Houston Dynamo’s Will Bruin says his team is prepared for D.C. United; But is it?

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I hear what young Houston Dynamo scoring star Will Bruin is thinking when talks about the recent Sporting Kansas City return-leg match, how the similar circumstances have helped prepare his team for what lies ahead Sunday at RFK Stadium.

But, I’m not entirely sure he really wants to make this comparison.

In fact, we could ask if there’s really much of a comparison at all, other than the obvious, that Houston comes into enemy territory hoping to protect a two-goal lead over 90 minutes.

Here’s what Bruin said during Thursday’s national teleconference … then I will explain:

I think the Kansas City game prepared us well and now we know what to expect. They’re trying to get guys back from injury as soon as possible, so we expect everybody to come out and play and they’re going to be throwing numbers at us.”

Houston took a two-goal margin into its second leg conference semifinal last week at Sporting Kansas City – and survived. The thing is, Houston dealt only adequately with that everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach at Livestrong Sporting Park. In truth, if Sporting KC had registered anything north of “pitiful” on the finishing scale, the men in orange would be looking for things to do this weekend rather than preparing for a major match at RFK Stadium.

As this story points out, Kansas City did a lot right in the match, but suffered from the misfortune of a bad matchup. SKC directed 20 shots toward Houston goal and served 31 crosses, not including free kicks and corner kicks. Those crosses, the bedrock of SKC’s attack, were gobbled up like Christmas cookies by Dynamo center backs Bobby Boswell and Andrew Hainault. What they didn’t consume, big goalkeeper Tally Hall did.

But United’s attack will look absolutely nothing like that Sunday. They will play first through Branko Boskovic and through the driving runs of Chris Pontius, always looking to get behind the big Houston center  backs (as they did a couple of times in Sunday’s first leg, a 3-1 Houston win.) At some point, they are likely to play through Dwayne De Rosario, who seems set to get back on the field at some point of Sunday’s contest. (Kickoff: 4 p.m., NBC Sports Network)

Boswell and Hainault are well within their comfort zone anytime they can sit back and look for crosses. They are far, far less comfy-cozy when they need to draw a high line or when they get drawn out of the middle (as Boswell was on United’s goal in that previous contest.)

Knowing Dominic Kinnear, Houston will be prepared. I’m just not sure how much they can cite last week’s result at Kansas City as evidence.

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

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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.

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Jara’s goal lifts Pachuca to CONCACAF Champions League crown

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Hirving Lozano’s dipping shot rebounded into the path of Franco Jara, who scored the goal that won Pachuca its fifth CONCACAF Championship early Thursday morning.

The Argentine’s goal was the only one of the win over UANL Tigres, and gave Pachuca its first continental title since 2009-10. USMNT veteran Omar Gonzalez played for the winners, while Jose Torres started for Tigres.

[ PL PREVIEW: Manchester Derby ]

Major League Soccer teams were eliminated in the semifinals, with FC Dallas falling to Pachuca and Vancouver Whitecaps losing to Tigres.

Beginning with the 2017-18 tournament, qualified MLS and Liga MX teams will not enter the tournament until the Round of 16. The entire tournament will be held in the same calendar year.

USMNT: Brooks out with hip strain; World Cup qualifiers loom

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John Brooks is out of Hertha Berlin’s lineup “for the time being” after scans revealed a hip strain suffered in this weekend’s win over Wolfsburg.

That’s all Hertha has said, and that makes it hard to imagine whether American fans should be a little concerned or very concerned ahead of the USMNT’s World Cup qualifiers against Mexico, and Trinidad and Tobago in early June.

Brooks was unavailable for two weeks with an adductor strain in September, missing a month before returning to the starting lineup.

The U.S. center back pool isn’t teeming after Brooks and Geoff Cameron. Matt Besler, Tim Ream, Omar Gonzalez, and Walker Zimmerman were called up for the last World Cup qualifiers, and Gonzalez struggled but is a Bruce Arena favorite from their time in L.A.