Meet the 2019 USWNT: Julie Ertz

The 2019 soccer Women’s World Cup begins on Friday, June 7 in France. The United States team is the defending champions but their path to repeating is a perilous one. The field is stronger than it ever has been before and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see any of the top ten teams lifting the trophy on July 7.

To help prepare you to root for team and country, we’re going to run a short profile of every player on the 23-person roster. When female athletes take their turn in the spotlight, they often receive coverage that is slanted toward non-game aspects of their stories — marriage, children, sexual preference, perceived lack-of or bountiful sexiness, social media activity, etc. In the hope of balancing things out, just a tiny bit, these previews will strive to stay on the field, with only a little bit of non-gendered personal interest when possible.

Julie Ertz

Position: Midfielder

Club: Chicago Red Stars

Number: 8

National team experience: Ertz has 82 appearances for the national team and has scored 18 goals. During the 2019 SheBelieves Cup, she never left the field.

What I wrote in 2015: She’s a calming and confidence inspiring presence for teammates and fans. The United States often dominates games and so [Ertz’s] main job from her central defensive position is to organize, play passes up to the midfielders, and stay vigilant against any budding counter-attacks. When the team faces tougher competition, as it will during the World Cup, it will be interesting to see if [Ertz] will be able to remain as physically dominant and mentally prepared as she has so far in her career. If she does, there’s no reason to think she won’t play every minute of the World Cup for team USA. Watch for her leaping, aerial runs to the near post on corner kicks and free kicks.

What to expect from Julie Ertz in 2019:  Since the 2015 World Cup, Julie Ertz has been shifted from playing right next to Becky Sauerbrunn as a center defender to playing right in front of her as a defensive midfielder. In the realm of coach Jill Ellis’ much critisized positional fiddling around, this has been the most stable and most easily understandable move. Yes, Ertz was a rock in the back line, playing a big role in the 2015 World Cup win, but she’s been just as stable playing the “number 6” role. It suits her aggressive and competitive play even perhaps a bit better than central defender. As a central defender, your job is mostly to stand at the back and repel anyone who comes at you. As a central defensive midfielder, you’re often matched up one to one, mano a mano (hand to hand, not man to man, btw) with the best offensive player on the other team. That’s the type of direct challenge I can picture Julie Ertz really getting fired up for. In this year’s World Cup, that’s what I’d bet on — Ertz frustrating the hell out of the other team’s best attacker.

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Non-gendered personal interest item: When asked about her ability to score goals on leaping headers by Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl, Ertz responded, naturally, by talking about her aggressiveness. She said, “I just love trying to score, I guess… I’m not backing out, so someone has to…” You might think this is just fluff, unless you have ever seen her play or if you heard the next thing she said, which was “I’ve knocked my teeth out so many times. My mom’s so annoyed at how many times I’ve knocked out my teeth. She wants me to wear a mouthguard … My dentist is my uncle, and our family always jokes that’s one of the best family-member careers that could have been attached to our family, because I’m losing my teeth all the time.” LOL

Links: An excellent profile of Ertz from Allison Glock for ESPN. Plus her Wikipedia page, U.S. Soccer page, and Twitter.

Meet the 2019 USWNT: Crystal Dunn

The 2019 soccer Women’s World Cup begins on Friday, June 7 in France. The United States team is the defending champions but their path to repeating is a perilous one. The field is stronger than it ever has been before and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see any of the top ten teams lifting the trophy on July 7.

To help prepare you to root for team and country, we’re going to run a short profile of every player on the 23-person roster. When female athletes take their turn in the spotlight, they often receive coverage that is slanted toward non-game aspects of their stories — marriage, children, sexual preference, perceived lack-of or bountiful sexiness, social media activity, etc. In the hope of balancing things out, just a tiny bit, these previews will strive to stay on the field, with only a little bit of non-gendered personal interest when possible.

Crystal Dunn

Position: Defender

Club: NC Courage

Number: 19

National team experience: Dunn has 84 appearances and 24 goals for the national team. This is her first World Cup. During the 2019 SheBelieves Cup, she played two whole games at defense and started one game as a striker, replaced by Carli Lloyd in the 87th minute.

What to expect from Crystal Dunn in 2019:  “Crystal Dunn, Defender” is one of the weirdest parts of this year’s team and yet it explains so much. Crystal Dunn is probably one of the world’s best 20 strikers. In 2015, she led the NWSL in scoring. So far this year, she has four goals in three games for the North Carolina Courage. She’s lightning in a bottle. So, why is she playing defense on the national team? One reason is that being one of the best 20 strikers in the world doesn’t help all that much when the U.S. has five or six of those best 20 and several of them are better than you. The second, and perhaps more meaningful reason is that coach Jill Ellis has spent the past four years tinkering with the idea of playing versatile attacking players in the outside defensive positions instead of defensive ones. This isn’t a radical idea (in fact, it was a formative one for people my age, because it’s how the Brazilian men’s team won the 1994 World Cup in the U.S.) but the extent to Ellis’ commitment to it is striking. Dunn is effective at this hybrid attacking defender role. Despite of (or because of) her height, she’s a tough enough tackler to more than hold up on defense, and having another world class attacker sprinting up the wing when the U.S. has the ball should strike fear in opposing teams. She’s the first choice outside defender for the team and should play most of the time during the World Cup.

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Non-gendered personal interest item:  Dunn was universally considered the “last player cut” from the 2015 World Cup team. That was the year she won the NWSL’s most valuable player award and its Golden Boot for most goals scored, which tells you a little bit about her skill and competitiveness.

Links: Here are her Wikipedia page, U.S. Soccer page, and Twitter. Plus an article about her from Sports Illustrated.

Meet the 2019 USWNT: Carli Lloyd

The 2019 soccer Women’s World Cup begins on Friday, June 7 in France. The United States team is the defending champions but their path to repeating is a perilous one. The field is stronger than it ever has been before and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see any of the top ten teams lifting the trophy on July 7.

To help prepare you to root for team and country, we’re going to run a short profile of every player on the 23-person roster. When female athletes take their turn in the spotlight, they often receive coverage that is slanted toward non-game aspects of their stories — marriage, children, sexual preference, perceived lack-of or bountiful sexiness, social media activity, etc. In the hope of balancing things out, just a tiny bit, these previews will strive to stay on the field, with only a little bit of non-gendered personal interest when possible.

Carli Lloyd

Position: Forward

Club: Sky Blue FC

Number: 10

National team experience: Lloyd has played 274 games for the national team and scored 110 goals. During the 2019 SheBelieves Cup, she came on as a sub in the 85th, 87th, and 88th minutes of the three games.

What I wrote in 2015: Carli Lloyd is one of the most powerful soccer players in the world. From her position in the center of the midfield, (although coach Jill Ellis has experimented with her in an outside midfield role), Lloyd works tirelessly on offense and defense. She is noticeably stronger than almost everyone else in the sport… Lloyd doesn’t have the vision, dribbling, or passing abilities of some of her midfield counterparts, but she more than makes up for it with power and determination. Lloyd should play close to every minute of the World Cup this year.

What to expect from Carli Lloyd in 2019:  What Abby Wambach was to the 2015 World Cup squad, we hope Carli Lloyd will be to this one: a great player well past her prime who provides leadership mostly from the bench. While I have confidence that Lloyd will do everything in her power to support the team, I worry because of her position. Lloyd is a central midfielder. Wambach was a striker. Strikers are kind of like an extremity while the central midfielder is the heart of the team. In the 2015 World Cup, Wambach got into games that were essentially already decided and her team was happy to feed her the ball and try to get her some more international goals. Subbing in a central midfielder is more disruptive, even in games the United States has in hand. Lloyd’s style magnifies that difficulty because she plays so differently from the players most likely to start in her old position this year: Lindsay Horan and Rose Lavelle. Both of those players are playmakers – Lloyd is a scorer. If she can’t get any meaningful playing time, will she be able to lead from the bench? If she disrupts the team when she’s in, will her teammates appreciate her?Lloyd’s belief in her own ability to dominate games is still strong, as is her right. What if she refuses to sit on the bench gracefully? Everything will probably be fine on this front, but I still worry.

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Non-gendered personal interest item: Uh, of interest perhaps only to myself, Lloyd is almost exactly the same age as me and went to the same college as I did for the same four years. So, when I write about her needing to age gracefully and not being sure she’s ready for that, am I being a clear-headed blogger or just projecting…?

Links: Here are her Wikipedia page, U.S. Soccer page, and Twitter.

Meet the 2019 USWNT: Becky Sauerbrunn

The 2019 soccer Women’s World Cup begins on Friday, June 7 in France. The United States team is the defending champions but their path to repeating is a perilous one. The field is stronger than it ever has been before and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see any of the top ten teams lifting the trophy on July 7.

To help prepare you to root for team and country, we’re going to run a short profile of every player on the 23-person roster. When female athletes take their turn in the spotlight, they often receive coverage that is slanted toward non-game aspects of their stories — marriage, children, sexual preference, perceived lack-of or bountiful sexiness, social media activity, etc. In the hope of balancing things out, just a tiny bit, these previews will strive to stay on the field, with only a little bit of non-gendered personal interest when possible.

Becky Sauerbrunn

Position: Defender

Club: Utah Royals FC

Number: 4

National team experience: 157 appearances, this will be her third World Cup. She has zero goals (as one would expect). During the 2019 SheBelieves Cup, Sauerbrunn was getting over a knee injury. She missed the first game, player part of the second, and all of the third. This is not typical.

What I wrote in 2015: Becky Sauerbrunn is a prototypical central defender. She’s strong, physical, and totally reliable. If you’re a midfielder, you feel secure knowing that if you make a mistake, Sauerbrunn is right behind you to clean it up. If you’re a goalie, you know you can count on her to keep the front of your net clear… Sauerbrunn has become the leader of the back line… Barring a major injury, we should expect to see Sauerbrunn on the field for every minute of the World Cup.

What to expect from Becky Sauerbrunn in 2019:  Uh… honestly, nothing has changed from four years ago. Becky Sauerbrunn is still the prototypical central defender. The biggest difference this year is the context Sauerbrunn is playing in. Not only have opponents improved but the U.S. team has spent much of the last four years experimenting with playing converted attackers on either side of the defensive line. Sauerbrunn is being asked to do more than ever at the heart of the team’s defense while her wing backs go shooting up the field. If she can solidify the back line the way she did during the 2015 World Cup, that will go a long way to repeating as champions. .

Video:

Non-gendered personal interest item:  As the wonderful soccer writer, Stephanie Y explains, everyone wants Becky Sauerbrunn to score a goal. There was even a plot among her teammates to give her a penalty kick, but Sauerbrunn classically refused. If she gets a national team goal, she wants to earn it. Hard to imagine there will be many opportunities for the most defensive of defenders to score in the World Cup, but as Stephanie writes in her article, “it would be dope.”

Links: A Equalizer Soccer profile of Sauerbrunn plus her Wikipedia page, U.S. Soccer page, and Twitter.

Meet the 2019 USWNT: Allie Long

The 2019 soccer Women’s World Cup begins on Friday, June 7 in France. The United States team is the defending champions but their path to repeating is a perilous one. The field is stronger than it ever has been before and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see any of the top ten teams lifting the trophy on July 7.

To help prepare you to root for team and country, we’re going to run a short profile of every player on the 23-person roster. When female athletes take their turn in the spotlight, they often receive coverage that is slanted toward non-game aspects of their stories — marriage, children, sexual preference, perceived lack-of or bountiful sexiness, social media activity, etc. In the hope of balancing things out, just a tiny bit, these previews will strive to stay on the field, with only a little bit of non-gendered personal interest when possible.

Allie Long

Position: Midfielder

Club: Reign FC

Number: 20

National team experience: 45 appearances, this will be her first World Cup, she has six goals. During the 2019 SheBelieves Cup, Long wasn’t on the team, but she came on as a sub in each of the last two friendly matches before the World Cup.

What to expect from Allie Long in 2019:  Allie Long is one of those classic bitter sweet USWNT stories. A star player in college and for her club teams, Long has always been just slightly below the best players on the U.S. team at her natural position. For Long, that position is central attacking midfield, a position that Carli Lloyd and Lauren Holliday had a lock on for a solid six years. Now that Holliday has retired and Lloyd is at the end of her fine career, Long finds herself again behind two players at that position, this time younger than herself: Lindsay Horan and Rose Lavelle. Blocked at her natural position, like so many others, Long has had to show positional flexibility to make the team. Coach Jill Ellis has experimented with moving Long straight back into either center back or central defensive midfield. Since Long is a wonderful player, strong, physical, excellent in the air, a technically sound passer, she did just fine in those positions… but not well enough to supplant players who have been playing the for longer and have a more naturally defensive mindset. So now she finds herself blocked for playing time behind Becky Sauerbrunn, Abby Dahlkemper, and Julie Ertz instead of Lindsay Horan and Rose Lavelle. No matter what, the outcome is the same. She’s unlikely to see much playing time in France. If she does get into a few games, expect to see her playing in one of the more defensive positions.

Video:

Non-gendered personal interest item: During the off season, Long plays futsal. Futsal is a version of soccer played either indoor or outdoor on asphalt with smaller teams and a smaller, heavier ball. It emphasizes ball skills and quick feet. In the United States, it’s played mostly by Hispanic soccer players.

Links: Here are her Wikipedia page, U.S. Soccer page, and Twitter as well as two profiles by empireofsoccer.com and ABC News.

Meet the 2019 USWNT: Ali Krieger

The 2019 soccer Women’s World Cup begins on Friday, June 7 in France. The United States team is the defending champions but their path to repeating is a perilous one. The field is stronger than it ever has been before and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see any of the top ten teams lifting the trophy on July 7.

To help prepare you to root for team and country, we’re going to run a short profile of every player on the 23-person roster. When female athletes take their turn in the spotlight, they often receive coverage that is slanted toward non-game aspects of their stories — marriage, children, sexual preference, perceived lack-of or bountiful sexiness, social media activity, etc. In the hope of balancing things out, just a tiny bit, these previews will strive to stay on the field, with only a little bit of non-gendered personal interest when possible.

Ali Krieger

Position: Defender

Club: Orlando Pride

Number: 11

National team experience: Krieger just played her 100th game for her country, this will be her third World Cup, she has 1 goals. Krieger was not even on the team’s roster during the 2019 She Believes Cup.

What I wrote in 2015: At 30 years old and going into her second World Cup, Ali Krieger should be a constant veteran presence on the back line for the United States… If all goes well, Krieger will play every minute of this World Cup, holding down the right side of the U.S. defense with confident, consistent play. She’s not quite as offense minded as her counterpart over on the left side of the field, Meghan Klingenberg, but that’s okay, the team has plenty of offensive weapons.

What to expect from Ali Krieger in 2019:  It’s been a weird four years for Ali Krieger. After playing an invaluable part on defense during the 2015 World Cup, and through no apparent fault of her own, she’s barely played at all for the national team. The only reason anyone seems to be able to produce for this is a tactical one. Coach Jill Ellis has spent the past four years embarking on an experiment to see if she can play essentially attacking players in the left and right defense positions and Krieger is a defensive right fullback. If that’s the case, then Krieger’s inclusion on the team can be read as a sign that the experiment has failed, or at least that Ellis feels shaky enough about it that she wants to have a more traditional defensive option on the team in case things go wrong at the World Cup. Krieger is that “break glass in case of emergency” option. Although she’s silky smooth with the ball, her best attributes are defensive positioning and tackling.

Video:

Non-gendered personal interest item:  Krieger recently annoucned her engagement to USWNT goalie, Ashlyn Harris. Yes, this is kind of gendered in a way, but on the other hand, it’s pretty big news to have an out engaged couple on the USWNT. Here’s the always great Cyd Ziegler’s news story on the topic on his website Outsports.

Links: In addition to Deadspin and Forbes obsessing exploring Krieger’s inclusion on the team, here are her Wikipedia page, U.S. Soccer page, and Twitter.

Meet the 2019 USWNT: Alex Morgan

The 2019 soccer Women’s World Cup begins on Friday, June 7 in France. The United States team is the defending champions but their path to repeating is a perilous one. The field is stronger than it ever has been before and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see any of the top ten teams lifting the trophy on July 7.

To help prepare you to root for team and country, we’re going to run a short profile of every player on the 23-person roster. When female athletes take their turn in the spotlight, they often receive coverage that is slanted toward non-game aspects of their stories — marriage, children, sexual preference, perceived lack-of or bountiful sexiness, social media activity, etc. In the hope of balancing things out, just a tiny bit, these previews will strive to stay on the field, with only a little bit of non-gendered personal interest when possible.

Alex Morgan

Position: Forward

Club: Orlando Pride

Number: 13

National team experience: 163 appearances, this will be her third World Cup, she has 101 goals. During the 2019 She Believes Cup, Morgan played almost every minute of every game.

What I wrote in 2015: Morgan is one of the big mysteries of the World Cup… it seemed as though the torch of great American strikers that started with Mia Hamm and was passed to Abby Wambach would be passed neatly to Alex Morgan. Morgan had everything you’d want from a striker. She’s fast, skilled, and opportunistic. Her goal scoring touch was only matched by her ability to put herself in the right place at the right time. Alas, things have not gone so smoothly since then. She’s been beset by a series of injuries, many to a troublesome left ankle, that have left her frequently unavailable to play and less effective when she does play. When healthy, she’s one of the best strikers in the world.

What to expect from Alex Morgan in 2019: Not much has changed in terms of what to expect from Alex Morgan. She is still the mainstay at the front of the United States attack. Four years older, perhaps, but not a step slower and, knock on wood, not hampered by injuries the way she was earlier in her career. There’s a little bit of Sidney Crosby to Alex Morgan’s game. She’s not the most powerful or the fastest or the most technically gifted player in the world, but she’s still one of the best. Over the years, I’ve come to appreciate her game for its relentless scrappy nature. In a game the United States is controlling, your eye tends to gravitate toward other players, but in a close game, it’s Alex Morgan who is going to be making the same threatening runs at minute 88 at the same speed she was making them at minute five. Eventually she finds a way through. When you watch her highlight package below, notice how many of her goals look like she scored kinda just because one of her teammates made a good pass and she plunked the ball into the net. Now know that she scores more goals than anyone else and it becomes clear that the goals look that simple because she’s in the right place at the right time more often than anyone else. That’s an elite skill in and of itself!

Video:

Non-gendered personal interest item:  Morgan is the author of a series of children’s books about, you guessed it, soccer! The first book in the series is Saving the Team. The book’s main character is a 12 year-old who becomes the captain and leader of a dysfunctional soccer team…

Links: Here are her Wikipedia page, U.S. Soccer page, and Twitter.

Meet the 2019 USWNT: Abby Dahlkemper

The 2019 soccer Women’s World Cup begins on Friday, June 7 in France. The United States team is the defending champions but their path to repeating is a perilous one. The field is stronger than it ever has been before and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see any of the top ten teams lifting the trophy on July 7.

To help prepare you to root for team and country, we’re going to run a short profile of every player on the 23-person roster. When female athletes take their turn in the spotlight, they often receive coverage that is slanted toward non-game aspects of their stories — marriage, children, sexual preference, perceived lack-of or bountiful sexiness, social media activity, etc. In the hope of balancing things out, just a tiny bit, these previews will strive to stay on the field, with only a little bit of non-gendered personal interest when possible.

Abby Dahlkemper

Position: Defender

Club: NC Courage

Number: 7

National team experience: 37 appearances, this will be her first World Cup, she has zero goals. During the 2019 She Believes Cup, Dahlkemper played every minute of every game.

What to expect from Abby Dahlkemper: During the 2015 World Cup, the USWNT had a perfect partnership of ice and fire in the center of their back line. Becky Sauerbrunn provided the ice as the prototypical central defender; strong and dependable — never out of position or flustered. Julie Ertz nee Johnston was the fire; aggressive on defense and capable of sudden strikes up the field. When Coach Jill Ellis converted Ertz to a midfielder it seemed like a fit of fancy destined to end in failure. Why break up such an accomplished defensive pairing? Abby Dahlkemper was the reason. Although this is her first World Cup, she’s an experienced professional star, having anchored the defense of the North Carolina Courage during their championship run in 2018. Unlike the ice and fire pairing of 2015, this year’s World Cup squad will have an ice and ice pairing of Dahlkemper and Sauerbrunn. Like Sauerbrunn, Dahlkemper is a defense-first, second, and third defender. I would be stunned if she didn’t play every second of every game during the World Cup, tormenting opposing strikers throughout.

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Non-gendered personal interest item: Dahlkemper would likely be a more well known name to casual USWNT fans if she hadn’t suffered a severe injury in 2016 shortly after being called up to the national team for the first time. She had a septic infection which began in her right foot which spread up her leg to her knee! AGHH!

Links: Read about Dahlkemper’s injury and her unique connection with Sam Mewis. Here are her Wikipedia page, U.S. Soccer page, and Twitter.

Why does the UK have 4 national football (soccer) teams?

Dear Sports Fan,

Currently there is the UEFA European Championship in football (soccer) taking place and the UK has 3 teams participating: England, Wales and North Ireland. It could have been 4 if Scotland qualified. It is the same for FIFA World Cups, the UK always sends four teams to the qualifications.

The UK seems to be the only country in the world which has 4 football teams even though it is considered as one country almost everywhere.

Why does the UK / why is the UK allowed to send more than one team to international football tournaments? Is it actually the same for other sports?

Thanks,
Rob

— — —

Dear Rob,

The United Kingdom (UK) is not alone. There are more than 20 members of FIFA (the primary organization that runs international soccer) that are not independent countries as recognized by the United Nations. For example, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, and the U.S. Virgin Islands compete separately from the United States even though they are U.S. territories. Hong Kong and Macau have their own teams despite being special autonomous regions of China. In addition to the four you mentioned, the United Kingdom has several more teams that fall within its large historical umbrella: Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Montserrat, Turks & Caicos Islands, and Gibraltar.

When I began looking into this question, my assumption was that FIFA liked maintaining a separate sense of what constitutes a “country” than the U.N. because it likes to imagine it is an international organization with power and influence on the level of the U.N. (And maybe this is true to some extent) Then I read Luke Bradshaw’s story of Paul Watson’s quest to bring the tiny island of Pohnpei into FIFA. I discovered that “As a non-governmental organization, FIFA is legally obliged to accept membership applications for states that want to join.” FIFA is allowed to create application requirements and they leverage those to stall applications they don’t like.

Of course, FIFA is not the only organization the runs international competitions, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is another. Unlike in FIFA, the UK sends a single team to the Olympics, not four constituent teams. However, they (almost) never send any soccer teams at all. That’s because they are worried that if they played soccer as the UK in the Olympics, FIFA might rescind their ability to play soccer as individual nations in the World Cup. One exception to this was during the 2012 Olympics which were in London — the UK took the calculated risk of playing soccer as the host and it worked out just fine.

There’s a clear downside to playing separately. Two of the best soccer players in the world over the past decade have never played in the World Cup because of it. Kim Little and Gareth Bale have been superstars in club soccer but haven’t ever been able to shine on the biggest stage of all because they were born in Scotland and Wales respectively and even their skills have not been enough to drag these smaller nations into the World Cup. That will change next year for Kim Little whose Scottish team just qualified last night for the 2019 World Cup in France with a 2-1 win over Albania!

The underlying “why” question remains. Why not play as the United Kingdom? The desire to play for Scotland or Wales or Northern Ireland or England instead of a consolidated United Kingdom must be rooted in national pride and history. It’s maintained by negotiated agreement. The Home Nations agreement between the four regions sets out who is eligible to play for which of them and is much stricter than the general FIFA rules that allow quite liberally for (often Brazilians) to play for all sorts of national teams around the world.

As for other sports, that’s got to be a question for another day!

Thanks for reading,
Ezra Fischer

Happy New Year 2016 from Dear Sports Fan

Happy New Year!!

2015 was a wonderful year in sports and a great year for Dear Sports Fan! Thank you for being a part of this experiment with me. I feel lucky to have been able to share so much of what I was thinking about with you during the past year. Here are some of the highlights of the year. Read to the bottom for a special treat for 2016.

In February, right before the Super Bowl, I published a series of heartfelt and deeply researched articles on the topic of brain injuries in football… and also what the top ten dirtiest sounding football phrases actually mean. In March, the madness of the NCAA basketball tournaments inspired me to share four business lessons one can learn from the sport and also four ways to fill out a tournament bracket if that’s more your speed.

In May and June, I came down with a bad case of World Cup fever and wrote dozens of articles about the 2015 World Cup. My non-gendered profiles of each of the women on the U.S. Women’s National Team were popular, which I was proud of, even if some of the most common search terms for them was “is [insert player name, most frequently Megan Klingenberg] married?” I fleshed out Dear Sports Fan’s coverage of soccer in general and shaped the articles into three email courses which are still available today: Soccer 101, Soccer 201 – Positions and Logistics, and Soccer 202 – Culture. A personal high point was my trip to Montreal to watch the USA vs. Germany semifinal match.

After I moved to the Boston area in the spring, I decided to take Dear Sports Fan into the real world by starting a Meetup group. We’ve had a great time at our viewing parties, watching sports in an environment friendly to questions and welcoming to people who approach sports from all angles.

Throughout the year, I kept an eye out for moments when sports and the larger culture intersect. This has taken serious forms, like when shared my disgust with the drafting of Jameis Winston, and silly forms, like before the Kentucky Derby when I mined the world of musical theater for horse racing and betting tips, As always, the heart of the website has been a desire to make it easier for sports fans and non-fans to co-exist. With the NFL playoffs coming, it’s worth revisiting my thoughts on how a household can survive the football season without going crazy.

As one year comes to a close, another is just beginning. As a token of my appreciation for all the support I received during 2015, here is a New Year’s guide to the top 16 sporting events of 2016!