Staggering 25.4 Million Witness USA Defeat Japan to Win Coveted FIFA WOMEN’S WORLD CUP 2015 Title

fox-sports-logoAudience Peaks at 31 Million Viewers

USA-Japan is Most-Watched Soccer Match in U.S. History

Vancouver, B.C. – The USA’s emphatic 5-2 victory over Japan in the FIFA WOMEN’S WORLD CUP 2015™ final, America’s first Women’s World Cup championship since 1999, is the most- watched soccer match in U.S. history, according to Nielsen.  The match posted a prodigious 12.9 household rating/share with 25.4 million viewers, and peaked at 30.9 million between 8:30-8:45 PM ET.

USA-Japan final highlights:

–       The 2015 USA-Japan final is the most-watched soccer match in U.S. history, obliterating the previous mark of 18,220,000 set by USA-Portugal during last year’s World Cup group stage match (6/22/15) by +39%.

–       USA-Japan also shatters prior mark for a women’s soccer match, the 1999 Women’s World Cup Final (17,975,000) by +41%.

–       The match beat the audience for the 2011 Women’s World Cup Final, which also featured USA vs. Japan, by +89% (13.5 million).

–       Last night’s match average audience exceeded every game of the NBA Finals, the 2014-15 broadcast season average of every show in primetime, including Sunday Night Football, and the primetime average of the Sochi Olympic Winter Games.

–       Last night’s match delivered the most-watched telecast since the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament championship game on CBS (28.3 million, 4/6/15).

–       43.2 million viewers watched all or part of last night’s final.

–       The audience began at 18.2 million viewers at 7:00PM ET and peaked at a tournament-high 30.1 million from 8:308:45 PM ET.

–       FOX Sports GO set a new record with 232,000 unique streamers.  This was the largest authenticated streaming audience in FOX Sports GO history, besting the previous mark set by the USA-Germany semifinal (166,000 unique streamers).  Women’s World Cup matches now comprise FOX Sports GO’s top 5 most-viewed events ever.

–          Top markets for USA vs. Japan: Kansas City (20.6), followed by St. Louis (20.5), San Diego (19.5), Denver (19.4), Austin (19.1), Seattle (18.3), Washington D.C. and West Palm Beach (18.2), San Francisco and Las Vegas (17.7).  The rating in Kansas City is the highest for any individual market in this tournament.  The previous high was set by Kansas City and St. Louis (9.3) for USA-Germany in the Semifinal.

Note: All comparisons based on single net English language viewership.

FIFA WOMEN’S WORLD CUP 2015™ summary:

–          The 2015 tournament averaged 1.824 million viewers per each of the tournament’s 52 matches across all networks (FOX, FOX Sports 1 and FOX Sports 2), +21% over 1,511,000 averaged on ESPN and ESPN2 for the 32 matches played in 2011.

–           Top markets for all seven USA matches: St. Louis (8.0), followed by Kansas City (7.5), Washington D.C. (7.3), Austin (6.6), San Diego (6.4), Richmond (6.2), Denver and Baltimore (6.1), Norfolk and West Palm Beach (6.0).

–          Top markets for all 52 matches: St. Louis (1.94), Washington D.C. (1.85), Richmond (1.72), Kansas City (1.65), Sacramento (1.64), Baltimore (1.60), Orlando (1.56), Los Angeles (1.54), San Diego (1.51) and Las Vegas (1.50).

— FOX SPORTS —

FOX Sports FIFA Women’s World Cup 2015 Evening Highlights – Sunday, July 5

fox-sports-logoTHIS JUST IN: USWNT Joins FIFA WOMEN’S WORLD CUP TODAY – THIRD STAR SPECIAL Tomorrow at 1:00 PM ET on FOX Sports 1 and available to all on FOX Sports GO

FOX Sports’ extensive coverage of the FIFA WOMEN’S WORLD CUP 2015™ concludes tomorrow with a special edition of FIFA WOMEN’S WORLD CUP TODAY – “THIRD STAR SPECIAL” at 1:00 PM ET on FOX Sports 1. See below for highlights from today’s final match.

TODAY’S RESULTS

USA def. Japan, 5-2, to take the World Cup Championship

MONDAY’S SCHEDULE

1:00 PM ET – FIFA WOMEN’S WORLD CUP TODAY – “THIRD STAR SPECIAL.” FOX Sports 1 & FOX Sports GO

FIFA WOMEN’S WORLD CUP TONIGHT Highlights:

Leslie Osborne says Carli Lloyd is the definition of a big game player:

“She’s worked incredibly hard to get to this point. Her fitness, her leadership – she’s the captain of this team for a reason. She just loves this chip on her shoulder and she wants to prove people wrong and she wants to come up big in every moment she can. She’s just worked incredibly hard and has embraced this leadership role, and the team can always count on her.  Even when she wasn’t having a solid start to this tournament, she actually wasn’t playing well, you never can discount her because she’s always going to come up big.”

Ariane Hingst admits the U.S. defense surprised her:

“In the beginning of the tournament, we were talking about who are the favorites of the tournament, and we would always go, “Oh the defensive lines are the favorites.” Especially in that American line, there were doubts for all of us. They proved us totally wrong.”

Eric Wynalda on what coach Jill Ellis has accomplished after today’s win:

“When this team started to perform the way we were hoping they would and they came out of the gates, they didn’t buy into all of the cynicism that was being talked about, which I was a very big part of because I was frustrated with them. She [Ellis] was still the captain of this ship; she was still having those conversations with players, making sure that everyone was on board. That’s a tough thing to do, to have everybody on board. Now that it’s all over, we are getting to see that. There’s nothing disingenuous about what’s been said about this group. Jill Ellis built this group. She gets all the credit in the world for that. They’ve broken records today. We’ve never seen anything like that, that kind of final.”

Kelly Smith and Hingst on whether Carli Lloyd achieved her stated goal of establishing a legacy with tonight’s win:

Smith: “(Lloyd’s third goal is) the best goal of the tournament and may be the best goal in the history of women’s football. To have the audacity, to have the vision to turn just at the half goal line to see the keeper at the far line, and to have the strength and power in her leg to score that goal it’s such a fulfilling performance. You can see how much it means to her.”

Hingst:  “At the beginning of the tournament we criticized her, we had to, because she wasn’t playing well. This is when a strong personality comes out, you step up when it really matters.  She knew she wasn’t playing well but she progressed, got better and better and had her best performance in the final.  This is how you do it.”

Eric Wynalda on what this win does for Abby Wambach’s status in the game:

“The fact that she had to take a secondary role, which she accepted completely, she made it all about her teammates…As a former athlete, there are a hundred different ways to handle that, and she handled it the right way.”

USA’s WOMEN’S WORLD CUP Championship Match Sets Metered Market Household Ratings Record

fox-sports-logoMM Rating Peaks at 18.3

Fast National Audience Figure Due this Afternoon

Vancouver, B.C. – The USA’s emphatic 5-2 victory over Japan in the FIFA WOMEN’S WORLD CUP 2015™ final, America’s first Women’s World Cup championship since 1999, posted a prodigious 15.2/27 metered market household rating/share (7:00-9:00 PM ET), according to Nielsen.  It is the highest metered market rating ever for a soccer game in the U.S. on a single network, surpassing the previous mark set for the Women’s World Cup final between the USA and China in 1999 on ABC (13.3 mm rating).  Fast national figures are expected later today.

Additional metered market highlights for Japan-USA:

–           Match rating +77% over the 8.6 recorded by ESPN for the USA vs. Japan Women’s World Cup final in 2011

–           The match’s metered market audience peaked at 18.3/31 from 8:45-9:00 PM ET which included the USA’s winning celebration

–           The top 5 local markets for the match:  Kansas City (20.6/35), St. Louis (20.5/33), San Diego (19.5/41), Denver (19.4/36) and Austin (19.1/37)

For more information on FOX Sports’ comprehensive coverage of FIFA Women’s World Cup 2015™, visit FOX Sports Press Pass.

– FOX SPORTS –

ESPN Weekly Enterprise jOURnalism Release

To Tweet:                      

Rice’s Road Back

Outside the Lines (Sunday, 9 a.m. ET, ESPN; 10 a.m. ESPN2; Tuesday, 2:30 p.m., ESPN)

Outside the Lines 25th Anniversary Special (Tuesday, July 7, 7 p.m., ESPN)

rice4Credit: ESPN/Producer Greg Amante

John Barr and Mike Rice

In 2013, then-Rutgers head basketball coach Mike Rice made headlines when video of him physically and verbally abusing his players went viral. Rice’s coaching tactics shocked the nation, cost him his job and changed the way other NCAA coaches have interacted with their teams. Now, more than two years removed from the scandal, Rice is still traveling the road back to redemption. And, as he tells John Barr in an extensive and at times emotional interview, he’s still hopeful that college basketball will want him back.

“When I did see the tape for the first time, I called Mike and said, ‘Well, you know you’re gettin’ fired, right?’”  — Rob Kennedy, president of Hoop Group, on his reaction after seeing video of his friend, Mike Rice, abusing his Rutgers players

“Somebody’s gotta believe in Mike Rice and his changes and things that he’s done to, you know, develop and improve himself.” – Mike Rice on hoping to land a college coaching job

 

Around the World in 7 Days

SportsCenter (Sunday 10 a.m., 11p.m., multiple shows throughout the day)

july 2 2015 week

The grueling World Marathon Challenge – 7 marathons in 7 days on 7 continents  –appeals to the most dedicated endurance athletes. And to Ted Jackson. The spirited 42-year-old Englishman is a husband, father, school housemaster and opera singer. Though he prides himself on nominal training and the virtues of junk food, Jackson competed for a cause and was committed to completing the challenge. Jeremy Schaap reports for SC Featured on Jackson’s remarkable week around the world.

“Absolutely, make it harder for yourself. Anybody can do it if you train.” – Ted Jackson, on why he doesn’t train

“You know, he’s not the fittest man.” Alabama Jackson, Ted Jackson’s daughter

“It was a hammer blow. You just think we have plans, you know and what does this mean?  And if you go on the internet, it’s just doom and gloom.” – Ted Jackson, on learning of his wife’s illness

 

june 18 FR logo

Seen this week on FrontRow

july 2015 holtz wwc

Bob Holtzman with U.S. Women’s National Team forward Alex Morgan.

Bob Holtzman readies for a live shot. (Photo courtesy Bob Holtzman)

Bob Holtzman, SportsCenter’s U.S. Women’s National Team “beat” reporter, has been one of nearly a dozen ESPN reporters in Canada who have provided extensive coverage from each of the participating World Cup teams. He described to Front Row what the experience has been like.

 

Why Lindsay Davenport is Applauding Andy Murray

espnW

july 2 2015 davenport

Former Wimbledon champion Lindsay Davenport, now coaching Madison Keys, hopes that Andy Murray has started a trend in which gender is taken out of the coaching equation. Mark Hodgkinson reports.

 

Sports Reporters

This week’s Panel* (Sunday, 9:30 a.m. ESPN; 10:30 a.m., ESPN2)

Screen-Shot-2015-02-19-at-3.29.19-PM

John Saunders, Israel Gutierrez, Jeremy Schaap, Gene Wojciechowski

*Subject to change

 

FOX-Record 8.4 Million Watch USA Defeat Germany and Advance to FIFA WOMEN’S WORLD CUP 2015 Final

fox-sports-logoAudience Peaks at Over 12 Million Viewers

USA-Germany is Most-Watched World Cup Semifinal Match Ever

Vancouver, B.C. – The U.S. Women’s National Team, driven by a tenacious defense that has posted five straight shutouts and not allowed a goal in 513 minutes, out-flanked top-ranked Germany, 2-0, last night in Montreal, Quebec, to return to the final of the FIFA WOMEN’S WORLD CUP™ for what is sure to be a star-spangled showdown against the winner of tonight’s England-Japan semifinal, on Sunday, July 5.  The upward audience trend witnessed at each advancing stage throughout the quadrennial tournament continued as FOX set yet another record for soccer on the network, with an average audience of 8.4 million viewers, according to fast nationals issued today by Nielsen.

USA-Germany semifinal highlights:

–       The match’s 8.4 million viewers breaks the recent mark set June 26 for the USA-China quarterfinal match (5.7 million) by 47%.

–       The 2015 USA-Germany semifinal is now the third most-watched women’s soccer match of all time, trailing only the USA-China 1999 Women’s World Cup Final (17,975,000) and the Japan-USA 2011 Women’s World Cup Final (13,458,000), dropping USA-China 2015 quarterfinal to fourth, followed by USA-Nigeria 2015 Group Stage (5.0 million, fifth place), Brazil-USA 1999 Women’s World Cup Semifinal (4.9 million, sixth), USA-Sweden 2015 Women’s World Cup Group Stage (4.5 million, seventh).

–       The audience for USA-China on FOX (8.4 million) is +147% better than the audience for the USA’s semifinal match in 2011 vs. France on ESPN (3.4 million).

–       USA-Germany is the most-watched World Cup semifinal match – men’s or women’s -ever in the U.S., breaking the mark set for the Germany-Italy 2006 World Cup semifinal (5.9 million).

–       The audience began at 1.6 million viewers at 6:41 PM ET and peaked at a tournament-high 12.1 million from 8:30-8:45 PM ET. The previous peak audience for the tournament was 8.1 million, reached during the USA-China quarterfinal. The peak for USA-Germany beat the prior peak by +49% (12.1 million vs. 8.1 million).

–       FOX Sports GO recorded a record 166,000 unique streamers.  This was the largest authenticated streaming audience in FOX Sports GO history, besting the previous mark set by the USA vs. Colombia round of 16 match (121,000 unique streamers).

–          USA-Germany is the most-watched broadcast on FOX since the April 1 edition of AMERICAN IDOL.

–          The match provided FOX broadcast network its highest-rated program among Adults 18-49 (3.0) since the season finale of EMPIRE on 3/18/15.

–          Top markets for USA vs. Germany: Kansas City and St. Louis (9.3), followed by Washington D.C. (9.0), Austin (7.8), Cincinnati and Columbus (7.4), Boston (7.1), Detroit (7.0), San Diego (6.9), and New York (6.8).  The ratings in Kansas City and St. Louis for USA-Germany tie for the highest of any individual market in this tournament.  The previous high was 7.8 set by Kansas City for USA-China in the Quarterfinal.

FIFA WOMEN’S WORLD CUP 2015™ summary:

–       The six USA matches on FOX and FOX Sports 1 have averaged 5.3 million viewers, +121% better than the 2011 tournament average through the semifinals (2.4 million) on ESPN.

–       The four USA matches on FOX have averaged a 3.3 HH rating, with 6.0 million viewers.  In the Adult 18-49 demo, the four matches averaged a 2.1 rating, which would place it in a tie for second for prime time programs in the summer season.

–       The 2015 tournament is averaging 1.306 million viewers per match across all networks (FOX, FOX Sports 1 and FOX Sports 2), +45% over 899,000 averaged on ESPN and ESPN2 through the first semifinal in 2011.

–       Top markets for all six USA matches: St. Louis (6.0), Washington D.C. (5.6), Kansas City (5.4), Austin (4.7), Richmond (4.6), Baltimore (4.5), New York (4.4), Hartford, Milwaukee and Norfolk (4.3).

— FOX SPORTS —

FOX Sports FIFA Women’s World Cup Semifinal Highlights – USA vs. Germany

fox-sports-logoFOX SPORTS FIFA WOMEN’S WORLD CUP 2015™ 

SEMIFINAL HIGHLIGHTS – USA v. GERMANY

FOX Sports presents full coverage of the FIFA WOMEN’S WORLD CUP 2015™, including the USA’s dramatic 2-0 win over Germany in the semifinals tonight. Coverage continues tomorrow with the tournament’s second semifinal, as Japan faces England on FOX Sports 1. Coverage begins with FIFA WOMEN’S WORLD CUP TODAY at 6:00 PM ET.

See below for highlights from today’s coverage:

TODAY’S RESULTS

USA def. Germany, 2-0

USA advances to final on Sunday, July 5, at 6:00 PM ET on FOX

Germany plays in third-place match on Saturday, July 4, at 3:00 PM ET on FOX

WEDNESDAY’S SCHEDULE

6:00 PM ET – FIFA WOMEN’S WORLD CUP TODAY, FOX Sports 1

7:00 PM ET – Japan vs. England, FOX Sports 1

(Edmonton – Jenn Hildreth, Kyndra de St. Aubin and Julie Stewart-Binks)

12:00 AM ET – FIFA WOMEN’S WORLD CUP TONIGHT, FOX Sports 1

USA v. GERMANY Semifinal Highlights:

Game analyst Tony DiCicco said this was the USWNT’s best performance:

“This was their best performance. I know there were some controversial calls, but the bottom line is the U.S. was the better team in this match.”

Game analyst Cat Whitehill credits the team’s defense:

“The United States back line and Hope Solo are winning this tournament for this team. The United States is peaking at the right time.

“They made Germany’s Célia Šašić, the tournament’s leading goal scorer, look like an average forward tonight.”

Former USWNT player Heather Mitts credits coach Jill Ellis for her personnel decisions:

“I want to give major credit to Jill Ellis for changing the formation and for the substitutions that she made tonight. Everybody has wanted to see this team play in a 4-3-3, and tonight the players were put in the best position possible to go out there and win.”

Alexi Lalas says the USWNT is poised to win its third World Cup:

“Jill Ellis got it right and deserves a tremendous amount of credit. She passed with flying colors, as did her team, and the colors are red, white and blue. Congratulations to her and her team. We saw Carli Lloyd at the end of the game give an interview and say she’s thinking about bigger things – go out there and win that World Cup. It’s been 16 years, and now, after having taken care of Germany, it is right there in the palm of your hand.

“If they go on to lose in the final, it would be an incredible disappointment considering who they just beat.”

Former German international Ariane Hingst says the USA was the better team:

“The USA definitely had the best tactics today. They showed the best performance, so they deserved to win.”

USWNT goalkeeper Hope Solo spoke with FOX Sports USWNT Insider Jenny Taft immediately following the game about her mindset defending the PK and her team:

“You do what you can. I did the stall tactic. It worked.

“Our back line is incredible. I can’t say enough good things about them. But it’s not just our back line. We have our two holding midfielders playing so much defense. You saw Morgan Brian go up on that set piece, take a hit to the head, almost concussed, and she saved that goal.”

Canadian goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc joined FIFA WOMEN’S WORLD CUP TONIGHT and said Solo’s stalling was the reason Célia Šašić missed the PK:

“Hope did a great job stalling. The time between when she put the ball down and when she took it – she had too much to think about. For me, that was the difference. It’s part of the game. It’s gamesmanship, and as a keeper, you have to do it.”

Hingst says the German team ran out of ideas against the USA:

“Germany faced a U.S. team that was really good defensively, and I’m not just talking about four defensive players on the back line, I’m talking about 11 players on the field. Morgan Brian was essential. She closed the gap in the central midfield. The Germans were out of ideas. They created so many chances in the games before, but in this game they didn’t really have a big chance besides the one penalty kick.”

Lalas says Julie Johnston benefitted from the referee’s lenient yellow card call:

“This is a younger and less-experienced type of player that is having a phenomenal tournament. That looked to be that one moment that was going to live in infamy, and yet things just changed and the soccer gods act in strange ways. She is lucky to have stayed in that game because that was as clear of a red card as I’ve seen.”

For notes, coverage, bios, photography and more, visit the FIFA WOMEN’S WORLD CUP 2015 page on FOX Sports Press Pass.

– FOX SPORTS –

Transcript: ESPN 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup Semifinals Media Call with Julie Foudy and Kate Markgraf

espnW analyst Julie Foudy and ESPN analyst Kate Markgraf – members of the 1999 U.S. World Cup-winning team — answered media questions about the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup during today’s ESPN 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup Semifinals media call.

Audio replay: http://es.pn/1efiXtL

Q: What are your general impressions of the tournament thus far, and U.S. team’s success through the tournament to date.

KATE MARKGRAF:  I think so far, the tournament has accomplished its objectives, which was to expand the field.  We saw eight new teams come in, and although the mainstays are what we saw basically in the quarterfinals — more of the established countries — it did open up the game globally, and the only way that could have happened in increasing exposure was to open up the field.  So that was one objective.

The second objective was to hopefully see some great soccer, and we have seen that.  Specifically in the Germany‑France game, [we saw] the game has evolved quite a bit.  And a side like France who was relatively unknown two World Cups ago is now a team to watch for the next one.

So the game is evolving, and those are two things that have happened.

JULIE FOUDY:  I think if you look at the U.S. team, [they] haven’t played yet to their potential, but [are] getting it done essentially, with winning that group — which was a tough group — and then getting that nice draw after that.

I’m excited to see these last few games, and unfortunately I’m sad to see France go out so soon because I thought they were a beautiful team to watch, and the way that matched up on the side of the bracket.  But I think the draw and the U.S. winning the group obviously worked in [the U.S.’s] favor with the knockout stages and the easier path.  So this will be a great test for them against Germany.

Q: If you were drawing up a game plan for tomorrow’s game, and Julie I know you think the Americans won this one, how would you design a game plan to beat Germany right now?

FOUDY:  If I was drawing up a game plan against Germany, I actually would go in that 4-3-3, which I’ve been talking about, because I like the idea of the U.S. pressing higher.  I like the idea of the U.S. having two attacking central midfielders in Carli Lloyd and Lauren Holiday, which I think both of them playing higher is better suited.  I just think it suits your personalities better, and it also brings Abby on to the field.

I don’t think Abby can play in a two-front.  I think if you play a three front you have her in the game as your target high forward.  You keep her eye, and you put speed around her.  I don’t think that is going to happen, but if they do go in a 4-4-2, which is what I’m suspecting, I’m suspecting as well that they’ll leave Abby on the bench again and go with two faster forwards and then bring Abby off the bench, which I think is the right move.

I think you need pace up front because one of the weaknesses of Germany is their back line isn’t as fast.  Then go with some pace on that outside midfield spot as well.  You have [Megan] Rapinoe coming back in, and I thought Kelley O’Hara did really well on that right‑sided position the other night.  Apparently she’s been training really well, which is why she got the look.  So I would go aggressively and step offensively, step defensively.  But you’ve got to go and grind them and put some pressure on the ball.

Q: You kind of touched on this a little bit, Julie, but obviously with Holiday out last game, Carli was able to get into the attack more with Morgan [Bryan] sitting. How do you think that ‑‑ obviously, I’m assuming Holiday’s going to be back in the starting lineup ‑‑ how is Carli going to be able to keep that role with this lineup kind of going back to what it was?

MARKGRAF:  I would say the Holiday and Rapinoe subtraction was actually addition by subtraction.  I thought the team as a whole improved when those two players went out.  Not so much because the two players that went in for them, but because everyone else stepped up, and it forced [coach] Jill [Ellis] to kind of tinker with the lineup, something that she seems to have been hesitant to do in terms of how that midfield pair position themselves.

She used to have them side-by-side in “two sixes,” is what they call it.  And from what we’re reading is now Carli’s been given the responsibility of more the attacking role, and she’s obviously excited about it judging from her quotes, as well as her inspired play.  So against Germany, which will play three in the middle, they play 4‑2‑3‑1, but for all intents and purposes, it’s a 4‑5‑1, and you’ll see it triangle.  They need to kind of stagger.  If they sit square side-by-side, it’s really easy to penetrate through that line with just the movement that they have, because they run the triangle offense.

They’re able to get at you through multiple passing channels.  So if they’re staggered a bit more…their wide midfielders, they have a chance of stopping Germany in the midfield.  But also it makes Carli sit higher.  So, that’s what I envision is going to happen against Germany, if she decides to go with the 4‑4‑2, which Jill Ellis seems to prefer.

Q: Julie, kind of picking up a conversation we had from last summer with the Men’s World Cup. I’m just curious if you’re seeing a continual gaining of traction? It just feels like it in the States.  But I don’t know because I’m kind of in a soccer bubble.  I’m wondering if you get the sense that this Women’s World Cup is building also is building on it which the domestic league really needs?

FOUDY:  Are you talking about how much traction it’s gaining with mainstream people in the public in this country?

Q: Yeah, like we were talking last summer how crazy it got and there was a whole different feel for soccer in America, and now with the women’s league in that crucial third year or however you want to look at it.

FOUDY:  Right, right.  It’s hard.  I was just having this conversation with Kate, I think, the other day.  It’s hard because, again, we’re kind of in this bubble as well, to gauge how it’s being received.  I mean the numbers, in terms of people watching the games obviously have been huge, which has been great to see.  Especially when you’re not just talking FOX, you’re talking FS1 as well.  Their numbers have been great.

So I think that’s a positive sign.  If you’re pulling in 5 million on FS1 or just about, which is what I think they got, I think that’s a great sign.  And there is constantly conversation now, not just about, oh, this is where they like to shop or these are the things they like to do.  It’s tactics.  It’s what should we be playing.  How come we’re not playing better?  It’s all these questions that you get from people just walking around town of what’s going on or that was better and constant commentary on how they’re playing, which I think is healthy.

So instead of treating it as an anomaly, and wow, what is this?  It’s more, okay, we’re in this and we’re paying attention, so I think that’s all positive.  Hopefully, it will have a positive impact on this critical third year with the league.  The great news is this World Cup creates more U.S. personalities as well, outside of the Abbys, and the Alexes and the Hopes that everyone knows, obviously Meghan Klingenberg, and you’re seeing Kelley O’Hara in there, and Tobin Heath and all the others, Amy Rodriguez are getting some time.  It’s great to see.

Q: Kate, kind of picking up off what you were talking about going back to tactics, it seemed like Kelley O’Hara really opened up the right side, the flank, which the teams seem to need. Can you talk just a little bit about that? What she’s meant to that and going forward how important that might be? 

MARKGRAF:  Yeah, I think that’s a great question.  I think one thing that is different about O’Hara, and how she differentiates herself compared to who she’s playing against for playing time in that role, is she’s not a converted forward like Christen Press, whose first instinct when she loses the ball is not to turn around and chase.  That’s something that if you’re not used to having to do that, it kind of takes a while to learn.

Tobin Heath is very crafty, but she has a tendency to prefer the left side more than the right in terms of getting end lined.  She seems to get end lined a lot more eagerly when she’s on the left than she is on the right.  Kelley O’Hara is the next person we saw in there, and that is someone that, if you tell her what to do, she has the skillset to get to do it as well as if she were to lose the ball.  That’s what I love best, is she would turn and press.  I think that combination of having Carli Lloyd higher and then O’Hara’s intensity was contagious.  And all of a sudden, her ability to lockdown China on that side allowed Ali Krieger to come up.  All of a sudden there are more numbers to advance on that position.

When Krieger got the ball, her first look wasn’t to lump it into the box, which is what we saw in the first couple games, a little more direct, and it was closer so she could hit passes more accurately and she was more inspired to do so because there was such a good shape in front of her.  I think against Germany, you’ve got to terrorize them on the flanks.  They are not fast, and that is a strength of the United States, so you have to exploit it.  And you can’t to exploit them down those wings, especially because they like to push their wing backs, Kemme and Maier, up so high that that’s how you punish them.

That’s how France punished them.  It ended up holding those guys back.  And if those forwards counter attack so swiftly that the United States can do that as well, as long as they start fast players that want to get end line, and are disciplined to get end lined within the game plan.

Q: Kate and Julie, this question is about the other semifinal, Japan and England. Do you think it will even be close? What do you foresee there? 

FOUDY:  I do actually think it will be close.  That is one of the things that Japan has dominated teams and passed them to death almost.  They don’t have a finisher who’s been consistently dangerous in front of goal.  So these small margins of games they’ve been winning by keeps it close.  I think if England can keep it close, then you never know, right?  Especially with this English spirit and the way Lucy Bronze is finishing some of these goals in these knockout stages.  I thought Jodie Taylor, putting her in the starting position and some of the tactical changes England has made have been very good.  I thought Mark Sampson has been pretty bold with a lot of his moves.

So I think it could be close.  If it’s close, then England has a chance.  But I suspect Japan is probably going to win it.

MARKGRAF:  Yeah, I think England has probably been ‑‑ the England squad has been utilized fully in terms of everyone seems ready to step in.  With Mark Sampson outcoaching a lot of the other opponents with his tactics as well as his personnel decisions have been very bold and very drastic compared to what we’ve seen from other teams.

So I think England definitely has a chance if they physically push Japan around a little bit.  And Japan, they kind of just lull you to sleep.  I compare them to a boa constrictor, they slowly suck the game out of you because you never have the ball.  They defend by their attack, and they hold on to the ball so long that that’s their defense.  All of a sudden, when a team wins the ball, they’re in their own half and they have to build out of that, and they have all these numbers around them.  So they’re kind of strangling other teams to death slowly.  But I think England has a chance if they can quickly counter.

I think in that quarterfinal game, England didn’t take the game to Canada at all.  They capitalized on two Canadian mistakes.  So that is something they’re going to have to be a bit more creative with and try to create some chances on their own.

Q: Kate and Julie, what did the win over Germany in 1999 mean within the U.S.’s run to the title? And what did Germany’s win in 2003 mean for their rise to becoming a women’s soccer power?

FOUDY:  I actually think that was probably one of our hardest games [in 1999].  I think that was our hardest game, actually, because we had so many things to overcome in that game.  You had the Brandi own goal.  You have them equalizing or going up, I think, at halftime.

Yeah, it was one of those games I remember it was just hot and humid.  I remember feeling like I had a hole in my heart or a hole in my lung — one of the two — that game and struggling.  But think once we got through that quarterfinal, we knew that was one of the biggest tests.  That’s always such a hard hurdle to get over.  Once we got through that quarterfinal, you were only one game away from the final, of course.  It was just this sigh of relief of, okay, because we knew just how good the Germans were.  So I’d say that was one of the hardest games of ’99.

I’ll let Kate speak to 2003 because I’m still scarred by it.

MARKGRAF:  That and she wants to avoid the Germany part.  In 2003 I think the game evolved in 2003 specifically because of Germany because it was the first time a women’s side had effectively utilized four lines.  So they were already starting to toy with this 4-2-3-1, and I remember we lined up in a 4-3-3 or 4-4-2, and because they had an additional line that that person was sitting in they basically always had someone sitting in between two lines.  So they always had an easy passing option, and we had no idea how to defend that.

So even though we were only down 1‑0 at the half, they were just outplaying us.  I remember I was starting at a left outside back, and I always had two to three people that were passing options every time my player got the ball or someone came up.  I literally as a defender, I was always on an island because they just kind of surrounded me.  And that’s kind of what you see now.

That was borrowed from the men’s game, right, and it finally started to transition to the women’s game where Germany showed everyone how to do it, and that’s what you see a lot of sides now.  We just play a 4-3-3, we never thought about making it a 4-5-1, and on defense having those two forwards drop back.  That’s what Germany did in terms of style, and for them, it just helped bolster the federation, and they got money from it and they put it right back into their league.

Germany’s probably arguably maybe one of the best leagues in the world.  Maybe better than the United States in the sense that it’s more unified, so that all the teams are connected with their federations.  So basically all the players are kind of playing the same positions or had the same role responsibilities within the positions.  They’re playing the same tactics and same formation, so when they go into the National Team, if they get called up, there isn’t this huge learning curve because they have to learn a new formation or a new style of play or have the different responsibilities than they had on their club team.

So always the United States will have bigger hurdles and unifying their game compared to other federations, but specifically against Germany.  So that was a huge win for them.

I had a couple of teammates from the first league iteration, and it was great to see them win because they played such great soccer.

Q: Regarding one of our local players in the pro team, Christen Press. She really has a more permanent role from the beginning of the tournament and we’ve seen less of her. I wanted to get your thoughts on how her tournament has gone, and has she lived up to the expectations that you guys had for her? 

FOUDY:  Well, I think you saw what you can get from Christen Press in that first game when she scores that important goal, and a nice one.  And that’s the thing with Press, is you want her in front of goal because every time you talk to a player or a staff member on the U.S. Team they’ll say she is the purest finisher.  She can strike a ball like we’ve never seen.  She can strike it with both feet and just how good she is in front of goal.

I think the challenge for Press going forward is that she’s got to be an impact player even when she’s not in front of goal.  Meaning, is she making a difference offensively getting in line?  Is she making a difference defensively by getting stuck in on tackles and working both sides of the ball?  And I think when she can bring that consistency, because we know what she can do in terms of goal scoring when she gets close.  But if she can bring that consistency of really getting in line and making an impact in games and turning players and taking on and doing that on both sides, then I think she’s going to get more minutes.

Q: Do you think Julie Johnston has been the breakout player or the MVP? What stands out as being so superlative?

MARKGRAF:  I think what has to be said when we talk about Julie Johnston is that she’s extremely lucky to play next to Becky Sauerbrunn, and that’s not to take away anything that she’s doing because she’s playing great, but Becky Sauerbrunn holds down the fort.  When you know you have no responsibility other than to show up and play and do what you want to do, then you are the freest person on there.  Becky is organizing everybody.  Becky is making sure that Klingenberg comes back and that Johnston’s on the same line and she’s reading the passing angles and holding the line and telling them when to drop.

And Julie is very similar to the role that I had in 1999 where I dropped into a position where I could just play, and it was so easy, to be honest, because you can just go and have fun and you don’t quite have the pressure that the person next to you does.

But where Julie is really killing it, to me, is just what she brings offensively.  Because now if you are a defender on a set piece, you’re not only worried about Carli Lloyd and Abby Wambach, if Wambach is in the game, now you have a third person you have to mark.

So that makes the U.S. attack very unpredictable on who their target really is because arguably Julie is just as dangerous in the air as Lloyd.  And then if you add Leroux in there and all four of those players on the field, that’s four players you have to mark because they’re all really good in the air going forward.

So Julie Johnston has been a breakout star, but a lot of that is because she’s free to do what she wants because of Becky Sauerbrunn.

Q: I was wondering, someone had mentioned earlier the success of Germany in 2003 and pouring money back into the women’s league there, and given sales growth here, how much this kind of match and how much deeper into the tournament might help to springboard to help the league here especially given the great TV ratings so far?

FOUDY:  I think it absolutely will help, especially if the U.S. can get through this Germany semifinal, and especially if we can see the U.S. team that we all know is there and that’s playing more fluid, offensive soccer as well.  You know, that is the thing I think that you heard so much early on in the tournament about their offensive struggles and the reason for that is because you know it’s there.  You have all this talent.

So I think that will obviously help the league if they can not only win this Germany game, but do it in a style like Americans are like — I want to see that on a weekly basis.  Because the numbers that are watching are great, but translating that to a weekly basis is always the biggest challenge, of course.  That we’ve seen with the past leagues.

But I just feel this league is in a better place as well.  It’s got all the Americans back here playing.  You’ve got the support of the federation.  You’ve got MLS owners who are in it right now, and I think going forward you’re just going to see more and more ownership interest from parties that get this is really an untapped market that if they tap into can eventually get a return on.

Q: I’d like to hear from both of you, just an assessment of Alex Morgan?

MARKGRAF:  I think she has improved game by game, and improvement in just how her body is holding up minute after minute, because she’s been off for a while.  So the last thing to come back is your confidence.  But how it starts to build that is by being able to make that intense run at the 61‑minute mark when you could previously only get to 59.

So she’s starting to get her fitness and her strength back.  I think the biggest thing about Alex Morgan is her agility.  She’s very difficult to knock off balance running at speed with the ball, and you’re starting to see that come back.  Even though maybe she’s not the same player yet, but she has been in some of the ‑‑ in 2012 and 2011 [form] — because of her injury, just having her on the field is impactful because defenses don’t know if she’s back yet.

And it doesn’t matter if the United States is being beaten stylistically or being dominated.  Alex Morgan is the type of player that she just needs a half chance and she can convert that.  We haven’t quite seen it at that level, but you’re starting to see the impact she has with how she set up both those goals or have a part in the first goal in the Colombia game.  Even though the United States was never in danger of losing it, they weren’t able to create much either except when she started to have space in that second half.

We got to see what she was able to do with her intelligence runs and movement.  So she’s getting better every single game, but that’s how you have to measure her success right now because you can’t compare who she was if she’s a hundred percent healthy because that takes time.

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New York City FC vs. New York Red Bulls Headline MLS Rivalry Week Sunday on ESPN

Extensive cross-platform coverage of MLS Heineken Rivalry Week on ESPN; New York rivalry is one of seven regular season MLS matches moving to ESPN

ESPN will present Major League Soccer’s only intra-city rivalry match on Sunday, June 28, when New York City FC, led by 2010 FIFA World Cup champion and former Barcelona striker David Villa, hosts 2014 MLS Golden Boot winner Bradley Wright-Phillips and the New York Red Bulls at Yankee Stadium – one of the topline matchups in the “MLS Heineken Rivalry Week.” The match telecast, initially scheduled on ESPN2, moves to ESPN and will begin at 4:30 p.m. ET with a 30-minute pregame show. ESPN Deportes and ESPN Deportes Radio will also carry the match live; radio coverage begins at 4 p.m.

Adrian Healey and Taylor Twellman will call the match in English on ESPN, joined by college sports reporter Allison Williams, in her first assignment as a Major League Soccer sideline reporter. Robert Sierra and Manu Martin will handle Spanish-language commentary on ESPN Deportes. The match will be available on WatchESPN.

Highlights of MLS Rivalry Weekend content on ESPN:

NYC FC-NY Red Bulls Match Production:

  • 30-minute pregame show with Healey, Twellman and Williams focusing on the budding NYC FC/NYRB rivalry;
  • A camera will be embedded with the supporter groups of each club – NYC FC’s Third Rail and NYRB’s Empire Sport Club and Viking Army – leading-up to the match to capture pregame festivities, transportation to the Bronx, and the march to Yankee Stadium. Footage will be featured in pre-match segments and highlighted throughout the telecast;
  • Mike Petke, former New York Red Bulls head coach and player, will be a guest at halftime;
  • ESPN FC Boot Room Extra – Live, digital post-match program with Healey, Twellman and Petke on ESPN3 immediately following the match.

SportsCenter:

  • On Friday, June 26, the 3 p.m. ET edition of SportsCenter on ESPNEWS will feature a live, in-studio interview with New York City FC midfielder and U.S. National Team player Mix Diskerud;
  • Preview segments with Twellman on Sunday morning SportsCenter editions (ESPN, 10 a.m.);
  • Post-match highlights and commentary from Yankee Stadium on Sunday night shows.

ESPN FC on TV:

  • Diskerud will be a guest on ESPNEWS, Friday, June 26, at 11 p.m. (re-airs on ESPN2, 1 a.m.);
  • Preview segments and guest (TBD) interview on Saturday, June 27 (ESPN2, 11 p.m.);
  • Extended post-match coverage Sunday (ESPN2, 12 a.m.) with commentary from the match site by Healey and Twellman, as well as fan-generated content captured during the match.

ESPNFC.com:

  • The digital soccer news and information hub will feature a primer on each matchup of MLS Rivalry Weekend;
  • David Hirshey essay about the big NY-NY match from the New York City FC point-of-view;
  • “Insider” video segments leading-up to the NYC FC/NYRB match including game-day coverage from Yankee Stadium (analysis, interviews and more).

Seven MLS Matches Moved to ESPN

Beginning this week with MLS Rivalry Weekend, seven Major League Soccer matches initially scheduled for ESPN2 will now air on ESPN. In addition to the network change, two of the seven match windows – both during MLS Heineken Rivalry Weeks – have been expanded to include 30-minute pre-game shows (June 28 and August 30). The start times for two matches (July 12 and August 23) have been moved to 3 p.m. MLS matches now scheduled for ESPN:

Date Time (ET) Match Platform(s)
Sun, Jun 28 4:30 p.m. MLS Sunday Pre-game Show – #RivalryWeek ESPN
  5 p.m. New York City FC vs. New York Red Bulls ESPN, ESPN Deportes, ESPN Deportes Radio***
Sun, Jul 12 3 p.m. New York City FC vs. Toronto FC ESPN, ESPN Deportes
Sun, Aug 23 3 p.m. Los Angeles Galaxy vs. New York City FC ESPN, ESPN Deportes
Sun, Aug 30 4:30 p.m. MLS Sunday Pre-game Show – #RivalryWeek ESPN
  5 p.m. Seattle Sounders vs. Portland Timbers ESPN, ESPN Deportes
Sun, Sep 20 5 p.m. Portland Timbers vs. New York red Bulls ESPN, ESPN Deportes
Sun, Sep 27 5 p.m. Sporting Kansas City vs. Seattle Sounders ESPN, ESPN Deportes
Sun, Oct 18 5 p.m. TBD – MLS Flex Schedule ESPN, ESPN Deportes

*** – ESPN Deportes Radio starts at 4 p.m. 

– 30 –

ESPN Releases 2015 Body Issue Roster

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Bryce Harper, Kevin Love among 24 in Mag’s annual Body Issue

Bryce Harper‘s on-field body of work this season includes a .345 batting average and 24 home runs.

The star Washington Nationals outfielder’s off-field body of work includes a wish fulfilled: Harper is one of 24 athletes in the ESPN The Magazine Body Issue, online on July 6 and on newsstands July 10.

“I’ve always wanted to do the Body Issue,” Harper said. “I want to put baseball out there.”

Harper is joined by NBA stars Kevin Love of the Cleveland Cavaliers andDeAndre Jordan of the Los Angeles Clippers, New York Giants wide receiverOdell Beckham Jr., two-time WNBA All-Star Brittney Griner, USA women’s soccer star Ali Krieger, Olympians Aly Raisman and Natalie Coughlin, and newly crowned French Open champion Stan Wawrinka.

“I’m proud of my body, I’m proud of my sport, I’m proud of being a professional athlete,” said Krieger, whose team is currently in the knockout rounds of the Women’s World Cup. “Being naked is just another aspect of that.”

This is the seventh annual edition of the Body Issue. It will include photos, personal interviews and videos of the athletes, including NHL star Tyler Seguin and three members of the Indianapolis Colts offensive line: Anthony Castonzo, Todd Herremans and Jack Mewhort.

“I’ve always been a big kid,” said the 23-year-old Mewhort, who is listed at 6-foot-6, 308 pounds. “That’s why when I got this call I was like ‘they want to see me naked?’ I thought I was getting Punk’d.”

Others in the issue include professional wakeboarder Dallas Friday, rugby player Todd Clever, skateboarder Leticia Bufoni, golfer Sadena Parks, archer Khatuna Lorig, soccer player Jermaine Jones, U.S. Olympians Paige Selenski (field hockey), Amanda Bingson (hammer) and Chantae McMillan (heptathlon), along with the husband-wife team of surfer Laird Hamilton and former beach volleyball player Gabby Reece.

“Our goal is to continue to evolve the issue year after year,” ESPN The Magazine and ESPN.com editor in chief Chad Millman said. “The ability to capture both the strength and vulnerability of these extraordinary athletes through such powerful images and introspective interviews is incredibly moving.”

“One of the things I love about the Body Issue so much is that it celebrates the bodies that allow us to be successful in our sport,” said Coughlin, who has won 12 Olympic swimming medals. “As a sports fan, I love seeing the differences in body types.”

Video http://es.pn/1Gv8O2B

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Media Contact:  Carrie Kreiswirth

 

ESPN Weekly Enterprise jOURnalism Release

 A Father’s Legacy

 june 18 SCFeatured SportsCenter (Sunday, 10 a.m. and 11 p.m. ET)

june 18 2015 SCF frates

This Father’s Day, the catalyst behind last year’s miraculous Ice Bucket Challenge is celebrating a new phenomenon. Pete Frates is now the father of a baby girl named Lucy. While ALS has left him physically limited, it has not stopped him from enjoying every second of fatherhood. Pete’s own father, John, passed down a legacy of strength and perseverance by example. They have now forged a new bond through their mission of ALS awareness, traveling cross country in search of a cure. SC Featured finds Pete passing on his own legacy, to his daughter, as Tom Rinaldi reports.

“Becoming a father has been the greatest gift of all. When I am feeling down or sick all I need to do is look at her little face and I immediately feel better.” – Pete Frates

I think it comes down to one word, and that’s legacy… You want to leave your legacy in a better position than you carved in this world.” – John Frates   

 Still Fighting

OTL 25th logo 1Outside the Lines (Sunday, 9 a.m. ESPN; 10 a.m. ESPN2)

june 18 2015 box1Credit: ESPN/Producer Willie Weinbaum

Magomed Abdusalamov with his wife Bakanay Abdusalamova holding their youngest daughter

In an award-winning February 2014 report, Outside the Lines examined the story of heavyweight contender Magomed Abdusalamov, whose devastating brain injury three months earlier nearly killed him and raised serious questions about the treatment he received. Now the severely disabled former fighter and his wife, the parents of three young girls, confront profound challenges every day. John Barr reports.

“Our oldest more or less understands what happened to him. She seems to have accepted it and she’s waiting for her dad to get better. The middle one is always asking, when will her dad be back, she even made him a birthday card, ‘Daddy, I miss you, you’re the strongest’. It’s like she’s waiting for that other dad to come back.” Bakanay Abdusalamova, Magomed Abdusalamov’s wife, on how their two oldest daughters (ages 9 and 6) are reacting to their father’s condition

“The man’s face was horribly disfigured. He was making all classic complaints that would be consistent with potentially having a brain injury. And then they abandoned the guy, didn’t put him in an ambulance whereby he would have gotten immediate care once he did get to the hospital that night.”  — Paul Edelstein, Abdusalamov’s family attorney, on the civil lawsuit accusing New York State Athletic Commission doctors of negligence and medical malpractice.

june 18 FR logo

FrontRow’s latest “Beyond The Story” entry:

june 18 harris pool

Several ESPNers explain how the Golden State Warriors’ Harrison Barnes became ESPN’s NBA Finals social media MVP by providing virtually all-access content across various platforms for his fans.

After World Cup Elimination, Ivory Coast Coach Makes Case for More

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june 18 w soccer

Inspired by her players despite a 31 loss to Norway and elimination from the FIFA Women’s World Cup, coach Clementine Toure wants more funding to help Ivory Coast’s preparation and development. Andrea Canales reports.

 Are Fans Fantastic? Producer Goes from Pictures to Prose to Report

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First-time author Justine Gubar (far right) was a guest on Outside The Lines to discuss fan behavior

ESPN producer Justine Gubar talks about hooliganism, alcohol, over-the-top parents and the double standard for policing sports riots and protest riots when discussing her debut book  FANATICUS: Mischief and Madness in the Modern Sports Fan released this week.

Sports Reporters

This week’s Panel* (Sunday, 9:30 a.m. ESPN; 10:30 a.m., ESPN2)

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Mike Lupica guest host, Howard Bryant, Israel Gutierrez, Bob Ryan

*Subject to change