San Jose Earthquakes v Sporting Kansas City

MLS Preview: Vancouver Whitecaps at Sporting Kansas City

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  • Vancouver is 2-1-2 on the road recently
  • Sporting KC is a fairly average 4-3-2 at home, and also fell at Sporting Park recently in the U.S. Open Cup
  • Kei Kamara has three goals in SKC’s last two matches

There was a time when a Vancouver road trip was just another loss waiting to happen.

Martin Rennie’s team was 0-4-1 away from BC Place earlier this year. Stack that one top of last year’s 1-9-3 road mark after an bit of early success away from Western Canada in 2012 and it becomes clear that something was wrong with the strategic and / or tactical approaches when traveling.

But things have changed lately, and significantly so.

The sample is still a bit small, but the Whitecaps are beginning to stack up some points on the road, now 2-1-2 in recent matches away from their artificially turfed downtown ground. Just in June, the Whitecaps posted wins at D.C. United (four days ago) and at New York.

All that said, the Caps will be without some important pieces for tonight’s 9 p.m. ET kickoff. (The official league preview is here.) Gold Cup duty has scooped up Canadian international Russell Teibert (along with Carlyle Mitchell), and Vancouver will surely miss the man who has been instrumental in driving the attack from his right side.

Teibert has six assists in his last five games, putting him just one behind SKC’s Graham Zusi’s seven for the league lead.

At center back Brad Rusin is expected to replace the Trinidadian international Mitchell.

“Obviously Russell and Carlyle have done very well in the last few games,” Rennie said earlier this week. “It’s … an opportunity for someone else to come in and they have to step up when they get that opportunity.”

Zusi was back on the field after his own spell of international activity, once again in place at Sporting Park to help arrange goals for Kei Kamara (pictured, on the left), who has three goals in the team’s last two matches. Two real beauties came in last weekend’s 3-2 win over Columbus.

None of that is good news for a Whitecaps back line that is already without its three top men. Andy O’Brien’s recent injury added stress to a defense without Jay DeMerit (gone for the season.) And Y.P. Lee is being rested for this one, which means veteran EPL midfielder Nigel Reo Coker will likely be stationed at right back once again.

OTHER NOTES: The game also features two league scoring leaders in Vancouver’s Camilo (nine goals) and SKC’s Claudio Bieler (eight). Camilo had six goals and two assists in June. … Vancouver’s Kenny Miller has finally become productive with five goals in seven matches lately.

Premier League AT HALF: Arsenal fights back, Hull City on top

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 10:  Alexis Sanchez of Arsenal (L) and Francis Coquelin of Arsenal (R) celebrate after Theo Walcott of Arsenal (not pictured) scored Arsenals first goal during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Stoke City at the Emirates Stadium on December 10, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images
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Goals and controversial penalty decisions are a big part of Saturday morning’s quartet of Premier League matches, all of which are at the break.

[ STREAM: Every PL game on NBC Sports ]

Arsenal 1-1 Stoke City

Joe Allen took an elbow from Granit Xhaka inside the 18, and Lee Mason awarded a PK that Charlie Adam converted to give the visitors an early lead. But Theo Walcott scored his 100th goal as a Gunner off a classy Hector Bellerin cross to make it 1-1 before the break.

Burnley 2-1 Bournemouth

The Cherries will have to dig out of another hole this week, and it all began with Jeff Hendrick‘s phenomenal opener. Fellow Irishman Steven Ward scored an economical to goal to double the lead.

But Ryan Fraser continued his fine December with an assist on Benik Afobe‘s goal before halftime.

Hull City 1-0 Crystal Palace

Robert Snodgrass drew a penalty with a pretty easy grass grab, and the Tigers have a

Swansea City 0-0 Sunderland

Not much cooking at the Liberty Stadium.

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Koeman: “Nervous” Everton has a problem after another loss

WATFORD, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 10:  Ronald Koeman manager of Everton arrives prior to the Premier League match between Watford and Everton at Vicarage Road on December 10, 2016 in Watford, England.  (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images
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One win in 10 for Ronald Koeman‘s Everton has the Dutchman on the hot seat.

Koeman seems to be clawing for air after the Toffees’ latest setback, a 3-2 loss at Watford.

The loss puts the Hornets ahead of Everton on the PL table, and — while unlikely — it’s a mathematical possibility that the Toffees could be a bottom half team by the end of the weekend.

[ STREAM: Every PL game on NBC Sports ]

That’s a brutal development for a club expected to challenge for a European place this season.

Here’s Koeman:

“I see a lot of similar problems in the team. The team is too much reactive. Of course it’s maybe a lack of confidence, but if you start the game well, 1-0 up, you need a bigger belief in the team and not going back and defending, and nervous, and not enough ball possession. In my opinion that’s a problem.”

A big problem with that? It can be put down to the manager. Is Koeman in trouble already?

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VIDEO: Hendrick scores incredible volley from distance

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Jeff Hendrick, take a bow.

Burnley’s Republic of Ireland international midfielder pulled off a stunning piece of skill on Saturday to put the Clarets ahead against Bournemouth.

[ STREAM: Every PL game online ] 

A long ball forward was flicked on to Hendrick and he took a stunning first touch to tee himself and then settled himself before spanking a volley into the top corner.

Sensational goal from Burnley’s club-record signing.

Click play on the video above to watch it.

Messi’s latest goal dares you to count the touches (video)

PAMPLONA, SPAIN - DECEMBER 10:  Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona celebrates after scoring his team's second goal during the La Liga match between CA Osasuna and FC Barcelona at Sadar stadium on December 10, 2016 in Pamplona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images
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There’s a danger in observing Lionel Messi on a week-by-week basis, and it has a lot to do with how he makes greatness look routine.

So while it’s easy to dismiss yet another mazy dribble through a defense, one of those “Frogger” style with calm-but-vicious cutbacks, try to consider everything that goes into Messi’s second goal against Osasuna early Saturday.

[ MORE: Watford 3-2 Everton ]

On first look, you might count 9 touches for Messi starting with his right-footed collection of the ball. But move to the slow motion replays, and recognize the truth: Often Messi is letting the ball do the work for him, essentially moving the duo closer to goal while he used his preferred left foot as a must-respect threat.

That he does it in such traffic and at full speed is incredible. It’s literally one of those goals in which a linguistic luminary like Ray Hudson would have trouble over-emphasizing the greatness.

Messi now has 11 La Liga goals in 12 matches, and 22 in 19 overall.

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