Omar Gonzalez

MLS playoff focus: Notes on the LA Galaxy ahead of Thursday’s second leg against Real Salt Lake

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Ahead of Thursday’s second-leg of this Western Conference semifinal series, here are the must-knows about Bruce Arena’s LA Galaxy (Thursday’s match kicks off at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN2):

  • Still waiting for delivery from Robbie Rogers

His brave work in moving domestic sports into a better and more accepting place has been one of the great off-field stories of MLS in 2013. Maybe ever.

But Robbie Rogers simply isn’t delivering on the field. Rogers started once again along the right on Sunday in Los Angeles, but his body of work was pedestrian, at very best. If not for the great performance from Sean Franklin, whose big night in behind Rogers on the right included a lot of great defensive work, and generally so much more than that wonderful and important goal, then we would probably be spending more time dissecting Rogers’ night of lesser.

(By the way, that was Franklin’s first goal in 17 MLS playoff matches. And what a way to get No. 1 ! You’ve seen that thing, right?)

  • Can the Galaxy hold off RSL late?

The troubling statistic that has gotten better lately, but just won’t go away for the Galaxy is this: The Galaxy gave up 18 goals after the 75th minute this year, second highest in the league, ahead of only woeful Chivas USA.

The team has done better lately, particularly after Jaime Penedo summer addition helped stabilize the Galaxy in goal. And it hasn’t hurt that Omar Gonzalez (pictured), the club’s U.S. international and recently enshrined DP, has mostly been able to concentrate on club duties lately rather than toggling between national team and Galaxy chores.

Still, it’s something to consider if RSL, behind by a goal in the series, has to press for a late one to level the score on aggregate.

(MORE: Real Salt Lake-LA Galaxy second leg preview)

  • Donovan: “We are going there to win … not to tie”

A tie will do for the LA Galaxy – but that will not be the aim.

So says the club’s all-time leading scorer. He’s certainly correct in that so few teams, particularly if we aren’t talking about Serie A sides out of Italy, truly know how to play for  a draw.  Here’s what Donovan told the LA Galaxy blog:

“We have to be very good defensively, but we’re not going there to defend for 90 minutes, we’re going there to try to keep the ball and move the ball and put them under pressure too,” he said.

“I’m sure that they’re not going to go crazy because the reality is that they just need a goal at some point. For us the mentality is to be aggressive and get around the ball and get after the ball, but also when we have chances to possess and go forward.  We’re going there to win the game, we’re not going there to get a tie.”

(MORE: What we learned from LA Galaxy-RSL first leg)

  • LA Galaxy strong in conference semifinals

Playoff experience and understanding how to manage the matches (and the series) is clearly important. Just ask the Red Bulls, who just got knocked into off-season nether world by one of Major League Soccer’s ultimate playoff grinders, the Houston Dynamo.

But do you not give the Galaxy enough credit for their gift of grind?

The Galaxy has, after all, gone a perfect 6-for-6 in their last half dozen conference semifinal series. The fell in the semifinals in 2003 (the first year Major League Soccer’s current home-and-away format was adopted. Since then … they just don’t lose in this round. The Galaxy is 9-3-2 overall in this round in the current format.

(MORE: MLS playoff scheduling, timing and pace make no sense)

Bournemouth 2-2 Watford: Cherries battle back to draw

BOURNEMOUTH, ENGLAND - JANUARY 21: Benik Afobe of AFC Bournemouth scores his sides second goal during the Premier League match between AFC Bournemouth and Watford at Vitality Stadium on January 21, 2017 in Bournemouth, England.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
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  • King, Afobe equalize
  • Kabasele, Deeney put Hornets ahead
  • 4 draw in 4 PL meetings

Bournemouth and Watford once again played out an entertaining draw in the Premier League.

In their four meetings in the PL, all four have now ended in draws. Watford twice took the lead through Christian Kabasele and Troy Deeney but goals from Josh King and Beink Afobe pegged the Hornets back twice.

With the point Watford move on to 24 points, while Bournemouth has 26 points.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Jack Wilshere dinked a lovely ball to Ryan Fraser who headed towards goal but Heurelho Gomes saved well as the home side started well.

Wilshere then struck a strong shot on goal which Gomes had to save as it was one way traffic.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings

Just as Bournemouth looked to be running away with things, Watford won a corner after a bad back pass from Fraser.

From that set piece Miguel Britos popped up at the back post and his header back across goal was nodded in by Kabasele. 1-0 to Watford as the Belgian international Kabasele had his second goal in the Premier League.

Tom Cleverley went close for Watford before the break but his low shot flashed wide as the Hornets led the Cherries.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Within three minutes of the second half Bournemouth were level as Adam Smith whipped in a great cross and King finished. 1-1. Game on.

Watford almost went ahead as Jose Holebas’ super strike was tipped wide by Artur Boruc. Gomes then denied Fraser with a wonderful stop to his left as the Bournemouth winger cut inside and curled an effort towards the top corner.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score

Somewhat against the run of play Watford then went 2-1 up as Deeney headed home from close range as a corner caused mayhem in the box. Could the Hornets hold on this time? Nope.

Substitute Afobe then got free in the left side of the box and he sent a shot across goal and into the far corner which went under Gomes and in. 2-2 and that’s how another entertaining clash between these teams finished.

WATCH LIVE: Manchester City vs. Tottenham Hotspur (Lineups, Stream)

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JANUARY 21:  General view inside the stadium prior to the Premier League match between Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur at the Etihad Stadium on January 21, 2017 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
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The weekend’s marquee match sees Tottenham Hotspur going for a season sweep of Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE ONLINE HERE

Gabriel Jesus could make his Manchester City debut, beginning the day among Pep Guardiola‘s substitutes.

On the other side, Eric Dier moves into the middle with Toby Alderweireld in the absence of Jan Vertonghen. Kevin Wimmer slots in as well.

LINEUPS

Manchester City: Bravo, Zabaleta (C), Otamendi, Kolarov. Clichy, Yaya, Silva, De Bruyne, Sane. Sterling, Aguero. Subs: Caballero, Kompany, Fernando, Nolito, Delph, Stones, G. Jesus.

Tottenham Hotspur: Lloris (C), Walker, Dier, Alderweireld, Wimmer, Rose, Wanyama, Dembele, Eriksen, Dele, Kane. Subs: Vorm, Trippier, Davies, Carter-Vickers, Winks, Sissoko, Son.

West Bromwich Albion 2-0 Sunderland: Black Cats meet 20th

West Bromwich Albion's Darren Fletcher, left, celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the game against Sunderland, during their English Premier League soccer match at The Hawthorns, West Bromwich, England, Saturday Jan. 21, 2017. (Nigel French/PA via AP)
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  • Fletcher, Brunt scores
  • WBA stays 8th
  • Sunderland goes bottom

Darren Fletcher and Chris Brunt struck in quick first half succession as West Bromwich Albion handed Sunderland a 2-0 defeat at the Hawthorns on Saturday.

West Brom is up to 32 points, comfortably midtable and aiming for some breaks atop the table and good Cup fortune to get into the European mix.

Sunderland is now three points back of 17th place, held by Swansea City. The Black Cats do have better goal differential than Swans, but sit 20th.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Chances for a minor upset didn’t look good early, though Sunderland dodged a bullet with Billy Jones‘ takedown of Salomon Rondon was judged not to merit a West Brom penalty kick.

Fletcher hit his target in the 30th minute to make partial amends, at least karmically, as West Brom went ahead when he chested Gareth McAuley‘s header into position for a volleyed finish.

Brunt was next, and his goal was just as fine to view. It started with intrepid Matty Phillips, whose cross was palmed back to Nacer Chadli. The ex-Spurs man hit the cross bar, but Brunt volleyed that home.

Jake Livermore nearly scored on debut for the Baggies, who rarely looked to be in trouble.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Stoke City 1-1 Man United: Rooney sets record with late goal

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  • Mata scores own goal
  • United have 25 shots
  • Rooney breaks record 

A historic moment arrived as Manchester United scored a stoppage time equalizer to draw 1-1 against Stoke City at the bet365 Stadium on Saturday.

Wayne Rooney scored that equalizer in stunning fashion to set the new record as United’s all-time leading goalscorer ahead of Sir Bobby Charlton.

[ VIDEO: Rooney reacts to breaking the record ]

Rooney now has 250 goals in his United career and although Jose Mourinho’s side slipped up in their quest to move closer to the top four they have extended their unbeaten run to 17 games in all competitions.

An own goal from Juan Mata after Erik Pieters‘ cross looked like it would be the difference as United had over 65 percent possession and plenty of shots on target but couldn’t break down a stubborn Stoke outfit.

However Rooney’s moment arrived in stoppage time and the rest, as they say, is history.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Early on there was a scare for Stoke as a high ball into the box saw Lee Grant catch the ball but collide with Ryan Shawcross and the loose ball was eventually cleared.

Stoke took the lead in the 19th minute as Marko Arnautovic played in Pieters and his cross deflected off Juan Mata and in at the near post. 1-0 to the Potters via Mata’s own goal.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings

Ibrahimovic then set up Mata unselfishly but the Spaniard’s shot went over from five yards out as as Bruno Martins Indi did enough to put him off. United looked increasingly dangerous as the first half wore on as Zlatan set up Mata again but the chance came and went with Martins Indi blocking his shot.

Grant then saved a volley from Marouane Fellaini and another from Zlatan but the Potters led at the break despite United having 12 attempts.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

In the second half Mata went close and United continued to push hard and Marcus Rashford came off the bench to try and get Mourinho’s men back in it.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score

On the break Stoke looked dangerous and Xherdan Shaqiri twice went close as the Swiss winger saw his volley saved by David De Gea and then a shot blocked by Chris Smalling.

Paul Pogba had a shot blocked and then Rashford curled an effort a yard wide of the goal when free in the box as United couldn’t find a way through.

On as a sub, Rooney then had a glorious chance to set the new goalscoring record but he sent a header over the bar. Jesse Lingard then had a shot from distance which deflected off Ryan Shawcross and hit the crossbar.

Yet Rooney was not to be denied as he curled him a sumptuous free kick to set the record and grab a point for his side.