Adam Moffat, Ricardo Clark

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.

LIVE – EFL Cup: Manchester Derby, West Ham-Chelsea, Saints-Sunderland

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - APRIL 12:  Wayne Rooney of Manchester United evades Fernandinho of Manchester City during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Manchester City at Old Trafford on April 12, 2015 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images
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There are still three more teams yet to join the quintet who clinched quarterfinal berths in the EFL Cup on Tuesday.

We’ve got three all-PL ties to decide their fates.

[ LIVE: Follow EFL Cup scores ]

Follow the action above, as we learn who takes the remaining spots alongside Newcastle United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Leeds United, and Hull City.

Holders Man City are off to Old Trafford for a derby match-up in the Round of 16, while it’s an all-London match at the Olympic Stadium between West Ham and Chelsea.

Finally, Sunderland hopes to break out of its season-long slump to join Northeast rivals Newcastle in the quarters. The Black Cats will need to win at Southampton to move on.

EFL Cup fourth round, Wednesday games

West Ham United vs. Chelsea — 2:45 p.m. ET
Southampton vs. Sunderland — 2:45 p.m. ET
Manchester United vs. Manchester City — 3 p.m. ET

MLS Cup Playoffs Thurs. preview: Seattle, DC riding hot streaks

SEATTLE, WA - MARCH 06:  Osvaldo Alonso #6 of the Seattle Sounders FC dribbles against Roger Espinoza #27 of Sporting Kansas City at CenturyLink Field on March 6, 2016 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
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The 4-5 match-ups in each conference are set for Thursday’s MLS Cup Playoffs, with two of the league’s hottest teams set to hit the pitch.

[ MORE: MLS Cup predictions ]

Both Seattle and DC are at home for their “play-in” matches, and face road teams with plenty of veteran experience and firepower in what should be a pair of beauts on each side of our country.

DC United vs. Montreal Impact — 7:30 p.m. ET

The Black-and-Red have hit their stride under coach Ben Olsen, and seem on board the plan.

Montreal, however, has not seen tranquility in Quebec. Ignacio Piatti has been fantastic, but the headlines have revolved around Didier Drogba‘s unhappiness at not starting under Mauro Biello.

It’s difficult to think Biello won’t start the Ivorian in a must-win match on the road, given Drogba’s experience and ability to dominate a game.

[ MORE: Nyarko says DC can aim high in MLS Playoffs ]

Seattle Sounders vs. Sporting KC — 10:30 p.m. ET

Nicolas Lodeiro and Jordan Morris have helped Seattle make up for the absence of transferred Obafemi Martins and injured Clint Dempsey.

The duo has been simply fantastic in “rave green”, and Sporting KC is going to have a whale of a time slowing Seattle. Consider the ability and season of under-the-radar MVP candidate Osvaldo Alonso in the center of the park, and all bets are off.

Of course, the thing about KC is there’s little question it has the mettle to not just win on the road, but win a tournament. Graham Zusi, Matt Besler, Dom Dwyer, Brad Davis, Benny Feilhaber… who in that locker room is going to shrink under the bright lights of the playoffs?

TFC’s Bradley: “Responsibility, privilege and passion” on line in playoffs

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 11: Michael Bradley #4 of United States looks on against New Zealand in the second half during an International Friendly at RFK Stadium on October 11, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images
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Toronto FC’s supporters fell in love with the club almost immediately, but it’s taken to Year 10 for the Reds to get a home playoff match.

The latest batch of TFC stars have embraced the battle for relevance, at times even surpassing expectations the lofty expectations of championship-starved Toronto.

[ MORE: Bradley talks TFC renaissance

This is a city which has seen the Blue Jays and Raptors find the precipice of glory in recent seasons, but not reach the apex. The Leafs haven’t been to a Stanley Cup final since the NHL had a whopping six teams.

So winning would be a mighty big accomplishment, right Michael Bradley?


“Being captain or a big player on a team in this city carries an extra weight,” said captain Michael Bradley. “I’ve loved every second of that; playing in this city, for this city, and being captain. It’ll be nights like Wednesday night where the responsibility, privilege and passion that I have for this role will get magnified that much more.”

He has a way with words, doesn’t he? The USMNT captain begins Canada’s quest for a title at 7:30 p.m. ET against visiting Philadelphia.

Whitecaps lock up Welsh coach Robinson through 2020

VANCOUVER, BC - APRIL 5:  Head coach Carl Robinson (right) of the Vancouver Whitecaps FC during their MLS game against the Colorado Rapids April 5, 2014 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Colorado won 2-1. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)
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Vancouver is hanging onto stalwart coach Carl Robinson despite a massively disappointing season.

The Whitecaps were tipped to compete for the Supporters’ Shield, only to miss the playoffs. There were plenty of excuses for the ‘Caps, including an injury to Kekuta Manneh and the transfer of Octavio Rivero.

And Vancouver is alive as the No. 1 seed in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals, also claiming the Cascadia Cup.

[ MORE: Nyarko says DC can aim high ]

Robinson has signed an extension through 2020, from

“Carl’s body of work over the course of his five years at the club has shown that he is one of the top up-and-coming head coaches in North America. While this past season was certainly a learning experience for everyone involved within the club, we have complete faith in Carl’s continued vision in acquiring the necessary players to build a team that will compete with the best in MLS.”

Robinson turned 40 this month, and has been leading the ‘Caps since December 2013. This is a smart move for both Vancouver and its coach.