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Late letdown drops Blue Jays into tie with Rays for top spot in wild-card race – Sportsnet.ca

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – No matter how this series at the Toronto Blue Jays’ perennial hell-spot of Tropicana Field plays out, the wild-card picture won’t be any less muddled heading into the final week and a half of the regular season. The gap is simply too tight between them, the Tampa Bay Rays and Seattle Mariners to rule out any scenarios for the time being, ensuring there’ll at minimum be some drama around who’s playing where, if not who’s getting in.

All of which makes holding tiebreakers so important, something the Blue Jays surrendered after a frustrating 10-6 loss Friday night left them 7-10 against the Rays this season and unable to catch up with only two more head-to-head meetings remaining.

A back-and-forth game was settled in the eighth when David Peralta lifted a fly ball to shallow right field and pinch-runner Taylor Walls charged home beneath a high and wide throw from Teoscar Hernandez to break a 6-6 tie. A Bo Bichette error on a Harold Ramirez grounder later in the inning led to another run before Randy Arozarena’s two-run single padded the edge.

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Pete Fairbanks mopped up in the ninth as the Rays (84-67) tied the Blue Jays (84-67), losers of three straight, for top spot in the wild-card race, but they are essentially ahead by holding the tiebreaker. The Seattle Mariners (82-68), 5-1 losers at Kansas City, remain 1.5 games back.

“It’s weird here. Whenever things kind of don’t go great or perfectly, it seems to unravel,” said interim manager John Schneider, adding later: “Tonight was a perfect example of how you kind of play into their strengths. You can’t walk guys and expect good things to happen. You want to let them beat you with their bats and tonight we didn’t do that and didn’t take care of the ball particularly well.”

Under new rules this year, ties in the standings between two teams are broken by head-to-head play rather than a single-game, winner-takes-all contest. A three-team tiebreaker is decided by which team has the best combined winning percentage against the other two clubs.

The Rays are in the driver’s seat on both fronts, holding the edge over the Blue Jays and the Mariners (5-2) in two-team-tie scenarios, as well as holding the best cumulative mark if there’s a three-way deadlock. Seattle beat Toronto 5-2 and is locked into second under such a scenario.

Hence, the Blue Jays must be at least a game better than both rivals from here on out to secure home-field advantage, without the margin for error a tiebreaker provides.

That’s been compounded by a rough week that began with a blown save against the Baltimore Orioles last Sunday, followed by a messy 18-11 win Tuesday at Philadelphia before another missed chance against the Phillies in a 4-3, 10-inning loss Wednesday and a blowout loss Thursday to the Rays.

During that span the Blue Jays have gone from thinking about a possible run at the New York Yankees atop the AL East to maintaining homefield for the wild-card round.

Schneider talked about “putting each game in a vacuum one-by-one at this point,” something third baseman Matt Chapman, no stranger to the high-leverage tightrope, said is easier said than done.

“It’s hard every day to try not to dwell too much on what happened, what you could have done better,” Chapman explained. “At this time of year, everybody’s burnt a little bit. Everybody’s been grinding for a long time. To be the best player and best teammate you can be tomorrow is just to flush it and let it go. Everybody’s tired and it’s not going to do you any good trying to figure out why this happened or why you got pitched a certain way or why you didn’t make a play you should have made.

“Obviously, there are a couple of plays tonight that I wish I would have made and I’m pretty good at kicking myself for that,” he continued. “But I know that it doesn’t matter anymore and as much as I wish I did it differently, it’s like, hey, tomorrow, I’m going to get another opportunity to make a play for this team and help us win a game. That’s what I’m focused on and I know the guys are, too.”

The Blue Jays would have had to win three straight against the Rays to give themselves the tiebreaker beginning with a Friday game that featured the usual array of miseries that tend to plague them at the Trop.

Mitch White, recalled from triple-A Buffalo to start, got bled for a pair of runs in the first, with Wander Franco dropping a 77.3-m.p.h. double just inside the left-field line to set up a run-scoring groundout by Arozarena before a Manuel Margot bunt single plated a second run.

Christian Bethancourt’s RBI double in the fourth made it 3-0 but back-to-back doubles by Teoscar Hernandez and Raimel Tapia to open the fifth cut into the lead. Tapia then took third on a Whit Merrifield fly out to deep centre, Danny Jansen walked and after George Springer struck out, Bichette ripped an RBI single. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. then tied the game with a bouncer up the middle and Alejandro Kirk, under instructions to pick his spots running after missing time last week with left hip tightness, booted it up the line to beat out an errant Isaac Paredes throw to put the Blue Jays up 4-3.

Needing a shutdown inning in the bottom half, the Blue Jays pulled White for Tim Mayza, who struck out Jonathan Aranda before Harold Ramirez singled and Wander Franco walked. In came Anthony Bass and he got up 1-2 on Arozarena, who then slashed the fourth straight slider he saw over the wall in right field to put the Rays back up 6-4.

The Blue Jays tied it in the sixth on a Jansen RBI single and Springer sacrifice fly but Guerrero struck out with two on to end the frame and things stood there until the game unravelled on Yimi Garcia in the eighth, just as it did Wednesday in Philadelphia.

A Ji-Man Choi walk to open the inning started the trouble before Miles Mastrobuoni followed with a base hit that sent pinch-runner Walls to third. The shallow fly by Peralta followed and the Rays poured it on from there.

“I thought (Garcia) made great pitches to Choi,” said Schneider. “Really close 3-2 pitch, really close 2-2 pitch and you trust that you want the players to have the result of the outcome of the game in their hands. That happens sometimes.”

More than sometimes for the Blue Jays at the Trop, the baseball stadium with a warehouse-shopping-mall vibe Chapman diplomatically said is “an interesting place to play.”

“A little bit different – just different in every way,” he continued. “It’s kind of hard to put your finger on why it is different. I’ve obviously only come once a year until this year. But definitely it takes some adjusting, definitely takes some getting used to. But it’s a good team we are playing. They play well at their home field just like we do. When you’re on the road here, you know that you’re in for a tough game and you’ve got to find alternate ways to just win.”

Mantra for the moment for the Blue Jays.

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Bedard, Fantilli headline Canada’s selection camp roster for 2023 World Juniors – Sportsnet.ca

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Recap: Brazil vs South Korea – World Cup 2022 – Al Jazeera English

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Neymar has returned from injury to help Brazil thump South Korea 4-1, setting up a World Cup quarter-final clash against Croatia.

Four unanswered Brazilian goals in the first half at Stadium 974 on Monday set an imperious tone for a team with their sights firmly on a sixth World Cup title.

And while the game settled in the second period, it was never sluggish or scrappy, and a spirited South Korea fought hard to score a consolation goal in the 76th minute.

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It took just seven minutes for Brazil to get off the mark, with Raphinha picking up the ball just outside the box and rushing in on the right side, sending in a pass to Neymar. The Paris Saint-Germain number 10 was brought down by his marker and the ball ended up at the feet of Vinicius Jr, in acres of space.

The Real Madrid star steadied himself before placing it to the right of Kim Seung-gyu in the South Korean goal.

Brazil celebrating their third goal, with goalscorer Richarlison in the centre [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]

Just three minutes later, Richarlison was brought down by Jung Woo-young inside the box, and the referee pointed to the spot. Neymar, who had reportedly flown his barber out to Qatar to dye his hair blonde following previous victories over South Korea with bleached hair, wasted no time in slotting it into the bottom-right of the net. Brazil was up two-nil with less than 15 minutes on the clock.

South Korea had their share of chances, with Hwang Hee-chan, fresh off scoring the winner against Portugal, having a go from a distance but sending the ball comfortably over the bar. Moments later, Allison was forced to make a diving save to his left, his first save of the tournament.

But Paolo Bento’s men were simply outclassed in every part of the pitch.

A remarkable piece of skill in the 26th minute saw Richarlison juggling the ball, heading it to himself three times while evading defenders on the edge of the South Korean box. He then passed the ball before running through on goal to receive the return, firing the ball in for Brazil’s third.

Just 10 minutes later, Vinicius Jr set up Lucas Paqueta with a cheeky chip, and the midfielder shot low and right. Kim Seung-gyu could do little but look at the ball nestling in the back of the net.

With four goals before half-time, Brazil was putting down a marker for any teams who think they might have a chance of lifting the trophy on December 18.

Son Heung-min nearly clawed one back for South Korea straight after the restart, but Alisson — who must, through this game alone, be in contention for the Golden Glove — got enough of his arm onto the shot to tip it wide.

Faced with the intensity of Brazil’s onslaught, South Korea tried to slow the game, but more chances for Raphinha and Vinicius Jr followed despite the best efforts of the men in red.

Then came the 77th minute, and out of nowhere, Paik Seung-ho scored from outside the box. A free kick for South Korea was bundled clear by the Brazilian defence, falling to Paik, who belted it past Alisson’s dive to find the top-right corner. Finally, the South Korean fans had something to cheer about.

South Korea continued to work hard in defence and create chances in attack, but that goal was to be their only score, and they head home having been soundly beaten by one of the best teams in the world.

Brazil will face Croatia in the quarter-finals at Education City on Friday.

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Christine Sinclair, Diana Matheson reveal pro Canadian women's soccer league set for kickoff in 2025 – CBC Sports

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Professional women’s soccer is coming to Canada.

Christine Sinclair and former national teammate Diana Matheson announced on Monday plans to kick off a domestic professional women’s league in 2025, featuring eight teams throughout Canada.

The two players sat down with The National‘s Adrienne Arsenault to reveal the news.

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After the duo helped Canada capture bronze at the 2012 Olympics — Matheson scored the medal-clinching goal — Sinclair expected progress. After all, the team had just snapped Canada’s 108-year podium drought in the sport.

“I really thought that 2012 was going to be a turning point for this country in bringing professional soccer home,” Sinclair told Arsenault. “But it never happened. And there’s still no pathways within this country.”

And so, a decade later, Sinclair and Matheson took matters into their own hands.

The still unnamed league would begin in April 2025 with an inaugural champion crowned sometime in the fall. Each team will have at least one Canadian international, and the goal is to bring home about half of the over-100 Canadians currently playing abroad.

WATCH | CBC Sports’ Signa Butler examines absence of top domestic women’s league:

Canada’s greatest athletes still without a domestic league of their own

2 months ago

Duration 2:53

Host Signa Butler explains the landscape of women’s sports leagues in Canada, as some of the country’s best athletes are without a league in their own backyard.

Vancouver Whitecaps FC and Calgary Foothills Soccer Club are confirmed as the first two teams to join the upstart league.

“Whitecaps FC are thrilled to be one of the first teams to sign on to a professional women’s soccer league in Canada,” said Stephanie Labbe, Whitecaps FC general manager of women’s soccer. “The creation of this league is something we have been advocating for over many years, and to be part of seeing it come to fruition is truly exciting.”

The league is being built by Matheson and her business partners at Project 8 Sports Inc. Sinclair, soccer’s all-time international scoring leader, is on board as an official advisor.

“The whole idea behind this is to aim high. And like, if you’re not, what’s the point?” Sinclair said.

“So let’s go out from the get-go and compete with the best leagues in the world and bring in the top talent. And yeah, have 10 year olds watching a game that 10 years later is on the Whitecaps, for instance. That would be my dream.”

Matheson, who retired from playing in July 2021, has visions of the league pushing the entire Canadian women’s sports infrastructure forward.

“It’s health and wellness. It’s confidence. It’s tied with better academics. There’s a huge tie between women in sport and women in business,” Matheson said. “And this is about soccer, but it’s about the coaches, it’s about the referees, it’s about women in executive roles in sport.”

Part of that women’s sports fabric comes down to marketing like jersey sales. Sinclair said she can’t even get her hands on her own jersey to gift to her niece.

“I don’t know if they exist,” Sinclair said.

Pursuing diversity

Matheson, 38, said she’s been working on obtaining her Master of Business Administration, as well as partaking in UEFA programming. She’s hoping the league becomes a Canada Soccer member by 2023, with full sanctioning by 2024

Sinclair, left, and Matheson, right, at the 2012 Olympics. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)

She said Air Canada and CIBC are already on board as sponsors, and that it’s especially important to have the right team owners involved in the league.

“One of the things is having more diversity to begin with — more women, diverse voices to begin with, more players voices to begin with. And that’s top to bottom. I want women owners, women in the executive, women’s player voices as part of this,” Matheson said.

The Oakville, Ont., native made the case that the buy-in, which is expected to be between $8-10 million, is a worthwhile investment, noting that National Women’s Soccer League clubs, which were bought for $150,000 US 10 years ago, are now valued at a minimum of $35 million US. The Orlando NWSL franchise was purchased in 2021 for about $400 million US.

Matheson said her league can compete with average player salaries across the world right now.

“We just have way more opportunities to monetize our own brand. Players can do appearances, they can work with companies, they can run camps in a way that they just can’t when they’re playing in Italy and England,” she said.

Another point of importance for Matheson and Sinclair is ensuring players in their league are protected. Reports of abuse in the NWSL last season resulted in the resignation of half of the league’s coaches.

Sinclair is captain of the Portland Thorns, whose CEO Merrit Paulson stepped down in October following reports of systemic emotional and verbal abuse, as well as sexual misconduct.

“[It’s] unfortunate just how women are treated and taken advantage of. That’s why we need women owners. We need female executives,” Sinclair said.

Added Matheson: “It’s training, it’s vetting, it’s independent reporting systems. And for us, that’s going to mean working with those groups that are really good at doing those things.”

Sinclair autographs a fan’s ball during a men’s World Cup watch party in Toronto in November. (Arlyn McAdorey/The Canadian Press)

Establishing pathways

At its crux, though, the league intends to establish pathways for young Canadian women to stay in soccer and work their way onto the national team — to foster future generations so that one day they could get their golden moment like Sinclair had in 2021 in Tokyo.

“It’s time to change the narrative and inspire the next group,” Matheson said. “I believe kids need to see it to believe that it’s possible to happen. And with the launch of this league, kids will be able to go into their own backyard and watch their heroes play and dream of one day representing their hometown professional club and maybe representing Canada.”

Sinclair said she was once one of those kids, watching the 1999 World Cup with a dream to be on that pitch herself one day.

23 years later, the Burnaby, B.C., native has accomplished nearly everything she could in her sport.

“We’ve inspired Canadians on the podium,” Sinclair said. “Now it’s time to actually make an impactful difference here in Canada.”

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