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Minus veteran stars, Canada sends young roster into SheBelieves Cup tournament

It’s been nearly a year since the Canadian women’s soccer team has seen game action and despite missing several key players, including captain Christine Sinclair and stalwart defender Kadeisha Buchanan, the squad is ready to go for the upcoming SheBelieves Cup. 

Coach Bev Priestman unveiled the 23-player roster Tuesday ahead of Canada’s opening match against the world champions, the United States Thursday at Exploria Stadium in Orlando, Florida. It will be Priestman’s first tournament since being hired as head coach in October.

After the Americans, the eighth-ranked Canadians play Brazil (tied for No. 8) on Feb. 21 and conclude against Argentina (No. 31) on Feb. 24.

There are five uncapped players among the group, including goalkeeper Rylee Foster, defender Jade Rose, midfielders Jordyn Listro and Samantha Chang and forward Evelyne Viens.

Canada Soccer announced Saturday that Sinclair and midfielder Diana Matheson, who have over 500 caps between them, didn’t make the camp in Orlando due to injury. Veteran goalkeeper Erin McLeod and promising uncapped defender Bianca St-Georges both picked up injuries at camp and went back to their clubs.  

There was more bad news after centre back Buchanan (Lyon), fullback Ashley Lawrence and forward Jordyn Huitema (both Paris Saint-Germain) were denied release by their French clubs. France recently mandated a seven-day quarantine for travellers due to COVID-19, which impacted the Canadians’ travel plans.  

“Obviously coming into this tournament it is not how I had originally imagined my first tournament would be particularly playing the No. 1 [team] in the world,” said Priestman, who spent two years as England Women’s assistant coach. “But it is a great opportunity for anybody to step up and try and get their name on that Olympic roster. It gives me a great chance to assess any new players, the current crop of players that maybe wouldn’t see as much game time.

“Not having Sinc (Sinclair), not having Kadeisha it is big shoes to fill but there is a group that has been on the cusp.” 

In the absence of Sinclair, two-time Olympic bronze medallists, Sophie Schmidt, who is one game away from playing her 200th game for Canada, and Desiree Scott will carry the leadership reins.  

The SheBelieves Cup is a four-team invitational tournament in its sixth season and features some of the best nations in women’s football. 

Canada’s roster:

Goalkeepers: Rylee Foster (Liverpool FC), Stephanie Labbé (Rosengård), Kailen Sheridan (Sky Blue FC).

Defenders: Lindsay Agnew (North Carolina Courage), Allysha Chapman (Houston Dash), Gabrielle Carle (Florida State University), Vanessa Gilles (FC Girondins de Bordeaux), Quinn (OL Reign FC), Jayde Riviere (University of Michigan), Jade Rose (Super REX Ontario), Shelina Zadorsky (Tottenham Hotspur)

Midfielders: Samantha Chang (University of South Carolina), Jessie Fleming (Chelsea FC), Julia Grosso (University of Texas at Austin), Jordyn Listro (Orlando Pride), Sarah Stratigakis (University of Michigan), Sophie Schmidt (Houston Dash), Desiree Scott (Kansas City NWSL) 

Forwards: Janine Beckie (Manchester City FC), Adriana Leon (West Ham United FC), Nichelle Prince (Houston Dash), Deanne Rose (University of Florida), Evelyne Viens (Sky Blue FC)

Unavailable due to injury: Christine Sinclair (Portland Thorns), Diana Matheson (Kansas City NWSL), Erin McLeod (Orlando Pride), Bianca St-Georges (Chicago Red Stars)

Unavailable due to club commitments: Kadeisha Buchanan (FCF Olympique Lyonnais), Ashley Lawrence (Paris Saint-Germain), Jordyn Huitema (Paris Saint-Germain)  

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CBC | Soccer News

Argentine police search home of Maradona’s doctor while probing soccer star’s death

Argentine police searched the home and office of Diego Maradona’s personal doctor on Sunday as part of investigations into the death of the 60-year-old soccer star, which caused a wave of grief across the country.

Reporters saw several police officers stationed at the door of the offices of neurologist Dr. Leopoldo Luque in Buenos Aires’ Belgrano neighborhood.

Court investigators have been taking declarations from Maradona’s relatives, according to a statement from the San Isidro prosecutor’s office, which is overseeing a probe into the medical attention Maradona received prior to his death on Wednesday.

It said investigators were trying to secure Maradona’s medical records.

Maradona was buried Thursday in a private ceremony attended by only two dozen people following a vigil at the presidential palace where tens of thousands of weeping fans lined up to filed past his coffin.

Maradona died of a heart attack in a house outside Buenos Aires where he had been recovering from a brain operation Nov. 3. He had suffered from a long series of medical issues, some related to addiction to drugs and alcohol.

WATCH | Maradona’s famed ‘Hand of God’ goal:

Legendary soccer player Diego Maradona has died at the age of 60. John Molinaro joins CBC Sports to discuss his legacy on and off the field. 3:44

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CBC | Soccer News

Racing Louisville select Man United stars Heath, Press in NWSL expansion draft

Racing Louisville selected U.S. national team players Tobin Heath and Christen Press on Thursday in the National Women’s Soccer League expansion draft.

Both players are currently playing with Manchester United, but Heath’s rights were retained by the Portland Thorns, while Press’ rights were retained by the Utah Royals.

Heath and Press were on the national team that won the Women’s World Cup last year in France. They were among 14 total NWSL players taken by Racing in the expansion draft.

“We feel very good about tonight. There was a lot of decision-making that went into it, a lot of homework and research, and conversations with coaches within the league, with past players, with national team members. So we thought we had a real good insight into what each person brought,” Louisville coach Christy Holly said. “The hope is that the balance that we struck positionally, but also through experience and hunger, is something that will hopefully pay off for us on the field next year.”

WATCH | CBC Sports’ Signa Butler speaks with NWSL’s new commissioner Lisa Baird:

CBC Sports’ Signa Butler speaks with the NWSL’s new commissioner Lisa Baird about the league’s core values and its return to play. 4:45

Heath, 32, had been with the Thorns since the league’s start in 2013, appearing in 70 games with 12 goals. Press, 31, played two seasons with the Royals, scoring 10 goals in 25 matches.

Louisville, which joins the NWSL next season to bring the league to 10 teams, used its final two picks to select Heath and Press.

Racing selected a pair of defenders, Addisyn Merrick and Julia Ashley, with the opening two picks. Merrick was a rookie this past year with the North Carolina Courage. Ashley, who was selected from OL Reign, was a rookie this season but was injured and didn’t play in the league’s Challenge Cup tournament this summer or the fall series.

Each of the NWSL’s current teams was able to protect 11 players, including allocated federation players. In addition to Heath and Press, some of the other U.S. national team players that were left unprotected were the Reign’s Megan Rapinoe, Portland’s Becky Sauerbrunn and Sky Blue’s Carli Lloyd.

Allocated players are national team players that are distributed across the league.

Louisville was limited to just two total federation players. Racing could select two non-allocated players or one allocated player from among the unprotected players from any given team.

Louisville had already traded for forwards Yuki Nagasato and Savannah McCaskill, giving full roster protection to the Chicago Red Stars. Racing also brought in Cheyna Matthews as a roster for next season begins to take shape.

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CBC | Soccer News

Canadian judo stars Klimkait, Deguchi face high expectations in battle for 1 Olympic spot

Following a seven-month pandemic layoff, Jessica Klimkait needed just 81 seconds to get the validation she needed.

The Canadian judoka’s quick and decisive win over Helene Receveaux of France at Grand Slam Budapest in late October propelled her to the top spot in the world rankings for the 57-kilogram category.

In the process, Klimkait, 23, leap-frogged fellow Canadian and reigning world champion Christa Deguchi in the standings as judo made its return to competition. 

“To probably do one of the best tournaments that I’ve done in a very long time was a lot of validation to what I was thinking and the kinds of things that I was doing throughout the last four or five months,” Klimkait told CBC Sports, putting aside any concerns over being prepared to fight athletes from other countries who didn’t face the same level of training restrictions during the pandemic.

WATCH | Klimkait reaches top of podium in Budapest:

23-year-old Jessica Klimkait of Whitby, Ont,, defeated Helene Receveaux of France to capture gold in the 57-kilogram category at the judo Grand Slam competition in Budapest. 8:44

A silver lining had already materialized for Klimkait when the sports world hit the pause button in March.

The Whitby, Ont., native and Deguchi, 25, who lives and trains in Japan, were just months away from a fight-off for Canada’s lone Olympic quota spot in their category when Klimkait suffered a knee injury.

“It honestly was [good timing] because I needed those two or three months to fully recover and if the year continued as normal, I definitely wouldn’t have been able to train as normal,” Klimkait said. “I wouldn’t have been able to compete and I had a fight-off with [Deguchi] that I don’t think I would have been able to prepare for.”

Due to the Olympics being postponed until 2021, Klimkait, now fully recovered, and Deguchi are back on the same collision course to have that fight-off no later than early July — a winner-take-all scenario that will see one of them qualify for the Tokyo Games and the other left behind.

A matter of depth

Judo Canada high-performance CEO Nicolas Gill — himself a two-time Olympic medallist — acknowledges this is a good problem to have, but at the same time, his expectation is for one of them to be standing on the podium.

“[Those are] great stories both ways. At the end for us — and what I keep repeating — whoever goes needs to medal,” Gill said. “If not, we would have sent the wrong one. Whoever goes, still has to be our best chance of medalling.”

Gill dismissed the suggestion of having one of either Klimkait or Deguchi change weight classes so that both might compete in Tokyo. He said he would never put the organization ahead of the athlete.

“We would do that only if it helps the state of making weight,” Gill said. “That’s the only time we would force somebody to move up — if we feel there is danger for the athlete, but not for strategic positioning.”

Fight-off will determine Olympic fate

Other than meeting on the world stage in numerous important matches (5-0 in favour of Deguchi), the compatriots might as well be strangers — occasionally training together throughout the year, but mainly seeing each other at competitions.

Klimkait says this makes Deguchi as dangerous as any other top opponent.

“It’s a bit of a mental battle every time I do step on the mat [with Deguchi] because I know what it means to win against her and I know what it means to lose against her,” Klimkait said. “In the end, only one of us is going, so that’s always been in the back of my mind when I’m competing against her.”

Given that countries can only send one athlete per category, Judo Canada has no choice but to sit back and watch who wins.

“The idea to have a head-to-head matchup is to really pick who’s better in the month leading into the Olympics,” Gill said. “Putting our best athlete at that time in the Olympic field to increase the chance of performance.”

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CBC | Sports News

There Are 1,004 Nearby Stars Where an Alien Astronomer Could Detect Life on Earth

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We are in the very early stages of exploring the universe, and our efforts have uncovered thousands of exoplanets. We don’t yet know if any of them support life, but maybe one day we’ll know. In the meantime, Earth is the only planet we know for certain does host life. Researchers from Cornell University and Lehigh University turned this question around. We know Earth has life, but does anyone else? The new study says that, yes, there are 1,004 nearby stars where an alien looking at Earth could potentially know we’re here. 

There are more than 4,000 known exoplanets currently, and most of them were identified with the Kepler Space Telescope. We can’t just point any old telescope at a star and say, “Yep, there’s a planet there.” Stars are so much brighter by comparison that we can’t make out individual worlds. The most common way to spot exoplanets, and the method Kepler used, is to watch for the planet to transit in front of the star. When you hear about a new exoplanet discovery, that’s usually how astronomers found it. 

Here’s the catch: we can only see transits if the plane of an alien solar system is aligned with ours. Otherwise, the planet doesn’t pass in front of the star from our perspective. Professors Lisa Kaltenegger and Joshua Pepper looked at this from the other side — which solar systems would be able to make a transit observation of Earth and detect life-associated molecules in our atmosphere? 

Using NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) star catalog, the pair looked 300 light-years in all directions to find candidate solar systems, ruling out stellar remnants like white dwarfs that cannot (as far as we know) host alien life. There are a huge number of main-sequence stars in this region of space, but only a fraction of them would be able to see Earth passing in front of the sun from where they are. 

The final count, according to Pepper and Kaltenegger, is 1,004. Of those, 508 have angles that would give them at least 10 hours of observational data every time Earth transited the sun. However, 5 percent of the total are stars too young to have developed planets or life. The rest, though, could hypothetically have habitable planets, and two of them have known exoplanets.

In every one of those solar systems, beings like us with an understanding of planetary transits could be seeing Earth darken the sun every year. They might be able to estimate Earth’s size and distance from the sun, and that would indicate the possibility of liquid water on the surface. If they’re a little more advanced than us, they might already have the equivalent of the James Webb Space Telescope, which NASA hopes to launch in the next few years after numerous delays. An instrument such as that could detect the presence of water vapor, methane, phosphine, and other compounds that suggest life. Maybe an alien astronomer is, right at this moment, having a eureka moment as they realize someone is looking back at them from Earth. You should wave hello to be polite just in case.

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Sports stars Cristiano Ronaldo, Dustin Johnson test positive for COVID-19

Juventus strike Cristiano Ronaldo and world No.1-ranked golfer Dustin Johnson each announced Tuesday they have tested positive for COVID-19.

Johnson, 36, who last competed at the U.S. Open, has withdrawn from this week’s CJ Cup in light of the diagnosis as he begins to self-isolate, the Tour said.

“Obviously, I am very disappointed,” Johnson said in a statement released on the PGA Tour’s website.

“I was really looking forward to competing this week, but will do everything I can to return as quickly as possible. I have already had a few calls with the Tour’s medical team and appreciate all the support and guidance they have given me.”

Ronaldo, 35, will miss Wednesday’s UEFA Nations League game against Sweden but is “well, has no symptoms and is in isolation,” the Portuguese Football Federation said in a statement on its website.

The federation added that the rest of the Portugal squad had undergone tests as a result of Ronaldo’s positive, but that they had all tested negative and would be available for the Sweden match.

“No team can be better without the best player in the world but this team has already demonstrated that collectively it has the capacity to tackle the situation,” Portugal head coach Fernando Santos told a news conference.

“He (Ronaldo) is managing the situation very well. He is in the room, saying he wants to play, he talks to us from upstairs (from his balcony),” Santos jokingly added.

Five-times world player of the year Ronaldo appeared in his side’s 0-0 draw away to France in the Nations League on Sunday and Wednesday’s 0-0 draw in a friendly at home to Spain.

He will now be doubtful for Juve’s Serie A trip to Crotone on Saturday and their Champions League group stage opening game away to Dynamo Kiev next Tuesday.

Johnson has had a sensational year, winning his first FedExCup championship at East Lake last month before taking home PGA Tour Player of the Year honors for the second time.

The news comes one week after American Tony Finau was forced to withdraw from the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open after testing positive for the virus, which has killed more than 215,000 people in the United States.

Finau will not compete at the CJ Cup either.

A handful of professional golfers have tested positive for the novel coronavirus since the PGA Tour returned in June, including Briton Sam Horsfield and American Scottie Scheffler, who were unable to compete at the U.S. Open due to positive COVID-19 tests.

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CBC | Soccer News

Red Stars set to face upstart Dash in NWSL’s Challenge Cup final

Even though its under dramatically different circumstances, the Chicago Red Stars are getting another chance at a National Women’s Soccer League title.

Last season, the Red Stars got into the NWSL championship game but were routed 4-0 by the North Carolina Courage.

On Sunday, they’ll play for the Challenge Cup championship against the Houston Dash. The monthlong tournament was the league’s re-boot after the regular season was shut down by the coronavirus outbreak.

“I don’t think a lot of us thought that we’d be back in a final after last year this quickly,” Chicago forward Savannah McCaskill said. “So it’s kind of nice to get a second chance at it.”

The NWSL was the first professional team sport to return in the United States. Eight of the league’s nine teams have been sequestered in Utah for the duration of the tournament, which started on June 27.

WATCH | 1 on 1 with NWSL Commissioner Lisa Baird:

CBC Sports’ Signa Butler speaks with the NWSL’s new commissioner Lisa Baird about the league’s core values and its return to play. 4:45

The league’s ninth team, the Orlando Pride, withdrew shortly before the start because of positive COVID-19 tests. But there were no positive tests in the so-called bubble in Utah for the duration of the event.

NWSL Commissioner Lisa Baird, who had been officially on the job for only about 48 hours when she had to call off the season, touted the league’s comprehensive medical protocol for the tournament’s success.

“Life in the bubble and competing in the bubble is intense, as many of you know, and I’m really proud of our players and the team staffs for the quality and the excitement of the play,” she said in a state-of-the-league news conference before the final.

The Red Stars were the tournament’s sixth seed going into the knockout round. They advanced to the semifinals on penalties after a scoreless draw with OL Reign, then held off Sky Blue 3-2 on Wednesday.

Chicago had just two total goals in the tournament before the outburst against Sky Blue.

‘Building at the right time’

“We’re building at the right time and I think our movements in the attacking third are starting to click, and we’re starting to really learn each other,” McCaskill said. “It’s hard to develop those relationships in a very short time. You usually have an eight-month season to build to this moment, to build to a final, but I think everyone’s done a really good job and obviously scoring three goals last game is going to give us momentum going into tomorrow.”

The Dash are the upstart underdogs of the Challenge Cup, having never made the playoffs in seven years in the league.

Major improvement for Houston

Houston finished seventh in the NWSL last season, but has shown vast improvement over the course of the tournament under coach James Clarkson.

“James came into the preseason with a pretty strict blueprint about how we wanted to defend, and how our attack will start from that,” Dash goalkeeper Jane Campbell said. “In the tournament, the games we’ve played really well I think we’ve followed that blueprint pretty close to 100% as possible, and the games we haven’t done so well, we’ve kind of shied away from that.”

Rachel Daly has three goals in the tournament, while teammate Shea Groom has two. Daly was named the Challenge Cup’s most valuable player on Saturday.

Campbell has 17 saves, ranking just below Chicago’s Alyssa Naeher, the U.S. national team goalkeeper, with 18.

“Yeah, we’re writing this underdog story, but all along we’ve been telling ourselves that we can do this, ” Campbell said. “We just have to believe in ourselves and go play out the blueprint.”

Sunday’s game at Rio Tinto Stadium, home of the NWSL’s Utah Royals and Major League Soccer’s Real Salt Lake, will be broadcast nationally on CBS, the league’s new television partner this season.

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CBC | Soccer News

‘Lovecraft Country’ Stars on Why Sci-Fi Series About the Black Experience Is ‘Necessary’ Viewing

‘Lovecraft Country’ Stars on Why Sci-Fi Series About the Black Experience Is ‘Necessary’ Viewing | Entertainment Tonight

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Canada’s St. Georges shines in Red Stars’ Challenge Cup semis win over Sky Blue

Bianca St. Georges and Rachel Hill scored early and the Chicago Red Stars held off determined Sky Blue 3-2 on Wednesday night to earn a spot in the Challenge Cup final.

The Red Stars, who played last year in the National Women’s Soccer League championship game but fell to the North Carolina, will meet the Houston Dash on Sunday in the tournament’s title game.

The Dash, who had never made the playoffs in seven seasons in the league, defeated the Portland Thorns 1-0 in the earlier semifinal.

The sixth-seeded Red Stars built a 3-0 lead in the game but No. 7 Sky Blue scored a pair of goals late.

WATCH | Red Stars outlast Blue to reach final:

Bianca St-Georges of Saint-Charles-Borromée, Quebec, scores her 1st career NWSL goal to put Chicago Red Stars up 1-0 over Sky Blue FC. 1:37

The match had looked like it could be a battle of the goalkeepers after both teams went scoreless in the quarterfinals and advanced to the semis on penalty shootouts.

Sky Blue goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan went into the game leading the field with 20 saves in the tournament. Chicago counterpart Alyssa Naeher had 18 saves, but rested for a game during the group stage.

St. Georges got past Sheridan early, finding her out of place with a shot to the far post in the eighth minute. It was her first professional goal.

WATCH | St. Georges puts Red Stars out to early lead:

Bianca St-Georges sets up Savannah McCaskill for Chicago’s 3rd goal of the match. With a goal and an assist, St-Georges of Saint-Charles-Borromée, Quebec, leads the Red Stars to a 3-2 victory and a spot in the NWSL Challenge final. 1:20

Some three minutes later Hill, who was traded to Chicago from the Orlando Pride in the off-season, scored.

Savannah McCaskill scored on the counter to pad the Red Stars’ lead in the 60th minute.

But Sky Blue closed the gap on rookie Evelyne Viens’ header in the 72nd minute, and some five minutes later an own goal got the New Jersey team closer.

The Red Stars did not start Casey Short, who had one of the Chicago’s two goals heading into Wednesday night’s semifinal. The team announced shortly before kickoff that she had picked up an injury in training the day before.

WATCH | Canadian Viens scores for Blue:

Evelyne Viens from L’Ancienne-Lorette, Quebec, scores with a header to cut Sky Blue FC’s deficit to 2 goals. 0:51

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CBC | Soccer News

Kristen Stewart Cast as Princess Diana and More Shocking Times Stars Have Played Real-Life Icons

Kristen Stewart Cast as Princess Diana and More Shocking Times Stars Have Played Real-Life Icons | Entertainment Tonight

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