The Afghanistan Women’s National Team

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Modern football is a funny thing. Players are brands. Coaches are heads of state. And a club in China is willing to spend $64 million on Oscar. As Dickens said, portending that Oscar transfer specifically… Best of Times. Worst of Times.

Last week, we spoke with Haley Carter, goalkeeping coach and assistant manager for the Afghanistan Women’s National Football Team. Carter also happens to be a United States Naval Academy Graduate, two-time Iraq veteran, former NWSL goalkeeper for the Houston Dash, and, as she proudly points out, a mother and wife. While the conversation left us feeling even more inadequate than usual, the story she told was one that drove home our long standing belief that football is often the least important, most important part of life. Or as Haley put it so beautifully, “This little speck of optimism in a really chaotic world.”

After our interview, we produced a short digital video about the Afghanistan WNT, its history, the challenges players face, and the hope it provides for women across that nation. WATCH IT HERE.

As Haley says in the video, “The bottom line here is we’re talking life and death to be able to play this game.”

The team’s players are scattered around the globe with roughly a third coming from Afghanistan itself, a third coming from Europe and a third from North America. Despite what Haley called tremendous support from the Afghanistan Football Federation, funding for the team is tight, and they can rarely afford to get together for training camps. As a result, they rely heavily on funding from outside sources. The team has partnered with Soccer Without Borders in an effort to raise money. CLICK HERE for more on how you can help, and more on the team’s story. #Courage

Manchester City Tops EPL Futures, But Manchester United Has Chance to Move

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While Manchester City is moving deeper into minus-money range, Manchester United can show it’s a challenger by winning a rivalry match this weekend.

Riding a five-win streak in the league, Manchester City is the -150 favorite on the odds to win the EPL championship at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. Manchester United (+275) has had the benefit of a soft schedule so far, but manager Jose Mourinho’s men can make a statement during matchweek 8 by winning on the road against rival Liverpool.

Chelsea (+800) and Tottenham Hotspur (+1400) remain the darkhorses.

Although Liverpool (+175) is at home for the aforementioned feature match against Manchester United (+155, draw +235), not having speedster Sadio Mane at winger will limit the Reds’ ability to counter-attack. There is a chance of Manchester United playing shutdown soccer and counting on the likes of Romelu Lukaku to poke in a decisive goal. Knowing the stakes, the under on the 2.5 total is inviting.

There is an even tighter three-way moneyline involving host Burnley (+165) against West Ham United (+175, draw +210). West Ham manager Slaven Bilic is getting close to having his first-choice lineup, but Burnley has been the most cohesive squad and is at home, where it’s been tough since the start of last season.

Swansea City (+110) takes a winless home record into action against sagging Huddersfield Town (+275, draw +210). With both teams scuffling offensively and Swansea F Wilfried Bony (hamstring) being uncertain to play, this smacks of a potential 1-0 game. The total is 2.0.

Manchester City (-650) is home to Stoke City (+1800, draw +750). City has scored four goals in three of their last five matches against Stoke, which means both the over on the 3.5 total and the even-money payout on City covering the minus-2.5 goal-line both look reachable.

Neither Brighton & Hove Albion (+220) nor Everton (+135, draw +205) is inspiring great confidence. Brighton is missing three first-choice players, while Everton has had only two men, Oumar Niasse and Wayne Rooney, score a goal this season. The draw offers almost as much value as a Brighton victory.

And Leicester City (EVEN) hosts West Bromwich Albion (+300, draw +225) in the Monday betting matchup. The Foxes need the three points to get out of the relegation zone, and should be able to set up a fresh-legged Jamie Vardy for a goal.

 

Manchester City remain minus money on EPL futures ahead of visit to Chelsea

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The price on Manchester City in English Premier League outright champion betting remains steady, but doesn’t reflect their latest injury woes. Manchester City are the -110 favourites on the EPL champion futures board at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com, with rival Manchester United coming down to +250.

Chelsea (+500), which coincidentally host Manchester City in the feature game of matchweek 7, have also come down slightly. Tottenham Hotspur (+1400) also pose good value as they continue to get comfortable playing out of Wembley Stadium.

Manchester City have another long-term absence on the back line, as left-back Benjamin Mendy (knee) is out for two months at least. Center-back Vincent Kompany has also been AWOL this season due to injury. Any stumble could cause City’s price to rise.

Chelsea (+175) are the slight moneyline underdogs at home to Manchester City (+150, +245 draw) on Saturday. With Alvaro Morata in peak form and Eden Hazard showing he can run for a full 90 minutes, Chelsea should be good to at least break City’s shutout streak.

With this being the quintessential six-pointer between top-of-the-table teams, a draw might be a zero-sum outcome.

Huddersfield Town (+750) might get exposed by Tottenham Hotspur (-280, +360 draw). The Spurs pulled Harry Kane early in their Champions League match to preserve him for Saturday, and they are even money on the minus-1.5 goal-line. Now that teams have more intel on Huddersfield, they might be easier to break down their resilient defence.

Stoke City (+190) might be a shaky moneyline play at home against Southampton (+150, +220 draw), since seven first-choice players, including four defenders, are banged-up. Southampton, with F Manolo Gabbiadini returning up front, might be good for at least a draw. The goal line is also a pick’em.

West Bromwich Albion (+125), which are on a five-match winless streak in all competitions, host Watford (+255, +205 draw), who are on a three-game road win streak. The under on the 2.0 total is at even-money, indicating belief this might be a 1-0 game either way. Watford will be in their first outing since MF Nathaniel Chalobah (broken kneecap) went down, so it’s hard to predict how they’ll manage without him.

Newcastle United (+390) welcome Liverpool (-150, +295 draw) on Sunday. Their last six matches on Newcastle’s home pitch have had 19 total goals, but the over on the 3.0 total is still even money. Liverpool will push the envelope on the attack with Sadio Mané back from a three-match ban, and they do not defend tremendously well on the road.

Manchester United (-600) face yet-to-score-this-season Crystal Palace (+1800, +600 draw).  Romelu Lokaku is going off at +210 to be the first goal scorer, and there’s a prop that pays +155 if each team scores a goal. Palace have to slot one home eventually, and Man United won’t have their most formidable lineup after playing a Champions League fixture in Russia on Tuesday.