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Canadian women’s soccer kicks off a busy stretch for club and country

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The Canadian women’s soccer team is kicking up its Olympic prep

This summer in Tokyo, the team will play for its third consecutive Olympic medal after winning the bronze matches in 2012 and ’16. On April 21 — exactly three months from the start of the tournament — Canada will learn its path to another podium when the draw to assign teams their opponents for the group stage is held.

In the meantime, many of Canada’s players are kicking off a busy stretch for both club and country. Here’s what happening:

Club

The U.S.-based National Women’s Soccer League returns today with the second installment of the Challenge Cup. The month-long tournament was born last summer as an alternative to trying to pull off a conventional regular season and playoffs during a pandemic. It went well enough that the NWSL decided to keep the Challenge Cup and use it to kick off the 2021 season. The tournament runs through May 8 and will be followed by a 24-match (for each team) regular season from May 15-Oct. 30. The NWSL playoffs open Nov. 6 and culminate with the championship game on Nov. 20.

A few things are different about this year’s Challenge Cup. It won’t be played in a bubble, like last year’s in Salt Lake City. Matches will take place in teams’ home stadiums, with some fans in attendance where allowed. There are 10 teams this time, not eight. The Orlando Pride are back after missing the 2020 tournament because of an outbreak, while Racing Louisville FC joins as an expansion team. Also, New Jersey-based Sky Blue FC was rebranded as NJ/NY Gotham FC.

More than a dozen Canadians play in the NWSL, including four on the defending Challenge Cup champion Houston Dash. Canadian national-team captain and all-time international goals leader Christine Sinclair is still with Portland Thorns FC. Get a full breakdown of the Challenge Cup — including details on each team and their key players — by reading this piece by CBC Sports’ Signa Butler.

While the top women’s pro soccer league in North America is just kicking off, Europe’s top club competition is nearing an end. Three of the four spots in the UEFA Women’s Champions League semifinals are filled, and the last will be decided April 18. That’s when French powerhouse Lyon, which is going for its sixth consecutive title, plays the second leg of its quarter-final matchup vs. Paris Saint-Germain. Lyon won the opener 1-0 on the road before the second leg was postponed due to a COVID-19 outbreak on the team.

Canadian defender Kadeisha Buchanan plays for Lyon, and fellow national-team members Jordyn Huitema and Ashley Lawrence are on PSG. There’s one Canadian on the three teams who have already made the semis: Chelsea midfielder Jessie Fleming.

Country

The Canadian women’s national team played its first match since February’s SheBelieves Cup tournament today in Wales. Canada, ranked eighth in the world, won the friendly 3-0 over the 31st-ranked Welsh. There was some bad news, though, as Sinclair left in the first half with an apparent foot or ankle injury. The extent of the injury was unclear at our publish time. Next up is a friendly vs. No. 6 England on Tuesday.

Buchanan was left off Canada’s roster for the friendlies as her club deals with its outbreak, and veteran midfielder Diana Matheson was also among the players listed as out for “medical reasons.” But just about every other key player is there in the UK as rookie coach Bev Priestman ramps up preparations for the Olympics. Sinclair and several other NWSL players are missing the start of the Challenge Cup for these matches. For more on the pair of friendlies and why they’re important for Canada, read this story by Signa Butler.

Deanne Rose opened the scoring in the first half, as Canada went on to beat Wales 3-0 in an international friendly in Cardiff in the United Kingdom. 1:07

Quickly…

Canada scraped into the playoffs at the men’s curling world championship. Last night’s clutch 6-4 win over Norway clinched a spot in the six-team playoffs and also guaranteed Canada an entry in the 2022 Olympic men’s tournament. Both were in doubt after Brendan Bottcher’s rink lost back-to-back tough matchups vs. Russia and defending champion Sweden on Wednesday. The pressure is off a bit now, but the Canadians are still in a tough spot. After beating Germany today to finish the round robin with a 9-4 record, they’re going to wind up either third or fourth in the standings. That means having to win an elimination game tonight at 9 p.m. ET in order to join Russia, Sweden and the winner of the other elimination game in the semifinals. At our publish time, Canada’s opponent was still unknown. But you can follow CBC Sports curling reporter Devin Heroux’s Twitter feed for up-to-the-second updates. You can also join Devin and Colleen Jones for That Curling Show tonight at 7:30 p.m. ET on the CBC Sports YouTube channel. They’ll be setting up Canada’s game and the rest of the playoffs.

Justin Rose stayed atop the Masters. The 2016 Olympic gold medallist shot a 7-under first round yesterday to open up a four-shot lead. Some of that evaporated today as Rose meandered to an even-par second round, but he still led by two strokes at our publish time. Canadian Mackenzie Hughes will easily make the cut after shooting a pair of even-par rounds, and Corey Conners is looking good too. Just before our publish time, he eagled the par-5 13th to move to 2-under. Former champ Mike Weir, who’s no longer a serious contender, shot 1-under today but will miss the cut as he’s still 5-over for the tournament. See the updated leaderboard here.

Chris Boucher had the night of his life. Making just the seventh start of his NBA career, the 28-year-old big man from Montreal put up career highs in points (38) and rebounds (19) in last night’s 122-113 Raptors loss to Chicago. With Toronto down to eight available players due to injuries, health-and-safety protocol and a suspension, Boucher also played a career-high 36 minutes. Read more about the game and watch Boucher’s highlights here.

This weekend on CBC Sports

Olympic Games Replay: The theme of this week’s show is “jaw-dropping Winter Olympic moments.” It includes the wild women’s snowboard cross final from the 2006 Games in Turin, the exciting men’s slopestyle events from 2014 and ’18, and of course the classic 2014 women’s hockey final that Canada rallied to win over the U.S. Watch the show Saturday from 3-6 p.m. ET on the CBC TV network, CBCSports.ca and the CBC Sports app.

Women’s hockey: The latest stop on the Dream Gap Tour is in St. Louis, in partnership with the Blues. Watch Sunday’s game live at 6 p.m. ET on CBCSports.ca and the CBC Sports app.

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Toronto FC earns draw with Club León in 1st leg of CONCACAF Champions League tie

As first impressions go, there was plenty to like Wednesday in Toronto FC’s first outing under head coach Chris Armas.

Despite missing some key personnel and playing its first competitive match since Nov. 24, Toronto held Club Leon to a 1-1 draw in the first leg of their Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League round-of-16 tie.

The Mexican side is in-season and on a good run of late. But it could not put Toronto away despite dominating possession and coming on in waves as the clock wound down.

While the draw came from a second-half Leon own goal, Toronto pressure forced the mistake. And Armas had promised pressure from his team.

“I love the way we stuck together,” said Armas. “I loved the way we stepped on the field and straight away we were going to try to stick to being who we are and be aggressive on the night. That’s what gets us the goal, from a pressing situation.

“I loved the way the guys dug deep, into the second half . Overall a gutsy performance.”

WATCH | TFC, Club León share spoils in 1st leg of round of 16:

Toronto FC and Club León play to a 1-1 draw in the 1st leg of their Round of 16 series as Andrés Mosquera records an own goal. 1:25

A fierce competitor during his playing days as a defensive midfielder, Armas still burns very bright on the sidelines. He celebrated the Leon own goal that brought his team back as if he had hit the jackpot in Vegas.

The Champions League is CONCACAF’s flagship club competition, with the winner advancing to the FIFA Club World Cup against other confederation champions.

Playing on hostile ground, Toronto was without at least five starters. TFC had hinted at health issues in the buildup to the match but, in the closed world of the pandemic, the true extent of the problem did not become clear until the starting lineup was released.

Not dressed were Spanish playmaker Alejandro Pozuelo, goalkeeper Quentin Westberg, defenders Chris Mavinga and Justin Morrow and midfielders Jonathan Osorio and Nick DeLeon.

Armas started 18-year-old Ralph Priso and 20-year-old Noble Okello in midfield with 21-year-old Jacob Shaffelburg on the wing. The Toronto bench included 20-year-old Jordan Perruzza, 22-year-old Griffin Dorsey and 20-year-old Luke Singh, a TFC 2 defender signed to a short-term deal ahead of the match.

The youngsters did not disappoint and it took a moment of brilliance for Leon to breach the Toronto defence.

Fernando Navarro opened the scoring in the 25th minute with a spectacular right-footed volley from the edge of the penalty box after Jean Meneses eluded fullback Richie Laryea and found Navarro with a delicate chip. A diving Alex Bono got a hand to the ball but the power of the shot carried it in off the post.

Toronto had eight players in its box but none close enough to stop Navarro’s moment of magic.

TFC’s pressure led to an own goal in the 50th minute as the MLS team lived up to Armas’ pre-game promise. He said Toronto would look to make Leon uncomfortable

TFC substitute Erickson Gallardo did just that, demonstrating the aggressive press that Armas has instituted. The 24-year-old Venezuelan winger struggled to make an impression under former coach Greg Vanney and it looked like more of the same when he gave up the ball cheaply soon after coming on to open the second half.

But he made the goal, stealing the ball off William Tesillo before trying to thread it through to Jozy Altidore. A sliding Andres Mosquera got a foot to the ball at the edge of the box, deflecting it over goalkeeper Rodolpho Cota to give TFC a valuable away goal.

‘A great result for us’

A tiring Toronto held on in the dying minutes with Bono blocking a rocket in the 86th minute. TFC and Leon, who had never met before, will play the second leg April 14 in the Orlando area.

“It’s a great result for us but there’s still a lot of work to be done,” said centre back Omar Gonzalez, who was immense at the heart of the Toronto defence. “We consider this halftime.”

Leon was without influential captain Luis Montes, serving a suspension after being sent off in last year’s competition against Los Angeles FC. He will be back for the second leg,

Toronto’s lineup is full of question-marks.

The club said Pozuelo stayed in Florida to have what is thought to be a mild strain re-evaluated. Mavinga, Osorio and Morrow were not cleared to play by team doctors while DeLeon was a game-day decision. Westberg was late joining camp for personal reasons.

And the draw may have come at a cost for Toronto.

Altidore came off in the 74th minute after clutching the back of his right leg. The U.S. international has had a history of hamstring issues.

And Gallardo, who came on to start the second half, had to leave in the 75th due to injury. Armas had to throw on Singh in the 87th minute for his first-team debut.

“I said I’m going to play young players,” said Armas. “Look how may played tonight.”

The Toronto-Leon winner will face either Mexico’s Cruz Azul or Haiti’s Arcahaie FC in the quarterfinals. Arcahaie held the visiting Mexicans to a 0-0 draw Tuesday.

Leon came as advertised, shifting the ball around with good passing and movement. But the final ball was often missing or the offside flag went up for the eight-time Mexican champions as they tried to get behind the TFC backline. Toronto also did a good job clogging up space in its own end in the first half.

After a slow start that saw Leon win just two of its first 10 league matches (2-6-2) this year, the Mexican side has returned to form. Leon defeated Toluca 3-1 Sunday to extend its win streak to three and currently stands eighth in the standings at 5-6-2.

TFC opens the MLS season April 17 against CF Montreal in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

It was 29 degrees Celsius at kickoff at Estadio Leon, where Canada lost 1-0 to France in its opening game of the 1986 World Cup. Attendance Wednesday was pegged at 30 percent of the 31,297 capacity.

One can argue TFC also failed to score there. But the MLS side set itself up for a more than a chance in the second leg.

Leon won the Liga MX Apertura Liga MX Guardianes title — named in honour of Mexico’s health-care workers — in December, defeating Pumas UNAM 3-1 on aggregate after a 12-1-4 campaign.

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Aguero, Man City’s record goal scorer, to leave club at end of season after 10 years

Sergio Aguero, Manchester City’s record scorer, will leave the English club after 10 years when his contract expires at the end of the season.

The 32-year-old Argentina striker has 257 goals for City, the most famous being his stoppage-time winner against Queens Parks Rangers on the final day of the 2011-12 season that clinched the team its first league title in 44 years.

A key player in the growth of the Abu Dhabi-owned club as a major force in England and Europe, Aguero has struggled with injuries over the past year and been restricted to just 14 appearances in all competitions this season. The penalty he converted against Fulham on March 13 was his 181st goal in the Premier League but his first in the division since January 2020.

In a Twitter post on Monday to his 14 million followers, Aguero said he had a “huge sense of satisfaction and pride” about playing for City for a decade and is ready to “continue competing at the highest level.”

“Sergio’s contribution to Manchester City over the last 10 years cannot be overstated,” club chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak said. “His legend will be indelibly etched into the memories of everyone who loves the club and maybe even in those who simply love football.”


Al Mubarak said a statue of Aguero has been commissioned to stand alongside those currently being made to honour the player’s former teammates, David Silva and Vincent Kompany.

That trio, along with midfielder Yaya Toure, were central to City’s success over the past decade.

Aguero, who joined from Atletico Madrid in 2011, scored at least 28 goals in all competitions in six straight seasons for City and will go down as one of the greatest strikers to have played in the Premier League.

He is the league’s highest-scoring overseas player. His haul of 181 puts him fourth on the all-time scoring list, behind Alan Shearer (260), Wayne Rooney (208) and Andy Cole (187).

Aguero also has a Premier League-high 12 hat tricks.

Aguero said he forged “an indestructible bond with all those who love this club — people who will always be in my heart.”

“I will continue to give it my utmost for the rest of the season to win more titles and bring more joy to the fans,” Aguero said in his Twitter post. “Then, a new stage with new challenges will begin.”


City is on course for the “quadruple” this season, as it leads the Premier League by 14 points, has reached the final of the English League Cup, the semifinals of the FA Cup, and the quarterfinals of the Champions League — a trophy Aguero has yet to win at the club.

He has, though, won the Premier League four times, the League Cup five times, and the FA Cup once.

Aguero was able to change his game to fit in with the style of play demanded by Pep Guardiola after the Spanish coach took charge of City in 2016. He transformed himself into more of an all-round player, with the ability to drop deeper and link up play, but never lost his fearsome ball-striking and poacher qualities inside the area.

Aguero has previously spoken about returning to Argentina to finish his career with former club Independiente.

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Former FC Barcelona officials detained after raid on soccer club, Spanish media report

Catalan police detained several people after raiding Barcelona’s stadium on Monday in a search and seize operation, adding to the club’s turmoil less than a week before it elects a new president.

The operation was related to last year’s “Barcagate,” in which club officials were accused of launching a smear campaign against current and former players who were critical of the club and then-president Josep Maria Bartomeu.

Police said detentions were made but did not say who or how many people were taken into custody. Spanish media said Bartomeu and other former club officials were among those detained.

Authorities spent several hours at the team’s headquarters searching documents and talking to employees.

The club, mired in debt of more than 1.1 billion euros ($ 1.68 billion Cdn), said it offered “full collaboration to the legal and police authorities to help make clear facts which are subject to investigation.”

It added the case was related “to the contacting of monitoring services on social networks.”

“The information and documentation requested by the judicial police force relate strictly to the facts relative to this case. FC Barcelona (expresses) its utmost respect for the judicial process in place and for the principle of presumed innocence for the people affected within the remit of this investigation,” the club said.

The club did not mention Bartomeu.  A text message sent to Bartomeu was not immediately answered.

Key former officials detained

One of the three presidential candidates, Joan Laporta, told Lleida Radio that what happened on Monday “was a consequence of the bad management by the previous administration.”

He said news of Bartomeu’s reported detention was “shocking” and “not good” for the club, but said the former president deserved the “presumption of innocence.”

Laporta was Barcelona’s president a decade ago and, like Bartomeu, also faced a no-confidence vote during his time in charge.

Among those reportedly detained were club CEO Oscar Grau and legal department chief Roman Gomez Ponti. Jaume Masferrer, Bartomeu’s former chief of staff, also was allegedly detained.


Police say several people were detained but did not say who or how many were taken into custody. (AP/Joan Monfort)

They were taken to a police station for interrogation, Spanish media said, and police also went to Bartomeu’s house searching for evidence. 

Court officials said a judge ordered the search and seize operation but the detentions were made at the discretion of the police agents involved. Authorities said the operation was being carried out by the police’s financial crimes department.

A period of struggles

Barcelona has denied accusations that it hired – and overpaid – a company to make negative comments about its own players and opponents on social media in order to boost the image of senior club officials.

The company was accused of using fake social media accounts to discredit opposition figures when they expressed views that went against the club. Some of the figures were reported to have included players such Lionel Messi and Gerard Pique, as well as former coach Pep Guardiola.

The club later released an independent audit report showing that there was no wrongdoing.

Bartomeu and his board of directors resigned last year amid fallout from the controversy surrounding Messi. The club has been mired in political turmoil and debt prompted by the coronavirus pandemic.

The club has been managed by a caretaker board since Bartomeu left in October while facing a no-confidence motion supported by thousands of club members furious at the team’s poor performances and the club’s financial situation.

The club’s struggles began to surface after the team’s embarrassing 8-2 loss to Bayern Munich in the quarterfinals of the Champions League last season, which was the first without a title for the Spanish club since the 2007/08 season.

Bartomeu was loudly criticized by Messi, especially after the former president denied the player’s request to leave the club at the end of last season. Messi’s contract ends this season and the Argentine great has yet to say whether he will stay or go.

Barcelona is five points off the Spanish league lead. It lost at home to Paris Saint-Germain 4-1 in the first leg of the round of 16 of the Champions League and was beaten by Sevilla 2-0 in the first leg of the Copa del Rey semifinals.
 

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MLS says NHL team owner out on acquiring Sacramento expansion club

Major League Soccer says Ron Burkle has backed out of plans for an expansion team in Sacramento, Calif., that was scheduled to start play in 2023.

The league said in a statement Friday night that Burkle’s decision was “based on issues with the project related to COVID-19.”

MLS announced Sacramento Republic as its 29th team on Oct. 21, 2019 and said then the team would start play in 2022. MLS said July 17 that Sacramento would not start play until the 2023 season because of the pandemic. At the time, the league delayed Charlotte, N.C., until 2022 and St. Louis until 2023.

MLS expanded to 26 teams last year with the addition of Miami and Nashville, Tennessee. Austin, Texas joins this season, which is scheduled to start April 17.

Sacramento’s announced ownership group included Burkle, founder of The Yucaipa Cos., co-owner of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins, as lead investor. He was joined by entertainment executive Matt Alvarez and Kevin Nagle, an investor in the NBA’s Sacramento Kings who had spearheaded the bid for MLS expansion since 2014.

Burkle’s group had planned a $ 300 million US soccer-specific stadium on a 14-acre site downtown and signed a deal with UC Davis Health to be its MLS jersey sponsor.

But the group had run into cost issues with the proposed stadium site and had yet to break ground on the proposed 21,000-seat stadium. There also was growing concern the team would not be able to start until 2024.

The current Sacramento Republic, founded in December 2012, plays in the second-tier United Soccer League Championship.

Garber optimistic about securing 30th team

“We understand the feelings of anger, disappointment and frustration — we share in those deeply. Today’s announcement is not a reflection of the fans, Sacramento or this club,” the team said in a statement. “There is much more information to come about how we will continue our MLS journey.”

MLS commissioner Don Garber said he remains optimistic about finalizing plans for the league’s 30th team.

“After working for many years to bring an MLS team to Sacramento, the league continues to believe it can be a great MLS market,” MLS said in a statement. “In the coming days, the league will work with Mayor Darrell Steinberg to evaluate possible next steps for MLS in Sacramento.”

Steinberg said he was disappointed in Burkle backing out of the project and he looked forward in working with the league to find a new lead investor for the franchise.

“Despite the difficult past year for our city, we have upheld every commitment to Mr. Burkle, the league and our community,” Steinberg said in a statement. “We took major steps to welcome Major League Soccer to a new stadium in The Railyards and we remain prepared to move forward immediately.”

MLS’s 2020 season started Feb. 29 but was interrupted after March 8 by the pandemic. The season resumed July 8 and each team played 23 regular-season games, down from 34 originally scheduled.

As a fallout from pandemic restrictions, attendance dropped from nearly 9 million to about 750,000.

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TFC coach Chris Armas enthusiastic about 1st training camp with club

Intensity and energy were the buzzwords Wednesday as the Chris Armas era kicked off at Toronto FC.

The club is the first in Major League Soccer to open training camp, given a little extra time to prepare for the Canadian Championship final against Forge FC. That will decide which team faces Mexico’s Club Leon in the round-of-16 of the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League on April 6-7.

Most other MLS clubs report March 1 for a seven-day quarantine period, medicals and testing prior to the start of team training March 8. The regular season is scheduled to start April 17.

TFC worked out under the bubble at its north Toronto training centre Wednesday, with the temperature outside at minus-5 C, said to feel like minus-11. Light snow is forecast for Thursday.

Armas somehow managed to exude enthusiasm, even with his face hidden by a mask on a video call with reporters. At first blush, the 48-year-old head coach comes across as an Energizer Bunny-type man with a plan — even in the complicated, ever-changing sands of a global pandemic.

“This time of year, pre-season, it doesn’t get old to me,” he said. “It’s just such a great time.”

Armas said there was plenty of energy on display, even in a video session. Players told him the training session, on a scale of one to 10 for intensity, was a 25, he said.

“What a good first day with these players,” he said.

Where’s home?

Captain Michael Bradley was equally positive.

“It was an exciting first day because we hit the ground running,” he said.

“Chris has come in with his staff and, I think, has set an incredible tone right away in terms of who he is, what he’s all about, the energy that he’s going to bring every day, the mentality, and now starting to get to work with what we’re going to be as a team,” he added.

There is still no word on where Toronto will play its home games, given the pandemic-related travel restrictions that forced it to finish out the 2020 campaign in East Hartford, Conn.

WATCH | Canada’s Davies nets tying goal in Bayern Munich draw: 

Canadian Alphonso Davies scored to pull Bayern even with Arminia at 3-3. 1:06

Florida appears to be leading the pack.

“There’s options. We’re prepared mentally and physically that we might have to set up shop in the States,” said Armas, a former New York Red Bulls head coach.

Armas said there’s a “good chance” that the team will stay in Toronto for the duration of camp. He acknowledged that will present a problem finding pre-season opposition, with a friendly against CF Montreal a possibility.

‘No excuses’

The date and location of the Canadian Championship final have yet to be announced, with mid- to late-March expected.

Even if the team has to move again during the pandemic, Bradley said there will be no excuses.

“It’s been tough for everyone, man. I don’t want to hear that it’s tougher for me or tougher for TFC or tougher for Canadian teams,” he said.

Toronto is coming off a 13-5-5 season that saw the team finish second overall despite having playing just four games at BMO Field due to the pandemic. Its season ended disappointingly in a first-round playoff loss to expansion Nashville SC.

Armas promises to field a team capable of pressing the opposition when they have the ball, one that demonstrates “a commitment and a hunger up the field to not allow teams to build attacks.”

WATCH | Canada’s new women’s soccer team coach discusses her role: 

The new coach of Canada’s women’s soccer team, Bev Priestman, talks about her new job while preparing her team for the SheBelieves Cup. 2:26

The goal is to force mistakes “and take advantage of what we know, which is goals come from transition. More than 50 per cent, 60-something per cent of all goals come from transition.”

In possession, TFC will look to move the ball quickly and break down the opposition.

Armas was named the franchise’s 10th head coach on Jan. 13, filling the void left by Greg Vanney’s resignation. Vanney is now running the Los Angeles Galaxy, taking assistant coaches Dan Calichman, Nick Theslof and Canadian Jason Bent with him.

Armas announced his coaching staff, with goalkeeper coach Jon Conway the lone holdover. He is joined by newcomers Javier Perez, Ian Russell and Ewan Sharp.

Altidore transfer interest 

With camp closed due to COVID-19, information is in short supply. The team has yet to provide a camp roster and Armas said while everyone was in town, not everyone had made it through quarantine, medicals or testing yet.

“We’re almost at full strength,” he said.

Forward Ayo Akinola, who missed a Canada camp in January with an undisclosed injury, is not yet ready to go, however.

As for the future of star striker Jozy Altidore, who has been the subject of transfer interest according to U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter, Armas said he look forwards to working with him once he completes the necessary pre-camp routine.

WATCH | Canada set to face rival U.S. on Thursday at SheBelieves Cup: 

The new coach of Canada’s national women’s soccer team says that pride is on the line as they prepare to meet the United States at the SheBelieves Cup on Thursday night. 0:58

“I think we all know that he’s helped build this house. He’s been a really important guy around here,” Armas said. “The passion that he brings.

“Some guys are just winners and he’s a guy that your chances go up when he’s out there.”

Armas said Altidore had sounded enthusiastic in a text exchange about the team’s planned pressing style.

Armas confirmed that veteran fullback Justin Morrow, whose contract expired at the end of last season, is expected back. Defender Eriq Zavaleta, also out of contract, is training with the team.

Armas, who won 66 caps for the U.S. as a defensive midfielder and was named to the MLS Best XI five times, said his family will remain in Long Island, N.Y., for the time being, with the eldest of his two sons currently in college.

“They’ll join me here soon enough. We’ll just have to see what the year brings.”

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Alphonso Davies, Bayern capture Club World Cup to add to trophy haul

Bayern Munich beat Tigres 1-0 to win the Club World Cup on Thursday for its sixth title under coach Hansi Flick, hours after midfielder Thomas Muller tested positive for the coronavirus.

In front of a masked, socially distanced crowd, Benjamin Pavard scored the only goal in the 59th minute in a comfortable game for the Champions League winner against Mexico’s Tigres, the first team from North and Central America to reach the world final.

Muller wasn’t there to celebrate with the team, though. Bayern and FIFA said he was moved into isolation after his positive test was revealed. Their statements didn’t address how Muller might have been infected or whether any other players had close contact with him.

“It’s a shame he can’t be here and I hope he’s back soon,” striker Robert Lewandowski said in televised comments. “In football something like this can happen and you have to not accept it but adapt to it, and show your best football.”

The Club World Cup is just the latest honour Canadian Alphonso Davies has earned with Bayern Munich.

The 20-year-old fullback from Edmonton has already won the Champions League (2020), Bundesliga title (2019, 2020), DFB Cup (2019, 2020), UEFA Super Cup (2020) and German Super Cup (2020).

Two video reviews changed the course of the game. The first ruled out a goal after deeming that the offside Lewandowski was interfering with play when he jumped over Joshua Kimmich’s goal-bound shot in the 18th minute.

The second review gave Benjamin Pavard the opening goal, overturning another offside call against Lewandowski, who had challenged the goalkeeper before the ball bounced free for Pavard to knock into the net.

Both teams had players who featured in Mexico’s surprise win over Germany at the 2018 World Cup. A similar upset was never on the cards. Tigres came closest to scoring in its own net when a misplaced headed backpass was stopped on the goal line by keeper Nahuel Guzman.

European win streak hits 8

Bayern’s win extended Europe’s run of consecutive Club World Cup wins to eight, highlighting European clubs’ vast financial advantage over the rest of the world. Leroy Sane could have scored another for Bayern, but his 34th-minute shot brushed the bar on its way over.

Egyptian club Al Ahly secured third place with a 3-2 win on penalties over South American champion Palmeiras after the game finished 0-0. The format didn’t include extra time. Al Ahly’s third place was the best result by an African team at the Club World Cup since Morocco’s Raja Casablanca lost the 2013 final to Bayern Munich.

Canadian referee Drew Fischer served as VAR official for the third-place game. He previously worked the tournament games between Qatar’s Al Duhail SC and Egypt’s Al Ahly SC and Bayern Munich against Al Ahly SC.

The 40-year-old from Calgary has previously officiated at the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup and CONCACAF U-20 Championship and the 2019 MLS all-star game. He was a member of the first-ever video assistant referee crew at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France and was also the VAR official at the 2020 MLS Cup final.

He has been on FIFA’s referee panel since 2015 and VAR panel since 2021.

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Keystone XL turns into early club against Biden

This story is part of Watching Washington, a regular dispatch from CBC News correspondents reporting on U.S. politics and developments that affect Canadians.

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U.S. President Joe Biden’s cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline has become an early talking point against him from domestic critics of his administration — and even from some allies.

A centrist Democrat from West Virginia, Sen. Joe Manchin, told Fox News he “respectfully disagree(s)” with Biden’s decision. Manchin said similar volumes of heavy crude will still get shipped to the U.S. to be refined. He thinks it’s safer in a pipeline than on trains.

“We have to have the heavy crude,” he told Fox’s Bret Baier Tuesday night. “I’d rather for it to come from Canada than I would from Venezuela.”

His comments come as numerous Republicans point to the symbolism of Biden cancelling the pipeline on Day 1 of his presidency — as a job-killing move in the first hours of his administration.

Here’s one reason this is somewhat striking: Biden’s promise to kill the pipeline was a potential campaign issue last year — and it sat there virtually untouched. Even after Biden promised to end the Canada-U.S. project, Republicans simply didn’t raise it much on the campaign trail.

They are now.  

Keystone came up several times in recent Senate confirmation hearings for Biden’s cabinet picks. Sen. Ted Cruz mocked Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg for saying Biden’s massive clean-infrastructure plan will create far more jobs than those lost in the construction of this pipeline.

“For those [laid-off pipeline] workers, the answer is: ‘Somebody else’ll get a job?'” Cruz said. 

What’s next

It’s too early to tell whether Biden will actually be damaged politically by the charge he’s hurting fossil-fuel-industry jobs. The polling is a bit vague.

On the one hand, a survey commissioned by the Alberta government by JDA Frontline Partners said that when Americans were told the project was already under construction, a strong majority wanted it completed.

On the other, American political pollster Scott Rasmussen found that more Americans supported Biden’s decision on Keystone than opposed it.

So the broader political implications for Biden aren’t yet clear. It may depend on whether he succeeds in his main energy objective: getting Congress to pass a massive $ 2 trillion plan to build clean infrastructure.

But when it comes to Keystone XL, there’s been no sign that Biden, or the vast majority of Democrats aside from Joe Manchin, have any interest in backing down on the cancellation.


Joe Manchin is a rare Senate Democrat to defend Keystone XL. He’s also poised to have some pull on energy policy in Washington. (Leigh Vogel/Reuters)

Manchin, it should be noted, has for years been a rare Washington Democrat to vocally defend Keystone XL. He’s also a defender of his state’s coal industry, a longtime recipient of oil-industry campaign donations, and he could play a key role on any future energy bill.

Manchin not only holds an important swing vote in the 50-50 Senate; he’s also the top Democrat on the Senate’s energy committee which his party is about to control.

How this affects Canada

Oil is Canada’s No. 1 biggest revenue-generating export and Keystone XL was designed to simplify the shipment of 830,000 barrels per day from Alberta to refineries in the U.S.

The project was also supposed to create thousands of jobs in the U.S. and Canada, primarily in construction. Immediately after Biden ended the project, pipeline company TC Energy Corp., cut 1,000 jobs. It didn’t specify how many of those jobs were in each country.

This project has become a fault line in the climate debate — with advocates like Manchin, and past U.S. government analyses, arguing the oil will keep being shipped anyway, while opponents target Keystone XL as part of a longer-term strategy to stifle the expansion of the Alberta oilsands.

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Montreal MLS team rebrands as Club De Foot Montreal

The Montreal Impact are rebranding, changing the Major League Soccer club’s moniker to Club De Foot Montreal — or CF Montreal.

The club announced the move Thursday morning in a virtual press conference.

Team owner Joey Saputo said that to make an impact, the name Impact needs to be retired, replaced by a new name that will tell a story about the city of Montreal.

More than 2,000 soccer fans have already registered their displeasure with the rebrand, signing an online petition calling for the Impact to keep its name.


The petition says the change will cause a “rift” between the team and its fanbase.

The club has been known as the Impact since it joined the American Professional Soccer League in 1992 following the dissolution of its predecessor, the Montreal Supra.

Saputo chose the name because he wanted the franchise to make an impact on the city and local soccer community.

Montreal made its MLS debut in 2012. In 2015, the team finished a franchise-best third place in the Eastern Division before being ousted from the playoffs in the quarterfinals by the Columbus Crew.

Last season, the club finished ninth in the East with an 8-13-2 record after COVID-19 border restrictions forced all three Canadian MLS squads to relocate south of the border in mid-September.

The New England Revolution eliminated Montreal from the playoffs in the qualifying round.

MLS commissioner Don Garber has said the league is targeting mid-March to start the 2021 campaign.

Bob Foose, head of the MLS Players Association, said Wednesday that the “best solution” for Canadian teams would be delaying the start of the season since the Canada-U.S. border remains closed.

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Greg Vanney returns to L.A. to coach Galaxy, try to make ‘iconic’ club contender

Former Toronto FC coach Greg Vanney is back in Los Angeles, where it all started.

While Vanney’s Dec. 1 exit as TFC boss was unexpected, his landing in L.A. as the new Galaxy head coach does not come as a surprise. The 46-year-old made his name as a player with the Galaxy after finishing at UCLA.

Vanney, who won everything but the CONCACAF Champions League title with Toronto, said he needed a new challenge after more than six successful years at TFC. He will get one in Los Angeles, which fired Guillermo Barros Schelotto on Oct. 29 with three games remaining in the regular season.

At the time, the Galaxy had lost nine of its last 10 while being outscored 26-8. L.A. finished 20th in the league at 6-12-4, some 22 points behind Toronto (13-5-5).

Toronto continues its search for a replacement for Vanney with Patrick Vieira, Chris Armas, Ben Olsen and Steve Cherundolo among those reported to have drawn interest.

Vanney, taken 17th overall by the Galaxy in the 1996 MLS draft, spent six seasons in Los Angeles before heading to France to join SC Bastia. Returning to MLS, the former U.S. international defender finished out his playing career with the Galaxy in 2008 after stints with FC Dallas, the Colorado Rapids and D.C. United.

“Greg is focused on building a culture that will serve as the foundation of this club,” Galaxy president Chris Klein said in a statement. “He is detail-oriented, a fierce competitor and has a deep understanding of our league and what it takes to succeed on and off the field. He will be an outstanding ambassador for the L.A. Galaxy, our supporters and Los Angeles.”

WATCH | Longest tenured Toronto FC head coach steps away:

Greg Vanney breaks down while thanking his players during his media availability after stepping down as Toronto FC’s head coach. 3:12

Galaxy GM Dennis te Kloese called Vanney a “consistent winner with a championship pedigree.”

“Greg is a part of the history of the L.A. Galaxy and we are confident that he is the right person to lead our team moving forward. His accolades as Toronto FC’s manager are evidence of his ability to create and sustain success in our league. We look forward to working with Greg to continue to build a team that will compete for trophies.”

Unfinished business

Winning a title with the Galaxy represents unfinished business for Vanney.

While he helped L.A. to the Supporters’ Shield (1998), CONCACAF Champions’ Cup (2000) and U.S. Open Cup (2001) as a player, the Galaxy lost the MLS Cup final in 1996, 1999 and 2001.

“I am extremely excited about the opportunity to coach the L.A. Galaxy,” said Vanney. “The L.A. Galaxy are an iconic club with a rich history in Los Angeles, MLS and North American soccer over the last 25 years. I am committed to working tirelessly for this club, our fans and Los Angeles to win a championship.

“I look forward to this new challenge in my career and am eager to get started.”


Vanney played seven seasons with the Galaxy in two stints before beginning his successful coaching career. (Jeff Gross/ALLSPORT/Getty Images/File)

Vanney made 193 of his 270 career MLS appearances in Galaxy colours — ranking him seventh on the club list in player appearances. While with the Galaxy, Vanney was named to the MLS Best XI twice (2000, 2001). Twenty-six of his 32 playoff appearances were with L.A.

The Galaxy said Vanney’s coaching staff will be announced at a later date. It’s likely they will include some familiar faces for Toronto fans.

Familiar faces

TFC assistant coach Dan Calichman is a former Galaxy captain while Jim Liston, Toronto’s director of sport science, served as L.A.’s strength and conditioning coach.

The Los Angeles Times reported both are joining Vanney in L.A.

Vanney played at UCLA with Nick Theslof, another TFC assistant coach. The two also worked together at Chivas USA where Vanney was an assistant coach and technical director of the youth academy prior to joining Toronto in 2013 as academy director and assistant GM.

Then-GM Tim Bezbatchenko elevated Vanney to TFC head coach and technical director in August 2014 after Ryan Nelsen was fired. Thus began Toronto’s turnaround from MLS doormat to championship contender.

L.A. has been going the other way.

While the Galaxy leads all MLS clubs with five league titles, its last MLS Cup triumph came in 2014 and it has missed the playoffs in three of the last four years.

Barros Schelotto was hired in January 2019 after winning two championships in Argentina with Boca Juniors. His record at the Galaxy helm was 21-26-6.

Dominic Kinnear, a former successful head coach in San Jose and Houston, finished out the season as interim Galaxy coach.

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