In Sports….

The Free Press WV

►  LeBron James’ Home Vandalized With Racial Slur

A Los Angeles home owned by LeBron James was vandalized Wednesday morning, the n-word spray-painted on its front gate, according to TMZ. Los Angeles police confirmed the vandalism to USA Today, though the spokesperson didn’t offer specifics on what racial slur was used. The Cleveland Cavaliers player, whose primary home during the NBA season is in Ohio, was not at the Brentwood home at the time, and TMZ says it “does not appear he lives there on any regular basis.“ Property management has already covered over the racial slur, and police are investigating the incident as a hate crime.

►  Stanley Cup Catfish-Tosser Had a Very Elaborate Plan

Prosecutors are dropping charges filed against a Tennessee man for throwing a catfish onto the rink in Pittsburgh during the opening of the Stanley Cup Final, reports the AP. Thirty-six-year-old Jacob Waddell was charged in Pennsylvania’s Allegheny County with disorderly conduct, possessing instruments of crime, and disrupting meetings or processions after tossing the dead fish over the glass surrounding the rink Monday night during the Nashville Predators-Pittsburgh Penguins game. District Attorney Stephen Zappala said in a Facebook post Wednesday that Waddell’s actions “do not rise to the level of criminal charges,“ so the charges “will be withdrawn in a timely manner.“

Nashville Mayor Megan Barry had called for the charges to be “quickly dismissed.“ Waddell called himself “a dumb redneck with a bad idea” in a conversation with Nashville radio station WGFX-FM. Sports Illustrated has the whole convoluted story of how Waddell got the fish into the arena, which included driving it 600 miles with the rotting critter in a cooler doused in cologne. His initial plan hit a snag: “I tried putting it in my boot but the head was too damn big,“ Waddell said. “No matter how much I ran it over with the truck, the head was too damn big.“ Hence, the fish’s mangled appearance. He eventually hid it between layers of underwear.

►  Who Beat Out LeBron for Most Famous Athlete

Tom Brady who? The all-star NFL quarterback might be a household name in the US, but he doesn’t even make the top 20 of ESPN’s list of the most famous athletes in the world, reports the Boston Herald. The 10 most well-known athletes, based on social media followers, endorsement money, and internet search popularity:

  1. Cristiano Ronaldo
  2. LeBron James
  3. Lionel Messi
  4. Roger Federer
  5. Phil Mickelson
  6. Neymar
  7. Usain Bolt
  8. Kevin Durant
  9. Rafael Nadal
  10. Tiger Woods

Click to see the highest-ranking female athlete.

►  Soccer Legend’s Body Goes Missing in Brazil

What happened to Garrincha’s body? That’s what Brazilians are asking after the soccer great’s remains went missing. The one-named, two-time World Cup champ’s family revealed the odd disappearance on Tuesday, telling O Globo via the BBC that Garrincha’s body may have been lost during an exhumation, though nobody knows for sure. A cousin says per ESPN FC the remains were removed from a grave in a cemetery near Rio 10 years ago, after another family member was buried there. Garrincha’s bones were supposed to be transferred to a niche, but cemetery officials concede they have no idea if that ever happened. “It’s very upsetting not knowing where he is,“ says daughter Rosangela Santos.

Cemeteries in Brazil are typically divided into two parts, one with tombs and another with concrete niches set like drawers into walls, per the BBC. Two tombs carry Garrincha’s name: the original grave where he was laid to rest in 1983, and a second one constructed in 1985 and marked with an obelisk. If the family agrees, Mage Mayor Rafael Tubarao says he’ll order an exhumation of the graves and DNA tests of any bones. Garrincha, a nickname meaning “little wren” in Brazil’s Portuguese dialect, is widely revered as the nation’s greatest dribbler of all time. As one of Pele’s teammates, he helped the soccer-crazed nation clinch the World Cup in 1958 and 1962. He died at the age of 49 after years of heavy drinking.

►  ‘We’re Sorry,‘ Say Mets After Mascot Flips off Fans

Mr. Met has had it up to here, it seems. The much-loved mascot is out of job after he flipped the bird to fans on Wednesday, the Daily News reports. The gesture summed up the frustration of Mets fans who’ve watched their World Series dreams dwindle during a troubled season. The incident unfolded during a 7-1 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers as Mr. Met was walking off Citi Field in Queens. Raising a white glove, the round-faced one displayed a single digit. Captured and tweeted by a fast-fingered fan named Anthony De Lucia, per the Washington Post, the video went viral. Although shouting can be heard, De Lucia tweeted that he and his friends “didn’t even say a word” and were “reaching over for a high five,“ when the mascot spun around and made Mets history.

Although some argued the four-fingered mascot really doesn’t have a middle digit to flip, the gesture was too much for Mets managers, who quickly canned Mr. Met. (The AP reports that more than one person dons the costume.) “We apologize for the inappropriate action of this employee,“ the team said in a statement. “We do not condone this type of behavior. We are dealing with this matter internally.“ Funny enough, the pudgy-handed salute came on the 53rd anniversary of Mr. Met’s debut as mascot. The team website notes that Mr. Met “can gesture in 12 different languages” and leads “all active Major League mascots in high fours.“ The Post notes the Mets have had an injury-wracked season with off-field embarrassments—like a photo tweeted by the Mets that showed a sex toy in a player’s locker.

In Sports….

The Free Press WV

►  Peyton Manning to retire after 18 seasons in the NFL

ENGLEWOOD, Colorado — Peyton Manning surveyed the landscape of his brilliant career and called one last audible. He’s retiring a champion.

A month after Denver’s triumph in Super Bowl 50, Manning informed John Elway he is following his lead and riding off into that orange sunset just like the Broncos’ boss did 17 years ago after winning his second Super Bowl.

Just shy of 40, Manning will forgo $19 million and a 19th season in the NFL, where he served as both a throwback and a transformer during a glittering career bookmarked by an unprecedented five MVP awards and dozens of passing records.

“Peyton was a player that guys wanted to play with,“ Elway said. “That made us better as a team and I’m thrilled that we were able to win a championship in his final year.“

The Broncos scheduled a news conference for 11 a.m. Monday.

Manning leaves the league he helped popularize to supersize status as its all-time leading passer and winningest starting quarterback, the only one in NFL history to win Super Bowls with two franchises.

His first came in 2007 with the Indianapolis Colts, who drafted him No. 1 overall in 1998. The Colts gave up on him after a series of neck surgeries forced Manning to miss all of the 2011 season and left him without feeling in the fingertips of his right hand.

A rare superstar quarterback on the open market in 2012, Manning resettled in Denver, where, despite a right arm weakened by nerve damage, he went 50-15 with his fifth MVP award and two trips to the Super Bowl in four seasons.

So, defensive coordinators, you can breathe a little easier today: Manning will no longer be on the docket to wreck your game plans and ruin your designs on a title.

There will be no more showdowns matching skills with Tom Brady or wits with Bill Belichick — against whom he was just 6-11 but 3-2 in AFC championships.

With no more defenses to dissect, the face of the league since the turn of this century no longer has to be buried in an iPad all day, nor will he have to submerge his battered body for hours in a cold tub in a labor of love.

“I get asked a lot about my legacy,“ Manning said before the Super Bowl. “For me, it’s being a good teammate, having the respect of my teammates, having the respect of the coaches and players. That’s important to me. I am not taking this for granted. I just love football.“

The 18th season for No. 18 was by far his most trying on the field. He had to adjust to new coach Gary Kubiak’s run-based offense, to unrelenting health issues and to questions about his character on his way to winning his second Super Bowl.

Manning, whose dry wit and star power has made him a staple of commercials and late-night television for nearly two decades, saw his squeaky-clean image take a beating as the final pages were flipped on his storied career.

The NFL is investigating allegations that human growth hormone was shipped to his home in his wife’s name following an Al Jazeera report that Manning dismissed as “garbage.“ And in a new lawsuit filed last month. Manning was cited as an example of a hostile environment for women at the University of Tennessee for his alleged harassment of a female trainer in 1996.

A torn ligament in his left foot hampered Manning all the way back to August. It led to his worst statistical season and sidelined him for six weeks before that fairy tale finish in Santa Clara, California, when his defense carried him across the finish line.

Constantly harassed, never quite comfortable — sort of the way the whole season played out — Manning walked away with his second NFL title after Denver’s defense, with seven sacks and four takeaways, all but handed him the Lombardi Trophy in a 24-10 victory over the Carolina Panthers.

“He had to do several things different this year,“ said his dad, Archie, a former star quarterback himself. “Had to take off during the season, which he’d never done before. He ran the scout team, which I don’t think he’d ever done, and he dressed out as a backup, which he’d never done.“

Manning also had to play the role of game manager for the first time during Denver’s defense-fueled run to the title. “I’m just glad I was on the same team as our defense,“ he said.

Although his teammates said his speech on the eve of the game felt very much like a goodbye, Manning didn’t call it his “last rodeo” right away, saying he needed time to reflect.

Denver gained only 194 yards against the Panthers, the fewest for a victorious team in a Super Bowl, and Manning had but 13 completions for 141 yards. Thanks to a defense led by game MVP Von Miller, however, Manning became the oldest quarterback to win a championship, a year older than Elway was when he won his second Super Bowl in 1999 before walking away.

Manning, who revealed at the Super Bowl that he faces a hip replacement in retirement, finished in a tie with Brett Favre for most regular-season wins with 186. His victory in Super Bowl 50 was his 14th in the postseason, one more than Favre, making him the NFL’s only 200-win quarterback.

“There’s no question that his work ethic is what made him into one of the great quarterbacks of all time,“ Elway said. “All the film study Peyton did and the process that he went through with game planning and understanding what the other teams did was second to none.“

Almost from his pro debut in 1998, Manning was a pioneer in the way he deciphered defenses and directed play at the line of scrimmage. Envision him pacing from tackle to tackle, pointing and hollering, as he became a model for every quarterback who’s come along since. Manning not only was at the vanguard of the aerial fireworks shows that light up today’s scoreboards and big-screen TVs, he was the mastermind of it.

“I think from the sense of quarterbacks, he’s been fast-paced, no-huddle, dynamic offense, score a lot of points, and score quickly,“ said his brother, Eli Manning, a two-time Super Bowl winner himself, for the Giants. “Now you see that more. More teams are doing it. The Colts kind of started that trend and did it well for a long time.“

So did the Broncos, for whom Manning threw 140 of his NFL-high 539 TD passes, including a record 55 in 2013.

Manning was never the best athlete, but his off-the-charts preparation and other-worldly memory recall made him rise above the rest, suggested teammate DeMarcus Ware.

“He beat you mentally,“ said Ware, who came to Denver two years ago for the chance to play with Manning. “That was his guide: Physically you might be faster than me, you might be more athletic than me, but I’m going to outsmart you every time.“

Manning’s retirement allows the Broncos to focus on re-signing his longtime backup, Brock Osweiler, who went 5-2 in his place.

“There’s not a day that’s gone by since I’ve been in the league,“ Osweiler said, “that I haven’t learned something from Peyton.“

Manning relinquishes the game he loves secure in having left an indelible imprint on America’s most popular sport.

“He was on the forefront of basically a revolution in the way offenses are run in the National Football League,“ Joe Theismann said recently. “His footprint was bigger than just the cities he played in. He transformed the position. The style of offense that he ran in Indianapolis was revolutionary and nobody ever figured out how to stop it there — or in Denver.

“The only thing that’s basically slowed Peyton Manning down was Father Time.“

►  Brandi Chastain Will Donate Her Brain for Concussion Study

Brandi Chastain, whose penalty kick gave the United States the 1999 Women’s World Cup title, has pledged her brain for concussion research. The 47-year-old Chastain announced her donation to the Massachusetts-based Concussion Legacy Foundation on Thursday. Upon her death, her brain will go to the VA-BU-CLF Brain Bank, a joint project with the Department of Veterans Affairs and Boston University School of Medicine. “It is really about: How I can help impact soccer beyond scoring a goal in 1999 in the World Cup final. Can I do something more to leave soccer in a better place than it was when I began this wonderful journey with this game?“ she said.

Researchers are studying the postmortem human brain and spinal cord tissue in hopes of diagnosing and treating chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a degenerative condition caused by a blow or blows to the head. Of the 307 brains in the bank, just seven are from women and none has been found to have CTE. “We currently know so little about how gender influences outcome after trauma,“ said Dr. Ann McKee, director of the brain bank program. “Her pledge marks an important step to expand our knowledge in this critical area.“ Chastain, who played for the US national team from 1988-2004, isn’t sure she’s had concussions, but suspects she has had at least a couple.

►  Great-Grandpa’s Old Paper Bag Hid $1M Find

Relatives considered tossing the torn paper bag they found in the southern home of their late great-grandfather earlier this year. It’s a good thing they didn’t: Buried beneath old postcards and papers was one of the biggest discoveries of rare baseball cards ever. On Wednesday, memorabilia expert Joe Orlando confirmed the seven cards featuring Hall of Famer Ty Cobb are from a 1909-1911 American Tobacco Company set and worth “well into the seven figures,“ reports NBC News. Only 15 were previously known to exist. “Finding one of these cards is news,“ Orlando tweeted. “Finding seven in one shot is ridiculous.“

►  Wrestler: Cancel Championship, I Got Herpes From Mat

Days after he competed in a February wrestling tourney, Blake Flovin began exhibiting odd symptoms: He started itching, got a rash, and “the left sides of my face by my lymph nodes started to swell,“ the high school student tells KTVU. His father likened the 17-year-old’s face to that of the “elephant man.“ Turns out Blake had contracted herpes gladiatorum, or “mat herpes,“ a highly contagious, lifelong virus that wrestlers have come down with before, either from skin-to-skin contact or from the mat itself, per the San Jose Mercury News. Now Blake has come forward to try to stop this weekend’s California state championships. Health protocols were apparently not strictly carried out at the tournament where Blake believes he contracted the virus: Female wrestlers received only “cursory” skin checks and the on-site boys bathroom is said to be notoriously unsanitary.

But the California Interscholastic Federation says it’s not postponing the championship, noting everything’s soundly in place to stop anyone else from getting the virus. “We are confident that our practices, along with an exhaustive medical review of this particular situation, ensure that there is no justification for concern,“ the director for the group says, per the News. Despite not being able to stop the championship from proceeding, Blake says the one good thing that’s come out of all of this is the response he’s received since making his news public. “I’ve gotten a lot of supportive comments—100%,“ Blake says, with his dad adding, “He said to me, ‘Dad, it’s unbelievable. I haven’t gotten one negative response.‘“

In Sports….

The Free Press WV

►  Partying Knicks Player Lost $750K

“I don’t want to talk about it,“ is the reaction one might expect of someone who’s unexpectedly found himself with $750,000 less on his hands, and this is indeed the sentiment of New York Knicks forward Derrick Williams. Williams was out celebrating a team victory with friends early Saturday, reports the New York Post, when he met up with two women in the Meatpacking District. The 24-year-old invited them back to his place in Tribeca to continue the party, and party they did—according to Williams and law enforcement, the women danced right out the baller’s door with a Louis Vuitton suitcase crammed with some three-quarters of a million dollars in jewelry. The Post notes that there may be a trend of women preying on bling-laden guys at clubs in the Big Apple, and Deadspin adds that Williams has been anything but shy about his shiny, pricey objects on social media. Says Williams, “it’s still up in the air.“

►  FIFA Stunner: Defiant Blatter Banned 8 Years

Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini were each banned for eight years by the FIFA ethics committee on Monday in a stunning removal of world soccer’s most powerful leaders. FIFA President Blatter and his one-time protege Platini were kicked out of the sport for conflict of interest and disloyalty to FIFA in a $2 million payment deal that is also the subject of a criminal investigation in Switzerland. In a defiant news conference shortly after the verdict was announced, Blatter said he would appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, insisting he had done nothing wrong. “I will fight,“ Blatter said. “I will fight until the end.“ His last words on leaving the conference were “I’ll be back.“

Blatter’s FIFA career is ending in disgrace after more than 17 years as president and 40 years in total with the governing body. FIFA’s ethics judges decided that Blatter and Platini broke ethics rules on conflicts of interest, breach of loyalty, and offering or receiving gifts. Both denied wrongdoing in 2011 when Platini took $2 million of FIFA money approved by Blatter as uncontracted salary for work as a presidential adviser from 1999-2002. In Monday’s verdict, Blatter was fined $50,250 and Platini $80,400. “I regret, but I am not ashamed,“ said Blatter. “I am sorry that I am a punching ball. I am sorry for football.“

In Sports….

The Free Press WV

►  How Tiger Told His Kids About What Happened

Unlike the person who flew a giant “CHEATER” banner over Tiger Woods’ head as he played in the US Open in June, the pro golfer and his ex-wife have made their peace with the infidelity that helped break up their marriage in 2009 (the two divorced in 2010). In an interview with Time right before his 40th birthday at the end of the month, Woods says ex Elin Nordegren is now “one of my best friends” and explains that the “fantastic” relationship they now enjoy is due to their two kids, 8-year-old Sam and 6-year-old Charlie.

“We’ve worked so hard at co-parenting,“ he says. “I’ve taken the initiative with the kids, and told them up front, “Guys, the reason why we’re not in the same house, why we don’t live under the same roof … is because Daddy made some mistakes.“ He goes on to say that he’d rather the kids hear it from him instead of finding out from friends or the Internet. “We’re all human,“ he says he tells his kids. “We all make mistakes. But look what happened at the end of it. Look at how great you are. You have two loving parents that love you no matter what.“ Read the full Time interview with Woods, who also talks about his “fantastic” former relationship with Lindsey Vonn. (Vonn also still has much love for her ex.)

►  Budget Woes, Polluted Waterways Plague Rio Olympics

As Brazil suffers through its worst recession in 25 years, organizers of the 2016 Olympics set to take place in Rio de Janeiro in August are cutting hundreds of millions of dollars out of their budget, Bloomberg Business reports. “It will be painful from now on,” Rio 2016 spokesman Mario Andrada tells Bloomberg. And the athletes competing in the games will feel most of that pain. Cost-saving measures being considered include:

  • Making athletes pay for air conditioning in dorm rooms
  • Cutting back on stadium backdrops
  • Eliminating fancy cars and gourmet food for VIPs
  • Cutting back on cleaning services
  • Eliminating TVs in individual rooms
Two-time Olympic runner Nick Symmonds tells Bloomberg that such cuts will “cheapen the games.” Without adequate food and accommodations, he says, athletes won’t be able to compete at their highest level and “bring the A-plus product” spectators expect.


Further, Bloomberg notes some are concerned that cost-cutting measures will create an unbalanced playing field. Athletes from poor countries will be at a disadvantage because they cannot afford better accommodations, while those from wealthier countries can. NBA players on the USA Basketball team, for instance, opt for plush hotels as opposed to staying at the Olympic Village. Being short on money isn’t the only problem plaguing Rio 2016. Tests commissioned by the Associated Press found that Rio’s waterways are consistently high in viral counts, creating a risk for athletes competing in sailing, rowing, and canoeing events. “If we saw those levels here in the United States on beaches, officials would likely close those beaches,“ expert Kristina Mena tells the AP.

►  U.S. Indicts 16 More in FIFA Corruption Probe

Five current and former members of FIFA’s ruling executive committee were among 16 additional men indicted on corruption charges Thursday as part of US prosecutors’ widening investigation into soccer corruption. The indictment takes down an entire generation of soccer leaders in South America, a bedrock of FIFA and World Cup history. “The betrayal of trust set forth here is outrageous,“ US Attorney General Loretta Lynch said. “The scale of corruption alleged herein is unconscionable.“ Led away by Swiss federal police in a pre-dawn raid at a Zurich hotel were Juan Angel Napout of Paraguay, president of the South American confederation, and Alfredo Hawit of Honduras, head of the North and Central American and Caribbean governing body.

Ricardo Teixeira, a former Brazilian federation head, also was indicted. In addition, former CONCACAF President Jeffrey Webb and former executive committee member Luis Bedoya were among those whose guilty pleas were unsealed. Eleven current and former members of FIFA’s executive committee have now been charged in the investigation, which alleges hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks. “The message from this announcement should be clear to every culpable individual who remains in the shadows, hoping to evade our investigation: You will not wait us out. You will not escape our focus,“ Lynch said.

►  Tony Stewart getting new crew chief for final season in ’16

KANNAPOLIS, NC — Tony Stewart will have a new crew chief for his final season in NASCAR.

Stewart-Haas Racing said Monday that Michael Bugarewicz has been promoted from race engineer for Kevin Harvick’s team to crew chief for Stewart.

Bugarewicz replaces Chad Johnson, who last week left to crew chief Kyle Larson for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Stewart is retiring at the end of next season.

SHR also said Billy Scott has been named crew chief for Danica Patrick. He is most recently been a crew chief at Michael Waltrip Racing. Scott replaces Daniel Knost, who was promoted to a senior leadership position managing vehicle dynamics.

World Cup 2015

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Women’s soccer enjoying its World Cup bump

PORTLAND, OR — Nowhere could the World Cup bump in women’s soccer be more apparent than in Portland, Oregon, where more than 21,000 fans watched a National Women’s Soccer League rivalry match between the Thorns and the Seattle Reign.

It was the second-largest stand-alone crowd ever to watch a professional women’s league game in the United States. And while soccer-crazy Portland usually attracts big crowds for the hometown Thorns, the rest of the league is also seeing a surge in interest.

The NWSL is loving the attention.

“The last few weeks have been really, really nice for all of us,“ NWSL Commissioner Jeff Plush said. “But there’s more hard work. It continues to be a business we work very hard at every day. So it’s not going to be a panacea. You have to work hard at growth.“

The U.S. women’s national team, whose players are allocated throughout the NWSL, defeated Japan 5-2 earlier this month in the title match at the World Cup, which was played across six Canadian cities. It was the team’s third World Cup title, most of any nation.

The players have since returned to their club teams and to crowds eager to see the American victors.

The NWSL is in its third season and is in a crucial period because no other women’s league in the United States has been able to last very long. Both forerunners, the Women’s United Soccer Association (WUSA) and Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) each folded within the three-year mark.

The league has attracted major sponsors, including Nike and, this season, Coppertone. In late June, the NWSL and FOX Sports announced an agreement to broadcast 10 league games this season. Three regular-season matches, three playoff matches and the championship will be shown on FOX Sports 1.

But it’s the fans that have been making a difference in the past couple of weeks.

The Thorns set the league’s attendance record on Wednesday night with a sellout crowd of 21,144 for a match against the rival Seattle Reign at Providence Park.

The record for a stand-alone professional women’s soccer match in the United States was set in 2001, when 34,148 watched the Washington Freedom defeat the Bay Area CyberRays 1-0 at RFK Stadium. Mia Hamm starred for the Freedom while Brandi Chastain led the CyberRays.

While other women’s pro matches have drawn more than the Thorns did Wednesday night, those were double-headers held in conjunction with men’s games.

The Thorns lead the league in attendance by a wide margin, averaging 13,769 fans a game this season. Wednesday night’s match marked the fourth time the crowd has gone over 16,000 at the downtown stadium, which is also home to Major League Soccer’s Portland Timbers.

Other teams also have seen a spike in attendance.

The Washington Spirit drew a club record 5,413 fans to Saturday’s 3-0 victory over the Reign at the Maryland SoccerPlex. The same day, the Chicago Red Stars played to a 1-1 draw with Boston before a record 3,560 fans at Benedictine University.

A record 13,025 fans turned out at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston for the Dash match against the Red Stars. U.S. stars Carli Lloyd, Meghan Klingenberg and Morgan Brian were honored but didn’t play.

“I think people just totally got attached to this World Cup in a different way than they have and it was so close to home,“ U.S. midfielder Megan Rapinoe said about the bump. “That was such a huge thing to have American fans know they can go watch these players in their own cities for the rest of the season. Hopefully the bounce isn’t coming down, it’s just continuing to go up.“

The WUSA was founded in 2000, hoping to capitalize on the U.S. national team’s victory in the 1999 World Cup, but the league folded in 2003. The WPS played from 2010-2012 but had insurmountable internal organization and financial issues.

The NWSL has always maintained that it is better positioned to succeed because of its association with the North American soccer federations — the United States, Canada and Mexico — which pay the salaries of their national team players to help keep costs down.

Thorns coach Paul Riley said the real benefits of the World Cup probably won’t be seen until next year — in season ticket sales.

“We’re an anomaly when it comes to that. But you know, with Boston, Chicago, these places that have a huge boost right now, can they deliver season tickets? I know all the teams are working hard to get it done,“ Riley said. “Our job is to entertain. Our job is to put teams out that people want to come pay money to watch, and put them in suitable stadiums for people to watch. I think that’s the next step for everybody and hopefully they can do that, the whole league.“

Plush agreed there’s more work ahead. The league, which right now has nine teams, could expand, possibly even next season.

The NWSL could also get another bump next season from the 2016 Olympics.

“The health of the league is good. It’s exactly where we expected to be and where we wanted to be in the third year,“ Plush said. “I think it’s important for people to understand the context as a startup business. We’re 2½ years in. Certainly the product is compelling, but we have the challenges and issues any business has. That said, we are rigorously planning for Year 4 and we have all the confidence in Year 5 and Year 6.“

World Soccer (Football)

The Gilmer Free Press

►  U.S. top of FIFA rankings after winning Women’s World Cup

ZURICH — The United States has returned to the top of the FIFA women’s rankings after winning the World Cup.

The U.S. toppled Germany after beating Japan 5-2 in Sunday’s final in Vancouver to collect the top prize in women’s soccer for the first time in 16 years.

Germany finished fourth in Canada after losing to England in the third-place game.

England moved up a place to fifth, behind France and Japan, after its best Women’s World Cup showing.

Women’s World Cup 2015

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Barack Obama calls USWNT following World Cup championship

Women’s World Cup 2015

The Gilmer Free Press

►  World Cup moments distanced women from FIFA scandal

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — For a few moments over the past month, the Women’s World Cup seemed to push aside the FIFA scandal that is simmering a half planet away.

Those moments came on the pitch: From upstart Cameroon crashing the party in the knockout stage, to England’s fantastic run, to host Canada’s tournament-opening victory on star Christine Sinclair’s stoppage-time penalty kick.

And of course, Carli Lloyd’s hat trick in a 5-2 victory for the United States in the final against Japan.

Despite the controversy over the artificial turf and questions about who would present the championship trophy, the Women’s World Cup was a resounding success, setting records for attendance and TV ratings. The corruption case enveloping the sport’s world governing body at least temporarily took a backseat to the Beautiful Game.

In many ways, FIFA can thank the Americans.

The second-ranked U.S. women started out the monthlong tournament across Canada as one of the favorites, but there were questions along the way about a sputtering offense and U.S. coach Jill Ellis’ tactics.

Steadily the United States, which didn’t drop a match, gained momentum. Boosted by stellar defense, Ellis made a key shift late in the tournament, moving Lloyd up top as an attacking midfielder and putting 22-year-old Morgan Brian into a defensive midfield’s role.

Lloyd flourished.

After toppling top-ranked Germany — the team that had ended a six-year run by the Americans atop the rankings — in the semifinals, the United States dominated Japan from the start. Lloyd’s three goals came in the first 16 minutes, including an audacious shot from near midfield.

U.S. fans — including Vice President Joe Biden — streamed across the border for the match, filling Vancouver’s BC Place with more than 53,000 fans.

It was the U.S. team’s third World Cup title, more than any other nation. And it vindicated the USSF for its decision in April 2014 to fire coach Tom Sermanni — who had replaced Pia Sundhage the previous year — and replace him with Ellis, the British-born American who had been an assistant.

“We’ll probably let her continue tomorrow,“ U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati said with a smile. “She did her job, right? For any coach on this team the job description is to win the World Cup and the Olympics. She did a great job. We went through this competition unbeaten. We had a lot of people doubting it along the way and a lot of people second guessing. ... I’m extremely pleased for Jill. She worked hard, she believed it what she was doing, and it paid off.“

For the Americans, it’s on to a victory tour and Olympic qualifying this fall.

For FIFA, it’s back to reality. The organization is the target of a U.S. Justice Department corruption investigation. The inquiry prompted longtime President Sepp Blatter to announce his intention to resign just four days after being re-elected to a fifth term.

While Blatter has not been charged, American law enforcement authorities have confirmed he is part of the investigation. He did not travel to Canada. Instead, FIFA Senior Vice President Issa Hayatou of Cameroon, the head of African soccer’s governing body, handed the trophy to U.S. veterans Abby Wambach and Christie Rampone.

When the stadium announcer asked the crowd to welcome the FIFA officials, the crowd booed.

FIFA faced criticism over the course of the tournament, particularly over the artificial turf.

Wambach last year led a group of players who filed a legal claim in Canada, saying that the artificial turf amounted to gender discrimination because the men’s event would never be staged on fake grass.

It’s already been established that the next World Cup, held four years from now in France, will be held on the real thing.

“I still think that it was not ideal. We all believe that,“ U.S. forward Sydney Leroux said. “For us to fight that, hopefully for the future it never happens again, and we have that equality.“

Critics say the artificial turf was emblematic of FIFA’s sexism. There were other signs during the tournament: competing teams staying in the same hotels and a prize money pool one-third of what their male counterparts had a year ago.

But Ellis believes that progress is being made.

“I think people can’t help, FIFA included, but to notice how popular this sport is. And to make sure, it’s like anything, there is always an evolution. There is always a process to go through before equal footing is gained,“ Ellis said.

That evolution will continue as the next big stage for women’s soccer is just a year away at the Rio Olympics.

Brazil and star Marta, bounced from the round of 16 by Australia, are the hosts.

Because UEFA uses the World Cup as qualifying for the Olympics, Germany and France have also secured a spot. England does not get a pass because the IOC recognizes Great Britain collectively.

CONCACAF doesn’t give free passes, so the U.S. will play in a qualifying tournament. If the United States qualifies as expected, the roster will be 18, after 23 players went to Canada.

“Some serious tough decisions,“ Ellis said Monday, already looking ahead. “I’m still looking for other players. That’s got to continue to be part of my process to find the best out there.“

Women’s World Cup 2015

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Soccer Outsider: Women’s World Cup review and player ratings

How do you prepare for a World Cup final? The players always play it cool. “Oh, I just relax and listen to some cool music.” (Nobody preps by listening to Phil Collins’ “No Jacket Required.”) Given how big the game is, they are either incredibly composed or completely lying. If I were days away from playing in a World Cup final and someone asked, “How are you preparing?” I’d say: “Well, I’m panic-vomiting a lot, and also vomiting as a result of the heavy drinking I’ve been doing to calm myself down. In my more lucid moments, I think of excuses, specifically who I could scapegoat — both on my team or in society at large — in case it all goes wrong. In my spare time I rock back and forth and suck my thumb. And I’ve been listening to Phil Collins’ ‘No Jacket Required.’ ”

My take on the U.S. women’s team through the tournament so far? The back five has been outstanding! All of them: calm, composed, well-organized and alert. The fullbacks are providing offense, and the center backs have been almost mistake-free. And my take on the attack, except for Megan Rapinoe? Hey, how about that back five, huh?

The U.S. starting lineup: Solo | Krieger, Sauerbrunn, Johnston, Klingenberg | Heath, Brian, Holiday, Lloyd, Rapinoe | Morgan. Very happy to see Brian in the lineup. The U.S. team had huge problems in the midfield in the first half of the tournament; things seem to have settled down since Brian stepped in.

Here’s kickoff from Vancouver’s beautiful-but-turf-covered BC Place. Does anyone think maybe this stadium deserves a more creative name than “BC Place”? Maybe BC Park, BC Arena or even Stade de BC? One could argue that every place in British Columbia is at least a BC place. This stadium sounds like the diner where the kids hang out in a pre-teen sitcom on CBC: “Hey, you hosers, want to go to BC Place and get some poutine?”

3’ – GOAL USA! Lloyd off a set piece! Unbelievable – the fastest goal in Women’s World Cup finals history, and the second in women’s or men’s after Neesken’s penalty in ‘74! What a sucker-punch start! Classy finish by Lloyd.

5’ – ANOTHER GOAL – LLOYD AGAIN! I can’t remember a big match ever starting like this, even Germany 7, Brazil 1 didn’t really get rolling until the 23rd minute. This is incredible — this is a bloody nose on the first punch of the fight. This match might end up being like Donald Trump’s presidential campaign: effectively over before it began and with a positive outcome for the USA.

6’ – That second goal was scored so quickly that Fox didn’t even have a chance to roll out the “Japan came back from a goal down twice in 2011” stat.

7’ – Everyone thought the U.S. would be dangerous on set pieces, but that was because of the height advantage. And now Japan has been undone by two balls played in on the ground. No excuse for that; the Americans were just first to the ball.

8’ – Japan is huddling up after each goal. They’re probably talking strategy, but I like to think it’s pure panic. “Girls, this is baaaaaaad! I’m embarrassed — we’re gonna lose HARD!”

14’ – ANOTHER GOAL! A poor clearance, and Holiday punishes the mistake with a well-taken volley! This is amazing but kind of lacking in suspense, like if “The Sixth Sense” started with Bruce Willis saying, “Hi there. I’m dead.”

15’ – Another Japanese huddle after the goal. That’s only worth doing if the topic is, “Hey, there’s a trap door by the corner flag. Let’s drop in one-by-one and get the heck out of here.”

15’ – Fox commentator Tony DiCicco: “Terrific start for the USA.” Great insight, coach! That’s why you get paid the big bucks.

16’ – It’s rare to see one team surge and another team collapse in a huge match like this. This is shock, this is panic. It’s Brazil-Germany in 2014, or the second quarter of Super Bowl XXII.

16’ – GOAL Lloyd! And it’s the goal of the tournament, an amazing hit from the midfield stripe! 4-0 — absolutely stunning. The only danger for the U.S. now is that the second half might be so boring it’ll be preempted by an “Alf” rerun.

17’ – No Japanese huddle after this one. Yeah, forget it: The huddles are useless. Maybe the huddles were the problem.

20’ – Carli Lloyd has scored the fastest hat trick in World Cup Finals history. Let’s all say it together: Geoff Hurst[] is a bum.

22’ – We should acknowledge that the U.S. has a huge home-field advantage, since these matches are being played in Michigan’s Upper Upper Peninsula (Canada).

27’ – Goal Japan! 4-1! Okay, that goal means we’re one goal away from this being interesting.

29’ – Actually, Japan, having hit rock bottom, has finally settled in to this match. They’re possessing the ball and playing their game.

39’ – Japan makes its second first-half non-injury substitution, and never have early substitutions come so late. You’re down 4-1, coach; when it was 3-0 after 14 minutes, did you maybe have an inkling that your game plan had gone awry?

39’ – A Japanese player commits one of the most obvious handballs I’ve ever seen, but it’s not called. Pretty much everyone in the stadium stopped; I actually thought for a moment that the player would call a pickup-game foul on herself. Watching the replay, there are Harlem Globetrotters routines in which they don’t handle the ball that much.

Halftime: 4-1 USA. Well, that could not really have gone much better. If I’m the Japanese coach, here’s my halftime talk: “What is soccer, really? Just a bunch of people kicking a ball. Kinda dumb if you think about it. The important thing is: We all got free airfare to Canada.”

52’ – Goal Japan! An own goal by Julie Johnston. Luckily for Johnston, this will not be remembered as the own goal of the tournament. Sorry, Laura Bassett, it’s true.

53’ – 4-2. Do we have a game on our han …

54’ – No! No we don’t have a game on our hands! Heath puts home a cross from Brian and it’s 5-2! Much like HBO’s “The Leftovers,” this game looked for a second like it might get exciting but then didn’t.

60’ – With this game seemingly in hand, I feel comfortable devoting my time to reviewing the FIFA vanity-project film “United Passions.” I watched it in its entirety for this piece, making me one of the very few Americans to have seen the film, which was recently confirmed as the lowest-grossing film in US box office history. It made only $918 in its theatrical run, displacing the previous record-holder, the horrifying-teddy-bear-come-to-life-child’s-romp “Gooby.”

For the record: I have also seen “Gooby” and it is an infinitely better film than “United Passions.” “United Passions” is excrement, and I’d like to draw attention to the “r” in “excrement,” as I wouldn’t want Rotten Tomatoes to misread that as “excellent” and spoil the film’s perfect 0% rating. “United Passions” is what you’d get if a dental convention had a baby with a condo board election in Coral Gables. It’s just old men sitting in meetings and talking. It has sub-George-Lucas-level dialogue (come at me, nerds!). It has three — three! — extended sequences of people silently voting. It has a montage of the ‘86 World Cup that involves lots of Sepp Blatter looking out the window of an airplane and exactly zero seconds of the greatest goal ever scored. It stars Tim Roth as Sepp Blatter, meaning the psychotic monkey general Roth played in “The Planet of the Apes” is now his second most villainous character. It is also, by itself, circumstantial evidence of corruption in FIFA, as seemingly none of its $29 million budget is on the screen. If you want to see a film about FIFA, don’t see “United Passions”; see the one they’re going to make in five years about FIFA’s downfall.

80’ – Not much going on here except for the U.S. closing the game out. The USA are absorbing the pressure and that’s all they have to do. Now it’s just a matter of who gets the cameo substitutions; so far we’ve had O’Hara and Wambach, looks like Rampone will be next. And after that: Mia Hamm, Michelle Akers, and — what the heck — Billie Jean King. Take a bow, ladies.

85’ – There will be plenty of debate about where this team and these players belong in the pantheon of U.S. women’s soccer, but one thing is beyond debate: Michelle Akers had the best hair in U.S. women’s soccer history. The golden mane of a lion, that one.

90’ + 2’ – Just counting down the seconds to history now … almost time to celebrate! Anyone who did not blow their hands off yesterday: get ready to light your extra fireworks now!

Full time: 5-2 USA! WORLD CUP CHAMPIONS! The U.S. will receive their medals from beautiful women in cocktail dresses. (What? No! It should be shirtless beefcakes in bow ties. Do they not have Chippendales in Canada?) But no matter: It’s a third star for the U.S. women! Just 47 to go to honor the whole nation, ladies!

Player ratings (first for the match, then for the whole tournament):

Solo: 6, 7. The rightful winner of the Golden Glove, though she didn’t have much to do. In the last two matches she actually got in the habit of “saving” shots that were several yards wide of the post, presumably out of boredom.

Klingenberg: 8, 9. Not only made full use of her towering 5-2 frame, she was arguably the team’s best offensive player for the first half of the tournament. Fullbacks don’t get enough credit; you can make a case that Klingenberg should be the team’s MVP.

Sauerbrunn: 9, 9. She basically didn’t put a foot wrong the entire tournament; she’d get my vote for MVP. Why does she hunch over like that when she’s off the ball? Whatever — it works.

Johnston: 5, 7.5. Some not-awesome moments in the last two matches, but a very good tournament overall.

Krieger: 7, 8.5. Another neglected fullback! Look: I know when you’re 7, you put the worst player at fullback. But that’s not the case at the highest levels. Fullbacks should get more love.

Holiday: 7, 4. You have to say this about the midfield: They showed up when it counted. Or at least when it counted most.

Brian: 9, 7. Had a slow start to the tournament, but came on very strong and ended up looking like a future star. She also pronounces her name “Brian,” like some dude you know instead of “Bree-on” like some French dude you know, and I like that lack of pretension.

Heath: 8.5, 6: The offense sprang to life when they changed the formation, and Heath was a big part of that.

Lloyd: 10, 7: So, I’m an idiot: I would have benched her after the Colombia match.

Morgan: 5, 4. She didn’t really ever seem to play her way into form.

Wambach: NR, 5. Even more valuable than a World Cup medal: not having to spend a lifetime dealing with those “but she never won a championship!” idiots.

Rampone: NR, 6. “I won the World Cup twice” is in the Hall Of Fame of Awesome Brags next to “I Walked on the Moon” and “I Killed Bin Laden.”

O’Hara: 6, 7.5. Every tournament, there’s one player who just plays much better than expected and ends up getting a lot of minutes (think Mastroeni in ‘02, Jimmy Conrad in ‘06). That was Kelley O’Hara.

Sydney Leroux: NR, 3.5. Had the disadvantage of playing the part of the tournament when our midfield was completely comatose. Best tattoos on the team, though.

Amy Rodriguez: NR, 3.5. No matter what, she’ll always be the more likable A-Rod by miles and miles.

Christen Press: NR, 5.5. She scored a nice goal in the first game and I was a little surprised that she wasn’t used more. Also if we’re scoring tans: 10.

Whitney Engen, Shannon Boxx and Lori Chalupny: NR, NR. Thank you for your application but at the moment we do not have any vacancies.

Backup goalkeepers Alyssa Naeher and Ashlyn Harris: 10, 10. I’ve never heard their names, so obviously they weren’t a distraction — that’s exactly what you want in backup goalkeepers! Great job!

Women’s World Cup 2015

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Lloyd hat trick leads US over Japan 5-2 for World Cup title

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Carli Lloyd lives for the big moment. She had her biggest on Sunday night — and gave the United States its third Women’s World Cup title.

Lloyd scored three times as the U.S. jumped to a four-goal lead in the first 16 minutes, and the Americans overwhelmed defending champion Japan 5-2 for the team’s first World Cup championship since 1999, and record third overall.

A sellout crowd of 53,341 that included U.S. Vice President Joe Biden roared in approval for Lloyd’s hat trick, the first ever in a Women’s World Cup final.

“It’s been a long journey, my career. I’ve had a lot of people believe in me, in my corner, from day one,“ the 32-year-old midfielder said. “I’ve dedicated my whole life to this. Everything else comes second. But I wouldn’t want to do it any other way.“

When it was over, Lloyd collapsed to her knees and pumped her fists. Forward Abby Wambach bear-hugged teary eyed coach Jill Ellis, lifting her off the ground.

Lloyd, awarded the Golden Ball as player of the tournament, scored twice in a span of about 135 seconds as the U.S. led 2-0 by the fifth minute.

Lauren Holiday boosted the lead in the 14th and two minutes later Lloyd made it 4-0 with an audacious 54-yard, right-footed shot from midfield that sailed over goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori.

Japan closed on Yuki Ogimi’s goal in the 27th and an own goal by Julie Johnston on an errant header in the 52nd. Tobin Heath scored two minutes later, the third goal off a restart for the Americans.

The U.S. had struggled in the World Cup since winning the inaugural tournament in 1991 and then again at the Rose Bowl eight years later.

Christie Rampone, the only holdover from the 1999 team, lifted the trophy with Wambach, the 35-year-old former FIFA Player of the Year who has said this will be her last World Cup. Wambach was among the most vocal opponents of FIFA’s decision to play the tournament on artificial turf.

With FIFA President Sepp Blatter staying away during a U.S. criminal investigation of soccer officials, the trophy was presented by FIFA Senior Vice President Issa Hayatou of Cameroon, the head of African soccer’s governing body.

Hope Solo won her second straight Golden Glove as top goalkeeper of the tournament. She played despite critics who urged the U.S. Soccer Federation to drop her after she initially faced two misdemeanor counts of domestic violence from a June 2014 altercation at her half-sister’s house, charges that were dismissed earlier this year.

Solo, who hasn’t spoken to the media for most of the tournament, proclaimed simply: “We did it! Awesome!“

The title, which adds a coveted third star to the American uniform, also vindicated the U.S. Soccer Federation for its decision in April 2014 to fire coach Tom Sermanni, who had replaced Pia Sundhage the previous year, and replace him with Ellis, the British-born American who had been an assistant on the coaching staff.

Ellis’ coaching was criticized early in the World Cup tournament when the United States appeared to sputter at times on offense. Shifting Lloyd up top as an attacking midfielder in the semifinal against top-ranked Germany and again in the final, did the trick.

“I want to thank Jill,“ Lloyd said. “I know lots of people out in the stands were worried about us. We all held together. We all stayed the course. We all executed the game plan.“

Lloyd had come up big before, scoring the winning goals in the 2008 and 2012 Olympic finals.

She put the U.S. ahead in the third minute off a corner kick from Megan Rapinoe, streaking into the penalty area on a diagonal run and using the side of her left foot just in front of the spot to redirect the ball inside the far post.

She made it 2-0 after Holiday took a free kick from the flank and Johnston made a back-heel flick to Lloyd, who was 2 yards out. With her right foot, she poked the ball between two defenders and past Kaihori’s outstretched arms.

Lloyd’s third goal came when Kaihori ventured far off her line. The keeper backpedaled and got her right hand on it, but it glanced off a post into the goal.

It was the fastest hat trick in World Cup history — men or women — and Lloyd became the first American since Michelle Akers in 1991 to score multiple goals in a World Cup final. The only other hat trick in a World Cup final was when England’s Geoff Hurst scored three times against Germany in the men’s 1966 final at Wembley.

“Miss Lloyd she always does this to us. In London she scored 2 goals and today she scored 3 goals. We are embarrassed,“ Japan coach Norio Sasaki said. “But she is an excellent player and I really respect her and admire her.“

Lloyd scored six goals in seven matches during the monthlong tournament, raising her international total to 69. She joined Carin Jennings in 1991 as the only Americans to win the Golden Ball.

Holiday added her goal to cap a counterattack, volleying in from 10 yards after Azusa Iwashimizu’s header on an attempted clearance bounded high in the air. Heath scored from 4 yards after another Holiday corner kick, which went to the far post for Morgan Brian to play back in front.

Ogimi’s goal was the first Solo had allowed after five straight shutouts. The only other goal scored against her came in the first half of the tournament opener against Australia.

The United States went 540 minutes without conceding a goal, the longest streak in the World Cup since Germany went 679 scoreless minutes from 2003-11.

Japan’s victory over the United States four years ago was its first World Cup title and it came just months after the massive earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan, killing more than 20,000 people and touching off the worst nuclear catastrophe since Chernobyl in 1986.

Japan returned eight starters from the 2011 final, when it beat the U.S. on penalty kicks. The Americans started just four of the 11 players who opened that game in Germany.

The United States has a 25-1-6 record against Japan, and a 3-1 advantage in World Cup meetings.

“Speechless. Honestly, I’m so proud of this team,“ an emotional Lloyd said. “This doesn’t feel real. It hasn’t sunk in. So unbelievably proud of every single person on this team. We just made history.“

The tournament was played while FIFA, soccer’s international governing body, has been rocked by a widening American corruption probe that alleges bribery and racketeering worth more than $150 million involving high-ranking FIFA officials over a 24-year span.

►  Abby Wambach’s World Cup finale comes with coveted trophy

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Abby Wambach lifted American coach Jill Ellis after the final whistle. She ran to the stands for a hug from her wife. And then along with Christie Rampone, she became the first American to lift the Women’s World Cup championship trophy in 16 years.

It all equated to a World Cup farewell for Wambach that was confusing and surreal, joyous and ultimately satisfying for arguably the greatest American female player.

“I literally don’t know how I feel,“ Wambach said. “It’s a bizarre thing that is going on right now because of the way it kind of happened.“

Wambach played what’s expected to be her final World Cup match on Sunday night when the United States beat Japan 5-2 to claim its first title since 1999. Wambach came on as a sub in the 79th minute after the partisan sold out crowd at BC Place had started to chant her name.

By then, this championship was already decided. After being the catalyst, the one scoring the goals for so many years for the United States in the biggest matches, Wambach was “sitting my rear-end on the bench,“ during an electric first half where the Americans built a 4-1 lead on the strength of a hat trick from captain Carli Lloyd.

“To be quite honest, I felt like I was in a dream sitting there on the bench watching Carli Lloyd go off and I’m so proud to be on this team and proud to be a part of something that in my opinion is really special,“ Wambach said.

“It wasn’t just Carli Lloyd that won us this World Cup — although tonight showed us, our semifinal showed us that she’s a huge reason why we have this World Cup title — it’s the depth of this team and the ability of making those subs in the pivotal moments of certain games. I’m just proud of us and proud of our coaching staff of making the hard decisions.“

Those hard decisions included the one Ellis made to bring Wambach off the bench for three of the final four games of the tournament. In the knockout round, the only time Wambach started was the quarterfinal victory over China.

It was a decision that meant the world’s all-time leading goal-scorer, men’s or women’s, was now a role player. But it was a decision that made the Americans better.

“It’s not easy to not start one of the most decorated goal-scorers in the world, but Jill and our coaching staff was confident and as was I, that person, in the players that were starting ahead of me,“ Wambach said.

This World Cup will be remembered as an eventful one for Wambach, the former FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year. It started long before the tournament when she led the way last year as a group of players filed a legal claim in Canada, saying that the artificial turf amounted to gender discrimination because the men’s event would never be staged on fake grass.

Wambach also caused a stir following the U.S. team’s 2-0 victory over Colombia to open the knockout stage, suggesting the official of the match had targeted U.S. midfielders Megan Rapinoe and Lauren Holiday, giving them yellow cards that forced them to miss the quarterfinal match with China.

“I don’t know if they were yellows,“ she said after beating Colombia. “It seemed like she (the referee) was purposefully giving those yellows to maybe players that she knew were sitting on yellows. I don’t know if that was just a psychological thing, who knows?“

Wambach — who missed a penalty kick against Colombia she inexplicably took with her left foot — apologized the next day, calling it wrong to suggest what the official was thinking. FIFA responded by issuing a warning, citing the organization’s disciplinary code that concerns unsportsmanlike conduct.

Those issues were secondary on Sunday night when she entered and was immediately handed the captain’s armband by Lloyd, before later handing it on to Rampone.

And when the final whistle echoed, it was elation.

“I would give up all my individual awards for what we just did tonight and it’s the truth. It’s the wholehearted truth,“ Wambach said.

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