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In-state stalemate, Messi being Messi, and more: Starting Lineup, September 8

by Jason Longshore

Thanks to all of you who are checking out the Starting Lineup each morning. The goal is for it to be a daily starter to your day. Some things to know about what's coming up, some opinions, some fun silliness, a little bit of everything. In terms of live shows, put September 16 on your calendar to join us at REVERB by Hard Rock for a brunch show at 11am to preview the massive Atlanta-Miami match.

1- Loved the intensity of the match last night between Georgia State and Kennesaw State. It ultimately finished 0-0 as both teams had chances for the winner in the second half. As someone who gets to call games for both teams on a pretty regular basis, it was a fair representation of where they are so far in 2023. Both teams have a ton of potential and have shown it at times this year, there's not much to separate them at this stage. Both teams are about to get into their conference schedules and I'm hoping for a successful regular season and a deep run in the conference tournament. (photo credit: Sofia Cupertino)

2- Ecuador made the night difficult for Argentina in Buenos Aires in the World Cup qualifying opening match for both teams. As has been the case so many times over the years in this situation, all eyes turn to Lionel Messi and as he has done so many times he delivered. A free kick for the ages gave Argentina the 1-0 win as they opened defense of their World Cup title won in December. Messi has now tied his good friend Luis Suarez for the most goals in South American World Cup qualifying for his career, with an opportunity to pass him Tuesday in Bolivia.

3- Your trivia answer is Luis Advíncula. The question is, who was the first player sent off during qualifying for the 2026 World Cup. Advíncula received a second yellow right before halftime for Peru on the road in Paraguay. Peru held on for the entire second half, Paraguay took 19 shots in total and forced 6 saves from Pedro Gallese, and the teams finished 0-0 in what will feel like a win for Luis Abram and Peru.

4- Rafael Santos Borré's goal seconds into the second half gave Colombia the home win over their neighbors Venezuela in their WCQ yesterday in Barranquilla. With the expanded format of the World Cup, there has never been a better chance for Venezuela to reach their first finals. They need a bounce back performance at home on Tuesday against Paraguay. It's only game two of eighteen, but it feels like a big one for both teams who will feel disappointed after their first match.

5- Luciano Spalletti makes his debut as manager of Italy today in their Euro 2024 qualifier against North Macedonia. Last year, this was the same opponent that knocked Italy out of the World Cup. Spalletti will be missing two important players after Federico Chiesa and Lorenzo Pellegrini were injured in training. The Azzurri have three points from their opening two games to trail both England (12 points) and Ukraine (6 points) in their qualifying group. England and Ukraine play each other today in Poland, Ukraine is still forced to play its home games abroad due to the war with Russia. England has won all four of its matches so far and demolished North Macedonia 7-0 in its last match.

6- Dutch wingback Denzel Dumfries assisted on every goal for the Netherlands in their 3-0 home win over Giorgos Giakoumakis' Greece. The win puts the Dutch on course for qualifying for next summer's Euro 2024 as they pull level with Greece on points, but have played one fewer match. France also won in the group, 2-0 at home over Ireland, to maintain their grip on first place.

7- Caden Clark will finally be returning to Minnesota in January as the deal was completed for him to join the Loons for the 2024 season. He's on loan from Danish second-tier club Vendsyssel FF through December from RB Leipzig. The move to Leipzig came after a great run with the New York Red Bulls, who had to acquire his homegrown rights from Minnesota before signing him in 2020. The move to Leipzig never worked out and Clark can get his career back on track closer to home, he was born in Medina, MN.

8- The business of the women's game in the US continues to expand with a new entry, the Women’s Independent Soccer League (WISL) that is seeking Division II status from the USSF. WISL managing director Lynn Berling-Manuel said that the six unnamed teams for the 2024 season and five more committed for 2025 already include "a selection of NISA owners" who want to add to their community club portfolio by investing in the women's game. WISL teams will pay annual membership fees rather than upfront franchise fees.

The USL Super League is applying for Division I sanctioning, planning to start with eight teams in August 2024. WPSL Pro's plan is to be a Division III pro league with 10 teams launching in 2025 as an add-on to their existing summer amateur league structure. The National Women's Professional League (sanctioned as Division I) launched in 2013 with eight teams and will expand to 14 teams in 2024.

9- Your updates on Georgia colleges as many were in action last night...

Georgia's women narrowly defeated Georgia Southern 1-0 in Statesboro, Nicole Vernis' penalty in the 19th minute was the difference. 2 quick second half goals gave Mercer a win on the road at Jacksonville, Jada Moorman scored the eventual winner in the 61st minute. Point University's women drew 2-2 with LaGrange College in the non-conference Battle of Troup County match, Bailey Turner's late equalizer for the Skyhawks saved the result for Point. Another in-state 2-2 draw saw Georgia Gwinnett and NAIA #20 Truett-McConnell share the spoils.

Men's NAIA title contender Georgia Gwinnett earned a 1-1 draw in Florida against Southeastern University. North Georgia's men won their second straight match, this time 2-1 at Montevallo, Miguel Romero's third assist of the season led to Michael Walsh's eventual winner.

10- One of the most important hires in Atlanta (and US) soccer history took place on this day in 1966 when the unnamed Atlanta professional soccer team hired Phil Woosnam as its first head coach. Woosnam was 34 at the time and had just finished his fourth season with Aston Villa before taking a leap of faith to join the new league in the US. He took to the job immediately and was the perfect coach, part-time player, and full-time soccer evangelist in Atlanta who desperately needed someone to be able to sell the game. The local media loved him and gave soccer plenty of coverage as a result. He ended up leaving the Chiefs after winning the NASL title in 1968 to try to first save the league, which he did, and then grow the game, which he also did. Phil Woosnam believed in soccer in the United States before almost everyone and worked tirelessly to plant the seeds that are flourishing today.

11- Your Song of the Day is from one of the greatest vocalists of all-time. Born in 1932 in Virginia, Patsy Cline was one of the first country artists to cross over into pop and influenced singers from all genres. Her career and life sadly ended at the age of 30 when she died in a plane crash in Tennessee. She's best known for "Crazy" but this one is my favorite of hers:

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