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Soccer

Victory for Brazil against Costa Rica

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After more than 90 minutes of aggravation and exasperation, Neymar and Brazil finally broke through Costa Rica’s smothering defense.
Philippe Coutinho scored in the first minute of stoppage time, and Neymar followed six minutes later to give Brazil a 2-0 victory over Costa Rica on Friday at the World Cup.
Unlike Argentina and Lionel Messi, Brazil is still in a good position to advance to the round of 16. Costa Rica has been eliminated.
“The responsibility is huge when you are playing for the national team,” Coutinho said. “You have to be mentally strong from the beginning until the end. We fought until the end and we were rewarded.”

Neymar dropped to his knees after the final whistle, sobbing in his hands as his teammates surrounded him and then lifted him off the ground.
“We know he had a difficult injury, he went through a very bad patch,” Coutinho said through a translator, referring to Neymar breaking a bone in his right foot four months ago. “But his joy at being on the pitch is contagious.”
A few minutes before the end, Neymar flopped backward to initially earn a penalty, but the contact was so exaggerated that the referee reversed the call after using video review. Neymar then angrily punched the ball a short time later as Costa Rica’s players tried to waste time. It earned Brazil’s biggest star a yellow card.

Neymar

“The joy, the satisfaction and the pride of representing the national team is a lot,” Brazil coach Tite said, defending Neymar. “He has the responsibility, the pressure. Everyone shows it in their own way.”
Neymar seemed panicked for most of the second half as his shots sailed over the bar or simply missed the mark, and he complained over nearly every call. In danger of ending in a draw, Brazil seemed nervous but composed itself through the seven minutes of injury time.
Coutinho was first to get the ball past goalkeeper Keylor Navas. Rising superbly to meet a header from Marcelo’s cross, Roberto Firmino nodded the ball down to striker Gabriel Jesus, who then flicked it to a sprinting Coutinho in the penalty area.

Neymar is brought down by Costa Rica’s Cristian Gamboa

In the seventh minute of injury time, Douglas Costa whipped in a cross from the right and Neymar deftly tapped it into the net.
Both Firmino and Costa had come on as substitutes in the second half.
“I think Brazil’s changes made an impact,” Costa Rica coach Oscar Ramirez said. “It became very difficult for us.”
Brazil has four points in Group E and plays Serbia in its final match in Moscow on Wednesday. Costa Rica has zero points and cannot advance.
After a drab and scrappy first half at St. Petersburg Stadium, Brazil came out energized and the chances piled up. Jesus put a header onto the crossbar, and Neymar’s hurried shot curled wide.
In Brazil’s opening 1-1 draw against Switzerland, Neymar had been fouled 10 times, sometimes harshly. But he was also in theatrical mode against Costa Rica, tumbling over dramatically when touched.
“We never tried to hurt him,” Ramirez said. “We tried to play fairly but stop him fairly as well.”

Coutinho hugs Neymar

Referee Bjorn Kuipers twice waved away Neymar’s claims for fouls in the first half. He also ignored a Brazilian claim for a penalty after midfielder Paulinho bounced off defender Oscar Duarte contesting a high ball.
Several players, including Neymar and Marcelo, complained to Kuipers at the end of the first half. Once again, he just waved them away.
“We don’t need referees decisions to win a game,” Tite said. “Brazil doesn’t need any help.”
GROUP DYNAMICS
The match between Brazil and Serbia in Moscow on Wednesday could yet determine which teams finish in first and second place in Group E.
Costa Rica will play Switzerland on Wednesday in Nizhny Novgorod in its final group match.
KEY TO SUCCESS
With Neymar still short of his best following the foot injury, Brazil once again turned to Coutinho for inspiration.
He was at the heart of Brazil’s best moves and kept the tempo going with his crisp passing and darting runs.
Although left back Marcelo had an average game in defense, his constant runs down the flanks ultimately helped when his dangerous cross led to the opening goal.
SERIOUS STATS
With his 56th international goal, Neymar is now one ahead of Romario — which could be a useful omen for Brazil. Romario was the team’s top striker when Brazil won the 1994 World Cup in the United States.

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Football

Nation’s Soccer Star Tries the Nation’s Game

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The US Women’s National Soccer Team captivated many on their run to a historic fourth World Cup victory. Behind the feet of Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan, the squad had record setting 13-0 type of victories and nail biting 2-1 type of victories along the way and became a story of the summer in sports.

The success has created quite a buzz around the team. Leaders of the USWNT have been outspoken on social injustices, and not backed down when called out by politicians. Additionally, they have been involved in a law suit for several years now over equal compensation with their male counterparts. The popularity of the women on the team has soared, and resulted in several victory tour stops across America, both on the field and on parade routes. The most visible was in New York, which featured droves of fans crowding Manhattan streets and swarming the floats, and ultimately culminating in Megan Rapinoe’s inspirational victory speech.

But now, a USWNT player is eyeing, potentially, a new opportunity. On August 20th, the USWNT twitter profile sent out a video of forward Carli Lloyd hitting a 55-yard field goal at a Baltimore Ravens practice, on noticeably narrow goal posts (designed to make practicing harder than a game). The Philadelphia Eagles also tweeted out the video, confirming the 55-yard make and demonstrably impressed.

Lloyd has received an immense amount of positive feedback from folks around the league. She has commented that she’s “laughing about it, but the more [she] thinks about it, this has the chance to be a sort of a pioneering moment for women.”

“It could be a huge pivotal moment. There is no reason why a woman could not do this. And I actually invite the pressure. I love the pressure. When I have to nail something—shooting hoops, ax-throwing, kicking a field goal—that is the moment I live for and want. It comes down to the mind, training the mind.”

Lloyd commented that she has received some commentary from multiple NFL teams, we may see she (or another female soccer star) try it out one day.

While it may not be Lloyd, her pushing the gender line in the NFL is just the latest in a constant fight for equality out of the USWNT. As the representatives for a nation of “We the people,” no American national team has done as much to represent those people. While it sent shockwaves throughout the twitterverse, it is certainly not off brand for the USWNT to be pushing the present boundaries and speaking on equality.

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MLS

MLS Star Uses Goal to Speak Out Against Gun Violence

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The 48 hours of the weekend were as tough a weekend as any in recent American history. Two mass shooting, with a total toll of more than 30 lives, occurred within 13 hours of one another in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.

Americans faced a slew of emotions as they woke up each morning to tragic news in very different corners of our nation, none more so than the folks so directly impacted in both communities. Sadness, anger, and despair were just the tip of the iceberg for a nation that continues to see the stories of the weekend all too frequently.

Everyone mourns in their own way, and in the world of sport, most baseball stadiums, soccer stadiums, and basketball gyms took a moment of silence.

In Philadelphia, one man broke silence. Using the platform afforded to him by his talent, the Philadelphia Union captain and attackman Alejandro Bedoya swiftly scored with his right foot, off the left post and in from the front of the box, in the third minute of their match against DC United.   

It was only Bedoya’s third goal of the season, and his eighth in his MLS career, but what happened afterwards will forever make it his most memorable.

Bedoya, a former member of the US Men’s National Team, celebrated by sprinting to the sideline, celebrating with family, then his teammates. Fairly standard when your family is in the front row.

But then, Bedoya broke from his teammates and methodically jogged over to a sideline microphone. As the commentators quieted down, Bedoya loudly, over the crowd noise, charged “Congress, do something, NOW! End gun violence, LET’S GO!”

Bedoya spiked the microphone, and sprinted back to the field. Philadelphia went on to win 5-1, further aided by Marco Fabian’s two goals, fueled by the energy displayed by their captain in the earliest stages of the match.

Needless to say, the moment was the most asked about thing after the match. Bedoya’s clip has gone viral, and the 32-year-old was composed and firm on his stance. “I’m a human being before anything, so I’ll never just stick to sports, and I never have…. fine me if they want. I’ve got to take a stand.”

Soccer has become an American sport of activism this summer. Megan Rapinoe led the US Women’s National Team to gold both on and off the field in the World Cup this summer, and was constantly questioned about her firm stance against the White House.

Further, the team has been a pillar in the fight for women’s rights in the work place, most notably with their ongoing law suit against US Soccer for gender discrimination in their pay.

Alejandro Bedoya, an American born to former Colombian Adriano Bedoya and raised in South Florida. South Florida saw its own version of this American tragedy just under 18 months ago, when Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, was the victim of a mass shooting that saw 17 students and faculty members die.

While Bedoya said he is prepared for any fine the MLS offers him, this morning Major League Soccer has said they will not issue any punishments. The League’s official statement was “The Major League Soccer family joins everyone in grieving for the loss of lives in Texas and Ohio, and we understand that our players and staff have strong and passionate views on this issue.”

The MLS heard Bedoya and understood. The next looming question is, who else did?

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Basketball

James Harden Buys Stakes in Houston Dynamo

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The summer of 2019, in NBA History books, will forever go down as the summer of changing teams. Nearly 40% of returning NBA players are on new rosters, and several of those players have multiple All NBA selections on their resumes. Stars shifting seems to be status quo in the modern NBA… With one bearded exception.

James Harden has recently purchased shares of the Houston Dynamo (MLS) and Dash (NWSL). In speaking on the matter, Harden spoke of Houston as his hometown, and stated several times that he is in Houston for the long haul. Buying into the ownership of local sports franchises seems to indicate a serious investment in just that.

Harden has, for those paying attention, been a soccer fan for a while. In off seasons past, he has spent vacation time with European professional soccer stars like Paul Pogba, Kaka, and Neymar. More recently, Harden took a trip to Emirates Stadium in London to go behind the scenes and watch Arsenal play. The club gave Harden a customized kit (read: uniform) and let him explore the empty facilities early on the matchday.

Harden is one of Adidas’ highest paid basketball players, and Adidas is involved in many pro soccer clubs, including both Houston teams and Arsenal. While Harden’s court vision can remind fans of the beautiful game, Houstonians can rest easy in that the Beard wants to make those passes in Rockets’ red. The lefty made one thing clear in his purchase: he’s invested in staying in Houston for the long haul.

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