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Houston acquires Honduran international Luis Garrido on loan from Olimpia

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The alternate title to this post would be “Dynamo welcome not-Espinoza,” because after team president Chris Canetti announced his team would be acquiring another central midfielder, many hoped Roger Espinoza would be returning to Major League Soccer. After today’s announcement, that thinking proved wishful, with Houston’s acquisition challenging fans to learn a new Honduran import. Having come to a loan agreement with C.D. Olimpia, the Dynamo are bringing World Cup veteran Luis Garrido north.

Garrido, 23, made two appearances for the Catrachos at Brazil 2014, moving into Luis Fernando Suárez’s lineup after Wilson Palacios drew a red card in game one. His second start of the tournament marked his 22nd appearance for Honduras after making his international debut two years ago.

During that time, the defensive midfielder enjoyed a loan spell with Red Star Belgrade, where he helped the former European Champions to second in the Serbian SuperLiga. After returning to Honduras last summer, Garrido resumed his place in Olimpia’s midfield, helping the Lions hold fellow Honduran titans Marathón scoreless over two legs of May’s final.

“He has a good amount of bite in the middle of the field, good energy and is a good passer of the ball,” Houston head coach Dominic Kinnear said, via the club’s website. “We have watched him for a few years in the CONCACAF Champions League and World Cup qualifiers, and he showed well in the World Cup. We think he is a player that will fit in with the way we play and it a good opportunity to bring him here.”

The move reunites Garrido with Olimpia alumni Boniek Garcia and Alexander Lopez, but with former U.S. international Ricardo Clark established in central midfield, Garrido’s fit could prove precarious. Though Clark had great success playing above Adam Moffat when he rejoined Houston two years ago, his former partner’s departure led to more time in his accustomed holding role. Though Kinnear has always been high on Clark’s ability to contribute going forward, this move may force those hopes to come to fruition.

Given how Houston’s defense has performed this season, it’s a sacrifice the coach may need to make. Though the David Horst-Jermaine Taylor pairing in central defense showed promise in March, the duo’s been unable to prevent the Dynamo from conceding a league-worst 40 goals. With injuries (to themselves as well as Clark) also hindering the team, Houston may be moving to two defensive options in the midfield.

Of course, this all assumes Garrido actually plays. His World Cup experience, as well as Kinnear’s recommendation, hints he should, but only 23 years old, Garrido may need time to adjust to Major League Soccer.

He also may have to battle for time in a talented midfield. As Canetti said in today’s announcement, the team sees itself as loaded in the middle.

“We think Luis will be an important player for us,” Canetti explained. “With Brad (Davis), Boniek (García), DaMarcus (Beasley), Rico (Clark) and Luis we now have five players with World Cup experience in the midfield.”

Perhaps that means one player will end up on the bench. Or maybe Beasley will slot in at left back. Could we see the return of the 4-3-3 formation Kinnear tried two years ago? Or maybe Brad Davis could end up playing behind a striker in a 4-2-3-1?

Over the last two days, Houston’s acquired more options. Now Kinnear has the flexibility to change things up. With Houston ninth in the East, new players need to provide new solutions.

West Ham extend Payet’s contract in “enormous show of faith”

West Ham’s Dimitri Payet celebrates after scoring while soap bubbles are blown during the English Premier League soccer match between West Ham and Newcastle at Boleyn Ground in London, Monday, Sept. 14, 2015.(AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
AP Photo/Frank Augstein
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West Ham United hope Dimitri Payet is going absolutely nowhere after the club announced on Thursday the 28-year-old Frenchman has signed a contract extension through the summer of 2021.

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Payet’s current contract was scheduled to keep him at the Premier League club through the summer of 2020, but a series of standout performances (6 goals, 4 assists so far this season, mostly during the season’s opening three months) and rumors of interest from “bigger” clubs meant tacking on another year — and plenty more cash — was the best way to keep Payet in east London for the foreseeable future. The club confirmed earlier this week that negotiations over an extension were underway.

“He’s the best player I’ve signed in 25 years,” said West Ham co-owner David Sullivan. “He’s a [$43 million] player. He’s a supreme footballer. He makes every player in our side play better. On his day, he’s world class, he’s unstoppable.”

Payet, who’s been at West Ham just eight months after signing last summer, could still depart in the summer should he finish the current season strong and/or show up and show out at the European Championship, which kicks off in June. In that event, West Ham would now bag a much heftier transfer fee than they would have done prior to the extension.

VIDEO: Dele Alli’s magnificent juggling goal recreated in hand-drawn crayon

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Remember that Dele Alli goal? No, not that one… that one. Of course you remember it. How could you not?

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How often does a player receive the ball out of the air, flick it over his head, spin 180 degrees and hit an inch-perfect volley from 20 yards out to secure all three points for his team? The answer is, of course, not very often.

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Thus, a goal such as Alli’s stunning winner against Crystal Palace last month has been, and will continue to be, immortalized through numerous recreations in this Digital Age. Above is Alli’s goal recreated in hand-drawn crayon.

Watch Live: Guatemala vs. T&T; Canada vs. Guyana in Olympic qualifying

Canadian players wave to fans after a 2-1 loss to England in a quarterfinal of the Women's World Cup soccer tournament, Saturday, June 27, 2015, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP)
Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP
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Group B is set to kick off Thursday night at the 2016 CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Championship, as Canada, third-place finishers at the 2012 Olympics, begin their quest to qualify for this summer’s games in Rio de Janeiro.

Guyana versus Trinidad and Tobago is up first (6 p.m. ET) from BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston, Tex, followed by the Canadians, who will take on Guyana (8:30 p.m. ET) in the nightcap.

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[ WATCH LIVE: Canada vs. Guyana live on line on NBC Sports Live Extra ]

The U.S. women’s national began its Olympic qualifying campaign in impressive fashion on Wednesday with a 5-0 victory over Costa Rica, while Mexico jumped to the top of Group A with a 6-0 victory over Puerto Rico.

Sunderland terminate Adam Johnson’s contract after guilty pleas in sex case

Sunderland winger Adam Johnson arrives at Bradford Crown Court, England, Wednesday Feb. 10, 2016. Johnson has pleaded guilty in court to one count of sexual activity with a child and another of grooming. The 28-year-old Johnson, who has made 12 appearances for England, denies two charges of sexual activity with a girl under the age of 16. (Peter Byrne/PA via AP) UNITED KINGDOM OUT NO SALES NO ARCHIVE
Peter Byrne/PA via AP
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SUNDERLAND, England (AP) Sunderland has fired winger Adam Johnson after he pleaded guilty to grooming and sexual activity with a 15-year-old girl at the start of his trial.

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Johnson, who has played 12 times for England, continues to deny two further counts of sexual activity with a child.

Sunderland dismissed Johnson ahead of his trial resuming on Friday at Bradford Crown Court.

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In a statement, Sunderland announced Thursday that “in light of Adam Johnson’s guilty pleas, the club has today terminated his contract with immediate effect.”

The former Manchester City player joined Sunderland in 2012 for 10 million pounds (now about $14.5 million).