Toronto FC v Houston Dynamo

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


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.

College Soccer Update: Tragedy strikes USC Upstate with horrible car accident

USC Upstate
USC Upstate
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No interviews today. No star players and programs. Just mourning.

USC Upstate lost four students earlier this week, two of them men’s soccer players, in an early morning car accident this weekend. A fifth was injured when the car they were driving in ran off the road, hit a tree, and caught fire.

James Campbell and Mills Sproul are the soccer players who’ve left the pitch for the final time.

[ MORE: College soccer news ]

USC Upstate’s athletic department held a candelight vigil on Monday, and honored both players with online memorials.

From Campbell’s, entitled “James Campbell Was an Intense Player Whose Competitiveness Made Those Around Him Play Harder”:

While Kyle Juell and James attended different high schools, they played club soccer together. “James was intense and passionate on the field,” Juell said. “He was the kind of aggressive player you wanted as a teammate. He was fun and warm and full of life and he cared so much about his teammates.”

From Sproul’s, entitled “Mills Sproul Put the Needs of Others Before His Own and Was Accepting of All”:

Mills’ teammate Deon Rose said that Mills was like the brother he never had.

“The first time I met him, I knew that he was special,” Rose said. “Not because he asked me if we had beaches in Canada or how Canadians survived without Chick-fil-A, but because he had an unconditional love for everyone and everything.”

Our thoughts are with the USC Upstate team, and entire community. Rest in peace.

Three stars of the week

1. University of California Santa Barbara — The Gauchos leapt from “receiving votes” to No. 14 in the nation. The Gauchos have won five-straight, all in-state, by a combined score of 13-3.

2. Joey Piatczyc, West Virginia — The midfielder leads the nation in assists with 12, one coming in Tuesday’s upset of Penn State, a match in which he also scored his first of the year. The Mountaineers shocked PSU with a 3-0 home win in Morgantown.

3. Francis Atuahene and Colin McAtee, Michigan — The Ghanaian freshman is a lightning bolt, and keeps producing goals along with the redshirt senior McAtee, who hails from San Diego. The Wolverines beat Duquesne 3-0 on Tuesday.

Other notes

— Creighton dropped two of its 24 first place votes, one each to North Carolina and Stanford, but remains the No.1 men’s team in the nation.

— Wake Forest hasn’t allowed a goal in three matches, against quality competition in NC State, South Carolina and Boston College. There were stretches in the 2-0 win over South Carolina where they looked unbeatable.

— Speaking of the Demon Deacons, they’ll face dangerous UNC on Saturday in what will be a cracker.

— Also No. 1:Florida State (Women’s D-1), Gannon (Women’s D-2), Trinity of Texas (Women’s D-3), Pfeiffer (Men’s D-2), Franklin & Marshall (Men’s D-3).

Three things we learned from the USMNT’s loss to Costa Rica

Joel Campbell, Tim Howard
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There’s really not much to say about the United States’ loss to Costa Rica tonight.

Following a disappointing, disheartening, uninspired loss to Mexico, the USMNT traveled to Red Bull Arena and put in a disappointing, disheartening, uninspired performance against Costa Rica.

[ RECAP: USMNT 0-1 Costa Rica ]

With World Cup qualifying starting in November, there’s a lot to improve on in a short period of time. Here’s what we learned…


Michael Bradley is the captain of this team, and has been the United States’ best and most consistent field player. His importance to the side was evident tonight, as the midfield looked lost without their leader. Danny Williams got the start in place of Bradley and had himself a nightmare. Williams couldn’t hold possession in the middle of the field, and his giveaways put added pressure on the defense. Jermaine Jones wasn’t much better, as he was yanked at halftime and replaced by Mix Diskerud. With Jones and Kyle Beckerman both on the wrong side of 30, their international careers are coming to an end and won’t be in the equation for long moving forward. Danny Williams had his chance to prove his worth tonight, and failed miserably.

[ PLAYER RATINGS: Howard’s return highlights poor performances from USMNT ]


Despite earning his 34th cap for the USMNT tonight, Brek Shea has never really been given a prolonged run with the national team. Originally a high-flying winger, Shea has been used as both a midfielder and outside-back for Orlando City this year, and playing alongside Kaka has helped develop his skill-set. Shea is good from set pieces and has scored before from free kicks for the U.S., and with the way they are playing right now, those situations create their few opportunities on goal. While there is still room for improvement for Shea, he brings a bit of pace and creativity that the side lacks, and a run of games could give him the confidence to become an impact player.


Brad Guzan has what it takes to be a starting goalkeeper for a national side, but not when his competition is Tim Howard. Guzan isn’t to blame for any of the United States’ poor results over the summer or this fall, but simply put, Howard is better. Despite Guzan being five years younger than Howard (Tim is 36), goalkeepers can play deep into their 30’s at an elite level, and Howard looks to be one of those players. Throughout World Cup qualifying, Howard should get the nod as the number one choice, and it shouldn’t be debated.