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Maple Leafs’ John Tavares on ‘sense of urgency’ to finalize restart format

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While the NHL’s 2019-20 campaign remains suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the league’s Return to Play Committee continues to push ahead on trying to figure out what exactly a potential return would look like, if one is eventually able to come about.

According to Calgary Flames GM Brad Treliving, per Sportsnet’s Eric Francis, news on a potential return-to-play format could come as soon as this week, as talks among the committee have picked up. On Monday, we highlighted four key issues that could soon be sorted out, in fact — the potential hub cities, the return-to-play format as a whole, the draft lottery and the 2020 NHL Draft itself.

In an interview with Sports Illustrated‘s Alex Prewitt published Monday, Toronto Maple Leafs captain John Tavares echoed the sentiment that the Return to Play Committee is pushing towards finalizing a restart format sooner rather than later.

Tavares told Prewitt there is a “great sense of urgency” among the Return to Play Committee — which includes Tavares, fellow star Connor McDavid, commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr, among others — to finalize what exactly the league’s potential return might look like. “Obviously when [exactly] that will be, we don’t know … But in terms of how to finish the season, and how to award the Stanley Cup, I think we want to get something figured out soon.”

The Maple Leafs pivot said providing some clarity on a potential format would be beneficial to all involved, granting time to adjust to the “new normal” that will need to be established.

“We’ve obviously gone a pretty significant amount of time in terms of following the stay-at-home protocols, social distancing, not being able to go to team facilities and train,” Tavares told Prewitt. “Mentally it’s challenging to not really know. We still have so many unknowns. We really can’t answer a lot of stuff. But if we’re able to at least understand what coming back will look like, if we’re able to come back, it can give a little bit of clarity so everyone can wrap their head and mentally prepare for what things may look and feel like.

“Because it’ll obviously be very different than what we’re used to on a daily basis. It’s going to be a new normal, if we’re going to be able to play, or when.”

As reported by Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, the 24-team structure appears to be the most-discussed option up to this point. Tavares confirmed as much, telling Prewitt it’s been “kicked around the most,” but that nothing has been officially decided yet.

However, the former New York Islander added that he’s not yet sold on the 24-team format.

“I’m not sure I’m completely 100 per cent sold on any format,” Tavares told Sports Illustrated. “But the biggest thing is honouring the regular season as best as we can while still giving each team that deserves the opportunity, or still has an opportunity to make the playoffs, to be a part of that.”

Aside from the overall structure of the league’s potential return, Tavares touched on more specific details in need of addressing, too, with the amount of contact involved in everyday NHL life sure to necessitate guidelines extending into all aspects of movement in and around the game.

“I’m sure when you come to the rink, the entrance you come in, how you interact, the normal things you do that you take for granted on a daily basis will be a lot different,” Tavares told Prewitt. “There’s a lot of talk about temperature checks, the possibilities of wearing masks … that’s all the stuff we’re discussing. What’s safe? What’s not? What makes sense? What doesn’t? Is this possible? Is this not? There’s so many different things to cover and it continues to evolve.”

There’s also the matter of players’ families and how they fit into the potential plan of having players relocate to hub cities for an extended period while the post-season is played out. The Maple Leafs captain called that aspect a “focal point” of any return-to-play plan.

“Obviously the family situation has been paramount. From the get-go, the league has continued to talk about understanding those concerns,” Tavares told Prewitt.

“A lot of the calls we’ve had have been very positive that way. That continues to be a focal point in terms of the things that have to check the boxes for us, and for the league as well.”

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Juan Brunetta has a goal and an assist to lead Liga MX All-Stars over MLS All-Stars 4-1

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Juan Brunetta and Maximiliano Meza scored a minute apart in the second half, and Mexico’s Liga MX All-Stars beat the Major League Soccer All-Stars 4-1 in the MLS All-Star Game on Wednesday night.

Brunetta (Tigres) scored in transition in the 68th minute to make it 3-1 and set up Meza (Monterrey) soon after in front of a record crowd of 20,931 at Lower.com Field.

It was the first MLS All-Star Game victory for Liga MX in three tries. The MLS All-Stars won in 2022 and won on penalty kicks after a 1-1 draw a year earlier.

“It was an incredible game,” Liga MX coach Andre Jardine said. “There were a lot of high-level players. It was a tight game. Both teams definitely came out to play. In the second half they came out with a lot of great names as well. I was a bit surprised. It was a bit difficult, especially in the first 15 minutes, but we had to adjust and ultimately it was a great game.”

There were plenty of big names on the field, but the absence of the brightest and biggest one took some luster out of the event. The league announced Monday that Inter Miami forward Lionel Messi was unable to play because of ligament damage in his right ankle.

The 2022 World Cup champion was injured while playing for Argentina in its victory over Colombia in the Copa America final on July 14.

Fans cheered when Columbus forwards combined to tie the match 1-all in the 17th minute, about a minute after Germán Berterame (Monterrey) scored for Mexico on a header.

From the left flank, Diego Rossi found Crew teammate Cucho Hernandez racing unmarked down the middle of the box for the equalizer.

“Unbelievable for me to score in front of my home fans,” Hernandez said.

Oussama Idrissi (Pachuca) made it 2-1 in the 41st with a strike from the top of the penalty area.

MLS had two chances to tie it in the 63rd when Riqui Puig (Los Angeles Galaxy) hit the crossbar and on the follow, Luca Orellano (Cincinnati) was denied on a goal-line clearance by Unai Bilbao (Tijuana).

Minutes later, Liga MX put the game out of reach.

MLS recognized the revival of the Columbus market by awarding it the All-Star Game. The Crew, a 1996 charter member, were threatened in the fall of 2017 with relocation to Austin, Texas, by then-owner Anthony Precourt.

A grassroots movement called Save the Crew drew international attention and helped persuade Cleveland Browns owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam to buy the team and keep it in Columbus.

The Crew won the MLS Cup in 2020 and 2023, reached the final of the 2024 CONCACAF Champions Cup and opened Lower.com Field in 2021, where there have been 28 straight sellouts for MLS matches.

“It shows everyone the courage of the owner,” Crew and MLS All-Stars coach Wilfried Nancy said. “Listen, this is a representation of what Columbus is and the passion for the soccer.”

The All-Star squad had five Crew players. Hernandez and Rossi were joined by midfielder Darlington Nagbe and defenders Rudy Camacho and Steven Moreira.

UP NEXT

MLS and Liga MX continue the rivalry with the start of the Leagues Cup on Friday All 47 teams will compete in a World Cup-style format, with the championship match on Aug. 25. There will be 77 matches in the United States and Canada. Inter Miami is the defending Leagues Cup champion.

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AP soccer:

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.

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Chelsea salvages 2-2 tie with Wrexham in friendly at Levi’s Stadium

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SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Lesley Ugochukwu scored in the 82nd minute to help Chelsea salvage a 2-2 tie with Wrexham in a friendly match Wednesday night at Levi’s Stadium.

Ugochukwu rolled a shot from the middle of the box through traffic into the right corner.

Wrexham took a 2-1 lead when Jack Marriot scored on a counterattack in the 72nd minute.

Luke Bolton also scored for Wrexham, the Welsh team co-owned by Canadian actor Ryan Reynolds that was promoted this year to the third tier of English soccer.

Christopher Nkunku scored first for Chelsea in the perennial Premier League power’s first pre-season match and its first under manager, Enzo Maresca, the former Leicester City manager.

Nkunku fired a shot from the middle of the box into the left corner of the net past goalie Arthur Okonkwo in the 35th minute off an assist from Marc Guiu after a corner kick.

Wrexham tied it in the 58th minute when Bolton scored from the right wing off an assist from Sebastian Revan, who connected with Bolton on a crossing pass.

Chelsea goalkeeper Robert Sanchez blocked a breakaway shot from James McLean in the 29th minute.

Chelsea beat Wrexham 5-0 in a friendly last season.

UP NEXT

Wrexham: Visits the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday.

Chelsea: Plays the Celtic on Saturday at Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind.

AP soccer:

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.

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Preseason Opener: Enzo Maresca’s Chelsea Takes on Wrexham

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Welcome to the first match of the summer, the first preseason game, and the first chance to see Enzo Maresca’s Chelsea in action. While the main focus today is on fitness, this game will undoubtedly spark analysis and excitement among fans.

Football, sort of, is back! Let’s see how the teams line up for this highly anticipated friendly.

Chelsea Starting XI:

  • Sánchez
  • James (c)
  • Tosin
  • Badiashile
  • Colwill
  • Lavia
  • Chukwuemeka
  • Nkunku
  • Madueke
  • Guiu
  • George

Substitutes:

  • Beach
  • Bergström
  • W. Fofana
  • Veiga
  • Acheampong
  • Gusto
  • Chilwell
  • Santos
  • Ugochukwu
  • Sterling
  • Ângelo
  • Broja

Wrexham Starting XI:

  • Okonkwo
  • Cleworth
  • Brunt
  • O’Connor
  • Bolton
  • Jones
  • Dobson
  • Lee
  • Revan
  • Palmer
  • McClean (c)

Substitutes:

  • Howard
  • Burton
  • Boyle
  • Barnett
  • James
  • Forde
  • Evans
  • Ashfield
  • Cannon
  • Davies
  • Bickerstaff
  • Waters
  • Dalby
  • Marriott

Match Details:

  • Date / Time: Wednesday, July 24, 7pm PDT; 3am BST (next day); 7:30am IST (next day)
  • Venue: Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, CA, USA
  • On TV: ESPN (USA); none (UK); elsewhere
  • Streaming: ESPN+ (USA); Chelsea TV (int’l pay-per-view)

Both teams will be eager to test their tactics and players ahead of the upcoming season. Chelsea fans are particularly excited to see how new manager Enzo Maresca will shape the team, while Wrexham supporters are keen to see their team perform against top-tier opposition.

Let’s see how the starting formation and tactics unfold as we get a first glimpse of what’s to come this season. Stay tuned for an exciting game!ea

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