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Britain's Emma Raducanu lost in straight sets in her first match since her thrilling Wimbledon debut last month.

The 18-year-old wildcard lost 6-3 6-2 to China's world number 51 Zhang Shuai at the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic.

Her return to the WTA Tour in San Jose followed her run to the fourth round at Wimbledon, which ended in retirement.

"I am at the beginning of my journey so every opportunity I get I'm grateful as I'm constantly learning," she said.

Zhang, a Grand Slam doubles champion at the Australian Open in 2019, raced into a 3-0 lead in the first set and was quickly 4-0 up in the second in the night match at the hardcourt tournament.

Raducanu's serve was broken four times in all and while she had two break points against her experienced opponent early in set two, she failed to capitalise.

"On the WTA Tour every match is going to be difficult and there aren't going to be many good matches," Raducanu said.

"It is my second WTA Tour tournament. What I learned is how to try and deal with someone when they are playing very well and you feel like you are not doing much wrong but you are constantly on the back foot.

"Stepping up to this level, I feel she just dictated me. If I keep going this way at some point it will pay off."

Zhang hit 29 winners in sealing a comfortable victory in 82 minutes.

British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland has made sweeping changes to his matchday squad for Saturday's decisive third Test against South Africa.

Hooker Ken Owens, prop Wyn Jones, scrum-half Ali Price, centre Bundee Aki, wing Josh Adams and full-back Liam Williams all start in Cape Town.

Fly-half Finn Russell, lock Adam Beard and number eight Sam Simmonds come into the 23 for the first time this series.

Owen Farrell, Taulupe Faletau, Anthony Watson and Stuart Hogg are out of the 23.

After winning the first Test 22-17, the Lions were humbled 27-9 in the second to set up a winner-takes-all clash this weekend.

"The matchday 23 have an incredibly special opportunity in front of them - to seal a Lions series victory in South Africa," said Gatland.

"It doesn't get much bigger than this and we're excited by the challenge that faces us on Saturday.

"We've no excuses from last week - the Springboks put us under pressure in the second half and deserved the win. We have to be much better than that second-half performance, and I believe we will be."

Following the second Test humbling, captain Alun Wyn Jones said he expected Gatland to make widespread changes, and the Lions boss has been true to form, changing six of the starting XV and dramatically altering the complexion of the bench.

Props Rory Sutherland and Tadgh Beirne, and centre Chris Harris also drop out of the 23.

Up front, loose-head Jones will make his Lions Test debut after recovering from injury, while Owens has been preferred to Luke Cowan-Dickie, who drops to the bench.

Tight-head prop Kyle Sinckler has been named as a replacement subject to the outcome of his disciplinary hearing on Tuesday evening.

The back five of the scrum remains unchanged, but the backline has been reconfigured, with Aki making his first appearance in a Lions Test series, and the Welsh pair of Adams and Williams coming into the back three after the Lions were dismantled by the South Africa kicking game last weekend.

Beard, a late call-up to the tour, is rewarded for strong performances in the warm-up with a place on the bench, while the creativity of Russell and the pace of Simmonds are preferred to the experience of Farrell and Faletau.

British and Irish Lions: Williams; Adams, Henshaw, Aki, Van der Merwe; Biggar, Price; Jones, Owens, Furlong, Itoje, A Wyn Jones (c), Lawes, Curry, Conan

Replacements: Cowan-Dickie, Vunipola, Sinckler, Beard, Simmonds, Murray, Russell, Daly

The first time Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis spent meaningful time with Alex Ovechkin was after the 2004-05 NHL lockout. Ovechkin, who had been drafted No. 1 overall by the Caps in 2004, arrived at Leonsis' house to spend a day with the family.

Leonsis' wife, Lynn, made lunch. Leonsis was impressed that the Russian superstar, then just 20, helped pick up dishes afterward and brought them to the kitchen.

Afterwards, they played basketball with Leonsis' kids and a few friends. "He was an unbelievable basketball player," said Leonsis. (Ovechkin's mom, Tatyana, is a two-time Olympic gold medalist in basketball). They then went swimming. "He was like a torpedo in the pool," Leonsis recalled. "I'm not kidding, that's what it felt like."

Then the two men sat in the pool and talked. "Alex was making eye contact with me, and really listening," Leonsis said. "I explained how hard this was going to be for him. The reason we were able to draft him No. 1 is that we were a really bad team. It was going to take a really long time to be a good team. Our goal was to win the Stanley Cup, but also for him to live a full self-actualized life and grow up with us."

Ovechkin remained a captive audience. Leonsis then got philosophical.

"My belief was that communities fall in love with a young player," Leonsis told Ovechkin. "And then they often get their heart broken when the young players want to leave."

Leonsis ended his spiel with a pitch: "Alex, trust me. Let us trust you. Let's do this together."

Ovechkin said, "OK." He was in.

Last week, the Capitals announced a new contract for Ovechkin: five years, with an average annual value of $9.5 million. The deal will take Ovechkin through age 40; should he average 33 goals per season, it will also include him breaking Wayne Gretzky's all-time NHL goal-scoring record of 894.

Ovechkin negotiated the deal himself, emblematic of the trust he and the organization have forged over nearly two decades together.

"The idea of him playing in Russia, or playing for another organization, just didn't make sense," GM Brian MacLellan said. "It was important we brought that tone into the negotiations that we were going to try to make it work. We wanted him to finish his career here, be happy about the contract, be happy about the term, and go out the right way."

Here is the story of how it all came together.

Ovechkin has been a superstar ever since he stepped on NHL ice. He scored 52 goals as a rookie. Two years later, he was named league MVP. He was MVP the next season, too.

Leonsis was right: it would take a long time to reach their goals. Despite making the playoffs in 10 of his first 13 seasons, it took until 2018 for Ovechkin to help lead the Capitals to the organization's first ever Stanley Cup. Ovechkin's impact off the ice was felt well before that.

"When I bought the team [in] 1999, I paid $85 million, and we struggled to put fans in the stands," Leonsis said. "We had 2,900 season ticket holders in a 20,000 arena. The year before I bought the team they had gone to the Finals and couldn't sell out playoff games. The following year, they didn't make the playoffs and renewals were terrible."

After Ovechkin's first MVP season in 2007-08, the first under coach Bruce Boudreau, the Capitals sold out the playoffs. "The next season we sold out every game. And we've sold out every game since," Leonsis said. "Now we're a top-10 revenue team, and a top-six or eight ticket-selling team. We've become a destination. Now I would say the Caps are worth a billion dollars."

The Caps realized the power of Ovechkin by the time his three-year, entry-level deal was expiring in 2008.

"When it was time for his second deal, there was a standard deal template," Leonsis said. "[Sidney] Crosby had signed a five-year second deal, and we could have done something like that too."

Team president Dick Patrick had other ideas. In a meeting with Leonsis, Patrick said: "I'm very conservative, and I'm very skeptical. And when you give players long-term deals for a lot of money, sometimes they change, sometimes their love of the game changes. I think there's something special here, though. So why don't we do something radical? Why don't we tell Alex we want to negotiate your bridge contract, your B contract, and your free-agent deal all at the same time?"

At the time, Tatyana Ovechkin was serving as her son's agent. Leonsis brought the idea to them of a long-term contract, and explained the Capitals were the ones assuming the risk. If Ovechkin got hurt, he'd still get paid.

The benefit of a long-term deal: if Ovechkin lived up to what the Capitals hoped he would be, it would work out for both sides.

The negative: there could be someone else in the industry that gets paid more in that span, as the salary cap grows.

"What I admired about Alex is, he never once compared himself and his deal to anybody else," Leonsis said. "He never asked to be traded. He never said fire a coach. It's just a remarkable personal journey for him."

And so in 2008, Ovechkin signed a 13-year, $124 million deal. It was the NHL's first $100 million contract.

Sometime in the middle of Ovechkin's 13-year contract, Leonsis met Wayne Gretzky at an event. The two men sat down and talked.

"Alex is the only player I've ever thought could break my record," Gretzky told Leonsis. "He loves the game. He has such a great relationship and comfort in D.C.; don't ever break that."

Leonsis promised Gretzky: "I won't."

Soon after, Leonsis saw the 30-for-30 documentary about Gretzky's trade from Edmonton to Los Angeles. "And I laugh," Leonsis said. "Because the Oilers won four Stanley Cups but the only thing the owner is known for is trading Wayne Gretzky."

As Ovechkin's 13-year deal was nearing expiration this season, Leonsis often joked during talks with other team officials: "They're not going to make a 30-for-30 about us."

During the pandemic, ESPN released "The Last Dance." Leonsis was riveted.

"It was 10 hours about Michael Jordan's greatness," Leonsis said. "But also about how they did not feel loved or connected to the team."

Leonsis didn't want to be that guy. He already felt like he was on a good track, though.

Because Ovechkin had signed a long-term deal in 2008, teammate Nicklas Backstrom followed by committing to 10 years in 2010.

"Alex not only made the commitment to us, but made it to Nick, then they embraced John Carlson," Leonsis explained. "Keeping Alex, keeping Nick, keeping John Carlson, building a 20 to 25-year journey with these guys, with Alex as the bedrock, was the right thing for us to do. It's a wonderful story."

Backstrom's deal expired in 2020. He chose to negotiate his next deal himself.

"Nick is very analytical," Leonsis said. "He sat down with us, and said 'This is how many years I'd like to play, I'd like to play my whole career here. I want to play with Alex my whole career. I want to play in front of this crowd my entire career. This is what we need to do to win the Stanley Cup, and this is how Alex is going to break Wayne Gretzky's record.'

"He literally went season by season, of what we needed to do and how he'd have to play, with five-on-five goals and power play. He landed on five years [for his contract]. It was remarkable how the two of them -- unlike Lennon and McCartney, instead of breaking up, they were totally in sync."

Contract negotiations for Ovechkin's new deal began informally. Ovechkin talked to MacLellan throughout the season. The captain and GM met a few times, often at hotels on the road.

"He'd go back and talk to his family, and a few advisors," MacLellan said. "Then he'd come back to me and we'd talk again. It went on for quite a while."

The first discussions were philosophical. Ovechkin wanted to hear the direction of the Capitals. He wanted to know what MacLellan envisioned and what types of moves he planned on doing.

"Then term became important," MacLellan said. "He zeroed in on five years, and that became very important. He liked the term of five years; he has some personal goals in mind."

Once five years was determined as the term, the two needed to hash out the average annual value.

"His main goal wasn't to make as much money as possible," MacLellan said. "He probably would get a shorter term at a higher AAV if he wanted to go outside [of the Capitals]. Probably could have made more money going back home to Russia, I would assume, there are probably some tax advantages there. We had discussions: 'Here are your career earnings. Is a higher contract going to affect your standard of life going forward, or is it about finishing your career out the right way?'"

At $9.5 million -- just a shade lower than the $9.54 million AAV on his last deal -- the Caps and Ovechkin felt like they could keep the team competitive. (That Ovechkin's contract has nearly the same cap hit it had 13 years ago is an interesting indictment of the NHL; Leonsis says it is a direct byproduct of the NHL still being driven more by local revenues than national revenues).

Just as the Capitals finished Ovechkin's deal, they also traded defenseman Brenden Dillon to the Winnipeg Jets.

"We had to get a $4 million player out," MacLellan said. "You go higher than that, we probably have to move another player out. You get thin quick when that cap isn't going up. So that was an important factor keeping it at $9.5 [million]."

Conversations between the Capitals and Ovechkin continued as the captain returned home to Russia for the summer. They hashed out final details on the phone, and via text, before finally landing on the deal.

"It was a bummer we weren't able to do it in person," MacLellan said. "But we all felt really happy about it. He was excited. He's an emotional person. I think he was excited about knowing what he would be doing for the next five years."

On Thursday, the Capitals held a press conference announcing the deal. And shortly after that, Leonsis was pulled into talks regarding the NBA's Washington Wizards, a team that he also owns.

"We had a superstar player with the Wizards, he had an opportunity and wanted to be traded to the Lakers," Leonsis said. "And I was dealing with that as we were announcing Alex. I couldn't help but self-reflect on what a difference it is. Here's a great player in Russell Westbrook, played in OKC, wanted to be traded, went to Houston, wanted to be traded, came to D.C., wanted to be traded and is now in L.A. He's an unbelievably great person and an unbelievably great player. But that's the difference between the NBA and the NHL, I suppose."

#ReachOut: FIFA launches mental health campaign

Published in Soccer
Tuesday, 03 August 2021 05:11

FIFA has announced a new campaign to raise awareness of mental health conditions and encourage people to seek help when needed.

ReachOut, launched in conjunction with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), is supported by World Cup winner Cafu, Champions League winner Luis Garcia and ex-Italy goalkeeper Walter Zenga. Former Germany goalkeeper Robert Enke died from suicide in 2009 and his wife Teresa is involved in the project.

- Stream LIVE games and replays on ESPN+ (U.S. only)

"This campaign is very important in raising awareness about mental health conditions and encouraging a conversation which could save a life," FIFA president Gianni Infantino said. "In FIFA's Vision 2020-2023, we pledge our commitment to make football work for society, and I thank the players and Ms Enke, who have contributed to this important initiative.

"Depression and anxiety affect rising numbers of people worldwide, and young people are among the most vulnerable. Having a conversation with family, friends or a healthcare professional can be key. FIFA is proud to launch this campaign, supported by the World Health Organization and ASEAN to encourage people to #ReachOut."

FIFA's statement adds: "Depression affects more than 260 million people in the world while around half of all mental health conditions start by age 14. Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death in young people aged 15-29. Among active football players, 23% report sleep disturbance, while 9% have reported depression and a further 7% suffer from anxiety. Among retired players, these figures increase, with 28% struggling to sleep and depression and anxiety affecting 13% and 11% respectively (source: FIFPRO).

"Working from home, unemployment, school closures and social isolation have affected people around the world during the COVID-19 pandemic; the challenges for people with mental health conditions, for whom access to treatment has, in many cases, been disrupted, are even greater."

Sources: Arsenal blow as Partey injury confirmed

Published in Soccer
Tuesday, 03 August 2021 05:11

Arsenal have been dealt a significant blow on the eve of the new Premier League season with Thomas Partey set to miss the opening weeks with an ankle injury, sources have told ESPN.

The 28-year-old is expected to see a specialist later this week after limping off during the first half of Sunday's 2-1 friendly defeat to Chelsea at Emirates Stadium.

An exact timescale on his recovery is yet to be determined but the midfielder will miss the opening Premier League game against Brentford on Aug. 13 and the early indications are he could miss further matches beyond that.

Partey joined Arsenal from Atletico Madrid in a £45 million last summer but his debut season was hampered by various injury issues, most prominently when missing 10 matches at the turn of the year with a hip problem.

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta views Partey as a key figure in his rebuild as the club look to improve on last season's eighth-place finish and any extended absence would be a considerable setback, especially given they face Chelsea at home and champions Manchester City away before the end of August.

Arsenal have already signed Albert Sambi Lokonga from Anderlecht and are keeping tabs on several other midfield options including Houssem Aouar at Lyon but sources have indicated any further additions could depend on the Gunners selling another midfielder.

The most obvious candidate appeared to be Granit Xhaka given he was in advanced talks with a move to Roma but Arteta claimed following Sunday's game that the Switzerland international will stay and could even sign a new contract.

USWNT's Morgan 'devastated,' Rapinoe 'gutted'

Published in Soccer
Tuesday, 03 August 2021 05:10

United States women's national team forward Alex Morgan has said she is "devastated" that they will not compete for the Olympic gold medal, while Megan Rapinoe said she was "gutted" about the defeat to Canada.

The USWNT lost 1-0 to their North American rivals on Monday at Tokyo 2020, ending their campaign to become the first team to win a World Cup title and an Olympic gold medal back-to-back.

- Murray: USWNT devoid of chemistry as Olympic gold slips away
- Stream ESPN FC Daily on ESPN+ (U.S. only)

"Devastated to say the least not to be competing for a gold medal, but hungry for more and thankful we get to compete for bronze in 2 days. Thank you everyone for the support," Morgan wrote on Twitter on Tuesday.

The USWNT haven't lost to Canada since 2001 with Monday breaking a 36-game unbeaten streak in the continental derby.

They will now play Australia in the bronze medal match on Thursday while Sweden and Canada play in the gold medal match on Friday.

"Gutted. Motivated. Together. We have it all to play for," Megan Rapinoe posted on Instagram.

"Not done yet," Carli Lloyd, who remained on the pitch alone to do sprints after the game, posted on social media.

Vlatko Andonovski's side fell to a second half penalty from Canada's Jessie Fleming.

The team will be without goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, who was the star of their quarterfinal against Netherlands where she saved three penalties, who injured her right knee and was forced off after just 30 minutes of the semifinal.

The USWNT confirmed in a statement that Naeher "suffered a hyperextension of her right knee and a bone contusion."

Following an MRI scan, no ligament damage was revealed but the 33-year-old will be unavailable for the game against Australia.

The Gold Cup is complete, and after a topsy-turvy, 120-minute battle in Las Vegas on Sunday night, Gregg Berhalter's U.S. team walked away deserving winners over rivals Mexico and made it two trophies out of two attempts over their neighbors this summer, having won the CONCACAF Nations League at the beginning of June.

- Carlisle: USMNT's Gold Cup will resonate for a long time
- Report: U.S. beat Mexico, win Gold Cup in extra time
- CONCACAF Gold Cup bracket and results

With the trophy won, the confetti swept away and the players slowly heading back to rejoin their club teams around the globe, ESPN's Jeff Carlisle, Eric Gomez and Kyle Bonagura reflect on the tournament's highs and lows, as well as wondering if it's no longer just a competition for U.S. and Mexico to dominate.

Jump to: Biggest takeaway | Anyone challenging USA, Mexico? | Biggest surprise or disappointment | Standout players

Biggest takeaway from the competition?

Jeff Carlisle: The U.S. player pool is deeper than originally thought. Heading into the tournament, there were a lot of question marks about certain positions and while a few still linger -- namely who is going to claim the starting striker spot -- more questions were answered. Miles Robinson looks like a player who can be a real contributor at center-back. Kellyn Acosta is a solid backup for Tyler Adams in defensive midfield and given Adams' difficulty with injuries, could very well be called upon to play. Goalkeeper Matt Turner can give Zack Steffen and Ethan Horvath a run for their money between the posts, too.

Berhalter also has the luxury of identifying players who can excel in "supersub" roles, be it a midfielder like Cristian Roldan or an outside-back like Shaq Moore. It all gives Berhalter something of a selection puzzle when it comes to naming a roster for World Cup qualifying, which begins in September, but he has many more options than he had before and that is a positive development.

Eric Gomez: In the coming weeks and months, the generational shift will emerge as a huge talking point for both the United States and Mexico.

Several of Gregg Berhalter's young champions, like Matthew Hoppe, Robinson and Turner have likely played themselves into the USMNT World Cup qualifying rotation after their stellar performances. On the other side, Mexico fans can only look on wistfully towards the under-23 team playing so well in Tokyo. They will rightfully wonder what their fortunes would have been like if the Olympic side had suited up instead of the groggy, aging group we saw throughout the Gold Cup.

Moving forward, it seems more and more like this summer served both teams as a long audition for qualifiers. The United States will revel in adding in players to their established mix of young stars, while Mexico will scramble to swap out pieces of an aging core.

Kyle Bonagura: From an American standpoint, the whole point of the roster construction was to identify players who could play roles during World Cup qualification and not only did goalkeeper Turner showcase he's talented enough to be relied on, he made a strong case to be the No. 1 as well. Other players improved their stock, too, but because of the nature of the position -- only one guy plays -- it was Turner's performance that could have the most impact on a first-choice starting XI.

Steffen has been viewed as the locked-in starter for a while now, but after Horvath came up clutch in the Nations League final and Turner's run through the Gold Cup -- the New England Revolution stopper didn't allow a single goal from the run of play in six matches -- Steffen's standing should no longer be a given. Especially considering that when qualifying begins in September, Steffen will likely still be in a backup role at Manchester City, while Turner (and possibly Horvath) will have been getting consistent playing time.

Is anyone going to challenge the USA and Mexico moving forward?

Carlisle: Canada looks to be the team best-positioned to threaten the U.S./Mexico hegemony. The Reds had already made some noise in the CONCACAF Nations League when they defeated the U.S. at home. Then, they arrived at the Gold Cup without two of their best players (Alphonso Davies and Jonathan David) before being depleted further when forward Ayo Akinola went down with a torn ACL. And yet Canada pushed both Mexico and the U.S. to the limit, losing both matches by a single goal.

Tajon Buchanan was already looking like an immense talent at the club level with the New England Revolution. Now he's showing the same at international level. Stephen Eustaquio impressed, too. When Canada gets its full team together, it could prove formidable indeed.

Gomez: Canada is already there. As was the case with Mexico and the USMNT, Canada was without several of their biggest stars for the Gold Cup. However, they showed they're deeper than ever and boast an electric group of young talent -- Buchanan was a revelation, rightfully winning the tournament's Best Young Player award -- who will challenge to make their first World Cup since 1986.

Meanwhile, Central America is also experiencing a changing of the guard, yielding an interesting preview of what's to come in World Cup qualifiying. Costa Rica, Panama and Honduras have lost quite a bit of steam, while El Salvador was a welcome surprise under manager Hugo Perez. Beyond the three North American countries, La Selecta will challenge Jamaica for the playoff spot and make life difficult for every opponent along the way.

Bonagura: Even without its two best players, Canada advanced to the semifinal, where it had its chances to beat Mexico before losing at the death. So, the short answer is: Yes. Canada is on the rise and will be a tough opponent for the United States and Mexico for years to come. Canada hasn't qualified for the World Cup since 1986, in Mexico, and the expectation this cycle should be for that to change.

There is lots of progress to be made but this generation of Canadian players has the potential to change how Canadian soccer is viewed in CONCACAF and beyond.

Biggest surprise or biggest disappointment of the competition?

Carlisle: El Salvador is another team that looks like it is moving in the right direction. Manager Perez -- a former U.S. international, mind you -- not only has Los Cuscatlecos more organized, but taking more risks as well, and to good effect. El Salvador was another team that provided a difficult test to not only Mexico, but also reigning Asian champions, Qatar. El Salvador won't be a pushover by any means when the Octagonal begins in September.

In terms of disappointment, while Costa Rica claimed top spot in their group with three wins, it looks like a team caught between generations, and were soundly beaten by Canada in the quarterfinals. How long can players like Celso Borges and Bryan Ruiz carry the load? The start of World Cup qualifying should give us an answer.

Gomez: Tata Martino. After losing the Nations League final to the United States in June, Mexico's manager found himself caught between a rock and a hard place. Knowing his player pool would be diminished as the under-23 team played the Olympics, Martino felt pressure for the first time in his stint as El Tri manager.

Whereas the United States opted to rest all of their main talents, Martino felt he needed to bring as strong a team as he could to the Gold Cup to make up for his previous loss and risk further fatigue. The result was predictable. The Gold Cup is already as near to a zero-sum competition as there is for Mexico, and after Hirving Lozano went down with injury during the tournament's opening game, even more pressure was mounted on the Argentine coach to deliver a trophy, which ultimately never came.

Bonagura: Costa Rica might have gone 3-0 to win its group, but at no point during the tournament did it look like a team capable of making a threatening run in the knockout stages. The 2-0 loss to Canada in the quarterfinals was not an upset by any stretch.

Part of Costa Rica's uninspiring showing can probably be chalked up to introducing a new coach without any time to prepare, but it's hard to look at the aging roster and come up with many good reasons to expect things to improve significantly in qualifying. This is a country that reached the quarterfinals of the World Cup in 2014 and is but a shadow of what it once was.

Player who impressed you the most?

Carlisle: Miles Robinson. The U.S. center-back should have been named the player of the tournament. (That honor went to Mexico's Hector Herrera instead.) Not that it matters that much to him as he'll gladly settle for being part of the Gold Cup championship team, but Robinson was dominant in every game, putting out constant fires and delivering composure on the ball.

In the final, Robinson even showed off his ability to carry the ball forward into the attack. And he was central to a U.S. defense that conceded but one goal -- a penalty kick, at that -- the entire tournament.

Will it be enough to break into the U.S. starting lineup? There is an open slot alongside John Brooks, and Robinson's mobility could make him an ideal replacement for the injured Aaron Long. There is competition as well, though, and Mark McKenzie and Matt Miazga won't give up without a fight, but Robinson's emergence was the most positive development for the U.S. in the Gold Cup.

Gomez: While Canada's Buchanan was spectacular throughout the Gold Cup, Qatar's Almoez Ali continued his prolific run with his national team, raising many eyebrows along the way.

The 24-year-old striker won the competition's Golden Boot award and displayed a mix of speed and skill that enthralled observers and rankled defenders throughout. Ali walks away as the only player to win the top scorer award at both the Asian Cup and CONCACAF's premier national team competition.

Lastly, it would be a glaring omission not to talk about Turner's amazing goalkeeping throughout the Americans' title run. Especially in the knockout stages, the New England Revolution man looked unbeatable. He'll definitely remain at the top of Berhalter's list for any game where Manchester City's Steffen is unavailable.

Bonagura: Setting Turner aside, I think there are two players who really played their way into the United States' World Cup qualifying conversation: Matthew Hoppe and Robinson. Robinson was deserving of Player of the Tournament honors by being the guy we see regularly in MLS and Berhalter likely comes away from the last month with confidence he can slot him next to Brooks.

With that understood, I found myself more impressed by Hoppe. Not because he was more impactful than Robinson, but because we got to see a version of him that didn't get to regularly emerge at Schalke. While breaking through as a 19-year-old in the Bundesliga was impressive, it was tough to get a good read on how he could potentially fit into the USMNT because Schalke was truly horrific. Their basic inability to progress the ball with any regularity rendered him obsolete more often than not.

In the Gold Cup, Hoppe's confidence and willingness to take people on stood out, and he's earned a spot this fall.

Brazil beat Mexico on penalties to reach Olympic final

Published in Soccer
Tuesday, 03 August 2021 05:18

Brazil beat Mexico 4-1 on penalties in their men's Olympic football semifinal in Saitama on Tuesday following a 0-0 draw after extra-time.

The match was a repeat of the London 2012 Olympic final, which Mexico won 2-1.

- Men's Olympics soccer bracket and fixtures

Brazil, the holders having won gold in their home Olympics in 2016, had the better of the first half, but the second failed to live up to expectations.

Richarlison came close to winning it in normal time when he hit the post with a header from a Dani Alves cross.

The game went to extra time and, while Brazil looked more likely to break the deadlock, the match finished goalless after 120 minutes and it went to spot kicks.

Dani Alves scored Brazil's first penalty before Eduardo Aguirre saw his spot kick saved. Arsenal forward Gabriel Martinelli then put Brazil 2-0 ahead with a cool penalty and Mexico's second effort through Johan Vasquez hit the post.

Bruno Guimaraes stepped up and put Brazil in total control before Carlos Rodriguez got Mexico on the board. With the scores at 3-1, Reiner knew a goal would clinch it for Brazil and made no mistake.

Joe Burns has signed up with the Melbourne Stars on a three-year deal after nine seasons with his hometown franchise Brisbane Heat in the Big Bash League. The experienced batter, who has 1192 runs in 59 BBL matches and is the third on the all-time highest run-scorers for the Heat, has signed with the Stars until the end of the 2023-24 season.
"It was obviously a difficult decision leaving the Heat after being there for so long, however, I am ready for a new challenge at the Stars," Burns said.
"The Melbourne Stars have been a very strong team over the years and I'm excited to join the team and I can't wait to get stuck into training with my new teammates."
Burns, who is coming off a tough summer in 2020-21 having lost his Test spot, had an average run in the latest Big Bash season. He scored 180 runs at 22.50 average, hitting just one fifty in 12 games. His best in the tournament across seasons came during Heat's successful campaign in 2012-13, where he scored 248 runs in nine matches, including a 27-ball 43 in the final.
The Stars, meanwhile, had a disappointing 2020-21 season, finishing seventh with just five wins from their 14 games following their runners-up finish in the previous two years. Burns' inclusion will further shore up the batting line-up which also has experienced stars like Glenn Maxwell and Marcus Stoinis.
"We are excited to welcome Joe to our squad for the next three seasons, especially given the experience and batting depth he adds to the squad," Stars head coach David Hussey said.
"We are building a strong group with a lot of star power so, hopefully, we can play in front of our home fans and make it a special summer."
The 11th season of the men's BBL is scheduled to begin on December 5, with Stars taking on Sydney Sixers at SCG.
Melbourne Stars updated squad: Joe Burns, Hilton Cartwright, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Seb Gotch, Liam Hatcher, Clint Hinchliffe, Nick Larkin, Glenn Maxwell (c), Tom O'Connell, Billy Stanlake, Marcus Stoinis, Adam Zampa
The PCB has appointed Dr Najeebullah Soomro, a Perth-based doctor, to head its revamped sports medicine department. He will take over as the chief medical officer, and is expected to relocate to Lahore in October, and be based at the city's National High-Performance Centre.
Dr Soomro is presently working as a part-time doctor with South Fremantle Football Club, a second-tier Australian Rules Football club that competes in the Western Australia Football League. An MBBS from Karachi's Dow University of Health and Sciences, he completed a PhD from the University of Sydney with a doctoral thesis on prevention of cricket injuries.
It is this expertise on cricket injuries that the PCB will hope to utilise. Over the last decade a number of players, and fast bowlers especially, have picked up injuries and either struggled to return after rehabilitation, or to maintain pre-injury standards. That led to a significant lack of trust between players and the department, leading to a number of them seeking medical advice, services and rehabilitation abroad.
The PCB's medical department was earlier headed by Dr Sohail Saleem, but he was forced to resign following the outbreak of Covid-19 inside the PSL bio-secure bubble last year, which led to the tournament being postponed. The PCB subsequently formed an independent fact-finding panel to review the matter, but it is still unclear if Dr Saleem was actually held accountable in the report.
According to the PCB, Dr Soomro has collaborated with Cricket Australia to create the world's first cricket injury prevention programme and injury surveillance mobile app for community cricket. Dr Soomro has also trained as an injury epidemiologist and sports scientist, though this will be his first position in such a high-profile role.
It's not Dr Soomro's first stint with Pakistan cricket, though. He had earlier worked with the PCB as a member of its sports medicine committee between May 2019 and September 2020.
The appointment is part of an upgrade of the PCB's medical department, now integrated with the high-performance centre. The domestic cricket department, which functioned separately with the national cricket academies, has also merged with the high-performance centre, which is responsible for player development for top-drawer cricket.

Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent


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