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.

VIDEO: Goalkeeper sends Memphis Depay flying with skillful touch

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Former Manchester United attacker Memphis Depay has one of the brightest spots for Lyon this season that sees them battling with Monaco and Marseille for 2nd place behind a dominant PSG. He has scored 15 goals and assisted 11 others this Ligue 1 campaign, adding to his tally just four minutes into Friday’s 5-2 win over Dijon, the sixth win in a row for the club that pulled them within a point of Monaco.

However, there was a moment to forget for Depay in the victory as well.

With the score still at 1-1 in the 19th minute, Depay was sent high up the pitch to press Dijon goalkeeper Baptiste Reynet, owner of the leakiest net of the Ligue 1 season. Nevertheless, sometimes the underdog prevails, and that’s what happened as Depay flung himself at the ball to put Reynet under pressure.

One silky touch by the netminder was all it took for Depay to end up on his backside.

The 24-year-old Dutch winger has had a fantastic season and one that could potentially propel him back to the biggest stage and a bigger paycheck, but for now, we can all poke fun at his misery in the moment.

Dortmund admits interest in signing Batshuayi permanently

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Michy Batshuayi might be out for the season with a serious ankle injury, but he may have already done enough to earn a permanent move to Borussia Dortmund.

The Chelsea striker moved on loan to the Bundesliga side in January and made an immediate impact, scoring two goals on his debut, and ultimately wound up with seven goals in 10 Bundesliga games before his ankle injury brought his season to a close. Now, the Dortmund front office is speaking very highly of the Belgian goalscorer, not so subtly hinting that they will take an aggressive approach this summer.

The interest to sign him is there,” said Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke. “But first we have to wait and see who will be Chelsea’s coach next season. Then we’ll start looking.”

Chelsea has Antonio Conte currently at the helm, but there are strong rumors that the Italian will depart at the end of the season as the Blues sit comfortably outside the Champions League places. Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is known for his quick trigger, and despite Conte winning the Premier League just last season, this year’s disappointment will likely not be tolerated.

That yet-to-be-determined future has a significant impact on Batshuayi’s future, as Watzke mentions. The new Chelsea boss could take a liking to Batshuayi, which could complicate his permanent move. In addition, it’s possible that current players on the Blues roster could depart, like Alvaro Morata, Olivier Giroud, or Willian, making Batshuayi’s place at Chelsea more tenable.

There’s plenty to be sorted out in the coming months, but with Batshuayi’s 10-game performance at Westfalenstadion at the forefront of Watzke’s mind, it’s clear there will be potential here as the summer draws near.

Sessegnon scores 15th as Fulham equals Man City unbeaten mark

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Fulham equalled the longest unbeaten run in the English top four tiers this season as it defeated sixth-placed Millwall 3-0 on the road to increase its streak to 22 games without a loss and moving the club into position for automatic promotion.

The Whites have not lost since December 16th when they fell 1-0 to relegation-threatened Sunderland. The unbeaten streak matches Manchester City’s run of 22 games to start the Premier League campaign before a 4-3 loss to Liverpool in mid-January broke the spell.

Highlighting the match was the game’s opening goal from 17-year-old Ryan Sessegnon, the young defender’s 15th goal of the Championship season. Just a week ago, Sessegnon was named a finalist for PFA Player of the Year alongside Harry Kane, Leroy Sane, and Raheem Sterling. Also scoring in the win was Newcastle loanee Aleksandar Mitrovic who has bagged 11 goals in 15 matches since moving to Craven Cottage on Deadline Day of the winter transfer window, sparking talk of a possible permanent move should the Whites find themselves promoted at the end of the season. Fulham has not trailed a single second since he stepped on the field for his club debut.

Manager Slavisa Jokanovic has the team firing on all cylinders, outscoring opponents 49-14 during the unbeaten streak and racking up 56 out of a possible 66 points, with just five draws blemishing an otherwise perfect record. The club has scored first in 15 straight matches, and has not trailed since drawing level in the closing minutes of a 2-2 draw with Hull City on December 30th. The only teams in the top four leagues to score more goals than Fulham since Jokanovic took over are Liverpool and Manchester City.

USMNT defender Tim Ream has been arguably the club’s most valuable player during the streak, locking down a defense that has picked up 11 clean sheets during the unbeaten run. Ream has played in all but two league matches this season, completing the full 90 minutes in all 41 of his appearances thus far. He has been voted Man of the Match five times this season by the fans on the team’s official website, most recently in a 1-0 victory over Reading on April 10th. He also grabbed the award in a 2-0 win over Championship title winners Wolves on February 24th, a game that saw the Whites out-possess and out-shoot the league champions. Ream had this stunning goal-line clearance in the victory over Millwall on Friday, saving Fulham’s bacon with goalkeeper Marcus Bettinelli on the ground after an acrobatic save.

Fulham still has work to do in the Premier League promotion picture, despite the spectacular form. They sit in 2nd position as it stands, leading Cardiff City by two points, but Cardiff has yet to play this weekend, giving them a massive two games in hand. Fulham could ultimately be done in by a slow start to the season that saw them win just twice in the first nine matches of the season as the squad adjusted to a host of new additions. In addition, Fulham suffered a disappointing draw last time out against Brentford as the Bees scored in the 94th minute to deny Fulham all three points, a massive blow to their automatic promotion hopes. Still, Fulham would be considered favorites in any potential playoff run, with Aston Villa, Middlesbrough, and Millwall currently the other teams in playoff positions.

There’s plenty on the line for the club over the next few weeks. Should Fulham fail to gain promotion, it could be a massive blow to the club as Sessegnon could be lured away from Craven Cottage, with Jokanovic and playmaker Tom Cairney also likely to garner speculation of a departure over the summer if the club was to remain in the Championship.

Espanyol fires former Watford manager Quique Sanchez Flores

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Espanyol says it has fired manager Quique Sanchez Flores with the club slumping in the Spanish league and in danger of facing a relegation fight to end the season.

Espanyol announced the decision on Friday, adding sports director Jordi Lardin has also been let go.

Sanchez Flores, a former manager of Atletico Madrid, Valencia and Watford, among other clubs, coached the Barcelona-based club for the past two seasons.

Reserve team coach David Gallego will take over for the remaining five rounds of the season, starting with a visit to Girona on Sunday.

Espanyol hasn’t scored a goal in five matches, and has only two wins in the last 15 rounds. It is in 16th place, nine points from the drop.