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Chelsea players love that Morata is back in form

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After a full summer taking serious heat, Alvaro Morata has finally begun the process of coming good on his move to Chelsea.

The Spaniard has four goals in his last four games, including a pair last time out in a 3-1 win over Crystal Palace. With Chelsea fans still missing the production of Diego Costa and Didier Drogba, Morata has faced brutal comparisons through the first year-plus of his tenure at Stamford Bridge, but Cesar Azpilicueta believes those are ridiculous.

“I don’t like comparisons,” Azpilicueta told the Evening Standard. “Everyone has to work his own path. [Drogba and Costa] had different qualities and personalities. It’s unfair to talk about those two big players and Álvaro. Álvaro walks his own path. He came to a new country and I’m sure, with the way that he is working, he will get the reward.”

“The goals help a lot because we know strikers — they live for goals,” Azpilicueta said. “We know that gives him more confidence, he has been playing well, finding opportunities. Sometimes the ball does not go in, but I’m happy with his work, his progress. We know that last season was a tough one for him, but he is a very important player for us.”

Meanwhile, Morata’s attacking partner Pedro echoed Azpilicueta’s sentiment that ultimately strikers like Morata will be judged by the goals they score, and therefore Morata’s double is big for his future.

“He’s in good condition and he had a very good performance,” Pedro told the official Chelsea website. “He has the mentality to score goals and help the team, that’s the best way for him. We are happy because he’s a very good striker. He runs a lot and scores goals, now he’s in a very good moment so this is the way for him. Scoring goals is very important for him and the team.”

Finally, the striker himself wants a no-nonsense approach to the rest of the season. “In football, physical condition is very important, but the head is the most important thing,” Morata said after the Crystal Palace match Sunday. “If you don’t have the head, if the mentality is not good, then you are in trouble. I had a period where everything – if it is raining, I’m angry because it’s raining. If I miss, it’s because the pitch is too wet. It was only excuses. It is not good. Everyone can have a bad period in their life, but we are famous, we have a lot of things. Sometimes people think we are not human, with no feelings, with no problems.”

The Spaniard knows he needs to continue to improve his mentality, as manager Maurizio Sarri honestly said Morata is “is a little bit fragile from the mental point of view.”

Leagues Cup preview: MLS gets its next shot at Liga MX

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It’s not a typo; The s is very real.

The Leagues Cup — not the League Cup — is the new competition pitting Major League Soccer sides against some of the top sides from Mexico’s Liga MX.

The tournament has been expanded before it’s even seen a ball kicked in competition, as the second edition with go from eight to 16 teams.

[ MORE: Newcastle in for $28M Saint-Maximin ]

For now, though, we’ve got four American and four Mexican sides meeting over the next two months in a bid for North American supremacy not unlike a CONCACAF Champions League stripped of all the minnows.

Much like the CCL, the Mexican sides will be expected to triumph, even with all of the quarterfinals being staged in the United States.

Chicago Fire hosts Cruz Azul on Tuesday, followed by the LA Galaxy’s visit from Club Tijuana.

Wednesday will see the Houston Dynamo host Club America, and Tigres UANL at Real Salt Lake.

The winners meet Aug. 20, while the final will be played Sept. 18 in Las Vegas.

There’s a lot of promise in this, and it gives MLS another chance to make some statements about the distance between it and Liga MX. The Mexican sides have flat out dominated the CCL, and it’s not difficult to make the same prediction for this tournament.

But, like many tournaments, it also gives success-starved clubs a chance to give their fans something big and their players a tonic. For Bastian Schweinsteiger‘s Chicago, for one, it’s a huge opportunity. And for Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the Galaxy, it’s a look toward another piece of silverware for one of the world’s biggest trophy cases.

USMNT prospect Ledezma earns praise from van Nistelrooy

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Even for talents of the highest levels with top soccer education, sometimes a kid’s gotta learn how to eat.

Richard “Richie” Ledezma, 18, is in the midst of his first year at Eredivisie side PSV Eindhoven, a spot which beckoned after a five-match, one-goal season in the USL with Real Monarchs of the USL.

[ MORE: Chicago adds USMNT hero ]

Ledezma starred for U.S. U-20 team at the World Cup after his first half-season with PSV, which saw him play with the U-19s while trying to lose some weight.

From Goal.com:

“PSV help me with my nutrition, with my food and how I eat. It’s the quantity of food you eat, I guess,” he added. “Because I came a little chubby, when I got here, I guess. They all called me ‘fatty’ and stuff, so I was like, cool, you know? So no more McDonald’s.”

Goal’s James Westwood had a wide-ranging interview with Ledezma and also spoke with soccer royalty: longtime Real Madrid and Manchester United scorer Ruud van Nistelrooy was Ledezma’s coach with the U-19s.

“He’s making a difference in midfield with very quick-thinking passes, movement, can score a goal, play people in, he’s creating chances for the whole team.”

That’s not just good praise from a legend, but a solid sign for fans of the United States men’s national team. A proper No. 10 or playmaking midfielder could allow Gregg Berhalter or another future USMNT coach to use Christian Pulisic on the wings.

Ledezma has some work to do before he breaks into the first team of the Dutch runners-up, who have signed former Stoke City man Ibrahim Afellay and has Gaston Pereiro in the fold as well.

Newcastle reportedly in for $28M mercurial Nice attacker

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L’Equipe says that Newcastle United have returned to Nice in the hopes of landing Allan Saint-Maximin.

The Ligue 1 outfit wants $28 million for the playmaker, who could team up with Miguel Almiron and (maybe) Joelinton to give the Magpies a much-improved attack.

[ MORE: Chicago adds USMNT hero ]

Saint-Maximin, 22, has 10 goals and 10 assists across his last two seasons with Nice, and played everywhere in attack for Patrick Vieira: both wings, center forward, second striker, attacking mid… even some left and right midfield.

The player, however, has been a headache for Vieira at times, with the manager saying Saint-Maximin believes that he has enough talent to reach the highest level without the required amount of work.

That said, the youngster’s skill set is electric. He’s a March birth date, too, so a relatively young 22. That $28 million would be another transfer record broken for Newcastle, assuming it happens ahead of the Joelinton move.

Or… as Newcastle fan knows, neither could go through.

Clark County “declines to prosecute” Ronaldo for rape

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Cristiano Ronaldo will not face sexual assault charges for a June 2009 incident in the United States, attorneys say.

An American woman filed a civil lawsuit against the Juventus superstar last year, claiming that Ronaldo forced himself upon her while she was in a prone position in his hotel room.

[ MORE: Bayern keen on Zaha ]

Ronaldo had expressed belief that he would be cleared of the claims, and claimed that graphic documents produced by German publication Der Spiegel were altered and fabricated.

Las Vegas police issued a warrant in a bid to get Ronaldo’s DNA, and the DA’s office says the woman’s refusal to name her attacker stopped them for collecting “vital evidence.” The woman reached a civil settlement with Ronaldo in 2010.

From News3LV.com:

“Based upon a review of the information presented at this time, the allegations of sexual assault against Cristiano Ronaldo cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt,” the D.A.’s office said. “Therefore, no charges will be forthcoming.”