Soccer

USWNT Women's World Cup highlights: Watch Alyssa Naeher save penalty

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AP

USWNT Women's World Cup highlights: Watch Alyssa Naeher save penalty

There were big cleats to fill for some members of the United States Women's National Team on Tuesday. 

Christen Press drew into the starting lineup for the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup semifinal match against England after Megan Rapinoe, scorer of the USWNT's last four goals entering the match, sat on the sidelines with what she ultimately told reporters was a hamstring injury. The biggest cleats to fill were in goal, where Alyssa Naeher started her sixth straight match at the World Cup. Through each of those starts, the absence of predecessor Hope Solo has loomed. 

Or it did, until Naeher preserved the USWNT's 2-1 win by saving England captain Steph Houghton's penalty in the 84th minute Tuesday. 

The English were awarded the penalty after the referee initiated a VAR review. Replays indicated that USWNT central defender Becky Sauerbrunn clipped the leg of England striker Ellen White as she tried to shoot, and the referee eventually pointed to the penalty spot. 

Naeher, 31, has been the USWNT's No. 1 goalkeeper since Solo was kicked off the team after the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio. After Sweden eliminated the Americans in the quarterfinals of the tournament, Solo was suspended by U.S. Soccer and had her contract terminated after saying the Swedes "played like cowards." The outspoken Solo has not played since then, but this is the USWNT's first Olympics or World Cup without her on the roster since 2003. 

Solo is the most successful American keeper, and arguably the best to ever play the position. But neither that, nor the penalty itself, bothered Naeher much in the moment. 

"Nothing," Naeher said when FOX Sports' Karina Leblanc asked what was going through her mind when the referee pointed to the spot. "Honestly. I ... just took a few deep breaths, and tried to stay focused. Got a pep talk from Christen Press over here about six months ago, telling me I need to be more positive on penalty kicks, and just relax and let instincts take over. And I give her some credit for that one for sure, keeping me calm."

Naeher kept Press, who scored the Americans' first goal in the 10th minute, and the rest of her teammates calm all match. Her best save might have come in the 33rd minute when she tipped away Keira Walsh's speculative shot from long-range. 

The USWNT spent much of the final 45 minutes in their own half of the pitch, as coach Jill Ellis ultimately changed to a conservative 5-4-1 formation. The second half looked like a repeat of Friday's second half against France in the quarterfinals, but Naeher once again stood tall. 

Her teammates' reactions after the match just about summed it up.

[RELATED: Watch Alex Morgan sip tea after scoring goal vs. England]

Naeher will be needed once again in Sunday's final. Whether the Americans play Sweden or the Netherlands in Lyon for a chance to win their second consecutive World Cup, an early USWNT lead almost assuredly means a second-half formation switch from Ellis.

The conservative approach hasn't yet cost Ellis' squad, and she has Naeher to thank for that. 

Premier League set to restart play from coronavirus pause on June 17

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AP

Premier League set to restart play from coronavirus pause on June 17

The Premier League is set to restart.

On Thursday, shareholders gave "Project Restart" the green light for play to start back up June 17. According to ESPN's James Olley, there will be two games on June 17, with Manchester City facing Arsenal and Sheffield United hosting Aston Villa. That will bring all clubs to 29 matches played, with the remaining 90 games left on the slate to start up the following weekend.

The Premier League's goal is to have all league games finished by Aug. 1 with the FA Cup to be complete with the final to be played on Aug. 8. As for the remaining Champions League and Europa League games, those also are slated to be completed if the pandemic calms down to allow international travel.

According to Olley, a number of clubs asked for more time to ramp up training before the restart given contact training was just given the OK on Wednesday. But the desire for a sooner restart and pressure from UEFA to complete all domestic matches by August had the league settle on June 17.

[RELATED: What PL's positive coronavirus tests mean for league restart]

The Premier League has had 12 positive coronavirus tests through the first three rounds. When the league restarts, testing capacity will be increased to 50 to 60 tests per club. Anyone testing positive must self-isolate for seven days.

The league suspended play March 13. One hundred days will have passed by the time the league starts back up June 17.

Premier League approves contact training as Project Restart hits Phase 2

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AP

Premier League approves contact training as Project Restart hits Phase 2

The Premier League took another step toward its restart Wednesday, as all 20 clubs voted unanimously to allow contact training as the league enters Phase 2 of Project Restart.

"Premier League shareholders today voted unanimously to resume contact training -- marking another step towards restarting the Premier League season, when safe to do so," the league said in a statement. "Squads are now able to train as a group and engage in tackling while minimising any unnecessary close contact."

"The Premier League's priority is the health and wellbeing of all participants. Strict medical protocols are in place to ensure the training ground is the safest environment possible and players and staff will continue to be tested for COVID-19 twice a week.

"Stage Two of the Return to Training protocol has been agreed following consultation with clubs, players, managers, the PFA (Professional Footballers' Association), the LMA (League Managers' Association) and the Government. Discussions are ongoing as work continues towards resuming the season when conditions allow."

The shareholders will meet again Thursday to discuss issues related to the restart, including a start date, television schedules and more, according to ESPN"s James Olley. Sources told ESPN that the June 12 return date now is viewed as too soon for players to build up their conditioning and that June 19 or June 26 is more likely.

The Premier League now has had 12 positive coronavirus (COVID-19) tests after the third round of testing, the league announced Wednesday.

All players and staff will be tested twice a week as the training continues, and the league will have discussions on contingency plans on what to do should issues arise.

[RELATED: What PL's positive coronavirus tests mean for season restart]

Some players have decided not to return to their clubs due to the risk of contracting the virus, including Chelsea midfielder N'Golo Kante.

The UK government is supportive of the effort for the Premier League to restart its season in a safe way following the guidance of public health officials. Play has been suspended since March 13.