Oust owners, officials named in US soccer abuse report: Sauerbrunn

Oust owners, officials named in US soccer abuse report: Sauerbrunn
US international captain and Portland Thorns FC defender Becky Sauerbrunn has said team owners and officials named in a US soccer abuse report should be barred from the sport. (Reuters)
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Updated 05 October 2022

Oust owners, officials named in US soccer abuse report: Sauerbrunn

Oust owners, officials named in US soccer abuse report: Sauerbrunn
  • The 37-year-old two-time World Cup winner said players were “horrified and heartbroken” by the findings of a report published on Monday

LOS ANGELES: US international captain Becky Sauerbrunn said Tuesday team owners and officials implicated in a bombshell report which detailed systemic sexual abuse and misconduct in US women’s soccer should be barred from the sport.

The 37-year-old two-time World Cup winner said players were “horrified and heartbroken” by the findings of a report published on Monday following a year-long investigation by former US Attorney General Sally Yates.

Yates’ report included interviews with more than 200 National Women’s Soccer League players — many of them members of US national teams — and detailed patterns of abuse from team coaches, manipulation and tirades.

“Every owner and executive and US soccer official who has repeatedly failed the players and failed to protect the players who have hidden behind legalities and have not participated fully in these investigations should be gone,” Sauerbrunn said in a video-conference call from London, where the US women’s team is preparing for a friendly with England on Friday.

Merritt Paulson, the owner of Sauerbrunn’s club, the Portland Thorns, was accused in the Yates report along with other club officials of enabling misconduct by former Thorns manager Paul Riley.

Pressed on whether Paulson was included in the team owners she believes should be forced out of the NWSL, Sauerbrunn replied: “It includes everyone that has continued to fail the players time and time again, who didn’t take players concerns seriously, who didn’t pass on information correctly, who have not participated in investigations. All of them.”

In a separate development on Tuesday, Paulson, who is also the owner of the Portland Timbers Major League Soccer franchise, said he was removing himself from all Thorns-related decision-making until the conclusion of a separate NWSL/NWSL Players Association investigation.

“I cannot apologize enough for our role in a gross systemic failure to protect player safety and the missteps we made in 2015,” Paulson said in a statement.

“I am truly sorry.”

Sauerbrunn, meanwhile, said players were “not doing well” following publication of the findings of the investigation, which was launched last year after reports in The Athletic and Washington Post lifted the lid on abuse in the NWSL.

“We are horrified and heartbroken and frustrated and exhausted and really, really angry,” said Sauerbrunn, a veteran of 208 internationals stretching back to 2008.

“We are angry that it took a third party investigation. We’re angry that it took an article in The Athletic and the Washington Post.

“We’re angry that it took over 200 people sharing their trauma to get to this point right now.

“For so long, this has always fallen on the players to demand change. And that is because the people in authority and decision-making positions have repeatedly failed to protect us. And they have failed to hold themselves and each other accountable.”

US head coach Vlatko Andonovski, meanwhile, said members of his squad would be given the option of sitting out this week’s game against England if they decided they were not in the right frame of mind for the game.

“Some players and staff members need time, need space, need to process all of it,” Andonovski said. “That’s why we as a staff are allowing the players to think and process to do whatever they need in order to get over this difficult time.

“If that means they don’t want to participate in a team meeting, or in a team training, or even if they don’t want to play the game, then it’s up to them,” said Andonovski, adding that he was “sickened and disgusted” by details of the report.

“Now this report is out, it’s our job to do our part to make sure that no one has to deal with this ever again in our sport at any level,” he added.

Sauerbrunn, meanwhile, said she has not contemplated the possibility of going on strike to force change in the NWSL.

“I haven’t thought about not playing,” she said. “I hope it won’t get to that point. A lot of us have been navigating these things for a very long time and you find a way to deal with it. We, as women, as players have faced a lot for a very long time. Unfortunately, I’d say you get used to it.”


Tiger to compete with McIlroy against Thomas-Spieth in made-for TV match

Tiger to compete with McIlroy against Thomas-Spieth in made-for TV match
Updated 09 December 2022

Tiger to compete with McIlroy against Thomas-Spieth in made-for TV match

Tiger to compete with McIlroy against Thomas-Spieth in made-for TV match
  • Woods has been limited by severe leg injuries suffered in a February 2021 car accident
  • Spieth, a three-time major winner, and Thomas, who won his second major title at this year’s PGA Championship, are oddsmakers’ favorites

MIAMI: Tiger Woods returns to competitive golf after a five-month layoff alongside top-ranked Rory McIlroy against Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth on Saturday in The Match, a 12-hole made-for-television event.

Woods skipped last week’s Hero World Challenge, an invitational event he hosts in the Bahamas, due to plantar fasciitis in his right foot.

But 15-time major winner Woods, whose 82 PGA Tour triumphs match Sam Snead for the all-time record, will partner with four-time major winner McIlroy in the night event under lights at Pelican Golf Club in suburban Tampa, Florida.

“I can tell you one thing,” Woods said. “I have the No. 1 player on my team so I’m good.”

Woods has been limited by severe leg injuries suffered in a February 2021 car accident. He returned at this year’s Masters and walked all 72 holes but withdrew from the PGA Championship in May after three rounds with leg pain and missed the cut in July’s British Open at St. Andrews in his most recent start.

Woods, who turns 47 on Dec. 30, said his foot injury does not impact his swing but hinders his ability to walk without pain. All four players will use golf carts in Saturday’s affair.

“I can hit golf balls,” Woods said. “It’s just hard getting from point A to point B so (carting) will certainly help a lot,” Woods said.

Spieth, a three-time major winner, and Thomas, who won his second major title at this year’s PGA Championship, are oddsmakers’ favorites. They went 4-0 together at the Presidents Cup in September and have a combined 8-2 mark in Ryder and Presidents Cup matches.

But McIlroy comes off victories at the Tour Championship in August and the CJ Cup in October and he likes his chances with Woods on his side, even nursing an injury.

“He’s probably the best iron player that has ever lived... probably the best golfer that has ever lived period,” McIlroy said.

“If he can just get it out in the fairway and get some looks in the fairway, I think we’re going to have a really good chance.”

The Match, which will use a best-ball format, serves as a charity fundraiser for Hurricane Ian relief, helping those struck by the severe storm in the area earlier this year.

Woods is also planning to play next week alongside his son Charlie in the PNC Championship at Orlando.


Ash Barty wins Australia’s top sports award for second time

Ash Barty wins Australia’s top sports award for second time
Updated 09 December 2022

Ash Barty wins Australia’s top sports award for second time

Ash Barty wins Australia’s top sports award for second time
  • The Sport Australia Hall of Fame’s Don Award is given to an athlete or a team “which has provided the most inspiration to the country”

MELBOURNE: Ash Barty’s Australian Open singles title in January was enough to ensure the former top-ranked tennis player won Australia’s most prestigious annual sports award — despite retiring from the game less than two months later.

Barty has been given The Don Award, named after its most accomplished and famous cricketer Don Bradman.

Barty shocked the tennis world in March when she announced her retirement at the age of 25. The three-time major winner was the No. 1-ranked female player at the time of her retirement decision.

The Sport Australia Hall of Fame’s Don Award is given to an athlete or a team “which has provided the most inspiration to the country through performance and example in the past year.”

Barty (2019, 2022) joins Olympic gold medal-winning hurdler Sally Pearson (2012, 2014) and Olympic champion pole vaulter Steve Hooker (2008, 2009) as a multiple winner of the award.

Barty said she had decided before the Australian Open started that it would be her last major tournament.

“This year was certainly my most enjoyable Australian Open . . . because it felt free,” Barty said in a television interview Thursday. “I played without consequence, I played like a little kid. In my eyes, there was no pressure. It was just about me trying to redeem myself, in a way, and playing how I’d always wanted to play — go out there and play like the kid that fell in love with sport.”

Barty said she has no plans to return to tennis.

“In my mind there was never going to be a perfect ending, but it was my perfect ending,” Barty said of her retirement. “It was never about finishing on a win or on a really high emotional feeling. It was just about collectively, I felt it was right.

“Now (that decision) has led to nine months of just an incredible life off the court. It’s been amazing.”

Barty married her long-time partner Garry Kissick in late July. She also plays golf frequently and is reported to be playing off a handicap of low single figures.


Pajor brace lifts Wolfsburg into UEFA Women’s Champions League quarters

Pajor brace lifts Wolfsburg into UEFA Women’s Champions League quarters
Updated 09 December 2022

Pajor brace lifts Wolfsburg into UEFA Women’s Champions League quarters

Pajor brace lifts Wolfsburg into UEFA Women’s Champions League quarters
  • The German side have now reached the quarterfinals for an 11th consecutive season

PARIS: Polish striker Ewa Pajor scored twice as Wolfsburg defeated Roma 4-2 on Thursday to book a place in the UEFA Women’s Champions League quarterfinals.

Five days after celebrating her 26th birthday, Pajor struck in the 24th and 53rd minutes, becoming the tournament’s top scorer this season with six goals.

Sveindis Jane Jonsdottir and Lena Lattwein also found the net as the 2013 and 2014 champions from Germany moved to 10 points from four games in Group B.

Wolfsburg are three ahead of Roma and six ahead of Sankt Poelten after the Austrians only managed a 1-1 draw at home to Czech side Slavia Prague.

The German side have now reached the quarterfinals for an 11th consecutive season.

In Group A, Kadidiatou Diani was on target twice in the first half as PSG swept past hapless Vllaznia in Albania 4-0.

Swiss striker Ramona Bachmann and French midfielder Magnaba Folquet completed the victory in the second half.

Vllaznia have now conceded 19 goals in four games without scoring once.

PSG are three points behind leaders Chelsea who dropped their first points of the campaign following a 1-1 draw at Real Madrid.

Scottish international Caroline Weir gave the Spaniards a first-half lead.

However, the Londoners salvaged a point on the hour when Real goalkeeper Misa Rodriguez saved a penalty from Guro Reiten only to then see the ball rebound off her back and into the net.


France brace for England showdown in World Cup quarterfinal

France brace for England showdown in World Cup quarterfinal
Updated 09 December 2022

France brace for England showdown in World Cup quarterfinal

France brace for England showdown in World Cup quarterfinal
  • Questions about how England will keep the deadly Mbappe quiet have dominated the buildup to the match

DOHA: Defending champions France take on England in a mouthwatering World Cup quarterfinal on Saturday that pits superstar Kylian Mbappe against a forward lineup packed with youthful zest.

The two European heavyweights, separated by just 20 miles (32 kilometers) of ocean, have surprisingly met just twice on the biggest stage, but not since 1982.

France, crowned world champions for the second time in Russia in 2018, eased past Poland in the last 16, with two goals from Paris Saint-Germain forward Mbappe and one from Olivier Giroud.

England beat Senegal 3-0, turning on the style for an ultimately comfortable win against the African champions after a shaky start.

Mbappe, 23, is the Qatar tournament’s top scorer, with five goals in just four starts, while Giroud’s strike against Poland made him France’s all-time leading goalscorer.

Questions about how England will keep the deadly Mbappe quiet have dominated the buildup to the match, which takes place in the desert setting of Al-Bayt Stadium.

England’s pacy rightback Kyle Walker, likely to have the task of shackling Mbappe on Saturday, is anxious to avoid the impression that the fleet-footed attacker is the only threat.

“I know he’s a top player but we’re not playing tennis. It’s not a solo sport, it’s a team game,” said the Manchester City defender.

“We know he’s a great player and that’s why he’s the focus of all questions. But let’s not forget (Olivier) Giroud, who has scored countless (goals), and (Ousmane) Dembele, for me just as good on the other wing.”

The France midfield has coped well in the absence of the injured N’Golo Kante and Paul Pogba, with Antoine Griezmann impressing, but if there is a potential weakness in Didier Deschamps’ lineup it could be in the fullback positions.

Jules Kounde and Theo Hernandez will face a tough test against whoever they face, with Marcus Rashford, Phil Foden, Bukayo Saka, Jack Grealish and Raheem Sterling all in the mix.

That wealth of attacking options means England will also have enviable game-changing options on the bench.

France midfielder Adrien Rabiot is predicting an open match.

“England are a team with similar characteristics to us, really quick players out wide, attacking full-backs and midfielders who like to get forward,” he said.

“But I am not sure we need to say that we have to be wary of them. They will also be very wary because we can cause them problems.”

Southgate is in a tricky position. Does he stick or twist? Does he let his young attackers off the leash or bolster his defensive options?

The England coach came under fire in the buildup to the World Cup after a miserable winless run even though he has credit in the bank from reaching the semifinals in 2018 and the final of last year’s Euro 2020.

England are joint top scorers in Qatar heading into the quarterfinals, with 12 goals from their four games.

Their standout player has been marauding teenager Jude Bellingham, who has formed an impressive partnership alongside the more defensive-minded Declan Rice.

Like France, England’s potential weakness is at the back, with central defender Harry Maguire vulnerable to pace.

Southgate said the match was the “biggest test we could face.” 

“They are world champions, with an incredible depth of talent and outstanding players. They are very hard to play against and score goals against,” he said.

“It’s a fantastic challenge. It’s a historic rivalry with great games from the past. It’s a brilliant game for us to be involved in and test ourselves against the very best.”


Injury fears cast a shadow across Newcastle victory over Al-Hilal in Riyadh

Injury fears cast a shadow across Newcastle victory over Al-Hilal in Riyadh
Updated 09 December 2022

Injury fears cast a shadow across Newcastle victory over Al-Hilal in Riyadh

Injury fears cast a shadow across Newcastle victory over Al-Hilal in Riyadh
  • United cruised to a comfortable 5-0 victory over the Saudi Pro League champions but injuries to Chris Wood and Joelinton could cause headaches for coach Eddie Howe
  • The Magpies are due to face Bournemouth in the Carabao Cup in just 13 days and return to Premier League action against Leicester City three days later

RIYADH: Newcastle United look set to return to the UK from their training camp in Saudi Arabia facing a striker crisis, with Chris Wood becoming the latest casualty during the Magpies’ victory over Al-Hilal in their friendly on Thursday.

Joelinton, who also left the game following a knock, grabbed a first-half double at the Prince Faisal Bin Fahd Stadium before Miguel Almiron netted another brace and youngster Dylan Stephenson rounded off a 5-0 victory that ensured the Magpies lifted the Diriyah Season Cup.

But the bigger news from a United perspective was the injury to New Zealander Wood, who in the absence of Callum Wilson and Alexander Isak, looked set to lead the Magpies when senior football resumes following the World Cup break. United are due to face Bournemouth in the Carabao Cup in just 13 days and return to Premier League action against Leicester City three days later.

The severity of the injury to Wood is yet to be determined but a lengthy spell for him on the sidelines would be a disappointing and troublesome end to what has otherwise been an incredibly positive trip to Riyadh.

United fans will also be hoping that Brazilian wonder Joelinton’s departure from the game was simply precautionary, although the sight of him limping midway through the second half will cause concern.

United donned their third jersey, often dubbed the “Saudi kit,” for the match against the Saudi Pro League champions and handed a debut to Loris Karius in goal, with Eddie Howe keen to extend the former Liverpool keeper’s stay on Tyneside. Matt Targett and Karl Darlow missed out through illness.

This is the second visit by the Magpies to the Kingdom this year, after spending two weeks in Jeddah in January, and they have enjoyed a warm welcome in the capital. This was more than evident in the stands on Thursday where local and foreign fans wearing black and white could be seen scattered among the Blue Power, the vocal heart of the lively home faithful.

Jacob Murphy, Howe’s most-used player during his 13 months as head coach, came within inches of breaking the deadlock with the first meaningful attack of the match. He clipped the ball under Abdullah Al-Mayouf in goal but the keeper got a touch that just prevented the ball from crossing the line and he gathered at the second attempt.

Murphy then turned provider and Joelinton made no mistake with a powerful header after the winger dinked the ball in from the right.

While the final result betrayed the gulf in class between the sides, it was far from evident during a close first 45 and the visitors had Karius to thank for keeping things level early on. They will doubtless have been delighted to see him display some surprise sharpness, despite not having started a competitive game since February 2021.

Star player Odion Ighalo was the first to test Karius, with a low drive that was stopped by the United keeper. Al-Hilal caused the visitors some problems down the left but it was a move down the right that should probably have been rewarded with a penalty. Sven Botman felled the tricky Matheus Pereira but referee Alturais Khalid was not interested.

Just before the break the lead doubled as Joelinton beat Al-Mayouf after breaking clear of the Al-Hilal back line thanks to a precise through ball from Joe Willock.

Karius then had to be at his best once again to deny Andre Carrillo, tipping the ball around the post as the hosts ended the half as the dominant force.

Changes during the break, including the introduction of Almiron, one of the most in-form players in the English top flight, had an immediate effect when play resumed.

The Paraguayan clipped the bar with a trademark curling effort on 50 minutes, before he stole the ball from Carrillo, jinked past another defender and stroked home a third goal for the Magpies.

Elliot Anderson then hit the upright but his deflected effort rebounded clear of danger despite the lurking United forwards.

It seemed like only a matter of time before United added to their tally, though, and, sure enough, Almiron latched onto a cross-field ball by Sean Longstaff and volleyed it home to make it 4-0.

The last word was reserved for one of the Newcastle youngsters to come off the bench, as Ryan Fraser, also introduced as a substitute, squared the ball for Stephenson to tuck in his first goal at senior level.

Fireworks and ticker tape greeted Newcastle as they raised the golden trophy, which they will be hoping is the first of many under Saudi ownership and head coach Howe.

While trophies are the ultimate ambition, of course, in the shorter term Howe will be hoping for good news about the injuries to Joelinton and Wood, both of whom have proved to be crucial cogs in the Newcastle machine over the past year.