Rio Tinto 3

Tuesday’s U.S. Open Cup final: How the teams got here

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We previewed the final here. But how did the teams arrive into Rio Tinto Stadium for the final of this centennial, 100th  edition of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup:

(Remember that MLS teams join the competition later than clubs from lower tier leagues; both of Tuesday’s finalists joined in the third round of tournament play.)

REAL SALT LAKE

Third Round: The run was almost over before it started as the visiting Atlanta Silverbacks from NASL took the MLS club into overtime at Rio Tinto Stadium. Kyle Beckerman scored early, but the men from Utah needed late goals from Devon Sandoval and Khari Stephenson for a 3-2 overtime win over the Silverbacks.

Fourth round: Sandoval, a rookie having a sensational season, mostly off the bench in league play, kept producing the Open Cup goods. He had two goals in this one as Real Salt Lake scored a 5-2 win over the Charleston Battery from the USL PRO league. This one, also at Rio Tinto, was closer that it looks, also extended into overtime.

Quarterfinal round: RSL’s outside backs roared in this one as Tony Beltran and Chris Wingert came forward to score on either side of halftime. Costa Rican international Alvaro Saborio scored late in the 3-0 win over the Carolina RailHawks of NASL in Sandy, Utah.

Semifinal round: Real Salt Lake prevailed in the tightly contested and highly anticipated clash with the Portland Timbers. Saborio and Joao Plata hit goals for the home team, while Diego Valeri’s late goal for Portland provided the final margin in the 2-1 win. It put  Jason Kreis’ club into a final for the first time since the 2010-11 CONCACAF Champions League title game. (RSL fell to Monterrey from Mexico on aggregate in that one.)

D.C. UNITED

Third round: Following a scoreless regulation in Richmond, Va., against the Richmond Kickers from USL PRO, United advanced through a PK tiebreaker, 4-2. Dwayne De Rosario, Perry Kitchen, Nick DeLeon and James Riley converted their penalty kick attempts for United.

Fourth round: In a meeting of MLS sides, United claimed a 3-1 win over the Philadelphia Union in a match in Boyds, Md.  Dwayne De Rosario, in his best moment for the club in 2013, scored all three United goals. De Rosario thus established himself as the third Black and Red man to record an Open Cup hat trick; Raul Diaz Arce (2000) and Abdul Thompson Conteh (2001) were the others.

Quarterfinal round: It was De Rosario rising once again in a 3-1 win over the New England Revolution in another all-MLS meeting. Chris Pontius and Lionard Pajoy also scored for Ben Olsen’s team in the match in Maryland.

Semifinal round: Real Salt Lake never had to travel during its Open Cup pursuits. D.C. United, meanwhile, won twice on the road. This was one, as Olsen’s team took a 2-0 win from the Chicago Fire in Bridgeview, Ill.  De Rosario’s goal just before intermission was the winner, while Nick DeLeon’s 48th-minute strike helped provide the visitors some safe distance.

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(MORE: Match preview, Real Salt Lake vs. D.C. United)

(MORE: A domestic soccer “Treble” could loom, but this is the first box to check)

(MORE: Where would a United win rank among Open Cup upsets?)

Premier League Preview: Stoke City vs. Manchester United

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 02:  Paul Pogba of Manchester United (L) shoots while Erik Pieters of Stoke City (R) attempts to block the shot during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Stoke City at Old Trafford on October 2, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
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  • Man Utd leads all-time 43W-34D-28L
  • Clubs even in last six (2-2-2)
  • Red Devils unbeaten in 16
  • Stoke winners of two-straight

After wins over Sunderland and Watford, Stoke City gets a higher class of opponent on Saturday at the Britannia Stadium (Watch live at 10 a.m. EDT on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Fortunately for Stoke, it’s had some success against Manchester United in recent years.

Stoke and United drew 1-1 at Old Trafford on Oct. 2, though Jose Mourinho’s Red Devils are flying now. United is hard to break down, and arguably deserved better than the 1-1 draw it earned versus Liverpool last weekend.

Stoke is now 11 points clear of the drop zone, and a win could raise its status to closer to the Top Five than Bottom Three. United, meanwhile, wants three points that would move it to precipice of the Top Four.

 

What they’re saying

Stoke City’s Glenn Whelan on facing United“There has been a wind of change there and the supporters seem a lot happier now and you get the sense that they are together as a group now. You only have to look at the players within the squad, and even the ones who are leaving, to see how much strength in depth they have there.”

Jose Mourinho praises newly-extended Antonio Valencia“I don’t think it is a reward, I don’t see it in this perspective. I just think he is the best right-back you can have. There is no better right-back in football. It is just for us to keep the best. I don’t think it is a reward. It is a privilege for us to have such a good player and such a good man.”

Prediction

United gets it done, only barely. Stoke will put up a brave battle for boss Mark Hughes, but there are too many weapons to suppress. United, 1-0.

AFCON wrap: Results keep Group C undecided

Ivory Coast's Wilfried Bony controls the ball on his head during their training session at the Stade Akoakam, Oyem, Gabon, Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017, ahead of their African Cup of Nations Group C soccer match against Congo. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
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Like Group A, Group C in the Africa Cup of Nations has very little decided ahead of the final group stage match.

[ MORE: Guardiola “said goodbye to title” ]

Ivory Coast 2-2 DR Congo

A thrilling first half had DR Congo leading 1-0 and 2-1, with only Wilfried Bony netting for the Ivory Coast. Les Elephants grabbed a draw through Serey Die’s 67th minute goal.

DR Congo now leads the group and is primed to advance with a result against Togo or a Morocco loss or draw against Ivory Coast.

Morocco 3-1 Togo

Mathieu Dossevi gave Togo a surprise fifth minute lead lead, but Aziz Bouhaddouz kickstarted the Moroccan attack to plug the victors into Group C’s second spot ahead of a Jan. 24 showdown with Ivory Coast.

Saturday’s matches

Ghana vs. Mali — 11 a.m. ET
Egypt vs. Uganda — 2 p.m. ET

Premier League Preview: Liverpool vs. Swansea City

SWANSEA, WALES - MAY 01:  Jefferson Montero of Swansea City is challenged by Nathaniel Clyne of Liverpool during the Barclays Premier League match between Swansea City and Liverpool at The Liberty Stadium on May 1, 2016 in Swansea, Wales.  (Photo by Steve Bardens/Getty Images)
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  • Liverpool leads all-time 22W-8D-10L
  • Swans lost five-straight at Anfield
  • Reds unbeaten in 7 PL matches

One of the Premier League’s top attacks hosts the division’s leakiest defense, as Liverpool may be licking its chops ahead of a visit from struggling Swansea City on Saturday (Watch live at 7:30 a.m. EDT on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Liverpool has drawn at Sunderland and Manchester United in its last two Premier League outings, and sits seven points back of leaders Chelsea.

Swansea City has allowed multiple goals in five of six PL matches since beating Sunderland 3-0 on Dec. 10. It’s no surprise that they’ve lost those five (the sixth being a 2-1 win at struggling Crystal Palace).

What they’re saying

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp on the match“We’re really looking forward to this game. I don’t know when it happened but in England every game now is like a final. Swansea are trying to survive. I don’t know when the title run-in will start, maybe now and we’re in the race. I hope for a special atmosphere tomorrow.”

Swansea City back Federico Fernandez on Liverpool“They are a team that is very strong going forward and that is shown by the number of goals they have scored. If you lose a little bit of focus against these teams then they have the players that will punish you every time. But it’s not only defending strongly when they are attacking, it is also how we keep hold of the ball and how we use it when in possession.”

Prediction

Swansea boss Paul Clement has his hands full, and is grabbing reinforcements in the transfer window (Luciano Narsingh, Martin Olsson, Tom Carroll). That won’t be enough to handle what Liverpool will dish out Saturday, as the Reds break free with a 3-0 win.

Saints’ Fonte moves to West Ham for $10 million

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West Ham has been linked with big name strikers since the summer, but the Irons’ big January transfer to date is a center back.

EURO champion and Southampton mainstay Jose Fonte is moving to London.

[ MORE: West Brom finally sells Berahino ]

Fonte, 33, makes an approximately $10 million move from the South Coast, where the Portuguese back will better Slaven Bilic‘s back line while forcing Southampton to find an answer alongside Virgil Van Dijk.

It’s been a strange trip to London for Fonte and Southampton, detailed by our own Joe Prince-Wright here. Fonte joined Saints during the 2009-10 season, and became a cult hero at St. Mary’s in helping the club move from League One to the Europa League in just over a half-decade.

Something won’t feel right about seeing Fonte in claret and blue, and Saints host West Ham on Feb. 4. Should be quite interesting.