Beasley's feat of playing at four World Cups will be tough to beat.

DaMarcus Beasley, introduced in Houston: I see myself as a left back

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DaMarcus Beasley’s homecoming will be complete when he takes the field for the Dynamo, but another part of the buildup was checked off the list when the 32-year-old was introduced to Houston’s media on Thursday. In the process, the natural midfielder made it clear: The U.S. international considers his conversion to fullback to be complete.

“Do I see myself as a left back? Yes.” he said at Thursday’s press conference, according to the league’s website. Beasley was the left back for every minute of the U.S. at Brazil 2014. “Jurgen [Klinsmann] had the confidence in me to play left back in the World Cup against some of the best players in the world, so I’ve got to have confidence in myself I can play that position.”

Though fullback has become his regular spot for the U.S., Beasley has not been able to boost play the position at club level, where he’s been used almost exclusively as a midfielder. Through his time with the Chicago Fire, PSV Eindhoven, Glasgow Rangers, Hannover, and Puebla, the IMG Academy product has persisted in wide midfielder, where he has accumulated most of his 120 caps with the national team.

Since Jurgen Klinsmann took over the team, however, Beasley has been used almost exclusively at left back, and while that spurred initial concerns about the U.S.’s lack of depth at the position, Beasley’s performance in Brazil quelled any notion the one-time winger could cover the position.

With Corey Ashe having established himself at left back for Houston, it’s still unclear where the team’s latest Designated Player will play.

“He can fit in the midfield, he can fit in the back,” Houston head coach Dominic Kinnear said, before implying Beasley’s position was secondary to the overall package.

“Longevity and consistency are two of his main traits,” Kinnear explained. “When you look at him you have the feeling he can play a couple of more years.”

Beasley, however, strongly hinted his mind’s in defense. Again from

“I see myself as a defender. Wherever Dom’s going to put me is where I fit best into the team I’ll play it,” Beasley continued. “Do I still have the midfield mentality sometimes? Of course. Do I still want to score goals? Of course. I never have that out of mind when I play. But I do have a job to do being a defender and that’s to defend and that’s my first job.”

Regardless of Beasley’s preferences, Houston’s footing part of this bill, and Kinnear needs to decide where he fits best. Though Ashe is entrenched at left back, a change wouldn’t be the most shocking decision, given how poorly the entire Dynamo defense has played this season. When Ashe clumsily conceded a penalty kick this weekend against Toronto, he reminded viewers he’s been part of the problem.

Then again, Houston could also move left midfielder Brad Davis to the middle, where he has played off-and-on over the last few years. A four-man midfield of Beasley, Davis, Boniek Garcia and Ricardo Clark would be one of the more enviable quartets in Major League Soccer, providing a solution that kept their former All-Star left back in the lineup.

If you’re looking for a thin hint as to Beasley’s future, consider the person Houston traded to get to the top of MLS’s allocation order. A year ago, Warren Creavalle’s progress convinced the Dynamo to trade ball-winner Adam Moffat to Seattle. Now, Creavalle’s a member of Toronto FC, with the Dynamo willing to give up a central midfielder without getting one in return.

MLS Cup Playoffs: D.C. United 2-4 Montreal Impact (video)

CORRECTS DATE - Montreal Impact forward Matteo Mancosu, back, celebrates his goal with Ignacio Piatti (10) during the first half of an MLS playoff soccer match against D.C. United, Thursday, Oct. 27, 2016, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
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The game in 100 words (or less): There are epic playoff collapses, and there is the MLS Cup Playoffs abomination put forth by D.C. United on Thursday. Playing host to a Montreal Impact side that won just two of its last eight regular-season games and crawled over the finish line, United — winners of four of their last five and one of the hottest teams in the league down the stretch — no-showed Thursday’s knockout-round tie, and their season is deservingly finished. Laurent Ciman put the Impact ahead inside the first five minutes, and United never recovered or seemed the least bit urgent with their season on the line. Matteo Mancosu bagged a brace either side of halftime to make it 3-0, and Ignacio Piatti, who was his usual brilliant self — so good, in fact, he made you forget Didier Drogba was unavailable due to injury/dispute over his role as a substitute — added a fourth not long before full-time. Lamar Neagle grabbed a late consolation goal for United, bringing them back to 4-1 before Taylor Kemp fired a laser past Evan Bush for 4-2 late in stoppage time, but that’s as close as they’d get. Up next for the Impact, it’s the New York Red Bulls in the Eastern Conference semifinals, beginning Sunday.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS Cup Playoffs preview coverage ]

Three moments that mattered

4′ — Ciman slots home from a corner for 1-0 — An absolute dream start for Montreal, as Ciman gets front side of his marker and benefits from a fortunate bounce after he scuffs the shot.

43′ — Mancosu slams home Piatti’s cross for 2-0 — Someone tell DCU that the knockout round is most definitely win-or-go-home. Horrific defending. Ball-watching all over the place. This is not the same team that won four of their last five in order to host this game.

58′ — Mancosu heads home at the near post for 3-0 — Steve Birnbaum has not had the greatest end to the 2016 season. Stay healthy, John Brooks and Geoff Cameron.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Men of the match: Matteo Mancosu

Goalscorers: Ciman (4′), Mancosu (43′, 58′), Piatti (83′), Neagle (90′), Kemp (90+4′)

FOLLOW LIVE: 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs knockout round

Sporting Kansas City forward Dom Dwyer, center, is congratulated by teammates, including midfielder Roger Espinoza (27), following his goal during the first half of an MLS soccer match against the Houston Dynamo in Kansas City, Kan., Saturday, Aug. 1, 2015. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
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The knockout round of the 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs concludes on Thursday, as four teams vie for the final two places — one in the Eastern Conference, one in the Western Conference — in the conference semifinals, which begin on Sunday.

[ FOLLOW LIVE: MLS Cup Playoffs knockout round ]

Up first, the East’s fourth-seeded D.C. United welcome the five-seed Montreal Impact to RFK Stadium for the two sides’ third meeting of the 2016 season. Each of the year’s first two clashes finished a 1-1 draw, in July and August. Didier Drogba is expected to be unavailable for the win-or-go-home tie. United finished the regular season with four wins in the last five games, while the Impact won just two of their last eight.

[ MORE: Preivewing Thursday night’s knockout-round games ]

In the nightcap, the West’s fourth-seeded Seattle Sounders will take on the five-side, Sporting Kansas City, at CenturyLink Field. Sporting were victorious in both regular-season meetings this year — 1-0 on opening day, and 3-0 in late-July, the day the Sounders essentially quit on Sigi Schmid. Since that blistering hot day in KC, the Soudners have lost just twice in 14 games (eight wins, four draws).

Thursday’s MLS Cup Playoffs schedule

D.C. United vs. Montreal Impact — 7:30 p.m. ET
Seattle Sounders vs. Sporting KC — 10 p.m. ET

Cristiano Ronaldo says Ashley Cole is the toughest player he faced

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Cristiano Ronaldo has faced the best defenders in the world during his time with Manchester United, Real Madrid and the Portuguese national team.

He has also caused fits for most of those defenders with goal after goal for club and country. But, there have been some players who have at least made it difficult for the all-time leading goal scorer in Real Madrid and Champions League history.

According to Ronaldo, former Chelsea and Arsenal defender Ashley Cole was the toughest player he has faced in his career.

[ MORE: VIDEO: Incredible Pelle goal in China ]

“Over the years I had some great battles with Ashley Cole, he does not give you a second to breathe,” Ronaldo told Coach Mag. “He was such a tenacious player when he was at his peak, quick, tough in the tackle. You knew it would never be an easy game.”

During his time with Manchester United, Ronaldo faced Cole on numerous occasions while Cole was with Arsenal and Chelsea. The two have also faced off in international competition between Ronaldo’s Portugal and Cole’s England.

It’s certainly high praise for Cole, who now plays in MLS for the LA Galaxy. At the age of 35, Cole has started 25 matches for the Galaxy this season, scoring one goal.

Phil Neville praises Juan Mata’s play to Manchester United

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Juan Mata has appeared in 116 matches for Manchester United since moving to Old Trafford in 2014. In that time, Mata has scored 29 goals and recorded 18 assists.

Despite his performance for the team, some thought Mata would be moved when Jose Mourinho came to town, including former United player and assistant coach Phil Neville.

Neville told Sky Sports, “I actually thought he would be the first out of the door when Jose came, but he’s actually becoming one of the most important players.”

Neville praised Mata’s contributions and versatility for United. “He is never injured, he provides a lot of assists, he plays in two or three different positions, and he scores important goals.”

Manchester United has lacked an identity under Mourinho and recently faltered in the Premier League as the team is winless in its last three matches.

[ MORE: Mourinho gets FA charge ]

Could Mata be the answer to some of United’s problems?

The Spaniard is a classic No. 10 with the ability to dictate his team’s attack and create scoring opportunities for his teammates. Mata can also put the ball in the back of the net as evidenced by his winner against Manchester City in the EFL Cup.

Mourinho has options in the center midfield with the likes of Paul Pogba, Ander Herrera and Michael Carrick in addition to Mata on the roster.

However, given the team’s Premier League struggles, it could be worth giving Mata a chance as the team’s No. 10.