Joe Hart is feeling that Ben Foster-induced pressure

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With the renaissance of Ben Foster’s goal-keeping prowess and his recall to the Three Lions after a three-year break from international football, the pressure is on Joe Hart to step up and perform. And it’s clear the 25 year old is feeling the squeeze.

When asked if Foster will provide the necessary competition, Hart was quick to defend himself: “I’d imagine so. Whether it’s just me here or 10 goalkeepers or whatever, I’ll always train the same, try the same and give what I’ve got. I don’t need reinvigorating. I train hard, I work hard, I want to play well. I try and play well no matter who is doing what.”

Since cracking the Starting XI after the goal-keeping debacle that was World Cup 2010, Hart has been England’s clear-cut No. 1. Success with country boosted his confidence, a key component to Hart’s growth and the foundation for stringing together two successive seasons of dominance at City. But with the glories of lifting the FA Cup in 2011 and the Premier League trophy in 2012 in the rear view mirror, Hart has struggled over the last six to nine months.

The 2012-13 Premier League season has been dotted with glaring mistakes, notably the 1-0 loss to Sunderland on Boxing Day and the 3-1 loss to Southampton in February. It’s been the same situation on the international level as a shaky match against Poland last fall led to a poor performance against Sweden when Zlatan Ibrahimovic went on his famous four goal rampage. Once a happy-go-lucky kid with the build of a bouncer, Hart’s smile lines have turned to jowls and fiery displays of frustration have become all too common.

Critics say Hart isn’t pushed hard enough at City and that Costel Pantilimon – who hasn’t been called into Roberto Mancini’s fold for two years –  isn’t providing the competition Hart requires to remain consistent. It’s a narrative that exists on nearly every team but credit Hodgson for going out and actually doing something about it. Seemingly unsatisfied with the likes of Jack Butland, John Ruddy and even the highly underrated Fraser Forster, Hodgson went out of his way to persuade Foster to end his international retirement.

While Hart admits he’s “not been brilliant” of late he seems to be taking the competition in stride, staying grounded and focused. “I’m only thinking about staying in the side for England and City, trying to be the best I can,” Hart says. “I’m in that privileged spot at the moment. I didn’t dream of this spot because I didn’t think it would happen. That No1 spot is one I want to keep.”

Fortunately for Hart, all should go well as San Marino has been outscored 16-0 in their last four matches. But if the 207th team in the world somehow manages to squeak one by the City netminder, things could get mighty interesting in the England camp.

Dempsey’s last-second PK lifts Sounders past Minnesota

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SEATTLE (AP) Clint Dempsey converted a penalty kick in the final seconds of stoppage time on Sunday night, lifting the Seattle Sounders to a 2-1 victory over Minnesota United.

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A corner kick by Seattle’s Joevin Jones floated into the penalty area, and Minnesota’s Jermaine Taylor was called for a hand ball in a scrum of players battling for possession. Dempsey stepped up and drilled his kick to the right side past Loons goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth in the fourth minute of stoppage.

Dempsey’s goal was his 11th of the year.

Referee Ismail Elfath blew the final whistle as soon as Minnesota kicked off.

Chad Marshall also scored for the Sounders (11-7-7), who tied a club record by extending their unbeaten streak to nine games (6-0-3). The team had an identical 6-0-3 mark from May 28-July 16, 2011.

Seattle was forced to rally after its club-record shutout streak ended at 421 minutes on a goal by Minnesota’s Ethan Finlay in the 21st minute.

The Loons (6-14-4, 22 points) are still looking for their first road win of the season. They are 0-8-2 away from Minneapolis.

MLS Snapshot: New York City FC 2-1 New England Revolution (video)

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The game in 100 words (or less): For nearly 75 minutes, NYCFC couldn’t muster up any chances in the attacking third, but thankfully their captain did what he does best. David Villa scored his 19th goal of the season on Sunday night to pull out a 2-1 win against the New England Revolution, but it was rookie Jonathan Lewis that notched the winner. The visitors took the lead 20 minutes prior after Sean Johnson spilled a shot in front of his own goal, allowing Teal Bunbury to pounce on the rebound. NYCFC now moves to within four points of Eastern Conference leaders Toronto FC with nine matches remaining in the regular season.

Three four moments that mattered

16′ — Harrison breaks ankles, but Villa can’t finish — This might be the only time all see you’ll see David Villa miss a chance like this…

38′ — Johnson gets a finger tip to Rowe’s blast — Sean Johnson had no work to do in the first half, at least until Kelyn Rowe decided to rip a shot from distance just before halftime.

57′ — Johnson’s error grants Bunbury, Revs the lead — Look away, NYCFC fans.

77′ — Villa find the back of the net — When you need a goal, who you gonna call? That’s right. David Villa. The NYCFC captain is now up to 19 this season.

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Man of the match: David Villa

Goalscorers: Teal Bunbury (57′), David Villa (77′), Jonathan Lewis (90+4′)

Honoring victims of attacks, Barcelona wins league opener

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Wearing shirts honoring victims of the recent attacks in Spain, Barcelona opened its Spanish league season with a comfortable 2-0 win over Real Betis on Sunday.

[ MORE: Neymar double helps PSG cruise past Toulouse ]

Players had the word “Barcelona” instead of their names on the back of their shirts, and the Catalan hashtag “TOTSSOMBARCELONA” (We are all Barcelona) was on display around the Camp Nou stadium. The message was also shown on the stadium’s large screens, as well as on many banners carried by fans.

An emotional minute’s silence was held before the game as the music of Catalan cellist Pau Casals played in the background.

Before the minute was up, the more than 55,000 fans at the stadium broke into a round of applause and began chanting “No tinc por” (I’m not afraid), a chant which has become a symbol of people’s reactions to the attacks that killed 14 people and injured more than 120 in Barcelona and the nearby seaside resort of Cambrils.

Extra security was implemented in and around Camp Nou.

There was a minute’s silence before every Spanish league match this weekend.

Without Neymar and the injured Luis Suarez, Barcelona got off to a winning start in the league after consecutive losses to rival Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup final.

It scored two goals three minutes apart near the end of the first half – an own-goal by Betis defender Alin Tosca and a close-range shot by Sergi Roberto. Both goals came after plays started by Gerard Deulofeu, one of the players expected to try to replace Neymar after his world record transfer to Paris Saint-Germain.

“We lost depth with Neymar’s departure and we have to find a way to overcome that,” Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said.

Lionel Messi looked lively but wasn’t able to score his 350th goal in La Liga. He came close, though, being denied by the woodwork three different times.

AP Sports Writer Tales Azzoni contributed to this report.

More AP Spanish soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/LaLiga

Brighton breaks club record with signing of winger Jose Izquierdo

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Brighton hasn’t gotten off to the ideal start in its debut season in the Premier League, but a key reinforcement is on the way.

[ MORE: Chelsea tops Spurs at Wembley behind Alonso’s brace ]

After starting the 2017/18 campaign with back-to-back defeats, the Seagulls announced on Sunday the signing of Colombian winger Jose Izquierdo from Club Brugge in Belgium for a record fee.

The 25-year-old spent three seasons in Belgium’s top flight and totaled 38 goals across all competitions for Brugge, prior to making the move to England.

Additionally, Izquierdo has worked his way into the Colombia squad as of late, and scored his first international goal for his country in June 2017 in a friendly against Cameroon.