Josip Drmic, Marcos Rojo

Messi the hero as playmaker and Di Maria’s extra time goal beats Swiss

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After 117 minutes of scoreless soccer, Lionel Messi fed Angel Di Maria, who scored the goal that made the Arena Sao Paolo erupt.

The goal also pushed Argentina to a 1-0 win over Switzerland and a berth in the World Cup quarterfinals.

Argentina will move on to play the winner of the Belgium and United States game, which kicks off at 4pm ET.

A fun, back-and-forth first half between Switzerland and Argentina gave way to a tentative, defensive second as the two sides searched for the goal that could lead them into the quarterfinals.

Swiss coach Ottmar Hitzfeld said on Monday that his team would show the way to stop Lionel Messi, and they punished the diminutive superstar with hard tackles and physical play. Messi’s chances were limited, and his team was frustrated.

Hitzfeld was presumably coaching with a heavy heart, as his brother passed away from leukemia hours before the match.

Meanwhile, first half counterattacks probably should’ve lead to goal for the underdogs. Granit Xhaka’s point-blank shot was saved by the foot of Argentine keeper Sergio Romero, while Josep Drmic’s cheeky chip didn’t get the height to soar above the keeper.

Here’s what we were saying at halftime.

In the second half, the chances were lesser. Marcos Rojo’s splendid cross was headed on target by Gonzalo Higuain, but Benaglio was able to tip it over the bar.

Benaglio made a diving stop on Messi in the 77th minute, able to get his right arm on the ball and thwart the shot.

And it was Messi magic again in the 89th minute, as his slaloming run ended with a pass for Palacio that was received poorly and skidded away from danger.

Extra time it would be. Of course.

The first period of extra time did not provide a wealth of prime chances, as the teams continued to beat each other about with hard fouls.

The second featured an early rip by Di Maria that Benaglio pushed over the goal, as Switzerland’s continued attention to Messi opened up some lanes for the Argentines.

With Argentina controlling possession and attack, it felt they were only team that could tally before kicks… and Messi found Di Maria for the goal.

Dzemaili headed a cross off the post in the 121nd minute before pushing the rebound wide with an off-balance touch. That was it for the Swiss.

LINEUPS

Argentina: Romero; Zabaleta, Fede Fernández, Garay, Rojo (Basanta, 105′); Gago (Biglia, 105′), Mascherano, Di María; Lavezzi (Palacio, 73′), Messi, Higuaín

Goals: Di Maria (117′)

Switzerland: Benaglio; Lichtsteiner, Djourou, Schaer, Rodriquez; Shaqiri,  Inler,  Xhaka (Fernandes, 64′), Behrami, Mehmedi (Dzemaili, 112′); Drmic (Seferovic, 81′)

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.