Visiting Under Armour to see Southampton’s new kit, partnership in USA

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BALTIMORE – Southampton FC unveiled their new kits for the 2016-17 Premier League season on Tuesday, their first with new sponsors Under Armour.

The club signed a seven-year partnership with the American sports brand in April, with Virgin Media announced as the new shirt sponsor, and Saints will be in Baltimore at UA’s Global Headquarters for a training camp from July 10-17 where they will also play a friendly behind closed doors.

[ MORE: How Saints plan to crack USA ]

ProSoccerTalk was in Baltimore at the Under Armour HQ to get a behind-the-scenes look at the work they are doing to help Southampton continue their growth as a top-level Premier League side.

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Photo courtesy of Southampton FC

Working with Under Armour, Southampton has partnered with local youth clubs in the Baltimore area, sending coaches over to the U.S. to help improve youth development stateside, as well as working together to grow the women’s game both in England and in the States.

There will be coaching courses hosted by Southampton’s staff in Baltimore coming up, as they will use the Maryland city as an initial hub for their North American operations. Ahead of their first-ever trip to the Europa League group stage in the 2016-17 season following their highest-ever finish in the Premier League last season, Saints are now looking to expand their boundaries globally.

Embarking on a tour of Under Armour’s sprawling campus, I saw presentations on new footwear and apparel, with prototypes of boots for the 2017 season already nearing completion. Then came a visit to the City Garage and Lighthouse, a new facility where the company works with state-of-the-art technology, such as creating 3D-printed running shoes, to help the brand continue their growth.

As employees in white lab coats worked on massive, and very expensive, machines, we learned of the technology that Under Armour used to create the new Southampton kits for the upcoming Premier League campaign.

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Photo courtesy of Southampton FC

The new kits were then revealed in a grand presentation, with one lucky Southampton fan in attendance to officially “pick up” the jerseys and bring them back to the South Coast of England.

While the kits utilize expansive technology to help create the best possible product, the story behind the shirt dates back to Southampton’s foundation in 1885. Under Armour sent representatives to St Mary’s Stadium to learn about the history of the club and get a feel for the community.

The home kits have kept the classic red-and-white stripes, while the away kit utilizes a black and grey colorway taken from designs inside St Mary’s. Goalkeeper Fraser Forster was even involved in some of the design process for the goalkeeper kits, which will be green and purple.

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Photo courtesy of Southampton FC

Southampton joins Tottenham Hotspur as the two Premier League clubs sponsored by Under Armour, with the brand also representing teams around the world such as AZ Alkmaar, Colo-Colo, Cruz Azul, and Sao Paolo. Aston Villa announced a partnership with the company earlier this month.

The Under Armour brand continues to be a growing force in the global soccer market and from their HQ in Baltimore, Maryland, their link with Southampton both from a branding standpoint and a shared philosophy is clear.

Two innovative brands taking on the big boys: UA and Southampton are just at the start of their Anglo-American relationship.

Stay logged on to ProSoccerTalk in the coming days as we will have more content from Saints’ recent trip to Baltimore.

Liga MX wrap: Pachuca earns first win, Leon stays unbeaten

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All of Saturday’s action from around Mexico’s top flight…

Pachuca 3-1 Lobos BUAP

A strong first-half push from the hosts was all Pachuca needed on Saturday night to earn their first victory of the 2018 Clausura season. Angel Sagal brought the home side in front after just 10 minutes off of a near-post header, before Pachuca’s lead soon doubled 14 minutes later from the penalty spot when strike Franco Jara converted on the dead-ball attempt.

Just prior to halftime, Pachuca was out to a 3-0 advantage when 20-year-old outside back Erick Aguirre tallied his first goal for the club.

Last-place side Lobos got on the board three minutes into the second stanza via a finish from Heriberto Olvera, however, it wasn’t enough to provide anything more than a consolation for the visiting side.

Necaxa 1-3 Chivas Guadalajara

Mexican international Alan Pulido made it a dream start for the visitors from Guadalajara at the Estadio Victoria, however, that lead was cancelled out in first-half stoppage time after Carlos Gonzalez leveled the match up at 1-1.

The difference proved to be with 25 minutes left to play, when a goalkeeping error by Marcelo Barovero allowed Chivas to regain possession inside the Necaxa penalty area, before Ronaldo Cisneros tapped home the winner.

Then, a third goal came just prior to the end of regulation when Edwin Hernandez killed the game off for Matias Almeyda’s men, who also earned their first victory of the Clausura season.

Rest of Saturday’s Liga MX action

Cruz Azul 0-0 Club Leon
Queretaro 0-0 Tigres UANL
Monterrey 0-0 Club Tijuana

Sunday’s matches

UNAM vs. Club America — 1 p.m. ET
Santos Laguna vs. Morelia — 7 p.m. ET

The 2 Robbies: Alexis/Mkhitaryan transfer saga and more

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Robbie Mustoe and Robbie Earle recap all the key stories from the latest Premier League Saturday fixtures including Manchester City’s 3-1 win over Newcastle (0:20), Chelsea’s 4-0 victory at Brighton (10:15) and the latest on the Alexis Sanchez/Henrikh Mkhitaryan saga after wins for Arsenal and Manchester United (19:00). Plus, a closer look at the bottom of the table and thoughts go out to James McCarthy after his serious injury against West Brom (29:00).

Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.

All of the The 2 Robbies content can be accessed by clicking on this link:

Click here for The 2 Robbies archive ]

Follow them on Twitter @The2Robbies

Video: Stoke’s Imbula scores stunner on loan at Toulouse

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Stoke City supporters know the name Giannelli Imbula, and perhaps they’ll be clamoring for the Frenchman to return to the bet365 Stadium if he can score more goals like this.

[ MORE: PL Roundup — Top three all victorious; Gunners thrash Palace ]

The holding midfielder is currently on loan with Ligue 1 outfit Toulouse, and for the first time this season, Imbula opened his goalscoring account in some fashion.

Right on half-hour mark, Imbula unleashed a left-footed strike from nearly 40 yards out to give Toulouse the lead over Montpellier (below).

Imbula joined Stoke during the 2015/16 PL season, and has made 26 appearances for the Potters in his time with the club, prior to his loan to France.

Willian proves he’s Chelsea’s x-factor against Brighton

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There’s a considerable difference when watching a Chelsea team that plays with and without one of its Brazilian influences in the attacking part of the field.

Willian — who first debuted for the Blues back in 2013 — hasn’t always managed to be a regular starter for Chelsea, whether it was Jose Mourinho, Guus Hiddink or current manager Antonio Conte at the helm, though.

[ SOURCES: Jack Harrison expected to join Stoke City this winter ]

The 29-year-old plays with considerable flair, something that certainly isn’t uncommon amongst many players that have grown up in Brazil.

At times Willian’s overconfidence is a significant blessing, and at others it can be considered a curse, however, the former Corinthians player’s presence is something that Chelsea needs now more than ever.

That was on display on Saturday during the side’s 4-0 win at Brighton, a match in which Chelsea dominated from start to finish with Willian on the pitch. While the performance cannot solely be attributed to the attacking midfielder’s showing, it’s easy to argue that the Blues midfielder is becoming the club’s biggest x factor — one that can determine the outcome of a match.

Just look six minutes into the match, when the Blues put together one of the best team goals you’ll see in a match this year (or any year for that matter), which of course, was started and finished by none other than Willian.

What stands out about the play isn’t the brilliant slicing shot into the near post corner by the veteran playmaker, but instead the confidence that Willian exudes and brings to a Chelsea lineup that has plenty of talent to be considered one of the best teams in England and all of Europe.

After all, Conte’s group is just a season removed from winning the Premier League and still sits inside the top three in the world’s top league.

Then, there’s the Blues’ third goal against Brighton, which was set up by a smart, and instinctive, through ball played into the path of Eden Hazard by Willian (below).

Even though Hazard ends up with a ton of time on the ball to make his next decision, which was ultimately to cut inside on his preferred right foot, the run by Willian towards the end line dragged a defender away from the Belgian international — allowing the sequence to progress.

Arguing Willian’s importance isn’t a knock on Hazard — a world-class player in his own right — or Alvaro Morata, who has had the intolerable task of replacing a key player like Diego Costa.

Instead, it simply shows that Chelsea has a plethora of talent, and that some of the club’s attacking struggles throughout the 2017/18 season can be chalked up to Willian being left out of the starting XI on a regular basis.

[ MORE: Sergio Aguero continues to display brilliance for Man City ]

The Brazilian international has scored eight goals and added seven assists this season in all competitions for the Blues, despite only starting 19 matches.

The mind of manager Conte is an ever-changing one, so maybe Willian still doesn’t get the starting nod on an every week basis, but just by watching the team’s performance at the Amex Stadium it’s quite hard to argue against the player being on the field as much as possible.