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UEFA World Cup Qualifying: Home favorites including England, Germany dominate

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It was a good day to be on home soil as home teams won eight of the nine UEFA World Cup qualifiers on Monday afternoon. Most teams were expected to win handily, and that they did, with two four-goal margins of victory, two three-goal margins, and one six-goal margin.

England 2-1 Slovakia

Marcus Rashford shook off a poor start to score a fabulous winning goal, bursting into the attacking third and finishing expertly into the top corner as England moved five points clear at the top of Group F with a big 2-1 victory over 2nd place Slovakia.

The home side went down in just the third minute, as Rashford inadvisably tried to dribble out of his own half, instead dispossessed, and a wonderful ball over the top saw Stanislav Lobotka score around a poor Joe Hart. England fought back, however, as they would level things up before halftime with Eric Dier heading in a corner from a tight angle. Then Rashford’s goal on the hour mark signaled the winning touch.

[ MORE: US prepares for must-win in Honduras ]

Germany 6-0 Norway

The defending World Cup champions rolled from start to finish as they trounced Norway to move closer to mathematical qualification. Timo Werner scored twice and goals from Mesut Ozil, Julian Draxler, Leon Goretzka, and Mario Gomez rounded out the match.

The win keeps Germany five points clear of Northern Ireland, with everyone else in the group eliminated.

Northern Ireland 2-0 Czech Republic

Northern Ireland kept its automatic qualification hopes alive with a smooth 2-0 win over the Czech Republic. Jonny Evans scored a diving header from a tight angle to start things off, and Chris Brunt dispatched a bouncing free-kick just before halftime. The win is the fifth in a row for Northern Ireland in UEFA qualification.

Poland 3-0 Kazakhstan

A trio of strikes from Arkadiusz Milik, Kamil Glik, and Robert Lewandowski saw Poland ease by Group E minnows Kazakhstan. Milik hit a diving header similar to Evans’ 11 minutes in, and as Poland pummeled David Loria’s net all game, they would eventually grab a second in the 74th minute with Glik delivering a powerful header off a corner. Lewandowski finished things off from the spot with four minutes remaining.

Poland’s position is still in question as they sit just three points above both Montenegro and Denmark in Group E.

Scotland 2-0 Malta

Christophe Berra and Leigh Griffiths gave Scotland a comprehensive win over point-less Malta. The win keeps Scotland alive in crowded Group F, even on points with Slovenia at 14 and a point back of 2nd place Slovakia.

Armenia 1-4 Denmark

Denmark got a quick scare as lowly Armenia scored just six minutes in, but they righted the ship not long later and cruised to a 4-1 victory. After Ruslan Koryan’s opener, Thomas Delaney scored not 10 minutes later with his head to level things back up, with the assist coming from a deep Henrik Dalsgaard cross. Christian Eriksen provided the eventual winner in the 29th minute via a free-kick, but the day was Delaney’s. He scored his second on an impressive left-footed drive from outside the box, and picked up his hat-trick in stoppage time heading in off a corner.

Just Friday, Delaney had picked up his first goal for Denmark in his 18th cap, and the hat-trick makes this a memorable international break for the Werder Bremen midfielder.

Montenegro 1-0 Romania

Stevan Jovetic grabbed the game’s only goal in the 75th minute as Montenegro picked up all three points to keep pace with Denmark. The former Manchester City man headed in a cross from Lazio winger Adam Marusic to secure the vital win. The game featured plenty of wastefulness from both sides, with the teams combining for 27 shots, but just five of them on target.

Slovenia 4-0 Lithuania

Slovenia kept in stride with Slovakia as they downed eliminated Lithuania on a pair from Atalanta attacker Josip Ilicic, plus late goals from Benjamin Verbic and Valter Birsa. The brace doubled Ilicic’s international goal tally in his 45th cap, and keeps Slovenia even with Scotland on points and just one back of Slovakia, with all three countries trailing England in Group F.

Azerbaijan 5-1 San Marino

Azerbaijan may be eliminated, but they showed strength as they brushed aside Group C minnows San Marino. Afran Ismayilov hit twice while Araz Abdullayev and Rasad Sadiqov each added to the goal tally which was rounded off by an own-goal.

MLS preview: TFC, Seattle running out of time; Rooney vs. ATL

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Week 21 of the 2018 MLS season features 10 games on Saturday (nine) and Sunday (one). Here’s a few key storylines to keep an eye on…

[ MORE: Miami City Commission sends Beckham stadium to Nov. ballot ]

Jozy’s back, but is it too late?

It’s been nearly three months since Jozy Altidore last appeared for Toronto FC, and not much has changed with regard to the Reds’ place in the standings: they at south of the playoff line then (after going all-in on the CONCACAF Champions League), and they remain there ahead of Saturday’s trip to Chicago. Greg Vanney’s defending champions currently sit 11 points back of sixth place with 15 games left to play.

As for Altidore, he was hugely important in TFC’s run to the CCL final, but it would be a massive oversimplification to say his absence has been the only — or main, even — cause for struggles this season. In fact, it’s been injuries up and down the entire squad (every center back on the roster, multiple midfielders and playmakers, as well as Altidore). Finally, after months of walking wounded, nearly everyone is back and available for selection. TFC’s charge up the stands begins, presumably, soon.

Rooney makes DCU better, but by how much?

As I opined following his D.C. United debut last weekend, Wayne Rooney was quite good during the opening 32 minutes of his MLS career. That was against the Vancouver Whitecaps, one of the slowest playing teams in the entire league, though. On Saturday, Rooney and Co., will come up against something not so dissimilar to European quality and competition in Atlanta United.

There’s the level on competition to consider as Rooney continues on in his MLS journey, but also this: against Vancouver, there was very little flash or attempt at end product from Rooney, which was fine considering he quickly and smartly facilitated play and opened the field up for others to make and score the goals. The questions are: for how long is he happy to be a simple cog in the machine, and are United getting their money’s worth if that’s Rooney’s regular contribution?

What about Seattle?

Just like Toronto, the Seattle Sounders currently find themselves 11 points back of sixth place (though they do have one more game still to play). Just like Toronto, injuries have completely ruined the Sounders’ 2018 season. Just like Toronto, they have been to back-to-back MLS Cups, and won one. Just like Toronto, they can’t really miss the playoffs, can they?

Now, though, Raul Ruidiaz has been added for some much-needed firepower up top (the Peruvian is a back-to-back Golden Boot winner in Liga MX), Gustav Svensson is back from the World Cup, and Nicolas Lodeiro has shown signs of coming out of his slumber in recent weeks. Just like Toronto, Brian Schmetzer’s men have no choice but to begin their playoff chase on Saturday, when Vancouver comes to town.

Full weekend schedule

Atlanta United vs. D.C. United — 3:30 p.m. ET
Seattle Sounders vs. Vancouver Whitecaps — 4 p.m. ET
Chicago Fire vs. Toronto FC — 7 p.m. ET
Philadelphia Union vs. LA Galaxy — 7 p.m. ET
New York Red Bulls vs. New England Revolution — 7 p.m. ET
Columbus Crew SC vs. Orlando City SC — 7:30 p.m. ET
Houston Dynamo vs. FC Dallas — 9 p.m. ET
Real Salt Lake vs. Colorado Rapids — 10 p.m. ET
Portland Timbers vs. Montreal Impact — 11 p.m. ET
Minnesota United vs. Los Angeles FC — 7 p.m. ET (Sunday)

Leicester sign Ward from Liverpool; Boufal out on loan

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LONDON (AP) — Leicester signed Wales goalkeeper Danny Ward from Liverpool on a four-year contract on Friday.

Ward dropped in the pecking order at Anfield following the arrival of Brazil goalie Alisson.

Leicester’s fourth signing of the offseason will offer competition to Kasper Schmeichel and Eldin Jakupovic.

Ward will join the team on Monday for a training camp in Austria.

“I’ve come here to develop my allround game and hopefully help deliver some more success,” he said.


Southampton winger Sofiane Boufal was sent to Spanish club Celta Vigo on a season-long loan.

Boufal came to Southampton in 2016 from Lille, and made 59 appearances, scoring four times.

The Moroccan fell out of favor with manager Mark Hughes at the end of last season.

Neymar says he’s staying at PSG; rumors “invented by the press”

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Neymar insists he is going nowhere this summer, that he’ll spend (at least) one more season at Paris Saint-Germain, and he intends to bring another handful of trophies back to the French capital in doing so.

[ MORE: PSG in “advanced negotiations” for N’Golo Kante, but must sell first ]

Speaking during a press conference on Friday, his first media availability session since Brazil were eliminated in the 2018 World Cup quarterfinals, the 26-year-old superstar went so far as to say that reports linking him with a move to other European mega-clubs (most notably, Real Madrid) were “invented by the press” — quotes from ESPN:

“Yes, I will stay in Paris. I have a contract with PSG. The speculation? The majority of it is invented by the press.

“I have a contract and people know the objective, the reason why I went to PSG. I want to win with this club and I hope this season will be wonderful.”

While it seems a no-brainer that PSG would want Neymar to stay, there’s unquestionably a case to be made that selling him would give them the financial flexibility needed to address needs elsewhere in the squad. N'Golo Kante, for instance, is reportedly transfer target no. 1 at the Parc des Princes, but sales will have to be made before a fee of that size can be paid, due to financial regulations.

Report: PSG in “advanced negotiations” for Kante, but must sell first

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N'Golo Kante might just be the best midfielder in the world, and he might just be leaving Chelsea for Paris Saint-Germain in the coming days or weeks, as French newspaper Le Parisien has reported that the defending Ligue 1 champions are in “advanced negotiations” over a mega-bucks contract with the World Cup winner.

[ MORE: Neymar says he’s staying at PSG; rumors “invented by the press” ]

The report goes so far as to say that a “provisional contract” has already been agreed. “Provisional,” in this instance, means there has likely been little — if any — contact between the two clubs thus far.

One major sticking point remains: following last summer’s outlandish spending spree, in which they shelled out nearly $500 million to sign Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, PSG are in serious danger of failing to comply with financial regulations set forth by UEFA and could/would be banned from European competition should they fail to achieve compliance.

The likes of Angel Di Maria, Goncalo Guedes, Grzegorz Krychowiak, Jese Rodriguez and Alphonse Areola have had their names floated as possible departures to recoup the necessary funds before paying another fee of (presumably) over $100 million.

[ MORE: Conte to sue Chelsea over how firing was handled ]

After helping the Blues to the Premier League title two seasons ago (and doing the same with Leicester City three campaigns gone by), Kante was powerless in saving Chelsea from themselves in 2017-18. They finished fifth in the PL and failed to qualify for this season’s Champions League.

Given his age — 27 — it’s wholly understandable that Kante would prioritize playing in club soccer’s top competition (while also making even more money) every season going forward. Throw in the fact that uncertainty is the only certainty at Stamford Bridge these days, and trading west London for Paris — where Kante was born — starts to sounds pretty good, pretty quickly.

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