Newcastle United's coach Pardew reacts during their English Premier League soccer match against Sunderland in Newcastle

Is Alan Pardew’s time up at Newcastle?

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With rumors of a meeting between Newcastle owner Mike Ashley and Chelsea interim manager Rafa Benitez, could Magpie manager Alan Pardew be in line for the axe?

The whispers for Pardew’s termination began rippling through St. James’ Park a month ago when Fulham nearly nipped a point despite the Magpies firing 28 shots on goal. On that day, Pardew was handed a reprieve courtesy of a 93rd minute goal by the king of late match heroics, Papiss Demba Cisse.

Since then, however, Newcastle has gone winless in its last four matches causing whispers to morph into groans and – after last weekend’s 6-0 shellacking at the hands of Liverpool – groans into cries. Following the loss to Brendan Rodgers’ side, former Toon boss Kevin Keegan tried to nip the problem in the bud by stating that Pardew “had enough credit in the bank from last season,” to justify staying on.

That credit extends back to last year’s 6th place finish and following Saturday’s loss to Liverpool, Pardew noted that one loss shouldn’t condemn him to termination. After all, Pardew pointed out, it was just two matches prior when his side drew with Benfica while pressing hard for the win.

Those seeking an end to Pardew’s reign must also consider the effect of Demba Ba’s sale, which only transpired due to Chelsea’s triggering of the Senegalese striker’s release clause. Combine this loss with the rigors of competing in the travel-heavy Europa League and extended injury bouts for Steven Taylor, Ryan Taylor, Fabriccio Colocinni, Tim Krul, Cheik Tiote, Yohan Cabaye and Danny Simpson, and leniency seems more reasonable.

Detractors will argue, however, that all three aforementioned ailments must be counter-balanced by Newcastle’s notable transfer market activity, which brought in five fabulous players from Ligue 1: Toulouse’s Moussa Sissoko, Nancy’s Massadio Haidara, Bordeaux’s Yoan Gouffran, Montpellier’s Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa and Lille’s Mathieu Debuchy. It’s a fair point to make yet incorporating five new players half-way through a season is no easy feat, especially when those players are unable to communicate in English.

When discussing Pardew’s possible termination, it’s also important to note Newcastle’s termination policy. Last fall the 51 year old was handed an eight year contract extension, which caused some to raise eyebrows. Managing director Derek Llambais explained the rationale: “You can’t keep changing your manager if he has a bad run – it doesn’t make any sense at all.”

“You can have a bad run,” Llambais continued. “Sir Alex when he first went to Man United, the first four years was tough for them as a club but they stuck by him and now look where they are. We have to stick by our manager and we want to.”

If Llambais’ words are to be believed then Pardew’s job should be safe, so long as the club avoids relegation. To ensure that doesn’t happen, the manager will need to collect as many points as possible from his next three matches against West Ham, QPR and Arsenal. If, however, Newcastle goes down to the Championship all bets are off as life in the lower league would almost certainly qualify as more than a mere “bad run.”

Morgan, USWNT cruise past Costa Rica 5-0 behind early flurry of goals

2016 CONCACAF Women's Olympic Qualifying at Toyota Stadium on February 10, 2016 in Frisco, Texas.
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The U.S. Women got off to a flying start in Olympic qualification Group A play by torching Costa Rica 5-0, including goals from Alex Morgan, Carli Lloyd, and Crystal Dunn.

Morgan led the way with a double, including one in the opening 12 seconds – only six passes off the opening kick – that set the record for quickest goal in U.S. Soccer history. Lloyd and Dunn both struck in the opening 15 minutes to make it 3-0 before Costa Rica even had time to blink. Lloyd’s came on a penalty after Dunn was felled for the captain’s 83rd international goal, and then the latter bagged one of her own minutes later on a rebound off a shot by Morgan.

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

The visitors were able to make it Morgan scored her second after the hour mark to cap the goal tally. Jill Ellis completed her trio of substitutions after the fourth goal and the U.S. saw the game out easily.

The fifth came late on a cross from Tobin Heath that fell to Christen Press in the box. With her back to the goal, the 27-year-old produced a simply stunning first touch, back-heeling the ball down before whipping around the opposite direction to lose her defender and firing home the fifth goal.

With the final whistle, the United States improved their record against Costa Rica to a perfect 13-0. The U.S. will play Mexico next on Saturday before finishing out Group A play against Puerto Rico on Monday, February 15.

VIDEO: Alex Morgan scores goal against Costa Rica in 12 seconds

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The United States got off to a historically roaring start in Olympic qualifying. Taking on Costa Rica in Frisco, Texas to begin Group A play, Alex Morgan opened the scoring in just 12 seconds, taking just six passes to complete the masterpiece.

According to the USWNT twitter account, the goal is the fastest in U.S. Soccer history.

According to CONCACAF, the goal is also the quickest in CONCACAF Olympic qualifying, breaking Abby Wambach’s of 35 seconds in a 14-0 domination of the Dominican Republic in 2012.

[ WATCH LIVE: USWNT vs Costa Rica live online on NBC Sports Live Extra ]

The United States scored three goals in the first 15 minutes against Costa Rica tonight. They will take on Mexico and Puerto Rico across the next five days.

Watch Live: USWNT vs Costa Rica in Olympic qualifying

SAN DIEGO, CA - JANUARY 23:  (L-R) Carli Lloyd #10 of the United States is congratulated by teammate Alex Morgan #13 after a goal against Ireland at Qualcomm Stadium on January 23, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)
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The United States women are set to begin Group A play in Olympic qualification, taking on 36th ranked Costa Rica at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas at 8:30 a.m. ET.

The game takes place after a 17-day camp at the national training camp in Carson, California.

[ WATCH LIVE: USWNT vs Costa Rica live online on NBC Sports Live Extra ]

Other teams in the group include Mexico and Puerto Rico. The Mexicans dominated Puerto Rico 6-0 in the first game.

LINEUP

United States: Solo; Krieger, Johnston, Sauerbrunn, Klingenberg; Brian, Horan, Dunn, Lloyd, Heath; Morgan.

Columbus, NYCFC release new kits to mixed results

NYCFC
New York City FC
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Two Major League Soccer clubs have put their kits out there for the 2016 season. They’ve received a mediocre welcome at best.

Columbus was the first, and their kit makes a bold statement moving away from the traditional yellow and black that so often adorns their regular shirts. Instead, the kit incorporates the Columbus flag onto it. The release has seen quite a negative reaction on social media.

The kit was unveiled at the Columbus City Hall on Wednesday, featuring the traditional adidas stripes, although instead of the usual placement on the shoulders, the stripes come down the side of the torso. Recently, adidas has the tendency to copy general jersey patterns across its multiple properties, so look for this design with other clubs in the near future.

The negative reaction to the Columbus release isn’t terribly surprising considering fans often enjoy sticking to tradition, and backlash is common when clubs deviate from the norm. As an additional hurdle, the color contrast between red and yellow is somewhat stark, lending to the difficult reception. Add in the bright pastel blue shorts and…yikes.

While the club didn’t describe how they will utilize this kit during the season, it’s likely to be the primary (at least for now) as the club release says the kit portfolio also includes last year’s black kit, which is traditionally the away kit.

NYCFC’s release of their secondary kit was more positive, receiving a mixed response on social media.

As you can see, adidas again copied their general outline with the stripes down the side of the torso. However, the German clothing manufacturer did much better with the general design of these kits than the Columbus ones. I will give a bit of personal opinion here: I absolutely love these kits. The ripple effect accentuates the crest with a near-3D effect, and the colors mesh perfectly which serves to assuage the eye from being overwhelmed by a busy design. If there’s any criticism, it’s that without an outline, the Etihad logo tends to get in the way a bit, but that’s nitpicking. Well done NYCFC. Columbus…I’ll leave that one to you all.