Calen Carr’s inclusion in Houston’s starting XI wasn’t a huge surprise, but it forced a moment’s pause. Carr was the more reliable choice, you might euphemistically say, but his inclusion also pushed Mac Kandji to the bench. Choosing to start without one of his few potential game-changers, head coach Dominic Kinnear selected a team better equipped to take advantage of the Chicago’s errors than create opportunities of their own.
No surprise, it proved the right approach. When Will Bruin put Houston ahead in the 12th minute, we were reminded that Kinnear’s not only been here before, he’s also very good at navigating the postseason, especially on the road. As the Sporting News’ Brian Straus reminded us, Houston’s won three road playoff games over the last two postseasons despite only five regular season wins away from home. If Kinnear was chosing to play conservatively against Chicago, there was probably a good reason for it.
When Bruin broke away from Jalil Anibaba on Brad Davis’s early corner, Kinnear’s plan paid off. Not only did his team have its early lead, but he’d taken very few risks to obtain it, and with Carr in the game, Kinnear was playing the 11 men best equipped to preserve the advantage.
When another Chicago error gifted Bruin a second moments after halftime, Houston had their winning goal. Chicago did mount a late charge – Alex scoring in the 83rd minute to halve Houston’s lead – but it was too late. The Dynamo had executed Kinnear’s plan to perfection. They played smart, waited for their chances, and extended their season by at least another week.
In that respect, it was a bad night for Sporting Kansas City as well as Chicago. Though the Fire are a talented team, they’re missing the element that’s made Houston so successful. Dominic Kinnear pushed the right buttons tonight, just as he did during last year’s run to the MLC Cup final. And he’s likely to keep pressing the right buttons against Kansas City.
- Liverpool leads all-time 22W-8D-10L
- Swans lost five-straight at Anfield
- Reds unbeaten in 7 PL matches
One of the Premier League’s top attacks hosts the division’s leakiest defense, as Liverpool may be licking its chops ahead of a visit from struggling Swansea City on Saturday (Watch live at 7:30 a.m. EDT on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).
Liverpool has drawn at Sunderland and Manchester United in its last two Premier League outings, and sits seven points back of leaders Chelsea.
Swansea City has allowed multiple goals in five of six PL matches since beating Sunderland 3-0 on Dec. 10. It’s no surprise that they’ve lost those five (the sixth being a 2-1 win at struggling Crystal Palace).
What they’re saying
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp on the match: “We’re really looking forward to this game. I don’t know when it happened but in England every game now is like a final. Swansea are trying to survive. I don’t know when the title run-in will start, maybe now and we’re in the race. I hope for a special atmosphere tomorrow.”
Swansea City back Federico Fernandez on Liverpool: “They are a team that is very strong going forward and that is shown by the number of goals they have scored. If you lose a little bit of focus against these teams then they have the players that will punish you every time. But it’s not only defending strongly when they are attacking, it is also how we keep hold of the ball and how we use it when in possession.”
Swansea boss Paul Clement has his hands full, and is grabbing reinforcements in the transfer window (Luciano Narsingh, Martin Olsson, Tom Carroll). That won’t be enough to handle what Liverpool will dish out Saturday, as the Reds break free with a 3-0 win.
West Ham has been linked with big name strikers since the summer, but the Irons’ big January transfer to date is a center back.
EURO champion and Southampton mainstay Jose Fonte is moving to London.
[ MORE: West Brom finally sells Berahino ]
Fonte, 33, makes an approximately $10 million move from the South Coast, where the Portuguese back will better Slaven Bilic‘s back line while forcing Southampton to find an answer alongside Virgil Van Dijk.
It’s been a strange trip to London for Fonte and Southampton, detailed by our own Joe Prince-Wright here. Fonte joined Saints during the 2009-10 season, and became a cult hero at St. Mary’s in helping the club move from League One to the Europa League in just over a half-decade.
Something won’t feel right about seeing Fonte in claret and blue, and Saints host West Ham on Feb. 4. Should be quite interesting.
What in the world is the transfer rumor mill going to do without Saido Berahino?
Linked with a move away from West Brom for the better part of two years, the English striker has been freed from the bad graces of Tony Pulis and has joined Stoke City on a five-and-a-half year deal.
[ MORE: Liverpool hires Steven Gerrard ]
Berahino, 23, was sold for $15 million, a fee that could rise as high as $19 million. West Brom has previously rejected bids from Spurs amongst others that reached as high as $31 million.
It’s a smart, calculated risk for Mark Hughes and Stoke, who have not been able to get over the mid-table hump and encroach on European competition. Berahino scored 14 PL goals in 2014-15, a figure that rose to 20 when including all competitions.
Now could this mean Bojan Krkic is indeed off to Middlesbrough? We’ll wait to see if it’s a domino move for the Potters, and also if we one day yearn for the dulcet tones of Pulis screaming, “Saido!”, again and again, on the West Brom touch line.
Sunderland boss David Moyes isn’t expressing the emotions of an optimistic man.
The former Everton, Manchester United, and Real Sociedad manager says his transfer budget is “limited with a big L” and that any names in the transfer market are not the players he’s allowed to pursue.
[ MORE: JPW’s Premier League picks ]
Sunderland has been linked with Phil Jagielka, Leonardo Ulloa, Robbie Brady, The Chronicle did report that free agent Joleon Lescott has been training with the team.
Even worse, Sunderland’s two most impactful players, Jermain Defoe and Patrick Van Aanholt, have been reported as targets for other PL sides and may prefer to leave the Northeast.
From The Chronicle:
“I’d be kidding you on if I said the players we are going to bring in in January are going to massively make a big difference because first of all, we probably couldn’t get that level of player and secondly, we probably wouldn’t have the finances to do that.
“To suggest that the player we bring in would be making a big difference, I think, wouldn’t be correct.”
Woof. That’s a tough pill for already beleaguered Sunderland supporters to swallow, and will only cause more unrest from a fan base that has been to know to leave a match early. Sunderland are far from dead in the water, but Swansea, Hull, and Palace are all making moves as it looks more and more like a four team race for 17th. Is Sunderland doomed?