CHICAGO (Dec. 17, 2017) –The Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) announced today that U.S. Women’s National Team forward Alex Morgan is the 2017 CONCACAF Female Player of the Year.
The award was announced tonight at the fourth addition of the Premios Univision Deportes which was held at the Univision Studios in Miami.
In an equally-weighted vote among Men’s and Women’s National Team coaches and captains of all the Member Association, media and fans, Morgan captured the award for the third time. She also won last year and in 2013 when it was given out for the first time. A U.S. player has won the CONCACAF Female Player of the Year award every year since its inception. Abby Wambach won it in 2014 and Carli Lloyd won in 2015.
Morgan spent the first part of 2017 in France playing with European power Olympique Lyon and helped the club to an historic treble, winning the League, French Cup and Champions League titles. She became just the third American to win a UEFA Champions League. Morgan played in 15 matches during her stint in France, seven in the league (5 goals), three in the Cup (7 goals) and five in Champions League. She started the Champions League Final against rival Paris Saint-Germain but was forced to leave in the 23rd minute when she aggravated a hamstring injury.
That injury kept her out of the USA’s June friendlies in Europe, but she returned for the Tournament of Nations and scored in the finale against Japan, starting a streak of seven goals in her final seven WNT games of the year. She scored in both year-ending games against Canada. Those seven scores led the team in 2017 and moved her into sole possession of seventh place on the USA’s all-time goals list with 80 career goals.
She also ended her 2017 NWSL season on a hot streak, scoring nine goals in her last 12 games for the Orlando Pride and finished tied for fifth in the league in goals while helping the Pride to its first playoff berth. She also had four assists in her 13 regular season games and was named to the NWSL Second XI.
The CONCACAF Male Player of the Year winner was goalkeeper Keylor Navas of Real Madrid and Costa Rica. The other CONCACAF Awards will be announced next week.
The CONCACAF Awards are designed to honor the year’s outstanding performers and achievements in confederation-sanctioned competitions involving national teams at all levels and age categories, including FIFA World Cup matches and qualifying for both genders. Performances eligible for recognition also included those achieved in professional club leagues within the CONCACAF Member Associations.Read more
Just one year after a pilot group of 13 candidates completed the first U.S. Soccer Pro License, a new set of 17 graduates received their diplomas, growing a list of some of the greatest Soccer minds in the United States to 30 to have completed the highest level coaching license in North America. The common denominator between the first and second group was ambition and an unquestioned desire for lifelong learning.
From a league representation standpoint, the Pro Course License diploma has now reached the hands of at least one person from each of the country’s top tier leagues: Major League Soccer, North American Soccer League, the National Women’s Soccer League and United Soccer League. In addition to the concentrated effort to improve the highest levels of the game across the top domestic leagues, the Pro Course has also impacted U.S. Soccer’s national team programs with representation from the Men’s and Women’s National Team programs, and the youth National Teams.
Perhaps the most interesting storyline of the 2017 Pro Course was the fact that candidates Brian Schmetzer (Seattle Sounders) and Greg Vanney (Toronto FC) ended up competing for the MLS Cup against each other. With numerous meetings, small groups and an open dialogue constantly setting a precedence throughout the 12-month process, it was to no surprise that the pair’s focus on the course was unchallenged despite the recent faceoff for the top prize in American professional soccer.
“When you talk about Brian Schmetzer, he lost to Greg Vanney last weekend at MLS Cup but both are here,” U.S. Soccer National Coach Educator Wim van Zwam said. “They were respectful to each other, and all of the candidates for that matter were respectful to Brian and Greg.”
If the coaches of the two MLS Cup teams weren’t enough to headline the 2017 class, U.S. Women’s National Team head coach Jill Ellis became the first female to complete the license. With a critical year of World Cup qualifying on the horizon in 2018, the knowledge absorbed from the Pro Course could not have come at a better time.
“I’m very proud to have been a part of this program,” Ellis said. “The course was very comprehensive and yet it really was able to dig down into the details. It looks at all aspects of coaching, from the tactical side to periodization. It really digs into all the facets of what I do. Not only were the instructors very experienced in how they navigated us through this course, but you learn a lot from your peers. Overall, I think it was incredibly valuable and added more in terms of growth and knowledge to who I am as a coach.”
The Pro Course also expanded for the first time to include coaches from NASL, NWSL and USL. Paul Buckle, head coach and Technical Director of Sacramento Republic FC Head Coach, was particularly pleased with the two site visits he received from coach educators, in particular from his mentor, van Zwam.
“Professionally, they showed so much respect to me as a head coach in terms of when Wim came in to analyze me in my working environment twice,” Buckle said. “He would always ask, ‘Can I do this? Do you mind me being here?’ And I opened every door, from the training field, to individual meetings with players, group meetings, pregame, postgame and halftime. Wim was there. So he was brought in as part of the staff. I received invaluable feedback, incredible feedback. The details that U.S. Soccer have put into this license have been phenomenal.”
As the course concluded and candidates officially received their diplomas in Chicago, the greatest commonality was the responsibility that even the best coaches in the United States have to continue to grow and develop in order to raise the level of soccer and develop world class players.
“I think we need to continually use our experiences as we evolve the game. We have another generation coming through of coaches that have played at a high level,” Sporting Kansas City assistant coach Kerry Zavagnin said. “So to take that experience and now pass it on the younger generation, it’s certainly an obligation that I feel strongly about, trying to improve myself and share my experiences with players that we work with today but also to become better ourselves, because at the end of the day coaching is a lot about becoming an effective teacher and communicator. As we try to improve our players, so must we improve ourselves so that we can create an environment where we are all growing together.”Read more
Seventeen Coaches from U.S. National Teams and Professional Leagues Complete Second U.S. Soccer Pro Course
Greg Brigman became a referee in 2009 to make some extra cash in college. He loved the game, and it seemed more fun than delivering pizzas. The referee job let Brigman stay involved in the sport he grew up with. Along the way, it gave him the opportunity to represent his country.
It was as a referee that Brigman discovered the Paralympic National Team. He has just wrapped up his second year with the team, a tenure that’s included trips to the 2016 Paralympics and this fall’s World Championships.
Brigman’s referee career led him to the PNT. Now it’s raising his game.
“Being a referee absolutely makes you a better player,” Brigman said. “You’re watching all the chess pieces move around. When I come to play, I feel like I’m always in the right place at the right time. You see all the moving pieces at once. As a referee, you have to grasp all those moving pieces, and account for everything.”
Brigman attributes his growth with the PNT to his background as a referee. Not only do referees need to know the Laws of the Game as second nature, they manage the game overall. They see the game differently, it’s critical to analyze information quickly to make the correct call on the fly. As a player, the blinders might be on towards the next objective, but as a referee, a holistic vision is necessary.
“With the PNT, you’re trying to find the next goal, next pass, next tackle,” Brigman said. “As a referee, it’s always managing the environment. You manage what needs to happen. Does this call need to happen? What do the laws say, what do other considerations say? And how does that impact what’s going on in this environment?”
His dedication to the craft has seen him rise through the referee ranks. While he worked high school games to start, he quickly rose to the prep sports pinnacle when he officiated a high school state championship game. He transitioned to ref for the Atlantic Coast Conference in the NCAA and now, just a few years later, has become a regular for professional USL and NWSL matches. Earlier this year, the highlight of his referee career came on the sideline for an international friendly between Atlas of Liga MX and USL’s North Carolina FC.
This month, he officiated at the Development Academy Winter Showcase, an invaluable opportunity to referee high-level youth games and receive feedback from some of the nations’ top referee coaches.
“I just want to keep advancing,” Brigman said. “Keep learning, keep being coachable and keep being around the elite referees in the U.S., learning from each one of them about their unique techniques.”
As Brigman advances as a referee, he’s also seen advancement on the pitch for the PNT. He saw the field at the World Championships, and last summer in Rio he almost knocked in a goal against global power Iran.
In the new year, Brigman hopes to advance in both of his on-field roles. He wants to keep his spot on the pro referee list and continue to grow. With the PNT, he has one goal in mind.
“I still haven’t scored a goal for the PNT,” Brigman said. “I’ve come close, I’ve hit the post and I just really would like to punch that ticket and be a goal scorer for the U.S.”Read more