Soccer

Quakes can't solve Whitecaps in second straight loss to Vancouver

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USATSI

Quakes can't solve Whitecaps in second straight loss to Vancouver

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — Alphonso Davies and Nicolas Mezquida scored to help the Vancouver Whitecaps beat the San Jose Earthquakes 2-1 on Saturday night.

Davies opened the scoring in the 22nd minute, scooping a pass from Yordy Reyna in the Quakes’ box and tapping it into the bottom left corner of the net. It was the 17-year-old’s sixth goal of the year for Vancouver (11-9-7).

In the 78th minute, Reyna sailed a pass to Mezquida, who took a moment to settle the ball, then punted a rocket into the upper left-hand corner of the net. Vako Qazaishvili scored for San Jose (4-15-8) in stoppage time.

Watch Chris Wondolowski go wild in stands after Earthquakes score goal

Watch Chris Wondolowski go wild in stands after Earthquakes score goal

Chris Wondolowski couldn't suit up in one of the Earthquakes' biggest matches of the season, but he still could celebrate in the stands. 

Wondolowski sat out Wednesday's 2-1 loss to the Philadelphia Union at Avaya Stadium after picking up a red card in last week's defeat to Atlanta United. The Quakes star promised Tuesday on Twitter to sit with the San Jose Ultras supporters group during the match, and more than made good on that promise when the Quakes took a 1-0 lead in Wednesday's first half. 

MLS' all-time goal-scoring leader fit right in, ripping off his shirt after Jackson Yueill gave San Jose the lead in the 35th minute.

The Earthquakes entered Wednesday in possession of the seventh and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, but the fourth consecutive loss dropped them to eighth, one point behind FC Dallas and the Portland Timbers, with two games to play. 

Getting back to the playoffs and setting an MLS record would make Wondolowski's 15th season in the league plenty memorable. But Wednesday's epic celebration is the stuff of legend. 

Why Brandi Chastain thinks Kate Markgraf was right choice for USWNT GM

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USATSI

Why Brandi Chastain thinks Kate Markgraf was right choice for USWNT GM

Brandi Chastain and Kate Markgraf know each other well.

That’s to be expected of two of the most-capped players in United States Women’s National Team history, and of two women who played alongside one another in one of the most memorable games in American soccer history. Chastain and Markgraf played every minute of the 1999 World Cup Final at the Rose Bowl, and Chastain’s goal in the penalty shootout clinched the USWNT’s second World Cup win.

Twenty years later, Markgraf is leading the USWNT into its future. U.S. Soccer hired her as the team’s general manager last week, and Chastain thinks her former teammate is the right woman for the job.

“I'm very optimistic about her position and the changes and the influences that she'll have,” Chastain told NBC Sports Bay Area last week on behalf of Clover Sonoma’s “Strong Inside” campaign.

Markgraf, 42, will be tasked with leading the search for and hiring the next USWNT manager after Jill Ellis announced last month she would step down from the position. Ellis faced criticism for her tactical decisions, but became just the second coach to win consecutive World Cups when the USWNT lifted the trophy a month ago in France.

Chastain said that the talent pool has never been deeper, and pointed to breakout USWNT star Rose Lavelle as “a player that we can build a team around.” But what kind of team Lavelle leads is anyone’s guess, as many aspects of the next Olympic and World Cup cycle are true unknowns until a new manager is in place.

“[It’s] a big question with a lot of variables and without having leadership there, it will be hard to say what the next young players are because we don't know what style we're playing,” Chastain said. “We don't know what our philosophy is going to be. We don't know what our focus will be.”

The USWNT will in due time, but it was clear that Chastain and Markgraf were on the same page about some of U.S. Soccer’s broader goals. Although she had not yet spoken to her former teammate at the time of our interview, Chastain echoed Markgraf in identifying U.S. Soccer’s need to prioritize and streamline development.

Last week, Markgraf told reporters it would be her “whole focus” to do so. That covers a range of initiatives, including continuing to support NWSL -- which is managed by U.S. Soccer -- and also overseeing the youth national team setup.

Along those lines, Chastain thinks Markgraf is well-equipped to improve the sport’s accessibility in underserved and underprivileged communities. Five of the 23 USWNT players to make the trip to France were women of color, and the costs of entering soccer’s pipeline to colleges -- and, eventually, the pro ranks -- often are prohibitive for families outside of wealthy suburbs.

“I think she's been watching other countries around the world and their coming-of-age in women's soccer, and how much they have been influenced by opportunity,” Chastain said. “... I feel that she's seen the growth of women's soccer on a global scale that could potentially influence how we look for players here in this country, and who do we value and how do we value [them].”

[RELATED: How Chastain still inspires 20 years after iconic goal]

Markgraf, who has not served as a general manager before, will have to make these decisions in the shadow of the USWNT’s gender discrimination lawsuit. Mediation between the players and U.S. Soccer broke down late last week, just days after Markgraf’s hiring. The legal fight might not affect on-field performance -- the USWNT won the World Cup four months after suing U.S. Soccer, after all -- but the two sides appear headed to federal court.

Two decades ago, Markgraf’s relative inexperience didn’t show en route to a World Cup crown. And if you ask Chastain, her former teammate won’t show any in her new position, either.