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NWSL: NC Courage complete regular-season, playoff double

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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) Jess McDonald scored two goals and the North Carolina Courage won the National Women’s Soccer League championship with a 3-0 victory over the Portland Thorns on Saturday.

The victory was a bit of revenge for the Courage, who lost 1-0 to the Thorns in last year’s title match.

The Courage (17-1-6) won the league’s Supporters’ Shield for best record and never dropped a game on the road. The team also set NWSL records this season for the most wins, points and goals.

The match was played before a sellout crowd of 21,144 at Portland’s Providence Park. That was a record for the final of a women’s pro league championship in the United States.

Brazilian Debinha scored on a header in the 13th minute, and McDonald followed with her own in the 40th. Shortly thereafter, Portland goalkeeper Adrianna Franch appeared to teak her ankle, but she returned for the second half.

Portland came out energized in the second half, but Courage goalkeeper Katelyn Rowland denied a Tobin Heath blast in the 55th minute.

McDonald struck again with a header in the 64th minute that Franch got a hand on but couldn’t stop.

McDonald, a 30-year-old vet who has played for five teams in six years, led the league with eight assists in the regular season. She has three goals in the postseason.

“It feels absolutely amazing. This is what we worked so hard for,” McDonald said. “Every single minute, every single day that we put work into – it counted today,” McDonald said.

Chelsea grabs late equalizer vs. Man Utd as chaos engulfs finish

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  • Rudiger gives Chelsea lead (VIDEO)
  • Chelsea out-attempts Utd 21-7
  • Martial scores twice in 18 mins
  • Barkley ties it at the death

Chelsea scored in the sixth minute of stoppage time, igniting skirmishes on-and-off the pitch in a 2-2 draw between the Blues and Manchester United at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

Chelsea assistant Marco Ianni charged in front of Jose Mourinho, pumping his fist inches from the Manchester United manager’s face before screaming at the boss on the way back. Mourinho and his staff had to be separated from getting to the Chelsea bench.

Anthony Martial‘s second half double looked to have given Jose Mourinho and Manchester United a marquee win.

Juan Mata was a key part of both United goals, as United moved to 14 points. Chelsea could drop from its table lead to as low as fifth pending other results.

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Manchester United was extremely lively, rewarding Mourinho for going attack-first with his lineup, and Romelu Lukaku just missed with a looping header after the first quarter-hour.

But it was Paul Pogba who let the team down.

The superstar midfielder let Antonio Rudiger use a pick to create some space on a corner kick, and couldn’t catch up to the German. Rudiger powered Willian‘s offering across goal and David De Gea couldn’t get a hand on the header. 1-0.

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United got a deserved equalizer when Kepa Arrizabalaga saved Juan Mata’s 54th minute effort. It wound up back atop the box, where Marcus Rashford‘s shot deflected to Martial in the catbird seat. 1-1, 55’.

There were chances for each team to go ahead, but it was that fella Martial who did the trick again.

It came via a terrific team play. A long ball allowed Mata to flick delightfully by a mark and into the right corner. Chelsea was very scrambled, as Mata fed Rashford, who found Martial for a pretty finish.

Olivier Giroud thought he’d won a penalty off Victor Lindelof in stoppage time, but it was far too hopeful.

David De Gea denied Rudiger a second, but Barkley slotted the loose ball to set off chaos at the Bridge.

AT HALF: Pogba switches off, Chelsea pounces (video)

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Antonio Rudiger‘s perfectly-timed run and matching header left Paul Pogba looking the fool as Chelsea claim a 1-0 halftime lead over Manchester United at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

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Manchester United was extremely lively, rewarding Mourinho for going attack-first with his lineup, but it was Paul Pogba who let the team down.

The superstar midfielder let Antonio Rudiger use a pick to create some space on a corner kick, and couldn’t catch up to the German. Rudiger powered Willian‘s offering across goal and David De Gea couldn’t get a hand on the header. 1-0.

It’s a big second half for United, who has Alexis Sanchez on the bench.

Watch Live: Chelsea v. Man United

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A huge clash kicks the Premier League action back off after the international break, as Chelsea host Manchester United at Stamford Bridge on Saturday at 7:30 a.m. ET.

[ STREAM: Watch live online ]

Chelsea have lost just one of their last 16 PL home games against United and the Red Devils have lost more times against the Blues than any other PL club.

Throw in the fact that Chelsea are on fire under new manager Maurizio Sarri and Eden Hazard is ripping apart the league, while Jose Mourinho and Man United are struggling after their worst-ever start to a PL season, and this will be an intriguing battle.

In team news Sarri starts Alvaro Morata up top instead of Olivier Giroud, while Ross Barkley is only fit enough to make the bench.

Mourinho has a slightly more attacking lineup than expected as Marcus Rashford, Juan Mata, Romelu Lukaku, Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial all start.


LINEUPS

The Canadian Premier League is building buzz

canpl.ca
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Maybe he’s just new on the job, but a conversation with Canadian Premier League commissioner David Clanachan is like an imperial stout from one of Ontario’s many breweries: It gets you buzzing really quickly.

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Sure, the man who knows how to politick, crediting NBC and EA Sports for the uptick in soccer popularity in North America, but it’s more than salesmanship for the former Tim Horton’s chief operating officer (Tim’s is an inescapable Canadian coffee chain).

But in discussing the construction of Canada’s new league, there’s an unavoidable energy that tracks from the ground up (and there’s little doubt their publicity and communications crew has won its mission). From the league’s very open trials in seven cities — announcing cut lists after Day One of each — to several other notable announcements, there’s an optimism in a new North American soccer league that hasn’t been felt in some time.

“You’d think in sports mad North American it should be easy to do, and many have tried but it hasn’t worked in Canada,” Clanachan says of trying to build a new league. “The bottom line is we took a very different approach. We’re building from the community level in everything we’ve done. You surround yourself with a group of storytellers who really know the game and how it shows that great passion. That’s driven by the movement and passion of the spectators. Soccer supporters are there whether their team is in third-last or first. They are all in.”

And so when the CPL started with teams in Calgary, Edmonton, Hamilton, Halifax, Langford, Winnipeg, and York, it made sure those fan bases got a different taste of pro sports.

Who had the hardest shot or best agility at the Winnipeg trials? It’s all right there. Who made it to the second day of trials in Quebec? Just look at the list. Why did the league choose one uniform designer for all the teams? They’ll tell you, plainly.

Transparency is a big claim, but one the CPL has so far embraced in a big way.

“I talk about that incessantly with our people,” Clanachan said. “From everything when we announced the league and the league identity, people were blown away with us being very transparent. We believe that to really build it is to take people with you on the journey. It helps people understand who we are and what we want to do. Then it just became about continuing the momentum.”

Clanachan has said he dreams of a 2-3 division league with promotion and relegation one day, but is focused very much on keeping his seven teams strong at the start.

Clanachan (canpl.ca)

He credits club owners’ ownership of the league with helping idea sharing, saying the NBA is a good model for intra-league support.

And he thinks the relative lack of jobs for Canadians, especially in MLS, is only going to help his league start stronger.

“When you look at the entire MLS, there are only four Canadians that are playing meaningful minutes and only 28 total, and that’s the largest pro league close to this country,” Clanachan said.

Four, really?!?

“That’s what our guys are telling me.”

I expected him to be wrong, but there are only four Canadians in the Top 200 for minutes in MLS despite three teams playing North of the U.S. border. The number expands to eight over 300, but point well-taken.

And the open trials reflect that. NCAA college stars, MLS draft picks, and players from smaller European clubs dot the open tryout list, and these are just the names hungry to get on the radar of coaches who clearly have their own lists of players.

“Players from Singapore, Japan, South Korea are all getting attention, and they’ve paid their own way,” Clanachan raves. “Two nights ago Canada played Dominica. Our whole staff went. One of the starting forwards for Dominica was at our York trials last week. Dominica’s a very small country, let’s be honest, but a lot of people want to live in these countries, Canada and the U.S.”

And so, it follows that Canada is going to have fan enthusiasm and a decent level when it begins its way into the North American soccer landscape.

“What I took from Tim Horton’s is we built it community by community,” he said. “When you do it that way, you make a lot of deposits, and they’re with you when the withdrawal comes when you want support. And they are there in spades. Because they see you with them every day.
“When these owners came looking for me, I heard two words ‘legacy’ and ‘Canadians.’ And that to me was not the typical, ‘Well we gotta make money at this.’ Because people who go into sport to make money are going into it for the wrong reasons. They’ve gotta be into it for development of the sport. It rang a true bell. You look at why we’re having success: We’ve haven’t kicked a ball yet and people are over the moon. We’ve sold thousands of season tickets without announcing a roster. And it’s all calculated.”
The league kicks off in April. The league web site is canpl.ca.