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Soccer’s Choose Your Own Adventure: Gareth Barry

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You’re Gareth Barry.

For 16 years you’ve played in the Premier League, beginning your career at Aston Villa in 1998. For eleven years you wore the claret & blue, patrolling the Villa Park midfield and rising to prominence with the likes of Dion Dublin, Paul Merson, Ashley Young and Gabby Agbonlahor.

Labeled Mr. Consistency, you logged 388 appearances for the Villains (notching 47 goals and 27 assists along the way) before catching the eye of Manchester City in 2009.

The Citizens handed Villa a $20 million (£12m) transfer fee and signed you to a five year deal paying out at $168,000 (£100k) per week. Over that time you became a fixture of the City midfield and notably partnered Yaya Toure in the holding midfield role on the squad hoisted the 2011/12 Premier League title.

Then, prior to your final season under contract at City, an influx of world-class players and a new manager in Manuel Pellegrini rendered you surplus goods. Enter Everton, who offered you a life-line and starting job under new manager Roberto Martinez. Under the Spanish gaffer you thrived, enjoying what was arguably your best professional season on record.

And now here you stand: 33-years old, out of contract and available on a free transfer.

Your options are as follows:

A) Push hard to re-sign a 1-year deal at City where you’ll compete for domestic and European titles and continue enjoying a 6 figure weekly salary. The down side, of course, is that except for the occasional League and FA Cup match, you’ll ride pine like Scott Sinclair (remember him?!).

B) Sign with Everton where you will remain in the Premier League, have a starting position, play in Europe (ok, the Europa League, but still…) and be beloved by fans. The downside is that you’ll need to cut your wages in half to go there, won’t have a shot at winning the Premier League title and will struggle to ever play again in the Champions League.

C) Sign with Arsenal, who are reportedly interested in you. But the same positives and negatives exist in North London as the do at the Etihad – you’ll constantly be wondering why guys like Mikel Arteta (who you are miles better than) continually starts over you. And even though the Gunners can afford to keep you flush, they won’t. You’ll make slightly more than you would at Everton and be half as involved.

D) Sign with QPR or Stoke City. Yep, these clubs want you as well. You like the occasional cracking tackle so in theory Stoke could work but you’re too intelligent to play there — you enjoy the finer things in life, the vast majority of which are found away from the Britannia. QPR may look good on paper (they can certainly keep you well paid) but the idea of lining up alongside Joey Barton is almost as troubling as spending the season with a make-shift, over-touted and under-performing squad destined for a relegation race.

E) Sign with NYCFC. Get paid like you’re still at City, play-make for David Villa and Zlatan Ibrahimovic (I’m convinced this will happen in 2016), be left Papparazzi-free so you can do things like drink at random East Village bars and, ultimately, become a NYC icon and MLS legend.

Choose wisely, my friend.

 

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.