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I can haz goal?

The United States women’s soccer team pressed its fight for equal pay not in one dramatic moment at the negotiating table, but in a thousand small ones away from it. In text messages and phone calls, in hotel rooms and on bus rides, and at their homes in far-flung cities, the players fine-tuned their needs and their arguments and their solidarity.

Sometimes the suggestions arrived in an overnight email from forward Alex Morgan in France, or a late-night one from midfielder Megan Rapinoe on the West Coast. They sent out anonymous surveys to their teammates, to better gauge what people prioritized but might not want to say aloud, and weighed in on legal language and PowerPoint slides in a cache of shared Google Docs.

As the talks intensified in recent weeks, players like Becky Sauerbrunn and Meghan Klingenberg conferred with teammates like Kelley O’Hara and Christen Press to propose changes as small as a single word in page after page of precise contract language. Then they would rehearse what they would say at each negotiating session, and even decide who would say it.

The result of all those long days and late nights is the team’s new collective bargaining agreement with U.S. Soccer, which was announced on Wednesday morning. The agreement includes a sizable increase in base pay for the players — more than 30 percent, initially — and improved match bonuses that could double some of their incomes, to $200,000 to $300,000 in any given year, and even more in a year that includes a World Cup or Olympic campaign.

Yet while the women’s players can claim significant gains, including on noneconomic issues like travel and working conditions, the new deal does not guarantee them equal pay with the men’s national team, which the women had made the cornerstone of their campaign for much of the past year. For the union, that reality — a consequence of the teams’ different pay structures and an eight-figure gap in FIFA bonus payouts to U.S. Soccer for the men’s and women’s World Cup — was balanced by progress elsewhere. It is those changes, including control of some licensing and marketing rights, which the union views as an opening to test the team’s value on the open market, that the players and their lawyers feel could pay off in future negotiations.

“We tried to completely change the methodology for how to define our value, and we made progress in that regard, and it changes the equation for the future,” said Becca Roux, the union’s executive director.

Sunil Gulati, the president of U.S. Soccer, portrayed the agreement as a shared victory, an “equitable” deal that he said recognized the team’s achievements and kept U.S. Soccer at the forefront of the continuing fight for gender equity in soccer worldwide.

“We’ve always had the most highly compensated women’s team in the world, and this puts them at even higher level,” Gulati said. “Their performance over all over the last quarter-century has put them at the top of their game. Financially the agreement gives the players security in a way that they haven’t had before and adds a number of other things that were very important to them.

“So we’re very pleased to continue being at the forefront of the women’s game internationally.”

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Omg how can she sit like that?!?!

Best Vine & Instagram Football Goals, Skills & Fails 2016 ● Football Compilation – Die schönsten Amateur-Tore, Tricks & Pannen

Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice, and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.  – Pele

GAZIANTEP, Turkey — Even as war looms all around them, young Syrians in areas outside the regime’s control are able to participate in athletic competitions thanks to civil society sectors of the Syrian revolution.

“We are now in the second week of the first- and second-division [soccer] competitions. All the teams are wearing the flag of the Syrian revolution on their shirts and playing under the name of the Syrian Football [Soccer] Federation,” Nader al-Atrash, federation vice president, told Al-Monitor via Skype from the Idlib area.

“Despite the intense overflights by the Syrian regime and Russia in the skies of Idlib on most days, athletes are determined and adamant to keep going and complete the competitions. I wish them all the safety in the stadiums,” Atrash said.

The General Commission for Youth and Sports, a nongovernmental organization opposed to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, began its work in Syria in March 2014 and organizes sports activities, competitions and festivals throughout Syrian areas controlled by the Free Syrian Army (FSA), an anti-regime faction. Some of these areas include the Waer neighborhood in Homs, the eastern Ghouta in Rif Dimashq, Daraa province, Idlib province and northwestern Aleppo province.

The commission, which includes the Union for People with Disabilities, sponsors competitions in soccer, swimming, handball, backgammon, swimming, volleyball, judo, karate, wrestling, Lao Chi kung fu and kickboxing. Its teams have received medals in numerous competitions.

“When you see a field, a crowd, billboards and advertisements on the pitch, two teams in different uniforms and a team of referees arbitrating the match, you feel life has returned to the liberated areas, despite the heavy bombing and massacres committed by the Syrian regime in areas outside its control,” Abdul Wahab Almkhozom, a soccer player and member of the executive sports committee for Idlib province, told Al-Monitor.

“The crowd’s cheers for their teams reminded us of the old days when we would encourage our teams through the stands in the stadiums, which the Assad regime has turned into military barracks and artillery-fire bases that have nothing to do with life, sport and morals.”

A March 4 press conference drew civil society members, political and sports figures, and the Syrian and Arab media to Maarat al-Numan, about 30 kilometers (19 miles) south of Idlib city. During the conference, Atrash said, the federation announced first- and second-division soccer clubs. The first-division league’s starting date was set for March 15 in Idlib province, “coinciding with the sixth anniversary of the Syrian revolution,” he added. The commission’s soccer union launched the second-division clubs March 9.

Each league includes 12 teams, which means 24 teams total competing from the various regions of Idlib. These clubs include Omayya SC, al-Numan, Sarakeb SC, Khan Shaikhoon, Ahli al-Atareb, Punch and Jabal al-Zawiyah.

On Dec. 22, 2016, the commission had signed a partnership agreement with the Syria Regional Program (SRP), an initiative of the US Agency for International Development. The SRP donated a sports bag for each player participating in the competitions, a bag for each coach and referee, as well as equipment for four large stadiums including goal nets, electronic scoreboards and office supplies. The SRP also pays the referees and covers transportation costs between towns.

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Britain Soccer Football – Chelsea v Crystal Palace – Premier League – Stamford Bridge – 1/4/17 Chelsea’s Diego Costa in action Reuters / Hannah McKay Livepic EDITORIAL USE ONLY.

Chelsea top scorer Diego Costa believes the Premier League leaders can effectively end Manchester City’s title hopes when the two sides meet at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.

The alternative scenario, that fourth-placed City could win and help Tottenham Hotspur close the gap at the top to four points, does not bear thinking about for the Spain international.

The hosts are seven points clear of Spurs, and 11 ahead of City, who drew 2-2 at Arsenal on Sunday after twice taking the lead.

But Saturday’s surprise 2-1 home defeat to lowly Crystal Palace has revived hopes elsewhere that Chelsea could be vulnerable.

That first home defeat since September was also a wake-up call for Antonio Conte’s side, who have looked title certainties.

“Now is not the time to let ourselves down,” Costa, who has scored 17 league goals this season but only four since Christmas, told ESPN Brazil.

“We should keep our heads up and think ahead for the next game since it will be very important.

“This game against City will be a six-point affair since if we win…they will (effectively) be out of the title race while we keep the advantage.”

Both sides will be looking back to last year for comfort, with Chelsea winning 3-1 at the Etihad in December while City won 3-0 at Stamford Bridge last April against an off-form home side with very little to play for.

Sergio Aguero scored a hat-trick then and was also on the scoresheet against Arsenal, with manager Pep Guardiola staying hopeful.

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WILLIS – Jacksonville didn’t make very many mistakes in its area round match against Hutto on Friday night at Yates Stadium in Willis.

But two of the miscues that the Jacksonville girls made directly led to Lady Hippo goals as Hutto (10-6-3) defeated the Fightin’ Maidens, 3-1, to advance to the regional quarterfinals later the week.

Jacksonville, the District 17-5A runner-up, closes the book on its campaign with a 12-9 worksheet.

Jacksonville came out with good energy and took an early 1-0 lead with 33:46 left in the first half after Amy Moreyra chipped in a deflection from point blank range amidst a wad of players from both teams that were clustered at the mouth of the goal.

The two clubs were tied 1-1 at the break after Hutto’s Dina Draguicevich, a University of Texas San Antonio signee, drilled the ball in from about 17 yards out, left side with 20:19 to go in the opening period.

Jacksonville goal keeper Kelsy Traylor came out to defend Draguicevich, but the Jacksonville defenders were not able to get back in time to provide a layer of protection behind Traylor and Draguicevich was able to capitalize on that.

Jacksonville head coach Analorena Rodriquez advised her team at halftime to give maximum effort on every play , even when tired, because this was playoff soccer and that would be what it would take to have a chance to beat Hutto, who was coming off a huge upset over No. 1-ranked Magnolia West in the bi-district round last week.

But just over six minutes into the final period Draguicevich was able to score again, this time from about 8 yards out when another Fightin’ Maiden defensive mix-up occurred.

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March 31 (UPI) — On the eve of April Fool’s Day, Randy Moss did something that made you check the calendar.

The four-time All-Pro signed with the Charlotte Independence, a team in the United Soccer League.

“Renewing my career is something that I’ve thought about for a long time now,” Moss said in a statement. “I’m excited to get started with the Charlotte Independence and show the world that I can be a two-sport athlete.”

Moss’ signing is still pending approval from the USL and U.S. Soccer. The 40-year-old former football star will wear his token No. 84. According to a team release, Moss has been training by competing in Spartan races and Crossfit boot camp.

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GREENSBORO — Here’s some bad news for opponents of the Page girls soccer team: Tatum Neff has improved.

“I worked really hard during the club season on my foot skills and tactically understanding how to get in positions to score,” said Neff, a powerful 5-foot-6 sophomore forward with breakaway speed.

As a freshman, Neff was limited to 11 games because of injuries but scored eight times and was named to the Metro 4-A’s all-conference team.

“Her skill on the ball has really improved from last year to this year,” said Page coach Jim Pielow. “She’s a hard worker and keeps adding things to her game.”

In the fall 2016 club season, Neff’s Greensboro United U17 Navy team went 18-4-2 and qualified for the U.S. Youth Soccer Regionals, which will be held in Greensboro in June. Neff scored 25 of the team’s 61 goals.

“Tatum has always been an incredibly powerful athlete,” said Forrest Collier, coach of GUSA U17 Navy. “When she started playing against bigger, stronger players, she had to find other ways to beat them. She’s become a very effective striker.

“But her biggest strength has always been her mentality. When she steps on the field, she is there to win.”

No stranger to her high school opponents, Neff is often faced with game plans designed to stop her, or at least slow her. And that’s just fine with her.

“If a team concentrates on me, we have a lot of players on this team that can score goals,” said Neff, who has played soccer in GUSA programs since she was 3 years old.

Sophomore Keyera Wynn scored 12 goals last year, and multi-talented Caroline Fitzgerald had nine as a sophomore last year. Seniors Cameron Kiser, Cameron Ringer and the Purdie sisters, Taylor and Kameryn, add quality to a balanced Page attack.

The Pirates already have a 2-1 win over 2016 Class 4-A runner-up Swansboro this season but were dealt a blow when Nicolette Robinson, a senior central midfielder, suffered a broken collarbone. Sophomore Salem Handy and freshman Ashley Blum, a teammate of Neff with U17 Navy, are stepping into the void.

Pielow has liked what he has seen but knows his team can do more.

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