MLS snapshot: Second half surge sees Seattle top Houston

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Over 50,000 fans packed into CenturyLink field, as the Seattle Sounders beat the Houston Dynamo 2-0 on Sunday.

Second half strikes from Marco Pappa and Gonzale Pindea were enough to hand the Sounders their first win in three games as they continued their push for the 2014 Supporters’ Shield. The win was soured by a late red card for Obafemi Martins but despite that minor blip Sigi Schmid will be delighted with his sides performance.

With the win Schmid recorded his 200th MLS victory as a head coach. The first manager in MLS history to reach that milestone.

[RELATED: ‘Caps, Chicago bag big wins]

The turf field was looking a little strange in Seattle as recent maintenance work had left black patches and patterns all over the pitch. A tight encounter played out on that surface as the Dynamo took the game to Seattle early on in search of their first road win in six.

In the 26th minute Houston squandered the perfect opportunity to the take the lead as they were awarded a penalty kick by referee Chris Penso after Djimi Traore was adjudged to have handled in the box. However Brad Davis’ penalty kick was saved by Stefan Frei. The U.S. national team winger performed a stutter-step and tamely slotted his left-footed effort to Frei’s left but the big Swiss ‘keeper got down and kept the scores level.

Houston continued to push throughout the first half and Davis’ outswinging corner was headed just over the bar by Ricardo Clark. Seattle gradually came into the game as Martins and Lamar Neagle tried to get in behind but Tally Hall had little to do in an even first half at CenturyLink.

In the second half Houston continued to look lively in attack and Giles Barnes was went clean through but saw his shot blocked by a combination of Frei’s foot and Seattle defender Chad Marshall. Shortly after Martins looked to have been fouled in the box but play was waved on despite protests from the home crowd. The second half turned into a sloppy affair but in the 69th minute Pappa wriggled free of his marker on the edge of the box and drilled a shot goalwards which deflected off of David Horst’s standing leg and past Hall into the net. The deadlock was finally broken.

Less than five minutes later Seattle doubled their lead as Clark was clearly holding Martins in the box as a free kick arrived from the left. Referee Penso pointed to the spot for the second time in the match and Pineda slammed the ball home despite Hall getting his body behind the ball but the sheer power beat him. Late on Martins slid in and was shown a second yellow card and his marching order by Penso as the Nigerian striker will now miss Seattle’s pivotal trip to Real Salt Lake next weekend.

With the win Seattle go back to the top of the West on 41 points from 21 games, while Houston stay five points off a playoff spot in the East and sit in ninth.

Mourinho: Van Gaal left good team, but I brought belief

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Jose Mourinho and Manchester United are bringing happiness to the Liberty Stadium on Sunday, or at least more of it.

The United boss says the club’s turnaround is emotionally-based, and that the cupboard certainly wasn’t bare when he took over the Red Devils last summer.

[ MORE: Fellaini red  had “a bit of acting” ]

United finished fifth in the Premier League last season, tied for fourth with Man City and 15 points back of Arsenal. Mourinho’s men sit in the same spot this year, but are in the semifinals of the Europa League, have won the League Cup, and have the door open to the Top Four.

So what’s different? Here’s the boss, from the BBC:

“I think Mr. Van Gaal left a good group of boys with very good relations between them.

“[But] I think they missed happiness, they missed trust, belief, this extra bit that brings resilience, brings fight and they have it [now].”

It’s been a bit of a roller coaster with the Bastian Schweinsteiger and Luke Shaw drama, but — like any new manager — Mourinho did have to sort the club. Now we wonder whether he’ll keep it happy or hit a traditional rut by Year Three (assuming he gets there, and United should be very good next season).

Spurs confirm Wembley as 2017-18 home

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May 14 will indeed be the last time Tottenham Hotspur takes the field at White Hart Lane.

Club chairman Daniel Levy has announced that Spurs will play all of its 2017-18 home matches at Wembley Stadium, and that WHL will be demolished in the offseason.

Spurs have a new venue under construction next door to WHL, calling the venue “the heart” of regeneration plans in the region. From TottenhamHotspur.com:

“This marks a momentous day in our Club’s history as it is the day we formally agreed the demolition of our beloved White Hart Lane.

“The Lane means a huge amount to each and every one of us and we needed to gain greater certainty on the delivery of the new stadium before we made the final decision to commence with the decommissioning of our iconic, historic home for some 118 years.

‘We shall ensure that we give the Lane a fitting farewell when we play our last match here on May 14.”

West Ham’s final match at Upton Park was a memorable one last season, thanks not just to the off-field but the on-field as well. The Irons came back to beat Manchester United 3-2 on a Winston Reid goal.

With Manchester United coincidentally (?) serving as the visitor on May 14, with Top Four if not title implications likely still in play, sign us up for a comfortable seat in front of TV.

Pochettino: Derby matters, but this is about title not “Totteringham”

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Mauricio Pochettino is a focused boss, one many of us wouldn’t mind as our manager.

The longtime Espyanol man knows a thing or two about being relegated to second fiddle in town, with Catalan rivals Barcelona enveloping the spotlight 99 times out of 100.

That’s why he’s not even bothering with treating Arsenal and “St. Totteringham’s Day” — the Gunners’ annual celebration of clinching a spot above Spurs in the standings — like anything than a derby date.

“I really don’t think about which position Arsenal are in. My view and focus is to try to win every game and try to win the Premier League.

“For me (finishing above Arsenal) is not a motivation. The motivation for me is to win because it’s a derby and I know what it means to win a derby. My motivation is to try to win some titles with Tottenham, and my players improve every day and show we are better than the opposition.”

Spurs as a club is growing in big ways, and aiming to sit atop the Premier League standings every year. Yes Premier League derbies are important, but aiming to finish above a rival versus above all rivals is short-sighted. Pochettino’s got it right.

Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks – Week 35

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The Premier League games continue to come thick and fast with 10 matches on the slate this weekend.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live ] 

If you, like me, love to dissect all the games and predict what the score will be and which team will win, I encourage you to get involved in the comments section below. Let’s have a bit of fun.

Okay, so I’ve consulted my crystal ball and here’s how we see things panning out.

[ STREAM: Premier League “Goal Rush”

With the first section labelled “basically, free money” for the picks I think are dead certs. The section labelled “don’t touch this” means if you’re betting I advise you to stay clear, while the “so you’re telling me there’s a chance” section are the longshots. If it is better odds you are after, those are the picks to go for.


BASICALLY, FREE MONEY

West Brom 2-0 Leicester City – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

Man United 2-0 Swansea City – (Sunday, 7 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Middlesbrough 1-3 Man City – (Sunday, 9:05 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM

Crystal Palace 3-1 Burnley – (Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBC) – [STREAM

DON’T TOUCH THIS… 

Stoke City 2-2 West Ham – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

Tottenham 2-1 Arsenal – (Sunday, 11:30 am. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

Sunderland 1-2 Bournemouth – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, CNBC) – [STREAM

Southampton 2-1 Hull City – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

“SO YOU’RE TELLING ME THERE’S A CHANCE…”

Watford 2-1 Liverpool – (Monday, 3 p.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

Everton 2-1 Chelsea – (Sunday, 9:05 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM