Three things learned: Morgan relieved to get back in scoring column

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EDMONTON, Alberta – The U.S. eked out a 2-0 victory against Colombia on Monday in the Round of 16 in a match that was hardly a dominant display from the American. The win puts the U.S. through to the quarterfinals against China on Friday, but the Americans are yet to play their best soccer.

U.S. players say they are still coming into their peak, and that improvements are tangible. Here’s what we learned from the United States’ 2-0 win over Colombia:

A weight lifted off Morgan’s shoulders: Alex Morgan scored her first goal of this World Cup in her second straight start. She said she was initially looking to cross the ball on the sequence, but a goal’s a goal. That’s all she really cares about.

“It’s definitely a little bit of a sigh of relief,” Morgan said. “Just as a forward we always want to score goals. We’re expected to score goals. We needed that breakthrough at that moment after not converting the penalties, so it was a breath of fresh air after I scored.”

[MORE: Complete coverage of 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup]

The goal was Morgan’s first since March 4 against Switzerland. Morgan admitted that the recovery process from a bone bruise in her left knee that kept her most of April and all of May became worrying in the homestretch ahead of the World Cup. She said she had “a minor freak-out three weeks before the World Cup” when she still wasn’t back to full training, saying that sometimes she gets inside of her own head too much. Now, however, Morgan is only looking forward.

“I don’t remember the last goal I’ve had with this team and that’s not a good sign,” she said.” So I don’t want to look back and see when the last one was, because now I’ve scored and it’s a fresh start moving forward. But I’m happy at where I am with the team. I think we’ve been building the last couple of games. I think that in the second half we had a pretty dominant performance and I’m looking forward to playing China next.”

U.S. extends shutout streak: The United States’ defense has been its best asset this tournament, and while Colombia never looked overly threatening in the final third, distribution out of the back by the Americans was less than stellar. It’s something that will need to improve against China in the quarterfinals, but even on an off night, per se, the U.S. extended its shutout streak to 333 minutes, last conceding in the opening half-hour of the tournament against Australia.

“They are very good in tight spaces and so they got out pretty well, so we had to be OK with them having the ball at times,” U.S. defender Becky Sauerbrunn said. “I think defensively, as a team, we did really well in keeping them away from dangerous areas.”

Colombia is for real: Colombia will leave this tournament having sent a message to the rest of the world that they won’t be pushovers at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Colombia’s disciplined first-half performance frustrated the U.S. and Las Cafeteras hardly looked out of their depths physically or tactically.

Lady Andrade was largely bottled up but showed moments of that impressive flair that made for an exceptional tournament. Colombia’s midfield gave the U.S. trouble with the extra player in the middle of the park – a concerning trend for the U.S. – and controlled the ball through large stretches.

“I think that in the future, any team that has to play against Colombia as an opponent will realize that it is a team that is very complete, very mature,” Colombia coach Fabian Taborda said.

Indeed, the world took notice. Had that game been played at full-strength the entire time, the result could have been much different.

LIVE, FA Cup 4th round: Spurs visit Southampton in all-PL tie

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The fourth round of the FA Cup is set to get into full swing at 10 a.m. ET, with eight ties kicking off simultaneously, including a pair of all-Premier League clashes.

[ LIVE: Follow all the FA Cup scores here ]

Southampton host Tottenham Hotspur in the premier matchup of the time slot, with Jose Mourinho desperate for Cup success amid a difficult run of results at Tottenham. Elsewhere, Burnley will host Norwich City at Turf Moor. Fellow PL sides West Ham United, Newcastle United and Sheffield United are also in action.

Check the schedule of fixtures below, and hit the link above to follow along with the scores and results. As always, check back on PST for recaps and a roundup of all the action.

Saturday’s FA Cup schedule (all games at 10 a.m. ET, unless otherwise noted)

Southampton v. Tottenham Hotspur
Burnley v. Norwich City
West Ham United
v. West Bromwich Albion
Newcastle United v. Oxford United
Millwall v. Sheffield United
Portsmouth v. Barnsley
Coventry City v. Birmingham City
Reading v. Cardiff City
Hull City v. Chelsea — 12:30 p.m. ET

FA Cup: Leicester survive trip to Brentford, reach 5th round (video)

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Brendan Rodgers made nine changes, but Leicester City were simply too much for an equally rotated Brentford side in the fourth round of the FA Cup at Griffin Park on Saturday.

[ MORE: Report: Spurs, Inter close to deal for Christian Eriksen ]

Leicester took an early lead through Kelechi Iheanacho with just four minutes on the clock, and that was all the Premier League’s third-place side needed to see off the EFL Championship’s third-place side. Dennis Praet gets no official credit for the goal, but it was the Belgian midfielder’s seeing-eye through ball that carved the Bees up and found James Justin for the routine cross followed by Iheanacho’s tap-in finish.

It was far from easy or straightforward for the Foxes, though, as Brentford turned things around following the first-half whistle an so nearly pulled level just past the hour mark. Emiliano Marcondes whipped in a curling, in-swinging cross that needed the slightest of redirects to find the back of the net, but Halil Dervisoglu couldn’t get a toe on the ball and watched helplessly as it hit the inside of the post and settled on the ground a yard or two off the goal line.

Bryan Mbeumo came off the bench and put the ball into the back of Leicester’s goal with his first touch, but the Frenchman was correctly ruled offside when Rico Henry looped the ball over the Foxes’ defense.

The draw for the fifth round will be held on Monday at 2:20 p.m. ET, prior to kickoff of Bournemouth v. Arsenal.

Report: Spurs, Inter close to deal for Eriksen

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After months of posturing and working the back channels, it would appear that Christian Eriksen is close to getting his transfer away from Tottenham Hotspur.

[ VIDEO: Haaland has played 59 minutes, scored 5 goals for Dortmund ]

After months of posturing and holding firm, it would appear that Tottenham are close to getting their desired transfer fee for Eriksen despite his contract having only six months remaining.

After months of posturing and unsettling the 27-year-old star, it would appear that Inter Milan are close to getting their Danish international playmaker.

In the end, it would appear that everyone is going to get what they want, only no one truly gets what they want. Spurs spent the last year trying to sign Eriksen to a new contract; Eriksen wanted to leave in the summer and will feel like they wasted six months of his career; much like Inter would have been desperate to bolster their squad in the summer.

[ MORE: Mourinho in favor of PL’s winter break, but says timing all wrong ]

$22 million — the amount Spurs will reportedly receive from Inter — will hardly be enough to replace such an influential player, therefore Spurs come out of this long-running saga the worst of the bunch.

As for Eriksen and Inter, it’ll be a challenge for the player to immediately find his footing and shine ever so brightly in the midst of a title race, especially after the side has already slumped to back-to-back draws and fallen four points back of Juventus. Though, reportedly tripling his wages from Spurs to Inter leaves Eriksen the biggest winner in a mostly no-win situation.

Struggling Atleti in unfamiliar territory under Simeone

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MADRID — This is uncharted territory for many Atletico Madrid fans.

Few other times in recent years have they seen their team struggle so much under Diego Simeone.

[ VIDEO: Haaland has played 59 minutes, scored 5 goals for Dortmund ]

Few other times have they seen their coach fail so often while trying to put the team back on track.

Atletico hit a new low under Simeone on Thursday when it was eliminated by third-division club Cultural Leonesa in the round of 32 of the Copa del Rey. The 2-1 loss in extra time was the team’s worst result in the cup competition since losing to third-tier club Albacete at the same stage in 2011-12.

Two days after that loss in 2011, Atletico hired the then-mostly unknown Simeone to replace Gregorio Manzano, a move that kick-started one of the club’s most successful eras and led to a Spanish league title, two Europa League trophies and two Champions League final appearances.

Atletico did go through difficult moments under Simeone, including when the team failed to advance past the group stage of the Champions League a couple of seasons ago.

“There were always complicated moments in past seasons, maybe after we didn’t make it in the Champions League, or when we lost in the Champions League finals,” Simeone said. “After being at the club for so long, things like this can happen, although they shouldn’t happen.”

There is a greater sense of urgency about the team’s struggles this time.

In addition to Wednesday’s embarrassing Copa del Rey elimination, Atletico lost the Spanish Super Cup final to Real Madrid on Jan. 12, and already is eight points off the Spanish league lead after 20 matches.

[ MORE: Report: Man United’s list of possible new strikers revealed ]

Before, there used to be a notion that Simeone would quickly turn things around and put the team back on track, but this time there aren’t many signs things will improve again soon.

Atletico has yet to impress since undergoing its biggest squad revamp under Simeone at the end of last season, when it lost Antoine Griezmann and other veteran players such as Filipe Luis and Diego Godin. Young Portugal forward Joao Felix, who arrived to replace Griezmann after a transfer from Benfica worth more than 120 million euros ($133 million), has yet to meet expectations.

More concerning, Atletico is not being nearly as effective as it used to be, when it always seemed to find a way to win matches despite not playing well.

The team remains solid defensively — it has the second-best defense in the Spanish league with 14 goals conceded — but it hasn’t been able to do much in attack recently.

“Everything is harder when you can’t score,” Simeone said.

Only seven teams have scored fewer goals than Atletico’s 22 in the 20-team standings.

Diego Costa has been mostly out injured, and Victor “Vitolo” Machin and Alvaro Morata haven’t done much in attack. Morata is the team’s leading scorer with 10 goals in all competitions, and no one else has more than five.

“We have to be humble enough to be self-critical,” Simeone said. “We need to keep working to try to be ready for the challenges that we have ahead of us. We have a very good squad and I’m sure that the results that we want will start arriving soon.”

Atletico biggest chance to rebound will come next month against European champion Liverpool in the last 16 of the Champions League. The first leg will be on Feb. 18 in Spain.