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Disaster in Houston sees Dynamo fall to New York, 3-0, lose control of their playoff destiny (video)

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Seven seconds into the game, Houston was on their way to a potentially back-breaking loss, one which cost them lose control of their playoff destiny. But that’s how long it took for Tim Cahill, streaking toward the Houston defene at the opening kickoff, to score off a long ball from Dax McCarty, the Dynamo’s defensive error paving the way to a 3-0 defeat Sunday at BBVA Compass Stadium.

Setting a league record for fastest goal, Cahill beat Jermaine Taylor in the air on a long ball hit toward Houston’s penalty area. The Red Bull attacker headed into the vacated space, with Taylor’s partner (Bobby Boswell) slow to provide cover. One-timing his volley past Talley Hall from 19 yards out, Cahill hit a ball hit with the outside of his right foot, his shot tailing away as the Houston keeper dove for his left post. With the fifth touch of the game, New York was up 1-0.

Houston generated a number of chances to equalize before Ibrahim Sekagya doubled New York’s lead in the 65th minute. Substitute Bradley Wright-Phillips blasted his insurance off the woodwork and in to put the Red Bulls up three with 15 minutes to play, the 3-0 result vaulting the Eastern Conference leaders back to first in the Supporters’ Shield chase.

With a win next week over Chicago, New York will claim their first major honor in club history as well as earn home field advantage throughout the playoffs, and although Chicago will be fighting for their playoffs lives, the Red Bulls will be favored to close out their campaign with a win at Red Bull Arena.

After the loss, Houston’s third of the season to New York, the Dynamo also find themselves fighting for their playoff lives. Now sitting sixth in the East, Dom Kinnear’s squad will need help to continue their quest for a third straight MLS Cup final appearance. That help could come from New York (who play Chicago next week), Toronto (who face Montréal), or Columbus (taking on New England). If, however, the teams that sit third through fifth in the East all win next weekend, Houston is out.1

It’s an amazing turn of events given Houston seemed to right their ship after their midseason impotence, yet here we are, with one weekend left, and Houston’s decided to out Seattle the Sounders. Not only are they face-planting, but they’re on the outside looking in. At least Seattle had the foresight to collapse once they were all but clinched.2

For a team that many picked in March to come out of the East, Houston’s was an unexpectedly poor performance in a must-win game. And yes, “must-win” gets thrown around too much, but at the point you’re about to lose control of your playoff destiny, you have to start winning games. There’s no way Houston can look at this result and say “live to fight another day.” They no longer get to decide when that next day comes.

The problems have been in defense, where the team is too often giving up goals uncharacteristic of a Kinnear-coach team. They’ve also been in attack, where the team has gone through stretches unable to consistently produce goals.

And not to over-simplify the game, but if you have trouble putting goals on the scoresheet and keeping your opponents off it, then you’re probably not a very good team. Tonight, Houston was not, and if may have cost them a spot in this year’s post season.

1 – Houston is out in that scenario unless they win and out-score New England by 10, in which case they’ll pass the Revolution on the league’s second tiebreaker: Goals scored.

2- San Jose caveats apply.

UEFA Champions League final preview — Madrid’s finest Real or Atleti?

MILAN, ITALY - MAY 27:  Diego Simeone head coach of Atletico Madrid looks on during an Atletico de Madrid training session on the eve of the UEFA Champions League Final against Real Madrid at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on May 27, 2016 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
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Saturday’s UEFA Champions League final isn’t quite the unstoppable force against the immovable object — Real’s defense is good and Atleti has plenty of attacking intent — but it’s fair if you’re expecting the Madrid Derby final to be Diego Simeone’s diligent defenders attempting to counter Cristiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid’s potent attack.

[ MORE: Mourinho confirmed ]

Simeone’s built his name on tight teamwork, and La Liga teams broke Atleti down a mere 18 times in 38 matches this season. Before you crow about the weakness of Spain’s top flight from top to bottom, Real only managed a single goal against Atleti in a 1-1 draw that came at the Vicente Calderon. Atleti triumphed 1-0 at the Bernabeu to take four of six points from their derby mates.

But this is the big one, and a rematch of the late thriller we saw in the 2014 final. That’s when Diego Godin’s 36th minute goal came within seconds of being the difference, only for Sergio Ramos to net in stoppage time and Real to score three goals in extra time for a 4-1 win.

[ MORE: Torres ready for “game of my life” ]

Ronaldo will be fine to go, which is obviously bad news for Atleti. While his goal at the end of the 2014 final was just chiseled-ab window dressing, he has scored in both of his UCL finals (He scored for Manchester United in the 26th minute of their 2008 defeat of Chelsea).

(Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)

The beauty of Atleti’s defense is how well it springs into the attack, with Godin and Filipe Luis both capable of providing offense.

But really, with respect to Gabi and Antoine Griezmann… that defense! Atleti allowed three goals in the group stage, and just seven across its 12 UCL matches.

How will Simeone aim to stop Real this time around? Will it be banks of four or five, with Torres and Griezmann waiting to strike on a fleet-footed counter? That could serve their disciplined unit well, but something tells me Simeone has something special cooked up for this much-anticipated rematch, and manager is a distinct edge for Atleti against a still-learning Zinedine Zidane.

As an aside, Griezmann has been fantastic, scoring 32 times this year with seven coming in the UCL. Torres is second in scoring, with 12.

Championship playoff preview: Sheffield Wednesday vs. Hull City

DERBY, UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 14:  Eldin Jakupovic of Hull City celebrates as Andrew Robertson of Hull City scores their third goal during the Sky Bet Championship Play Off semi final first leg match between Derby County and Hull City at the iPro Stadium on May 14, 2016 in Derby, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
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One is hoping to rejoin the Premier League at the first time of asking, while the other to see its first top flight action since 2000 with a win in Saturday’s promotion playoff final at Wembley Stadium.

Hull City did not make the top flight from its inception in 1904 until winning the playoffs in 2008. Since, the Tigers have spent a pair of 2-season stints in the Premier League.

Sheffield Wednesday, for its part, spent nine seasons in the top tier from 1991-2000, but fell as low as League One in the 21st century before a run to the playoffs this season.

[ MORE: Three battles that could determine UCL final ]

Hull’s stingy defense allowed 35 goals this season, tied for the second-best mark in the league, while scoring the fourth-most goals (69). The Tigers finished in fourth place to Wednesday’s sixth, and the sides drew 0-0 at Hull and 1-1 in the reverse fixture.

Uruguayan striker Abel Hernandez was far and away Hull’s most deadly scorer, notching 21 goals in the Championship this season, while Sam Clucas paced the club with 8 assists.

Wednesday’s scoring was paced by former Watford attacker Fernando Forestieri’s 15 goals. Veteran Gary Hooper added 13 for the Owls, who got a team-best eight assists from Ross Wallace.

It’s the “richest game in sports”, and kicks off at Noon ET Saturday.

Sturridge injured again, Rashford set for England debut

England v Norway - International Friendly
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GATESHEAD, England (AP) England striker Daniel Sturridge has picked up another injury, potentially affecting his chances of being selected for the European Championship.

England manager Roy Hodgson says Sturridge has a calf injury that has prevented him from training and is a doubt to play in the warmup match against Australia on Friday. Hodgson has until Tuesday to finalize his 23-man squad for the tournament in France.

[ MORE: Mourinho confirmed | Speaks more ]

Sturridge has been beset by injury problems in recent years.

His latest injury increases the possibility of 18-year-old Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford‘s fairytale season being extended to include Euro 2016.

Hodgson said Thursday that Rashford will make his debut against Australia in Sunderland – as a starter if Sturridge isn’t fit. Rashford only made his United debut in February.

Ex-Leicester boss Pearson hired by Derby County

Nigel Pearson, Leicester City FC
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Nigel Pearson lives.

The combustible former manager of Southampton, Hull City and Leicester City will now lead Derby County in the hopes of Premier League promotion.

Derby has been on the edge of promotion to the Premier League for several seasons, but neither Steve McClaren and Darren Wassall could do the trick.

[ MORE: Mourinho confirmed | Speaks more ]

Enter Pearson, 52, who has been hired on a three-year deal. It’s his first stop since a roller coaster ride saw him guide Leicester into the Premier League, only to be fired in the aftermath of some players being involved in a racist sex tape incident on a tour of Thailand.

This was after a bizarre season that saw him put his hands on an opposing player’s throat, call a journalist an ostrich, and ultimately save Leicester from the drop.

From Derby County’s site:

“I am honoured to be named as the Manager of Derby County, which is one of the biggest clubs in the country, a club in excellent shape and one with strong ambitions. It is firmly focused on achieving Premier League football.

“I will give absolutely everything I have to this role and do all I can to bring exciting, entertaining and winning football which our supporters can be proud of.”

At the very least, the Rams will be interesting to watch next season.