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Wondo’s wonderful goal, and time to ask questions in Seattle

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In Houston, the Dynamo were able to overcome a great goal from that match’s most dangerous man. In Santa Clara, Seattle couldn’t say the same, with an almost even battle between two of the West’s assumed best decided by this:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cZ79Ajy5FIA]

Eighty yards and two Chris Wondolowski touches later, and Michael Gspurning is watching the shot go in off his left post. Not only was that unstoppable, it was the match winner, with the 1-0 win giving San Jose their second victory of the season.

How “Wondo” saw it:

“I was lucky enough to get the touch and control the ball. I saw Seattle’s goalkeeper [Michael Gspurning] shading toward the ball. He probably wasn’t expecting me to shoot from outside the box. I got a good foot on it and was able to score far post..”

And despite three close games, the Sounders are still winless, with losses to Montréal and San Jose sandwiching last week’s draw against Portland. Counting CONCACAF Champions League matches, Seattle 1-1-3 and have already been shutout three times this season.

Looking at the final numbers, you could argue Seattle was hard done by Wondolowski’s momentary brilliance. Shot totals were similar (16-13, Seattle), as were the shots on goal (5-4, San Jose). Seattle had the possession advantage, but part of that is explained by their chasing the match. Though Seattle caused a couple bits of Jon Busch panic, San Jose was just as threatening towards Gspurning.

“We had three very good chances to score and I feel that we deserved the win tonight,” San Jose head coach Frank Yallop said.

The only thing that separated the sides is the same thing that decides so most matches: Finishing.

“[A] little bit of quality at the right moments, better service at the right moments would’ve made a difference,” Sigi Schmid told the assembled media after the match.

“I don’t know if we deserved to win,” Schmid said, “but I think we deserved to get out of here with a tie.”

It’s an easy argument to make, but it’s not very convincing (and I can’t imagine Schmid being to vociferous while making his case). The balance of play hints Seattle deserved something, but scoring goals matters. A lot. People who can finish matter, which is why all things being equal, a team that starts Chris Wondolowski is more likely to win than a team that starts Sammy Ochoa and David Estrada.

“I thought Estrada and Ochoa were a handful today up front,” Schmid said. “Could that quality be a little better? That’s what Wondo displayed.”

That’s not to say Seattle was particularly hard done by the international break. They were missing two of their starters, both forwards (Eddie Johnson and Obafemi Martins), while San Jose were missing two of theirs (Justin Morrow and Victor Bernardez), both defenders. San Jose was also without their starters at right back (Steven Beitashour), right wing (Martin Chavez), and No. 9 (Steven Lenhart, Alan Gordon, Mike Fucito). There’s no point complaining about the absences of Johnson and Martins.

The bigger problem for Seattle is in midfield. They’re getting nothing going forward. Christian Tiffert hasn’t been replaced. Fredy Montero’s ability to fill that space was ultimately underrated. The injury to Brad Evans has hurt, while Shalrie Joseph still isn’t ready to start. Osvaldo Alonso is doing his typical dominating best defensively, but for a team that’s scored only once in 180 MLS minutes, something more is needed in the middle.

It’s still early, but unable to solve that problem, Seattle find themselves in last place in the West. At the same time, a San Jose team that’s faced their own series of obstacles is 2-1-1.

It’s time for Seattle to start finding answers, and if they can’t, it’s time to start worrying. With Obafemi Martins, they may have two of the best forwards in the league, but as of now, how are they going to get them the ball?

Sigi Schmid quotes used in this piece came from the Twitter account of The Seattle Times’ Joshua Mayers: @joshuamayers.

Pochettino enjoying best spell of career ahead of massive clash at Man City

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 23:  Mauricio Pochettino (R) Manager of Tottenham Hotspur is seen on arrival at the stadium prior to the Barclays Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Tottenham Hotspur at Selhurst Park on January 23, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
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Mauricio Pochettino is getting ready for one of his biggest matches in charge at Tottenham, but he’s not letting the pressure get to him.

The Spurs’ boss talked down the importance of Sunday’s match against Manchester City (Watch live, 11:15 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra), and went on to say he is currently having the most enjoyable time of his career.

[ WATCH: Full PL match replays ]

Pochettino has Tottenham sitting second on the table, and they travel to the Etihad this weekend for a clash against fourth-placed Manchester City, who sit one point behind Spurs.

When asked if this weekend’s match could be a decisive result in the title race, Pochettino was unwilling to admit it was anything more than three points in a long campaign. However, when asked about the season as a whole, the Argentinian manager said he was having great fun at White Hart Lane, responding “Is it my most enjoyable time of career? Yes, maybe yes if I’m honest.”

[ MORE: Who are the Premier League title favorites? ]

Pochettino’s work at Tottenham has made him one of the most well-respected managers in the Premier League, with some reports tabbing him as the potential future boss of Manchester United.

Spurs have won six on the spin in all competitions, and will be confident facing a City side they smashed 4-1 earlier this season. With leaders Leicester facing Arsenal on Sunday, Tottenham could see themselves just two points off the pace if results go their way.

Chicharito sidelined two weeks with muscle injury

ROME, ITALY - NOVEMBER 04:  Javier Hernandez of Bayer 04 Leverkusen celebrates after scoring the team's second goal during the UEFA Champions League Group E match between AS Roma and Bayer 04 Leverkusen at Olimpico Stadium on November 4, 2015 in Rome, Italy.  (Photo by Paolo Bruno/Getty Images)
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Bayer Leverkusen must move forward without their top talisman as Javier Hernandez is out with a muscle injury.

The Mexican international was forced off in the second half of Leverkusen’s midweek loss to Werder Bremen in the German Cup.

[ MORE: Arsenal to play MLS All-Stars ]

Hernandez scored in that Werder Bremen match before getting injured, as the striker has now scored a remarkable 20 goals in his last 18 appearances for Leverkusen.

With a torn muscle fiber in his left glute, Leverkusen boss Rogers Schmidt announced Chicharito could be out for two or even three weeks.

[ RELATED: Messi wins his first La Liga Player of the Month award ]

Including this weekend’s match at Darmstadt, Hernandez will likely miss both matches against Sporting Lisbon in the Europa League as well as a huge Bundesliga clash with Borussia Dortmund.

Premier League Preview: Sunderland vs. Manchester United

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  • United 6 points outside the top four
  • Sunderland winless in four
  • MUFC has one loss in 27 vs. SAFC (W20, D6, L1)

Manchester United’s uphill battle for a top-four finish continues on Saturday when the Red Devils travel to the Stadium of Light to face Sunderland (Watch live, 7:45 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra).

United won this fixture in September 3-0 behind goals from Memphis, Wayne Rooney, and Juan Mata.

[ WATCH LIVE: Stream every PL game via Live Extra ]

Sunderland sit 19th on the table four points from safety as the time has come for Sam Allardyce‘s side to start getting results. Without a win in their last four matches, the Black Cats must turn things around if they want to stay up in the Premier League. Jermain Defoe scored last time out in a draw at Liverpool, and he’ll once again be tasked with finding the back of the net if Sunderland are to win.

[ MORE: Prince-Wright’s Premier League Picks for Week 26 ]

For Manchester United, the pressure is still on Louis Van Gaal as rumors and reports circle linking Jose Mourinho to the job. Fifth on the table and six points behind Manchester City, a top-four finish is slipping away from United if they don’t rattle off a few wins. A late goal at Chelsea last weekend cost the Red Devils all three points, but they’ll look at this matchup against Sunderland as a good opportunity to get a positive result.

What they’re saying

Sunderland boss Sam Allardyce: “Providing chances for Jermain Defoe is critical for us. But our first major problem is that we haven’t kept a clean sheet in nine matches. We need to start putting a zero against us in games and if we start doing that we’ll win more matches. If we win more matches, we’ll get out of trouble.”

United manager Louis van Gaal: “We had lost four matches in a row in December and you see us now. You can only say that we are mentally very strong and that we can cope with the pressure. That is not enough as we have to improve our results and consistency to win a lot of matches in a row. We have to minimize the gap to our competitors.”

Prediction

Sunderland need all the points they can get to try and stay up, but United always seem to cause the Black Cats problems. Jermain Defoe is kept off the board as Louis van Gaal takes the win. Sunderland 0-2 Manchester United.

Costa breaks nose, will be fit to play for “Zorro team” vs. Newcastle

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 07:  Diego Costa of Chelsea reacts during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Manchester United at Stamford Bridge on February 7, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
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Chelsea striker Diego Costa broke his nose in training after a clash of heads, but should be fit to play in Saturday’s match against Newcastle (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra).

Costa has six goals in his past seven Premier League games as Chelsea are unbeaten in their last 11 in all competitions.

[ MORE: Top 5 PL storylines ]

Manager Guus Hiddink spoke about the injury in his press conference on Friday, saying Costa collided with an Academy player in training. Hiddink said he believes Costa will be ready to play this weekend for his “Zorro team” as Costa joins Gary Cahill, Nemanja Matic, and Cesar Azpilicueta as Chelsea players to wear a mask this season.

It was not a tough duel but he put his nose on the back of the head of one of the youngsters from the Academy that we like to participate in our training games. He was very unlucky.

They are putting a mask on Diego as well, we are the team with a lot of masks, a Zorro team, and he will come back do some light training this afternoon as he must experience how he is dealing with the form and the fitting of the mask.

Costa scored a stoppage-time equalizer against Manchester United last weekend as Chelsea continue to get results under Guus Hiddink. The Blues are up to 13th on the table, just three points outside the top half.

[ RELATED: Frank Lampard urges Chelsea to sign John Terry ]

Chelsea will look to extend their unbeaten run to 12 matches on Saturday against a Newcastle side that is just one point above the drop and in need of a result.