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.”

Alonso, Pedro have Morata’s back despite Spain omission

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Alvaro Morata having his troubles keeping his spot in the Chelsea lineup, and his omission from the Spain squad has a couple of his teammates speaking up on his behalf.

Marcos Alonso, himself called up to Spain, and Pedro (not called up) have Morata’s back after the big striker scored at the weekend in FA Cup action.

[ MORE: Rojo’s hilarious Alexis signing reaction ]

Alonso admitted that Morata was less than pleased to miss the call-up so close to the World Cup.

“Alvaro wasn’t happy,” Alonso said. “He has gone through a difficult few months with a back injury. He is now 100 per cent and the other day he scored.He is a very important player for us. I hope he will do well from here until the end of the season and he gets to go to the World Cup.”

It’s not like Morata hasn’t performed for Spain; The 25-year-old has 13 goals in 23 caps for La Furia Roja.

But Spain coach Julen Lopetegui has opted for just four traditional strikers, with Chelsea outcast Diego Costa leading the way in caps (16) and goals (6). Also in the squad: Celta Vigo’s Iago Aspas (7 and 3), Valencia’s Rodrigo (3 and 1), and Real Madrid’s Lucas Vasquez (3 and 0).

Pedro pointed to Morata’s goal against Leicester City as a milemarker, via ChelseaFC.com.

“I’m very happy for Alvaro to score again and hopefully that will give him the confidence to score more. Alvaro is a very good player and an important part of our team. It’s important for him to score and to help the side and hopefully he can continue to do that until the end of the season.He had a back injury but now he’s in a very good condition and it’s a good time for him. I think his back is perfect now and hopefully he can keep scoring, because we all know just how good he is.’

Morata has been on the rise for several seasons, but hasn’t performed at a consistent level in his last three seasons at Juventus, Real Madrid, and Chelsea.

He had more of a playmaking streak at Juve, but has been a straight-up target man for both Real and Chelsea. His 13 goals and five assists certainly aren’t poor, but Antonio Conte clearly expected more from the Spaniard. Will his confidence be boosted before the end of the season?

Rojo’s reaction to Sanchez joining Man Utd was priceless

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Speaking to an Argentine publication while on duty, the Manchester United defender shared a number of interesting tidbits.

[ MORE: Young backs Luke Shaw ]

The first, and perhaps funnier one, came from a family visit to Manchester for the Christmas holiday, as Rojo set off a bunch of fireworks in his neighborhood, one he did not realize was shared with United legend Alex Ferguson.

Rojo said Ferguson saw him the next day and congratulated him on “the light show,” with the defender quipping that he thought he might be on his way out of the Old Trafford set-up.

But the more quotable translation comes from the Argentine learning that Chilean superstar and Premier League rival Alexis Sanchez was traded Arsenal red for the same hue at United.

Rojo said Sanchez has turned out to be a lovely guy, but that doesn’t change his initial shock at the news. From TYC Sports, translated by The Mirror,

“Every time we came up against one another, whether in internationals or when United played Arsenal, I would give him a good kicking – and he did the same to me.

“On top of that I used to insult him, and he would reply in kind. So when I learned that he was going to join United I said: ‘Oh, ******* hell, no, now this guy’s going to be here’.”

It likely happens more often than we know, given the competitive nature and furious tackling at the highest level. The old cliche “You’d love him if he was on your team” leaves out the fact that he’s also no longer on the opposition, beating you up.

Not to mention, there’s always that opening conversation, “Hey, that thing I said about your parents…”

Bradley, TFC not freaking over winless start (video)

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Toronto FC is Major League Soccer’s reigning champion, coming off one of the finest seasons in league history, and perhaps the best hope yet for a CONCACAF Champions League title.

It’s also in last place after three Match days in the 2018 season.

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That’s a tough juggling act, at least emotionally. Given the long and forgiving MLS season, TFC is going to be fine. But the Reds also have a group of players and executives not exactly known for resting on laurels.

TFC has not scored in losses to Columbus and Montreal, but rang up four goals over two matches in knocking UANL Tigres out of the CCL.

So on one hand, yeah, unprecedented success for the club. On the other…

“It’s certainly not ideal to look at the table for the next 13 days until we play again,” Bradley said. “On the other hand it’s been a busy start and we’ve gotta use the time over the next little stretch to regroup mentally, physically for what we hope is a really busy time.”

To recap: Yes, TFC deservedly advanced to next month’s CCL semifinal tie with Mexican monster Club American. No, they aren’t happy to lose a pair of league matches (even if they could’ve easily taken results in both with two favorable bounces).

“Let’s be a little bit honest and also say in the moment that while there have been things in these two league games that haven’t been good enough, we’ve been a little bit unlucky in terms of balls rolling across the goal line and some big chances that we haven’t been able to score on. You have to look at it from all angles. We’re certainly not happy,” Bradley said.

Young backs Man United teammate Shaw to become star

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Ashley Young‘s performances on the field and in training have helped keep Luke Shaw off the field, but the veteran winger sees the potential in Shaw that manager Jose Mourinho may not.

Per the BBC, Young said that Shaw could be among the “best in the world” at his position. Shaw was substituted off at halftime of Man United’s 2-0 win over Brighton and Hove Albion in the FA Cup and was publicly criticized by Mourinho after the game, sparking controversy and plenty of conversation in the media over the past 48 hours.

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“I want to see him doing well,” Young said. “It’s like all players, you just have to get your head down and work. He’s a fantastic player. He can be one of the best in the world.”

Shaw has struggled to make an impact and live up to expectations since making a $42 million move from Southampton to Old Trafford in 2014 as a 19-year-old. Shaw has made 99 Premier League appearances over the last four seasons for Man United but he’s been marginalized this season with just seven appearances.

When he moved to Man United, he likely looked at the 2018 World Cup as a goal, in which he could cement his place as the England left back of the future. Now, he’ll almost surely be watching the tournament from home, wondering what went wrong along the way.