LA mistake, Giles Barnes goal send Galaxy to third 1-0 loss

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There are two, related truths that have defined the first months of the LA Galaxy season. First, if Robbie Keane is held without a goal, as he has been on three occasions, Los Angeles loses. Second, when they do fall, the Galaxy do so 1-0, with tonight’s one-goal defeat in Houston underscoring the team’s dependence on their captain’s production.

Pulled into a more withdrawn, attacking midfield role in the absence of Landon Donovan, Keane only had one good chance on the night – a 31st minute shot that was blocked by Warren Creavalle. The forwards he left up top, however, did little better. Rob Friend continues to be little more than a willing target, while Samuel’s missed chance in the first minute proved costly – one of only two good chances for Los Angeles on the night. Though they again controlled possession (and forced David Horst into one goal line clearance), the Galaxy failed to create enough good chances.

The better ones, scarce as they were, fell to Houston, who saw Andrew Driver play a ball from the right against the left post early in the second half, continuing the midfielder’s finishing woes. Three minutes later, that miss was forgotten when Driver pounced on this match-defining mistake from Jaime Penedo, setting up Giles Barnes to finish off the right post:

For a player of his talent, Penedo seems far too mistake-prone. Whether we’re talking about technical errors, like on last week’s stoppage time goal from Portland’s Diego Valeri, or mental, where he compounds Dan Gargan’s mistake by not at least clearing that ball, there are too many times where something you wouldn’t expect from a LA Galaxy number one Penedo’s team. He’s a huge upgrade on Carlo Cudicini, but occasionally, he’s still a problem (particularly when his defense is not doing him any favors).

Combine that with the loss of Donovan’s creativity and the lack of goals from Robbie Keane, and in hindsight, LA seem set up to lose in Houston. As the Dynamo showed last week against Columbus, if there’s a team that can mentally and stylistically hold out to take advantage of a possession team’s mistakes, it’s Houston. Rebounding from their post-March slump, Houston’s now won three of four.

As for the Galaxy, it was a poor result but not a terrible performance. The team needs to find somebody besides Keane who can produce, but they have five months to get there. Holding 56 percent of the ball, limiting Houston to a couple of chances, the Galaxy’s underlying performance is fine. They just need the more obvious elements to produce something on the scoresheet.

Report: Ola Kamara wanted by mid-table La Liga outfit

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Columbus Crew star Ola Kamara is ready to leave the side, but he may not be moving inside of Major League Soccer.

[ MORE: FA Cup replay roundup ]

Metro.Us reporter Kristian Dyer says the Norwegian star is subject to a bid from a mid-table La Liga club. He’d been linked with a trade to Colorado as well.

Kamara, 28, came to MLS from Austria Wien and has since scored 34 goals in two seasons, a year after bagging 21 goals on loan for Molde in Norway.

Seventh place and 15th are separated by just four points in Spain’s top flight. Leganes and Espanyol are having the hardest time scoring goals, in terms of mildly educated speculation.

Transfer rumor roundup: Fred to Man City; Aubameyang wanted

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Could this January transfer window rival last season’s in terms of activity?

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Last season saw Crystal Palace save its season and Hull City nearly do the same, Morgan Schneiderlin head to Everton, Leicester find a decent N'Golo Kante replacement, and much, much more.

This season has been less active, though Ross Barkley has headed to Chelsea while former club Everton nabbed Cenk Tosun and Liverpool added Virgil Van Dijk.

The BBC has news involving Napoli which could affect two Premier League clubs. The Neapolitans apparently want Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet, who wants to be an every week starter, to be a prime part of their push to end Juventus’ Serie A stranglehold.

That would unseat Pepe Reina, who’s been long linked with a reunion with former boss Pepe Reina at Newcastle United. Napoli currently has Luigi Sepe as a No. 2 to Reina, though UEFA Europa League fixtures mean it’s no guarantee Mignolet’s arrival would allow Reina to leave town.

Sky Sports says Manchester City would like to see Fred as a long-term replacement for Fernandinho. Fred went 90 minutes for Shakhtar Donetsk in a pair of UEFA Champions League contests against City, including the 2-1 home win over the Premier League leaders’ B-squad on Dec. 6. The 24-year-old has two goals and two assists in league play, and could cost more than $25 million.

Don Balon proffers news that could unsettle Arsenal fans, as Real Madrid is apparently entering the bidding for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Florentino Perez would like an upgrade to Karim Benzema for his struggling La Liga super powers, and goodness knows Real will tempt Borussia Dortmund’s bank account.

One liners:

— The BBC also says Besiktas want Islam Slimani to join the club from Leicester City.

— Ola Kamara’s move from Columbus to another MLS team may be hijacked by La Liga.

Mourinho reportedly close to Man Utd contract extension

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Jose Mourinho is scheduling an extended stay at Manchester United.

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The 54-year-old has a contract through the end of next season, the dreaded third at a club for Mourinho, but reports say United is keen to keep him around through 2021.

Mourinho has not tasted a fourth season with a club despite winning league titles at Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan, and Real Madrid.

The 2019-20 season at Old Trafford would be Mourinho’s fourth. According to the BBC:

Talks have progressed well and it is now just a matter of time before Mourinho commits to remain at Old Trafford beyond the expiry of his present deal in 2019.

Somehow, this feels it should be deemed another loss for Antonio Conte.

Barkley ineligible to make Chelsea debut in FA Cup replay

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Ross Barkley was expected — and himself expected — to make his Chelsea debut on Wednesday, when the Blues host Championship side Norwich City in a third-round FA Cup replay at Stamford Bridge.

Alas, the 24-year-old English midfielder has been ruled ineligible due to a lesser-known and -applied rules surrounding transfers and player registration.

[ MORE: Tuesday’s 3rd-round replay roundup | Wednesday preview ]

Barkley completed his move from Everton to Chelsea, for $20 million, on Jan. 5, the day before Chelsea and Norwich drew 0-0 at Carrow Road. In order to be eligible for Wednesday’s replay, Barkley is required to have completed his transfer prior to the noon cut-off the day prior to the original tie. While the time of official approval is unknown, Barkley’s move wasn’t announced by the club until after 5 p.m. in the UK.

As such, Chelsea will attempt to set up a behind-closed-doors friendly this week, in order to provide Barkley a bit of game action as he builds fitness and sharpness ahead of a potential debut against Brighton & Hove Albion on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com). Barkley hasn’t seen a single minute of first-team action this season after suffering a serious hamstring injury in the summer.