Christie Rampone set to play on for USWNT

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For the last year it was assumed U.S. women’s national team captain Christie Rampone would retire at the end of the Olympics. She’s 37, has a family, and three years out from Canada 2015, there wasn’t much to play for. She’s won World Cups and Gold Medals, and as (by far) the last of the 99ers, Rampone has been to the mountain top of mountain tops. Coming off gold in London, what was left?

How about the love of the game? That journalistic cliché; the hollow axiom bludgeoned into customer’s head; the thing that actually turns out to be true every time we actually touch a soccer ball.

Turns out Rampone just likes playing soccer, and since she is still one of the best central defenders in the world, the only reason to retire could be the desire to go out on a high note.

Rampone decided she doesn’t care about that (quotes from ESPNW):

“After the Olympics, I thought I’d be like, ‘This is it, this is awesome. Let’s ride off on a high note,’ ” Rampone told espnW after the U.S. training session here in Denver before a match against Australia on Wednesday.

“But then I was like, ‘I don’t need to end off on a high note. I just want to continue playing and doing something I love.’ “

You won’t get any complaints from U.S. national team fans. Despite being the team’s oldest player, she’s the U.S.’s best option at the back. While Becky Sauerbrunn and Rachel Buehler are both decent players, their pairing would be a noticeable step back from one featuring Rampone.

The thing to watch with Rampone will be the foot speed. She’s still able to keep up with most of the world’s best. Once that goes, we can start talking about whether the captain should reconsider.

But given the incredible shape in which she keeps herself, Rampone’s unlikely show up one day and need to be replaced. Her fade will be gradual, and since that wane has yet to begin, it’s not difficult to imagine her playing at the net World Cup.

Though for now, Rampone’s taking it one year at a time:

 “They may want to wipe out the older players, but you never know. So I’m just going to keep an open mind to it, give a good year commitment to it, see if I like the coaching staff, how I fit in, how much travel it is and take it from there.”

Unless Rampone starts detesting the annual trip to Portugal for the Algarve Cup, travel shouldn’t be much of an issue. The qualm seems like more of an out clause. With two kids at home, Rampone might wake up in a hotel one day, look across the room and see a sleeping teammate, and ask ‘Why am I still doing this?’

For now, she’s doing it for the love of the game.

Defoe walks out Bradley Lowery, scores in England win

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Jermain Defoe’s friendship with terminally-ill Bradley Lowery has been special to watch unfold, and the Sunderland striker brought his little buddy to Wembley today.

Then he notched a match-winner.

Lowery walked Defoe out onto the field in a replica England kit before Sunday’s World Cup qualifier against Lithuania, and then Defoe scored his 20th goal for country.

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It was his first since 2013, the last year Defoe was called up for the Three Lions.

Here’s the goal, which was followed by a second-half Jamie Vardy tally as England stayed atop Group F with a 2-0 win over Lithuania.

Two Russian soccer fans stabbed in Serbia

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BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) Two Russian fans have been hospitalized with serious injuries after being stabbed following a friendly soccer match between Red Star Belgrade and Lokomotiv Moscow.

Serbian Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic said Sunday police were looking for the knife-wielding perpetrators who attacked a group of Lokomotiv fans in downtown Belgrade late Saturday.

Serbian media reports said the Russian fans were attacked by supporters of Red Star’s rival Partizan Belgrade.

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The match, which Red Star won 2-1, was meant to promote Serbia’s traditional friendship with Russia.

Stefanovic says “nobody should think they could hurt the Serbian-Russian friendship” with such attacks.

Serbia has seen a surge of fan violence inside and outside stadiums. In 2009, a French football fan was fatally beaten in Belgrade.

VIDEO: Gerrard’s juggle and finish leads Liverpool legends past Real Madrid

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Scoring at Anfield doesn’t get old, especially when your name is Steven Gerrard.

The English midfielder was playing in a friendly match between Liverpool and Real Madrid “legends” on Sunday, when he delivered this tasty goal (and assists to Michael Owen, Robbie Fowler, and John Aldridge).

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Gerrard redirects a cross over a lunging defender and into a place where he can lash a goal home to put the Reds up 4-0. He dedicated his Man of the Match performance to club legend Ronnie Moran, who died earlier this week.

Real’s comeback came up just short in a 4-3 final, with Fernando Morientes, Ruben de la Red, and Edwin Congo scoring for the visitors.

On a Sunday waiting for the international matches to begin, Gerrard supplies a nice highlight for the rest of us (Extended highlights free on Liverpool’s site).

Ozil bristles at talk of Arsenal selling him

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Mesut Ozil is on international break, and bristling at reports that Arsenal is going to sell him.

The midfielder’s absence from the lineup last week had plenty speculating on his future, even more than usual. His contract expires in 2018, and several reports claimed he’d join Alexis Sanchez as players destined for elsewhere.

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Ozil was not called up by Germany, and has missed four of his last nine Premier League matches. Three of those were for illness, and he missed last week’s loss to West Brom with a hamstring injury.

From Metro:

“And you think Wenger tells the journalist before he tells me? Then I know him differently,” Ozil told German outlet Welt.

“I have a contract until 2018 in London and I feel very comfortable there. We’ll talk soon and then make a decision.”

Metro notes that Ozil also said he wants to win the Champions League, something that can only happen with Arsenal remaining in the Top Four. We suppose you could make snarky inferences from his “comfortable in London” phrasing, but we’ll leave it there.