Soccer

With Heather O'Reilly set to retire, USWNT teammates honor all-time great

With Heather O'Reilly set to retire, USWNT teammates honor all-time great

As U.S. Women’s Soccer star Heather O’Reilly steps into international retirement Thursday night, her soon-to-be former teammates are jumping at the chance to honor O’Reilly one last time.

"She’s the best teammate I ever had,” said Ali Krieger, who has played alongside O’Reilly on the USWNT since 2008. “She’s such an inspiration for so many young athletes, but also for us – her current teammates and the players in the National Women’s Soccer League. She’s been a legend.”

O’Reilly will end her 15-year international career when the U.S. Women face Thailand in Columbus, Ohio on Thursday night.

“She’s motivated me and I know my teammates to want to better themselves every single day,” Krieger said of O’Reilly’s legacy on the national team. “That is something that she can leave us. I’m so happy for her, I’m really proud of her and she continued to inspire me every single day. I wish her all the best and I’m going to miss her like crazy.”

Of all O’Reilly’s teammates, few can appreciate the retiring legend quite like Krieger. The two often featured together on the right side of the U.S. formation, Krieger in defense and O’Reilly just ahead of her in midfield, resulting in a bond that will last beyond their playing days.

“We always say ‘right side – strong side’, so we’re going to hold on to that forever,” Krieger said with a smile. “She’s one of my best friends on the team and I support her decision.”

O’Reilly’s decision was likely made easier by the changing landscape of the national team. After seeing her minutes dwindle during last summer’s successful World Cup run, the 31-year-old veteran was left off the U.S. Olympic Team in August instead traveling to Brazil as an alternate.

Despite that, O’Reilly’s career compares favorably to pretty much every other U.S. international. O'Reilly made her senior international debut while still in high school, and her 230 appearances rank seventh all-time in U.S. Women’s National Team history. 

“It’s so much more than the player that she is and what she’s done for the national team,” said U.S. Women’s National Team forward Crystal Dunn. “It’s her – the person – that I’m going to miss seeing in camps and chatting it up.”

Though they didn’t overlap in Chapel Hill, both Dunn and O’Reilly played collegiately for North Carolina. Thanks to that Tar Heel connection, the duo trained together frequently even when not with the U.S. team.

“She was just one of those people that I looked up to,” Dunn added. “She would kick my butt every single day and I was so in awe that she would go out of her way to help make me better."

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FC Dallas withdraws from MLS is Back tournament after 10 positive COVID-19 tests

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FC Dallas withdraws from MLS is Back tournament after 10 positive COVID-19 tests

FC Dallas has withdrawn from the MLS is Back tournament in Florida after 10 players tested positive for coronavirus.

The league said Monday that of the 557 players sequestered at a pair of Walt Disney World hotels, 13 have tested positive: 10 from Dallas, two from Nashville and one from Columbus. Additionally, a Dallas coach also tested positive.

“The decision to have them not participate in the tournament is in the best interests of everyone, of the Dallas players and the other 25 teams, and allows us to continue to manage the health and safety of our players while continuing to go forward with our plan,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber told The Associated Press in a telephone interview on Monday.

Apart from the health and safety aspect, the number of positive cases also meant that Dallas could not play competitive games.

“As we continue to focus on the well-being of our players, coaches and staff who are in isolation in Orlando, we understand it is not in their best interests to compete at this time,” coach Luchi Gonzalez said in a statement. “While we’re disappointed, the health and safety of our traveling delegation as well as our league partners is our highest priority.”

FC Dallas announced last week that six players had tested positive upon arrival in Florida for the tournament, and the entire team was quarantined. As a result, the team’s opening match on Thursday against the Vancouver Whitecaps was postponed.

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With Dallas' withdrawal, Major League Soccer was devising a new schedule for the monthlong tournament, to be played without fans at ESPN's Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney World.

The tournament is still set to open Wednesday with a nationally televised match between Orlando City and expansion Inter Miami.

Also on Monday, LAFC forward Carlos Vela opted out of the tournament out of concerns for his wife, who is expecting their second child.

“I always want to give everything I have to my club, our fans and supporters and the city of L.A.,” Vela said in a statement. “However, it is in the best interest of the health of my family to stay home and be with my wife during what is a risky pregnancy."

MLS shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic on March 12 after teams had each played two games.

Garber vowed to stop the tournament if warranted.

“If there is a situation at any time that I believe that the protocols aren't working, and the health and safety of our players is at risk, then I will make the decision to shut down the tournament," Garber said. "That is something I committed to the players and to our entire league early on. But this is proving that our protocols worked and our plan so far has been sound.”

FC Dallas previously revealed that all players and staff tested negative for the coronavirus before leaving for the tournament on June 27. Upon arrival, two players tested positive. Subsequent tests found four more players infected with the virus that causes COVID-19.

“We absolutely agree with the league’s decision to withdraw FC Dallas from the MLS is Back Tournament out of safety concerns for our players and staff,” FC Dallas President Dan Hunt said. “We’re looking forward to resuming the 2020 season once the entire club is healthy and in position to play competitive matches at the highest level.”

The league said no other team was in contact with the FC Dallas delegation. League protocol requires players and staff to be tested every two days upon arrival in Florida.

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Washington DC launches bid to host 2026 FIFA World Cup matches

Washington DC launches bid to host 2026 FIFA World Cup matches

It’s still six years out, but Washington, D.C. is making a push to bring the 2026 FIFA World Cup to the nation’s capital.

With North America selected as the location of choice for the 2026 World Cup rather than one country in particular, D.C. officials announced Tuesday their intention to make Washington one of the 16 host cities for the 80-match tournament.

“Right now, as countries around the world continue to respond to this pandemic, the 2026 FIFA World Cup is something we can all look forward to,” D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said in a statement. “And when the tournament comes to North America, it only makes sense for DC — the Sports Capital and District of Champions — to host. We are already a city united by the game, and in 2026, we look forward to uniting the world.”

According to The Washington Post, 10 cities from the U.S. are expected to land matches for the tournament with Canada and Mexico splitting the other six. It will be the first time in World Cup history that the tournament will be shared by more than two countries.

The District established a group called DC2026, which announced a 40-member advisory board that includes D.C. United goalkeeper Bill Hamid, three-time MLS champion Eddie Pope, Washington Spirit stars Joanna Lohman and Andi Sullivan, two-time gold medalist Brianna Scurry, EventsDC chairman Max Brown, chef José Andrés and D.C. United general partner Gregory O’Dell.

“As a native Washingtonian, I am proud to be a Co-Chair of DC’s official bid committee to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup,” Hamid said in a statement. “I could not think of a more vibrant, inclusive or passionate soccer city to host FIFA World Cup matches in 2026. With our deep soccer roots and diversity, the culture of our city gives us our foundation to successfully highlight the matches and leave a lasting impact on the future of the game.”

DC2026 plans to tout D.C.’s “unparalleled roots to the sport of soccer and world-class hosting capabilities” as part of its pitch. In a three-page press release, the group laid out advantages such as the metro system and three local airports that would allow it to host the increased number of tourists.

The city last hosted the World Cup in 1994, when it made RFK Stadium one of nine U.S. venues for the tournament. It’s also held Olympic soccer games (1996) as well as the 1999 and 2003 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

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