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Canada's keys to qualifying for the 2022 World Cup – The Athletic

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There is a genuine feeling among the staff and players in the Canadian men’s national team program that they can qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar — a result that seemed unthinkable when head coach John Herdman took over in January 2018 and the team sat 95th in FIFA’s world rankings.

Now 59th, Canada is in the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualification for the first time since 1997. Alphonso Davies (20 years old), Jonathan David (21) and Cyle Larin (26) have played critical roles in the team’s on-field success and the creation of a core group of players off of it.

“It’s that togetherness that is the foundation of their success,” said Herdman. “I think the antecedence behind some of their trajectory has been the ability to represent their country at a young age.”

 The final CONCACAF World Cup qualification round, beginning on Thursday against Honduras, now represents the culmination of Herdman’s work with the team. 

But what will they have to do to qualify for the country’s second-ever World Cup? There are several key elements to making this dream a reality. 

Relying on depth with crowded club calendars

So here’s a (mostly) good problem to have: the core of this attack-minded team (Namely: Davies, David, Larin, Mark-Anthony Kaye, Stephen Eustaquio, Jonathan Osorio, Tajon Buchanan and Milan Borjan) is largely in place. But come the second half of this qualification round, the majority of that core will be playing competitive games in Europe, an indication of how much top-level talent Herdman has at his disposal. Four of those players will be in additional competitions throughout qualifying — five, should Club Brugge sneak into the Champions League round of 16 so Buchanan can make his debut in that competition once he joins the club in January.

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Josh Donaldson swapping jerseys with Vlad Guerrero a Blue Jays moment that won’t be forgotten – Toronto Star

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It was a moment Blue Jays fans won’t soon forget, and one they will hope eventually represents a passing of the torch from one American League most valuable player to another.

Josh Donaldson, Toronto’s 2015 MVP now with the Minnesota Twins, signing and exchanging jerseys with Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who is vying for his first MVP nod this season, following a three-game series between the two teams.

The pair set up the jersey exchange on Saturday and it caused quite a stir of emotion a day later, the end of an already emotional weekend with Donaldson’s return and the Jays back in a wild-card spot.

There they were — the man who last led the Jays’ World Series hopes and the man fans hope can take Toronto one step further by clinching the top prize.

“He just told me after, ‘Stay focused and keep working hard until the end,’” Guerrero Jr. said post-game of his interaction with Donaldson.

Donaldson, 35, is no stranger to hearing fans at Rogers Centre shout “MVP, MVP” during an at-bat. This time around he received a standing ovation during his first plate appearance of the series but the kinds of cheers he once received were now directed at the 22-year-old Guerrero.

The veteran was all for it. When asked on Saturday if he thought Guerrero deserved to join him and 1987 winner George Bell as Blue Jays MVPs, Donaldson’s answer was clear.

“It should happen,” Donaldson said. “He’s put up (an) astronomical season from the offensive side and he’s contributing on the defensive side. The guy’s got a 1.000 OPS at 22 years old, being a huge contributor.”

Guerrero’s stiffest competition in the race for AL MVP is Los Angeles Angels two-way player Shohei Ohtani, who many believe is a lock for the award as his team’s staff ace and most productive hitter — he is doing something that has never before been seen in Major League Baseball. But Guerrero, who is vying for the Triple Crown as the league leader in home runs, batting average and runs batted in, is mounting a late season challenge for the award as Ohtani navigates some late season troubles.

The Angels star’s numbers at the plate have dipped in the second half of the season and there has been talk of him being shut down from pitching in the final portion of the season because of arm soreness. And then there’s the age-old question: can a player be the most valuable if his team is not headed to the playoffs? Guerrero and the Jays could very well be; Ohtani and the Angels are not in post-season contention.

To Donaldson, there are holes in the argument for Ohtani: he didn’t start every fifth day, the recent injury could cause him to miss most of September on the mound and, as a designated hitter, he doesn’t impact both sides of the game. Guerrero, on the other hand, strikes fear in opposing lineups unlike any other player this season, Donaldson said.

And if the Jays make the playoffs, Donaldson said, that should tip the scales in Guerrero’s favour.

“If you take Vlad out of that lineup, this isn’t the same team,” Donaldson said. “Not that this isn’t a good lineup, because it is. But what Vlad’s doing is … he’s that security blanket for the rest of that lineup (with) what he’s producing. He takes pressure off of everybody else.”

Hearing that kind of praise from Donaldson, who spent the weekend at the ballpark happily reuniting with familiar faces he knew from his four years in Toronto and touting Guerrero’s MVP worthiness to anyone who would listen, left Guerrero nearly speechless but maybe not surprised. Guerrero, who was signed by the Jays the same year Donaldson won the MVP in 2015, said Donaldson has long been supportive of his career.

“Coming from Josh, it’s unbelievable what he said. Especially coming from someone that already won the MVP,” Guerrero said. “Since I was in the minors when he was here, he was always giving me advice, especially in spring training. When I was playing third, helping me out, taking ground balls with him. He’s always been great to me and I really appreciate his comments.”

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Patriots owner Robert Kraft shocked a gay flag football team by showing up to support it – Yahoo Canada Sports

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Imagine coming off the field from your neighborhood flag football game, dripping in weekend-warrior sweat, and there stands the owner of the New England Patriots. 

Naturally, you might be curious why Robert Kraft — a man said to have a net worth north of $8 billion — is, you know, there. Just hanging out.

Was Kraft watching a relative or close friend play? Did he happen to be nearby and just wander over? Did his driver get lost?

No, it turns out that Kraft was simply there to support a Massachusetts gay flag football team.

There was no press release. No attention drawing needed. Just your average billionaire NFL franchise owner supporting a gay flag football team and a great local charity. 

As one of the flag football team members, Alex Reimer of Outsports.com, noted in his blog about the event, Kraft just swung by to watch the action — one day before the Patriots took on the New York Jets on the road.

What’s the big deal, you ask? Well, it’s a sign that Kraft doesn’t just support the group — FLAG Flag Football Boston — with financial backing. He also comes to watch them play. That’s a personal touch money can’t buy.

There also was a charitable component to the weekend. The flag football team helped raise donations of 25,000 items for Hope & Comfort, a local charity that helps with hygiene insecurity for needy youths and families in the area. The Patriots helped support the cause, and the owner was on hand for it.

Kudos to Kraft, who has been a big supporter of the LGBTQ community for years (even before it was popular to do so) and who appears to go above and beyond mere check writing and ribbon cutting.

This is the kind of outreach we’d love to see more of in the NFL community, and Kraft’s above-and-beyond effort shows that even the world’s wealthiest people can donate something that carries even more value than donations.

Their time.

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University of Ottawa Gee-Gees football player dies after game – CBC.ca

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The University of Ottawa says one of its football players died shortly after the team’s season opener in Toronto on Saturday.

Francis Perron of Sherbrooke, Que., started playing for the Gee-Gees in 2017. A statement from university president Jacques Frémont did not mention a cause of death.

Perron, a 25-year-old mechanical engineering student, had been named an academic all-Canadian in 2018 and 2019.

“A bright, passionate, and caring person, Francis poured himself into his craft as a player and his academic pursuit of becoming an engineer. In the classroom, he was as big of a star as on the field,” Frémont wrote.

“Our hearts are broken,” head coach Marcel Bellefeuille wrote in a tweet. “We’ve lost an outstanding person, teammate, player and veteran leader that made us better in every way possible,”

Bellefeuille said he’s thinking of the school’s sports and engineering community, and said support will be available for anyone feeling overwhelmed.

A memorial will be held in the coming weeks, the school’s president said. The team’s next game is scheduled for this Saturday at Queen’s.

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