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Press, Johnston get the goals, USWNT thumps Colombia in latest friendly

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CHESTER, Pa. (AP) Julie Johnston scored two goals, Tobin Heath had a pair of assists and the U.S. women’s soccer team defeated Colombia 3-0 on Sunday.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USWNT coverage ]

Christen Press also scored for the Americans, who wrapped up a two-game exhibition series with Colombia after a 7-0 win on Wednesday in Connecticut.

U.S. captain Carli Lloyd, the 2015 FIFA Women’s Player of the Year, was held scoreless despite several chances in her homecoming, coming out to a thunderous ovation in the 73rd minute.

The Delran, N.J., native grew up 30 minutes from Talen Energy Stadium, the home stadium of Major League Soccer’s Philadelphia Union. It was her first game in the area since leading the United States to the 2015 World Cup, getting a hat trick in the final.

“Although I would have liked to score in front of my home crowd, it’s not really the end of the world,” said Lloyd, who had more than 100 family and friends in attendance. “We won the game and that’s the most important thing.”

The Americans are 11-0 in 2016, outscoring their opponents 42-1. They are preparing for the Rio Olympics, where they’re seeking their fourth straight gold medal.

[ MORE: Press scores a stunner in 7-0 victory over Colombia ]

Coach Jill Ellis has several tough choices for the tournament and experimented with Sunday’s lineup, giving playmaker Heath her first start at fullback and sitting out starting goalkeeper Hope Solo in favor of Alyssa Naeher, who’s competing with Ashlyn Harris for the backup role in Rio.

“Way back when, Tobin played at the under-20 level as a left back,” Ellis said.

“But Tobin has a good mind, good feet, versatility, athleticism and she’s playing with so much confidence. That’s huge, especially when you go into a tournament with six games and a small roster – to have that flexibility is great.”

Heath admitted that she “prefers to be attacking,” but certainly put in a strong shift at both right back and left back, especially with her set pieces.

In the 42nd minute, Johnston one-timed Heath’s free kick past Colombia goalkeeper Catalina Perez to put the United States up 2-0. Heath and Johnston connected again on another free kick to close the scoring in the 79th minute.

“At the end of the day, it’s all Tobin,” Johnston said. “Tobin played the set piece perfectly where I needed to be. I was lucky enough to be in the right spots.”

[ MORE: England women’s team supports USWNT in equal-pay battle ]

It was the first multiple-goal game for Johnston, whose seven career goals have all come off set pieces. Like Lloyd, she also played in front of several family members, including her fiance, Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz.

“It was awesome,” Johnston said. “To have Zach here, my family here, it’s always fun.”

Naeher improved to 4-0, earning her fourth career shutout. But she didn’t need to make any saves.

Perez, who plays for the University of Miami, made seven saves, including a big one on Lloyd in first-half stoppage time and a couple of more great ones right before the final whistle.

“I have a lot of respect for her,” Perez said of Lloyd. “Of course I watched her win the Golden Ball (at the World Cup). I think she’s an amazing person and player. To be able to play against her, it was awesome.”

Star Alex Morgan (hip) and Morgan Brian (hamstring) both missed their second straight game with injuries.

[ MORE: Abby Wambach apologizes for DUI arrest ]

Press opened the scoring in the 26th minute with a chip over Perez following a through ball from Lindsey Horan. It was the 33rd goal of her career, moving her into 16th place on the team’s all-time list.

Lloyd had a few chances to build on the Americans’ first-half lead, but pushed one close-range shot wide and had trouble controlling a cross right in front of the net.

Afterward, the star midfielder lamented that she “couldn’t buy a goal,” but denied pressing in front of her home crowd.

“Carli could be playing in front of five people and she will want to press for a goal,” Ellis said. “I think that’s her instinct. She’s a competitor and a goal-scorer. I think she could have had a couple today but credit their ‘keeper. She came up big and, at times, we weren’t as precise as we need to be.”

The Americans were playing their second game since five players, including Lloyd, filed a wage-discrimination action against the U.S. Soccer Federation.

At the half: West Ham lead struggling Arsenal

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They say in derbies that form goes out the window, but it didn’t seem that apparent for Arsenal on Monday evening.

West Ham United is 45 minutes away from a second major win in three Premier League games as the Hammers hold a 1-0 halftime lead over Arsenal. Angelo Ogbonna’s headed goal off a Pablo Fornais cross is the difference so far.

After two straight poor performances for Arsenal, manager Freddy Ljunberg must have hoped for a better reaction in a London derby. Instead, Arsenal has been slow in passing, slow to second balls and not as determined as West Ham to win. Every possession gained is giving West Ham confidence, which led to the goal. The goal came after a couple of pinball rebounds following a corner kick, but the Hammers’ determination to score helped them go in front.

Arsenal has a massive 45 minutes ahead. Should West Ham win, it would go level with Arsenal. If the Gunners lose, it’s their 10th straight match in all competitions without a win and it drops them into the bottom half of the league table.

Watch Live: West Ham United v. Arsenal

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Arsenal will be searching for their first win since firing Unai Emery as manager when they visit West Ham United, who could use a win in the worst possibly way themselves, at the London Stadium on Monday (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

The Gunners have drawn one — coming back from a goal down, twice, against Norwich City — and lost at home to Brighton & Hove Albion on Thursday. It’s hardly been an ideal start to life under interim boss Freddie Ljungberg. As a result, they enter Monday’s game sitting 11th in the Premier League table.

As for the Hammers, Manuel Pellegrini is beginning to feel the pressure after winning just one of his side’s last nine games (1W-2D-6L). Following that exceedingly poor run of results, West Ham sit 16th in the PL table, just one point clear of the relegation zone.

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Messi’s hometown offers emotional trip to his childhood

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ROSARIO, Argentina — Soccer wasn’t always Lionel Messi’s favorite activity.

When he was a child in the modest neighborhood of La Bajada in his Argentine hometown of Rosario, he spent his time bicycling with friends, building forts out of branches and stones, playing hide and seek – and occasionally stealing lemons from a neighbor to make juice.

Those stories and others are the focus of a new tour being offered by Rosario to celebrate their 32-year-old hometown hero, an international sports superstar who just won an unprecedented sixth Golden Ball as world soccer’s player of the year.

The tour put together by Rosario’s city hall is free of charge and available in an app translated into several languages, guiding fans through 10 stops.

Few houses are higher than two stories in La Bajada, a middle-class neighborhood in the city that is 186 miles (300 kilometers) northwest of Buenos Aires.

Halfway down Israel street stands a gray house, closed off by shut curtains and protected by railings. There is no sign outside indicating it was Messi’s home, and no one lives there now, though it still belongs to his family.

The neighbors aren’t so shy about the Messi connection, however. Colorful paintings dedicated to the soccer star stand in front of houses and there are sidewalks colored in the blue and white of Argentina’s national team with Messi’s jersey number, 10, painted in black.

Messi’s neighbors and friends are often willing to share stories with visitors.

“Leo was normal and ordinary like other people here,” Diego Vallejos, one of Messi’s childhood friends, told The Associated Press on a sandy soccer field of the El Campito club as three youngsters played soccer.

“We fell, we scratched ourselves riding bikes. We went to the street with water bombs and threw them at buses,” said Vallejos, who is one year older than Messi.

Also are on the tour are the school Messi attended and the Abanderado Grandoli club, where he learned his first soccer moves.

The city long had a somewhat distant relationship with Messi, and officials say the tour seeks to change that. Rosario’s city hall said Messi’s family did not take part in the creation of the tour.

“What we want to emphasize is that Leo is a product of his city, and that there is a life and many stories behind the superstar,” said Santiago Valenti with Rosario’s tourism agency.

Messi was born June 24, 1987, in the Hospital Italiano Garibaldi in Rosario. He lived in the city until 2000, when he moved to Barcelona.

A recently opened sports museum, a few blocks from Messi’s old house, offers an interactive tour of the lives of local stars in racing, boxing, basketball and soccer.

Messi’s section of the museum is introduced by a painting that mixes monuments from Rosario and Barcelona, and the sentence: “All that I did, I did for soccer.” Two giant screens display goals and testimonials from his teammates.

“The idea is not to pay a tribute to his sporting success,” said museum coordinator Juan Echeverría. “It is to value the path he walked, everything that an athlete has to go through to get to the tip of the iceberg that we see when he is on the podium.”

The museum has contacted Messi’s family and the player’s father said he would donate more memorabilia.

One of items on display is a small red coat with a white collar. Below it is Messi’s official register as a Newell’s Old Boys academy player and a picture of him smiling.

Downtown is the Malvinas compound where Newell’s has its soccer academy. It was there the young Messi was filmed out-dribbling much bigger opponents.

“This is where it all started,” said Lisandro Conte, an employee at the academy.

Messi did not play for Newell’s. “At that time there were players who looked more promising, and the bet was placed on them,” Conte said.

Still, Messi has said he wants to finish his career at Newell’s, playing for his hometown club in his own country after a professional career in Barcelona’s storied Spanish league team.

Fans visiting Rosario might even be able to catch a match between teams like the recent clash between Newell’s and arch-rival Rosario Central. Among the 14 youngsters chasing the ball might be Rosario’s next star.

Solskjaer: Man Utd must keep big-game mentality v. lesser teams

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Things are going quite well for Manchester United right now, but manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer insists they still could — and should — be better.

[ MORE: Man arrested in connection to racist abuse at the Manchester derby ]

Following back-to-back wins over Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City in the span of four days last week, Man United now sit fifth in the Premier League table and trail Chelsea by just five points in the race for top-four.

The win over Man City could very well go down as the result of the season, having thoroughly outplayed their rivals, on their own field, for 45 minutes before holding on for all three points. Solskjaer was proud of his player’s mentality on Saturday, but it left him wondering what could be if they managed to maintain that level of focus and performance against the so-called “lesser” teams as well — quotes from the Guardian:

“That’s up to me, to make sure that for every single game they know they have to earn the right to win a game of football. You’ve got to earn the right to win. Sometimes you’ve got to earn it by passing quicker, winning the ball back — there are different ways of winning games of football.

“We’ll work with the mentality of the boys. It’s been very much about margins in those games [we lost]. But if you look behind the results I’m not as negative as you are. I’m not so worried, so concerned. If the boys are then telling me they can’t get up for these games, then we’ve got a problem. Then I’ve really got to work with them because when I played that’s how we won the league. We never gave points away against the lesser teams, the not-so-good teams. The Premier League is difficult. If you don’t have that mentality, you won’t get results. I’ll work on the mentality.”

Up next for United is a visit from a potentially tricky opponent, Everton (Watch live, Sunday, 9 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com), who last week fired manager Marco Silva and beat Chelsea 3-1 less than 48 days later.