Drilling down on: at D.C. United 3, Houston 2

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Man of the Match: You can’t go wrong with either Maicon Santos or Dwayne De Rosario. As you can tell by the bold face font, I went with the latter. While we like to think of D.C.’s midfield as a diamond – DeRo allowed to float as a (gulp) trequartista behind Ben Olsen’s striking tandem – De Rosario deserves credit for doing his part in both halves of the park. Playing in line with Nick DeLeon (on the left) and Danny Cruz for much of the night, DeRo helped Perry Kitchen make the middle of the field unusable for the isolated Luiz Camargo. He also chipped in with the second goal and was the driving force behind the winner (shedding would-be tacklers like Brandon Jacobs).

Packaged for takeaway:

  • I usually think of Houston (particularly a Brad Davis-less Houston) as a litmus test. They’re not going to beat you unless you let them, and you can beat them if you craft something (instead of waiting for a gift). On Saturday against D.C. United, we saw a little bit of both.
    • In attack, Houston took advantage of D.C. errors. Poor marking of Will Bruin gave the former Hoosier his first, while a giveaway by Perry Kitchen and some slick gloves (I can only assume) from Joe Willis gave Bruin his second equalizer.
    • In defense, Houston mimicked D.C. For that reason, they may look back on this match as one that got away. A lost aerial challenge (first goal), confusion on a cross (second), and jumping under a ball into the box (third) gave D.C. their scores.
  • For the second match in a row, we didn’t see the best from Geoff Cameron, though his partnership with Bobby Boswell continues to be intriguing. It’s not like it’s a new tandem, but to see Cameron given the freedom to get into midfield and break up attacks makes you wonder how effective the team will be as Cameron continues to grow into the position. (Let’s leave aside the idea that Houston plays with a midfielder who should otherwise be doing this.)
  • Another potentially fruitful partnership: Chris Pontius and Maicon Santos. The first goal was a great example. Pontius did the work to get onto Brandon McDonald’s long ball, leaving Santos with a a ton of space to attack Houston’s broken defense. Pontius’s work seems to afford Santos the freedom to use his strength and skill without having to do his own work to create room.
  • Perry Kitchen’s quickly becoming the key to D.C. United’s season, which is why it was so disappointing to see his giveaway. As essentially the first defender, he’s going to have to shield a defense that allowed 52 goals last year (something that may not be as easy if DeRo doesn’t maintain tonight’s positional discipline). If D.C.’s attack stays this potent, teams are going to adjust, and his ability to distribute from a deep-lying position will become more important.
  • It bares remembering that Kitchen is in his first full season in defensive midfield. It also bares remembering that last year would have served as a great internship.1

1 – The word I originally used was apprenticeship, but that word’s wrong.

Soccer world reacts to the Manchester attacks

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NBC News is reporting that at least 19 people have been killed and another 50 are injured following a possible suicide bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester.

Multiple senior U.S. intelligence officials who are monitoring British authorities told NBC News that preliminary reports indicate that a single explosion took place outside the arena on the southwest side opposite the train station. The explosion occurred as the concert ended, catching people as they exited.

Soccer clubs, players and personalities around the world are reacting to the horrible event.

Juventus purchases Cuadrado from Chelsea

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If you didn’t realize Juan Cuadrado still belonged to Chelsea, you’re forgiven.

The Colombian attacker will complete his second season at Juventus after the UEFA Champions League Final against Real Madrid, and won’t be headed back to Chelsea afterwards.

Juve has purchased Cuadrado, and the fee is $22 million, and Juve will pay it over three seasons. Cuadrado, 28, is now signed through 2020 with The Old Lady.

Cuadrado first went on loan to Juve in Aug. 2015, and has eight goals and 18 assists in 83 career appearances with the club.

Chelsea bought Cuadrado from Fiorentina for around $32 million in the January 2015 transfer window, but made just 14 appearances with the club.

Report: Jermain Defoe meeting with Bournemouth

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Sky Sports is reporting that Jermain Defoe may head back to the south of England following Sunderland’s relegation.

Defoe, 34, spent two seasons with Portsmouth between 2008-09, scoring 15 goals in 31 appearances.

[ MORE: ‘The Moment’ of each PL club’s season ]

The 56-times capped England striker had a clause in his Sunderland contract allowing him to leave the Stadium of Light were the Black Cats to be relegated, as they were this season. He’d have little interest in dropping into the Championship given his desire to stay a part of the England squad ahead of the 2018 World Cup.

Bournemouth’s strike corps includes Joshua King, who scored the most goals of any player not on a Top Seven side this season. King’s 16 goals were one more than Defoe’s 15, though the latter scored just one goal following a brace against Crystal Palace on Feb. 4.

Chelsea’s Conte wins pair of top managerial honors

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Antonio Conte took league and national honors from the League Managers Association on Monday night.

The Chelsea boss was named Premier League Manager of the Year and Manager of the Year after leading the Blues to the PL title and an FA Cup Final in his first year on the job.

Brighton and Hove Albion boss Chris Hughton nabbed another Championship boss of the year award after leading the Gulls to the Premier League. He also won the honor with Newcastle United in 2010.

The League One winner is Chris Wilder of Sheffield United. Wilder won the honor with Northampton Town last season.

In League Two, Paul Cook of Portsmouth was named the winner.