Darren Mattocks 3

Who will score Vancouver’s goals tonight vs. L.A.?

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Something special needs to happen tonight at the Home Depot Center in order for Vancouver to find a way past Los Angeles.

It might be in a herculean effort along the back line (Jay DeMerit, we are looking at you). Or it could be in some crazy-special goal. Or two of them. Which begs the question, who could score such a massive goal?

To explore that, we have to walk back a bit and start with another question: “Which underwhelming choice does Vancouver coach Martin Rennie deploy at striker?” And that’s a loaded question.

These two teams positioned themselves at fairly opposite ends of the quality soccer continuum over the late summer and fall. (L.A.’s Galaxy to the good, the ‘Caps to the not-so-much.)

About the time the Whitecaps were tearing down a pretty good second-year MLS side – Vancouver was an MLS expansion outfit just last year, and was en route to have a surprisingly storng sophomore campaign – the Galaxy was getting its reigning champion act together.

So while Bruce Arena’s side was re-discovering its hunger and competitive drive, the Whitecaps were trading away good MLS men and hitching their wagon to a couple of high-priced Scottish headlines.

One is Kenny Miller. Now, we’ve been warned about the Scottish strikers who come adorned with such splashy numbers. They pad the stats with Celtics or Rangers in one of the least equitable leagues in the world, so the product tends to be something quite different once it flies out of Scottish airspace. But Vancouver didn’t get the notes, apparently.

None of this means Miller is a poor player, it just means that he was never Designated Player material. Or, if he was, he needs to get moving in showing us so.

So there’s one choice. The other is rookie Darren Mattocks, who seems to have tremendous upside – in addition to tremendous “ups,” as we saw in the gravity-defying goal earlier this year against Toronto, an effort best defined by this word: “Whoa!”

But, rookies being rookies, he’s about as consistent as a cell service in an elevator.

Personally I’d go with Mattocks. As I said, it will take something special tonight to manufacture the upset that would turn the playoffs on its head. The young Jamaican is far more likely to deliver. He had a couple of matches this year (although perhaps only a couple) that could be fairly stamped “You have to see this freakin’ guy!”

But since this is serious stuff, not something to be decided by hunches or tarot cards or whatever, we have good solid analysis like the kind provided by here by Benjamin Massey at the Eighty Six Forever blog.

Of course, if you are a Whitecaps fan, or if you are interested in seeing the Galaxy de-coupled from these MLS playoffs, the news is fairly unlovely.

Massey concludes that neither one is “all that.” Through smart statistical analysis of shots on target per game, he assesses that Mattocks owns the better numbers, but not by any significant margin.

But then comes the real gut punch, where he demonstrates some compelling evidence that the best options may have been traded away in the reach for Miller and fellow Scotsman Barry Robson.

By comparison, Eric Hassli averaged 0.70 shots on target per 90 until he was traded for ineffectiveness, offensive disappointment Sebastien Le Toux managed 0.66, and Camilo leads the team with 1.23. Chris Wondolowski, one of MLS’s premier shooters, has 1.75 shots on target per 90 minutes this season, and Thierry Henry has 1.61. Even merely decent forwards, players like Edson Buddle (0.81), David Estrada (0.88), and Andrew Wenger (1.01), leave Mattocks and Miller in the shade.

Brad Davis announces retirement at the end of the MLS season

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - MAY 27:  Brad Davis #14 of the United States in action against Azerbaijan during their match at Candlestick Park on May 27, 2014 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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The 15-year career of Brad Davis will come to an end at the end of the MLS season, Sporting Kansas City announced Sunday.

The 34-year-old has spent his entire career domestically, currently with Sporting KC for a season after spending ten years with the Houston Dynamo where he won two MLS Cups in 2006 and 2007. The club made it to the final again in 2011, but Davis missed it with an injury and the team fell to Los Angeles.

Davis also collected 17 caps with the U.S. National Team. He debuted in 2005 in a Gold Cup win over Cuba, but was a late bloomer with the national team, making 12 of his 17 appearances from 2013 or later. He earned his final cap for the Stars & Stripes in the 1-0 loss to Germany in the 2014 World Cup.

“I can’t believe that the last 15 years have gone by so fast and that this journey has come to an end,” Davis told the official Sporting KC website. “Along the way, I have met a lot of great people and have had the privilege to play alongside many great players. There are so many individuals that I look forward to thanking who have made me the person and the player I have become.”

The announcement came just hours before Sporting KC finishes its regular season against San Jose in front of the home fans at Sporting Park. With Kansas City teetering on the edge of the playoff picture, it’s likely they wanted to allow Davis the opportunity foir a sendoff should they fall short of extending the season.

Sporting sits in the final playoff spot on 44 points, level on points with Portland but above on goal difference by a single goal. The Timbers finish their regular season on the road at 9th-placed Vancouver.

VIDEO: Chelsea’s Pedro capitalizes on Manchester United error 30 seconds in

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 23: Pedro of Chelsea celebrates scoring his sides first goal during the Premier League match between Chelsea and Manchester United at Stamford Bridge on October 23, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
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Just 30 seconds into Jose Mourinho’s return, Manchester United trailed.

A long ball over the top from Marcos Alonso seemed ill-fated with three defenders surrounding Pedro, but Chris Smalling never collected himself and Pedro snuck through, snatching the ball and rounding David De Gea to put the Blues up almost immediately.

WATCH LIVE: Chelsea vs. Manchester United live on NBCSports.com

His goal is the fastest in the Premier League this season.

The game exploded open following the goal, with Manchester United looking for an equalizer almost straight away. Zlatan Ibrahimovic headed over and Marcus Rashford caused problems down the left inside the opening 10 minutes.

WATCH LIVE: Chelsea vs. Manchester United (Lineups & Live Stream)

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 02:  Jose Mourinho, Manager of Manchester United reacts during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Stoke City at Old Trafford on October 2, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
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Jose Mourinho returns to Stamford Bridge for the first time after being let go by Chelsea last season as the Blues host Manchester United live at 11am E.T. or live online at NBCSports.com.

The Special One returns to Stamford Bridge two places and two points back of the Blues, with Manchester United in seventh with 14 points. Paul Pogba retains his place in the starting lineup after bagging a pair of penalties in the midweek Europa League win. There is just one change for the Red Devils, with Ashley Young making way for Jesse Lingard on the wing.

WATCH LIVE: Chelsea vs. Manchester United live online at NBCSports.com

Henrikh Mkhtariyan misses out after a thigh injury, while Chris Smalling recovers after coming off against Fenerbahce with a slight injury.

For Chelsea, John Terry is still only fit enough for the bench as Gary Cahill and David Luiz in the middle of defense as they look to extend a streak of 10 games unbeaten for the Blues against Manchester United. Willian and Oscar are both on the bench to start after they each spent time away after family losses. Meanwhile, both Cesc Fabregas and Branislav Ivanovic miss out with injuries, the latter of which forces Conte to play a back three with Cesar Azpilicueta deputizing as a central defender, which will limit their width moving forward.

The visitors have struggled at Stamford Bridge, with just a single win there in Premier League play since 2002. This will be the first time these two managers face off, with the two matching up in Serie A play in 2009 but both were serving touchline bans that day.


Chelsea: Courtois; Azpilicueta, David Luiz, Cahill; Moses, Kante, Matic, Alonso; Pedro, Hazard, Costa.
Subs: Begovic, Oscar, Willian, Batshuyai, Terry, Chalobah, Aina.

Manchester United: De Gea; Valencia, Smalling, Bailly, Blind; Fellaini, Herrera; Rashford, Pogba, Lingard; Ibrahimovic.
Subs: Romero, Rojo, Mata, Martial, Carrick, Young, Darmian.

Manchester City 1-1 Southampton: John Stones error leaves City winless in five

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 23:  Nathan Redmond of Southampton scores the opening goal during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Southampton at Etihad Stadium on October 23, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
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Manchester City remains winless in its last five across all competitions after an error by John Stones at the back sent Nathan Redmond in on net, but Kelechi Iheanacho came on at halftime to salvage a point for the visitors.

Both teams were sloppy early on, with a number of poor wayward passes on either side. Nobody had an effort on goal in the opening 15 minutes, with the only chance coming on a cross from Kevin De Bruyne that flashed across the face of goal just out of Raheem Sterling‘s reach.

City slowly gained control of the match, with poor touches the only thing that let their possessional hold of the game down. Leroy Sane and De Bruyne looked dangerous on the flanks early on.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Unfortunately for the hosts, it would come undone due to a massive error at the back by John Stones. The young defender under-hit a poor back pass to goalkeeper Claudio Bravo, and Nathan Redmond pounced, touching it past a committed Bravo and into the back of the net.

City continued to push forward, and Stones thought he had immediate redemption, finding himself on the end of a beautiful set-piece delivery to tap the ball into the back of the net, but the assistant referee’s flag went up for offsides. Replays showed Stones was onside, but Sergio Aguero was not, and the Argentinian’s attempt to head the ball in the middle of the pack was illegal.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Pep Guardiola yanked De Bruyne at halftime in favor of a second striker in Kelechi Iheanacho. It did little out of the gates, as Southampton held much of the meaningful possession out of the break. Eventually, City worked their way back level, with Iheanacho the man to finish it. Fernandinho found Sane with a long ball to the left edge of the box who picked out Iheanacho, and the young Nigerian finished smartly past Fraser Forster on 55 minutes.

The game appeared to open up in the final 15 minutes. Southampton had a big chance to go back in front, but after substitute Sofiane Boufal found Charlie Austin all alone with space to shoot, the striker gunned his chance straight at Claudio Bravo. On the other end, Aguero charged forward but pulled himself into a tight angle and dragged his shot harmlessly across the net.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

The draw sends Manchester City to the top of the table on goal difference, but they are tied with two other clubs on points as the Premier League appears set for a fantastic title race. Southampton, meanwhile, stays in eighth with 13 points, moving just one behind Manchseter United with the Red Devils about to play.