Houston goes Scottish, acquires Driver on loan from Hearts

Leave a comment

Between Kris Boyd, Kenny Miller, and Barry Robson, Major League Soccer got its fill of underperforming Scots last season, so there’s reason to raise eyebrows when you see another MLS team go back to the Scottish Premier League well. But there are a couple of big differences between those failed moves and what Houston is doing bringing in Andrew Driver.

The Heart of Midlothian left winger, whose loan was confirmed by Houston today, isn’t coming with the Designated Player tag. He’s just another player, one that will be out of contract with his club in six months. If he works out, great. If not, he’s just something Houston tried. They didn’t have to allocate a DP spot to get him.

But one of the puzzling things about Boyd and Miller’s acquisitions were their relative failures outside Scotland. Despite that, they still garnered big MLS deals. For Driver, this will be his first time playing outside of Scotland. We don’t have that built up data set to reference and wonder.

He’s also not an attacker. Granted, he’s a wide midfielder, so he’s going to have to contribute going forward, but Driver is not going to be defined by his numbers. In Scotland, he was only good for a goal every eight games. If he can be a worker bee, he can be a valuable part of Dom Kinnear’s team. Designated Players need to be more than worker bees.

The winger is also a few years younger than his countrymen. At 25, he’s four years younger than Boyd, the youngest of last year’s trio.

I have no idea if Driver will fit in Houston (surprise, I’m no expert on Hearts), and based on the trouble other SPL imports have had of late, there’s reason to question whether the transition will be a smooth one. But while previous moves have conditioned a knee-jerk reaction concerning Scottish players, there are a number of reasons to give this move the benefit of the doubt.

Driver comes with less risk and commitment. He’s younger. We don’t know yet if he can succeed outside of Scotland, but he’s also not somebody who’ll have to create goals to be a successful player. Plus when you see the words “valuable depth” (below), you know Driver’s not going to be expected to be a star.

In that way, he’s not your “typical” Scottish import. And that’s a good thing.

The word from Kinnear:

“Andrew is good at taking people on, he crosses a good ball and can take set pieces … He is a hard-working player and I think he will definitely fit in with the team. He has a good attitude on the field and is versatile. He can play on the left or right side of midfield.”

From Driver:

“I am very excited about the opportunity to come and play for the Dynamo … I have followed MLS over the years and Houston has stood out as one of the top teams. I know a lot of success has been because of the work of Dominic Kinnear, so I am delighted to have the chance to learn from him and improve as a player under him.”

From Chris Canetti:

“It’s always exciting to add a young international player with talent and experience … Andrew will add valuable depth to the squad at a time when we are set to face a heavy load of games between MLS and Champions League.”

History denied! Real Madrid loses, fails in bid to beat Pele-led record (video)

AP Photo/Francisco Seco
Leave a comment

Real Madrid did everything but score, and now find themselves denied a chance at unparalleled history and in a relatively deep early hole in La Liga’s table.

A stoppage time loss to visiting Real Betis ended the club’s 73-match run of matches with a goal, and it came on the day it could’ve passed Pele’s Santos for sole possession of the longest scoring streak in history.

[ MORE: Pulisic scores 10th BVB goal ]

Perhaps more important, Madrid now sits seven points back of first place Barcelona. Their eight points leave them sixth.

Real Madrid 0-1 Real Betis

The hosts looked so good, and so fluid… and provided any number of finishes which would’ve been goals on another day. Unfortunately for them, the only goal came from Paraguay’s Antonio Sanabria in the fourth minute of second half stoppage time.

That’s because Real Betis goalkeeper Antonio Adan was sensational, including a stunning stop on Gareth Bale‘s backheeled volley in the final quarter hour.

It could’ve gone worse for Madrid, as Mexico’s Andres Guardado had an assist called back for offside.

Before that, there was this from one of the best in history:

Athletic Bilbao 1-2 Atletico Madrid

Angel Correa and Yannick Carrasco helped the visitors go second in La Liga, as ex-Atleti midfielder Raul Garcia provided Athletic’s only goal deep into stoppage time.

Elsewhere
Leganes 0-0 Girona
Deportivo de la Coruna 1-0 Alaves
Sevilla 1-0 Las Palmas

League Cup draw: Spurs host Hammers; Everton off to Chelsea

Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Sixteen teams are five wins from a berth in the Europa League following the fourth round draw for the League Cup.

Eleven of the 16 belong to the Premier League, leaving Leeds United, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Norwich City, Bristol City, and Middlesbrough to dream of dream runs to Wembley Stadium.

[ MORE: Pulisic scores 10th BVB goal ]

There are only a trio of all-Premier League ties in the bunch, including a high-profile London clash between Spurs and West Ham.

Chelsea will host Everton, while Manchester United heads to Wales for a date with Swansea City.

All-in-all, we could have quarterfinals without a single Cinderella story.

Full draw
Tottenham Hotspur vs. West Ham United
Bristol City vs. Crystal Palace
Arsenal vs. Norwich City
Chelsea vs. Everton
Swansea City vs. Manchester United
Manchester City vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers
Bournemouth vs. Middlesbrough
Leicester City vs. Leeds United

League Cup wrap: Sane saves Man City; Big boys roll (video)

David Davies/PA via AP
Leave a comment

There were neither upsets nor much drama to be found as five European contenders joined the League Cup on Wednesday.

[ MORE: Pulisic scores 10th BVB goal ]

Man City needed to overcome a surprising late equalizer from Premier League hosts West Brom, and Arsenal’s finishing wasn’t up to par in the lone close score line of the day.

Blowouts dotted the landscape as second-choice and fuller-strength giants powered past lesser competition to reach the fourth round.


Everton 3-0 Sunderland

USMNT winger Lynden Gooch got a start for the Black Cats, who also had ex-Everton players James Vaughn, Jack Rodwell, and Darron Gibson on the pitch.

The familiarity didn’t stop Dominic Calvert-Lewin from giving the Toffees a first half lead, and buttressing the advantage with a second half marker. Oumar Niasse rounded out the scoring for Everton.

Chelsea 5-1 Nottingham Forest

Kenedy, Michy Batshuayi, and Charly Musonda scored first half goals. Batshuayi completed a brace after fine work from Eden Hazard in the second, then completed his hat trick late. Ex-Burnley man Tendayi Darikwa spoiled Chelsea’s clean sheet in second half stoppage.

For Musonda, it was this goal on his full senior debut.

Arsenal 1-0 Doncaster Rovers

Alexis Sanchez opened up the defense and found Theo Walcott to make it 1-0. That was all the Gunners needed to top Darren Ferguson’s League One side.

West Bromwich Albion 1-2 Manchester City

Leroy Sane put home an Ilkay Gundogan rebound in just the third minute, and avoided blushes for City after a late concession with an even later winner. Hal Robson-Kanu missed a point-blank shot deep into stoppage as City survived the Baggies’ fight back.

Here’s Claudio Yacob‘s surprising equalizer.

Manchester United 4-1 Burton Albion

The below statistic was accurate before Marcus Rashford added his second of the first half. Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial also scored for United, while Lloyd Dier ruined the Red Devils clean sheet minutes from full time.

 

Bundesliga: Pulisic stars in another BVB win (video)

Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Writing these Bundesliga wraps from an American perspective means paying attention to Christian Pulisic, but the 19-year-old USMNT phenom would have his name in print anyway.

[ MORE: Rashford’s League Cup screamer ]

Pulisic had a goal and helped set-up another as BVB continued its excellent start to the Bundesliga season as one of five league matches on Wednesday.


Hamburg 0-3 Borussia Dortmund

Shinji Kagawa and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored on either side of halftime as BVB kept up its near perfect start to the Bundesliga season. BVB is 4W-1D with 13 goals scored and zero conceded, good for a one-point edge on Bayern Munich.

Andriy Yarmolenko was the star of the show, though many American eyes were trained on USMNT stars Christian Pulisic and Bobby Wood. The former was lively and produced a few chances, including the penultimate pass/hockey assist on Aubameyang’s goal, while Wood didn’t see much of the ball thanks to BVB’s fine form.

In reverse order, the goal and the “assist.”

Koln 0-1 Eintracht Frankfurt

The nightmare start continues, this time thanks to a Sebastien Haller penalty kick. USMNT back Timmy Chandler went 90 for the victors.

Hertha Berlin 2-1 Bayer Leverkusen

Mathew Leckie and Salomon Kalou helped the hosts almost cruised to three points at the Olympiastadion before a Julian Brandt 84th minute goal tightened the finish.

Freiburg 1-1 Hannover 96

96 looked set to continue its decent start off Martin Harnik’s fourth goal of the league season, but Nils Peterson’s 83rd minute goal meant points were shared at Schwarzwald Stadion.

Mainz 2-3 Hoffenheim

The hosts led 2-0 after 16 minutes, but Sandro Wagner’s first half stoppage time goal had it level by the break. It stayed that way deep into second half stoppage, when Mark Uth’s fourth of the season completed Hoffenheim’s comeback.

STANDINGS

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Borussia Dortmund 5 4 1 0 13 0 13 2-0-0 2-1-0 13
 Bayern Munich 5 4 0 1 12 3 9 2-0-0 2-0-1 12
 1899 Hoffenheim 5 3 2 0 9 5 4 2-1-0 1-1-0 11
 Hannover 96 5 3 2 0 6 2 4 2-0-0 1-2-0 11
 FC Augsburg 5 3 1 1 8 4 4 2-1-0 1-0-1 10
 FC Schalke 04 5 3 0 2 7 6 1 2-0-1 1-0-1 9
 Mönchengladbach 5 2 2 1 7 5 2 2-0-1 0-2-0 8
 Hertha BSC Berlin 5 2 2 1 6 5 1 2-1-0 0-1-1 8
 RB Leipzig 5 2 1 2 8 6 2 1-1-0 1-0-2 7
 Eintracht Frankfurt 5 2 1 2 3 3 0 0-0-2 2-1-0 7
 Hamburger SV 5 2 0 3 4 8 -4 1-0-2 1-0-1 6
 VfB Stuttgart 5 2 0 3 3 7 -4 2-0-0 0-0-3 6
 VfL Wolfsburg 5 1 2 2 3 6 -3 0-2-1 1-0-1 5
 Bayer Leverkusen 5 1 1 3 9 10 -1 1-1-0 0-0-3 4
 FSV Mainz 05 5 1 0 4 5 10 -5 1-0-2 0-0-2 3
 SC Freiburg 5 0 3 2 2 9 -7 0-3-0 0-0-2 3
 Werder Bremen 5 0 2 3 3 7 -4 0-0-2 0-2-1 2
 1. FC Köln 5 0 0 5 1 13 -12 0-0-2 0-0-3 0