Immediate impact from Demba Ba sees Chelsea race past Southampton

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When Southampton opened the scoring at St. Marys, it looked like Chelsea was en route to another disappointing result. But even before that momentary set back, the Blues looked different. With new acquisition Demba Ba making his debut in front of a restored first choice XI (save the absence of the injured Petr Cech), Chelsea seemed to be a more balanced team, the Senegalese striker’s willingness to push the defense giving the Blues’ creators both a focal point and more space. The FA Cup holders would go on to a 5-1 win.

At the same time, those observations may be a subconscious playing to the narrative. Fernando Torres’s struggles have been so persistent and pronounced, perhaps any stylistic change was bound to be considered good, even if this kind of early judgment screams confirmation bias. When Roberto Di Matteo went without a striker for a short time mid-fall, it was hailed as a possible solution to the Torres dilemma, though (for whatever reason) it never took hold. Perhaps the same false optimism’s embracing the lastest variations.

MORE: Another late comeback from Manchester United

But the results were there. Ba’s first goal (a 35th minute equalizer) we just cleaning up scraps, but the second was a goal we would not have seen from Torres (at least, we haven’t seen from Torres). Making a quick run toward the edge of the six-yard box, Ba made himself available to put a first touch shot past Artur Boruc, the type of execution a team with Chelsea’s creators should be getting on a regular basis.

By that time of the game, Chelsea was up 4-1. With a late penalty conversion from Frank Lampard, the Blues had another convincing victory, continuing a roller coaster winter that sees eight-goal wins complemented by losses to QPR and (in a final) Corinthians.

SEE: All the day’s action in the FA Cup

With that type of inconsistency, it would be hasty to make too much of Chelsea’s performance. But they did look better, and as Southampton showed over the first half hour, this wasn’t supposed to be an easy game.

But Chelsea made it one, and in the process again gave their fans reason to this the worst is over.

USMNT: Brooks out with hip strain; World Cup qualifiers loom

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John Brooks is out of Hertha Berlin’s lineup “for the time being” after scans revealed a hip strain suffered in this weekend’s win over Wolfsburg.

That’s all Hertha has said, and that makes it hard to imagine whether American fans should be a little concerned or very concerned ahead of the USMNT’s World Cup qualifiers against Mexico, and Trinidad and Tobago in early June.

Brooks was unavailable for two weeks with an adductor strain in September, missing a month before returning to the starting lineup.

The U.S. center back pool isn’t teeming after Brooks and Geoff Cameron. Matt Besler, Tim Ream, Omar Gonzalez, and Walker Zimmerman were called up for the last World Cup qualifiers, and Gonzalez struggled but is a Bruce Arena favorite from their time in L.A.

WATCH: Snazzy Sargent goal leads U.S. U-17s past Mexico

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Josh Sargent scored a pretty goal as the United States Soccer program had another banner day against Mexico.

Nearly two months to the day after the U.S. U-20 side beat Mexico for the first time in 31 years, the U.S. U-17 topped El Tri for the first time ever. That win snapped Mexico’s 25-match unbeaten streak.

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The goal is the first of Sargent’s two goals, as the 16-year-old latched onto a long diagonal ball and used his right foot and head to move the ball into position for a strong shot.

The U.S. clinches a spot in the next round of U-17 World Cup qualifying with one match remaining in group play.

Sargent is from St. Louis and plays with Scott Gallagher-Missouri. Former Philadelphia Union coach John Hackworth coaches the U.S. U-17s.

Heads of South American soccer sent $128M in bank transfers

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SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) The leaders of South America’s soccer confederation transferred $128.6 million between 2000 and 2015 to personal accounts, suspicious accounts, or unauthorized third-party accounts, according to an audit released Wednesday by Ernst & Young.

According to the audit presented to the annual CONMEBOL congress in the Chilean capital, the confederation’s former president Nicolas Leoz transferred $26.9 million to his personal accounts. Leoz was the president for 27 years until resigning in 2013 for what he said were health reasons.

The audit also found $58 million in payments “to third parties without adequate documentation,” payments of $33.3 million to “unidentified accounts,” and $10.4 million to “suspicious third-parties.”

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“We had said that we would have four pillars, and the first two pillars were clear accounts and accountability,” said Alejandro Dominguez, the president of CONMEBOL who commissioned the audit last year. “Today we are accountable to the leaders and the whole world of football.”

Leoz, 88, is one of three ex-presidents of CONMEBOL accused on corruption charges by the United States Department of Justice. He is in Paraguay fighting extradition to the United States.

The South American body has been plagued by corruption, which was exposed two years ago during the FIFA scandal. Leoz’s two successors, Eugenio Figueredo and Juan Angel Napout, were both arrested on corruption charges.

“I’m here, I’m the manager” – Moyes will not quit Sunderland

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This has been one horrible stretch for David Moyes.

The Sunderland manager probably thought he’d been through the worst once he left Real Sociedad, where he went 12-15-15.

But he’s managed just seven wins and seven draws in 38 matches in charge of the Black Cats — an 18 percent win mark. He’s also been charged for threatening to slap a female journalist.

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And after Wednesday, Moyes has lost both of his derby matches against Middlesbrough.

Sunderland is 12 points back of safety with five matches left. The odds the Black Cats are headed for the Championship are somewhere north of 99 percent, and fans are calling for his job.

Well, he isn’t quitting. From the BBC:

“No, I’m here, I’m the manager, you take it on the chin. … I’m a football supporter, I know what it’s like. You don’t like seeing your team lose.

“There is nobody who wants to win more than me. I am used to winning, I’m not used to losing and I don’t want to get used to it either.”