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Columbus 4-1 NYCFC: Crew takes commanding lead at Mapfre

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The Columbus Crew couldn’t have asked for a better start to their two-legged meeting with 2-seed NYCFC in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Until the moment it went sour. Until the moment it was set straight.

Ola Kamara opened the scoring in the 6th minute, and then a 52nd-minute red card to Alexander Callens saw the home side take a commanding 3-0 lead behind goals from Artur and Justin Meram.

With Columbus close to bringing that near-perfect result with them on the road to Yankee Stadium, David Villa capitalized on a mistake from Jonathan Mensah to grab a vital 78th minute NYCFC away goal. But a stunning stoppage-time strike by Harrison Afful restored the three-goal lead and gave the Crew a fine feeling heading into the second leg.

Just six minutes into the match, Sean Johnson acrobatically saved a low shot by Federico Higuain, but the rebound fell right to Kamara at the doorstep who slid to meet the ball and open the scoring. It was a dream start for the Crew, who played in front of a surprisingly thin Mapfre stadium.

David Villa had a chance to level things up for the visitors, but his 2-on-1 effort past the half-hour mark struck the right post

The Crew held a slim halftime lead, but the game would change after the break. In the 47th minute, NYCFC hoped to attack with a corner up front. Defender Alex Callens came up for the scrum, and looking to make space, he lifted an elbow to the face of Justin Meram, which was caught on VAR and a red card was produced.

The sending off completely altered the dynamic of the match. The Crew picked up two more strikes, as 21-year-old Brazilian Artur wrong-footed NYCFC defender Frederic Brilliant for the second after breaking 4-on-2, followed by Meram who put one past goalkeeper Johnson, who will be disappointed not to save the ball shot straight at him.

With the Crew cruising, a big mistake cost them. NYCFC looked to bypass the midfield and pump long balls forward, and it worked. With 12 minutes to go, Jonathan Mensah slipped trying to clear, and Villa was there to turn and fire a critical away goal.

The game exploded open after the Villa goal, with both teams wasting big chances in the final 10 minutes, but the Crew re-solidified its position with the clock winding down. Halfway through four minutes of stoppage time, a weaving Harrison Afful sent no fewer than four defenders flopping to the ground before finishing calmly to put the Crew 4-1 up and restore the significant advantage.

A goal fitting to win a two-legged tie, but knowing what kind of offense awaits us at Yankee Stadium, the matchup is far from over no matter the midway advantage.

Pep: Hart’s future uncertain, will play in preseason

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Joe Hart has returned to Manchester City after spending last season on loan at West Ham, and his future is very much up in the air as it stands.

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola was asked about Hart’s situation at the pre-match press conference prior to City’s International Champions Cup match against Borussia Dortmund. He confirmed they are shopping the English veteran. “We’re going to try and make a solution for Joe,” Guardiola told reporters, “but if not then he is with us. He’s one of the best professionals I’ve ever seen but at this moment he is with us.”

Guardiola also confirmed that Hart would play in the preseason game against Dortmund. Starting goalkeeper Ederson is not on the roster for the US preseason tour, having returned from participation in the 2018 World Cup with Brazil, although he didn’t play as he served as Alisson’s backup.

The former #1 England goalkeeper, Hart has struggled mightily in recent seasons. He last played a full Premier League season back in 2015/16, starting 35 games for Manchester City. However, he lost his place the following year and was loaned to Italian top flight club Torino. He had mixed success during his one year in Italy and was loaned out to West Ham last campaign with Ederson and Claudio Bravo entrenched at his parent club. Hart only made it half the season before losing his starting spot for the Hammers, replaced by Adrian. That saw him lose not just starting job with the England national team but his place in the squad, forcing Gareth Southgate to take a trio of inexperienced goalkeepers to the World Cup, leading to the emergence of Jordan Pickford.

West Ham returned Hart to Manchester City at the end of the season, and here he sits in limbo again. Hart has just one more year left on his contract, but according to the Manchester Evening News, wants to leave this season on a permanent deal anyway.

Tomorrow, Hart will get the opportunity – albeit a small one – to showcase himself to potential suitors. If he gets another chance to play in the ICC (Manchester City plays Liverpool and Bayern Munich before heading home to England), he will have another opportunity to plead his case.

Report: Leicester to pluck Danny Ward from Liverpool

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With the announcement of Alisson’s signing on Thursday, Liverpool has spent over $200 million this summer, but it seems they’ve already begun to trim the squad and even out the net spend by a bit.

According to the Liverpool Echo, the Reds have agreed to sell 25-year-old goalkeeper Danny Ward to Leicester City, with the clubs agreeing to a $16.2 million fee. The report also states the deal includes a 20% sell-on fee, meaning Liverpool will receive 20% of any transfer fee Leicester City receives for Ward during the life of his next contract.

[ MORE: Alisson signs for Liverpool ]

Ward has spent the last six seasons with Liverpool after signing from small non-league club Wrexham in 2012 as a 19-year-old. However, he has played more games for the Welsh international team (4) than he has for Liverpool (3). Previously stuck behind Simon Mignolet and Loris Karius, the arrival of Alisson meant the club needed to make room.

Leicester City already has Kasper Schmeichel firmly entrenched between the sticks. However, especially after a stellar 2018 World Cup with Denmark where he was considered among the top choices for the Golden Glove award, Schmeichel is a wanted man and 31 years old and a contract with three more years remaining, Schmeichel’s time at King Power Stadium could be limited.

The addition of Ward at the very least would allow Schmeichel some time off. The Dane was stretched thin last season as not just the Premier League starter but also used in a few cup games with only Eldin Jakupovic behind him. Now, it’s realistic that Ward could receive time in Cup competitions, leaving Schmeichel to rest up for league games.

Reports: Conte to sue Chelsea over how firing was handled

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According to reports in Italy, and backed up by those in England, Antonio Conte is planning to sue Chelsea over the way the club handled his exit this summer.

Chelsea is reportedly planning to pay Conte the rest of his salary in full, but the reports state that the Italian is unhappy how long it took the club to confirm his exit, leaving him unable to secure a job commiserate with his experience level for this coming season.

The 48-year-old is set to receive nearly $12 million as compensation for the final year of his now-terminated contract, but is looking for additional damages given the timing of his departure. Despite the writing clearly on the wall, Conte had weeks of silence from the club, before being pulled back to London to begin pre-season training with the squad for just four days before he was then let go.

Upon his release, Conte released a relatively benign statement thanking the club, the fans, the staff, and the players, but notably did not thank the board or owner Roman Abramovich.

Things between Chelsea and Conte have been testy for some time now. It was reported earlier last month – before Conte was officially let go – that Chelsea was planning to withhold payment of Conte’s remaining salary and sue the Italian for costing the club money for former striker Diego Costa. Costa told the media he received a text message from Conte while on international duty last summer that he was no longer wanted at the club. If true, the club could have argued that Conte botched the situation and cost the club a significant amount of money. However, it seems the club has – for now – decided not to pursue the lawsuit, with reports stating that Conte is set to receive his salary in full.

WATCH: Jurgen Klopp crashes Alisson’s first Liverpool interview
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Jurgen Klopp has had quite the summer, and it’s just become even better.

Liverpool officially acquired Brazilian goalkeeper Alisson for a world-record transfer fee, and with the former Roma netminder filling his first obligations in Red, things didn’t go exactly as the club’s media staff had planned. While sitting down for his first interview with the club staff to be used in the official release, Jurgen Klopp couldn’t resist crashing the party to say hello.

[ MORE: Alisson to Liverpool official ]

The language barrier made things a bit awkward, as did the rolling cameras, but it’s pretty clear both sides are quite happy with the recent developments, with smiles all around. Take a look:

Klopp asked if Alisson was in the middle of his post-World Cup vacation, which he confirmed as true, but smartly followed up with “But now I am working.”

We’re sure they’ll catch up on a more complete basis privately later, but it was pretty cool to see their first interaction caught on camera.