Houston Dynamo v DC United - Eastern Conference Championship - Leg 2

The More Things Change: Houston Dynamo, One Year On

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LOS ANGELES — “I don’t want to talk too much about last year, because it was such a long time ago,” Houston Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear politely told reporters last night. With his team returning to Los Angeles for a second consecutive MLS Cup, the questions are obligatory:

What’s changed since the Dynamo lost to the Galaxy last year? Why is this time going to be different?

The difference in lineups — between Houston’s 2011 cup final team and the one that’s likely to start tomorrow at Home Depot Center — lays the case bare. Throughout the team that starts on Saturday, Houston looks stronger. Much stronger.

2011 Pos. 2012
Tally Hall G Tally Hall
Andre Hainault RB Kofie Sarkodie
Bobby Boswell RCB Bobby Boswell
Geoff Cameron LCB Jermaine Taylor
Jermaine Taylor LB Corey Ashe
Adam Moffat DM Adam Moffat
Danny Cruz RM Boniek Garcia
Luiz Carmago CM Ricardo Clark
Corey Ashe LM Brad Davis
Calen Carr SS Calen Carr
Brian Ching ST Will Bruin

Of the 11 players Kinnear’s likely to start tomorrow’s game, only four played the same position in last year’s final: Hall, Boswell, Moffat, and Carr. Taylor and Ashe started but were slightly out of position.

The changes leave Houston a much-improved team. Getting Brad Davis back into the team is huge, the team MVP forced to miss last year’s final with a calf injury. Having carried the team at various points in 2011, Davis’s absence in Carson was devestating.

On the opposite flank, Boniek Garcia (above) has quickly become the best right midfielder in the league. Sorry Mauro Rosales fans, durability matters. While your guy is among the best in the league regardless of position when healthy, Garcia isn’t far off. And his durability is incredible.

Will Bruin’s proven more dangerous up top, Ashe and Kofie Sardokie are legitimate fullbacks (as opposed to repurposed central defenders), while the re-acquisition of Ricardo Clark gives Houston a midfield that could potentially lock down LA’s. If you’re a Galaxy fan, how comfortable are you with David Beckham and Juninho against Clark and Moffat?

While the loss of Geoff Cameron seems huge on paper, it hasn’t be a problem. Taylor has had a very good season, while Boswell has stepped up after the departure of his central defense partner. The 29-year-old had one of the better seasons of his career.

Maybe that’s while Kinnear doesn’t want to talk about the past. True, nobody likes talking about near misses, but the real reason might be its lack of relevance. This year’s team is much more capable of pulling off an upset.

Wigan player races off for son’s birth after scoring 2 goals

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WIGAN, England (AP) It was better than a hat trick.

A player for English soccer team Wigan had a night to remember when he scored his second goal before dashing off the field and to the local hospital, where his girlfriend was in labor.

[ MORE: Chelsea advances to UCL Round of 16 after win over Qarabag ]

A picture of Ryan Colclough holding his new-born baby, Harley, while still in his soccer uniform was shared on social media by Wigan chairman David Sharpe.

Colclough said his father, sitting in the stands on Tuesday for Wigan’s 3-0 win over Doncaster in the second division, “gave me the action that the waters had broken,” but he didn’t want to come off until the ball was out of play.

“My head was a little bit battered, but I went and scored, looked at the manager and he said we’ll bring you off now,” Colclough said Wednesday of his 58th-minute goal, which he celebrated by pretending to rock a baby. “I came off and was straight down the tunnel, grabbed my keys and my phone, and went to hospital.”

Colclough had visited the midwife that day, and was told the baby was unlikely to arrive for “another couple of days.”

Lille suspends coach Marcelo Bielsa

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LILLE, France (AP) French club Lille has provisionally suspended coach Marcelo Bielsa following a string of poor results in the top tier.

[ MORE: Basel stuns Man United late to keep UCL hopes alive ]

The northern side said in a statement that Bielsa has been suspended “as part of a procedure started by the club.” Lille did not elaborate.

Bielsa joined Lille this season but has failed to make the club competitive again, with the team second to last after 13 matches.

The 2 Robbies podcast: PL sides in the UCL, Pulis sacking and more

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In today’s Euro Pod Edition, the Robbies breakdown the latest Champions League action. Man United lose at Basel, Chelsea cruise at Qarabag, Spurs impress against Dortmund, Man City continue to win, Liverpool surrender a 3-goal lead against Sevilla. Plus, the guys weigh in on the Oumar Niasse ban for diving and the Tony Pulis sacking.

Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.

All of the The 2 Robbies content can be accessed by clicking on this link:

[ Click here for The 2 Robbies archive ]

Listen to the latest pod by clicking play below.

Follow them on Twitter @The2Robbies

Europa League preview: Arsenal looks to wrap up Group H and more

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While several teams have already booked their place in the knockout phase, the Europa League reaches its penultimate round on Thursday with many big matches in hand.

[ MORE: Yannick Bolasie finally returns to Everton training ]

Of the two Premier League sides in the competition, only one will advance to the Round of 32, as Arsenal have all but assured themselves of the top spot in Group H. The Gunners can do so tomorrow with a win over Koln or a Red Star Belgrade defeat.

The other end of the spectrum features Everton, who has already been eliminated from reaching the next round after acquiring just one point in its first four matches.

European giants AC Milan can lock up a spot in the knockout phase on Thursday despite the club’s ongoing struggles in Serie A, while fellow Italian side Atalanta can move a step closer to the Round of 32 in Group E along with Lyon.

Here’s the full rundown of Thursday’s UEL matches.

Astana vs. Villareal — 11 a.m. ET
Konyaspor vs. Marseille — 1 p.m. ET
Rosenborg vs. Real Sociedad¬†— 1 p.m. ET
Lazio vs. Vitesse¬†— 1 p.m. ET
Viktoria Plzen vs. Steaua Bucuresti¬†— 1 p.m. ET
Lokomotiv vs. Copenhagen¬†— 1 p.m. ET
Zenit vs. Vardar¬†— 1 p.m. ET
Red Bull Salzburg vs. Vitoria¬†— 1 p.m. ET
Athletic Bilbao vs. Hertha Berlin¬†— 1 p.m. ET
BATE vs. Red Star Belgrade¬†— 1 p.m. ET
Ostersund vs. Zorya¬†— 1 p.m. ET
Koln vs. Arsenal¬†— 1 p.m. ET
Nice vs. Zulte Waregem — 1 p.m. ET
Lugano vs. Beer-Sheva¬†— 1 p.m. ET
Ludogorets vs. Istanbul¬†— 3:05 p.m. ET
Braga vs. Hoffenheim¬†— 3:05 p.m. ET
AEK vs. Rijeka¬†— 3:05 p.m. ET
AC Milan vs. Austria Wien¬†— 3:05 p.m. ET
Lyon vs. Apollon¬†— 3:05 p.m. ET
Maccabi Tel Aviv vs. Slavia Praha¬†— 3:05 p.m. ET
Sheriff vs. Zlin¬†— 3:05 p.m. ET
Partizan vs. Young Boys¬†— 3:05 p.m. ET
Skenderbeu vs. Dynamo Kyiv¬†— 3:05 p.m. ET
Everton vs. Atalanta — 3:05 p.m. ET