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2018 World Cup: Breakout stars

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Each World Cup there are always players who emerge to steal the show as they become superstars not only in their homeland but across the globe.

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The tournament in Russia this summer will be no different.

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Below is a look at some of the potential “breakout stars” you should keep a close eye on throughout the tournament.


Hirving “Chucky” Lozano (Mexico and PSV Eindhoven)
The El Tri star had a stunning first season in Holland, winning the Eredivisie title and lauded for his speedy attacks out wide. Chucky scored 17 goals in 29 league games and bagged 19 in 34 games in all competitions for the Dutch giants as big clubs across Europe keep a close eye on him. Lozano has already scored seven goals in 26 games for Mexico since making his debut in 2016 and big things are expected from the 22-year-old speedster this summer.


Trent Alexander-Arnold (England and Liverpool)
At just 19 years of age the Liverpool right back has been thrust into the spotlight for club and country in recent months. At the start of the 2017/18 season TAA hadn’t even played a league game for Liverpool but Jurgen Klopp put his faith in the youngster and injuries to Nathaniel Clyne and Joe Gomez have him a chance to shine at Anfield. He grabbed that chance with both hands and played well in the UEFA Champions League final as well as being called up to the England squad for the first-time ever for the World Cup. He will battle with Kieran Trippier for the right wing-back role and his attacking talents mean he is a real threat, even though he’s a little raw defensively.


Leon Goretzka (Germany and Bayern Munich)
After a fine season for Schalke which sealed a move to Bayern Munich (official on July 1), Goretzka rode the positivity surrounding him after his fine displays in the Confederations Cup last summer for Germany. At 23 years of age he is ready to contribute for Die Mannschaft across midfield and his well-time runs from deep make him so tough to track. Goretzka has scored six goals in 15 games for Germany and is a key man for Joachim Low.


Daniel Arzani (Australia and Melbourne City)
The youngster player at the World Cup, Arzani is just 19 years old and has a bright future ahead of him. Bert van Marwijk sprung a bit of a surprise but selecting the Iranian born winger who is able to take on players easily and has something a little different compared to Australia’s other attacking options. If he gets the chance to dazzle on the big stage then Australia could have a new soccer hero to take over the reins as Tim Cahill gets set to depart the game.


Timo Werner (Germany and RB Leipzig)

SOCHI, RUSSIA – JUNE 25: Timo Werner of Germany leaves the pitch after winning the FIFA Confederations Cup Group B match between Germany and Cameroon at Fisht Olympic Stadium on June 25, 2017 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Lukas Schulze – FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

A lethal predator in the box for Leipzig and Germany, Werner also made his name in the Confed Cup last summer and has scored seven goals in 13 games for Germany since making his debut in 2017. Werner, 22, has scored 21 goals in each of his last two seasons with Leipzig and despite a slight dip in form in 2017/18 Germany are counting on him to finish off the countless chances he will provide. When you think of Werner as a player, think Miroslav Klose but a little quicker.


Jesse Lingard (England and Manchester United)
Yes, he is a little older than most of the other entries in this list but he is pushing Dele Alli all the way to be a starter for England in midfield. He may well end up playing alongside Alli in a more attacking lineup for the Three Lions and Lingard’s penchant for popping up with big goals in big games at club level will give Gareth Southgate faith he can deliver the goods for England.


Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (Serbia and Lazio)

The 23-year-old has been linked with moves to Manchester United and Lazio and the two-way midfielder will be given the keys to Serbia’s hopes. Milinkovic-Savic can pick a pass and stride forward in attack but is also able to sit back and do his defensive work. If he has a good World Cup you expect his transfer fee to rise beyond $175 million. Lazio’s recent resurgence has been led by his displays in central midfield.


Rodrigo Betancur (Uruguay and Juventus)
In his first season at Juventus he made 27 appearances in all competitions and won a Serie A and Italian cup double after joining from Boca Juniors. Betancur, still just 20 years old, is able to play anywhere in midfield but will probably start on the left a three-man Uruguayan midfield. Betancur is calm on the ball and snaps into tackles which fits in nicely with La Celeste’s playing style.

Fan banned from all NWSL games after investigation

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A person who directed racist taunts at Portland Thorns’ goalkeeper Adrianna Franch has been banned from attending National Women’s Soccer League games.

A fan at the Sept. 6 game between the Thorns and Utah Royals in Salt Lake City first called attention to the unidentified person on Twitter. The tweet was later deleted, but both the Thorns and Royals, as well as the league, investigated the incident.

The NWSL issued a statement Saturday saying the person was identified. In addition to being banned from NWSL matches, the person – who was not identified publicly by the league – was also banned from attending events at Rio Tinto Stadium.

“NWSL will not tolerate inappropriate fan behavior,” the league’s statement said. “Racism has no place in our sport.”

The Royals also offered “thanks in no small part to assistance from fans seated in the vicinity,” for identifying the offending party.

A few days after the incident, Franch posted a statement to Twitter: “The situation surrounding our game Friday night is not a NEW issue, nor is it a first for me. RACISM is NOT okay in any form!! We as a HUMAN RACE can be better and should be better. We as a SPORT can help show the way.”

Franch was on the roster of the U.S. national team that won the Women’s World Cup this summer in France.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

MLS Wrap: What we learned

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Here’s what we learned from MLS’ jam-packed action on Saturday.

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NYCFC rally to edge San Jose, remain first in Eastern Conference 

Dominating possession and taking a healthy amount of shots, it seemed like the San Jose Earthquakes were going to pull off a Matias Almeyda-era victory in New York City on Saturday.

But in just the span of three minutes, NYCFC changed the landscape of the game completely, scoring twice right before halftime. Keaton Parks recorded his first league goal in the 40th minute. In the 43rd, the Eastern Conference leaders put together this (yes, the covered half the field just like that):

Like in the sequences that led to the home side’s goals, the Quakes’ confidence to overtake the scoreline took a hit, failing to finish a number of chances following attack-heavy substitutions in the second half. As a result, San Jose, who are fighting for a playoff spot, dropped their fourth straight game on the road.

Speaking with media after their 2-1 loss, Almeyda – despite praising NYCFC as being one of the league’s best – took shots at Yankee Stadium’s field size. Should the league care? Absolutely. NYCFC? Not at all, just look at their record.


FC Cincinnati win first game under Ron Jans

FC Cincy supporters can finally rejoice, even their 1-0 win in Montreal wasn’t ideal.

The league’s youngest team ended up with 10-men late in the game. Kendall Watson was shown a straight red card, but Ron Jans earned his first three points at the helm. Early in the game, Allan Cruz’s goal foreshadowed what was to come for the Ohioan side following the final whistle: a celebration.

 

The Impact (37 points) remain three points behind New England, while Cincinnati (21 points) look to finish strong in order to avoid the ugly side of the history books. 

Carlos Vela rejoins LAFC, scores

There’s no way around it: LAFC is a completely different team with (or without) Carlos Vela, who can’t stop scoring.

The Mexican recorded his 28th goal of the season (six behind Jose Martinez’s single-season record) in the Supporter Shield favorite’s 1-1 draw in Philadelphia. It wasn’t a Vela-esque sequence at all, but it was enough to change the score.

The Union, who played without Marco Fabian because of his absence in the team’s meeting on Friday, opened the scoring. Three minutes in, Kacper Przybyłko’s floating header surprised Tyler Miller, giving the home side a perfect start in front of a noisy Talen Energy Stadium.

Just a couple of months ago, these were the two best teams in the league. LAFC remain atop of the Western Conference. The Union, however, are now five points behind NYCFC.


Crew trounce Atlanta United 3-1 despite Josef Martinez’ goal

Caleb Porter’s Columbus Crew, arguably, play the most effective soccer out of all the teams that are on the outside looking in when it comes to qualifying for the playoffs this season.

On Saturday, despite being statistically outdone by Atlanta United, the Crew managed to execute their chances, scoring three goals on only four shots on target. Gyasi Zardes, a pivotal piece of their attack, scored his 12th goal of the season. Costa Rican Luis Diaz added one of his own in the second half, before Miles Robinson’s own-goal 25 minutes later sealed three points for Columbus.

No goal, however, had as much significance as Josef Martinez’s.

The Venezuelan scored for a 14th consecutive game, making it the third longest streak in the history of the sport. The 26-year-old is now seven games away from Lionel Messi’s world record set in 2014.

Third in the Eastern Conference, nine points away from NYCFC with six games to go, don’t count the single-season scoring king to hold back from wanting to break the record.

Elsewhere in MLS

Chicago Fire 4-0 FC Dallas 

Orlando City 3-3 New England Revolution

Vancouver Whitecaps 2-1 Houston Dynamo

Serie A roundup: Inter edge 10-man Udinese

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Napoli and Inter Milan walked away winners in Saturday’s Serie A action.

Inter Milan 1-0 Udinese

After three games, Antonio Conte‘s spell at Inter Milan remains in immaculate shape.

According to the table, there is no better team than I Nerazzurri, who have won their first three league matches – notching seven goals and conceding only one along the way. In other words, the Italian’s astute coaching style remains effective.

Despite, Inter’s convincing play throughout the 90 minutes, only a goal would separate them from visiting Udinese, who played a with 10 players from the 35th minute on, following Rodrigo De Pual’s slap to the back of Antonio Candreva’s head.

In the 44th minute, Stefano Sensi – one of the smallest players on the field – headed the ball into the back of the net. Late in the game, Alexis Sanchez nearly scored in his Inter debut.

In the end, Udinese were no match for Antonio Conte and Co., who find themselves in prime form heading into their Champions League return midweek.

Up next for Inter in league play: Derby della Madonnina. Udinese, on the hand, host Brescia.

Napoli 2-0 Sampdoria

Dries Mertens is the gift that keeps on giving for Napoli.

To be exact, the Belgian gifted his team two goals on Saturday. 13 minutes in, following a perfectly-placed cross from Giovanni Di Lorenzo, Mertens’ first-time strike was unstoppable for Emil Audero.
Emiliano Rigoni had Sampdoria’s best chance of the night in a one-on-one opportunity with Alex Meret. The Argentine, however, wasted one of the visiting side’s two chances all night.
Then in the 67th minute – with some luck on his corner -Mertens completed his brace off a deflected shot, giving his team their second win of the season.

Quick turnaround for Napoli as they host Liverpool midweek before traveling to take on Lecce in league play, while Sampdoria take on Torino next.

Elsewhere in Serie A

Fiorentina 0-0 Juventus

La Liga roundup: Real Sociedad spoil Atletico Madrid’s perfect start

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Atletico Madrid’s first hiccup of the season headlines Saturday’s La Liga action.

[ FOLLOW: PST’s La Liga coverage ]

Real Sociedad 2-0 Atletico Madrid

La Liga had an upset of their own.

Atletico Madrid remain league leaders, but their undefeated record is no more after a 2-0 loss to Real Sociedad in San Sebastian.

Both sides played to a quiet first half, but in the 58th minute Martin Odegaard opened the score in front of a packed Anoeta, as his left-footed shot was deflected by Stefan Savic.

Just two minutes later, in his Real Sociedad debut, longtime Arsenal fullback Nacho Monreal tapped in a second chance inside the box, following an initial stretching save from Jan Oblak.

Diego Simeone’s side pushed desperately in the latter stages of the game; not enough to get passed Miguel Moya, though.

La Reala sets their sights on Espanyol, while Los Colchoneros, with Athletic Bilbao and Real Madrid at their heels, look to bounce back against Celta Vigo.

Real Madrid 3-2 Levante

Real Madrid conceded two goals in the second half in Saturday’s game, but their formidable first 45 minutes was enough to help them walk away a wet Santiago Bernabeu with three, precious points.

Coming on in the 60th minutes, Eden Hazard and Militao made their La Liga debuts with Zinedine Zidane’s side.

With two goals in six minutes, Karim Benzema gave the home side an early comfortable lead. Shortly before the halftime whistle, Casameiro added his own, following an assist from Vinicius Junior.

Despite falling short, Levante quickly got after evaporating Real Madrid’s first-half dominance. In the 49th minute, Borja Mayoral, cutting through Raphael Varane and Sergio Ramos, put one past Thibaut Courtois.

Following Benzema’s post-rattling shot and disallowed Real Madrid goal by VAR, Gonzalo Melero’s header gave the visiting side their final goal of the bout.

One point behind rivals Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid look for another victory against Sevilla. Elsewhere, Levante, who are in decent shape, host Eibar next.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Barcelona 5-2 Valencia

RCD Mallorca 0-0 Athletic Bilbao

Leganes 0-3 Villareal