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Champions League draw, Julie Ertz retires, goalkeeper golazo: Starting Lineup, September 1

by Jason Longshore

Sometimes it's a stretch to declare one group as a Group of Death in a tournament draw, not in this year's Champions League. One of the most difficult groups drawn that I can remember will make the tournament very interesting. All of that and more to get your Friday started in today's Starting Lineup.

1- When PSG was drawn into Group F of this year's Champions League, they hoped the F would stand for fun like a few other top seeds ended up getting. Something comfortable, maybe an interesting trip thrown in, but this F stands for something completely different. PSG, Dortmund, Milan, and Newcastle make up Group F and it's going to be fun for us watching from the outside, but brutal for those trying to survive it.

2- Julie Ertz announced her retirement from the game yesterday at the age of 31. She was one of the critical building blocks of the 2015 and 2019 World Cup winning teams for the USWNT, playing at center back in 2015 and in the holding midfield in 2019. She returned to CB in 2023 after returning to the field less than a year after giving birth to her first son and was part of a defense than only conceded one goal and two shots on target in four games. In her career, the USWNT only lost one major tournament game in which she started (Olympics semifinal in 2021). One of the absolute best to ever represent the US, the epitome of leadership and sacrifice for the team, and someone who gave everything she could to her teams and to the game. Thank you Julie for everything!

3- The transfer window closes in most major European leagues today (Turkey remains open for another week, Saudi Arabia is open for a few more weeks and will have an effect on some European clubs). Liverpool have reportedly rejected a bid worth up to $190 million for Mohamed Salah from Al Ittihad of the Saudi league according to ESPN. Al Ittihad wants to pair Salah with Karim Benzema and his former Liverpool teammate Fabinho. Salah has not commented on the interest, Liverpool have declared that he is not for sale.

4- Keep an eye on Tottenham today as they have left lots to do for the final hours of the window. It looks like they're going to add winger Brennan Johnson for around $60 million. They're trying to sign Conor Gallagher from Chelsea, the Blues declined an offer from West Ham earlier in the window. A bid for CB Lloyd Kelly of Bournemouth has already been declined once. Also, Spurs are trying to offload Hugo Lloris, Eric Dier, Davinson Sánchez, Japhet Tanganga and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg.

5- This one probably wasn't on the bingo card at the beginning of the window. Union Berlin signed Italy captain Leonardo Bonucci on Friday to strengthen its defense ahead its first ever Champions League run. The German club said the 36-year-old Bonucci had joined after arriving on a free transfer from Italian powerhouse Juventus, though it did not disclose the length of the contract.

6- The college soccer season is rolling locally. In women's action, both Georgia (at home to Minnesota) and Georgia State (on the road at Western Carolina) earned draws. Mercer won on the road at the College of Charleston 2-1. Clayton State drew 3-3 with Valdosta State in Morrow. The Lakers' men also opened their season yesterday with a 3-0 win at home over Catawba and will be one to watch in NCAA D2. Plenty of games today with some of the smaller schools opening their seasons this weekend, check out my GA College Soccer list on X/Twitter to keep up with the state programs.

Speaking of the college game, check out this goalkeeper golazo from last night:

7- With international callups still rolling out, Atlanta United will see quite a few faces representing their national teams over the upcoming break. Thiago Almada was called up for Argentina and Efrain Morales for Bolivia for World Cup qualifiers. Giorgos Giakoumakis and Saba Lobjanidze will be reporting to their national teams for Euro qualifers for next summer's competition. Miles Robinson has been called up by the USMNT for friendlies. Peru hasn't announced their squad yet, but Luis Abram would be a strong possibility to be on their roster for WCQ's.

8- Aitana Bonmatí of Barcelona and Spain won the UEFA Women’s Player of the Year 22/23 award yesterday. In what was an incredible season for the midfielder, she led both Barcelona and Spain and won the Liga F (La Liga), Champions League, and World Cup in a trophy-filled season. In her speech after winning the award, Bonmatí said:

“I am very ambitious and always want more. I want to thank Sarina [Weigman, the England coach and winner of Manager of the Year] for her words because Spanish football is not going through a great moment. We have just won a World Cup, but people are talking about other things. As a society, we cannot allow the abuse of power in a working relationship. From Jenni to all the women who suffer the same thing, we are with you. We hope that society improves.”

9- On a busy weekend ahead, here are some matches to set reminders for: Today: Roma vs Milan, 2:45pm, Paramount+ Saturday: Brighton vs Newcastle, 12:30pm, NBC

Saturday: Botafogo vs Flamengo, 8pm, Fanatiz

Saturday: Cruz Azul vs Club America, 11pm, TUDN

Sunday: Rangers vs Celtic, 7am, CBS Sports Network Sunday: Arsenal vs Manchester United, 11:30am, NBC

10- It's a busy soccer weekend locally with Atlanta United on the road in Dallas for a 8:30pm match Saturday night. Atlanta United 2 hosts Cincinnati on Saturday at 5pm in Kennesaw (radio broadcast here on the SDH Network). I'll be on the call for two women's matches on Sunday as Georgia State hosts Ole Miss at 2pm (GSU Soccer Complex) and Kennesaw State hosts Florida (Fifth Third Bank Stadium) at 6pm. You can watch both of those on ESPN+.

11- On this date in 1977, Blondie signed their first recording contract with Chrysalis Records. This is one of my all-time favorite songs, and it's your Song of the Day:

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