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.

USC wins NCAA women’s soccer national championship

Southern California's Morgan Andrews celebrates after scoring a goal against West Virginia during the first half in the NCAA Women's College Cup soccer final, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016 in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
AP Photo/Tony Avelar
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SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) Katie Johnson broke a tie in the 75th minute and Southern California won the NCAA women’s soccer title Sunday, beating top-ranked West Virginia 3-1 at Avaya Stadium on Sunday.

The second-seeded Trojans (19-4-2) also won the College Cup in 2007.

The Mountaineers (23-2-2) lost for the first time since a 1-0 setback to Georgetown on Sept. 18. West Virginia had a 17-game unbeaten streak snapped, and allowed three goals for the first all season.

Johnson, who also had the winning goal in USC’s 1-0 semifinal victory over Georgetown on Friday, was wide open in front of the net when Leah Pruitt took a pass up the left sideline, beat defender Easther Mayi Kith, and delivered a perfect cross. Johnson simply rolled the ball into the goal to the right of goalkeeper Rylee Foster.

Johnson scored again off an assist from Nicole Molen in the 87th minute.

The Trojans got on the board just 1:22 into play after Julia Bingham directed a corner kick to the top of the penalty box, where Savannah Levin headed the ball forward to Morgan Andrews, whose header from 5 yards eluded Foster.

West Virginia’s Ashley Lawrence, a member of the 2016 Canadian Olympic team, tied it in the 66th minute when she ripped a shot from the top left corner of the penalty box just inside the near post.

After USC took the 2-1 lead, the Mountaineers nearly drew even in the 81st minute on a shot by Heather Kaleiohi that was stopped on a diving save by goalkeeper Sammy Prudhomme.

The Mountaineers outshot USC 21-8 and held a 9-1 edge in corner kicks.

The Trojans joined North Carolina (21 titles), Notre Dame (3) and Portland (3) as the only multiple winners of the College Cup.

USC won its 126th national team title on the same day its men’s water polo team lost 10-8 to Cal in the NCAA final just 45 miles away in Berkeley.

West Virginia, in its first College Cup final, was hoping to claim its first NCAA title in any sport besides its co-ed rifle team, which has won 18 national titles.

VIDEO: 70-yard volley from Chile is nearly impossible to believe

Alejandro Camargo, Universidad de Concepcion
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His name is Alejandro Camargo, and he scored what might just go down as the best goal of 2016 on Sunday: an impossibly perfect volley from well beyond the halfway line.

[ MORE: PL roundup — Chelsea top Man City; Arsenal, Spurs win big ]

Miguel Pinto is the opposing goalkeeper whose long-range clearance, which covered about 50 yards during the final seconds of Universidad de Concepcion’s clash with O’Higgins in the Chilean first division, was taken off the fly, first-time, by the Argentine midfielder to seal a 3-1 victory for the home side.

[ MORE: Serie A roundup — Roma, AC Milan win, still tied for 2nd ]

“The coach told us Pinto was always playing in advance of his goal, so I closed my eyes and hit it,” Camargo said after the game.

“Hit it and hope” has never looked so good.

Roma fans stay away from derby to protest new security barriers

A view of a huge section of empty seats as Roma fans desert derby in protest over security barriers, during a Serie A soccer match between Lazio and Roma, at the Rome Olympic stadium Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia
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ROME (AP) Roma’s most ardent supporters stayed away from the derby match against Lazio in protest at barriers introduced at the start of last season in their area.

Normally filled with supporters waving huge banners, lighting flares and singing, half of the “curva sud” — southern end — of the Stadio Olimpico was left empty for Sunday’s match.

[ MORE: Serie A roundup — Roma, AC Milan win, still tied for 2nd ]

Three of Roma’s locally born standouts held a meeting with the “ultra” fans during the week. Captain Francesco Totti, Daniele De Rossi and Alessandro Florenzi asked the supporters to return, and the club itself has also tried to resolve the matter.

But the appeals had no effect.

In contrast, Lazio fans filled the northern end of the stadium as usual.

The plexiglass barriers were put in place by city officials for security reasons.

VIDEO: “Behind The Badge: Watford FC” — Episode 2

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In Episode 2 of Behind the Badge: Watford FC, watch the players’ recovery after a win against Leicester, a look at the club’s one-of-a-kind internship program and a flashback to a memorable moment in Watford’s history.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

To watch past episodes of Behind The Badge, including last season’s edition featuring a look inside Crystal Palace, head over to the full archive by clicking here.

[ MORE: PL roundup — Chelsea top Man City; Arsenal, Spurs win big ]

First episode: Watch full episode, here
Second episode: Above video
Third episode: Sunday, Dec. 11, 2 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Fourth episode: Sunday, Dec. 18, 2 p.m. ET – NBCSN