Wasteful Sporting Kansas City bombs out of MLS playoffs

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Sometimes it certainly is possible to set a tempo a little too high. Sporting Kansas City showed us how it can happen.

The Eastern Conference champions, definitely the better team Wednesday at Livestrong Sporting Park, gave the Houston Dynamo all the helter-skelter, hell-bent, high-pressure soccer the visitors could handle in the back half of their conference semifinal.

SKC had everything in the performance – except, that is, a little composure near goal.

They needed two in order to match Houston’s pair of goals from Sunday’s opener in the series. They got just one – but, oh, did they miss a bundle.

Kansas City won, 1-0, but fell to the Dynamo on total goal aggregate over the two-game series, 2-1.

Considering the amount of possession and the number of quality chances created (the home team out-shot Houston 20-3), it’s fair to say that SKC’s season is ending prematurely because of some terribly wasteful finishing.

It looked like one of those games from the earliest minutes. Let’s go through the list that will haunt SKC fans

  • In the early minutes, striker C.J. Sapong broke free just to the right of goal but shot directly at Houston goalkeeper Tally Hall from 18 yards.
  • Not long after, Kei Kamara arranged a nice little something for Graham Zusi from the right, but the U.S. international got under the ball and left his shot from about 12 yards well high.
  • A few minutes after that, Kamara was in the middle for a shot with lots of potential, but saw that one that blocked from about 14 yards.
  • On a quality, headed layoff from Kamara, Sapong failed to connect solidly from point blank range, just outside the six-yard box. The “shot” rolled harmlessly to Hall. (You’re going to keep seeing Sapong’s name on this list.)
  • Sapong got loose for a first-half stoppage time header off a sharp corner kick delivery from Zusi, but that effort went well wide. Zusi, by the way, was all over the place, doing his part and then some to help his team dominate possession and create some of these chances.
  • None of that, by the way, is even considering Kamara’s snapped header, down low toward the far post, on another of Zusi’s precision free kick deliveries. That one went wide, too. Kamara was called offside, but the point is all the same. It was more haphazard finishing.
  • In the second half, Sapong, on a cross from Myers, got over Houston center back Andrew Hainault but watched his header fly well high.
  • Peterson Joseph shook free and, with time and the ball on his favored right foot, went way wide from about 15 yards wide.
  • Sapong had a chance to redirect a Kamara shot but failed to push it toward goal from 12 yards in the 66th minute.
  • Shortly after that, Sapong squeezed in between Houston’s two center backs and Hall, but squandered another one, blowing his shot from 12 yards into the stands, high of goal.
  • Oriol Rosell had time to line up a long-range effort but sprayed his effort from 22 yards harmlessly wide to the left.
  • Finally, center back Matt Besler – in fairness, he isn’t paid to score goals – lifted his right leg high and twisted somewhat awkwardly to volley over goal from close range.

There were a couple of others that were crisply hit, but right toward Hall.

In fact, what you’ll see there, or more accurately will not see there, are a bunch of stretching, diving, heroic saves from Hall. Houston’s No. 1 had another solid match, getting off his line quickly and confidently to snatch the balls that needed snatching.

But SKC will rue all those chances to test the visiting goalkeeper, at very least.

Bayern Munich activates clause to make Coman permanent

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Bayern Munich has announced its decision to make Kingsley Coman’s loan from Juventus a permanent move.

Coman, 20, operates as a right wing and striker, and can also play on the left. He’s made 40 Bundesliga appearances with six goals and six assists over two seasons for Bayern.

[ PL PREVIEW: Manchester Derby ]

It’s a $24 million option, and will bind Coman to Bayern through the 2019-20 season.

From FCBayern.com:

“Kingsley Coman is a crucial player for the future of our team, so we’ve decided to exercise the option,” commented Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge: “Kingsley is a promising player with great potential. We’re convinced he’ll help us in the coming years.”

Coman, Renato Sanches, and Joshua Kimmich are all under the age of 22.

Mourinho has chance to make major statement in Manchester Derby

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The betting market says Man City is more than even money to beat Manchester United, and wagering on the latter to win Thursday’s derby match is a longer shot than the Red Devils finishing in the Top Four (an achievement to be sure).

The worth of those metrics is debatable, but allows a sincere thought: Given their thin depth and the road challenge, a win for Jose Mourinho would be as impressive as almost anything Manchester United has accomplished this season.

[ PL PREVIEW: Manchester Derby ]

Maybe that’s obvious to many of us, but a twirl through the spheres of United supporter social media shows something different. Many Red Devils are confident of their teams’ fortunes in Thursday’s Manchester Derby, with one even predicting a 3-1 win in a comment on the NBC Sports Soccer Facebook page.

That could be an outlier, sure, but shows the demands Manchester United supporters place on their big spending club. United won’t have Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, two of the best players in the world, and it’s not as if the club has had time to adjust to their absences. No one has played more minutes for United than Pogba and Ibrahimovic this season.

United is also without Chris Smalling, Marcos Rojo, and Phil Jones at the heart of their defense as it attempts to shut down Sergio Aguero and/or Gabriel JesusDavid Silva is a doubt for City, who also may not have John Stones, but Guardiola has options.

How Mourinho attacks — or doesn’t attack — City, and how Guardiola sets up his XI, will be interesting leading into the match, because parking the bus lacks its usual luster given the center back carnage. Will Mourinho trot out Michael Carrick and Ander Herrera in a bid to clog the midfield? Will he run Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford as a strike pair?

The answers to these questions and the unlikely event of a United road win may end up shining all over Thursday. And while that win would wind up being overshadowed by United’s finish on the Premier League table and UEFA Europa League, there’s little doubt it would stake a serious claim for Mourinho’s time at United being on the rise.

Henry, Aguero discuss playing up top under Pep

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One great striker got another one to open up on an up-and-down year at Manchester City.

Thierry Henry — one of the greatest of all-time, it must be said — sat down with Sergio Aguero ahead of Thursday’s Manchester Derby at the Etihad Stadium, and asked the Argentine about Pep Guardiola, Gabriel Jesus, and more.

[ PL PREVIEW: Manchester Derby ]

At times, it’s a fascinating discussion on playing lone striker. Even apart from the obligatory questions regarding Jesus’ arrival at City, Henry and Aguero speak their craft in a manner you don’t see too often.

That’s helped by the fact that Henry played for Guardiola at Barcelona, and can relate to the positional demands of Man City’s boss. Consider this exchange, from Sky Sports:

HENRY: When I was at Arsenal, I played up front and if I wanted to drift out to the left, I could. But when I got to Barca, I had to stay out wide and press. Sometimes doing that can be hard.

AGUERO: The thing I’ve found the hardest has been getting into my head the fact that I have to press the centre-back and the goalkeeper in matches. That’s what Pep asks me to do. It may not be a big deal, but in terms of processing it, the two of us speak a lot. He knows what I’m like.

I’ve been gradually learning and adapting to that style of pressing over the last few months. The first thing he taught me was how to press and how to do it well. Obviously there are times when I might drift out of position or I might press in an area where I’m not supposed to be, which might make it hard for the wingers or midfielders.

In the game itself, I may not realise because I’m so immersed and you can’t stop yourself. I’ve learnt a lot from him in terms of zones. He asks me to play as a No 9 and to stay in that position. I often drift out wide during matches and he looks at me and says, “If there’s a player out wide who wants to cross it in, who’s in there? Nobody.”

HENRY: I know all about that, believe you me.

I love this, because it shows how difficult it is for an elite striker to adapt his mentality. Both Henry and Aguero found world-celebrated success by playing in a certain fashion, and Guardiola understood that and still demanded a change. Earlier this season, the manager somewhat famously spoke of improving Aguero.

Aguero has been linked with Real Madrid given the tumult at City.

PHOTO: Liverpool unveils 125th anniversary kit for next season

Liverpoolfc.com
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Liverpool rolled out its 125th anniversary kit, featuring a special crest to celebrate the occasion.

The Liver bird has 1892 on one side and 2017 on the other, with “125 YEARS” spelled out underneath the club’s emblem.

[ PL PREVIEW: Manchester Derby ]

The red shirt with a gold crest has a white V-neck and white at the ends of the sleeves. The goalkeeper kit is green.

The jersey will be available on May 19, and was announced last month.

liverpoolfc.com