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

Premier League vet Kenwyne Jones retires at age 33

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It wasn’t the season that Kenwyne Jones had expected in his first Major League Soccer season, but the veteran Trinidad & Tobago striker had himself quite the career.

[ MORE: Miguel Almiron wins MLS Newcomer of the Year ]

Jones, 33, announced his retirement on Monday after boasting an extensive career in England prior to finishing up his playing with Atlanta United.

Atlanta opted not to renew Jones’ contract with the club after scoring twice in 17 appearances this season for the expansion side.

The Trinidadian posted the following message to supporters on Twitter this afternoon.

Jones spent nine seasons in the Premier League, including stints with Southampton, Stoke City and Sunderland.

Additionally, the forward played for Al Jazira from UAE in 2016 before moving on loan to Central in his native Trinidad prior to his arrival in Atlanta’s debut MLS season.

Eibar routs Betis 5-0 to snap 8-game winless streak in Spain

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MADRID (AP) Eibar routed 10-man Real Betis 5-0 in the Spanish league on Monday, ending an eight-match winless streak in all competitions.

Eibar hadn’t won since Sept. 15. It had lost six of its eight matches since then.

[ MORE: Brighton, Stoke finish level after Izquierdo’s second-half finish ]

The hosts got on the board with an own goal by Betis defender Jordi Amat just six minutes in, and midfielder Gonzalo Escalante scored with a header near halftime.

Striker Charles Dias scored twice in the second half, and Sergi Enrich closed the scoring in front of less than 5,000 fans at Ipurua Stadium.

“We deserved a victory like this to help us regain our confidence,” Enrich said.

Betis played with 10 men from the 55th as Aissa Mandi was red-carded for the foul that prompted a penalty kick converted by Dias.

“It was difficult to recover after we went a man down and they scored the third goal,” Betis midfielder Joaquin Sanchez said.

Eibar remained 17th in the 20-team standings, just outside the relegation zone.

Betis, winless in three matches, dropped to ninth place.

Barcelona leads by four points over second-place Valencia.

More AP Spanish soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/LaLiga

Pogba believes Man United can win Premier League if squad stays fit

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There’s no doubt that on paper Manchester United has all the workings of a Premier League contender, and Paul Pogba certainly agrees.

[ MORE: Brighton, Stoke settle for draw in back-and-forth affair ]

The influential midfielder made his return to the Red Devils lineup this weekend in United’s 4-1 beatdown of Newcastle, along with Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Marcos Rojo.

With Jose Mourinho’s squad finally getting healthy, Pogba believes that the sky is the limit for his side as they look to chase down league leaders and cross-town rivals Manchester City.

“To win the league we need all our players,” Pogba told MUTV. “When you have one injured here, one injured there, it doesn’t help. It’s always better to have a full team.

“Zlatan’s back and Marcos after a long injury. It was hard for them but they kept believing and worked hard to come back. We need them to win the league and we’re really glad they’re here.”

Pogba’s presence was certainly missed in his absence, and he wasted no time in making an impact upon his return, scoring a goal and adding an assist against the Magpies.

The French international also spoke about his struggles last season with several minor injuries, but he’s hoping to remain in his United side for the rest of the 2017/18 campaign.

“Most of last season I had injuries but small ones. You just have to recover well because the Premier League is different to Italy — it’s more intense and you just have to think about recovery, then you have more games. Otherwise, I just feel good, just to come back.

“I’ve trained very hard to come back fit. The season is really long so we have to be fit — not only me but all the players. To come back, to play again, to see Old Trafford, to see the fans again, to score at Old Trafford on my comeback, I feel blessed. But we had to win — that was the most important thing.”

Red Bulls freestyler shows off dribbling skills… on a treadmill (Video)

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Players from around the world display their skills on social media on a regular basis, but they’re usually on a soccer field or blacktop when they do so.

[ MORE: Almiron wins MLS Newcomer of the Year, beats out Nikolic, Martinez ]

This New York Red Bulls freestyler had a different interpretation of how he’d show off his ball control on Monday.

DJ Diveny (@djdiveny on Twitter) posted this video — below — across his social media platforms today dribbling a soccer ball on a treadmill, while his colleagues appear to introduce cones at random points as obstacles.

In addition to his talents as a freestyler, Diveny is also a youth coach with Student Athlete Coaching & Consulting, based out of New Jersey.

Again… he’s on a treadmill while doing this. Pretty cool stuff.

Watch below.