Charleston Battery v Chicago Fire - Carolina Challenge Cup

MLS Preview: Philadelphia Union at Chicago Fire

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With both teams struggling to get any kind of form going this season, Saturday afternoon’s showdown on NBC Sports Network (1:30pm ET) is sure to be a pulsating clash.

The Philadelphia Union have won just one of their last six games and have struggled to score goals all season. While the Chicago Fire have won just twice this campaign. Something has to give.

In recent weeks the Fire have been bullish in improving their form on the field. Two wins from their last four games is an improvement. But in all honesty, it couldn’t have got much worse. A 3-1 home win over New York was their first of the season and they then defeated Columbus 1-0 in their next match at Toyota Park. But either side of those home wins they suffered defeats on the road to Houston and Montreal.

Last year these two sides met three times, twice at Toyota Park. Chicago won two out of three, but the Union’s lone win came courtesy of a 3-1 victory in Illinois on October 3. The Fire will soon be sick of the sight of Philadelphia, as they face the Union at PPL Park (May 18) in their next game after Saturday’s match up. The Union have a home tie with LA Galaxy sandwiched between their two bouts with the Fire. These games will be lively, that’s for sure.

The Fire have improved going forward after only scoring once during their first four games of the season, with Sherjill MacDonald struggling to get his season going after being publicly criticized by Frank Klopas. However Maicon Santos exploded into life during the 3-1 win over New York and Chicago will be hoping the Brazilian can repeat that form this weekend.

Philadelphia could ring the changes for the key clash, as fans favorite Sebastien Le Toux is pushing for a start and so is new DP Kleberson and attacker Antoine Hoppenot. John Hackworth certainly has a plethora of options off the bench as he looks to bring solidity to the Union’s results. The young back line has performed well this season with Amobi Okugo a real gem at center back and Raymon Gaddis continuing to grow into the full back role. However they will be up against a wily veteran in Fire forward Chris Rolfe. Young lads, you’ve been warned.

This game could easily be a high-scoring draw. 2-2 or 3-3 would be my prediction. Both sides are due offensive breakouts and will see this as an opportunity to chalk up another three points on the way to challenging for the playoffs. Expect plenty of tackles, passion and goals. Famous last words.

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

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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

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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.