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Gonzalo Higuain close to Juventus move while others continue the chase

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Real Madrid’s Gonzalo Higuain could be headed to Juventus.

According to reports out of Turin, the striker is poised to sign a four year contract if the two sides can come to an agreement over his transfer fee. Los Merengues want €30-35million for Higuain while the Bianconeri are willing to shell out €22-25million for the Argentine’s services.

The Italian side won the Serie A title behind an elite midfield and a robust defense that conceded only 20 goals the entire season. The offense, however, scored six fewer goals than second place AC Milan, prompting many to believe that this summer Juve will allocate serious money to build a top-rank strikeforce. Fernando Llorente is already set to join the Turin club on a free transfer while Higuain tops a wish list that includes Manchester City’s Carlos Tevez, Fiorentina’s Stevan Jovetic and Barcelona’s Alexis Sanchez.

Despite notching an impressive 104 goals in 185 matches since moving to the Bernabeu in 2007, Higuain has struggled this season. The Argentine has been forced to split time with Karim Benzema, resulting in only 26 La Liga appearances (17 of which were starts) where he’s netted 14 goals.

Higuain’s drop in form may be one reason why the 25-year-old was recently put up for sale by Real Madrid, who have vowed to keep hold of Benzema and to bring two new faces into the club this summer. One of those faces could be Tottenham’s Gareth Bale, who Madrid are reportedly willing to spend up to £60million to acquire.

Spurs, however, have no intent of parting ways with the Welshman and are in desperate need of a striker after enduring long spells of the 2012-13 season with either no forwards or an underwhelming committee effort comprised of Emmanuel Adebayor, Jermain Defoe and Clint Dempsey. Tottenham have also been rumored to be interested in bringing Higuain to White Hart Lane, valuing the Madrid striker somewhere in the region of £20million.

Should a deal not be worked out with Juventus, Arsenal is another club where Higuain could land. The Argentine be a major coup for the North London club. While Olivier Giroud enjoyed mild success in his first season at the Emirates question marks surround whether the former Montpellier man is a proper match for Arsenal’s style of play.

Higuain’s silky skills, link-up play and finishing ability, however, could be just what the Gunners need to challenge for next year’s title. And with a thick transfer kitty boosted by a £30m a year kit deal with Puma, Arsenal might finally be ready to splash the cash on a marquee signing.

 

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

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.