Author: Jeff Kassouf

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Lloyd’s second straight hat trick boosts US women past Haiti

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Carli Lloyd is still delivering hat tricks, just on smaller stages than the World Cup final.

Lloyd had her second straight three-goal game to lead the United States to an 8-0 victory over Haiti on Sunday in a friendly.

Lloyd scored all three goals in the first half for her fifth hat trick and second in three days, then sat out the second half. She also made recent appearances ranging from “Hard Knocks” on HBO to ESPN’s “College GameDay Saturday” before the Mississippi-Alabama game.

“It’s been remarkable because she’s not only playing with her club but making all these appearances,” U.S. coach Jill Ellis said. “To put back to back performances with our team- she’s just a great professional. She’s so mentally strong that regardless of the opponent, regardless of the surface, she just takes the same approach. That’s a high standard that she has for herself, and yet she wants to deliver for her teammates.”

Lloyd also had three goals Thursday night in the first game against Haiti, which substituted for the Australian team mired in a labor dispute. She has 16 goals this year, one more than her previous high set in 2012 and matched in 2014.

“It’s all about improvement for me,” Lloyd said. “It’s all about contributing to the team and continuing to fight like an underdog.”

Lloyd has 14 goals in her last eight matches as the Americans continue their Women’s World Cup victory tour that so far has been a series of routs.

The Americans pushed their home unbeaten streak to 100 matches, going to 88-0-12. They haven’t lost at home since falling to Denmark on Nov. 6, 2004, during a post-Olympic celebratory tour.

Tougher competition awaits with a pair of October matches against Brazil in Seattle and Orlando, Florida.

Lloyd scored her third goal on a header in the 39th minute. She had just missed another first-half goal but her shot off a corner kick bounced off the crossbar.

The U.S. has outscored Haiti 42-0 in six meetings.

Crystal Dunn’s goal in the 17th minute was her second in the two games with Haiti, also marking her first two with the U.S. team. Dunn, who led the NWSL with 15 goals for the Washington Spirit, was among the final players cut from the World Cup team.

“I’ve definitely changed a lot about my game the last few months,” said Dunn, who also assisted on Lloyd’s second goal. “It was about development and that’s what I took away from being this close to making it.”

Julie Johnston scored in the first minute to start the barrage. Amy Rodriguez, Alex Morgan and Heather O’Reilly added second-half goals.

It was the Americans’ first match in Birmingham since 2008, a 5-4 victory over Australia when the U.S. scored two own goals and nearly blew a 4-1 lead. The crowd of 35,753 at Legion Field was the largest to see a standalone U.S. women’s game in the Southeast.

The Americans have won nine straight overall since a 0-0 tie against Sweden in the group stage of the World Cup and are unbeaten in 20 matches (17-0-3) since an exhibition loss at France in February.

With a starting lineup that included two 16-year-olds and three 17-year-olds, the Haitians seldom managed to push the ball across midfield. The U.S. had 39 shots, Haiti didn’t have any.

Kelley O’Hara and Megan Rapinoe both had two assists.

Becky Sauerbrunn made her first start for the U.S. as a central midfielder. Her previous 68 starts came as a central defender.

Iran captain set to miss Asian Cup after husband took passport

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The captain of the Iranian women’s soccer team will miss the Asian Cup tournament as her husband has confiscated her passport in a domestic quarrel, local media has reported.

The dispute between 30-year-old midfielder Niloufar Ardalan and her husband, sports journalist Mahdi Toutounchi, touches on the rights of women in the Islamic Republic. Under Iranian law, husbands can stop their wives from traveling outside of the country.

News of Ardalan missing the tournament came Monday, when Iranian news website reported that Ardalan wouldn’t be traveling to Malaysia for the Asian Cup, which begins Thursday. Ardalan’s husband reportedly wanted her to be home for their son’s first day of school.

In an Instagram post Tuesday, Ardalan said foreign media was exaggerating her case, but also acknowledged she would be missing the tournament. She also made a call for Iran to change its laws governing married women’s travel.

“I am only a national soldier who fights to raise flag of our country,” she wrote. “I wish a law would be approved that allows female soldiers to fight for raising the flag.”

The dilemma of Ardalan, known by the nickname “Lady Goal,” has sparked social media chatter across Iran, with many demanding she be allowed to travel and play.

Women’s sports largely disappeared after Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution. Over time, however, they have gained popularity, especially soccer. Social customs still come into the game though, as the country’s soccer team plays its games with players’ hair covered by hijabs.

Two Islamic countries make the headscarf mandatory for women in public – Iran and Saudi Arabia. FIFA overturned a yearlong ban against players wearing hijabs in 2012.

Ronaldo scores hat trick as Real Madrid beats Shakhtar 4-0

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MADRID (AP) Cristiano Ronaldo continued his impressive run by scoring a hat trick in Real Madrid’s 4-0 win over 10-man Shakhtar Donetsk in Group A of the Champions League on Tuesday.

After a five-goal performance in the Spanish league over the weekend, Ronaldo converted penalty kicks in the 55th and 63rd minutes, and then scored with a header in the 81st to take his Champions League tally to 80 goals. He leads Lionel Messi by three goals atop the leading scorer’s list in the competition.

Karim Benzema opened the scoring after a goalkeeping blunder in the 30th following a difficult start for Madrid.

Shakhtar played a man down from 51st after defender Taras Stepanenko was sent off with a second yellow card for a sliding tackle on Sergio Ramos.