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.

West Ham loses ex-Hammer of the Year Cresswell for four months

FBL-ENG-PR-WEST HAM-NEWCASTLE
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Aaron Cresswell was one of the stalwarts of the last two Premier League campaigns, a good crosser capable of lung-busting runs and the occasional brilliant shot.

So it’s a significant blow for West Ham United to be without him for the next four months.

[ MORE: Does Pogba match his fee? ]

Cresswell has played in 75 of the Hammers’ 76 PL matches since arriving from Ipswich Town in 2014, and was injured in a 50/50 play against Karlsruher SC this weekend.

He may not need surgery to repair the knee ligaments, but is out nonetheless.

From WHUFC.com:

Head of Medical and Sports Science Stijn Vandenbroucke explained that Cresswell had undergone a scan and will consult a specialist in central London early next week. The medical team will then take a decision whether or not the defender requires surgery.

“Whatever course of action we decide to take, Aaron faces a period of rest, followed by treatment and rehabilitation and he will be out for a period of between three and four months,” said Vandenbroucke.

Left back isn’t a position of strength for most teams, and West Ham doesn’t look to be an exception.
Vandenbroucke also issued an update on Manuel Lanzini, saying the club won’t know his status until the attacker returns from Argentina duty. Lanzini was injured with Argentina’s Olympic team while preparing for the Games in Rio.

 

Borchers ruptures achilles tendon, leaving Timbers without best back

CARSON, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 10:  Nat Borchers #7 of Portland Timbers passes the ball against the Los Angeles Galaxy during the first half of their MLS match at StubHub Center on April 10, 2016 in Carson, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
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FOX analyst Stu Holden said it right after it happened, and it’s true: Nat Borchers has torn his achilles tendon and is out for the season.

The Portland Timbers back with the big burly beard was injured late in the first half, and had to be stretchered off the pitch. Amobi Okugo took his place for the rest of the match, which finished 2-1 to the Galaxy.

[ MORE: Does Pogba match his fee? ]

It’s a big blow for the Timbers, whose regular season struggles are an annual occurrence. The 2015 MLS Champions are currently in the West’s seventh position, and Borchers has been one of their best players in each of the last two seasons.

Borchers is 35, and in his second season with the Oregon set after 211 appearances for Real Salt Lake.

The achilles is a brutal injury to return from at any age. Whenever, he’s done Borchers will exit MLS in the select company of winning an MLS Cup for at least two different teams in separate decades (2009-RSL, 2015-PDX).

Aubameyang admits there’s one club that could move him: Real Madrid

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 26:  Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of Borussia Dortmund is tackled by Kieran Gibbs of Arsenal during the UEFA Champions League Group D match between Arsenal and Borussia Dortmund at the Emirates Stadium on November 26, 2014 in London, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)
Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images
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Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is among the best strikers in the world, and somehow doesn’t get as much praise as his peers.

If he ever gets his dream transfer, that would certainly change.

[ MORE: Does Pogba match his fee? ]

Aubameyang, 27, is contracted to Borussia Dortmund until 2020, but admitted there’s a club that could make him antsy.

The reigning African Player of the Year — he of the 39 goals in 46 matches last season — is loving his time at Borussia Dortmund. That said, Real Madrid.

From EUROSport:

“The only club to leave Borussia Dortmund for is Real Madrid. But not now.

“Sometime I want to play for Real Madrid, which is one of my big goals in my career. But at the moment everything is great.”

Aubameyang could approach otherworldly numbers next season — we’re thinking 50-plus goals — with the additions of Mario Gotze and Andre Schurrle to BVB’s already strong squad (which did lose Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Mats Hummels this offseason).

And with Ousmane Dembele in the fold and looking very good, perhaps BVB is prepared to reap the rewards of an Aubameyang sale after this season?

Big day in Stoke: Potters capture Joe Allen and Egyptian prodigy

stokecityfc.com
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Stoke City got one for now and another for the future on Monday, announcing the purchase of Joe Allen from Liverpool and Ramadan Sobhi from Al Alhy.

Allen, 26, had been with the Reds since 2012 after more than a decade in the ranks of Swansea City. The midfielder helped Wales into the semifinals of EURO 2016.

[ MORE: Does Pogba match his fee? ]

Swansea was linked with matching Stoke’s bid, but Allen moves onto a new home at the Britannia Stadium.

From Stoke City’s site:

Chief Executive Tony Scholes said: “Joe is a player that Mark has admired for a considerable amount of time. Therefore when we became aware of the possibility of bringing him to the Club it was something that we were determined to do.

Sobhi, 19, is a lesser known entity full of promise. At 19, he already had six caps and a goal for Egypt, and has made 71 appearances with 17 goals for Al Alhy in the Egyptian Premier League.

The fee could reach $7 million with incentives.

From Stoke City’s site:

“We are absolutely delighted to have signed a player of Ramadan’s undoubted quality and potential. He’s a special young talent who is excited about the prospect of making an impact in the Premier League and we’re looking forward to giving him that platform.”

Stoke has quietly been amassing assets for some time, and made a strong push last season before finishing ninth. If Allen can combine well with Giannelli Imbula, perhaps Stoke can continue its rise up the PL pecking order.