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.”

Zouma signs new Chelsea contract, is immediately loaned to Stoke City

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Kurt Zouma‘s long-term future is secure at Chelsea, but his short-term future will be away from Stamford Bridge.

The France international centerback signed a new six-year contract with Chelsea and was promptly sent out on a season-long loan to Stoke City. Zouma made just three starts and nine total appearances last season as he came back from a torn ACL suffered in February 2016.

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“It is fantastic Kurt has chosen to commit his future to Chelsea,” Chelsea technical director Michael Emenalo said in a statement. “He has shown his talent since joining us three years ago, and has returned from a serious injury with a fantastic attitude.

“Now he has the opportunity to play regularly in the Premier League and we will be monitoring his progress closely while he is at Stoke.”

The move to Stoke will give Zouma a new experience, playing for a mid-table side in the Premier League, and it will be interesting to see where he fits in at centerback, battling with American Geoff Cameron and Englishman Ryan Shawcross.

Even with John Terry leaving the club, Zouma was likely to be second-choice in the back three for Chelsea and if he wants to make France’s squad for the 2018 World Cup, he’ll have to play regularly.

 

 

 

Morata signs five-year contract at Chelsea

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Chelsea FC will have another Spanish international leading the front line, with Diego Costa likely on his way out of town.

The club announced that Alvaro Morata has completed a transfer from Real Madrid, signing a five-year contract at Stamford Bridge. The BBC reports the transfer fee at nearly $78 million.

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“I am so happy to be here,” Morata said in a statement. “It’s an incredible emotion to be part of this big club. I am looking to work hard, score as many goals as I can and to win as many trophies as possible.”

Morata emerged as an option to replace Costa after Romelu Lukaku decided on joining Manchester United over his former club Chelsea. Morata, who was a Manchester United target at first, then turned his sights on London after becoming disillusioned in Madrid, playing second-fiddle to Karim Benzema.

Despite not being first-choice up top, Morata scored 15 goals in 26 La Liga games and another three in the UEFA Champions League, which Real Madrid went on to win over Morata’s former club Juventus. Morata started for Juventus the last time the club had been in the Champions League final.

Despite being just 24, Morata is emerging as one of the world’s top forwards. He has nine goals in 19 games for the Spanish National Team and now is the right time for him to experience the challenge of the Premier League, where the games come thick and fast and the pace of the game is a step up from what he’s experienced in Spain and Italy.

However, the tactical knowledge he’s learned in both places should help him in England, where he can position himself between the opposing centerbacks.

 

Report: Neymar tells Barcelona teammates he’s off to PSG

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Brazilian star Neymar isn’t keeping his future plans under wraps, at least when it comes to his current club teammates.

According to a report in French newspaper Le Parisien, Neymar has started telling his Barcelona teammates that he’s intends to join Paris Saint-Germain. Spanish publication Marca meanwhile is reporting that Neymar’s teammates are trying to persuade him to stay in Catalonia for the season.

The Le Parisien report adds that certain officials at Barcelona believe the transfer is imminent and are resigned to losing one of their stars this summer. The report also said that it was a “decisive step” that Neymar was on board with the deal, going along with his father and agent.

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Rumors intensified over the past few days as reports emerged in Spain that Neymar had agreed on a contract with PSG, and all that was awaiting was PSG exercising Neymar’s release clause, worth nearly $260 million (€222 million). On paper, PSG’s Qatari owners can probably afford that tremendous sum but it still remains to be seen whether PSG will see this move over the line.

Should Neymar move, it would break transfer records for the price of the deal as well as shock the world, as Neymar seemed settled and happy in Barcelona playing alongside the likes of fellow South Americans Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.

Neymar and Barcelona are currently in New York training ahead of the club’s friendly match in the International Champions Cup against Juventus Saturday at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.

Liverpool complete signing of Hull’s Robertson

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Liverpool has added to its defensive depth with the signing of one of Scotland’s bright young stars.

The club announced the signing of left back Andy Robertson for a reported $10.4 million, which can rise to $13 million with add-on clauses.

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Robertson made 33 appearances for Hull City last season in the Premier League, scoring a goal and assisting on two others. While Robertson is joining Liverpool, midfielder Kevin Stewart is heading the opposite direction, joining the Championship club for a reported $5.2 million.

Robertson will likely compete with Alberto Moreno for the starting left back position, and with Liverpool competing in the Premier League plus three cup competitions, depth at every position will be crucial when injuries and fatigue sets in.