Sydney Leroux, USWNT, Mexico v United States

Late Leroux goal keeps U.S.’s streak against Canada alive

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A first half goal from center back Kadeisha Buchanan put Canada on the verge of a breakthrough, but after its former resident turned nemesis equalized late in the second half, the team’s long winless run against the United States continues. With Sydney Leroux beating Erin McLeod in the 78th minute, the United States came back for a 1-1 draw in Winnipeg, Manitoba, running the team’s unbeaten streak against its northern rivals to 30 games.

Canada took the lead after 35 minutes when Buchanan, an 18-year-old defender from the University of West Virginia, headed Diana Matheson’s corner into the left of Hope Solo’s goal, providing the home side a lead it’d hold for over 40 minutes. Part of a defense that included two other teenagers (Surra Yekka, 17; Rebecca Quinn, 18), Buchanan spend most of the night giving a player of the match-caliber performance while keeping the U.S. off the scoresheet.

Twelve minutes from time, however, Canada’s hopes of claiming a fourth win in 56 games against the U.S. evaporated. On a cross from the right from substitute fullback Crystal Dunn, Leroux saw the ball dropto her at the far post, with her quick finish beating McLeod for another dramatic goal on Canadian soul.

Last June, the British Columbia-born Leroux scored the winning goal at Toronto’s BMO Field, giving the U.S. a 3-0 win in the teams’ first meeting since Canada’s controversial semifinal loss in the 2012 Summer Olympics.  Following her goal, Leroux responded to a crowd that had booed her introduction with a shushing finger against her lips, eventually lifting the U.S. crest toward the audience to reiterate her allegiance.

If there was one person Canadian fans wouldn’t have wanted to stand between them and a long-sought victory, it would have been Leroux. The players, however, probably won’t take things as personally. Instead, John Herdman’s team can take heart in a performance that looks like progress. The winless streak goes on, but so does the host team’s development ahead of the 2015 World Cup.

For the U.S., questions remain, but without a permanent head coach, it’s unclear who should answer them. The team again set out in a 4-3-3, starting veteran Abby Wambach at its tip, but failed to summon the intensity needed to pull off the setup. University of Virginia star Morgan Brian continues to be a willing subject in a defensive midfield experiment but at times appeared unaccustomed to playing at that level of the field.  The U.S. didn’t play badly, but for a team that just fired its coach while it sat No. 1 in the world, it didn’t play up its standards, either.

As hinted on ESPN3’s broadcast, Tyreso head coach Tony Gustavsson — a former assistant of Pia Sundhage — is now the favorite for the permanent job. Beyond current interim head coach Jill Ellis, it’s unclear what other candidates are being considered, with U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati having all but ruled out a NWSL candidate during an interview at halftime of this weekend’s Sky Blue-Boston match.  If his Gustavsson’s team’s participation in this month’s UEFA Champions League final is the only thing preventing the 40-year-old’s immediate appointment, the U.S. will surely have a new boss  by the time it faces France on June 14.

At that time, the U.S. can start moving forward. For now, the team’s treading water.

Spanish playmaker Bojan signs new long-term contract at Stoke City

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Bojan Krkic will be a Potter for plenty of years to come.

On Thursday Stoke City announced that Bojan, 25, has signed a contract extension keeping him at the Britannia Stadium for another four-and-a-half years.

[ MORE: New-look Stoke to progress

Since arriving from Spanish giants Barcelona at the start of the 2014-15 season the playmaker has been a revelation in the Premier League.

Despite suffering a serious knee injury midway through his debut season in England, Bojan has battled back this campaign and has scored five times in 23 outings for the Potters.

Speaking to the club website, Bojan revealed his delight in signing the contract extension that will see him stay with Stoke until the summer of 2020.

“I am very happy and motivated. Stoke City gave me the opportunity to play in the most competitive league in the world, the Premier League, and I have only words of gratitude for their trust and for the way they have treated me since the first day I arrived to England,” Bojan said. “Mark Hughes convinced me to come to Stoke, he has helped me and showed his trust in me from the beginning, he followed closely the recovery process from my injury and there is no doubt I have signed an extension of my contract thanks to him.”

With Mark Hughes’ side battling for a top six finish, being knocked out agonizingly on penalty kicks by Liverpool in the League Cup semifinal and still in the FA Cup, it’s been another stellar season for Stoke as their progress continues.

Bojan’s presence has been central to attracting top names to join him at Stoke, with the likes of Xherdan Shaqiri, Ibrahim Afellay and Mark Arnautovic all part of a new-look attack which in-turn has provided a much more attractive team to watch on the pitch.

Amid interest from plenty of other teams around the Premier League and Europe, Stoke have kept hold of their main creative hub and fans will be delighted to see the Barca academy product progress with the Potters over an extended period of time.

VIDEO: USWNT’s Press scores stunning goal after amazing spin move

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What a first touch.

The U.S. women’s national team beat Costa Rica 5-0 in the opening game of their CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying campaign on Wednesday and USWNT forward Christen Press scored the pick of the bunch after she teed herself up with a superb first touch.

[ MORE: NBC to stream every Olympic qualifier

Click play on the video above to watch the World Cup winner control the ball with a deft outside-of-the-foot touch before spinning and striking home in a mesmerizing movement.

Majestic.

Press and the USWNT face Mexico on Saturday in their second Group A game (Watch live, 9:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra).

On the up, off the pitch: Manchester United’s revenue continues to rise

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Manchester United have announced that revenue levels for the three months leading up to December 31 rose by 26.6 percent.

The Red Devils released the figures on Thursday which show revenue of $192.4 million, with commercial revenue up a massive 42.5 percent but matchday revenue was down 1.6 percent.

[ VIDEO: Ferrell – “I got Mourinho fired”

The overall profit for the quarter was $26.7 million and over that period club debt fell by 6 percent but still stands at an eye-watering $463.6 million. That said, in a recent review of the finances of the top clubs on the planet Deloitte believes United will top the rich-list next season.

Despite Louis Van Gaal‘s future being questioned, United being knocked out of the UEFA Champions League at the group stage in December and being six points off the top four with just 13 games of the current Premier League season to go, the strength of their results off the pitch continue to show just how successful a business they’ve become.

Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward told investors that: “Our solid results off the pitch help contribute to what remains our number one priority – success on the pitch.”

Woodward has also vowed to continue United’s “strong commitment to investing in our squad, youth academy.”

[ MORE: Report – Mourinho tells friend he will take over at United

Van Gaal, 64, will need a strong finish to the season on the pitch to help United to success and in turn improve those financial figures for next season. Failure to finish in the PL’s top four and qualify for the UCL will substantially impact United’s financial results next season, and the pressure remains on him and his players to claw back the deficit.

With speculation mounting that Jose Mourinho could be appointed as United’s new boss there also seems to be a surplus of cash which Rob Harris from the Associated Press speculates could be used for a new manager…

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.