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Brendan Rodgers, the Premier League’s Hansel: So hot right now

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A manager playing down his side’s chances of winning the Premier League title has become all the rage.

Pellegrini’s doing it…

Wenger’s doing it…

Mourinho was freaking born doing it…

And now we can add Brendan Rodgers to that esteemed mix. As a result of Liverpool’s formidable form over the last few weeks the Northern Irishman has truly become the Hansel of the Premier League – so hot right now.

In fact, Rodgers’ is such fire that journos have been asking him if Liverpool can win the title, which is kind of hilarious considering they’re 4th in the table, six points off the pace.

But whatever. Doesn’t matter.

Like Men in Blazers say, the Premier League is all about narratives.

And what better storyline than a club that comes out of nowhere to win the title?!

source:
“I was totally fine. I’ve never even been to Mount Vesuvius.”

So, despite having his side barely being within a Champions League spot (Spurs are just three points back), Rodgers answered the title-chance question.

Handled it pretty well, too.  Talked about trying to have the club finish as high as possible, with Champions League the goal. Well PR’d on that one.

For me, if Liverpool are to do the impossible and win they league the key will be to take full points from average Premier League sides.

So far this season they’ve drawn with Swansea City, Newcastle, Aston Villa and West Brom and they’ve lost to Southampton and Hull City.

To win the title, results like that can’t happen. Eliminate the problem, though, and the title questions might not seem so ridiculous after all.

Below are full highlights from Rodgers’ presser earlier today:

“I really only focus on the team and the football club, and make no mistake – I want to get into the Champions League for the people here at the club and the people of the city,” he said.

“I came here to try and inspire the city as much as the team. I know what Champions League football can bring to a city like Liverpool and everything it can generate.

“I keep the focus on improving the players, improving our performance levels, and you can see from the continuation of the development we’ve made over the last 18 months that we’re going to be a match.

“The momentum has been building and building, but I just think it would be unprecedented to go from being where we were last year in seventh position to first.

“We’ve got so many young players, who are still growing and developing and our squad is small. So I feel that we’ve still got work to do.

“But when we play like that and perform like that (on Saturday), people are obviously going to ask the question (can you win the league?).

“We’re five points behind Arsenal, four behind Manchester City and six behind Chelsea and we still have them to play here at Anfield.

“But the main objective is just to finish as high as we possibly can and let’s see where that takes us.

“Right the way through this season and throughout my time here, we’ve started to just chip away in our development and improve.

“It was another wonderful result for us (on Saturday) and what was particularly pleasing was the performance.

“It was an incredible display from a group of young men who are growing and getting better all the time. It was very pleasing.”

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.