MLS preview: Chicago Fire at Houston Dynamo

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  • Brad Davis is getting healthier for Houston, but may not be ready to start
  • A striker still has not scored for the Dynamo since May 8
  • Chris Rolfe had two goals last week in Chicago’s 4-1 win over D.C. United

Fortress BBVA just isn’t what it used to.

That doesn’t mean the Dynamo’s downtown ground, just 14 months old, is now easy pickings for opposition operations. The crowds there are boisterous, the relentless humidity in South Texas is never accommodating and Dynamo manager Dominic Kinnear likes to keep the field tight, all the better for his players and their familiarity with how to make it work.

But … the former Dynamo unblemished mark disappeared last month, so the former BBVA mystique has evaporated into the thick Houston air, at least. That has to be helpful as Chicago comes to town for a 9 p.m. ET kickoff on the NBC Sports Network. (The stat-packed official league preview is here.)

Before a tight victory over Philadelphia on July 6 (in the team’s most recent MLS match at home) the Dynamo had suffered a draw and two losses at BBVA in the most recent matches there. The string of bad results fell in stark contrast to the 36-game unbeaten streak at home, which stretched back to June of 2011 and the days spent passing, trapping and shooting inside Robertson Stadium at the University of Houston.

The missing element in June and through July has been scoring from forwards. Will Bruin and Giles Barnes struck back on May 8, but the Dynamo strikers have fired blanks from there. All forwards, that is. Goals by midfielders Adam Moffat and Ricardo Clark (both pictured) have guided victories lately, but teams simply cannot win over a longer stretch without production from the men paid to score goals.

Speaking of those men: Mike Magee keeps scoring for the Fire, and keeps building his case for league MVP. The veteran attacker has six goals in eight league appearances since the newsy trade from L.A. in May. He has nine in all competitions for Chicago. Further, with 12 goals in MLS this year, Magee trails the league’s leading scorer in 2013 (Vancouver’s Camilo) by just one.

Chris Rolfe had only two goals a week ago, but enjoyed a two-goal breakout in the Fire’s 4-1 dismantling of woeful D.C. United last Saturday at Toyota Park.

“The difference tonight was just finishing our chances,” Fire manager Frank Klopas said of the big victory over United.

It might be tougher to get those chances without Dilly Duka’s ability to break down defense from the wing and supply the centering passes. Duka is out with a groin injury.

On the other hand, they should get Patrick Nyarko back; the speedy flanker was out last week with strep throat. Presumably, Nyarko will run the right side with Joel Lindpere, coming successfully off his first start in a month, patrolling the left.

Speaking of the left: the Dynamo should soon have a fully fit Brad Davis to compete for time in the team’s already stacked midfield.  The U.S. international missed almost a month with a hamstring injury, but did play 24 minutes in Wednesday’s friendly win over Stoke City.

Most likely, Davis will come off the bench Saturday, but sooner or later it’s easy to see some type of rotation developing among Davis, central men Adam Moffat and Ricardo Clark and wide attackers Oscar Boniek Garcia and Andrew Driver.

Napoli takes commanding Serie A lead after Juventus loss

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Six-time Serie A defending champions Juventus are in trouble. Not a lot, but the heat has been turned up.

A wild 3-2 loss to Sampdoria means the Italian giants are now four points back of Napoli in the Serie A table, and heading into their Champions League matchup with Barcelona, there is plenty of soul-searching to do in Turin.

Juventus nearly mounted what would have been a monumental comeback, down 3-0 heading into stoppage-time but posting goals by Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala in the first and fourth minutes of injury time. It was not to be, and the four-point deficit through 13 games not only leaves Juventus looking at Napoli more than a game in front of them, but also over their shoulders at Roma and Inter Milan both a point behind in third and fourth.

Goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon was kept out of the lineup as he continues to deal emotionally with the World Cup miss, and it showed. After a scoreless first half at Stadio Luigi Ferraris, Duzan Zapata beat Stephan Lichtensteiner in the air and sent a looping header over a flatfooted Wojciech Szczesny for the opening goal.

With 20 minutes to go, Sampdoria struck again as former Premier League creator Gaston Ramirez fed 21-year-old Lucas Torreira at the top of the box, and with nobody closing him down, he fired into the bottom-left corner of the net. They got the eventual winner nine minutes later after an embarrassing defensive breakdown by the visitors. A free-kick saw two attackers in front of net against five defenders, but somehow Gianmarco Ferrari was completely unmarked in front of the net for a tap-in.

Higuain struck from the penalty spot and Dybala hit on the counter to beat Emiliano Vivaldo at his near post, but it wasn’t enough for Juventus. The defensive frailty will need to be corrected moving forward, as they face a vital match at Napoli on December 1st, and a loss there could spell disaster for their title charge.

American right back Moore makes first La Liga start

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La Liga saw an American amongst its Starting XIs on Sunday.

Shaquell Moore made his first La Liga start in Levante’s 2-0 win at Las Palmas on Sunday.

According to WhoScored, Moore completed 71 percent of his passes, had three interceptions and four tackles won. He was credited with one key pass and three crosses.

[ MORE: McKennie impresses again ]

The right back turned 21 earlier this month, and our primitive research shows him as the first U.S. player to make a La Liga start since Oguchi Onyewu at Malaga in 2013.

Oddly enough, Sunday’s opposition had an American on the books last season with Emmanuel Sabbi skipped college soccer to join Las Palmas. Sabbi joined Danish side Hobro this summer, and made his first start on Friday.

Jozy Altidore spent time with Villarreal and Kasey Keller played for Rayo Vallecano.

Levante’s next match is Sunday at Real Sociedad.

Spurs reportedly have right to match any Bale bid

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What’s Gareth Bale worth these days? And how much higher than that figure is Manchester United willing to go?

Those are the two main questions that arise from the idea that Tottenham Hotspur may have a contractual privilege to match any offer made to Real Madrid for the ex-Spurs star.

[ MORE: McKennie impresses again ]

Bale, 28, was worth $112 million in today’s dollars when Real bought him in 2013. He has 70 goals and 55 assists in 159 matches for the Spanish outfit.

How much is he worth now? Certainly nothing near the same figure, as Romelu Lukaku went for $99 million this summer and Alvaro Morata went for $80 million.

The Express says Real expects $112 million right back for Bale, which seems insane. Bale has three goals and four assists in nine matches for Real this summer, and had nine and five in 27 outings last season.

Bale did, however, scored 19 goals in 23 La Liga matches two seasons ago, but he’s dealt with significant injuries on a near-annual basis.

Spurs transfer record is the $48 million it spent on Davinson Sanchez this summer. Whatever Manchester United, or anything suitor, will bid for Bale will likely be higher than that figure.

At one point would it make sense for Spurs to smash their record and wage structure to line up Bale, Dele Alli, Harry Kane, and Christian Eriksen in the same attack (I mean, holy smoke, just close your eyes and visualize that!).

Real reportedly wants to make the move happen in January, while United wants to do it in the summer.

Moyes: West Ham mentality, confidence is shaky

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David Moyes needed to see his charges in action, and didn’t love the mental side of West Ham’s 2-0 loss to Watford on Sunday at Vicarage Road.

The Irons had plenty of chances on the day, with Cheikhou Kouyate seeing one shot saved before missing another in perhaps the two best of the day.

[ RECAP: Watford 2-0 West Ham ]

And Watford’s first goal was pretty unlucky, as Andre Gray bungled a shot that went right to Will Hughes for his first Premier League goal.

Moyes’ Irons also lost Marko Arnautovic with what he thinks is a broken thumb, but is more worried about the club’s poise. From the BBC:

“I was only ever going to find out what the players were like by working with them and seeing them play today. When the opportunities didn’t go for us, the confidence went away.

“We have to try to find a way of winning. The important thing is to be in the game, and when we lost the second goal, it became difficult.”