Hello! Between the Champions League round of 16, the start of the USWNT's Concacaf W Gold Cup journey and the beginning of the MLS season, it's an exciting week to be a soccer fan. I'm Pardeep Cattry with a midweek check-in on the latest.

📺 Footy fix

All times U.S./Eastern

Wednesday, Feb. 21
🇪🇺 UCL: Napoli vs. Barcelona, 3 p.m. ➡️ CBS, Paramount+
🇪🇺 UCL: Porto vs. Arsenal, 3 p.m. ➡️ Paramount+
🇺🇸 MLS: Inter Miami vs. Real Salt Lake, 8 p.m. ➡️ Apple TV+

Thursday, Feb. 22
🇪🇺 Europa League: Rennes vs. AC Milan, 12:45 p.m. ➡️ CBS Sports Network, Paramount+
🇪🇺 Europa League: Roma vs. Feyenoord, 3 p.m. ➡️ CBS Sports Network, Paramount+

⚽ The Forward Line

🇺🇸 Purce, Moultrie shine in USWNT's Gold Cup win


The U.S. women's national team kicked off their Concacaf W Gold Cup campaign with a 5-0 win over the Dominican Republic on Tuesday night in a match that was very much focused on the rebuild. Though the team reverted to the 4-3-3 that was commonly used under Vlatko Andonovski, the lineup was made up in large part by players who are yet to be considered a lock for the Olympics roster, and a few rose to the occasion.

18-year-old Olivia Moultrie marked her first start with a brace, while Lynn Williams also got on the scoresheet and Jenna Nighswoner and Alex Morgan scored late penalties. Moultrie was undoubtedly a standout player last night as was Midge Purce, who notched two assists. Purce said post-match that the performance reflected the USWNT coaching staff's aim to improve the team's offensive output, as well as her own growth as an attacker.

  • Purce: "We worked a lot tactically about getting into those spaces and getting into the one-v-one zone and making a lot more tactical goals in the sense where like we want tap-ins, we want easy goals, like, easy finishes in the goal zone. So, I think [interim head coach Twila Kilgore] did a really good job of making sure we're all on the same page. I think the next step for me was prioritizing playmaking more than getting that final touch on the goal. I mean, I want to score goals, I don't know what forward doesn't. But I think the evolution of a good winger is to create for their nines and create for other forwards. So, that's what I'm really focused on right now."

The player's strong showing comes after an impactful 2023 NWSL season with NJ/NY Gotham FC, with whom she scored four goals and recorded four assists before taking home MVP honors in the NWSL Championship. The 28-year-old Purce has been in and out of the national team fold for years, but she might be peaking at the right time. Not only is the team in an exploratory phase before Emma Hayes begins as the head coach in May, the tactical pragmatist Hayes values an attack-minded winger regardless of her formation choices. It's a very competitive area of the pitch in the USWNT's player pool, but Purce has, so far, wasted no time making an impact.

Purce and her teammates will have another chance to impress on Friday night, when the USWNT play Argentina.

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🔗  Midfield Link Play

🇪🇺 Narrow margins in the Champions League

Getty Images

The Champions League round of 16 returned yesterday with a set of tightly-contested matchups, but today's action could provide something different entirely. Here's the latest before the wrap of first leg action later today.

Inter beat Atleti, PSV rescue point against Dortmund

There were just three goals across two games yesterday, with Inter picking up a 1-0 win over Atletico Madrid and PSV tying 1-1 with Borussia Dortmund. It may have been a narrow win for Inter, but last season's finalists were on the front foot with 19 shots and limited Atleti to zero shots on target. Francesco Porzio notes that Simone Inzaghi's team were also particularly inspiring in the second half, when substitute Marko Arnautovic scored the game's lone goal.

  • Porzio: "There were many positives in that second half, especially wingers Carlos Augusto and Denzel Dumfries. The former Monza player was almost perfect in all the defensive phases, while Dumfries was crucial on the attacking side. Davide Frattesi, who replaced Henrikh Mkhitaryan, had a strong final part of the game where he recovered some key balls when Atletico tried to play with counterattacks. This is one of the best aspects of Inter this season -- the dressing room is united and whoever plays is delivering."

As for PSV, they went down in the first half to Dortmund when Donyell Malen scored but American Malik Tillman earned a controversial second half penalty that allowed his side to level the score.

Napoli host Barcelona, Arsenal travel to Porto

The headlining act of this week's Champions League fixtures is Barcelona's trip to Napoli, which picked up an added layer of intrigue after the Italian side fired Walter Mazzarri on Monday. Both teams enter the matchup in peculiar managerial circumstances -- Napoli's interim Francesco Calzona is their third manager of the season, while Barcelona's Xavi already announced his end-of-season departure. It marks quite a fall from grace for both sides, who won their domestic titles last year but are now hoping to avoid lame duck sessions to finish out their seasons.

The other fixture of the day is Arsenal's faceoff at Porto. The Gunners are on a five-game winning streak that includes a decisive win over Liverpool and are keeping pace with the Premier League title race, but have another opportunity to show their credentials with a statement win over Porto. Considering the form of Bukayo Saka and Leandro Trossard, this could be the most lopsided match of the week -- but it's up to Arsenal to prove that, in their first Champions League knockout match in seven years, they are ready to meet the moment.

🔗  Top Stories

🔴 Tuchel on his way out: Thomas Tuchel will leave Bayern Munich at the end of the season after a poor showing that includes their current three match losing streak.

✈️ Mbappe picks Madrid: Kylian Mbappe has reportedly agreed to join Real Madrid this summer -- even though he will be taking a pay cut to do so.

🇺🇸 USWNT rebuild: More on the USWNT's objectives at the inaugural W Gold Cup, plus the positional battles that will take center stage at the tournament, especially in the wake of Mia Fishel pulling out after tearing her ACL.

🇪🇺 UCL central: More on Tillman's showing with PSV, plus a look ahead at Napoli-Barcelona and the players to watch this week in the Champions League.

Ratcliffe deal complete: Sir Jim Ratcliffe's acquisition of a minority stake in Manchester United was finally completed yesterday.

🗣️ Morning Footy interviews: Inter Miam's Jordi Alba and Toronto FC's Lorenzo Insigne previewed the 2024 MLS season in sit-downs, while Ronwen Williams discussed South Africa's deep run at the Africa Cup of Nations.

🆕 Marsch on Kickin' It: Jesse Marsch was the guest on Kickin' It last night and discussed his heartbreaking departure from Leeds, the obstacles he is trying to clear up for American coaches in Europe, and how Kate Abdo's German accent is better than her American accent.

💰  The Back Line

💵 Best bets

  • MLS: Inter Miami vs. Real Salt Lake, Wednesday, 8 p.m.
    💰 THE PICK: Match to end 1-1 (+800) -- After a rough preseason tour in which they lost most of their games and picked up a handful of injuries, Inter Miami are far from the finished product. The good news for them is that Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez have been declared fit, but even if either one of them turns up, a porous defense could provide opportunity for Real Salt Lake to find the back of the net, too. A draw seems like a fair result, especially as both teams begin to get back into the swing of things.

📺 What's on CBS Sports Golazo Network

☀️ Morning Footy (Weekdays 8-10 a.m.): Hosts Susannah Collins, Charlie Davies, Nico Cantor and Alexis Guerreros help fans get their day started on the network's flagship morning show with highlights, interviews and the biggest soccer storylines. Morning Footy is also available in podcast form, so you'll never have to miss an episode.

📦 Box 2 Box (Weekday afternoons): The news-driven show quickly recaps all the latest headlines from around the world with panelists previewing the top matchups of the day. Catch Box 2 Box on CBS Sports Golazo Network on the CBS Sports app, PlutoTV and Paramount+. 

3️⃣ Attacking Third (Monday, Wednesday and Friday evening): The leading women's soccer podcast and social brand is now a live studio show. Just because the NWSL season is over doesn't mean that our coverage of the women's game is going anywhere. Our analysts will be breaking down the USWNT. NWSL offseason and European domestic season all winter long.

👟 Kickin' It (Tuesday nights): CBS Sports Golazo Network's unfiltered interview show airs on Tuesday. Hosted by Kate Abdo, Clint Dempsey, Mo Edu and Charlie Davies, the group chat candidly with the biggest names from the Beautiful Game and share their stories from on and off the pitch. 

Call it What You Want (Monday night): A weekly podcast where Jimmy Conrad, Jesse Marsch and Charlie Davies cover all things USMNT and the state of the beautiful game in the United States.

🥅 Scoreline (Daily): Scoreline is the newest place for fans to catch up on all the biggest news and results impacting global football, match highlights from the top soccer competitions and all the can't-miss goals from the day's action, starting Thursday and airing seven days a week.

📺 How to watch: CBS Sports Golazo Network is a free 24/7 channel exclusively dedicated to offering unparalleled coverage of all the top soccer competitions worldwide. You can stream for free on the CBS Sports appPluto TV and Paramount+.