Rapids auction jerseys to help teammate’s mom fight cancer

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DENVER (AP) As far as defender Kortne Ford can recall, his mom has never missed a home soccer game.

Not with his youth teams when Laurie Ford was going through treatments for breast cancer. Not in high school. Not when he played at the University of Denver. Not now, with him a homegrown player for the Colorado Rapids and his mother dealing with the return of a disease that’s spread to her bones.

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The two of them leaning on each other — it’s been that way since they moved to Colorado years ago for a fresh start. His teammates are assisting his mom, too, by auctioning their jerseys after the Fourth of July game. Same with the fans, who cheered for her in the 24th minute – Ford’s number – of a recent match.

“The support, it’s just incredible,” said the 21-year-old Ford, who has “Mom” tattooed on his chest inside a breast-cancer symbol. “They gave her a year to live in February. We’re trying to drag that out as long as possible.”

The mother and son moved from Olathe, Kansas, to Greeley, Colorado, when Ford was 12 to escape a tough family situation. She got a job as a math teacher and he directed his passion even more into soccer, joining a local club team and then one in Denver.

His mom would drive him to practice — a round trip that could take two-plus hours. She did this even as she went through chemotherapy after being diagnosed with breast cancer around 2009. She did this even after a procedure that required 320-some stitches.

“She’s been huge about explaining to me how you have to know when to tune things out and focus on the things you need to focus on while you’re on the field, so you can perform to the best of your ability,” Ford said. “Sometimes, it’s difficult.”

In 2012, Ford joined the Rapids Academy, which is part of a nationwide youth initiative organized by the U.S. Soccer Federation to develop some of the country’s top players. He played on their under-16 and under-18 squads.

He chose Denver for college because he felt the Pioneers were on the verge of something special. He was right, too, as the team made it to the national semifinals last season with Ford anchoring the back line. Ford skipped his senior season and signed a homegrown contract with Colorado on Jan. 6.

About a month later, he was at training camp with the Rapids, when his mom called: Her cancer was back and had spread to her bones. A few weeks later, he said doctors told them it was terminal.

“That’s when it all hit,” Ford said.

This meant the world to him: She was in the stands when he made his professional debut at Sporting Kansas City on April 9. The Rapids fans also showed their support for his mom on May 5 by standing and applauding for 60 seconds. He clapped along from the sideline.

“There are really no words to describe it,” he said.

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Or this: Scoring his first MLS goal in a 1-0 win over Sporting Kansas City on May 27. After the game, he headed to the stands to embrace his mom.

“I told her, `That goal was for you,'” he said.

There’s a fund set up for her that’s raised more than $20,000 . To help even more, Ford’s teammate, Micheal Azira, suggested the idea of holding an auction for their game-worn jerseys after Tuesday’s game against Seattle. He got goalkeeper Tim Howard to assist in organizing the auction.

“You can’t do life alone,” Azira said on the Rapids’ team page. “He (Ford) being a part of our team means he is family, and no matter what, we try to help each other out.”

As a Mother’s Day tribute, Ford read a stirring letter in a video posted on Colorado’s website (above video):

“To the woman who seamlessly filled the shoes as both a mother and father for the majority of my life.”

“To the woman who pushed me in the classroom, pushed me on the court, pushed me on the field, pushed me to be a better man.”

“To the woman who encouraged me to ask for socks and underwear on each of my birthdays and promptly took me to the Salvation Army to donate them so I could experience the power of generosity.”

In closing, Ford added: “I cannot wait to stand by your side, support you, love you and to witness a miracle on the horizon when you beat this again.”

Breaking: Chelsea sells Diego Costa to Atleti, will re-join club in January

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We all suspected this would happen, and it finally occurred on Thursday.

[ MORE: Tammy Abraham expected to call Nigeria his national team ]

Chelsea has announced the transfer of Diego Costa to Atletico Madrid for roughly $68 million after spending  seasons with the Premier League side.

In his time with the Blues, the Spanish international scored 59 goals in all competitions for the Londoners, and helped the club to two Premier League titles.

The sale of Costa isn’t unexpected after the striker’s falling out with Chelsea manager Antonio Conte towards the latter half of the 2016/17 PL season.

The Italian boss revealed to Costa via text at the conclusion of the team’s PL-winning campaign that the goalscorer would no longer be needed at Stamford Bridge, prior to Chelsea acquiring striker Alvaro Morata over the summer.

Red Bulls must rally quickly, turn attention back to MLS playoff race

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For any Red Bulls supporter, Wednesday night’s U.S. Open Cup final was a grim reminder of how devastating any cup final can be for a team.

[ MORE: Sporting KC claims its fourth U.S. Open Cup title ]

The New York Red Bulls fell short against Sporting KC — who captured its fourth Open Cup victory in its club’s history — but Jesse Marsch’s side cannot dwell on the result because there is another big task at hand over the final weeks of the MLS regular season.

While that may be easier said than done, especially after the “heartbreaking” nature of Wednesday’s loss, Marsch believes that his side exhibits the qualities you’d want in any good team.

“The outcome is obviously heartbreaking, but the performance is what I think we’ll carry with us. In the moment, there’s no consolation prize,” Marsch said when asked about if there would be any hang over from the loss. “But the confidence that this group has, they way that they played and the way that they played for each other, this will continue to make us good.”

The biggest concern for the Red Bulls though isn’t necessarily even their current form, but instead the form of other clubs around them in the Eastern Conference. With six matches remaining, Marsch and Co. sit just three points above the Montreal Impact for the sixth and final playoff spot in the East.

Meanwhile, Atlanta United has surged up the table and still holds at least a game in hand over most of the field, making them quite the danger in addition leaders Toronto FC and second-place New York City FC.

The Red Bulls haven’t won a match since their 3-2 Open Cup semifinal victory against FC Cincinnati, which came over a month ago.

Marsch and his side do have the benefit of facing bottom-dwellers D.C. United twice over the last five weeks of the regular season, but also packed into into the Red Bulls schedule are matches against four current playoff teams, including Toronto and Atlanta.

Goalkeeper Ryan Meara stressed the importance of his side maintaining its focus, particularly after the Impact and Atlanta each picked up three points on Wednesday night.

“Yeah, that’s the thing, (our upcoming games) will make us move on from this,” Meara said. “We’ve got a big game in Columbus, we know the teams around us have been winning, Montreal won tonight and Atlanta won tonight, so I guess feel sorry for ourselves tonight, get up and dust ourselves off tomorrow and start looking forward to Saturday and Wednesday with D.C. United at home. The games are coming thick and fast and we’ve got to be ready for it.”

Tammy Abraham expected to make international switch to Nigeria

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Tammy Abraham has a bright future in the Premier League, but the on-loan Chelsea striker appears that he won’t be playing his international soccer for the country in which he currently plays.

[ MORE: Spurs land Hammers in League Cup draw; Chelsea faces Everton ]

The 19-year-old is expected to announce that he’ll play for Nigeria — the country of his father’s birth — after having represented England at various youth levels since 2014.

Nigerian Football Federation president Amaju Pinnick has made it clear that he believes Abraham will represent the Super Eagles at next summer’s World Cup in Russia, assuming Nigeria qualifies for the competition.

“I had a very honest and productive discussion with Tammy and his father last week,” said Pinnick.

“It’s been a long process but I can tell you authoritatively that he has agreed to play for Nigeria and not England. He and his parents have started the necessary documents to effect the switch.

“Clearly he understands he stands a better chance playing for the Super Eagles. With his talent he has the ability to fight for a place in the Nigeria squad, by God’s grace we make it to Russia, then he would contest for a chance to represent his fatherland.”

Nigeria currently leads its CAF World Cup qualifying group in the final round of African qualification, and a victory over Zambia on October 7 would ensure the country’s place in Russia next summer.

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The Super Eagles have a number of players Abraham is familiar with, given their connection to Chelsea, including Nigeria captain John Obi Mikel, youngster Ola Aina and current Blues wing back Victor Moses.

Weekend soccer games called off after Mexico earthquake

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MEXICO CITY (AP) Mexico’s soccer federation has canceled all first-division games this weekend as stadiums are being used as relief centers after the country’s magnitude 7.1 earthquake.

[ MORE: Sporting KC claims its fourth U.S. Open Cup crown ]

The federation announced Wednesday that there would be no games in the 10th round of the Apertura tournament or any other professional competition, including the women’s league.

“All the clubs are doing their bit,” Mexican league president Enrique Bonilla said in an interview on Fox Sports before the decision to cancel all matches was announced. “We would like to bring people a moment of joy, but it is a more complex decision, and we need to have all the information from authorities.”

The postponed league games will be played in mid-October, including the derby between Chivas and America.