Photo credit: Sydney Leroux / Instagram: @sydneyleroux

Dwyer, Leroux become first husband-wife pair to score for U.S.

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EAST HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) Dom Dwyer volleyed in a go-ahead goal in the 19th minute of his international debut, ran to the corner flag and did a double back flip that would make a gymnast proud.

Back home in Missouri, wife Sydney Leroux was overjoyed.

The goal made Dwyer and Leroux the first husband-and-wife couple to score for the United States, which beat Ghana 2-1 on Saturday in an exhibition ahead of the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

[ MORE: Dwyer, Acosta power USMNT to win over Ghana | Three things ]

“I’m very proud of Sydney and what she’s achieved and still achieving in the national team,” Dwyer said. “I’ve got quite a few caps to catch up to her, and a few goals, too.”

Brad Guzan saved Asamoah Gyan’s penalty kick in first-half stoppage time, and Kellyn Acosta added his first international goal in the 52nd minute on a low free kick that bounced in. Gyan curled a free kick just under the crossbar in the 60th, leaving the final 2-1 – matching Ghana’s victories that eliminated the U.S. from the 2006 and 2010 World Cups and the American win over the Black Stars at the 2014 tournament.

“I got fired in 2006. It took me 11 years to get this job back,” Arena said, laughing, after the U.S. improved to 4-0-4 since he replaced Jurgen Klinsmann in November.

Born in Cuckfield, England, Dwyer was in Norwich City’s youth system but broke his right foot three times and was released. He moved to the United States in 2009 to attend Tyler Junior College, shifted to the University of South Florida, then was drafted by Sporting Kansas City in 2012 and has played for the team ever since. He became a U.S. citizen on March 16 and made his international debut at age 26.

Leroux, a 27-year-old forward from British Columbia, played for Canada at age 14 in the 2004 Under-19 Women’s World Cup, became a star at UCLA and switched affiliation to the U.S. She has 35 goals in 75 international appearances and helped the Americans win a gold medal at the 2012 Olympics and the title at the 2015 Women’s World Cup.

[ MORE: Germany outlast Chile to win Confederations Cup ]

They met when she was training with the national team in Kansas City and were introduced by a mutual friend.

“We just kind of hung out. We were buddies, and then we started to hit it off,” he said.

Dwyer and Leroux announced on Valentine’s Day 2015 that they had married a month earlier. She wears No. 2 and he No. 14

Of course, the home is filled with competition.

“We have little bits here and there. We definitely encourage each other,” he said. “She definitely owes me money for this one.”

They are only the fourth husband and wife to both play for the U.S., joining Jim Gabarra and Carin Jennings, Claudio Reyna and Danielle Egan and Zach Loyd and Casey Nogueira. Egan’s only goal was in 1993, four years before she married Reyna.

“I’m insanely proud of him and so happy for the overall win for the MNT,” Leroux said through a spokesman. “I love the fact that we both came to the USA from other countries and get to chase our dreams together wearing the crest that means so much to us. When he scored, it’s really hard to describe the feeling. Just chills. I know this is only the beginning for him.”

Arena changed eight starters from his lineup in the June 11 World Cup qualifier at Mexico, retaining only Guzan, Acosta and Paul Arriola. Seven American starters entered with fewer than 10 international appearances.

[ MORE: Infantino still expects VAR to be used at 2018 World Cup ]

There also were debuts for a pair of midfielders: Kelyn Rowe started on the left flank and Kenny Saief, who played twice for Israel before switching his affiliation to the U.S. last month, entered in the 71st.

Atop a 4-5-1 formation, Dwyer failed to take advantage of scoring chances in the 14th and 17th minutes, then broke through. Jorge Villafana dribbled from the left flank past defenders and laid the ball back to Joe Corona, who made his first U.S. appearance in two years. Corona’s shot hit Villafana and bounced up to Dwyer, who scored with his left foot from 8 yards.

Dwyer broke in again in the 24th and was sent tumbling by a studs-up tackle from goalkeeper Richard Ofori, who was given only a yellow card by referee Ismael Ornejo of El Salvador.

“First 10 minutes or so, he looked a little nervous out there, but he got ahold of the game and did well,” Arena said.

Getting ready to open the Gold Cup against Panama on July 8, the U.S. wore new uniforms with red and blue horizontal stripes. Leroux, at home for FC Kansas City’s National Women’s Soccer League match on Sunday, watched with 10-month-old son Cassius and teammate Becky Sauerbrunn.

Cassius wore a white home U.S. kit with mom’s number, according to a photo she posted on Instagram. Will he wind up playing for the U.S.?

“I’m not going to put any pressure on him,” Dwyer said, “but he’s probably going to want to copy mommy and daddy.”

Arena, 65, won’t be waiting.

“You don’t expect me to be coaching, do you?” he said.

Cruzeiro relegated from Brazilian top flight for first time

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Brazilian side Cruzeiro was relegated from the top flight for the first time in the club’s 98-year history following a 2-0 defeat to Palmeiras on the final day of the season.

Cruzeiro required victory and a loss by Ceara at Botafogo to stay safely in the Brazilian Serie A, but neither came to pass.

Palmeiras midfielder Ze Rafael scored in the 58th minute to send the visitors on their way, with fellow midfielder Dudu finished things off in the 84th minute. Referees ushered the players off the field immediately after the conclusion of the match as Cruzeiro fans rioted in the Mineirao stadium, ripping out seats, setting off smoke bombs, and clashing with police.

Cruzeiro finished 17th in the 20-team table, three points back of Ceara in 16th. In the Brazilian top flight, the bottom four teams are relegated. CSA, Chapecoense, and Avai were also relegated. Cruzeiro had won the Brazilian Serie A as recently as 2013 and 2014, winning four titles in its history. They also have six Copa do Brasil titles, most recently winning the league cup in 2017 and 2018.

Flamengo ran away with the championship, finishing on 90 points, 16 points clear of second-placed Santos and third-placed Palmeiras who both finished level on 74 points. Palmeiras had challenged for the title, but fell off at the end of the season with a five-match winless run through November.

Premier League Preview: West Ham United v. Arsenal

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Two struggling London sides meet Monday when West Ham United hosts Arsenal (Watch live at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

The sides might’ve expected they’d be within close proximity at this point on the fixture list, but two wildly disappointing seasons means the three points between the Gunners and Irons comes with the former in 11th and the latter 16th.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

It’s been nine matches since Arsenal beat someone, 11 since it happened in the Premier League. West Ham hasn’t been much better, winning once in its last 10.

Freddie Ljungberg has yet to win as Arsenal interim boss, while West Ham manager Manuel Pellegrini could see his current stint in London end without more results like the Nov. 30 win at Chelsea.

Monday versus Arsenal would qualify.


Injuries/suspensions

West Ham United: OUT —  Jack Wilshere, Lukasz Fabianski, Manuel Lanzini, Winston Reid. QUESTIONABLE — Michail Antonio.

Arsenal: OUT — Dani Ceballos. QUESTIONABLE — Rob Holding.


Probable lineups

West Ham United: Martin; Cresswell, Ogbonna, Balbuena, Fredericks; Rice, Noble, Yarmolenko, Anderson, Snodgrass, Haller.

Arsenal: Leno; Kolasinac, Sokratis, Luiz, Bellerin, Xhaka, Torreira, Ozil, Pepe, Aubameyang, Lacazette.


What they’re saying

West Ham’s Antonio sees an opportunity: “The only three teams that are really performing are Liverpool, Leicester and Man City. Everyone else is getting beaten, and it means we’ve had a missed opportunity so far this season. We started the season off brightly, the best start we’ve had for four years, but then we’ve had a slump. Everyone’s having a slump and this is our slump. Now it’s time for us to start turning up. We’ve been in this situation before and we know how to dig in and pull ourselves up again.”

Arsenal’s Ljungberg on setting targets: “I don’t think we should stop talking about the top four, but for us it’s about concentrating on what we’re doing here now and not look up, down, sideways. We just need to work on our own game and our own confidence.”


Prediction

Really, you wouldn’t want to predict anything from these sides right now besides goals. We’ll give an edge in desperation to the hosts and a 2-2 draw.

La Liga: Sevilla held at Osasuna, Getafe maintains UCL fight

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Sevilla was held to a 1-1 draw at 10-man Osasuna on Sunday, giving both Real Madrid and Barcelona space at the top of the La Liga table.

Munir El Haddadi put the visitors 1-0 up just 11 minutes in, but Ezequiel Avila struck just before halftime to share the points. Sevilla was held to just two total shots through the opening 45 minutes, and despite Osasuna defender Oier Olazabal being shown a second yellow card with 29 minutes to go, Sevilla still managed just 11 total efforts through the 90 minutes, with four on target.

Getafe continued its battle for a top four spot as they won 1-0 on the road at Eibar. Angel Rodriguez bagged his eighth goal of the season to secure the win, cropping up in the 67th minute to finally put Getafe through. They had been turning the screw for some time, forcing Marko Dmitrovic into a pair of big saves just before the opener which came from an absurdly tight angle after Angel had rounded the goalkeeper. The win leaves them fourth, level with Real Sociedad on 27 points.

They were allowed to close the gap after Real Sociedad was held scoreless in a 0-0 draw at 14th placed Real Valladolid. The visitors put just two of their 14 shots on net, and dropped to fifth thanks to Getafe holding the head-to-head tiebreaker.

Athletic Club also fell back in the race for a top four spot, dropping a 3-2 decision on the road at Real Betis. Joaquin scored a first-half hat-trick, with all three goals coming in the opening 20 minutes to give him five in his last three games. Inaki Williams brought Athletic Bilbao one back before halftime from the spot, and Yuri Berchiche made things interesting with a minute to go, but that was all they could muster as the visitors fell to sixth on 26 points, above Atletico Madrid on goal differential with the two yet to play head-to-head.

Celta Vigo made it interesting as Iago Aspas scored a man-down goal, but Leganes held on for a 3-2 win over the 10-man visitors. Oscar Rodriguez had a first-half brace to help the hosts to a 3-0 lead, but Nestor Araujo and Aspas helped Celta Vigo make things interesting. Still, a 71st minute second yellow card for halftime substitute Gabriel Fernandez hampered the visitors in their efforts for a comeback, leaving Celta Vigo in the relegation zone, a point back of safety, with Leganes is four points behind them in 19th.

Gerrard reacts to Rangers’ Old Firm heartbreak in final

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Steven Gerrard lined his Rangers side up for success, but fate was cruel to the Liverpool legend.

Rangers lost the League Cup Final to their Old Firm rivals on Sunday despite out-shooting the Bhoys by a 16-5 margin, winning a penalty, and playing almost a half-hour up a man.

[ RECAP: Rangers 0-1 Celtic ]

“To a man we were very good … by much the better side,” Gerrard said. “But unfortunately that’s not what gets you a trophy.”

But Celtic goalkeeper Fraser Forster stopped Alfredo Morelos’ penalty, three minutes after goal scorer Christopher Jullien was offside on the lone goal of the game.

Scotland doesn’t yet use VAR, and Gerrard doesn’t love VAR but he likes it more than he likes Scottish officials.

“There were three Celtic players standing in offside positions but unfortunately we play in a country where there is no VAR,” he said, via the BBC. “I’d be a liar if I said I was 100% in favour of it, but the one thing I do know is that officials up here need support.”

Now he has the task of getting his men to rebound ahead of its biggest non-derby in ages, as Rangers need at least a draw against Young Boys at home on Thursday to advance to the Europa League knockout rounds

“It’s a bit raw right now… It’s up to me to pick the players up. One thing I will say is I’ll stay with these players on the evidence of today because they gave me absolutely everything. We might have to suffer a bit short-term. I need to pick them up a bit physically and mentally for Thursday which is huge but our day will come on the evidence of today.”

Gerrard has done a very good job with Rangers, who are two points back of Celtic in a two-horse race for the Scottish top flight title. Celtic has won eight-straight titles to improve their total to 50, four less than the Rangers.