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MLS Preview: New England Revolution vs. Houston Dynamo


Ah, the stretch run.  Five matches to go, and the playoffs are anybody’s for the taking. This is what you live for, right?

Ok fine, the playoffs are what you live for.  But you have to get there first.

For Houston and New England, they’ve secured a pole position, now they have to hold onto it. These final games are no longer about amassing as many points as possible – it’s now about getting more points than those below you (thanks, John).

The results couldn’t get more mind-boggling in New England right now. Can anybody figure out where the Revs fit? Right in the middle seems to work.  In their last 8 matches, they lost 1-0 at home to a bad team, got trounced 3-0, won 2-0, stomped 5-1, drew 1-1, lost 4-2 and 3-2, and won 2-1.


Unfortunately there’s more bad than good in that list, and with their fifth and final playoff spot dangling by a hair, they can’t afford any more slip-ups.  They know it, too.

“We all said that it’s a must-win game” said Revolution teen Diego Fagundez after their win over D.C. United last week. “We’re in the playoffs right now. This game was part of our playoff games, so it was very important.”  Those playoffs are starting now for the Revolution, and a few others as well.

The Houston Dynamo are in the same boat.  They have a four-point cushion above the Line of Death, but it’s still precarious enough that each result is vastly important.  They’ve taken that to heart, responding well from a rough patch by winning their last three matches.  The Dynamo have been streaky all season, but just like last year they’re arranging the streaks to finish strong.

“I think the way we responded says a lot about this team,” Dynamo goalkeeper Tally Hall said. “It’s something we hadn’t done earlier and the middle part of this season and it’s something we’re doing now.”

They’ve carried their success over to the CONCACAF Champions League as well, defeating W Connection FC 2-0 midweek.

Juan Aguedelo and Brad Davis are out for their respective teams according to, but for this late in the season, both squads are outstandingly fit.

The previous few matches between these two sides have been barnburners, with goals, red cards, goals, drama, upsets, oh and goals.  So this should be a fun watch from Gillette, with Houston looking for revenge from earlier in the year.

When so much is on the line, the play is always amped to a new level.  Consider this the beginning of the playoffs.

“Overweight” Costa comes to Mourinho’s defense

Diego Costa, Chelsea FC
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Diego Costa says he and his Chelsea teammates are to blame for Chelsea’s horrid start to the 2015-16 Premier League season.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Speaking Thursday, during a bit of downtime over the current international break (Costa was left out of Vicente del Bosque’s squad for Spain’s final two EURO 2016 qualifiers this week), Costa placed the majority of blame at the feet of the entire team, but went on to most harshly critique himself for coming into the season unfocused and “overweight.”

Costa, on his lack of fitness and form to begin the season — quotes from the Guardian:

“We know we’re not in the form we were supposed to be at the beginning of the season. We need to blame the players because we came back from holiday very confident, thinking we could go back into how it was last season, and then realized the team was already in a bad situation.

“I’m going to be very honest: maybe a few weeks ago, five or six weeks ago, I was not on top of my game. At least physically. We talk within the players and we know that, maybe at the beginning, we were not 100 percent as we were supposed to be when we got here. I got injured at the end of last season and then I went on holiday. Maybe I got out of my diet and, when I came back, I was not the way I was supposed to be. I was a little bit overweight. That affected my game. You can be selfish and blame it on the manager but I’m not going to do that. I’m responsible 100%, and so are the other guys.

Given that Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said on Thursday he doesn’t quite know what’s wrong with the defending Premier League champions, hearing someone — anyone — speak up and explain the club’s worst start to a season in 37 years will surely be a welcome sound to any Blues supporter’s ears.

[ MORE: Liverpool appoint Klopp as manager | Allardyce to Sunderland? ]

Costa, who is eligible to return from suspension next weekend when Aston Villa visit Stamford Bridge, has scored just one goal in league play this season (six appearances) after scoring 20 in 26 games last season.

Sam Allardyce to open talks with Sunderland

Sam Allardyce, West Ham United FC
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Now that Liverpool have selected and named their new manager, it appears Sunderland are finally ready to move forward with their own managerial search. (That’s clearly a joke, because it implies Liverpool and Sunderland ever duke it out for the same managerial candidate.)

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Anyway, the Black Cats will have to hire someone to replace the recently-departed Dick Advocaat at some point. We all knew that, despite the fact he’s probably earned a shot at that level, Bob Bradley was never really going to be considered for the job. With that in mind, if you’re not going to endear yourself to the entire United States of America with this hire, you might as well go for the best unemployed manager who’ll actually consider your approach.

That’s what Sunderland chairman Ellis Short appears to have done, as it was reported Thursday that despite an initial reluctance from Sam Allardyce — let’s be honest, he actually was holding out hope for the Liverpool job — the 60-year-old most recently in charge of West Ham United was willing and ready to enter into negotiations with the northeastern club.

One of the major sticking points during Sunderland’s courting of Allardyce is expected to be his demand for autonomy in the transfer market as well as a sizable transfer budget to sign his own players during the January window.

[ MORE: Advocaat: Sunderland squad too thin, chairman to blame ]

Allardyce seems like the no. 1 guy you’d like to bring in to steady a capsized ship — cough Sunderland cough — in any situation. Not only does he have a successful track record in the Premier League, but he’s the kind of no-nonsense leader a club like Sunderland so desperately needs as they find themselves in yet another relegation battle just eight games into the new season.

Short hopes to have Allardyce signed, sealed and delivered when the Premier League returns to action next weekend. In that event, Allardyce’s first game in charge of Sunderland would be a trip to West Bromwich Albion. His first home fixture? Home to Tyne-Wear derby rivals Newcastle United, a club whose boisterous fanbase still holds a great deal of disdain for Big Sam. Sometimes the football gods really are looking out for us.