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

Report: Morata sale allows Madrid to pursue Mbappe

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For months rumors have claimed that Real Madrid had been priced out of a move for Kylian Mbappe.

Now, they may have the cash, and a way throught.

After selling Alvaro Morata to Chelsea for $75 million, the club may have the funds – and enough offsetting cashflow to appease Financial Fair Play – to make a serious play for the 18-year-old superstar. In addition, the club has almost completed the slale of Danilo to Manchester City for $35 million, and James Rodriguez to Bayern Munich, although they see little return from that immediately, as the deal is a two-year loan with an obligation to buy at the end.

[ MORE: Man City bid for Mendy rejected ]

According to a Goal.com report, Mbappe is now Madrid’s top transfer target, although it seems there is little chance of prying him away from Monaco this late. According to the same report, Mbappe has been advised by unnamed parties that staying at Monaco gives him the highest likelihood of making the French squad for the 2018 World Cup.

“Mbappe is very good,” said Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane. “He’s a very good player and he has shown that all year, but he is not my player. I can’t say anything else.”

PSG is also reportedly in for Mbappe, but it’s understandable that Monaco would be hesitant to sell to a chief league rival.

Follow Live: Jamaica and Canada battle for semifinal spot

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Jamaica and Canada are looking ahead to a possible semifinal spot as they match up at 7:30 p.m. ET in Glendale to mark their beginning of the 2017 Gold Cup knockout round.

Both clubs make up the majority of their rosters from MLS clubs, with Cyle Larin heading the line for Canada and Andre Blake manning the backstop for Jamaica. Nonetheless, it’s Larin’s fellow attacker Alphonso Davies who’s picked up three of Canada’s five goals thus far.

[ LIVE: Gold Cup scoreboard ]

Both teams are putting heavy importance on this match with each already eliminated from World Cup contention.

Jamaica has only allowed one goal all tournament, shutting out both Mexico and Curacao. The Reggae Boyz made the final last time around, but will find that same result much more difficult this time around.

LINEUPS

Jamaica: Blake, Taylor, Lowe, Lawrence, Powell, Watson, Lambert, Francis, Gordon, Mattocks, Williams.

Canada: Borjan, Vitoria, Jakovic, Davies, Petrasso, Piette, Tiebert, Arfield, Larin, De Jong, Hoilett.

US Soccer shares bite-mark photo with CONCACAF

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U.S. Soccer spokesman Michael Kammarman told the Washington Post that the Federation has shared a photograph of a bite mark on the back of Omar Gonzalez with the CONCACAF disciplinary committee.

Cameras caught El Salvador defender Henry Romero bite Jozy Altidore and pinch his nipple in the scrum prior to a corner kick in the second half of the 2-0 USA victory over El Salvador. However, Gonzalez said after the match that he was also bitten, and had the mark to prove it.

According to the Washington Post report, the CONCACAF disciplinary committee approached U.S. Soccer asking for any further information they could provide on the incidents. Thus, they shared the photograph of Gonzalez’s shoulder taken immediately after the game. There was reportedly no visible bite mark on Altidore that could be shared.

CONCACAF spokesman Brent Latham refused to confirm an investigation into the incidents.

After Gonzalez’s post-match comments, a review of footage showed that there did indeed appear to be a bite in the 81st minute by El Salvador midfielder Darwin Ceren.

Neither incident was witnessed by the referee, and thus no punishment was dished out in the form of penalties or cards. Altidore admitted he “barely” kept his composure after he was assaulted, saying, “You’ve got to keep your cool because these things happen. I shouldn’t be saying these things happen, but they do.”

Altidore joked about the incident, saying his significant other was angry at him.

Report: Man City bid for Mendy rejected

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According to a report by Sky Sports, Manchester City has seen a bid for Monaco full-back Benjamin Mendy rejected, and will have to significantly increase their offer for the transfer to be completed.

The report states that Manchester City bid $58 million for the 23-year-old French international, but Monaco values Mendy at the $65 million level Man City paid for Kyle Walker, a world record for a defender.

[ MORE: Barcelona president warns PSG over Neymar move ]

Monaco is in an advantageous position in this situation, with Manchester City desperate for full-backs and Monaco not obligated to sell. Mendy’s current contract with the defending Ligue 1 champions runs through the summer of 2021.

City has already purchased Walker, but with the departure of aging full-backs Pablo Zabaleta, Gael Clichy, and Bacary Sagna, the club is almost completely devoid at the position, with just Walker and Aleksandr Kolarov on the roster.

Mendy has shown blistering pace and great crossing ability, racking up 11 assists last season across all competitions, including four in seven Champions League appearances. His tackling numbers are also surprisingly competent for such a young defender, completing just about 50% of his attempted tackles during league play last season, and sporting a 64% completion rate in Champions League play.