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College Soccer Update: Xavier’s giant killers are giants themselves

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Head coach Andy Fleming and Xavier couldn’t change history, but they have certainly eased the sting of last season’s NCAA tournament exit while cementing themselves as both giant-killers and potential giants themselves.

The Musketeers knocked off a second Top-2 team this season when they toppled unbeaten No. 1 Creighton in Omaha this week, partially-avenging the 2-1 loss that knocked them out of last year’s NCAA Tournament in the third round (Xavier beat No. 2 Notre Dame in South Bend on Sept. 15).

“I said we can’t go back and change what happened, but as far as the difficulty of winning in Omaha and beating an unbeaten team,” Fleming said. “If there were eight boxes to check to make up for the loss, we checked off six, which was fine cause we couldn’t (change last season).”

Xavier is 10-4-1 this season, yet another strong run during Fleming’s five years in charge. He took over a side that won five games in the two seasons before he took over, one that saw the national standard for red cards taken.

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Since Fleming was hired in 2010, Xavier has gone 71-32-18. The six-straight double-digit win seasons is a standard for the program, and matches the total number of 10-plus win seasons in the 35 years since he took over. And the Musketeers have rebounded from the reds to become one of the least-carded teams in the country.

Fleming says he looked at Duke basketball for inspiration in terms of representing a university, and Boston University’s hockey program as a powerful program in a non-traditional power sport. And while he thinks others saw “a graveyard” in the open coaching job at Xavier, he wanted to fix the culture of a sleeping giant, one he compared to his last stop in Illinois.

“I saw this as a mini-Northwestern and I thought I could get people to come here,” Fleming said. “We try to develop ‘hires’ and ‘spouses’, people you’d hire into your company or want your kid to marry.”

This season’s star has been the defending, which is little surprise given the Musketeers posted the Big East’s best defense in 31 years last season.

“Defense is our catalyst,” Fleming said. “And Cory Brown, a center back from New Zealand in the U-23 World Cup this summer, is definitely going to leave here as the most-decorated player we’ve had here. He’s a very savvy, experienced player.”

The coach also points to the performance of South Florida transfer goalkeeper Dallas Jaye and U.S. national futsal teamer Walker Andriot, and says the side has seen great offensive contributions from Jalen Brown and Matt Vasquenza.

The side’s progression led Fleming to a pivotal point in any season. He has a physical “key to the team” that he’s passed to them at Friday’s training session.

Fleming has also powered a very personal cause at the school. His daughter Devin was born with Down’s syndrome, and each Spring the side stages “Devin’s Game” to raise awareness for those born with the disability.

“Every time I get asked about it at the right moment it gets me,” Fleming said. “This university exists to take teenagers and make them into adults, and show them perspective and broaden their horizons. To put things in front of them, not the flowers and candy but the challenges. One of the most empowering things and special things is I think this all happened for a reason. In 10-20 years if one of them has something happen with a wife or parent or have a child born with a disability, if I got through to one of them I’ve done my job. Devin has changed everyone’s life.”

Three stars of the week

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1, 2 and 3) Fabulous freshmen playmakers — Wake Forest’s Jack Harrison, Utah Valley’s Aaron Meyer (above) and UCSB’s Geoffrey Acheampong are in the race to lead D-1 in assists. The first two have 11, while Acheampong has 10. West Virginia’s Joey Piatczyc leads the league with 12, but West Virginia may well miss the MAC tournament and provide him few chances to improve on the total.

Other notes

— Creighton’s loss opens the door to a wealth of teams, including surging Wake Forest, Clemson and Stanford.

— Denver looks very good and remains unbeaten at 11-0-3, but will likely fail to leap up the table due to a perceived-soft non-conference schedule.

— Other No. 1s in this week’s poll were: Pfeiffer (Men’s D-2), Franklin & Marshall (Men’s D-3), Florida State (Women’s D-1), Gannon (Women’s D-2), Messiah (Women’s D-3), Rio Grande (Men’s NAIA), Lindsey Wilson (Women’s NAIA), Louisberg (NJCAA Men’s D-1), Genesee Community College (NJCAA Men’s D-3), Eastern Florida State (NJCAA Women’s D-1), Fresno City (NJCAA Women’s D-3).

— Nick DePuy from UCSB leads the nation in goals, with 15 in 18, after scoring three in his last two.

Still, the race for the scoring title remains fairly open:

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Transfer Rumor Roundup: Spurs snag Clarke, Arsenal eyeing French youngster

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According to a number of reports across England, Tottenham may have secured its first new player signing in 511 days, rumored to have completed a deal for Leeds United winger Jack Clarke.

The BBC reports that Clarke has flown south to London for a medical and that the $12.7 million deal is finalized. The report states there are further, unspecified add-ons to that base payment should they trigger.

The 18-year-old made 25 appearances for the Leeds first-team last season, scoring two goals assisting two more as they reached the playoff semifinal. Clarke’s arrival will mark the first Tottenham signing since Lucas Moura joined in January of 2018, famously failing to sign a player last summer to much criticism, before making a run to the Champions League final during the season.


Arsenal is reportedly after a pair of transfer targets, one on either end of the pitch.

First, more concretely, reports indicate that the Gunners are set to bat the signature of young French defender William Saliba. The 18-year-old currently plays for St. Etienne and saw significant playing time last season, bagging 16 league appearances good for over 1,200 minutes as he helped the club secure a Champions League place with a fourth-place finish, aided by the third-best defensive record in the league.

According to an ESPNFC report by Julien Laurens, the two clubs have reached an agreement for Saliba in the range of $28 million, with the Gunners beating Tottenham and PSG to the punch. Saliba will stay at St. Etienne on loan next season as he looks to continue developing at his boyhood club.

The Gunners are reportedly also following Monaco winger Keita Balde, with the Senegal international currently on international duty at the Africa Cup of Nations. The 24-year-old spent last season on loan at Inter, where he racked up 24 Serie A appearances – mostly off the bench – scoring five goals and assisting three more.

Reports in Italy indicate that while Inter had the option to buy at the end of the loan spell, they declined as they believed the $38 million price to be too expensive. With Monaco struggling mightily this past season and in serious flux, it’s likely that Balde could move on and help the French club gain funds to reinvest.

Balde found the back of the net in Senegal’s opening AFCON match, a 2-0 win over Tanzania, marking his fourth international goal in 24 caps.


Another African on international duty is Kalidou Koulibaly, whose future is still under serious speculation.

Napoli manager Carlo Ancelotti said Wednesday – completely joking, mind you – that he won’t even return from his vacation in Canada if the club sells Koulibaly. That won’t stop the two Manchester clubs from having a go, and to this point Napoli president Aurelio de Laurentiis has held firm that only a bid that reaches his $154 million release clause will pry him from the Italian side.

Koulibaly wouldn’t be drawn into speculation about his future when approached at the tournament in Africa, saying, “I don’t know [if I’ll still be at Napoli next year], I think so, but I have to play the AFCON and then after that I’ll go back to Napoli.”

Manchester United has been much closely linked with Koulibaly than Manchester City, but it may be difficult to convince him to switch with the Red Devils not participating in the Champions League next season.


Everton is reportedly in the hunt for Juventus striker Moise Kean according to the Liverpool Echo, with the 19-year-old breaking out last season with The Old Lady. He scored six goals in 13 appearances down the stretch of the season, coming into the squad after the club had all but secured the league title.

While he is a big strike prospect for Juventus, the club is somewhat crowded at the position with Cristiano Ronaldo, Paulo Dybala, and Mario Mandzukic at the position. The club surely could take its time bringing him along, but apparently a disciplinary issue while with the Italy U-21 team at the Euros this summer has added to the club’s concern, along with his hesitation at signing a new contract. Kean’s current deal expires next summer, so this would be the time to cash in on his high-rising stock.

The report states it would cost around $34 million to land the youngster and Ajax is also in the mix.

Women’s World Cup mascot costume stolen from Parc des Prince

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According to reports in France, first by news outlet LCI, the World Cup mascot Ettie had its mascot stolen from Parc des Princes in the early morning hours of last Friday, June 21.

L’Equipe reports the mascot costume has subsequently been recovered and police are investigating.

The reports state that a group of five somehow entered the Paris stadium between 4 and 5 a.m. local time, proceeding to walk around and even play a game on the Parc des Princes pitch before leaving the stadium carrying two large bags that contained the mascot costume. After missing for the weekend, the costume was reportedly returned to a lawyer’s office in Paris on Tuesday in anonymous fashion.

Thankfully, since the costume has been returned, Ettie will be able to make an appearance while the United States takes on host nation France at Parc des Princes in a highly anticipated quarterfinal match on Friday.

The L’Equipe report says that very little was been discernible on the Parc des Princes security camera footage, and police have appealed to the public for assistance. FIFA describes Ettie as “a young chicken with a passion for life and football.” Ettie is the daughter of Footix, the rooster mascot of the 1998 World Cup also held in France.

Toni Kroos wants to retire at Real Madrid

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After signing a contract extension in May that runs through 2023, which he said at the time is “probably my last big contract,” Toni Kroos doubled down on that statement, saying he’d like to retire at Real Madrid and will not move to another club as his career winds down.

Speaking to German publication Bild about a new film that documents his life, Kroos said that the end of his current contract is hopefully going to be the end of his career, on his own terms.

“When I am aged 33, that would be a good age to retire,” Kroos told Bild’s subscription service Bild+, as quoted by Marca. “My contract duration was chosen consciously. At 33, that would be a good age to hang up the boots. I will have the opportunity at that moment to choose if I want to do something after that.”

Obviously, it’s possible that something out of his control will take place forcing him to finish his career elsewhere, but he expresses his admiration for Los Blancos and says that he hopes his career will last long enough to ride out his contract and hang up his boots at the club he loves. “Signing for Real Madrid is the best thing I could have done, I will never play in the United States, China or Qatar.”

Kroos also emitted a typical athlete mentality, saying he hoped to make Bayern regret selling him in 2014, something he believes he’s been successful doing. “For me, it was already clear at the time of the transfer that Bayern made a mistake with my sale,” he said. “It’s true that [Bayern president] Uli Hoeness has made it public of late – and it’s a testament to his greatness that he addresses it that way.”

Kroos has won three Champions League titles with Real Madrid as well as a La Liga title since moving to the Bernabeu.

Follow Live: Africa Cup of Nations – Group play reaches round 2

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The first round of group stage matches is complete and now the slate reracks for teams to truly take control of their Africa Cup of Nations destiny.

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Host nation Egypt takes the field for a second time as they meet Democratic Republic of Congo in the late match in Cairo, while Nigeria has the chance to secure advancement as they play Guinea, and Uganda can push Zimbabwe to the brink of elimination.

Egypt and Uganda can each secure passage to the knockout stage through Group A if both should win, while a loss for either side would complicate matters.The host nation will be looking for a better attacking display after Mohamed Salah was isolated in the narrow opening round win over Zimbabwe. Meanwhile, Congo DR likely did not expect to be facing elimination this early, with a team that sports West Ham’s Arthur Masuaku, former Premier League midfielder Youssouf Mulumbu, and Porto’s Chancel Mbemba.

In Group B, Nigeria can secure passage to the knockout phase with a win. The clear dominant side in a collection of countries that includes Guinea, Madagascar, and Burundi, Nigeria looked sluggish in its opener and will require a more complete attacking display to convince supporters they can challenge for the Cup.

2019 Africa Cup of Nations schedule – Wednesday, June 26

Group A
Uganda v. Zimbabwe – 1 p.m. ET
Egypt v. Congo DR – 4 p.m. ET

Group B
Nigeria v. Guinea – 10:30 a.m. ET