Sporting Kansas City v Houston Dynamo - Eastern Conference Semifinals

MLS playoff preview: Houston Dynamo at Sporting KC

1 Comment

Wednesday’s game on the big field at Livestrong Sporting Park promises to look nothing like Sunday’s scrappy match on a smaller patch of beaten down grass in Houston.

It will surely still be physical, but a surface more conducive to a skillful game will mean a little more soccer, a little less scuffling for 50-50 balls and scrapping for second balls.

Either way, Sporting KC has its work cut out. Goalkeeper Tally Hall and the Dynamo back line have a two-goal cushion thanks to Sunday’s win in Texas, so a draw will do for a highly confident Dynamo team that knows its way around the MLS playoffs. In fact, even a one-goal loss would suffice.

Kickoff: 9 p.m. ET, Livestrong Sporting Park, MLS Live

Houston leads the total goals series, 2-0

On the Houston Dynamo

  • Houston is 5-1 in the playoffs over the last two years. Let that sink in.
  • Dominic Kinnear’s team was just 3-9-5 on the road this year, with a minus-12 goal difference. But … the Dynamo did go into Chicago last week and come out with well-managed win.
  • More critical in framing this one is Houston’s relative success at Livestrong Sporting Park. They haven’t lost in three appearances since a 3-0 loss last year in Houston’s frist trip to 18-month-old stadium. Houston stunned SKC in last year’s Eastern Conference final and managed two draws at Livestrong this year.
  • Hall was excellent in the September draw (1-1), making seven saves.
  • He’ll need to be on his game again, especially if Jermaine Taylor can’t play. Bobby Boswell’s central partner along the back line limped out of Sunday’s contest and remains questionable, although he did train Tuesday before the team left Houston. Canadian international Andrew Hainault will man the position if Taylor cannot.
  • Few central midfielders will cover as much ground over a match as Ricardo Clark, who sets up at the top of Houston’s midfield diamond, but drops reliably in alongside Adam Moffat as the opposition draws in closer to Houston goal.
  • Kinnear, on his team’s subdued celebration following Sunday’s win and the understanding that nothing has been accomplished just yet: “The music is not boucning off the wall in the locker room. These guys have been through this before. They know what’s happening. This series with Kansas City is 180 minutes and a lot can happen out there. … We can’t let down.”

(MORE: Analysis of Sunday’s match)

On Sporting Kansas City

  • Sporting Kansas City is the Eastern Conference champion and plenty of people within the league and close to it had circled K.C. as the site they suspected MLS Cup 2012 would land. That’s in some doubt now.
  • The home team Wednesday suddenly has a hole to fill. Defensive midfielder Julio Cesar suffered a quadriceps injury late in Sunday’s 2-0 loss. Ordinarily, it wouldn’t be a huge blow because Paulo Nagamura could fill in quite capably. Except that he’s hurt too. So…
  • SKC center backs Aurelien Collin and Matt Besler won more than their share of battles Sunday with Houston’s big stable of big forwards. (Although Collin picked a bad time to get stretched out of position, allowing himself to be turned en route to the Dynamo’s second goal).
  • Striker C.J. Sapong contributed some adequate hold-up work to the effort, and he made the Houston center backs work. But wingers Jacob Peterson and Kei Kamara need to be better Wednesday.
  • To win outright (without the extended period or penalty kicks) SKC will need to score three goals. How many times did they score more than two over a 34-game season? Just three times.
  • Graham Zusi led the league with 15 assists this year; Houston’s Brad Davis tied for fourth with 12.
  • Midfielder Roger Espinoza: “It’s going to be very tough, but it’s not impossible. I’ve seen it happen many, many times. I don’t think I’ve been on a team before that’s done that, but it’s happened before. This is what we play for – to make amazing things happen.”

(MORE: No excuses offered from Peter Vermes)

Bottom line:

It really is about the first goal Wednesday.

If Houston gets that one, Sporting Kansas City’s uphill climb goes from tough to something just this side of impossible.  But if Sporting KC can turn up with the opener, the Blue Hell of Livestrong Sporting Park will be about as loud and blue as you can possibly imagine – and it’s not hard to imagine a second goal dropping in short order as the energy, initiative and motivation soars.

Sporting Kansas City certainly has the ability to carve out a memorable night … but it’s hard to bet against a cushioned, Kinnear-coached team in this one.

STREAM: Chelsea vs. Burnley, Watford vs. Arsenal; every 10am ET game

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 21:  Eden Hazard of Chelsea is challenged by Michael Keane of Burnley during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Burnley at Stamford Bridge on February 21, 2015 in London, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Leave a comment

Six games are coming your way at 10 a.m. ET on Saturday with Chelsea hosting Burnley and Arsenal heading to Watford.

[ STREAM: Watch live online here

Crystal Palace welcome Bournemouth to Selhurst Park, while Southampton and Sunderland clash as they both aim to grab their first win of the new season. Reining champs Leicester City host Swansea City and Everton welcome Stoke City to Goodison Park at 10 a.m. ET as the PL action comes thick and fast.

[ STREAM: Watch “Goal Rush” ]

There is also a new feature during this 10 a.m. ET games as Premier League “Goal Rush” debuts this weekend. You can see every goal from all six games on NBCSports.com or via the app. All the details you need to stream that are above.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score

So, here is your one-stop streaming shop for every PL game kicking off at 10 a.m. ET.


Saturday, 10 a.m. ET kick offs

Chelsea vs. Burnley – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBCSN) –  [STREAM]

Watford vs. Arsenal – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

Southampton vs. Sunderland – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) –[STREAM]

Crystal Palace vs. Bournemouth – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) –[STREAM]

Everton vs. Stoke City – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

Leicester City vs. Swansea City – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

Arsene Wenger vehemently denies panic buying at Arsenal

PARIS, FRANCE - JUNE 25:  Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is seen in the stand prior to the UEFA EURO 2016 round of 16 match between Wales and Northern Ireland at Parc des Princes on June 25, 2016 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

With Arsenal about to spend close to $70 million on two new players in the final days of the window, Arsene Wenger has been accused by many of “panic buying” to help quell fan unrest.

Seriously, can this guy win?

[ MORE: Pulisic to Liverpool? ]

So often the subject of discontent for Arsenal not spending enough cash, now Wenger is being slatted for lining up deals for center back Shkodran Mustafi and striker Lucas Perez.

Speaking to the media ahead of Arsenal’s trip to Watford on Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET online via NBC Sports) Wenger smiled as he delivered this opening comment when asked if the imminent arrival of Mustafi and Lucas were a result of panic late in the transfer window.

“Look at my face. Is this the face of someone who tends to panic buy?” Wenger said. “No, it is the case that everybody is waiting to get the deals done. When a [foreign] club wants to sell to an English club today they ask for a huge amount of money. So it takes a long time to settle [on a price]. In the next two or three days everybody will find agreements.”

Wenger is right.

With the huge influx of cash across the PL, teams across Europe know the PL has a lot more money to spend this summer and the prices are going through the roof.

In fairness to Wenger, the deal for Mustafi has been rumbling on all summer long with Valencia driving a hard bargain and Arsenal finally agreeing to pay $46.2 million for the 24-year-old German international.

Perez seems  like more of a panic buy with the Deportivo La Coruna striker costing $22.5 million after scoring 17 times in La Liga last season. The 27-year-old Spaniard has had a nomadic career to date but with Everton interested in his services, Arsenal have jumped in at the last minute with concerns around the long-term fitness of Danny Welbeck and only Olivier Giroud around.

If these two deals do go through then Arsenal and Wenger will have spent the third-highest amount in the PL this summer behind Manchester City and Manchester United who have completely obliterated the transfer market.

Even if these are “panic buys” from Wenger, you can no longer accuse Arsenal of not spending money. Arsenal’s fans will have to find something else to moan about now as Wenger enters the final year of his contract.

Watch Live: Tottenham vs. Liverpool (Lineups, Live Stream)

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - APRIL 02: Jordan Henderson of Liverpool and Harry Kane of Tottenham Hotspur compete for the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur at Anfield on April 2, 2016 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Tottenham Hotspur host Liverpool at White Hart Lane on Saturday  (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBC Sports) as two teams with title aspirations collide in north London.

Mauricio Pochettino and Jurgen Klopp are two of the brightest minds in the game and both teams will press high to cause mistakes from the other. Expect a rambunctious and passionate encounter.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE HERE

Last season both games ended in draws — 0-0 at the Lane and 1-1 at Anfield — between these teams but heading into the international break, both will be going for broke to grab another three points.

In team news Tottenham bring back Dele Alli and drop Vincent Janssen to the bench.

Liverpool start with Matip in central defense and Milner at left back.

LINEUPS

Tottenham: Vorm; Walker, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Rose; Wanyama, Dier; Lamela, Alli, Eriksen; Kane. Subs: McGee, Son, Janssen, Onoma, Winks, Davies, Carter-Vickers

Liverpool: Mignolet; Clyne, Lovren, Matip, Milner; Henderson, Wijnaldum, Lallana; Mane, Firmino, Coutinho. Subs: Manninger, Sturridge, Grujic, Moreno, Leiva, Origi, Stewart

Netherlands coach Danny Blind leaves Depay off squad

AP Photo/Jon Super
Leave a comment

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) Manchester United winger Memphis Depay was left out of the Netherlands squad on Friday for a friendly against Greece followed by its first World Cup qualifier against Sweden.

Veteran strikers Klaas-Jan Huntelaar of Schalke and Robin Van Persie of Fenerbahce were also omitted from coach Danny Blind’s 24-man squad, while a debut was given to 21-year-old PSV Eindhoven midfielder Jorrit Hendrix.

Blind appeared to be opting for youth over experience in the qualification campaign for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, but that policy did not help 22-year-old Depay, who has struggled for form since moving from PSV Eindhoven to Old Trafford last year.

“It’s important for him to first focus fully on getting into the first team at Manchester United,” Blind said. “From there, he needs to play more and hopefully he will then put himself back in the picture.”

Tottenham’s new striker, Vincent Janssen, will look to continue his impressive international form – the former AZ Alkaar star has three goals in five matches since making his debut in March.

The Netherlands, which failed to qualify for the European Championship, takes on Greece on Thursday in Eindhoven, and plays its first Group A qualifier against Sweden in Solna on Sept. 6.

Netherlands:

Goalkeepers: Jasper Cillessen (Barcelona), Maarten Stekelenburg (Everton), Jeroen Zoet (PSV Eindhoven).

Defenders: Patrick Van Aanholt (Sunderland), Daley Blind (Manchester United), Jeffrey Bruma (Wolfsburg), Virgil Van Dijk (Southampton), Kenny Tete (Ajax), Joel Veltman (Ajax), Ron Vlaar (AZ Alkmaar), Jetro Willems (PSV).

Midfielders: Riechedly Bazoer (Ajax), Jorrit Hendrix (PSV), Davy Klaassen (Ajax), Davy Proepper (PSV), Wesley Sneijder (Galatasaray), Kevin Strootman (Roma), Georginio Wijnaldum (Liverpool).

Forwards: Steven Berghuis (Feyenoord), Bas Dost (Wolfsburg), Vincent Janssen (Tottenham Hotspur), Luuk De Jong (PSV), Luciano Narsingh(PSV), Quincy Promes (Spartak Moscow).