Gold Cup and NWSL w/ FOX Sports’ Aly Wagner - Men in Blazers

Gold Cup and NWSL w/ FOX Sports’ Aly Wagner

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This article originally appeared in the July 14th issue of our newsletter, The Raven. Subscribe HERE.

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She has 131 USA caps. Two Olympic Gold medals. 21 USWNT goals. 42 assists. Hailing from San Jose, Calif. A former member of the Central Valley Mercury (winners of three straight national titles from ‘96 - ‘98, people). Now, she’s an analyst for both FOX Sports and Lifetime, which acquired the NWSL television rights this season. This summer alone, she’s covered the Confederations Cup, Gold Cup and our domestic women’s league, watching “you don’t want to know” how many hours of football. We’re talking about the one and only, Aly Wagner. In this edition of Three Questions, we ask the former Los Angeles Sol midfielder about Bruce Arena’s boys unimpressive start to the Gold Cup, her favorite NWSL storyline of the season, and, naturally, what it’s like to work alongside Stoner and Alexi.

MiB: Four points out of six for the USMNT to start the Gold Cup. A 1 - 1 draw with Panama in the opener, and then a 3 - 2 win over Martinique. But, for the most part, the team has failed to impress. Give us your big takeaways from those first two games.

AW: After winning the Ghana friendly 2 - 1, I was excited, especially by that Acosta-McCarty midfield partnership. I thought we would run the table in the Gold Cup group stage. But two games in, I haven’t really seen anyone play with the necessary impetus. The players have seemed tentative. That changed a little bit in the second half against Martinique with guys getting forward more, but that drive just hasn’t been there. That said, one thing to keep in mind is that these players don’t play together much. There were eight changes from the first game to the second. So even though a lot of people see this as an audition, it’s really tough to evaluate how players would perform in a more consistent setting.

MiB: That said, who’s made the strongest case to become a World Cup Qualifying fixture ahead of Russia?

AW: Kellyn Acosta is one. I think when he gets surrounded by some other National Team regulars and isn’t forced to shoulder so much of the load, he’s going to be really outstanding. I also think Kelyn Rowe has impressed. He was the one who set up Dom Dwyer’s goal against Panama. And then there’s Dwyer. He works tirelessly to press and hunt. That combined with his constant movement to be an outlet and threat in behind the defense is an asset the team can use up front. Jordan Morris, of course, had two goals in the Martinique game. The U.S. had a lot of the ball in Martinique’s half during the game, and a lot of the players made it more difficult on themselves. But Jordan slowed things down and scored two good goals.

MiB: So much narrative in the NWSL this year. The artists formerly known as the Western New York Flash have quickly adapted to life as the North Carolina Courage. Marta has taken her talents to Orlando. MPino has come back just like we knew she would. What is your favorite storyline so far this year?

AW: Those are all great ones. But I’m going to go with Sky Blue FC’s Sam Kerr. She ranks up there in the top five players in the world. She can single-handedly change games. Her athleticism, her ability to take players on and her understanding of how to unlock defenses with a pass or her movement is exceptional. And she’s just 23 years old. We think of her as older because she started playing for Australia when she was 16. And she’s had some injury problems, so I don’t even think we’ve seen how good she really can be yet.

MiB: In the FOX Studio, who is most likely to fan out and start reacting, let’s say, emotionally, during games. Stoner? Alexi? Fernando?

AW: I would actually have to say me. I start yelling and then have to apologize to the rest of the guys. What can I say, I’m a soccer nerd. The amount of soccer on television is only about 1/10th of what I’ve watched this summer.

Aly and the rest of the FOX Sports crew bring you the USMNT's final Gold Cup group stage game Saturday when Bruce Arena's lot take on Nicaragua at 7 p.m. ET in Cleveland on FXX.