Lloyd scores twice in USWNT’s rout of Belgium

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LOS ANGELES (AP) The World Cup must be getting close, because Carli Lloyd is looking dangerous.

The 2015 World Cup star scored her first two goals of the year in the opening 19 minutes of the U.S. women’s national team’s 6-0 thrashing of Belgium in an exhibition on Sunday night.

Lindsey Horan and Samantha Mewis added first-half goals on headers after Lloyd scored twice in the air. Alex Morgan also got a goal early in the second half as the Americans showcased their offensive potency in their first-ever meeting with Belgium, a well-regarded opponent that barely missed World Cup qualification.

Jessica McDonald added the Americans’ fifth headed goal in the final seconds of play.

“Obviously it all jelled really well tonight,” Morgan said. “We had some players on the field that hadn’t seen it as much, and I think a lot of players really stepped up. (The World Cup) is such a long tournament, and there are so many variables. We had to make sure every player is ready to contribute.”

Morgan scored on a beautiful pass from the 36-year-old Lloyd, who showed she might be more than a super sub in France this summer.

In Lloyd’s first start of the year, the goal-scoring hero of the Americans’ World Cup triumph in Canada came through with her 106th and 107th career goals, tying Michelle Akers for fourth place on the U.S.’ career goals list.

“I’d be foolish to not take this opportunity and try to seize it,” Lloyd said. “I want to win. I’m a winner. People can say what they want, but I know at the end of the day I can help this team lift that trophy in France, and I’m not going to stop until I can do that.”

The team’s leading active goal-scorer had played only 34 minutes as a substitute in five games this year, and she has been expected to play a reserve role this summer after coach Jill Ellis largely relegated her to the bench late last year. But Lloyd capitalized on her start with another dynamic display of the offensive talent that made her FIFA’s World Player of the Year in 2015 and 2016.

“I’ve said she’s a game-changer, whether she’s on the pitch or coming onto the pitch,” Ellis said of Lloyd. “That’s her role for us. I thought tonight, she was sharp. Fantastic. Played her role perfectly, getting on the end of things and getting results.”

Veteran defender Ali Krieger also made her first appearance for the U.S. in exactly two years, getting back into Ellis’ lineup for her 99th career appearance after going 18 months without a call-up before this two-game set of exhibition victories over Australia and Belgium.

Ellis is expected to set her World Cup roster for France within the next month.

“I have some big decisions to make in the next couple of weeks, so I think part of looking at (Krieger) was to see that,” Ellis said. “We want to get as many looks as we can.”

The Americans scored 11 goals against Australia and Belgium while Ellis examined her depth. And after giving up three goals to the Australians in Colorado, they kept a clean sheet in Los Angeles.

The U.S. team’s first game at 1-year-old Banc of California Stadium just south of downtown LA drew a near-sellout crowd of 20,941 to a friendly match that felt like a celebration of the sport.

The team debuted its World Cup white uniforms in front of a crowd including Natalie Portman, Jessica Chastain, Jennifer Garner, Uzo Aduba and Eva Longoria. The actors all took the field before the game wearing jerseys of players from the 1999 World Cup-winning U.S. team, which was honored on the field at halftime for its landmark championship-winning victory a few miles away at the Rose Bowl.

Belgium was on a 10-match unbeaten streak despite narrowly failing to qualify for the World Cup. Its roster is stacked with talent playing professionally across Europe, but the Americans were superior on both ends.

Lloyd scored an exceptional goal in the 14th minute, finding a crease between two defenders and perfectly directing a long, difficult header off a free kick from Tierna Davidson. Lloyd’s second goal in the 19th minute was a close-range header off an exceptional cross from Crystal Dunn.

Horan then scored in the 26th minute off a corner, showcasing the Americans’ superiority in the air. Mewis also scored on a header seven minutes later off a free kick from Christen Press, who finished with three assists.

After coming on as a halftime substitution, Morgan got the Americans’ fifth goal in the 52nd minute. The native of the far-flung LA suburbs punched home her 101st career goal from a difficult angle after a pretty give-and-go with Lloyd.

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

Transfer rumor roundup: Donnarumma to Man United; Clarke to Spurs

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The Premier League transfer window is officially open again and that means one thing: transfer reports are going to start kicking up a few notches.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Here’s a look at some of the latest gossip from around the PL…


It appears replacing David De Gea is one of Manchester United’s main aims this summer, as the Spanish goalkeeper has just one year left on his contract and Real Madrid are lurking after Thibaut Courtois struggled in his debut season at the Santiago Bernabeu and Keylor Navas is leaving.

United have already been linked with a move for Barcelona’s Dutch goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen, but a new report from Calcio Mercato says that Gianluigi Donnarumma is their new target to replace DDG. Per the report, if AC Milan do not reach the Champions League this Sunday via a top four finish in the league — third place to six in Serie A is separated by just three points with AC currently in fifth — he could leave as his yearly wage of $6.5 million would be tough for AC Milan to pay.

Even with United not in the Champions League next season, they could pay those wages and the transfer fee of around $80 million would be worth it for a player with his potential.

Donnarumma, 20, has been a starter for AC Milan for four seasons and will take over from Gianluigi Buffon in goal for the Italian national team. His agent is, you guessed it, Mino Raiola, who has several clients at United with Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku the biggest names and Henrikh Mkhitaryan previously at Old Trafford.

De Gea, 28, put in a string of poor performances at the end of last season and many are suggesting that was due to uncertainty over his long-term future. The report says that De Gea has turned down United’s final contract offer as he wants to be paid the same amount as top earner Alexis Sanchez, but despite being named United’s player of the year in four of the past five seasons the Red Devils aren’t willing to pay him over $565,000 per week.

Similar to when DDG arrived at United, Donnarumma is young and may take some time to get used to the Premier League. But after those early hiccups we all know how good De Gea has become, and Donnarumma has the added bonus that his frame is much stronger than De Gea’s was at his age.


Tottenham Hotspur is looking to sign another young English star from the lower leagues, as Leeds United winger Jack Clarke is reportedly in their sights.

The Daily Mail says that Spurs will bid around $13.5 million for teenager Clarke.

Clarke, 18, starred for Leeds United in the Championship during the 2018-19 campaign which saw them lose in the playoff semifinals against Derby County as their dream of getting back to the Premier League was dashed for another year.

His boss at Leeds, Marcelo Bielsa, is close friends with Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino and it is likely Tottenham know all about Clarke. The Englishman scored twice and added two assists this season, as he sprung onto the scene in the second half of the campaign. After a brief health scare after coming off during a game at Middlesbrough, Clarke has emerged as a top target for several PL clubs due to his pace, size and ability to play on either wing.

Off the back of signing Dele Alli as a teenager from third-tier MK Dons and nurturing him into one of the best attacking midfielders in the world, signing Clarke would be yet another smart move by Spurs and Pochettino. They are not a club who can spend huge transfer fees or pay big wages, but bringing in the best young talent to improve continues to work out really well for them.

PSG president targeted by French corruption probe

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PARIS (AP) Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser Al-Khelaifi has been placed under investigation for corruption as part of an inquiry into the bidding process for the 2017 and 2019 track world championships, a judicial official said Thursday.

The official told The Associated Press the preliminary charge of “active corruption” was filed against the beIN media group chairman in mid-May in a case focusing on the payment of $3.5 million to an IAAF official. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the person wasn’t authorized to discuss the investigation publicly.

The official said Al-Khelaifi is suspected of corruption “in regards with Qatar’s track and field worlds.” Al-Khelaifi is from Qatar.

Al-Khelaifi’s lawyer was not immediately available for comment and beIN media group declined to comment on the case because it said it “doesn’t relate in any way to the company.”

The chief executive officer of beIN, Yousef Al-Obaidly, was also handed preliminary charges of corruption, while former IAAF president Lamine Diack is suspected of “passive corruption” in the same case.

According to Al-Obaidly’s lawyer, investigative magistrate Renaud Van Ruymbeke based his suspicion on documents showing that a former IAAF official received two payments totaling about $3.5 million from Qatari investors before the vote for the 2017 track world championships. Qatar eventually lost to London but was later awarded the 2019 worlds. The championships will be held in Doha from Sept. 27-Oct. 6.

The two payments from Oryx Qatar Sports Investments, an investment fund linked to the Qatari government, were made to Pamodzi Sports Marketing in October and November 2011, days before the vote.

Al-Obaidly’s representatives say the payments made by Oryx to the IAAF’s appointed agent were transparent and part of the normal bidding process. Set up to handle the sponsorship and rights for Qatar’s bid, Oryx accepted to pay $32.5 million for the event’s commercial rights, including the $3.5 million paid to Pamodzi as a non-refundable deposit. The full amount would have been paid only if Qatar’s bid had been successful.

According to the online news site Mediapart, Oryx is owned by Al-Khelaifi and his brother Khalid. Mediapart said Al-Khelaifi was questioned by the judge in March and denied any knowledge of the payments at the time.

Pamodzi was founded by one of Diack’s sons, Papa Massata Diack. A former marketing consultant at the IAAF, he has been banned for allegations of extorting hundreds of thousands of dollars from a Russian marathon runner to avoid a doping ban before the 2012 Olympics. France has issued a wanted notice for him via Interpol.

In another case, Brazilian and French authorities are trying to find out whether Lamine Diack and his son played a role in arranging alleged bribes to help Rio de Janeiro earn the hosting rights for the 2016 Olympics. Diack, who ran the IAAF from 1999-2015, has also been accused of covering up failed Russian doping tests in exchange for money.

Al-Khelaifi is a member of the UEFA executive committee, representing European clubs, and is due to take part in the body’s meeting on Wednesday in Baku, Azerbaijan.

Al-Khelaifi was selected as a club delegate, and confirmed by UEFA member federations in February, despite being the subject of a criminal proceeding for bribery in Switzerland since 2017. The Qatari television executive is suspected of bribing FIFA’s then-secretary general with use of a luxury villa in Italy to help secure 2026 and 2030 World Cup broadcasting rights in the Middle East for Doha-based beIN Sports.

PSG is also under investigation by UEFA for possibly breaking financial rules.

AP Sports Writer Graham Dunbar in Geneva contributed to this report.

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

Raheem Sterling hopes to play in MLS

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Raheem Sterling has been a star on and off the field this season as he led Manchester City to a stunning domestic treble in England.

The winger scored 26 goals in 51 appearances for City in all competitions and was named the PFA Young Player of the Year and the Football Writers’ Association Player of the year.

During a quick offseason break to the USA, Sterling has been talking in New York City at the Wall Street Journal’s Everything Festival.

He discussed his ongoing efforts to try and combat a steep rise in racist incidents across the soccer world in recent months, with Sterling calling for UEFA and other governing bodies to increase punishments for racist abuse from fans, and has said he wants to talk to the English FA and Premier League about ways to help the growing problem.

He also spoke about his future, and even though the Man City and England star is still just 24 years old (crazy to think he has just completed his seventh full PL season, I know, mind blown…) he has plans to head to the USA this summer.

“English football has grown massively over here. It wasn’t like that in the past and it’ll continue to get bigger,” Sterling said. “I was surprised walking out of the hotel today and being recognized by one or two people. I didn’t expect that over here. This is a country I would one day love to be able to come to. Your weather is a lot better over here than ours is. Hopefully one day I can bring my family over here.”

Asked specifically about playing in MLS in the future, Sterling revealed he is pretty keen to play Stateside.

“There’s always games on our tele at the training ground, we’re either watching this or the Australian League,” Sterling said. “For sure, this [MLS] is growing in the UK, and people are really taking it in and want to come over. I hopefully want to have a career here as well.”

With Man City’s connection with New York City FC, there’s an obvious club where Sterling could head to when he fancies moving to MLS, but if it’s good weather he’s after in the winter months, perhaps a move to Inter Miami or LAFC would be a better fit?

Either way, Sterling’s comments fall in line with a growing trend of elite players in Europe now seeing MLS as a serious destination for not only the latter years of their career but during their prime. We are not saying Sterling is heading to MLS anytime soon, but maybe when he’s 30 or 31 instead of 34 or 35?

Sarri: Pulisic can be “very important” for Chelsea

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Maurizio Sarri is very happy to have Christian Pulisic at Chelsea.

[ MORE: Pulisic’s American mission ]

Whether or not the Italian coach will get to work with Pulisic next season is another matter, but Sarri was more enthusiastic about the 20-year-old USMNT playmaker this time around compared to when he spoke when the $73 million transfer was initially completed in January.

Speaking to the media ahead of Chelsea’s UEFA Europa League final against Arsenal in Baku, Azerbaijan next week, Sarri revealed he has high hopes for Pulisic.

“I spoke with him two or three months ago. Pulisic knows very well our team, our way of playing, the team-mates. He is ready to join the group,” Sarri said. “I didn’t know the deal was done when he signed but before that I told my opinion to the club. My opinion was really very positive about Christian. He is a very young player, of course, but he is very strong. I am very happy. He has the possibility to improve more. He can become a very important player for us.”

Pulisic’s style of play certainly slots in with Sarri’s philosophy, as he loves his players to have plenty of touches on the ball with quick passing and moving. Pulisic’s supreme dribbling ability will also give Chelsea an extra weapon.

The stars have somewhat aligned for Pulisic to make an instant impact at Chelsea during the 2019-20 season.

In January the situation around Eden Hazard wasn’t as clear as it is now (Hazard seems highly likely to leave for Real Madrid this summer), plus both Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ruben Loftus-Cheek have suffered serious injuries in the last few weeks and Gonzalo Higuain seems unlikely to stay at Chelsea on loan next season.

That means Pulisic, Willian, Pedro and Olivier Giroud are Chelsea’s main attackers for the start of the season and with Chelsea currently amid a transfer ban for this summer and January 2020, the USMNT star will get a chance to become a regular in the PL and Champions League for Chelsea.

Chelsea could bring back Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount and several other loanees to help boost their squad, but it appears that if Sarri remains in charge, Pulisic will get a good run of games early in his Chelsea career.