The USWNT’s lucky no. 13 saves the day once more

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Alex Morgan’s late header at Old Trafford staved off Olympic elimination and forces a rematch against Japan in the final. Really, it’s just Alex being Alex.

It’ll never get boring, but Alex Morgan’s dramatic game-winning goal against Canada has become a familiar sight. (Watch it again here.)

It’s far too early to ponder her potential legacy, but the 23-year-old has already built up a marvelous reputation. She rescued her team from an undesirable outcome (in this case, penalty kicks), just like she has time and time again. Her propensity for late heroics is what initially endeared her to the USWNT faithful.

Before the world knew her as ‘Baby Horse’, she was known as something else: clutch.

In October 2010 against China, the U.S. came perilously close to losing its first domestic friendly since 2004. Who subbed in and scored the dramatic equalizer? Alex Morgan. A month later the team looked hopeless against Italy in a World Cup qualifying play-off. (That’s right; the U.S. nearly failed to qualify for the 2011 World Cup). Who netted the go-ahead goal in stoppage time? Yup. And let’s not even mention her two-goal output against New Zealand this February that secured a 2-1 comeback win or her late equalizer to draw level with Japan in a friendly this past April.

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Saving face has become standard practice for the precocious starlet. We can flag up her towering header – a rare header – in the dying moments of the U.S.’s momentous semifinal victory over Canada as the latest example.

The context isn’t the only thing that makes today’s goal noteworthy. It marked the 20th time Morgan has found the back of the net in 2012. Morgan is just the fifth player in USWNT history to convert 20 goals in a calendar year. She also becomes the youngest. And it’s barely August.

Morgan’s grown accustomed to restoring hope in desperate situations, but her timely interventions haven’t always carried the day. Take the 2011 World Cup final for instance. It was easily the biggest stage she had yet to step foot on. Her flashy goal gave the U.S. a 2-1 lead with 21 minutes remaining in regular time. In what’s now become WoSo folklore, Japan would storm back with a second equalizer to force penalty kicks. For those unaware, the spot kicks didn’t turn out in the U.S.’s favor.

Last year’s summer classic will now have a sequel, courtesy of the U.S.’s no 13. Japan rarely relinquished control in their semifinal match against France earlier today. The United States, on the back of yet another nerve-jangling comeback, will hope to foil Japan’s bid to become the first team to win the World Cup and Olympic gold in consecutive years.

It’s all teed up for another momentous Morgan moment. We’ve experienced plenty so far, but this will be on a whole new plane. The gold medal match against the defending world champions at Wembley Stadium? That would be the stuff of legend.

WATCH: Camila’s wicked swerving goal for Brazil

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The Tournament of Nations got underway earlier Thursday, with Brazil and Japan drawing 1-1 in Seattle.

While some in the crowd may’ve been waiting to see the United States women’s national team and Australia in the second game of the twin bill, they got an absolute treat from Brazil’s Camila.

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The Orlando Pride midfielder is yet to scoop up 10 caps, but blasted this 25-yard goal home with a wicked outside bend.

The aesthetics are terrific.

LA Galaxy’s second Dos Santos signing is a season-changer

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Remember this day, MLS fans, as one that perhaps helped determine an MLS Cup Finalist.

The LA Galaxy have signed Villarreal midfielder and Mexican national teamer Jonathan Dos Santos, and he’s the sort of player who could alter the landscape of the Western Conference.

Like Nicolas Lodeiro to Seattle last season and New England’s addition of Jermaine Jones in 2014, Dos Santos’ move comes with the distinct possibility of elevating LA into the next stratosphere.

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Take the Galaxy’s history of winning, and toss in a midseason coaching improvement from Curt Onalfo to Sigi Schmid, as well as MVP-in-their-own-right caliber teammates Giovani Dos Santos, Romain Alessandrini, and Jelle van Damme.

Don’t sleep on the fact that Schmid might be gathering momentum from inheriting a talented and underachieving roster and a brand new game-changing midfielder, which feels a bit like karmic retribution for Seattle firing him and signing Lodeiro the next day last season. Seattle only went and won the MLS Cup.

Schmid has used any number of formations, but could deploy a 4-3-3 with Jona Dos Santos, Jermaine Jones, and Joao Pedro in the midfielder and Giovani Dos Santos, Alessandrini, and Gyasi Zardes up top (Sebastian Lletget could return at some point, too).

Now FC Dallas is very deep, Sporting KC looks powerful, and Seattle won it all last year — plus, may be adding Derlis Gonzalez?!? — but LA’s move to add Dos Santos creates a quartet of teams with proven mettle (Houston looks decent, too, but I have concerns about their first-time as a unit in the playoffs).

Joey Barton’s gambling ban lowered by almost 5 months

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Joey Barton’s 18-month ban for betting on almost 1,300 soccer-related events has been lowered to 13 months and one week.

Putting aside the hilarity of grown men and women discussing whether an extra week was necessary, the alteration means he’ll be eligible to return to football on June 1, 2018.

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While that still hampers the idea of the 34-year-old playing again — he’ll be 36 when the ban ends — it’s a significant change if he’s open to the idea of returning to the game.

Barton’s original ban expired in late October 2018, well into a season. From Sky Sports:

The appeal board also agreed: “It was clear that Mr Barton was not involved in any cheating, he did not influence any games and there was nothing suspicious about his bets.

“(The reduction) reflects the overall seriousness of the breaches and also the mitigation of Mr Barton’s addiction.”

Barton’s remarkably controversial career has including several suspensions and imprisonment, but he always found his way back to the field and was very good when in form. After time at Manchester City and Newcastle United, Barton fended off naysayers with stints at QPR, Marseille, Burnley, and a regrettable move to Rangers.

We may see him on the field in August 2018.

FIFA fines Qatar after players’ political support for Emir

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ZURICH (AP) FIFA has fined Qatar’s soccer federation after national team players breached rules against political statements by displaying T-shirts of the country’s Emir at a World Cup qualifier.

FIFA says its disciplinary panel imposed a 50,000 Swiss francs ($51,800) fine and reprimanded Qatar, the 2022 World Cup host.

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The incident happened in Doha on June 13, amid a dispute with regional rivals Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.

Qatar’s players warmed up for a 3-2 win over South Korea wearing white T-shirts with an image of Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani to show their support for him.

FIFA says the charges related to “displaying a political image” and “political displays” by spectators.