Fulham v Cardiff City - Premier League

Premier League Preview: Cardiff City vs. Fulham

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Saturday boasts a relegation six-pointer, as last-placed Fulham travel to Cardiff City Stadium to take on the Bluebirds, who are just one point above in the standings. (Watch live at 10 a.m. ET online via Live Extra).

Both sides have struggled in the Premier League this season, and both sides have undergone changes in hopes of ensuring survival. But will new faces – both on the field and in the dugout – be enough to keep either Cardiff or Fulham afloat?

Since coming in at the beginning of January, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has guided Cardiff to just one Premier League win, during which new Bluebirds Kenwyne Jones and Wilfried Zaha scored to cancel out Norwich’s early lead. Combined with a goalless draw with Aston Villa, that’s just four points from nine games for the new manager.

Something’s gotta give, you feel, as it doesn’t seem as though owner Vincent Tan is a patient man. But while not even three points will pull Cardiff into safety – unless they manage to close the -22 goal gap between themselves and West Bromwich Albion – Solskjaer will likely sleep much better should he take what amounts to six points from Fulham.

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Fulham, meanwhile, are on their third manager of the season. Felix Magath stepped in to replace René Meulensteen a few weeks ago – strangely enough, after the Liverpool barely managed to nick all three points from their match. Fellow strugglers West Brom came back to get a draw late in Magath’s first match in charge, then Fulham fell 3-1 to Chelsea last time out.

It doesn’t much help that Fulham, in addition to their many pickups over the January transfer window, appear to have acquired a record-breaking dud. Greek striker Kostas Mitroglou, who should have been able to help Fulham collect some goals, is injured once more, leaving fans wondering if they’ll ever see him in action. That leaves the Cottagers relying on Darren Bent up top. Hey, at least the striker managed an assist to Johnny Heitinga’s consolation goal last weekend.

What they’re saying

Magath on Premier League survival: “I’m convinced that we will avoid relegation because we’ve developed in the last 14 days,” Magath said. “The team is growing together and that is what makes me sure that we can avoid relegation.” The Fulham manager continued, “I get the feeling here that everybody knows that and everybody sleeps well with the knowledge there are games ahead of us we can win.”

Aron Gunnarsson on Cardiff’s desperate need for points:  “It’s what you call a six-pointer. It’s going to be a hard game. We know they’re fighting for the three points and they need the points as well,” said the Bluebirds midfielder. “Hopefully we’ll keep on fighting and get the points we need because we desperately need them at the moment.”

Prediction

A cautious game. What’s clear is that both sides need three, rather than one, points, but the fear of collecting none at all may lead to a dull affair. With Fulham’s forward problems and Cardiff having scored just 19 goals in 28 games (and no goals in 399 minutes), a free-flowing, frenetic affair seems highly unlikely. Should the deadlock be broken, expect the hosts to nick it, 1-0. Because a streak’s gotta end sometime, right?

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.