SOC - Dynamo Playoffs vs. New York

Houston scores late to draw with New York Red Bulls, 2-2

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HOUSTON – The New York Red Bulls took command early, but then collapsed beneath the weight of a red card and a motivated second half effort from the home team Sunday, drawing with Houston at BBVA Compass Stadium, 2-2.

Houston rallied for two second half goals, including one in stoppage time, erasing a big first half from the visiting Red Bulls, thus sending the teams’ home-and-away series back up to New York tied on totals goals.

Omar Cummings finished a stoppage time scramble in front of New York’s goal for the late equalizer. Dynamo teammates Ricardo Clark had cut New York’s lead in half with a deflected 52nd-minute shot.

The match really turned 13 minutes later when Red Bulls center back Jamison Olave was shown a straight red for a bad tackle on Cummings. Thus, he will miss the return leg Wednesday at Red Bull Arena.

(MORE: Man of the Match, New York’s Tim Cahill)

The Red Bulls, who were rolling so mightily, with so much authority and swagger through the final weeks of Major League Soccer’s regular season, appeared ready to do the same in the playoffs. If there was any doubt about whether Mike Petke’s team, the 2013 Supporters Shield winners, would forfeit some of that confidence and form once into the post-season, the visitors had removed all doubt within half an hour.

Tim Cahill’s header off Thierry Henry’s swell assist got things going, and by the time Eric Alexander turned and fired into the near post after 30 minutes, the Red Bulls seemed well in control of the Eastern Conference semifinal first leg.

But things changed in the second half, and especially so after Olave’s 65th minute ejection. Houston had all the momentum from there.

Petke’s team looked quite dangerous from the start, sitting back and not really even trying to play with much possession on Houston’s small field. It worked perfectly as Henry got isolated along the left side. His nifty little turn created enough room for a centering ball, which Cahill turned into his first MLS playoff goal on an unchallenged header.

Yes, an unchallenged header; this year’s Dynamo defense just hasn’t been the classic, tough unit to score against we are so used to seeing from Dominic Kinnear clubs.

The defending was sloppy once again as Alexander got free down the right, the finishing touches of yet another quick thrust from the visitors. He turned on Eric Brunner and beat Houston ‘keeper Tally Hall – who didn’t look good on either New York goal – to the near post.

Houston had just a series of half-chances in the opening half before Will Bruin took Boniek Garcia’s sweet little release into the penalty area, pulled it around one defender to create some shooting space … but then hit his lightly contested shot well over New York goal from about 15 yards just before the break.

Houston was much stronger to start the second half, and Clark needed just six minutes to take advantage for David Carney’s awful clearance. Carney ”cleared” a ball from the wing into the middle of the field, where Clark gathered near the top of the penalty area and then saw his deflected shot beat a stranded Luis Robles. That cut the New York lead to 2-1.

New York had lost the initiative when Olave, so commanding at center back when he can stay on the field, when he is not dealing with injuries or suspensions, left his team a man down for 25 minutes.

The ball was nowhere nearby when Olave launched his dangerous tackle from behind on Cummings. Referee Ricardo Salazar was quickly on scene with red card in hand.

Cummings’ late equalizer came after a corner kick, which the Red Bulls failed to clear initially.

Kinnear, suspended but watching from a suite, used a lineup unchanged from the 11 that made easy work of Montreal in a mid-week elimination match.

Lineups

Houston Dynamo: Tally Hall, Kofi Sarkodie, Eric Brunner, Bobby Boswell, Corey Ashe; Oscar Boniek Garcia, Warren Creavalle, Ricardo Clark, Brad Davis; Will Bruin, Giles Barnes.

New York Red Bulls: Luis Robles, Markus Holgersson, Ibrahim Sekagya, David Carney, Eric Alexander, Dax McCarty, Jonathan Steele, Peguy Luyidula; Thierry Henry, Tim Cahill

Spanish playmaker Bojan signs new long-term contract at Stoke City

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Bojan Krkic will be a Potter for plenty of years to come.

On Thursday Stoke City announced that Bojan, 25, has signed a contract extension keeping him at the Britannia Stadium for another four-and-a-half years.

[ MORE: New-look Stoke to progress

Since arriving from Spanish giants Barcelona at the start of the 2014-15 season the playmaker has been a revelation in the Premier League.

Despite suffering a serious knee injury midway through his debut season in England, Bojan has battled back this campaign and has scored five times in 23 outings for the Potters.

Speaking to the club website, Bojan revealed his delight in signing the contract extension that will see him stay with Stoke until the summer of 2020.

“I am very happy and motivated. Stoke City gave me the opportunity to play in the most competitive league in the world, the Premier League, and I have only words of gratitude for their trust and for the way they have treated me since the first day I arrived to England,” Bojan said. “Mark Hughes convinced me to come to Stoke, he has helped me and showed his trust in me from the beginning, he followed closely the recovery process from my injury and there is no doubt I have signed an extension of my contract thanks to him.”

With Mark Hughes’ side battling for a top six finish, being knocked out agonizingly on penalty kicks by Liverpool in the League Cup semifinal and still in the FA Cup, it’s been another stellar season for Stoke as their progress continues.

Bojan’s presence has been central to attracting top names to join him at Stoke, with the likes of Xherdan Shaqiri, Ibrahim Afellay and Mark Arnautovic all part of a new-look attack which in-turn has provided a much more attractive team to watch on the pitch.

Amid interest from plenty of other teams around the Premier League and Europe, Stoke have kept hold of their main creative hub and fans will be delighted to see the Barca academy product progress with the Potters over an extended period of time.

VIDEO: USWNT’s Press scores stunning goal after amazing spin move

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What a first touch.

The U.S. women’s national team beat Costa Rica 5-0 in the opening game of their CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying campaign on Wednesday and USWNT forward Christen Press scored the pick of the bunch after she teed herself up with a superb first touch.

[ MORE: NBC to stream every Olympic qualifier

Click play on the video above to watch the World Cup winner control the ball with a deft outside-of-the-foot touch before spinning and striking home in a mesmerizing movement.

Majestic.

Press and the USWNT face Mexico on Saturday in their second Group A game (Watch live, 9:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra).

On the up, off the pitch: Manchester United’s revenue continues to rise

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Manchester United have announced that revenue levels for the three months leading up to December 31 rose by 26.6 percent.

The Red Devils released the figures on Thursday which show revenue of $192.4 million, with commercial revenue up a massive 42.5 percent but matchday revenue was down 1.6 percent.

[ VIDEO: Ferrell – “I got Mourinho fired”

The overall profit for the quarter was $26.7 million and over that period club debt fell by 6 percent but still stands at an eye-watering $463.6 million. That said, in a recent review of the finances of the top clubs on the planet Deloitte believes United will top the rich-list next season.

Despite Louis Van Gaal‘s future being questioned, United being knocked out of the UEFA Champions League at the group stage in December and being six points off the top four with just 13 games of the current Premier League season to go, the strength of their results off the pitch continue to show just how successful a business they’ve become.

Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward told investors that: “Our solid results off the pitch help contribute to what remains our number one priority – success on the pitch.”

Woodward has also vowed to continue United’s “strong commitment to investing in our squad, youth academy.”

[ MORE: Report – Mourinho tells friend he will take over at United

Van Gaal, 64, will need a strong finish to the season on the pitch to help United to success and in turn improve those financial figures for next season. Failure to finish in the PL’s top four and qualify for the UCL will substantially impact United’s financial results next season, and the pressure remains on him and his players to claw back the deficit.

With speculation mounting that Jose Mourinho could be appointed as United’s new boss there also seems to be a surplus of cash which Rob Harris from the Associated Press speculates could be used for a new manager…

Morgan, USWNT cruise past Costa Rica 5-0 behind early flurry of goals

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The U.S. Women got off to a flying start in Olympic qualification Group A play by torching Costa Rica 5-0, including goals from Alex Morgan, Carli Lloyd, and Crystal Dunn.

Morgan led the way with a double, including one in the opening 12 seconds – only six passes off the opening kick – that set the record for quickest goal in U.S. Soccer history. Lloyd and Dunn both struck in the opening 15 minutes to make it 3-0 before Costa Rica even had time to blink. Lloyd’s came on a penalty after Dunn was felled for the captain’s 83rd international goal, and then the latter bagged one of her own minutes later on a rebound off a shot by Morgan.

[ VIDEO: Alex Morgan caps off a 12-second, six-pass goal ]

The visitors were able to make it Morgan scored her second after the hour mark to cap the goal tally. Jill Ellis completed her trio of substitutions after the fourth goal and the U.S. saw the game out easily.

The fifth came late on a cross from Tobin Heath that fell to Christen Press in the box. With her back to the goal, the 27-year-old produced a simply stunning first touch, back-heeling the ball down before whipping around the opposite direction to lose her defender and firing home the fifth goal.

With the final whistle, the United States improved their record against Costa Rica to a perfect 13-0. The U.S. will play Mexico next on Saturday before finishing out Group A play against Puerto Rico on Monday, February 15.