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Anyone else think Bayern Munich is playing dirty?

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Is anyone else bothered by the way Bayern Munich have conducted themselves ahead of this Saturday’s Champions League final?

I certainly am.

It all began back on the night of April 22nd when Borussia Dortmund manager Jurgen Klopp found out the story was about to break that Munich had triggered Mario Gotze’s €37m release clause. Klopp first knew of the signing back on April 10th, the day after BVB came from behind to oust Málaga in the Champions League quarter finals. “I had one day’s happiness,” Klopp said.

Gotze’s departure was something that Dortmund, facing a crucial Champions League semi-final clash with Real Madrid two days later, had hoped to keep under wraps. But on April 23rd all of Germany knew of the young superstar’s fate when the cover of Bild stated: “Götze Zu Den Bayern [Götze to Bayern].”

Awful suspicious timing, wouldn’t you agree?

Klopp later admitted that the news was devastating, claiming that “on a scale of one to 10, this is a nine.” The manager went on to explain: “We all know why it has come out now. We don’t know why the people who have leaked this have done so at such a delicate time.”

With no choice but to confirm that it was true, BVB took to their Facebook page and issued the following statement: “Mario Götze’s agent Volker Struth told us a few days ago that the player wishes to make use of his release clause and on July 1, 2013 move to Bayern Munich.” Shortly thereafter Bayern confirmed over their official website: “Bayern Munich confirm that the club have reached an agreement with national team player Mario Götze that he will play for Bayern Munich from 1 July 2013.”

Not exactly the ideal PR event before Dortmund’s first Champions League semi-final since 1998.

The upstart club were justifiably crushed by the news. Bayern attempted to claim their innocence by issuing a statement saying they had wanted to wait until after Dortmund’s match with Madrid as they didn’t want to be a distraction.

In the face of darkness, Dortmund kept it classy as they asked for fans to “support Mario Götze unconditionally as they would any other player in the final games of the season” as they seek a place in the final. And the Yellow Wall did just that, helping BVB produce a stunning performance that crushed Madrid 4-1.

But as soon as Dortmund had begun to lick its wounds, more bad news came as Bild reported that earlier in the week striker Robert Lewandowski had signed with Bayern. Munich rushed to issue a statement claiming that, “contrary to these reports, do not have any contract with Robert Lewandowski.” But it didn’t matter as Lewandowski’s agent, Maik Barthel, acted on the news and announced: “We have reached an agreement with a club and intend (him) to move this summer.”

Again, awful suspicious timing to say the least.

Six days later Dortmund traveled to Madrid and held on to lose 2-0, which was good enough for a 4-3 aggregate victory. Bayern, meanwhile, coasted to a 7-0 aggregate destruction of Barcelona ensuring the two Bundesliga sides will face off in the Champions League final at Wembley.

So what does this all mean?

Well, by triggering Gotze’s release clause, Munich is effectively trying to buy the Champions League title. And by perpetuating rumors concerning Lewandowski, Bayern is engaging in a dirty, desperate line of dark arts.

Their motivation?

To impart revenge on the club that spent the last two years embarrassing them by stealing their Bundesliga glory.

We’ll see if the plan works.

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.