Bold MLS Cup predictions: Houston Dynamo or L.A. Galaxy?

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CARSON, Calif. – How we see Saturday’s MLS Cup final at the Home Depot Center unfolding:

ProSoccerTalk’s Steve Davis

Finals tend to be safe contests, with slightly less fizz in the soda than we would ideally enjoy. Expect the same Saturday from the Home Depot Center, although the difference makers will surely give us a little something here and there to drop our jaws and awe over.

I’m calling the upset, mostly based on intangibles. Houston manager Dominic Kinnear, whose teams are always quite tightly wound on the field, will have every detail covered. (Not that Galaxy manager Bruce Arena won’t have his team well prepped, too.)

Well drilled Houston center backs Bobby Boswell and Jermaine Taylor – underrated Dynamo elements of late – will mostly deal with Robbie Keane’s sharp movement. Big and physical, both, they’ll be aided by Saturday’s refereeing selection; Silviu Petrescu is one who allows a lot of the rough and tumble.

Meanwhile, as L.A.’s center backs deal with Will Bruin and try to locate Brad Davis, Oscar Boniek Garcia will create something along the right.

I give slight edges the Dynamo way in goal and defense, with a push in midfield (unless David Beckham rises to something more than we’ve seen lately) and a substantial edge to L.A. at forward.

The other big consideration here is this wobbly Galaxy playoff form; L.A. simply is not a reliable side at the moment.

Both teams will turn up a goal. The match will need an extra 30 minutes – and the Dynamo will find the extra moment that matters.

 Prediction: Houston Dynamo 2-1 in extra time

ProSoccerTalk’s Richard Farley

Loyal PST’ers will have pegged my prediction by now, so rather than start by recycled my thoughts on the matchups, changes, and strengths, I’ll relay a surreal dream I had on the flight from Portland to Los Angeles.

With the U.S. Women’s playing at Jeld-Wen on Wednesday, I got no sleep before hopping Portland’s light rail from downtown to the airport at 4:00 a.m. Thursday morning. (It’s important to note sleep deprivation is major part of this story.) Once settled into my seat, I slapped on my headphones, picked the first composer on the classical listings (Bach), dosed off and started working through the various ways this game might play out.

The most convincing (the one that aligned best with my prejudices) saw a lose but focused Houston team — intense through midfield, quick in transition, drilled with two weeks focus on last year’s opportunity lost — convert an early turnover into a surprise goal. In the dream, it was some Brad Davis-finished buildup down the left sliding a ball to Boniek Garcia for a far post finish after a quarter-hour.

Over the next 70 minutes, LA dominates, but Tally Hall affirms his place as one of the league’s best keepers by holding them off. Pressing and desperate in the last minutes of regulation time, LA gives up Houston’s insurance goal to Cam Weaver, who had just come on for Will Bruin.

It was a very convincing dream.

Overall, I think Dominic Kinnear’s constructed a very strong, perhaps under-appreciated team. Fifth place finishes leave some things under the radar. The move to pair Rico Clark with Adam Moffat pays off with a cup final match that plays to their strengths. For all the reverence of LA’s run to another final, they’ve only played well in one out of three home games this postseason.

In this one, Tally Hall comes up big.

Prediction: Houston 2, LA Galaxy 0

2-year doping ban upheld for Finland, CSKA Moscow player

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) The Court of Arbitration for Sport has upheld a two-year ban for CSKA Moscow midfielder Roman Eremenko for a positive test for cocaine.

[ MORE: Morata signs five-year contract at Chelsea ]

CAS says the ban imposed by UEFA was “appropriate” and dismissed the Finland international’s appeal.

[ MORE: Vertonghen says Spurs need to “level up” like rest of PL contenders ]

The ban will expire on Oct. 5, 2018, when Eremenko will be 31.

Eremenko tested positive after playing in a Champions League game for CSKA Moscow against Bayer Leverkusen last September. The 2-2 result was not affected despite Eremenko scoring CSKA’s second goal.

Born in Moscow, Eremenko grew up in Finland and has represented its national team 73 times.

Webb says De Jong would have been sent off with video review

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NEW YORK (AP) Howard Webb says he would have given Dutch midfielder Nigel De Jong a red card in the 2010 World Cup final if a video assistant referee had been in place.

The retired English referee showed De Jong a yellow card in the 28th minute for his karate kick into the chest of Spain’s Xabi Alonso. Hired in March to oversee video technology for professional soccer in the U.S. and Canada, Webb held a media seminar Friday ahead of its Aug. 5 launch in Major League Soccer.

Webb says: “Yes, it was a clear red card. It was a clear and obvious error on my part not to send the player off, and VAR would have been able to recommend a review to me, and I would have been able to make the right call.”

Now 46, Webb was a Premier League referee from 2003-14. He worked the Champions League and World Cup finals in 2010, became director of referees at the Saudi Arabian Football Federation, and started in March as manager of video assistant referee operations for the Professional Referee Organization.

MLS Snapshot: Orlando City 0-1 Atlanta United (video)

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The game in 100 words (or less): Friday night’s effort at Orlando City Stadium wasn’t the prettiest for either side but Atlanta United will gladly take three points from the fixture as the Central Florida venue proved to be a fortress once more. The Lions were far superior in their attacking threats throughout the match, testing USMNT and Atlanta goalkeeper Brad Guzan on multiple occasions. However, it was Hector Villalba that proved to be the difference when he blasted a long-distance effort to beat Joe Bendik in the 86th minute. Atlanta extends its unbeaten streak to four matches with Friday’s decision, keeping Tata Martino’s side in fourth place in the Eastern Conference, while Orlando City moves into fifth.

Three moments that mattered

36′ — Guzan stands tall, denies Rivas — Carlos Rivas thought he scorched this one (and he did…), but Brad Guzan acted like it was nothing as he held his ground to make the stop.

39′ — Spector gets ripped off by Guzan — The U.S. goalkeeper is at it again… What a save!

86′ — Villalba unleashes stunner to propel Atlanta — Sometimes it just takes one good hit as a striker.

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Man of the match: Brad Guzan

Goalscorers: Hector Villalba (86′)

Report: Man City adding Mendy to continue backline restoration

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Fresh off of completing a record deal to help bolster the club’s back line this summer, Manchester City is back at it with the Premier League season looming.

[ MORE: Alvaro Morata signs five-year contract at Chelsea ]

The Citizens are reportedly on the brink of signing Monaco left back Benjamin Mendy to yet another world-record fee — which will total over $67 million.

Confirmation of the deal has yet to be announced by either team, but L’Equipe is reporting that the Citizens are hot on the 23-year-old’s trail in adding to their pricy back four.

Manager Pep Guardiola and Man City have not been shy readjusting their defensive unit over the past year, adding expensive first-team choices John Stones and Kyle Walker.