MLS Playoff Preview: New York Red Bulls at Houston Dynamo

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  • Kickoff from BBVA Compass Stadium in downtown Houston is set for 3:30 p.m. ET on NBC:
  • New York won all three meetings between these teams in 2013, including two in Houston
  • The Dynamo prevailed over Montreal (3-0) in midweek to get here
  • Dynamo manager Dominic Kinnear is suspended
  • The Red Bulls avoided that mid-week elimination match by finished atop the East, and claiming Supporters Shield (for the MLS team with the best regular season record)

The New York Red Bulls may have mastered Houston in the regular season this year, and curiously so. But Dominic Kinnear’s Dynamo are masters of the MLS playoffs – so both teams have reason to like their chances as this intriguing home-and-away series gets going.

Sunday’s first leg of the totals goals series plays out at two-year-old BBVA Compass Stadium in the shadow of downtown Houston.

What makes this meeting so interesting (beyond the old argument of extra rest vs. added momentum – which we’ll get to) is this clear and somewhat contrasting edge for each team.

From New York’s side, winning all three regular season meetings of 2013 certainly must make Thierry Henry and Co. feel good about things. Mike Petke’s team downed the Dynamo in New Jersey back in June, 2-0. And funny thing, that was the least impressive among a trio of showy results. Next came a 4-1 thumping in September at BBVA Compass Stadium. And then, just two weeks ago, New York put yet another three-goal beat down on Dominic Kinnear’s proud team, once against at BBVA Compass Stadium.

That match was a strange one, where the score didn’t accurately reflect the actual match. (Also strange because it featured the fastest goal in MLS history, Tim Cahill’s opener just seven seconds after the kickoff.)

Teams just don’t bear the Orange by three goals at home, right? Only, New York did it twice this year.

“I’m sure people are going to talk about how we beat them the two times we went to their place, but this is a playoff game,” Henry said this week. “It’s totally different. I’ve got a lot of respect for them because they know how to do it in the playoffs. We still don’t know how to do it in the playoffs.”

And there’s the rub. The Red Bulls and “playoff success” have generally been oil and water through the years. (If you’re into signs and such, the only time New York did reach deep into the MLS playoffs, its path sped through Houston; a shocking 3-0 New York victory at the Dynamo’s old home on the University of Houston campus propelled the Red Bulls into a 2008 MLS Cup appearance.)

But Houston knows how to get it done in the post-season. It’s been that way since the team moved from San Jose back in 2006 – and promptly won MLS Cup in its first two seasons in Texas.

Under Houston manager Dominic Kinnear, the club is 14-7-3 in the post-season since moving to Houston. (Two of those losses were to David Beckham, Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane in the last two MLS Cup finals, with both matches happening inside the LA Galaxy’s home ground.)

Red Bulls manager Mike Petke, by contrast, will stand on the sidelines as head coach for his first MLS playoff contest.

(MORE: ProSoccerTalk’s MLS playoffs picks and predictions)

Further, Houston is 9-1 in playoff games at home since moving to Texas. If Houston can keep that party going, they could seize quick control of this total goals series, sending it back to Red Bull Arena with all the pressure on a team with no history of playoff success.

That doesn’t mean New York’s players don’t have a bunch of useful big game experience. Thierry Henry (10 goals, 9 assists for RBNY this year) helped France win a World Cup and a European Championship, never mind all those huge matches at old Highbury with Arsenal. Tim Cahill (11 goals) has played in a World Cup, never mind a lot of critical matches at Goodison Park with Everton.

Big center back Jamison Olave started for Real Salt Lake back in 2009, helping his team upset Beckham and the Galaxy to claim the league crown.

Plus, New York is rested, having all week to train while Houston dealt with that mid-week elimination match. While Houston had a relatively easy time with Montreal (a team that was faded and broken and put up little resistance, if we’re honest), the Dynamo also saw its manager “eliminated” from this first leg.

(MORE: MLS suspends Kinnear from playoff match)

Major League Soccer suspended Kinnear for leaving his technical area during the match.

While Houston made easy work of Montreal, important midfielders Brad Davis and Ricardo Clark, both in their early 30s, went deep into the match. Davis came off after 83 minutes; Clark played all 90 minutes.

(MORE: Previewing Sporting KC at New England)

AT HALF: Gabbiadini puts Saints up; Foxes lead (video)

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Five Premier League matches are sandwiched between Manchester United’s early demolition of Swansea City and a 12:30 p.m. ET kickoff between Stoke and Arsenal on NBC.

[ STREAM: 10 a.m. ET matches ]

Southampton 2-1 West Ham United

Saints are up a man and a goal after Nathan Redmond found Manolo Gabbiadini for a classy early finish, and Marko Arnautovic was sent off for a needless elbow to the neck of Jack Stephens.

Dusan Tadic converted a penalty on his 100th Premier League appearance, getting his 15th goal following a Jose Fonte foul on Steven Davis. Call it a gift from the longtime Saints defender to his former club.

Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez netted his first West Ham goal when Fraser Forster pushed Michail Antonio‘s left-footed shot onto the path of the Mexican national team star.

Burnley 0-0 West Bromwich Albion

Ben Foster‘s nice save on Johann Berg Gudmundsson keeps it scoreless at the break.

Liverpool 0-0 Crystal Palace

It’s no surprise that the Reds look the better money for a win, but a finish hasn’t come yet.

Bournemouth 0-0 Watford

Not much cooking at the home of the Cherries.

Leicester City 1-0 Brighton and Hove Albion

It took less than a minute for Shinji Okazaki to put the 2015-16 Premier League champions ahead of the newly-promoted Gulls.

VIDEO: Christian Pulisic scores Dortmund’s first goal of the season

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The kid just can’t help himself, can he?

Christian Pulisc, still just 18 years old, scored Borussia Dortmund’s opening goal of their Bundesliga campaign at Wolfsburg.

[ MORE: Latest USMNT news ]

The U.S. national team star picked up the ball on the edge of the box and smashed home across goal, hitting the far post before the ball hit the back of the net.

Take a look at the video below to see the Pennsylvanian playmaker strutting his stuff for Dortmund.

Who needs Ousmane Dembele anyway?

Jose Mourinho: Man United “let the horses run freely”

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This season we will get used to seeing Jose Mourinho nodding his head in approval as it looks like he has a nasty smell under his nose.

[ VIDEO: United destroy Swansea

The Portuguese coach is feeling his Manchester United team, and rightly so, and images before the game show him pretending to smoke a cigar as he laughed and joked with Swansea boss Paul Clement.

Mourinho watched on as his side won 4-0 for the second-straight game to open the 2017-18 Premier League season, with a flurry of late goals in a three minute and 41 second spell doing the damage.

Speaking after the game Mourinho to BBC, the Red Devils boss is happy to let his side roam free after they dominated the game.

“During almost 90 minutes, I don’t say 90 because there was a moment when they had a chance and we lost a little bit the confidence,” Mourinho said. “They were waiting with class, calm and consistency for the moment to kill the game. Swansea played with five in the back and they had a moment when they felt they had to change and when they did we had more space and killed the game.

“I felt in control, if you had a chance to look at me and my body language I think you could see that. Football is football and when you make a mistake you can concede so I never felt totally relaxed. I had players on the bench who could help me. Happiness in our play. It happened to me so much with my teams, you winning 1-0 and you can can concede. There was no need to close the door, just let the horses run freely.”

One of those horses who galloped gallantly was Paul Pogba who dinked home a wonderful goal late on to make it 3-0 and he put in a dominant display with Romelu Lukaku (four goals in three official games for United) and Anthony Martial also scoring and Marcus Rashford once again impressing.

“We had a very good result. 4-0 again. We carry on this road. We want this and we have to carry on like this,” Pogba told Sky Sports. “We are more confident and we know each other more. First year you have the first year for the manager, you have to train the team, it is not easy but we still won trophies. This season we are more confident and we know the team very well. Everyone knows each other and we work for each other and that is easier for us.”

Henrik Mkhitaryan, who was named the man of the match with two assists late on, believes United are now getting some more luck after they drew plenty of games they should have won last season.

“The team spirit, that’s what we need. Of course we had it last year but now we have a little bit of luck where we are scoring the chances we are creating. We started very well and most important we keep doing the same,” Mkhitaryan added.

VIDEO: Man United score three in less than four minutes

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It took 3 minutes and 41 seconds for Manchester United to totally destroy Swansea City.

Leading 1-0 at Swansea as they entered the final 10 minutes, Jose Mourinho’s side were always in control.

Then they exploded into life.

[ RECAP – United batter Swansea 4-0

Henrikh Mkhitaryan set up Romelu Lukaku (he has three goals in his first two Premier League games for United) and Paul Pogba in a few moments, watch their goals in the video above, then Anthony Martial finished things off with a fine goal.

Click play on the video below to see Martial score for the second-straight game off the bench.