Bold MLS Cup predictions: Houston Dynamo or L.A. Galaxy?

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CARSON, Calif. – How we see Saturday’s MLS Cup final at the Home Depot Center unfolding:

ProSoccerTalk’s Steve Davis

Finals tend to be safe contests, with slightly less fizz in the soda than we would ideally enjoy. Expect the same Saturday from the Home Depot Center, although the difference makers will surely give us a little something here and there to drop our jaws and awe over.

I’m calling the upset, mostly based on intangibles. Houston manager Dominic Kinnear, whose teams are always quite tightly wound on the field, will have every detail covered. (Not that Galaxy manager Bruce Arena won’t have his team well prepped, too.)

Well drilled Houston center backs Bobby Boswell and Jermaine Taylor – underrated Dynamo elements of late – will mostly deal with Robbie Keane’s sharp movement. Big and physical, both, they’ll be aided by Saturday’s refereeing selection; Silviu Petrescu is one who allows a lot of the rough and tumble.

Meanwhile, as L.A.’s center backs deal with Will Bruin and try to locate Brad Davis, Oscar Boniek Garcia will create something along the right.

I give slight edges the Dynamo way in goal and defense, with a push in midfield (unless David Beckham rises to something more than we’ve seen lately) and a substantial edge to L.A. at forward.

The other big consideration here is this wobbly Galaxy playoff form; L.A. simply is not a reliable side at the moment.

Both teams will turn up a goal. The match will need an extra 30 minutes – and the Dynamo will find the extra moment that matters.

 Prediction: Houston Dynamo 2-1 in extra time

ProSoccerTalk’s Richard Farley

Loyal PST’ers will have pegged my prediction by now, so rather than start by recycled my thoughts on the matchups, changes, and strengths, I’ll relay a surreal dream I had on the flight from Portland to Los Angeles.

With the U.S. Women’s playing at Jeld-Wen on Wednesday, I got no sleep before hopping Portland’s light rail from downtown to the airport at 4:00 a.m. Thursday morning. (It’s important to note sleep deprivation is major part of this story.) Once settled into my seat, I slapped on my headphones, picked the first composer on the classical listings (Bach), dosed off and started working through the various ways this game might play out.

The most convincing (the one that aligned best with my prejudices) saw a lose but focused Houston team — intense through midfield, quick in transition, drilled with two weeks focus on last year’s opportunity lost — convert an early turnover into a surprise goal. In the dream, it was some Brad Davis-finished buildup down the left sliding a ball to Boniek Garcia for a far post finish after a quarter-hour.

Over the next 70 minutes, LA dominates, but Tally Hall affirms his place as one of the league’s best keepers by holding them off. Pressing and desperate in the last minutes of regulation time, LA gives up Houston’s insurance goal to Cam Weaver, who had just come on for Will Bruin.

It was a very convincing dream.

Overall, I think Dominic Kinnear’s constructed a very strong, perhaps under-appreciated team. Fifth place finishes leave some things under the radar. The move to pair Rico Clark with Adam Moffat pays off with a cup final match that plays to their strengths. For all the reverence of LA’s run to another final, they’ve only played well in one out of three home games this postseason.

In this one, Tally Hall comes up big.

Prediction: Houston 2, LA Galaxy 0

World Cup’s only black coach says there should be more

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MOSCOW (AP) — The only black coach at this year’s World Cup says there is a need for more in soccer.

“In European countries, in major clubs, you see lots of African players. Now we need African coaches for our continent to go ahead,” Senegal’s Aliou Cisse said through a translator on Monday, a day ahead of his nation’s World Cup opener against Poland.

[ MORE: Where to watch Tuesday’s games, feat. Colombia and Egypt ]

The percentage of black players at this year’s tournament and with clubs in the world’s top leagues is far higher.

Cisse was captain of Senegal when it reached the 2002 quarterfinals in the nation’s only previous World Cup appearance.

“I am the only black coach in this World Cup. That is true,” Cisse said. “But really these are debates that disturb me. I think that football is a universal sport and that the color of your skin is of very little importance.”

[ MORE: Harry Kane “buzzing” after two goals | Southgate encouraged ]

FIFA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Cisse cited Florent Ibenge, the coach of Congo’s national team, as a sign of progress.

“I think we have a new generation that is working, that is doing its utmost, and beyond being good players with a past of professional footballers,” Cisse said. “We are very good in our tactics, and we have the right to be part of the top international coaches.”

Africa’s best performance at the World Cup has been to reach the quarterfinals, accomplished by Cameroon in 1990, Senegal in 2002 and Ghana in 2010.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

“I have the certainty that one day an African team, an African country, will win the World Cup,” Cisse said. “It’s a bit more complicated in our countries. We have realities that are not there in other continents, but I think that the African continent is full of qualities. We are on the way, and I’m sure that Senegal, Nigeria or other African countries will be able win, just like Brazil, Germany or other European countries.”

A lack of minority managers also has been documented at the club level. The Sports People’s Think Tank said in November there were just three minority managers among the 92 English professional clubs as of Sept. 1.

World Cup: Saudi team safe after plane caught fire mid-flight

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The Saudi Arabian national team arrived alive and well in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, on Monday after a terrifying incident that saw their plane catch fire in the air.

[ MORE: Where to watch Tuesday’s games, feat. Colombia and Egypt ]

The blaze was caused by “a technical failure in one of the airplane engines,” which the airline, Rossiya, claims was caused by a bird flying into the engine. Each of the planes engines were reportedly in operation upon landing at its final destination.

The Saudi Arabian Football Federation posted a message on Twitter later on Monday, saying they “would like to reassure everyone that all the Saudi national team players are safe, after a technical failure in one of the airplane engines that has just landed in Rostov-on-Don airport, and now they’re heading to their residence safely.”

The Green Falcons will face Uruguay in Rostov, hoping to rebound from their tournament-opening 5-0 loss to Russia on Thursday, in each side’s second game of Group A action on Wednesday (11 a.m. ET).

Seismologists clarify Mexico fans didn’t cause earthquake

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MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico’s National Seismological Service says there was seismic activity around the country’s capital Sunday, but it wasn’t linked to soccer fans celebrating their country’s game-winning goal vs. Germany at the World Cup.

[ MORE: Where to watch Tuesday’s games, feat. Colombia and Egypt ]

The service says in a report that there were two small earthquakes at 10:24 a.m. and 12:01 p.m. The goal came around 11:35 a.m. local time.

A geological institute reported Sunday that seismic detectors had registered a false earthquake that may have been generated by “massive jumps” by fans.

[ MORE: Harry Kane “buzzing” after two goals | Southgate encouraged ]

Mexico’s Seismological Service explained Monday that the city’s normal bustle of traffic and other movement causes vibrations that are detected by sensitive instruments.

It says those vibrations notably quieted during the match as people gathered in front of TVs to watch, and rose after the goal.

WATCH: World Cup, Day 6 — Colombia vs. Japan; Salah’s debut?

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Day 6 of the 2018 World Cup is up next, on Tuesday — and would you believe it? — there’s another three games on the schedule. This whole “back-to-back-to-back games of soccer” thing isn’t so bad.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Up first, it’s the 2018 debut of Colombia, winners of tens hundreds of millions of hearts in 2014, as they take on Japan. In the day’s other Group H fixture, it’ll be Robert Lewandowski and Poland facing Sadio Mane and Senegal. Star power aplenty.

Then, we swing things back around to Group A, where the hosts Russia will look to continue their hot start against Egypt with Mohamed Salah expected to make his World Cup debut.

Below is Tuesday’s schedule in full.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.


2018 World Cup schedule – Tuesday, June 19

Group H
Colombia vs. Japan: Saransk, 8 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Poland vs. Senegal: Moscow, 11 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group A
Russia vs. Egypt: St. Petersburg, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE