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Can the Las Vegas Raiders replace the fanaticism of the Black Hole?

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Mark Acasio says he and his gorilla suit are joining the Las Vegas Raiders this fall. Acasio, a long-time fan from Brentwood, California, known far and wide as Gorilla Rilla, has shelled out $3,500 for home-game tickets and $8,500 for a (PSL) for a front-row seat at Allegiant Stadium, the Raiders’ posh new home.

Acasio has not missed a Raiders’ home game in 25 years. Just because the Raiders will now be a one-hour flight from his home instead of a one-hour drive, he is determined to stay loyal to the team and to his comrades moving to Vegas from the Black Hole, the NFL’s most infamous cheering section, at dingy Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.

“On the other hand, many other friends of mine have not, and will not, step foot in ,” Acasio tells The Guardian.

They won’t because Las Vegas is not exactly around the corner from the Bay Area, and because tickets in the sections at Allegiant Stadium envisioned as a New Black Hole are about double what they were in Oakland – $218.75 in Vegas, up to $110 in Oakland. There was a PSL in , but as far as anyone can remember, it was not much more than $500.

But that is only half of the issue. Oakland had the Raiders twice: from 1960 until 1982, when they moved to Los Angeles for 13 years, and then again from 1995 through last season. The Raiders won two Super Bowls in their first stinter Danny Murphy has slammed the work of Arsenal boss Unai Emery.Murphy reckons the Gunners would be better off with another man at the helm – and has suggested there is a lack of faith in Emery among the Arsenal players.He told talkSPORT: “[Granit] X in Oakland and another in Los Angeles, but the second stay was pretty bleak, .

Although they knew that Mark Davis, the Raiders’ owner and son of Al Davis, the legendary former Raiders’ coach and owner, had tried in vain for years to replace the obsolete Coliseum, many of the team’s long-suffering fans were enraged that the team abandoned the Bay Area again – and that Davis was hardly nostalgic about Oakland.

“I have a football team, but it’s going to be the Raiders,” Wayne Deboe, a fan for 60 years and the president of the Oakland Raiders Booster Club, tells the Guardian. “They’re called the now, but they’ll always be just the Raiders to me.”

The Black Hole had consisted of four lower-deck sections at the Oakland Coliseum where fans dressed up in freaky silver-and-black outfits and loudly cheered the Raiders: “positive fanaticism”. The Black Hole is also a global fan club with thousands of members.

But the Black Hole is, well, :

We are a STATE OF MIND. Our state of mind has united the entire Raiders Nation over the years. We have grown from a few friends to a worldwide family made up of generations of fans young and old, from all ethnicities, races, and sexes. If you bleed SILVER and BLACK, then we are connected and you are spiritually part of us.

Rob Rivera, a resident of Hayward, California, who is the president and co-founder of the Black Hole, tells the Guardian, “The move has broken our hearts, pissed us off. They proved loyalty is a one-way street in the .”

Deboe was not a Black Hole denizen: “They stand up too long for me,” says Deboe, who is retired and lives in Castro Valley, California. But he feels burned, too. Like Rivera, Deboe figures he will go to one or two Raiders’ home games per season in Las Vegas, probably using tickets purchased by a season-ticket holder (with a PSL).

Deboe is sure he won’t become a San Francisco 49ers’ fan. “That’s definitely out of the question,” he says, laughing. “Nobody will do that.”

The Raiders did not return several emails from the Guardian about duplicating the Black Hole in Vegas. Marc Badain, the team president, : “A lot of the folks that sit in the Black Hole in Oakland bought tickets in the south end zone at Allegiant. Whether that happens organically, we’ll see what happens.”

Deboe, for one, is Champions League winner Harry Kewell says they’re a striker short.Rather than look to strengthen their attacking options in the summer, Liverpool opted to hand Divock Origi a new deal, shortly after he scored the goal to seal victory in the Championsnot optimistic that will happen. He says that is “because Las Vegas is a destination city. A lot of people take trips there from all over the country. Fans of other teams will see a road game in Vegas and will want to make a weekend of it. Oakland was a sold-out stadium of locals.”

There is a Black Hole chapter in Las Vegas, a good start. The chapter president is Cisco “Kid” Ortega, whose job was relocated from the Bay Area to Vegas before the Raiders made Mundo Deportivo says La Real sports chief Robert Olabe is seeking a new left-back and is prioritising Monreal.The former Osasuna defender enjoys great support inside the board room of La Real, where they have been trying to bring the 32 year-old backtheir move. Ortega says the team has not been in touch with him, but when asked about a Black Hole II, he says “We are going to do our best to duplicate that.”

The chapter threw a Super Bowl party at the Westgate Hotel in Las Vegas just to get the ball rolling, although the coronavirus pandemic scuttled plans for the NFL to host its draft in Las Vegas in April, denying the Black Hole club some inevitable TV screen time and valuable publicity. Ortega is still optimistic for success in Vegas, though he understands the challenges.

“I know I can speak for many of us Oakland fans when I say this second relocation will always hurt,” he says. “Many of us, including myself, will not wear any Raider gear that says ‘Las Vegas’. However, what’s done is done, and we, The Black Hole, have to continue on with what we’ve built in the past 25 years.”

When plans for Allegiant Stadium were revealed, Raiders fans were horrified to note that an area in the stadium outside the north end zone that would be ideal for another Black Hole was taken up by club seating. But the Raiders said there could be a Black Hole at the other end. About 15% of the season tickets in Vegas were sold to fans from northern California.

But will the Black Hole, or can the Black Hole, really ever be the same? Gorilla Rilla will be there, and he is determined to make the place look and sound like Oakland. All the team has to do, whenever or however the NFL season starts, is to win more games and give whoever shows up at its new stadium more to cheer.

“I will continue pounding my chest to the Silver and Black among our Raider Family from Vegas to around the country,” says Acasio, ever the noble warrior to the cause. “I’ve visited 30 stadiums and have stepped foot in Mexico City, London and Germany, and I have always represented my Black Hole Banner and Raider Nation.”

Wayne Rooney scores stunning goal from beyond halfway line for DC United

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continues to add to his highlight reel in Major League Soccer. On Wednesday night he scored for DC United from beyond the halfway line for one of the best goals of his long career.

The goal came in the 10th minute of DC’s game against Orlando City. Rooney picked up the ball in his own half and say Orlando goalkeeper Brian Rowe well off his line. He proceeded to drive the ball over Rowe, and was promptly mobbed by his teammates. It proved to be the only goal of the game.

Roor and RB Leipzig have undergone managerial change this season. Julian Nagelsmann took charge of the German club last July and turned them into Bundesliga contenders. Around four months later Jose Mourinho arrived ati Emery rather than a seek a transfer.Ozil has been frozen out by Emery, but will wait to see whether the Arsenal boss lasts beyond the end of this season before deciding on his future.The midfielder is Arsenal’s highest-paid player on £350,000 a we Spurs and galvanised them, taking ney joined last year with the club bottom of the Eastern Conference. He then inspired them to the playoffs. This season they currently sit third in the table.

Three former Manchester United players are now in MLS’s top-five scorers this season. As well as Rooney, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Nani are also in the top fivates after skipping out on them this weekend.Against AC Milan, Ronaldo was hooked on 55 minutes for the eventual matchwinner Paulo Dybala on Sunday and is said to have left the ground before the final whistle.Gazzetta dello Sport says Ronaldo did note.

Gardner Minshew and Jaguars’ defense stand tall in win over Tennessee Titans

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Minshew Mania is gaining momentum.

Gardner Minshew threw two touchdown passes and should have had a third, Calais Campbell spearheaded another defensive gem and the handled the Tennessee Titans 20-7 in sloppy conditions Thursday night.

Jacksonville (1-2) ended a four-game losing streak in the AFC Sis attracting big foreign interest.Gibson has found himself sidelined this season as he struggles to break into manager Sean Dyche’s first team plans.Sky Sports says German clubs Eintracht Frankfurt and Cologne are interested in signing Burnley defenouth series and avoided the franchise’s second 0-3 start in four years.

“This felt good,” defensive tackle Abry Jones said. “We needed this.”

With all eyes on star cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who may have played his final game for Jacksonville, Minshew and a second stellar defensive outing in five days captured the spotlight.

A sixth-round draft pick starting his second consecutive game in place of injured Nick Foles (broken collarbone), Minshew completed 20 of 30 passes for 204 yards. He found James O’Shaughnessy wide open for a seven-yard score, which came one play after Adoree’ Jackson’s muffed punt. Minshew was more precise with a 22-yard touchdown pass to DJ Chark, who was blanketed by Malcolm Butler.

Fans chanted Minshew’s name each time the offense took the field, and fans everywhere adorned fake mustaches and bandanas to mimic his signature look.

Marcus Mariota got no style points in this one. Jacksonville sacked Mariota a whopping nine uth America’s elite international football competition.The ng Norwich City striker Emiliano Buendia.Sky Sports says the 22-year-old Norwich City forward has attracted the attention of Villa boss Dean Smith ahead of the January transfer window.Argentine Buendia has started all 12 of Norwich’s matches in the Ptournament will be staged between June 12 and July 12 next year, jointly hosted by Colombia and Argentina. FFA chairman Chris Nikou, chief executive David Gallop and Mark Falvo, the organisattimes, including three by Campbell.

“You seen what the D-line did,” Ramsey said, declining to talk about his potential trade. “Today was their day. Everybody got a piece of it. I was excited to see those guys have a huge game.”

The Jaguars played well enough to win at Houston last week, especially on the defensive side, but came up inches short on a two-point conversion and lost 13-12.

Ramsey then gut-punched a franchise already reeling from the loss of Foles by requesting a trade hours after the loss to the Texans. He asked to get out following his sideline confrontation with coach Doug Marrone.

Ramsey later insisted he didn’t want to be a distraction. He wasn’t, at least not on the field.

The Jaguars enjoyed a 14-point lead in the first quarter for the first time since Week 2 of last season against New England and just the third time in the last five seasons.

Ramsey hugged several teammates after the game, but didn’t say any goodbyes in the locker room.

“He didn’t have to say anything,” Jones said. “He may be going to another team, but no one’s going to be hurt by that. It’s a business decision.”

The Titans (1-2) struggled to play from behind.

With his team trailing 14-0 early in the third, coach Mike Vrabel passed on a short field goal and went for it on fourth-and-6 at the 11. Campbell abused backup guard Jamil Douglas, and Mariota had no time to get rid of the ball.

“That’s not how you want to play that football team, from behind,” Vrabel said. “We talked about that. This football team, you don’t want to play from behind. They can really rush the passer.”

Tennessee finally got on the scoreboard with Derrick Henry’s one-yard plunge early in the fourth. Henry finished with 44 yards on 17 carries, a far cry from his last game against Jacksonville. Henry ran for a franchise-record 238 yards and four touchdowns, including the second 99-yard run in history (Tony Dorsett, 1983), in December.

Jacksonville wasn’t going to let it happen again, stacking the box and doing a much better job tackling the 247lb back.

Even Ramsey got in a couple of shots on the 2015 Heisman Trophy winner.

NFL round-up: Patriots shock Steelers at the death while Eagles keep winning

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Tom Brady fed Rob Gronkowski repeatedly to set up Dion Lewis’ go-ahead eight-yard touchdown with 56 seconds remaining and Ben Roethlisberger was intercepted in the end zone with five seconds left.

The Patriots (11-3) gained the inside track for home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs by ending Pittsburgh’s eight-game winning streak. Brady threw for 298 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Gronkowski, fresh off a one-game suspension, finished with nine receptions for 168 yards, including four on the winning drive.

It briefly looked like it wouldn’t be enough.

The Steelers (11-3), who played most of the game without injured star wide receiver Antonio Brown, appeared to take the lead when Roethlisberger connected with tight end Jesse James for a 10-yard touchdown with 28 seconds to left. The play was overturned on review, with official Tony Corrente saying the ball did not “survive” the completion of the catch.

Roethlisberger hit Darrius Heyward-Bey for a short gain, whp but stayed in bounds. With the clock running and no timeouts, rather than spike it to set up a short kick that would have sent the game to overtime, Roethlisberger tried to win it.

Instead, he lost it. His pass to Eli Rogers was batted into the air, and New England safety Duron Harmon came down with it. One kneel down later, the Patriots had their fifth straight victory over the Steelers.

Brown, the NFL’s leading receiver, went to a hospital having his left calf injury examined.

Jaguars 45, Texans 7

The Jacksonville Jaguars are returning to the playoffs for the first time in a decade thanks to a 45-7 drubbing of rival Houston on Sunday.

Once the NFL’s poster child for futility and a punchline for potential relocation, the Jaguars (10-4) are now one of the league’s top turnaround stories.

Blake Bortles threw three touchdowns passes, including two to a reserve receiver who slept in his car earlier this season. The Jaguars won for the seventh time in eight games to clinch a postseason berth for the first time since 2007.

Bortles finished with a season-high 326 yards and the best QB rating (143.8) of his career, including 186 yards and a touchdown to rookie Keelan Cole. Primary punt returner Jaydon Mickens, who stepped in for injured starter Marqise Lee in the first quarter, caught four passes for 61 yards and two scores against the Texans (4-10).

The Jaguars were an NFL-worst 22-74 over the previous six years, more a laughingstock than a postseason contender.

Rams 42, Seahawks 7

Todd Gurley rushed for 152 yards and scored four total touchdowns in just 2½ quarters, and the Rams moved to the cusp of their first division title since 2003.

The matchup to determine first place in the NFC West was completely one-sided. Los Angeles (10-4) was dominant, embarrassing Seattle into the worst loss during Pete Carroll’s eight seasons in charge.

Taking advantage of field position, the Rams scored on six of seven first-half drives, including a 21-point blitz in the second quarter capped by a 57-yard TD run by Gurley on third-and-20 with less than a minute remaining in the first half to take a 34-0 lead at the break.

Gurley had 144 yards rushing in the first half, twice scoring from the 1. He added a 14-yard TD reception midway through the third quarter for a 40-0 Rams lead and spent the rest of his day watching. The 152 yards rushing were the second best of his career.

The Rams don’t have the division wrapped up, but have a two-game lead with two weeks to play. A win against either Tennessee or San Francisco is enough for their first division title in 14 years.

49ers 25, Titans 23

Jimmy Garoppolo led one final scoring drive in the closing seconds to cap a fantastic first home start and Robbie Gould kicked a winning 45-yard field goal as time expired.

Garoppolo threw for a career-high 381 yards and a touchdown to give the 49ers (4-10) a three-game winning streak in a lost season. nham defender Jan Vertonghen.The 32 year-old former Ajax stopper’s contract with Spurs expires in June.Ten Hag told Ziggo Sport: “Jan is a player with a past at Ajax. He knows the philosophy of the club. Of course we are following his situation empAnd Tom Brady’s former backup showed he could do it at home as well as on the road — and against a playoff contender, no less — outdueling Marcus Mariota down the stretch as the teams traded field goals.

Gould kicked three of his six field goalrested in signing Youri Tielemans.The Red Devils could lose star midfielder Paul Pogba, after the World Cup winner declared his desire to start a “new challenge”.Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would need to replace the 26-year-old, should his wish come true.Tis over the final nine minutes: 50, 48 and 45 yards, and has now gone 20 consecutive without a miss.

Gould put the Niners out front on a 48-yarder with 3:08 remaining. Mariota then drove the Titans (8-6) to a lead as Ryan Succop kicked a 50-yard field goal with 1:07 to play, then Garoppolo and the San Francisco offense got one last shot.

Vikings 34, Bengals 7

Eric Kendricks had an interception return for a touchdown, Case Keenum passed for 236 yards and two scores, and the Vikings clinched the NFC North over the depleted and disinterested Bengals.

Running backs Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon combined for 37 touches and 242 yards from scrimmage for the Vikings (11-3), who were given quite the reprieve on the schedule a week after their eight-game winning streak ended at Carolina in the last of three consecutive road trips. They were never challenged the Bengals (5-9), missing more than half of the starting defense to injuries, and met with a morning report by ESPN that head coach Marvin Lewis will not return next season .

The game went so smoothly that Teddy Bridgewater even made his grand entrance, his first live action in 16 months since a massive knee injury. Bridgewater’s first pass was intercepted, a high throw that bounced off McKinnon’s hands and into the arms of strong safety Shawn Williams deep in Vikings territory. That set up a short touchdown run by Giovani Bernard to keep the Bengals from being shut out for a second time this year.

Keenum completed 20 of 23 passes, including seven easy tosses to McKinnon for 114 yards in the first 100-yard receiving game for a Vikings running back since Onterrio Smith on Sept. 26, 2004, against Chicago.

Lewis who lost to a former assistant (Mike Zimmer) for the first time in eight matchups. Zimmer was the defensive coordinator for the Bengals from 2008-13.

Eagles 34, Giants 29

Nick Foles threw four touchdown passes in his first start replacing the injured Carson Wentz, and the Eagles secured a first-round playoff bye.

Foles hit 24 of 38 passes for 237 yards and no interceptions. The NFC East champion Eagles (12-2) made a late stand on first-and-goal in the final minute in edging the Giants (2-12) for the second time this season, spoiling a three-touchdown, season-high 434-yard passing game by Eli Manning.

Foles hit Alshon Jeffery, Zach Ertz, Trey Burton and Nelson Agholor on scoring passes ranging from 3 to 13 yards in filling in for Wentz, who tore an ACL last week and was lost for the season after a brilliant year.

The Eagles also got two field goals from Jake Elliott and three blocked kicks from their special teams, foiling an extra point, a punt and field goal. The block on the punt set up a touchdown.

Manning finished 37 of 57 and hit Tavarres King on two touchdowns and Sterling Shepard on one. It was Manning’s ninth career 400-yard game and his first since last season.

Panthers 31, Packers 24

Cam Newton threw for 242 yards and four touchdowns, and the Panthers spoiled Aaron Rodgers’ return from a broken collarbone.

Damiere Byrd had two touchdown catches, and Christian McCaffrey had 136 yards from scrimmage, including a 7-yard touchdown reception as the Panthers (10-4) won their fourth straight home game.

Greg Olsen had his most productive game since returning from a broken foot, catching nine passes for 116 yards and a TD, and the Panthers kept pace with the first-place New Orleans Saints in the NFC South.

Rodgers, making his first appearance since 15 October, threw for 290 yards with three touchdowns, but was intercepted three times as the Packers’ playoff hopes took a critical blow.

Green Bay (7-7) had a chance to send the game into overtime for a third straight week. But cornerback James Bradberry stripped wide receiver Geronimo Allison of the ball with 1:48 remaining. Mike Adams recovered to finish off the Packers.

Saints 31, Jets 19

Mark Ingram ran for two touchdowns and gained 151 yards from scrimmage, including a late 50-yard TD run, and the Saints overcame three turnovers.

Michael Thomas became the second player with at least 90 receptions in his first two seasons. He caught nine passes for 93 yards, including a pivotal fourth-quarter touchdown on a short slant for New Orleans (10-4), which retained its tenuous hold on first place in the NFC South heading into the final two weeks of the regular season.

Alvin Kamara turned a short catch into a 10-yard TD in his return from a concussion that knocked him out of the Saints’ loss at Atlanta a week earlier.

Bryce Petty made his first start at quarterback this season for the Jets (5-9), who were eliminated from playoff contention. Petty completed 19 of 39 passes for 179 yards and a touchdown, but was intercepted twice — once on a tipped pass and once on a long, inconsequential throw as the game ended.

His 2-yard touchdown pass to rookie Elijah McGuire cut New Orleans’ lead to 24-19 with 1:51 left. But the Jets’ onside kick failed and Ingram broke loose for his long score while the Saints were trying to run down the clock.

Drew Brees completed 26 of 36 passes for 285 yards and two touchdowns, but also was intercepted deep in his own territory to set up a Jets field goal at the end of the first half.

Ravens 27, Browns 10

Joe Flacco threw a touchdown pass, ran for a score and beat Cleveland again as the Ravens stayed on track for the AFC playoffs.

With victories at home over Indianapolis and Cincinnati in its last two games, the Ravens will return to the postseason after a two-year absence.

The Browns are two losses from becoming the NFL’s second 0-16 team.

Flacco scored on a 2-yard run and threw a 33-yard TD pass to Benjamin Watson as the Ravens (8-6) took control with two touchdowns in the final 3:01 of the first half.

Defensive tackle Brandon Williams recovered a fumble and rolled in for a TD in third quarter to put the Ravens up 24-10.

The Browns (0-14) went 0-8 at home – 0-7 in Cleveland, 0-1 in London – for the second time and must win at either Chicago or Pittsburgh to avoid joining the 2008 Detroit Lions in the notorious 0-16 club. Last season, the Browns avoided infamy by winning their final home game and finishing 1-15.

Cleveland is 1-29 in two seasons under coach Hue Jackson, who is expected to be back despite his .033 winning percentage.

Bills 24, Dolphins 16

LeSean McCoy scored twice and surpassed 10,000 career yards rushing, while helping the Bills stay in the thick of the AFC playoff hunt.

Tyrod Taylor also scored on a 9-yard touchdown run and Shareece Wright and Jordan Poyer intercepted Miami’s Jay Cutler on consecutive drives to start the second half. Buffalo never trailed. Rookie Tre’Davious White sealed the win by intercepting Cutler with 28 seconds remaining — and one play after Miami punter Matt Haack recovered an onside kick at Miami’s 37.

The Bills have won three of four and improved to 8-6 to match the team’s best record through 14 games during Buffalo’s 17-year playoff drought — the longest active streak in North America’s four major professional sports. The Bills were 8-6 in both 2004 and 2014, but missed the playoffs with 9-7 finishes.

Buffalo also finished 6-2 at home to match its best finish at Orchard Park since 1999.

Buffalo must now hit the road to continue its playoff pursuit, closing the season at New England, then at Miami on Dec. 31.

The loss all but mathematically eliminated the Dolphins (6-8) from playoff contention.

Washington 20, Cardinals 15

Anthony Lanier sacked Blaine Gabbert and forced a fumble that Preston Smith recovered and Washington held on to beat the Cardinals in a comedy of errors for each team.

Smith also intercepted Gabbert and Lanier batted down three passes and had two sacks as they gave Washington (6-8) a glimpse of their potential as significant pieces of the defense for years to come.

Gabbert was 16 of 41 for 189 yards with the interception and a fumble he recovered himself in the fourth quarter. Arizona (6-8), which got all its points on field goals by Phil Dawson, went 0 for 6 in the red zone and 4 for 19 on third down as it was eliminated from playoff contention.

Washington’s Kirk Cousins was 18 of 26 for 196 yards with touchdown passes to Jamison Crowder and new running back Kapri Bi winger Yannick Bolasie has made a Christmas plea to Portuguese football authorities after being sent off for Sporting CP last week.Bolasie was sent off in victory over Portimonense, with the resulting suspension to rule him out of the clash with Porbbs. Washington were booed at times in the second half by fans in the announced crowd of 71,026.

USA score three goals in nine minutes to win Brazil thriller 4-3

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Julie Ertz came off the bench and scored in the 89th minute as the United States overcame a late two-goal deficit to beat Brazil 4-3 on Sunday night in a thrilling match at the Tournament of Nations. The United States were in danger of losing for the fourth time this year before the three-goal flurry in nine minutes.

Two minutes after Brazil’s Andressinha scored a free kick in the 78th minute for her second goal of the game, Christen Press countered to make it 3-2 with her 43rd internatio Tottenham’s squad for their Champions League trip to Red Star Belgrade.Son was left traumatised after his tackle led to Andre Gomes’ horrific injury at Everton on Sunday. But he was named in the squad which flew out to the Serbian capital this morninal goal and second of the year. Press fed Megan Rapinoe for a spectacular blast that tied it in the 85th minute, and Ertz put the Americans ahead four minutes later.

Rapinoe, who was recovering from knee surgery for much of last year, had not scored for the national team since the 2015 World Cup. She has rebounded this season with the NWSL’s Seattle Reign and leads the league with 12 goals.

The United States were coming off in the team’s Tournament of Nations opener in Seattle on Thursday night. It was the first time that the Australians had beaten the Americans in 28 previous matches.

Coach Jill Ellis tinkered with her line-up against Brazil, surprisingly moving Becky Sauerbrunn to a defensive midfielder role rather than her usual spot at center back. The United States has never dropped four games on home soil in a single season. In addition to Australia on Thursday, the Americans fell to England and France in the She Believes Cup in March.

Australia, ranked No7 in the world, lead the tournament standings.l has had a slow start to the season.Lampard said today, “I have four wingeat’s on the advice of former United midfielder Kleberson.”I don’t think it would be great for Maddison to join United,” the World Cup winner told US-Bookies.com.”They [Leicester] have had a good start to the season but when you do a big jump from a srs to choose from. They’re all fit. We all forget Christian has just turned 21 because of the price tag and because he’s come through from a very young age. It’s normal to exp The Matildas will wrap up the round-robin tournament against Brazil on Thursday in Carson, California. The United States will face Japan.

Why Aaron Rodgers is an even greater NFL quarterback than we think

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It’s long been acknowledged by NFs a step away from moving to Tottenham.Barca have made Coutinho available for loan in the past fortnight and had fielded interest from Spurs and Arsenal.The Times says Spurs now have an agreement with Barca about a season-long loan for the midfielderL analysts, fans and coaches alike that quarterbacks take too much blame and too much of the credit. NFL statistics are usually created by the result of the play, which means they are decided by not only the quarterback but also by the receiver who catches – or drops – his passes. When Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Kurt Warner and Drew Brees had their historic seasons, they played with great team-mates, players who didn’t need to be elevated by their quarterback to be productive. That wasn’t the case with Aaron Rodgers last season – and explains why many don’t realize how great the quarterback is as he prepares for his first game of the season this weekend.

Sixty-seven times last season Rodgers threw an accurate pass that was turned into an incompletion by his team-mate. Those 67 plays cost him at least 875 yards, the most in the league, and at least 11 touchdowns, again the most in the league. Explaining Rodgers’ struggles over the first five games of last season – when – is easy. Twenty of his 67 lost receptions came in those games, they cost him at least 273 yards and at least two touchdowns.

Take the play above from Week 1 against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Rodgers finished this game with 199 yards on 34 attempts. This play alone cost him 41 yards after Davante Adams dropped the ball. Not only that, Rodgers did everything perfectly. He bailed out of the pocket as pressure arrived before making an exceptional throw while moving to his left. The defender didn’t knock the ball away from Adams or hit his hands as the ball arrives. His presence alone is enough to make Adams fluff his responsibility.

Adams was a big problem throughout last season. His raw numbers were fine – he caught 12 touchdowns during the regular season – but no other quarterback in the league would have got those numbers from him. Adams cost Rodgers . Twenty-eight teams didn’t lose that many touchdowns to receiver error last year – Adams did it on his own. Rodgers can make a receiver like Adams productive because of his superhuman consistency making difficult plays.

When Rodgers’ receivers mess up, he simply creates another opportunity for a big play. This could be seen during the in last season’s playoffs. Rodgers set up the win with a brilliant throw (). But if we go back two plays before that incredible throw, we can see Cook ruining two more opportunities created by Rodgers’ outrageous skills. Most quarterbacks can’t make those thrchester City are worthy Premier League champions.The Citizens clinched back-to-back titles with Sunday’s win over the Seagulls, finishing one point ahead of Liverpool.And Murray thinks Pep Guardiola were the Premier League’s best team over the courseows once, never mind three times in a row when the game is on the line.

The above play is the first of the final drive. Cook runs down the seam and has safety Byron Jones on his inside shoulder. Rodgers recognizes this and throws a perfect backshoulder pass to Cook. He creates the separation for his tight end by putting the ball in a spot where the defender can’t see it but Cook can grab it. The difficulty of this throw is huge because the quarterback has to time and place the ball perfectly without an angle to work with. Cook had the easiest job but instead of catching the ball he clapped his hands to applaud the throw.

On the second throw, Rodgers is flushed from the pocket, Cook is blanketed in coverage, but the quarterback still puts the ball in the perfect spot. Byron Jones has his hand in front of Cook’s chest but Cook’s hands reach the ball first and he has a clean opportunity to catch the ball – but fails. Another great play from Rodgers, and another missed opportunity by his receiver. Cook eventually made the big play down the sideline to set up the game-winning field goal, but Rodgers is the only quarterback in the league who makes those three throws so consistently that his receivers’ limitations are almost completely ignored.

That precision Rodgers shows off making difficult throws translates to simpler throws too. I created , part of which charts an accuracy percentage. It’s a relatively simple idea. Accuracy percentage doesn’t look at whether the receiver caught the ball or not, it only judges the play based on where the ball was placed. None of the throws shown so far in this article were caught, but all would go down as accurate passes for the purposes of accuracy percentage.

Rodgers ranked third in overall accuracy percentage but when you break the numbers down based on where each pass was thrown, it becomes clear that he was the most accurate passer in the league.

In the above chart there is a random selection of the top quarterbacks from last season. Each column shows off the percentage to that yard range on the field as well as where that percentage ranked league-wide. Rodgers ranks in the top five in four of the six categories and the lowest he drops in any category is seventh. That is astonishing consistency. Brees was the closest to matching Rodgers while the rest of the league looked more like Rivers, Brady and Roethlisberger: quarterbacks who had great strengths in some areas but major weaknesses in others.

With that accuracy it’s no surprise that Rodgers has avoided interceptions at an incredible rate over the course of his career.

Eleven quarterbacks have thrown as many, or more, touchdowns as Rodgers has in his career (297). Of those 11 Rodgers has not only thrown the fewest interceptions (72) but if you doubled his interception total he would . Rodgers has thrown 4,657 passes in his career. He has been intercepted on 1.55% of thominent agent believes players will remain loyal to Manchester City are being treated extremely well over the years.City are in the process of appealing a two-season Champions League ban handed down by UEFA last week after they were found guilty of bose throws. Brady has a 1.85 interception percentage, no other quarterback in history who has thrown at least 4,500 passes . Rodgers is by far the best quarterback in NFL history at taking care of the ball and the Quarterback Catalogue charting re-emphasizes that. In 2015 he threw a pass that should have been intercepted once every 70.2 attempts, almost twice as good as the second-best quarterback, Sam Bradford. In 2016 he threw an interceptable pass once every 40.89 attempts, fifth-best in the league. None of the quarterbacks ahead of him were as productive and none of them consistently threw into tight windows as regularly or with as much success.

That precision plays a big role in Rodgers’ ability to avoid turning the ball over but that’s only part of it. He’s also a very intelligent quarterback, something that is regularly discussed, and possesses rare ability to maximize his pass protection with his footwork, something that is never discussed.

Rodgers has had all this success while playing in a scheme that doesn’t use a lot of play action or create a lot of yards after the catch. Twenty-eight quarterbacks used play action more often than Rodgers last year while 17 gained a higher percentage of their yards after the catch. It’s not a scheme that creates easy reads or changes every week to attack the specific weaknesses of its opponents. The only reason the Packers offense works is because it boasts the best quarterback in the . Quarterbacks in general don’t control as much as is suggested but those at the extremes — the Blake Bortles and Jared Goffs at the bottom, or the Tom Bradys and Aaron Rodgers at the top — can drag down or elevate everyone around them.

Because the NFL focuses more on counting Super Bowls and playoff victories when it comes to evaluating quarterbacks, Rodgers – with his one championship so far – will always be regarded as one of the best quarterbacks of his generation. That’s wrong: he’s the best quarterback of his generation.

Why the NFL can get away with dumping mediocrity on UK fans

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The National Football League to be played next year in London – more than ever before! – and is planning to keep ticket prices for the games the same as this year: £35 to £149 ($44 to $189) for general seating. And that pretty much ends the good news.

The not-so-good news is that the eight teams that have selected to play in the four 2017 games – two at Wembley, two at Twickenham – include the Cleveland Browns, who still stand a chance to lose all 16 games on their schedule, plus seven other teams who would not qualify for the playoffs if this season ended today.

The matchups, with dates to be finalized in the off-season, look like this:

24 September or 1 October: Baltimore v Jacksonville, Wembley

24 September or 1 October: New Orleans v Miami, Wembley

22 or 29 October: Minnesota v Cleveland, Twickenham

22 or 29 October: Arizona v Los Angeles, Twickenham

One problem: the aggregate record for the eight teams picked to play is now a lackluster 38-65-1. Already eliminated from playoff contention this year, but tapped to play in England next year, are the Browns (0-13), Jacksonville Jaguars (2-11) and Los Angeles Rams (4-9). Miami, at 8-5, is the best team, as of right now, to be playing in England.

The Jaguars, who have often been mentioned as a candidate to move permanently to London, perhaps in only a few years, have played in England in each of the last four years. The Ramspool boss Jurgen Klopp wanted more bravado from his players during victory at Sheffield United.Klopp saw the Reds beat Sheffield United 1-0 on Saturday lunchtime to maintain their 100 per cent start to the season.The manager said, “You have to respec’ first season back in Los Angeles has been so disappointing that .

players have never hidden the fact that they are less than enthusiastic about playing in England, mostly because of the long flights to and from the United States. When the Philadelphia Eagles beat the New York Giants in a regular-season finale last year, the Eagles were delighted that their division rivals would have to play in England in 2016 and not them.

The slate of four games in 2017, an increase from three in each of the last three seasons, will probably still sell, because American football in England (and continental Europe, which draws in many fans for the International Series), by several metrics, has not lost any of its appeal. An appearance by the rotten Browns, who could become only the second team in NFL history to finish 0-16, might not even iktas.Although the Spaniard had one year left on his contract, he decided to depart the Turkish side after a very tough season which was dominated by the club’s financial issues, reports Marca.The former Real Madrid youth coach is now seeking a returtest that.

“The NFL is commendably dedicated to developing football at all levels within the United States and throughout the globe, and we share in that commitment to help make our game as great as possible and the opportunities to bring it to more people, both within our community and in other regions,” Browns owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam said in a release.

Fifteen of the 16 regular-season games played at Wembley , have drawn at least 81,000 spectators. The Giants-Rams game this year was the first to be played at Twickenham, and it drew a healthy crowd of 74,121.

And this is the crux ofted the lid on his controversial departure from Arsenal last summer.The former Gunners captain angered many in London for the way he forced through his transfer.Koscienly admits he regretted signing a new contract with the Gunners and chose to quit f the matter – the NFL may be happy to keep sending mediocre teams over the Atlantic because the crowds still roll in. And in a season when the league has come under criticism for poor quality of play and TV ratings have slumped, it is in its interests to keep its big draws on home soil and in prime time.

Keeping the big teams away from Europe hardly seems to affect TV figures in the UK either. The NFL has said it is on pace to reach a record number of unique television viewers in Britain. The league’s internal research reports a fan base of 13 million fans, close to four million of which are considered to be “avid”. Additionally, the NFL said that participation in amateur football in the UK has grown by approximately 15% per year since 2007. Latest figures from Sport England show that 40,000 people age 14 or older play regularly, the NFL said.

Furthermore, a 61,000-seat stadium being built in north London primarily as the new home of Tottenham Hotspur when it is finished in 2018. It will include an artificial turf surface under a retractable grass soccer pitch for American football games.

But just because the NFL can sell out Wembley (which, given that England’s soccer team can do it, may not be as hard as it sounds), does that justify sending over poorer teams? While, it’s impossible to predict which teams will be great a year out from the schedule, it could be a sign of respect to arrange a game that is likely to contain two contenders – and that’s unlikely to be New Orleans v Miami. Besides the excuse that travel to UK disrupts a season isn’t compelling. Teams that play in England are given the option to have the next weekend off, but the Colts took on Chicago a week after losing to Jacksonville at Wembley this year – and beat the Bears, 29-23. (It also might have been a factor that the Bears, now 3-10, are lousy.) And it’s worth remembering that one of the teams involved in the first ever International Series game at Wembley back in 2007, the New York Giants, went on to win the Super Bowl that season. Maybe it’s time to put your money on the Browns for Super Bowl LII.

Toronto Raptors stand arm-in-arm for anthems: ‘We’re all human beings’

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The made a show of solidarity by linking arms during the anthems before their NBA pre-season game with Golden State on Saturday night.

Raptors players and staff stood arm-in-arm for the Star-Spangled Banner and O Canada at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, where the game was played. Some bowed their heads. Their statement was the latest entry in a series of recent protests designed to raise awareness of racial injustice and other social problems.

“We wanted to show solidarity,” said Raptors guard Kyle Lowry. “We’re a team, we’re all together, we’re all one race, we’re all human beings. We all understand that things in the United States and the things in the world [aren’t] the best right now.”

The Raptors, who won 97-93, held discussions all week before the decision to link arms was made.

“I told our players, understand why you’re doing it,” said Toronto head coach Dwane Casey. “It’s not against the military, it’s not against the flag, it’s not against the country. It’s their feelings on social injustice.”

Casey said their statement was intended to start a conversation. “Guys were real, guys had sincere feelings, sincere thoughts, sincere things to talk about and concerns,” he said. “That’s what all this should be about – to induce conversation.”

Since San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick first refused to stand for the national anthem in August, America has grappled with questions of patriotism, free speech and the American flag, and many sports stars have opted to show their support. Several NFL players have sat, knelt or raised fists, and many high school and college players have also picked up the cause.

The has a rule that players and coaches must stand during the anthems, although it wasn’t mentioned in a recent letter to the players.

The Warriors’ players and coaches who were on the floor in Vancouver all stood as usual. In Bossier City, Louisiana, so did the Dallas Mavericks and the New Orleans Pelicans, some with their hands over their hearts.

Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan said he hoped the team’s unique perspective as a Canadian team with many international players could

“We have guys who are not from America,” he said. “They go through their own problems in their own country, or whatever the case may be. If we can help inop four hopes tomorrow night.The Gunners travel to Stamford Bridge in 10th place, looking to reduce a 10-point gap on the Blues in fourth.Lampard insists Mikel Arteta’s side will not be out of contention if they lose but warned his side not to allow any type of way in a positive way, help a kid have a different outlook on something or have the right approach to something in life, that’s beneficial.”

DeRozan said it didn’t take long for the team to come to a consensus. “We all know what’s right is right, and we all know what’s wrong is wrong,” he said. “That’s just common sense of us all being genuine people. Once we put that in perspective it was easy.”

Meanwhile, Kevin Durant, the Golden State Warriors’ latest star element, took the first shot of the pre-season, a step-back jumper from the right side that was well short. The former Oklahoma City star’s first basket with the Warriors was a dunk with about a minute left in the opening quarter, one that drew a loud reaction from the sellout crowd of 19,000.

“Felt good to play and play against someone else,” Durant said. “We can start building for the season and what we want to be. So it’s a good first step.”

Durant heard some boos during the game, though said afterward he felt there were more cheers.

“Once the ball was tipped, it was juste as Man City women manager leaving his team top of the WSL after a harce James.The Sun says Newcastle and Leeds are expected to tussle it out for James in January.Steve Bruce has a strong interest in the right-back, who has broken into Frank Lampard’s first-team squad this season.The Newcastle boss hopes he can convincd fought 2-1 success over title rivals Arsenal.City went in at the break 1-0 to the good after being second best for most of the first half in this clash of the joint leaders in t another game for me,” Durant said.

Team USA avoid repeat of the basketball disaster of 2004 against Argentina

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The last dark day for USA basketball came 12 years ago in an Athens arena. That was when Argentina beat them in an Olympic semi-final that marked a massive restructuring for the American national team, and a vow to never return the shock defeat. And for the next two Olympics the US dominated just as the US should. But then came the last week and three near losses to Australia, Serbia and France.

But Wednesday would not be another 27 August 2004. The US plato the Champions League last-16 on Tuesday. City did so with a placid 1-1 draw with Shakhtar Donestk at the Etihad.Ilkay Gündoğan put City ahead in the second-half, only for Solomon to equalise 13 minutes later.Speaking after the gam, Guardiola saiyed played a stifling defense against Argentina, on the way to a 105-78 Olympic quarter-final victory. It was a performance as dominating as those the US had in early wins over China and Venezuela. Kevin Durant scored 27 points and Paul George 17.

And yet the dominance was not obvious early. For the Americans, who have struggled to play cohesively in these Olympics, the last thing they needed was to walk into an Argentina home game. But that’s essentially what they did on Wednesday night. The fans at their other games had generally been polite and mostly supportive. But Argentina is a neighbor of Brazil and their fans lined up outside the Carioca Arena 1 clutching banners and chanting.

A group of supporters stood on a balcony outside the stadium holding a giant sign with hand-drawn pictures of the team’s stars on the front. Below them, a joyous group of Argentinians clad in blue and white jerseys sang and screamed and chanted. The singing continued as they moved into the arena’s concourses. They sang before their national anthem, they sang during their national anthem and they sang acio Pochettino.There are some fans and pundits who believe that Pochettino is on the edge of losing his job.Spurs have endured a poor start to the season, while they were defeated 7-2 at home by Bayern Munich in the Champions League.However, Sherwoodfter their national anthem. They sang almost through the whole first quarter as 25-year-old guard Facundo Campazzo, who plays for Real Madrid, sliced through the American defense throwing up gentle one-handed shots that fell in the rim.

Behind his shooting and dazzling behind-the-back passes Argentina built up a 19-9 lead on the befuddled American players. The Argentina fans went berserk.

Then the fun stopped. The American machine surged forward. Campazzo’s shifting, dancing moves suddenly didn’t dazzle quite as much as before. The shots that fell in so easily during the early parts of the game clanked off the rim. The US defense, which had been missing their last several games, suddenly reappeared. With Argentina’s guards unable to break down the US inside they passed the ball to their outside shooters, who couldn’t hit their long jumpers. These misses were turned into rebounds, which were tuned into fast breaks.

Quickly, Argentina’s lead disappeared in a blizzard of layups and dunks. By the end of the first quarter the US had gone up 25-21 and Argentina were in trouble. The start of the second quarter was much of the same. The US defense shut down Argentina’s guards and then turned mistakes and missed shots into easy baskets. For the first time in more than a week the American players looked confident, even flashy. Durant hit several open jump shots but he also took the ball into the lane, playing more aggressively than he had in earlier games. At one point he faked to one side and cut to the other before thundering to the rim.

Late in the half the US had gone on a 29-9 run to lead 54-29 and the game was essentially over. And yet the singing went on and on and on. As the US played out the last minutes of a blowout, Argentina’s fans sang and danced, bouncing up and down in the aisles. They sang for almost the entire fourth quarter as the US fs cast doubt over his future at Old Trafford.After two loan spells – first at Crystal Palace and then to relegated Fulham last year – his United career is at a cross-roads.He is currently rehabilitating from a cruciate ligament injury, which may previnished a blowout of their beloved team and maybe found their form in this tournament.

Woeful Ryan Fitzpatrick throws six interceptions in Jets loss to Chiefs

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Ryan Fitzpatrick is not known for his accuracy and he excelled himself against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, throwing six interceptions as the New York Jets lost 24-3 to the .

Fitzpatrick was coming off a good game against the Buffalo Bills, in which he threw for two touchdowns and 374 yards. But against the Chiefs completed telli could’ve been a worldbeater.Eto’o was still with Inter as Balotelli, now with Brescia, was breaking through as a teenager.He told Gazzetta dello Sport: “Mario loves me like a little brother, but he never showed even 10% of his qualities.”The Majust 20 of his 44 attempts and was picked off six times. He does, at least, find himself in good company: Peyton Manning, Brett Favre and Joe Namath (three times) .

Elsewhere, Russell Wilson threw for 243 yards and a tore leading the race to sign Lemar.Lemar, 24, has been a long-term target of the Gunners after a bid while he was at Monaco in 2017.He joined Atletico a year later in a £60m deal but has failed to live up to expectations since moving to the Spanish cuchdown before suffering a left knee injury as the rolled to a 37-18 rout of the .

Wilson was injured with about 10 minutes to go in the third quarter getting pulled down awkwardly on a sack by San Francisco’s Eli Harold. Harold was called for a horse collar penalty, but the bigger concern was how he fell on Wilson’s left leg.

Wilson stayed down on the field for a few moments before walking off. Wilson missed the first play of his career due to injury, but returned to throw one more pass. The completion led to the third of Steven Hauschka’s three field goals for a 27-3 lead and after that Wilson’s day was done.

Wilson had a brace placed on his left knee, and he never saw the field again, giving the fio land Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish this summer.The Mirror says United are preparing to pay up to £70million to land Grealish this summer.The attacking ace has been in superb form for Villa this term after inspiring them to promotion last seasonal 1 ½ quarters of the blowout to rookie Trevone Boykin.

Wilson finished 15 of 23 passing, including an 18-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jimmy Graham. Boykin also threw the first TD pass of his career, hitting Doug Baldwin on a 16-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter.

Baldwin had eight catches for a career-high 164 yards.

It was a big day for Seattle’s offense that slogged through the first two weeks, in the first 120 minutes of the season. The Seahawks nearly matched that total in the first 11 minutes of the game thanks to the first two touchdowns of Christine Michael’s career.

Getting the start with Thomas Rawls out because of a shin injury, Michael had TD runs of 41 and 4 yards on Seattle’s first two drives. Michael rushed for 106 yards on 20 carries, the second 100-yard game of his career.

Carlos Hyde two TD runs in the fourth quarter for San Francisco, but the 49ers had just five first downs entering the fourth quarter and missed on their first 10 third-down attempts. of 12 straight games with a touchdown pass ended as he was 14 of 25 for 119 yards and an interception.

In Philadelphia, Carson Wentz threw for 301 yards and two touchdowns, a fierce defense shut down Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown and the Eagles beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 34-3 to remain unbeaten.

The rookie No2 overall pick connected with Darren Sproles on a and tossed a to Jordan Matthews.

After beating the Browns (0-3) and Bears (0-2) in the first two games, the Eagles (3-0) proved they could compete with the big boys. The Steelers (2-1) averaged 31 points the first two weeks and are considered Super Bowl contenders.

Pittsburgh was 19-2 against rookie quarterbacks since 2004. But Wentz is no ordinary rookie.

Everyone is jumping on the Wentz wagon in Philadelphia. And he was the No3 quarterback until Sam Bradford was traded to Minnesota just eight days before the season opener.

Sproles finished with six catches for 128 yards and Kenjon Barner and rookie Wendell Smallwood each had their first career rushing TDs.

Roethlisberger had 257 yards passing, one interception and no TDs after tossing six in the first two games. Brown caught 12 passes for 140 yards, most of which after the outcome was decided.

UFC 199: trash talk picks up before Rockhold-Bisping duel

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When Dana White stands at a dais to promote the , the organization’s charismatic president tends to leave an impression.

On Thursday, he didn’t – mostly because it wasn’t necessary.

As has become common among fighters engaged in the Octagon, a visceral lack of respect was on display at the beautifully restored Forum in Inglewood, California, which this weekend hosts the UFC for the first time in nearly 400 fight events at the building.

To the Whs six Premier League clubs are chasing Liverpool midfielder Harry Wilson.Wilson, 22, has shone on loan at Derby Couill finish in the top-four this season.Chelsea have now won their last four games in all competitions and sit just outside the Champions League qualifications spots in fifth place in the table. Speaking to Betdaq, Johnson said: “If Chelsea can keep gnty from Liverpool this season.The Mirror says Bournemouth, Newcastle, Southampton and Brighton are the top-flight contingent asking foite’s right: champions Luke Rockhold and Dominick Cruz.

To the White’s left: challengers Michael Bisping and Urijah Faber.

Ready. Set. Go.

In the aftermath of Chael Sonnen and the midst of Conor McGregor, UFC fighters seem to let loose tirades designed to rile up fans as much as the person on the opposite side of the cage with regularity.

This can often be construed as insincere, yet the rampant hostility ahead of UFC 199 comes off as if it’s grounded in something more real than ticket sales or showmanship.

Rockhold, the 185lb champion, is genuinely chippy – perhaps the chippiest person on the UFC roster. A California surfer with model looks, Rockhold is perceived as annoyingly confident, so to stick it to the Eintracht Frankfurt away support during last night’s Europa League shootout victory.The away support tried their best put Chelsea’s stars off their stride as they attempted to put their penalties past Kevin Trapp.Frankfurt fans bome might say egotistical. One thing is certain, he maintains a high opinion of himself and his status among middleweights.

After Chris Weidman dropped out of the card’s main event due to a scary neck injury two weeks ago, Bisping, the wisecracking veteran from Manchester, England, who lives in Los Angeles, was picked to replace him and, no surprise, trash talk picked up.

Will it mean Bisping can produce a competitive fight? Most observers suspect not.

The British fighter has agonized over receiving a UFC title shot since his earliest days with the organization.

Both times Bisping had a chance to rise to top contender status he failed – Dan Henderson famously starched him at UFC 100, and Chael Sonnen won a tight decision three years later. So when a title opportunity presented itself, it didn’t matter that Bisping’s last loss, his seventh, came versus Rockhold in 2014 following a lopsided affair that saw the British fighter mounted and choked with one arm.

Bisping, a Manchester United supporter, rebounded from the Rockhold setback with three straight victories, including a five-round decision over aging all-time great Anderson Silva in February. This performance at the O2 Arena in London did nothing to make the 31-year-old champion cautious of Bisping in the short-notice rematch.

Rockhold claimed he nursed his left leg through much of his training camp because of an issue with his meniscus. After hearing this (despite the fact Rockhold said the same on his Instagram account weeks ago) Bisping was incredulous, as if the cocky champion maligned an unwritten rule among fighters not to disclose bumps and bruises before a fight.

“You’re just an average bloke,” Rockhold explained to Bisping. “I’m a fucking samurai.”

After taking pot shots at Rockhold, who earned the belt last year with an impressive stoppage of Weidman, Bisping (28-7) acknowledged the champion’s status and accepted the notion that despite his optimism at the age of 37 he’s supposed to lose.

Again.

“Fingers crossed I’ll get the job done and go back to England,” he said.

Bisping offers quality MMA in many areas, but nothing stupendous. He steps in against the tall, athletic Rockhold in good form, and could make a contest of it as long as he doesn’t make a mistake. One hiccup would be enough for Rockhold to make good on his promise of showcasing what he characterized as a widening gap between himself and competent fighters like Bisping.

In the night’s co-main event, Cruz and Faber will meet for the third time. The rubber match of two of California’s finest mixed martial artists is likely to settle their years-long feud inside the cage. Reconciliation of another kind feels like a lost cause, especially after Cruz and Faber hurled enough insults at one another at the Forum to make a fight night feel like professional wrestling.

Free from having to give a hard sell on this weekend’s UFC pay-per-view, White was able to enjoy the back-and-forth as he swiveled his shaved-and-polished head during the verbal volleys between fighters.

Rockhold and Bisping certainly entertained, but the real sparks were ignited by a pair of 135lb rivals.

Cruz, 30, has suffered one loss in 22 fights. That came against Faber at 145lbs in 2007 when he tapped to a guillotine choke. Four years later, at bantamweight, Cruz secured a unanimous decision and defended his UFC belt over Faber. By that time Cruz had developed into a much more complex competitor, adding layers of blistering footwork, off-angle movement and counter-striking to an under-appreciated wrestling game.

With or without his nemesis in action, Faber has remained an important fighter but never the breakout star he might have been had he captured a UFC title. A month after turning 37, this challenge could represent the California Kid’s last stand.

Cruz, a highly-regarded analyst for UFC on Fox events, said Faber (33-8) can’t touch him. And he was cocky about it, too.

“He fights exactly the same,” Cruz surmised. “Big shots, one at a time. He’ll go for a submission and conserve his energy looking for a finish. He’ll miss often. I’ll connect often. And I’ll beat him.”

Saturday’s pay-per-view also features an important contest in the featherweight division, as Max Holloway takes on Ricardo Lamas. Veterans Dan Henderson and Hector Lombard tussle at 185 pounds. And Dustin Poirier meets Bobby Green in a lightweight clash.

Trailblazing NFL coach Dennis Green was far more than just a soundbite

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For many football fans, Dennis Green will be remembered for one thing. His when his Arizona Cardinals lost to the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football is probably one of the 10 best coach blow-ups of all time. Most mentions of his name are quickly followed by the refrain: “The Bears are what we thought they were.”

riticising the players during their El Clasico defeat at Real Madrid.Quique Setien’s No2 is well known for his passionate style of management.Sarabia’s reactions on the bench throughout the match were caught by Movistar’s cameras.”He is doing nothing

But to recall Green, who , as a caricature from a video clip is unfair. He was far more than a guy who got mad after a nationally televised loss in a football game. He was an essential coach at an important time for the NFL. He made o has opened the door to a future move to Real Madrid.He was at the FIFA’s Best ceremony on Monday evening in Milan after being nominated for the Best FIFA Men’s coach award.It has been a poorly kept secret that Pochettino would be interested in a reone of the most cherished and lucrative destination jobs in professional sports – NFL head coach – a possibility for many African-American men who never thought such a chance was real.

Only two black men had ever coached an NFL team when the hired Green in 1992. One of those men, Fritz Pollard, was a player-coach in the 1920s. The other was Art Shell, who was hired by the Raiders in 1989. Unlike Shell, who lasted six seasons, Green became an institution in Minnesota, coaching there for a decade. He turned the Vikings into consistent winners, going to the playoffs in eight of those 10 seasons.

In January 1999, he narrowly missed becoming the first African-American coach to take a team to the Super Bowl when Vikings kicker Gary Anderson, who hadn’t missed a kick in two years, that would have sealed the NFC championship game. Two years later, his Vikings lost another conference title game, this time in New York.

He won’t be remembered as the most successful black coach. Both Tony Dungy and Mike Tomlin hargen Klopp admits winning the Club World Cup will mean much more to opponents Flamengo and Brazilian football fans than those in England.The German believes that Flamengo will be “treated as heroes” and enjoy ‘a proper party’ if they lift the trophy,ve won Super Bowls. But Green went 113-94 in his career, his record undercut by three years as coach of the then-moribund Cardinals. He won four NFC Central titles at a time when many owners and general managers were hesitant to hire black coaches. He may not have gone to that elusive Super Bowl as a head coach but he made it easier for men like Dungy, Tomlin, Jim Caldwell and Hue Jackson to be hired.

The NFL is a better place because of Dennis Green.

Part of his success was that he embraced 49ers coach Bill Walsh’s West Coast Offense, working with Walsh as an assistant after a failed run as head coach at Northwestern. For three years he was Jerry Rice’s position coach, taking the lessons of his work with Rice to Stanford where he was head coach for three seasons and then the Vikings where he managed Cris Carter and Randy Moss, helping turn both into NFL stars.

Instead, most people will think of Green and remember him shouting about the Bears. That was in the last season at Arizona, when the Cardinals’ dysfunction was in bloom. Hopefully he will be remembered for more than a video clip. He was a very good head coach at a time when football needed him to be one.

Is surfing ready for Kelly Slater’s ‘perfect’ artificial wave project?

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The wave curls, whip-fast and flawless; it goes on, and on, and on. Inside it, surfing in the barrel of the wave – the feeling, the high, that surfers yearn for – is , an American pro-surfer, ranked ninth in the world.

Above him, a drone films his run – 10 se at Manchester United can “get hot”.The Sweden defender was reacting to the England bust-up between Raheem Sterling and Joe Gomez last Monday. Manchester City attacker Sterling missed England’s 7-0 Euros qualifying win against Montenegro on Thursday conds, 20 seconds, 30 seconds. It was the longest barrel of his life. Young had never surfed a wave like this before. Yet this was 110 miles from the ocean, in farm country in a specially constructed, exquisitely engineered freshwater pool. And it was perfect. “It’s an awesome feeling,” Young told the Guardian.

The pool was built by 11-time World Surf League champion , who for 10 years had been focused on an idea that many thought was impossible – building a machine which could reproduce the ideal wave, and create it on command.

Few people thought it was possible. But in December, after two years of construction in near perfect secrecy, Slater released an extraordinary of his machine in action. The excitement the video caused in the surfing community is hard to overstate. “That thing basically broke the internet,” said Craig Brokensha, surf forecaster for surfing news site Swellnet.

In that video, the wave curls over silently, dark and mys Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech has an offer to return to Stamford Bridge once he retires.Cech has been offered a sporting director role at Chelsea after he retires – which will happen following the Europa League final.”I feel sorry for some Chelsea anterious in the early morning light. The water from which it rises is glass-flat; the wave’s curling edge is smooth, sharp, almost sculptural. “It is,” Brokensha said, “almost too perfect.”

“It’s the most bizarre-looking thing you’ve ever seen,” said Tom Lowe, a Brester United are eyeing Norwich City fullback Max Aarons.The Mirror says United have identified Norwich’s teen-talent Aarons as a cheaper alternative to Crystal Palace starlet Aaron Wan-Bissaka.United are considering the other names on their shortlisitish professional surfer. “A robotic wave which goes forever.” Lowe watched the first video, when it came out in December, 20 times over.

“It was kind of like, just a normal day on a surf trip,” said Young of his day riding the machine that Slater calls his “freak of technology”. “We woke up pretty early, 6 or 6.30, had some food, some coffee, got the wave pool up and running, and we went and we surfed.

“I couldn’t believe it when Kelly gave me a call and invited me to come up there,” he said. “I felt honored that I was one of the people he invited; it’s amazing to be one of the first people to surf it.” Young was joined by WSL women’s champion Carissa Moore, Californian pro and Robert “Wingnut” Weaver, a veteran American surfer who starred in the 1994 surf movie Endless Summer II.

Young said the narrowness of the pool – 700 yards long, but only 40 or so yards wide – struck him when he saw it in person. “My first impression, when I saw the first wave come through, was disbelief,” he said. “It’s a flat pond, and then, all of a sudden, you’re watching a perfect wave.”

Slater’s machine is powered entirely with solar energy, and the wave itself is created with a specially shaped foil or plough, which is pulled along mechanically beneath the surface, shaping the wave and pushing it forward.

Nick Houndsfield is founder and CEO of , a British-based company currently constructing their own artificial surf pool in Bristol. He said that wave machines have been around for 40 years, but that it is only in the last 15 years or so that the technology has been good enough to make waves suitable for surfing.

over the past 20 years, with an estimated 500,000 regular surfers in the UK alone. “It’s completely crossed over into mainstream culture,” said Matt Barr, the director of All Conditions Media, an action sports agency. The perfect predictability of Slater’s wave means that the final piece of that puzzle – the fact that competitive surfing has relied, to a greater or lesser degree, on the luck of the wave – can now be overcome. “The problem with surfing is it’s so unpredictable,” Barr said. “If you can build this at an Olympic city, you’ve got a surfing event.”

Young, who rode Slater’s wave this week in a VIP session along with several other pro surfers and executives in the World League, also agreed. “It has a set running time, instead of waiting for the swell and conditions,” he said. “So, that’s huge. And being able to recreate the same wave over and over gives people an even playing field – because it’s sometimes a bit of luck catching waves [in the ocean].”

For some surfers, the very idea of the artificial, man-made wave is problematic. “I think a big part of surfing is reading waves and being in the ocean,” said Andrew Cotton, a professional big-wave surfer who famously took on the monster waves at Portugal’s Praia do Norte, 80 miles north of Lisbon.

“The one in California looks absolutely amazing – it’s like the dream wave. Any surfer would be excited to surf it,” said Cotton. “It’s amazing to watch Kelly Slater ride that wave, because he rides it as best as anyone could ever ride a wave. But it’s amazing watching Kelly Slater ride, full-stop. I don’t think anything makes up for learning to surf, or having the skill of reading the ocean. That’s surfing.”

USA Sevens brings world’s finest to Vegas – but can US rugby live with the best?

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“Imagine what it’s going to be like in 2020 if we’ve got some kids from the Bronx and Brooklyn, playing in the in Tokyo.”

In his spare office in New York City, on 9th and West 45th, trophies stacked with bags of rugby balls on the metal shelves behind him, Mark Griffin smiles and takes a sip of water. Griffin is the , an inneuito midfielder Jose Cifuentes admits he’s had an offer from Manchester City.The 20-year-old never made the move but he has revealed that City were interested but he wasn’t allowed to leave the club.“All contacts are closed, it was published by ther-city nonprofit which is now joint-operator of America’s first community Olympic development programme (CODP) for rugby union. The sport returns to the Games in Rio this summer but Griffin is looking four years ahead.

In Las Vegas, meanwhile, the best men’s teams in the world are looking only to the next three days, in which they will contest .

The big teams are attacking Olympic year in earnest: New Zealand will field , while is in South Africa’s squad.

The US Eagles do not have such superstars, though they do have , and , crossovers from football who have made themselves increasingly well known. In Vegas, they will be contenders for a knockout place, for a tournament win, for points on the HSBC World Series.

In this Olympic year, though, the Eagles’ job extends beyond the field of play. They must begin to win the attention of the American sporting public – both TV viewers and, perhaps more importantly, striving young athletes.

That is where Griffin and others come in. When it comes to the effect the Games can have on American youth rugby, most such operators agree with , a former Eagles prop turned entrepreneur who will on Friday stage an awareness-raising event at Sam Boyd Stadium in Vegas, under the title “”.

“Rugby is ,” James says, down the phone from San Francisco, citing a familiar statistic from the which says participation in US youth rugby grew by 81.6% from 2008 to 2013.

James then cites a familiar view in rugby, bolstered by the same survey finding that in the same period youth participation in tackle football fell by 21%: “We need to seize that Olympic s they need to find some arrogance to convert draws into wins.Maguire claims that United are missing the self-belief needed to control games.He said: “It’s another game where we’ve deserved to win. We’ve created the majority of the chances and we’vmoment with parents who maybe don’t want theo land Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish this summer.The Mirror says United are preparing to pay up to £70million to land Grealish this summer.The attacking ace has been in superb form for Villa this term after inspiring them to promotion last seasoir kids playing football.”

Rugby, it should be said, . But James continues: “Just the fact that rugby is included is a game-changer. The US public are very keen on the Olympics, it brings exposure, funding from the government and other bodies too. This is the very tip of the iceberg for what that’s going to mean.”

Griffin, after on the cracked asphalt of Queens and Manhattan now taking a big step through the CODP, puts the same point another way.

to provide a pathway from inner-city, school or rugby club to elite Olympic competition.

Rugby now has a foothold in America. Or, to stay with the dubious moutaineering analogies, potentially frightening exposure. The performance of the Eagles’ men’s and women’s teams in Rio will help determine how fast and safe the climb can be.

So will the many stakeholders of American rugby. In terms of developing the men and women who will play in Tokyo and beyond, governing body USA Rugby supervises, from Colorado, as a number of organisations seek out talent. There is also and , and more. The English are interested too: Premiership Rugby recently launched its programme, also in New York.

In Play Rugby USA’s case, though, four young women who discovered the game with the programme will this weekend represent in the , a huge club, high school and college event that runs alongside the international tournament. None of the New York girls had seen a rugby ball till relatively recently; one will go on to play for the in Vancouver next week.

“We’re at the forefront of girls’ rugby,” Griffin says, “and we equally promote it with the boys. It’s about equal opportunity, although our high-school program is now 51% girls.”

James adds: “Olympic inclusion is because with Title IX, colleges are looking for women’s sports. This is a massive opportunity for rugby.”

That sense of opportunity is not confined to the Olympics: in 2018 the men’s and women’s World Cup Sevens and in the full 15-a-side version of the game, , a five-team professional league, is due to kick off next month.

But most observers agree: come , if the American men and women are on the podium, the game at home will receive a tremendous boost. A gold medal may be, in Griffin’s words, “Miracle on Ice sort of stuff”. But if nothing else, his reference to shows the stakes for which American rugby is playing.

Photo shows extent of Jason Pierre-Paul’s firework injuries

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New photos show the severity of the injury toarby have confirmed Arsenal and Bayern Munich are in contact for teenage striker Emil Roback.The 16-year-old forward is being tipped for big things in Sweden and he is attracting plenty of interest.Bayern Munich have already made contact over a move defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul’s right hand, clearly showing his index finger mostly missing and his thumb and middle ul Pogba.The Mirrn Steve Gibson unveiled the former England defender as Boro’s new head coach on Friday — a man on a mission to nurture their crop of talented kids and “get in the mix” for ­promotion from the Championship next season.He thought back to his Leedsor says Pogba had spent four years with Juve after being sold to them by United for £1.5m in 2012, and the Italian club are keen on bringing him back to Italy this summer.It is now understood that Juve have stepped up their pursuit finger also damaged.

The New York Daily News showing Pierre-Paul without a bandage over his hand.

It appeared that almost all of his index finger was missing. Paul still had small bandages on his thumb and middle finger. Part of his thumb appeared to be missing.

The two-time Pro Bowler missed all of training camp after the Fourth of July fireworks accident. He allowed the team to examine his injured hand earlier this month, and the Giants declared that he wasn’t ready to play. He remains unsigned and is not being paid.