morgan

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.

Messi named La Liga Player of the Month for first time in career

BARCELONA, SPAIN - JANUARY 06:  Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona celebrates after scoring his team's second goal during the Copa del Rey Round of 16 first leg match between FC Barcelona and RCD Espanyol at Camp Nou on January 6, 2016 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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Lionel Messi has won every individual award imaginable, but now he can add another trophy to his shelf.

For the first time in his career, Messi was named La Liga’s Player of the Month for January.

[ MORE: PL Power Rankings, Vol. VIII ]

It’s hard to believe, but somehow the Barcelona superstar had never won this honor before. Despite winning a record five Ballon D’or trophies as the best player in the world, this trophy had eluded Messi since its inception in 2013.

Messi scored six goals in six January matches as Barcelona sit atop the La Liga table, currently holding a three-point lead over Atletico Madrid.

Despite their dominance in La Liga, this is only the second time a Barcelona player has won this monthly award, as Neymar took home the honor in November of 2015.

USWNT-Mexico preview: Energized Yanks look to keep rolling toward Rio

FRISCO, TX - FEBRUARY 10:  Team USA poses for a photo before play against Costa Rica during 2016 CONCACAF Women's Olympic Qualifying at Toyota Stadium on February 10, 2016 in Frisco, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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The United States women’s national team looks to keep rolling through CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying with a match with Mexico on Saturday.

Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas, is again the scene after the Yanks battered Costa Rica 5-0 on Wednesday.

[ MUST WATCH: Christen Press’ dazzling first touch, spin, goal ]

A win over Mexico would move the USWNT into the all-important semifinal, where a win would gain them entry into this Summer’s Olympic Games.

Mexico staged a blowout of its own on Wednesday, cruising past Puerto Rico 6-0 thanks in large part to a hat trick from Maribel Dominguez.

[ VIDEO: Alex Morgan caps off a 12-second, six-pass goal ]

Mexico has only beaten the USWNT twice in history, and only the 2010 Gold Cup semifinal is considered official.

In recent history, the USWNT beat up Mexico 5-1 last year, and thrice in 2014 by a combined score of 15-0. Expect very little to change with an energized, impressive U.S. side on Saturday.

[ SATURDAY: Watch USWNT vs Mexico live online on NBC Sports Live Extra ]

Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks: Big boys to turn up

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Week 26 of the Premier League season is here. This will be a lot of fun with massive games at both ends of the table.

If you, like me, love to dissect all the games and predict what the score will be and which team will win, I encourage you to get involved in the comments section below. Let’s have a bit of fun.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live online ]

Okay, so I’ve consulted my crystal ball and here’s how we see things panning out.

With the first section labelled “basically, free money” for the picks I think are dead certs. The section labelled “don’t touch this” means if you’re betting I advise you to stay clear, while the “so you’re telling me there’s a chance” section are the longshots. If it is better odds you are after, those are the picks to go for.

BASICALLY, FREE MONEY

Arsenal 3-2 Leicester City – (Sunday, 7 a.m. ET, NBCSN) –  [STREAM]

Norwich City 0-2 West Ham – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, USA) –  [STREAM]

Man City 3-1 Tottenham Hotspur – (Sunday 11:15 a.m. ET, NBCSN) –  [STREAM]

Sunderland 0-2 Manchester United – (Saturday, 7:45 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

DON’T TOUCH THIS…

Everton 2-1 West Brom  – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBCSN) –  [STREAM]

Swansea 1-1 Southampton – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) –  [STREAM] 

Crystal Palace 2-1 Watford – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) –  [STREAM]

Chelsea 3-2 Newcastle – (Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

“SO YOU’RE TELLING ME THERE’S A CHANCE…”

Bournemouth 2-1 Stoke City – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) –  [STREAM]

Aston Villa 2-1 Liverpool – (Sunday, 9:05 a.m. ET, NBCSN) –  [STREAM]

Ranieri on Leicester City’s dream season: “Nobody wake us up please!”

during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Leicester City at the Etihad Stadium on February 6, 2016 in Manchester, England.
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There’s plenty to like about Leicester City’s run to the top of the Premier League, but perhaps nothing is more enjoyable that its manager’s musings.

Claudio Ranieri, the Tinkerman himself, has provided some of the best quips of the season.

[ MORE: Top 5 storylines to look for in PL ]

From “I want to be the crazy man in the Premier League” to “It’s like nobody wants to win the league“, the 64-year-old Italian has offered plenty of beauties.

Make way for some more gems, from LCFC.com:

“I think we work so hard to achieve this level. We want to stay at this level. It’s no pressure for us. The pressure was at the beginning to start well, to carry on and maintain the standard of our performance.
“Now we are safe and we want to fight with respect with all our opponents. Face to face, we play with our strength and they play with theirs. If we win, fantastic. If we lose, next match.
“I think the pressure is on the other teams. We have pressure for our little gap. We continue to dream with our fans and we want to continue to dream. Nobody wake us up please!”
We love this man. To go from a short-lived run in Euro qualifying with Greece to this remarkable roll with Leicester has to be a bit dream-like. We get it. And we love that he’s going with it.