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.
WOLFSBURG, Germany (AP) — Midfielder Serge Gnabry scored twice as Werder Bremen moved away from the Bundesliga’s relegation zone with a 2-1 win at fellow struggler Wolfsburg on Friday.
Bremen and Wolfsburg are level on points and two above Hamburger SV, which is in 18th place and in the relegation zone.
It was a fifth defeat in six games for Wolfsburg coach Valerien Ismael, who won the league and cup double as a player with Bremen in 2004.
Gnabry fired the visitors ahead with a deflected shot in the 10th minute and made it 2-0 eight minutes later, controlling the ball with his chest before prodding home on the volley.
Striker Borja Mayoral, who is on loan from Real Madrid, scored with his chest following a Wolfsburg corner as Wolfsburg hit back moments later.
Midfielder Daniel Didavi struck the post with a free kick as Wolfsburg kept pushing for an equalizer.
Two top candidates to replace Claudio Ranieri at Leicester City have reportedly turned down any interest in the job.
Roberto Mancini, the heavy favorite out of the gates after Ranieri’s dismissal, tweeted his support for Ranieri after the news broke. “I am sorry for my friend Ranieri,” Mancini said. “He will be in the history of LCFC, in the hearts of Leicester fans and all football lovers.”
However, the fellow Italian has rebuffed Leicester’s informal advances towards his services. According to Sky Sports, Leicester sent “intermediaries” to “sound out” Mancini’s feelings towards the position, but came back empty-handed. The report states Mancini was turned off to the club after a short and unsuccessful spell there as a player in 2001.
That leaves a host of other names who have been linked to the job, with no clear favorite. One person mentioned was Dutch legend Frank de Boer, who is unemployed after an unusually short stint in charge of Inter Milan. However, De Boer’s agent went public to say he was not ever in the running.
“There is zero possibility that Frank could go to Leicester,” agent Guido Albers told Italian publication Tuttomercatoweb. “I too heard these rumors, but that’s all they are – rumors. I can affirm without doubt that Frank will not become the Leicester City manager. This will 100 per cent not happen.”
Albers explained that De Boer is only interested in joining a club in the offseason, preferring to enter a project with a blank slate rather than joining midseason with particular goals already clearly laid out. With Leicester, it seems De Boer is turned off by the notion of a relegation battle.
All it took was one mistake. Real Sociedad’s Xabi Prieto capitalized, and has La Real once again on the verge of next year’s Champions League.
La Real finished 7th in 2013/14, and 9th in 2015/16, and this year, they’re closer than ever. Preito’s goal on the mistake by Las Palmas goalkeeper Javi Varas gave Real Sociedad the 1-0 road win and has them just a point off a Champions League place.
[ MORE: Antonio Conte pulling from experience to keep Chelsea on top ]
That could be even closer next week, as fourth-placed Atletico Madrid has to welcome Barcelona to the Calderon tomorrow, leaving the door open for La Real to make another move next weekend.
The goal down the stretch is not just to win the games they should, but make the teams above them work. La Real has won seven of their last ten matches, but the three losses came to Real Madrid, Villareal, and Sevilla, all teams fighting at the top of the table. They still have chances down the stretch, with matches against Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Sevilla, and Eibar coming up, with the latter on the docket next weekend.
Antonio Conte has recalled some painful memories to push himself and his players forward despite their commanding lead at the top of the Premier League table.
Chelsea sits eight points clear of Manchester City, and has the chance to go even further in front with many of the top teams off this weekend, but that won’t give the Italian any better sleep at night.
In the 1999/2000 season, Conte was nearing the end of his 13-year Juventus tenure. He’d won three league titles already, plus two league cup trophies and a Champions League title with the Serie A giants. With a comfortable nine point lead after 26 matches, the club became complacent. They would lose four of their final eight matches, collapsing on the final day in the pouring rain, allowing Lazio to come roaring back to win the title.
[ MORE: JPW’s Premier League picks for Week 26 ]
“I was captain of the team,” Conte said. “I remember after this game I must go to the European Championships with the national team. I didn’t sleep for six days because it was a shock for me to lose the title.”
Clearly, that still haunts him. “I have experienced this,” Conte continued. “When I continue to repeat that there are 13 games, there are 39 points… there is a long time before we can say we won the title. We must be focused, we must go step by step.”
The Blues host Swansea City at Stamford Bridge on Saturday before a trip to West Ham next weekend. If anyone believes the Chelsea players are complacent holding such a significant lead with 13 matches to go, it’s clear that’s not nearly the case. Anything can happen in three months.