shortly after. USA 2, IRL 0. (SEE GOAL)

USA – Carli Lloyd, 28th minute: Carli Lloyd stole possession thanks to a poor Ireland pass to run past the defense and slot the ball past the goalkeeper for her third goal of the game. USA 3, IRL 0 (SEE GOAL)

USA – Alex Morgan (Carli Lloyd), 45th minute: Ali Krieger played a great ball from the right side to the middle of the box. Carli Lloyd jumped up for the header but the ball bounced off the post. Alex Morgan was there for the loose ball and tapped it in for the USA’s fourth goal of the game. USA 4, IRL 0

USA – Mallory Pugh (Christen Press), 83rd minute: Christen Press made the first run to get inside the box and looked to cross the ball before running out of bounds. The cross reached Pugh, who was quick to head it to the near post for her first international goal in her first cap. USA 5, IRL 0. FINAL. (SEE GOAL)

Key Saves and Defensive Stops:
USA – Hope Solo, 80th: Late in the game, U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo was called into action on back-to-back plays, but both times she was ready to preserve the shutout for the USA.

Next on the Schedule: The U.S. WNT heads to Texas to begin the 2016 CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Championship that will run from Feb. 10-21 in Houston and Dallas. The USA will open the Olympic Qualifying Championship in Group A against Costa Rica on Wednesday, Feb. 10, at 7:30 p.m. CT. TV information will be released at a later date and ticket info is available here. The U.S. will be attempting to qualify for a sixth consecutive Olympic Games and win the CONCACAF Women's Olympic Qualifying Championship for the fourth consecutive time.
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Milestone Watch:

  • Forward Alex Morgan became the 34th player in U.S. history to play 100 times for her country. Morgan debuted on Oct. 2, 2010, vs. China.
  • Carli Lloyd has scored 82 international goals. She is in sixth place on the USWNT all-scoring list. Lloyd has scored 19 goals in the USA’s last 14 matches, starting with the Round of 16 game vs. Colombia at the WWC in 2015. Her three goals today marked this her sixth career hat trick.
  • Mallory Pugh made her debut for the USWNT, coming in for Alex Morgan in the second half. Pugh, the captain of the U-20 WNT team that will compete at the U-20 WWC in Papua New Guinea at the end of the year, is 17 years, 8 months and 25 days old, becoming the youngest player to debut for the U.S. in the last 11 years. Heather O’Reilly debuted for the WNT just a few months past her 17th birthday in 2002 at the Algarve Cup in Portugal. Amy Rodriguez debuted at the 2005 Algarve Cup just a few months past her 18th birthday. Lauren Holiday first trained with the senior team a few months shy of her 18th birthday in 2005.
  • With her goal in the 83rd minute, Pugh becomes the 19th U.S. player to score in her debut. The last player to do it was Stephanie McCaffrey on Oct. 25, 2015 against Brazil. Per Elias Sports Bureau, Pugh is the youngest WNT goal scorer in the last 16 years and sixth youngest in team history.
  • Hope Solo recorded her 91st career shutout in today’s match. With 186 caps, she is the leader for caps by a goalkeeper in U.S. history. Briana Scurry earned 173 caps in her career (1994-2008).
  • Midfielder Samantha Mewis made her first career start for the U.S. WNT and earned her fifth cap.
  • Defender Whitney Engen made her first start for the USA since doing so against England on Feb. 13, 2015.
  • Jaelene Hinkle, Stephanie McCaffrey and Emily Sonnett all earned their fifth caps. It was Sonnett’s second start. Lindsey Horan earned her seventh cap and fourth start.
  • Today’s attendance was 23,309, which marks the largest crowd to watch a U.S. WNT match in San Diego. The previous record was 12,857 (a 3-0 win vs. China PR on April 10, 2014, also at Qualcomm Stadium).
  • Solo has 143 goalkeeper wins and is the all-time leader in wins for a goalkeeper in U.S. history. Scurry posted 133 wins during her career (1994-2008).

Additional Notes:

  • Carli Lloyd is the USA’s top scorer on the roster with 82 career international goals. Alex Morgan is next with 57 and Heather O’Reilly has scored 46.
  • Heather O'Reilly earned her 228th cap when she came on at halftime. She’s currently the most capped player on the team.
  • Midfielder Carli Lloyd and defender Becky Sauerbrunn have been named captains of the U.S. Women's National Team by head coach Jill Ellis. The duo becomes the 13th and 14th players officially named captain of the U.S. WNT over the 31 years of the program, although many others have worn the captain's band during a match.
  • On January 11 at the FIFA Gala Awards in Zurich, Switzerland, Carli Lloyd, the co-captain of the U.S. Women's National Team, was named the 2015 FIFA Women's World Player of the Year, and Jill Ellis, who led the USA to the 2015 Women's World Cup title, was named as the 2015 World Coach of the Year for Women's Soccer
  • Long-time U.S. captain Christie Rampone underwent arthroscopic surgery on her left knee before Christmas and midfielder Megan Rapinoe is doing well in her rehab from ACL surgery. Forward Amy Rodriguez is pregnant with her second child and will be off the soccer field for a large part of the year.
  • The match in San Diego was the USA’s sixth match in “America’s Finest City” and second at Qualcomm Stadium, current home to the NFL’s San Diego Chargers. The U.S. Women have never lost in San Diego but did tie their first match there, 0-0, against Japan on Jan. 12, 2003. This is the second time the USA has played Ireland in San Diego, winning 5-0 both times (July 23, 2006 and January 23, 2016). 

 - U.S. Women’s National Team Match Report -

Match: U.S. Women’s National Team vs. Republic of Ireland
Date: Jan. 23, 2016
Competition: International Friendly
Venue: Qualcomm Stadium; San Diego, Calif.
Kickoff: 2 p.m. PT
Attendance: 23,309
Weather: 65 degrees; mostly cloudy

Scoring Summary:       1          2          F
USA                             4          1          5
IRL                               0          0          0

USA – Carli Lloyd (Alex Morgan)                                    6th minute
USA – Carli Lloyd (Alex Morgan)                                    21
USA – Carli Lloyd                                                          28
USA – Alex Morgan (Carli Lloyd)                                    45
USA – Mallory Pugh (Christen Press)                              83

Lineups:
USA: 1-Hope Solo; 11-Ali Krieger, 27-Emily Sonnett (5-Kelley O’Hara, 58), 6-Whitney Engen, 7-Meghan Klingenberg; 29-Samantha Mewis, 31-Lindsey Horan (26-Jaelene Hinkle, 46), 10-Carli Lloyd (12-Christen Press, 46); 25-Crystal Dunn (9-Heather O’Reilly, 46), 13-Alex Morgan (capt.) (22-Mallory Pugh, 58), 17-Tobin Heath (28-Stephanie McCaffrey, 46)
Subs Not Used: 18-Ashlyn Harris, 21-Alyssa Naeher
Head coach: Jill Ellis

IRL: 1-Emma Byrne (capt.), 2-Sophie Perry (11-Julie Ann Russell, 46), 3-Megan Campbell, 4-Louise Quinn, 6-Karen Duggan (17-Meabh De Burca, 72), 7-Diane Caldwell (14-Jessica Gleeson, 46), 8-Aine O’Gorman, 9-Ruesha Littlejohn (18-Megan Connolly, 65), 10-Denise O’Sullivan, 13-Stephanie Roche (21-Fiona O’Sullivan, 46), 15-Katie McCabe (12-Siobhan Killeen, 65)
Subs Not Used: 5-Ciara Rossiter, 16-Niamh Reid Burke, 19-Clare Shine, 20-Grace Wright, 22-Savannah McCarthy
Head coach: Sue Ronan

Stats Summary: USA / IRL
Shots: 23 / 2
Shots on Goal: 9 / 2
Saves:  2 / 4
Corner Kicks: 8 / 2
Fouls: 9 / 8
Offside: 0 / 0

Misconduct Summary:
None

Officials:
Referee: Karen Abt (USA)
Assistant Referee 1: Amanda Ross (USA)
Assistant Referee 2: Deleana Quan (USA)
4th Official: Ekaterina Koroleva (USA)

Budweiser Woman of the Match: Carli Lloyd

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WNT Jan 23, 2016

 - U.S. Women’s National Team Match Report -

Match: U.S. Women’s National Team vs. Republic of Ireland
Date: Jan. 23, 2016
Competition: International Friendly
Venue: Qualcomm Stadium; San Diego, Calif.
Kickoff: 2 p.m. PT
Attendance: 23,309
Weather: 65 degrees; mostly cloudy

Scoring Summary:       1          2          F
USA                             4          1          5
IRL                               0          0          0

USA – Carli Lloyd (Alex Morgan)                                    6th minute
USA – Carli Lloyd (Alex Morgan)                                    21
USA – Carli Lloyd                                                          28
USA – Alex Morgan (Carli Lloyd)                                    45
USA – Mallory Pugh (Christen Press)                              83

Lineups:
USA: 1-Hope Solo; 11-Ali Krieger, 27-Emily Sonnett (5-Kelley O’Hara, 58), 6-Whitney Engen, 7-Meghan Klingenberg; 29-Samantha Mewis, 31-Lindsey Horan (26-Jaelene Hinkle, 46), 10-Carli Lloyd (12-Christen Press, 46); 25-Crystal Dunn (9-Heather O’Reilly, 46), 13-Alex Morgan (capt.) (22-Mallory Pugh, 58), 17-Tobin Heath (28-Stephanie McCaffrey, 46)
Subs Not Used: 18-Ashlyn Harris, 21-Alyssa Naeher
Head coach: Jill Ellis

IRL: 1-Emma Byrne (capt.), 2-Sophie Perry (11-Julie Ann Russell, 46), 3-Megan Campbell, 4-Louise Quinn, 6-Karen Duggan (17-Meabh De Burca, 72), 7-Diane Caldwell (14-Jessica Gleeson, 46), 8-Aine O’Gorman, 9-Ruesha Littlejohn (18-Megan Connolly, 65), 10-Denise O’Sullivan, 13-Stephanie Roche (21-Fiona O’Sullivan, 46), 15-Katie McCabe (12-Siobhan Killeen, 65)
Subs Not Used: 5-Ciara Rossiter, 16-Niamh Reid Burke, 19-Clare Shine, 20-Grace Wright, 22-Savannah McCarthy
Head coach: Sue Ronan

Stats Summary: USA / IRL
Shots: 23 / 2
Shots on Goal: 9 / 2
Saves:  2 / 4
Corner Kicks: 8 / 2
Fouls: 9 / 8
Offside: 0 / 0

Misconduct Summary:
None

Officials:
Referee: Karen Abt (USA)
Assistant Referee 1: Amanda Ross (USA)
Assistant Referee 2: Deleana Quan (USA)
4th Official: Ekaterina Koroleva (USA)

Budweiser Woman of the Match: Carli Lloyd

Open Cup Rewind: 1965 - When the Ukrainians Ruled America

There was no Major League Soccer in 1965. No NASL or USL either. But there was the German-American Soccer League, a stew of ethnic clubs clustered in and around New York City’s five Burroughs. Teams played in God-forsaken corners of the city, under bridges in Brooklyn and up in the Bronx, on the ragged edges between salvage yards and dockyards, manufacturing plants and airports. And it was the best soccer in America.

“These were the most exciting games back then,” said Dr. Joe Machnik, familiar to American soccer fans of today as Fox Sports’ resident rules analyst. But back in the day this native of Greenpoint, Brooklyn had a front-row seat to all the action as back-up goalkeeper for 1965 Open Cup champions New York Ukrainians. “You had great rivalries. The quality was high. We had some great players.”

One of those greats was Walter Schmotolocha. Whether you called him Woldoymyr or Walter, Walt or Junio – his nickname in the team – the diminutive midfielder was one of the best American players of his time. “He was the pride and joy of the Ukrainian-American community,” recalled Machnik with a smile.

The rough edges
“The fields were a disgrace,” said Schmotolocha from his home in Kerhonkson, a tiny hamlet in the Hudson River Valley with a large Ukrainian population. His voice is a mish-mash of old-time New York, Eastern Europe and proud 76-year-old granddad. “Nothing but glass bottles and trash out there. There were rocks everywhere. It was always muddy when it rained. You had no idea where the ball was going to bounce, so you had to be ready. I used to call it, ‘running the obstacle course!’”

All the teams played on fields like these. The Metropolitan Oval was built in 1925, two years after the league’s birth. Other teams played at the Throggs Neck Oval in the Bronx.  “I remember one that was really bad,” chuckled Schmotolocha, a collegiate All-American at the Pratt Institute who was born and raised in Manhattan’s East Village, then crowded with Ukrainian immigrants. “It was next to a manufacturing plant in Ridgewood in Brooklyn and there was nothing but trash and stones and busted bottles.”

These fields were home to the shining lights of the day: the likes of New York Hungaria, loaded with pros who fled the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. The New York Greek Americans, who most referred to simply as The Greeks, played on these fields too, and so did S.C. Eintracht and many, many more.  

“They were the great equalizer,” Machnik said of those rough fields, built for football and often very narrow. The Ukrainians’ home pitch was out on the northwest corner of Queens, across Flushing Bay from LaGuardia airport. The club rented land in College Point and renamed it Ukrainians Sports Field. “There were salvage yards on both sides,” remembered Schmotolocha. And Machnik’s memories are the same: “There was no grass – not a blade. It was an industrial area with abandoned cars everywhere.”

 

Open Cup – A coveted prize
“Open Cup games were always extra special; they had extra weight behind them with the rivalries and pressure,” said Machnik. The German-American league regularly produced the champions of the Open Cup, which was touted by the New York Times in those years as “the most coveted prize in American Soccer.”

The pressure was doubled on the New York Ukrainians because their sister club, Ukrainian Nationals of Philadelphia, had a stranglehold on the Cup. They won it three times between 1959 to 1963. And the road to the 1965 final was anything but smooth for the New Yorkers. There were 131 participants at the start and they had to beat a raft of local rivals before booking a date with Hansa Chicago – another ethnic side and champions of the West – in a two-legged final. “We beat Elizabeth (of New Jersey) and The Greeks, and I don’t remember who else because I was just a player,” said Schmotolocha, who also won the Open Cup in 1972 with S.C. Elizabeth after putting in two years of military service down south in Georgia. “I showed up at the field and played the team in front of me. Didn’t matter who, or what stage, it was just a soccer game for me.”

Schmotolocha’s performances weren’t always restricted to the rocky ovals of Gotham. In March of 1965, he earned a pair of caps for the U.S. Men’s National Team. “It was silent after the American anthem played at the LA Coliseum, but after the Mexican anthem, the place went wild!” the playmaker, with a vicious long-distance shot, remembered of that qualifier for the 1966 World Cup. He scored a free-kick on the day in a 2-2 draw and then traveled to the just-built Estadio Azteca in Mexico City for the return fixture. “I was looking around, knowing I was in California, but I had to ask myself: What country am I in right now?”

If you’re good enough, you’re Ukrainian enough
The Ukrainian team of 1965 wasn’t all Ukrainian. None of the teams were homogeneous. Machnik wasn’t Ukrainian and neither was Peter Smethurst or his brother Derick, a South African who played for Chelsea. The late Gordon Bradley, the team’s player-coach in 1965, was born in England and went on to coach the U.S. National Team and star-studded NASL glamor-boys NY Cosmos. But the vast majority of the ’65 side grew up together, from sandlot ball through the club’s youth systems, and by the time they reached the Open Cup final they were the best team in America.

The first leg finished 1-1 at home in Queens. “We had the edge,” recalled Schmotolocha, who went on to start a shipping business after his soccer days. Hansa’s star forward Willy Roy, who played for nearly a decade in the U.S. National Team and later coached the NASL’s Chicago Sting, scored the goal for the visitors. “It wasn’t too hot and there were some clouds. We were just feeling each other out and we missed a few good chances, but we knew the result was a good one for us. They weren’t much trouble.”

When they got to Chicago seven days later, and out on Hansa’s Hanson Park Stadium, it was a different story altogether. “We took them apart at their place. They had this nice little stadium, almost brand-new, and about 5,000 people were out to watch us,” said Schmotolocha, who scored in the 4-1 rout. “The field was flat, really nice and clean, so we didn’t have to run the obstacle course! We moved the ball, controlled it. It didn’t fly away from us. And we destroyed them.”

Chicago’s victory shindig
Machnik missed the final because of a job he couldn’t get out of. “That was too bad for him,” said Schmotolocha, telling of the victory party that followed the trophy ceremony.

“There was a Ukrainian guy, a doctor in Chicago, and he took us all out to the best restaurant in the city. I remember it right now. It was like Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. There were four tiers and those half-moon booths you see in the movies. And it was some party,” Schmotolocha said. He could have just as easily been talking about the whole 1965 Cup run, or the entirety of his youth, and those days out in the Ovals that he remembers so fondly.

“After that, we all flew back to our lives. Those were our 15 minutes of fame,” he said in his old man’s voice. “But boy was it fun.”


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U.S. Open Cup Apr 27, 2017

Jorge Villafaña on the Rise for MNT and Santos Laguna

Sometimes all a player needs is a chance. No one has proven that more than U.S. Men’s National Team left back Jorge Villafaña, whose claim to fame was winning Major League Soccer’s Sueño competition in 2007 and then realizing his professional dream with Chivas USA a year later.

Villafaña parlayed that opportunity into a long stint with the LA-based club, call-ups to the U.S. U-20 and U-23 sides and even an M.L.S. Cup title with Portland Timbers in 2015. Still, a summons to the U.S. Men’s National Team camp remained elusive until this past January.

Serving as the second-choice left back with Liga MX side Santos Laguna, the 27-year-old was given a pass by his club to join the camp and impressed MNT head coach Bruce Arena in friendlies against Serbia and Jamaica.

Full of confidence, Villafaña returned to Torreón where he continued his understudy role, getting playing time only in the club’s Copa MX fixtures. An injury to starter Gerardo Arteaga gave Sueño his first chance at a league appearance in the current campaign, going 90 minutes in a 1-1 draw March 17 at Tijuana ahead of the USA’s World Cup Qualifiers against Honduras and Panama.

“I got an opportunity to play against Xolos right before I went into camp,” Villafaña told ussoccer.com this week. “It felt good, we got a draw on the road and then I went with the National Team.”

A week later, Villafaña earned his World Cup Qualifying debut, working a solid shift in the U.S. MNT’s 6-0 World Cup Qualifying win against Honduras. Four days after that, he showed similar determination in locking down the left side to help the U.S. grind out a 1-1 draw in Panama.

“The two games helped a lot and gave me a lot of confidence coming back to Santos,” he continued.



This time upon his return to Torreón, he remained the starter.

Villafaña has played the full 90 minutes in each of fifth-place Santos Laguna’s last six league matches, helping the club go 3-0-3 and gain 12 of the 24 total points they’ve earned during the current Clausura campaign. Those three wins include a 1-0 victory against 2016-17 CONCACAF Champions League finalist Pachuca on April 9 and a 2-1 win this past weekend vs. Club América. 

The run has also lifted Santos from 11th place all the way to fifth, with a chance to clinch a berth in the playoffs (also known as the Liguilla) with a win at Chiapas on Saturday. In the end, just two points from their final two matches will do the trick.

Villafaña has kept in touch with the MNT coaching staff, who have been positive about his club performances, and also said that Santos manager José Manuel de la Torre had taken notice of his play for the U.S.; the former Mexico head coach praised his progress during the past few months.

“He’s said to everyone to keep working because you never know when the opportunity to play will show up. We always have to be ready, and my situation shows that the opportunity is there for everyone to take. I feel like I’ve done that.”

Jorge Villafaña 2017 Liga MX Appearances

Date

Santos Laguna Result

League Position

March 17

1-1 D at Club Tijuana

11th

April 2

1-0 W vs. Querétaro

8th

April 9

1-0 W vs. Pachuca

5th

April 12

2-2 D vs. Monterrey

6th

April 15

1-1 D at Atlas

6th

April 23

2-1 W vs. Club América

5th

And what about being a U.S. international playing in Mexico? 

The MNT left back says he and teammate Néstor Araújo – who is also a center back for El Trí – have exchanged a few friendly words leading up to the USA’s upcoming visit to Estadio Azteca on June 11 for World Cup Qualifying, but there’s no animosity about who he represents.

Instead his teammates and the fan base have shown support for his international rise.

“People don’t give me a hard time,” he said. “My teammates are happy that I’ve been getting called for the National Team and that I’m doing well. Even outside the team, the people here don’t give me a hard time about it. The people of Torreón are great. They support me even though I play for Mexico’s big rival.”  

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MNT Apr 27, 2017

In His Own Words: Tim Ream and Fulham's Fight for Promotion

U.S. Men’s National Team center back Tim Ream is in the midst of an incredible run with Fulham FC, helping his team reach the precipice of the English Football League Championship’s promotion playoffs. Appearing in all 23 of the club’s matches since the New Year, the St. Louis, Mo., native has been a lynchpin in the back for the Cottagers, propelling them all the way up to sixth place in the standings thanks to a recent four-match win streak. Should the London side maintain its place following the final two matchdays, Fulham will advance to the Promotion Playoffs, where four teams will vie for a spot in the Premier League next season. Coming off a big 4-1 away win at Huddersfield Town on Saturday, Ream and Fulham can virtually clinch a playoff berth with a victory this Saturday at home against Brentford.

Below, Ream describes the evolution of the season at Craven Cottage and what it’s like to be part of a promotion push.

When you’re playing in the Championship, everyone has aspirations of being promoted to the Premier League. The Premier League is the end all, be all of soccer. It’s the biggest, most widely televised league in the world and it’s also the best. It’s about your life, your job and your livelihood, and so being in the Premier League is tops. That’s where you want to be.

Fulham is no different, and it’s a place where until a few years ago, this proud club founded in 1879 had been playing.

Quite simply put, the League Championship is a grind. With a total of 24 teams, you play eight more games than in the Premiership. Generally that means starting in the middle of fall, you  play a schedule of Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday throughout the season. We start the first week in August and finish the first week in May, unless you make the playoffs in which case it could be all the way to the end of May. Now add in the two cup competitions – the FA Cup and League Cup - and you could be looking at 55 games. With all those matches, you’re lucky if you have one full session a week with the whole team. Another reason to want to get promoted!

If I’m being honest, I don’t think going into this season anybody here thought this would be a year we could push for the playoffs and promotion. Last season we finished 20th and 17th the year before that, so everyone was just looking to right the ship, finish mid-table and have a solid year with the goal of really going for promotion next year.

Photo Courtesy of Back Page Images

We started out very well before the first international break in September, when the National Teams went and played in World Cup Qualifying. After the first five games, we were in third or fourth position at that point and doing well. It’s so early in the season and you can’t get over-excited, but we were happy with that. Then we went through a difficult period through the next two months where we were drawing more games – not necessarily losing and playing bad - but drawing a lot of games that we should have won. When you’re only getting one point instead of three, that starts to add up – or not, as it were.

Gradually things changed as the season went on, and around Christmas time we really found some consistency. In this league, you have to find consistency – if you’re drawing a game here, losing a game there, you’re not going to get anywhere and you’re going to be in limbo. You’re not going up or down – you’re just there.

The team found consistency around that time, and so did I. Before Christmas, I was having a tough time, going in and out of the lineup. Since then, I’ve been heavily involved in most games, and the ones I wasn’t made sense. In March, I missed a game after having traveled back from the U.S. National Team, which is one the realities of playing for your country. Normally during an international window, you play on Tuesday for the National Team – in this case in Panama – and then make the long trek to London. I didn’t arrive back until Thursday, which is a tough turnaround and only came on at the very end of the game. A few weeks ago, I picked up a small ankle injury that also limited me to a substitute role against Ipswich Town.

Getting regular time has been so important, because in this league more than any, if you can get a run of games and multiple starts in a row where you’re playing well and the team is playing well, the confidence level just flows throughout the entire team. If you’re not confident it’s so rough and tumble, it’s so physically and mentally demanding that if you’re not concentrated and assured in your ability and the guys around you, you’re going to have some difficulties.

Photo Courtesy of Back Page Images

So, we’ve gone on a decent run since the new year and the results since the start of April have amped everything up. Four straight wins against Ipswich Town, Norwich City, Aston Villa and then this past week a huge 4-1 victory at Huddersfield Town, who are also in the playoff running, lifted us into the sixth place and the final playoff spot.

The results are fulfilling, but you know what? They’ve also been fun.

There are times that you can say, “it’s a job, it’s not fun anymore”, but I can honestly say that this is the most fun I’ve had playing soccer since before I was a pro. It’s fun because of the playing aspect, but the other part is the pressure – it’s more than I’ve ever felt doing anything. I’m definitely feeding off it, and I think the team is as well.

Why the pressure? Beyond what happens on the field, what makes this so important is what it means to our supporters. They make the club tick. Without a doubt the players are important; we are the product on the field, but the fans are the most important. They’re here every year.  No matter if I’m going to be here in two or three years or not, they will be. The club is in their blood. You’re starting to get that in M.L.S., but over here soccer is life. Football is on TV, it’s on the radio, it’s in the papers, it’s everywhere. That adds to it.

Photo Courtesy of Back Page Images

I personally feel that it’s a circle. The fans feed off our results and the style of play, but at the same time we feed off them. People back home likely won’t know a team like Huddersfield, but when we travel there and have more than 1,500 fans make a four-hour journey to support us at an away game that could have massive implications on the playoff places, that’s huge. It gives guys confidence that these people are behind us – screaming, chanting, doing whatever it takes to get us going. It’s our responsibility to give back to them and give them something to cheer and be happy about.

They add to the pressure, but it’s at such a good place right now. The fans have come out all year for us. It’s not just since we’ve been doing well. I think the last five or six weeks, there’s been a noticeable difference because everyone is starting to realize how special this season could end up being. Guys have been running through brick walls to get to where we are and to put ourselves in a position to give these fans what they want and what they deserve.

Having said all that, the job isn’t done. We haven’t clinched our place yet. We play Brentford at home on Saturday, and with them being another London club this will be a derby game, which is another way of saying a local rivalry. On top of playoff implications there are bragging rights, and the last couple years they’ve done a lot better than we have in the league.

Right now we’re in a position where a win against them doesn’t fully clinch it for us. Leeds United are three points behind us in seventh place, but we have a huge advantage in goal difference on them, so if we do come away with three points, it’s virtually a lock that we’re in.

EFL CHAMPIONSHIP PROMOTION PLAYOFF TABLE – As of April 27

Pos.

Team

GP

W

L

D

Pts.

GF

GA

GD

3

Huddersfield

44

25

13

6

81

56

53

+3

4

Reading

44

24

13

7

79

63

62

+1

5

Sheffield Wednesday

44

23

12

9

78

58

43

+15

6

Fulham

44

21

10

13

76

82

55

+27

7

Leeds United

44

22

15

7

73

57

42

+14

You can’t let that creep into your head. If you start trying to look ahead, that’s when you’re going to slip up. This league is ruthless like that – you can’t look past any single team, and if you do you’re in trouble. Brentford are going to want to spoil the party. They’re going to want to get one over on us and keep us from getting in the playoffs for another week. It’s a derby, and at this point we’re more worried about that than the playoffs. We want those bragging rights as do the fans. They really want them, and it just so happens that it coincides with getting into the playoffs.

If we do make the playoffs, one thing is certain: what you’ve done in the regular season means nothing. It’s no longer about getting points. It’s all about battling one game at a time. You’re not looking over your shoulder, you’re not looking at the standings. It’s get through two games in the semifinal to get to Wembley Stadium. Once you’re there, the stakes are at their highest because not only are you playing in front of 90,000 fans, not only do you have your supporters' hopes pinned on that match, but it’s also the richest game in football as the winner stands to make at least £170 million for being promoted.

That is the ultimate goal. 

#COYW

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MNT Apr 27, 2017

Five Things to Know About MNT Defender Omar Gonzalez

Few U.S. MNT defenders have had as decorated careers as Omar Gonzalez. Having already won multiple M.L.S. Cups and a Liga MX title, at 28 years old, the 2014 FIFA World Cup veteran won a regional crown in April, helping Pachuca to the 2016-17 CONCACAF Champions League title

Here are five things you should know about the decorated U.S. defender.

The Beginning


Future U.S. Men's National Team defender Omar Gonzalez with his youth soccer team

Can you guess which one is Omar? 

The youngest of four children born to Mexican-American parents, Omar Gonzalez entered the world on Oct. 11, 1988 in Dallas, Texas. Gonzalez’s parents were hard working, with his father Adrian putting in long hours driving a dump truck that hauled gravel and concrete to construction sites around Dallas, while his mother Maria worked multiple jobs before becoming a bilingual teaching assistant in an elementary school.

His mother balanced work with shuttling he and his athletically-gifted siblings around to a variety of games and practices. In the end, all four Gonzalez kids played collegiate sports, with older brother Adrian Jr. playing football at SMU, while sisters Roxanna and Bibi played soccer and volleyball, respectively.

Gonzalez was inspired by the 1994 FIFA World Cup matches that took place at the Cotton Bowl and after seeing Bebeto’s “Rock the Baby” goal celebration during Brazil’s quarterfinal win vs. the Netherlands, told his mother that he wanted to grow up to be a professional soccer player.


Omar playing with the Dallas Texans

From a young age, he excelled playing pick-up soccer games in local parks and at nine years old, was encouraged by a friend’s mom to tryout for famed youth club, Dallas Texans.

Already showing signs of becoming the towering center back we see today, his coach Marcelo Leite said, “I think he was already 6-foot tall when I first saw him,” but it was his work ethic that stuck out as he continued to develop his talents with the club before being selected for U.S. Soccer’s U-17 Residency Program in 2005.

Youth National Team and Maryland



Omar Gonzalez and the 2005 U.S. U-17 Men's National Team

Moving to Bradenton, Fla., that spring, Gonzalez shined enough to make the USA’s FIFA U-17 World Cup roster. Joining current MNT forward Jozy Altidore on that squad, Gonzalez made two substitute appearances in Peru as the U.S. exited following a 2-0 defeat to the Netherlands in the Round of 16.

With an international pedigree in tow, Gonzalez was a highly-sought after collegiate prospect and eventually committed to the University of Maryland. Gonzalez elected to join the renowned college program because of its success in turning out professional players as well as the high level of competition provided in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Omar Gonzalez scores for Maryland during the 2008 NCAA Tournament

Playing three seasons with the Terrapins from 2006-2008, the Dallas native made 69 appearances and tallied seven goals while leading the school to the 2008 NCAA College Cup. An NSCAA First Team All-American that year, Gonzalez chose to forego his senior season and make the jump to Major League Soccer.

A Professional Start in Los Angeles

Omar Gonzalez shakes hands with Thierry Henry after a friendly vs. FC Barcelona in 2009

Omar Gonzalez shakes hands with Thierry Henry after a friendly match vs. FC Barcelona in 2009

Gonzalez continued to be a sought-after prospect and was chosen third overall by the LA Galaxy in the 2009 M.L.S. SuperDraft – a selection process that also saw current MNT teammates Matt Besler and fellow Terrapin Graham Zusi make their way into the league.

Playing under the direction of Bruce Arena, the youngster picked up where he left off at Maryland, starting all 30 games and winning the 2009 Rookie of the Year award while helping the Galaxy to the M.L.S. Cup Final where they fell on penalty kicks to Real Salt Lake.

M.L.S. Trophies Won

Trophy

Number

Years

M.L.S. Cup

3

2011, 2012, 2014

Supporters Shield

2

2010, 2011

Individual Awards

Award

Number

Years

Rookie of the Year

1

2009

Defender of the Year

1

2011

Best XI

4

2010, 2011, 2013, 2014

Gonzalez would go on to be the cornerstone of some of the Galaxy’s best seasons, earning the first of four MLS Best XI selections while helping the club to the Supporters Shield in 2010. The following year he won the first of three M.L.S. Cup titles (the others came in 2012 and 2014) and played one final season with the Galaxy before electing to sign with Liga MX side Pachuca at the end of 2015.

Having appeared in 224 competitive matches over seven seasons, Gonzalez left the club as one of Major League Soccer’s most decorated defenders.

Celebrating the LA Galaxy's 2014 M.L.S. Cup win

During his time in the City of Angels, Gonzalez became a fan favorite for his elite play on the field but also his entertaining personality that surfaced in star turns as “Sexy Sax Man” and cameo as Cameron in the M.L.S. homage to the 1980s classic “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”

U.S. MNT Comes Calling

Omar Gonzalez earned his U.S. MNT debut in a 2-0 friendly loss to Brazil on Aug. 10, 2008

Having already gone through the U.S. Youth National Team funnel, Gonzalez’s early play with the Galaxy led to his first MNT call-up in January 2010. Though he wasn’t part of that year’s World Cup squad, he would earn his first senior cap seven months later, going the full 90 minutes in a 2-0 friendly defeat to Brazil that August.

An ACL injury he picked up during a loan stint with FC Nurnburg in 2012 sidetracked his club and international career, but Gonzalez returned to the MNT the following January and went on to stake his claim on the back line when he helped the U.S. defense earn clean sheets in the famous SnowClasico World Cup Qualifying win against Costa Rica on March 22, 2013 before earning an historic 0-0 draw against Mexico at Estadio Azteca four days later.

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MNT Apr 27, 2017

USA Captures Historic 4-3 Win vs. Mexico at 2017 CONCACAF U-17 Championship

PANAMA CITY, Panama (April 26, 2017) – The U.S. battled back from an early deficit, using a brace from Josh Sargent and second-half strikes from Blaine Ferri and Ayo Akinola to capture a 4-3 win against archrival Mexico in the teams’ second game of the 2017 CONCACAF U-17 Championship. The result marks the USA’s first-ever World Cup Qualifying victory against Mexico at the U-17 level and also ends El Tri’s 25-match unbeaten streak in CONCACAF U-17 Championship play.

With six points from its first two matches at the 2017 CONCACAF U-17 Championship, the U.S. has clinched a berth to the tournament’s Classification Stage.

Playing through monsoon-like conditions for much of the game, the U.S. had to overcome an early deficit when Roberto de la Rosa slipped through to bury the game’s opening goal in the sixth minute. Sargent began the comeback 20 minutes later, displaying a wonderful piece of skill before sending the U.S. equalizer past Mexico goalkeeper Andre Alcaraz. The U-17 MNT captain then exercised on a grinding individual effort in the box to give the U.S. a 2-1 lead in the 40th minute, only to have de la Rosa head home the Mexico equalizer in the 44th.

John Hackworth’s side was unperturbed by the tying goal, as Andrew Carleton came close to breaking the deadlock in the 49th minute before setting up Blaine Ferri for the go-ahead goal in the 51st. The U.S. largely frustrated Mexico as they looked for the equalizer and caught El Trí out once again as Ayo Akinola added an insurance goal in the 84th minute.

Undeterred by the two-goal margin, Mexico continued to push and pulled one back in second-half stoppage time as U.S. defender Jaylin Lindsey’s own goal cut the deficit, but the U.S. held strong in the dying moments to earn the three points.

The win marks the USA’s first-ever victory against Mexico in CONCACAF U-17 Championship play and also officially clinches the team’s berth in the tournament’s Classification Stage. The U.S. now just needs a draw in Saturday’s match against El Salvador to finish atop Group C.

Up Next: The U-17 MNT closes out the group stage of the 2017 CONCACAF U-17 Championship against El Salvador on Saturday, April 29. Kickoff from Estadio Maracaná in Panama City is set for 6 p.m. ET and the match can be seen live on UDN and the CONCACAF YouTube Channel.

Social: Twitter (@ussoccer_ynt; @ussoccer_esp); Facebook; Instagram

2017 CONCACAF U-17 Championship Group C

Team

GP

W

L

D

Pts.

GF

GA

GD

x-USA

2

2

0

0

6

9

3

6

Mexico

2

1

1

0

3

9

4

5

Jamaica

2

1

1

0

3

3

6

-3

El Salvador

2

0

2

0

0

1

9

-8

x-Qualified for Classification Stage

Goal Scoring Rundown:
MEX – Roberto de la Rosa (Jesús Pérez), 6th minute:
Mexico grabbed the early lead when Lopez won the ball in Mexico’s defensive end, turned and alertly sprung a through ball for de la Rosa. The Pachuca forward timed his run well and muscled off the challenge of Arturo Vasquez before slipping his shot to the right of Justin Garces. USA 0, MEX 1 [WATCH]

USA – Josh Sargent (Blaine Ferri), 26th minute:
The U.S. response came exactly 20 minutes later and in somewhat similar fashion to Mexico’s goal as Andrew Carleton won the ball deep in the USA’s defensive end. He quickly played for Blaine Ferri, who sprayed a ball forward for Josh Sargent. Running alone up top, Sargent let the ball bounce once before a back heel flick over his defender unlocked a clear lane towards goal where he slotted past Andre Alcaraz. USA 1, MEX 1 [WATCH]

USA – Josh Sargent, 40th minute: Sargent showed why he’s the U-17 MNT captain with his effort to give the U.S. a 2-1 lead. A looping ball in from the right found Ferri, who nodded down in the area for Sargent. The forward battled Mexico captain Luis Olivas whose attempted clearance careened off Sargent and hit Carlos Robles. The ball bounced back to Sargent whose initial shot was saved by Alcaraz only to see the USA captain pounce on the rebound and scoop home his second of the match. USA 2, MEX 1 [WATCH]

MEX – Roberto de la Rosa (Daniel Lopez), 44th minute: After Jairo Torres left a through ball for Lopez on the right, the Club Tijuana attacker hit a driven cross into the area that picked out de la Rosa at the back post where he headed past Garces for his second of the match. USA 2, MEX 2 [WATCH]

USA – Blaine Ferri (Andrew Carleton), 51st minute: Just moments after Carleton nearly put the U.S. back ahead, he penetrated the Mexico box on the left before playing Ferri into space outside the area. The midfielder took one touch and then unleashed a turf-trimming drive that threaded through traffic and inside the lower left post to restore the U.S. lead. USA 3, MEX 2 [WATCH]

USA – Ayo Akinola (Josh Sargent), 84th minute: Mexico pressed forward looking for a late equalizer and the U.S. took full advantage. Collecting the ball in midfield, substitute George Acosta picked out Sargent who cleverly played a ball into space for Ayo Akinola, setting the table for the Toronto FC Academy striker to put a one-time finish past Alcaraz. USA 4, MEX 2 [WATCH] 

MEX – own goal (Jaylin Lindsey), 90+1 minute: Mexico continued throwing everything forward and after a flicked on header, substitute Cesar Huerta chased the ball down on the right and centered a low cross that saw Lindsey’s attempted clearance end up in the back of the net. USA 4, MEX 3 [WATCH] FINAL

Key Saves and Defensive Stops
MEX – Andre Alcaraz, 49th minute:
After a series of headers in the air, Andrew Carleton latched on to the ball and played a quick combination with Ayo Akinola at the top of the box. Akinola returned the pass, springing Carleton into the box alone, but the Atlanta United FC striker’s low effort was well collected by Alcaraz.

NOTES:

  • The result is the USA’s first-ever win against Mexico in CONCACAF U-17 Championship play, improving the U-17 MNT’s record to 1-4-1 all-time vs. El Tri.
  • The U.S. win snapped the current Mexico U-17 side’s 25-match unbeaten streak in CONCACAF U-17 Championship play.
  • Combined with the U-20 MNT’s 1-0 victory against Mexico in the Classification Stage of the 2017 CONCACAF U-20 Championship, the result marks the first time both the U.S. U-17 and U-20 MNTs have defeated Mexico in official competition during the same calendar year.
  • With their goals today, Josh Sargent and Ayo Akinola each have three at the CONCACAF U-17 Championship, tying them with Honduras’ Carlos Mejía for the tournament’s Golden Boot lead.
  • Having provided the helper on Akinola’s 88th minute strike vs. Jamaica, Sargent recorded his second assist of the tournament on Akinola’s 84th minute game-winner.
  • Blaine Ferri registered the assist on Sargent’s 26th minute strike, while his 51st minute goal was his first of the tournament.
  • Andrew Carleton dished his first assist of the competition on Ferri’s goal.
  • With the result, John Hackworth moves to 7-1-1 all-time in U-17 World Cup Qualifying matches.

- U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team Match Report -

Match: U.S. U-17 Men’s National Team vs. Mexico
Date: April 26, 2017
Competition: 2017 CONCACAF U-17 Championship – Group C
Venue: Estadio Maracaná de Panamá; Panamá City, Panamá
Kickoff: 6:30 p.m. ET
Weather: 83 degrees; Heavy rain

Scoring Summary:    1          2          F
USA                             2          2          4
MEX                            2          1          3

MEX – Roberto de la Rosa (Andres Perez)   6th minute
USA – Josh Sargent (Blaine Ferri)                 26
USA – Josh Sargent                                        40
MEX – Roberto de la Rosa (Daniel Lopez)    44
USA – Blaine Ferri (Andrew Carleton)          51
USA – Ayo Akinola (Josh Sargent)                78
MEX – Jaylin Lindsey (own goal)                  90+2

Lineups:
USA: 1-Justin Garces; 3-Chris Gloster (13-Akil Watts, 46), 5-A.J. Vasquez, 4-James Sands, 2-Jaylin Lindsey; 8-Blaine Ferri, 6-Chris Durkin, 14-Chris Goslin (10-George Acosta, 80); 11-Andrew Carleton (19-Tim Weah, 75), 9-Josh Sargent (Capt.), 7-Ayo Akinola
Subs not used: 12-C.J. Dos Santos, 15-Zyen Jones, 16-Taylor Booth, 17-Bryan Reynolds, 18-Indiana Vassilev, 20-Adrian Villegas
Head coach: John Hackworth

MEX: 12-Cesar Lopez; 2-Adrian Vazquez, 3-Carlos Robles, 4-Luis Olivas (Capt.), 5-Raul Sandoval; 6-Luis Gamiz, 8-Alexis Gutierrez (17-Carlos Guerrero, 78), 11-Andres Perez (19-Cesar Huerta, 60); 7-Jairo Torres, 9-Daniel Lopez (20-Alfonso Alvarado, 71), 10-Roberto De La Rosa
Subs not used: 1-Andre Alcaraz, 13-Haret Ortega, 14-Alan Maeda, 15-Andres Catalan, 16-Marco Ruiz, 18-Victor Reyes
Head coach: Mario Arteaga 

Stats Summary: USA / MEX
Shots: 10 / 8
Shots on Goal: 6 / 3
Saves: 1 / 2
Corner Kicks: 2 / 5
Fouls: 15 / 10
Offside: 3 / 0

Misconduct Summary:
MEX – Alexis Gutierrez (caution)                   60th minute

Officials:
Referee: Jose Kellys (PAN)
Assistant Referee 1: Daniel Williamson (PAN)
Assistant Referee 2: Alejandro Camarena (PAN)
4th Official: Juan Gabriel Calderon (CRC) 

ussoccer.com Man of the Match: Josh Sargent

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U-17 MNT Apr 26, 2017
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