Mattocks rocket not enough to derail shorthanded Dynamo (VIDEO)

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Every team is missing some stars — the international break taking at least a few from most rosters — but as we were reminded when Vancouver met Houston at BBVA Compass Stadium, not all stars shine the same at club level. Kenny Miller was called up for Scotland, and although he’s played well for the Whitecaps, his loss doesn’t compare to the absences of Brad Davis and Boniek Garcia, two Best XI-caliber players. Also missing Jermaine Taylor, Houston should have been the more hamstrung side on Saturday.

If that was the case, the never showed it. Thanks to two second half goals, Houston won their second game of the season, 2-1, in what was ultimately a very Dynamo performance.

At the onset, it didn’t look like a comeback would be necessary. Houston controlled more of the ball, and playing at a venue that’s become a fortress, the Dynamo were able to dictate the game’s tempo.

All of which went for naught when Darren Mattocks did this:

That’s the kind of talent that makes a player a number one pick. That’s the type of threat that means Vancouver may not have goal scoring problems this season. That’s a player that’s destined to be a star in this league.

So the Whitecaps had the game’s biggest talent, but that’s never stopped Houston before. After going into half chasing Mattock’s goal, Houston converted two second half crosses, earning what cynics might call a quintessential Dom Kinnear win.

Credit Ricardo Clark on the first. The Houston midfielder spent most of the night charging toward the right channel. In the 55th minute, those forays paid off when he was in position to receive a ball in the right of the box, loft a cross far post for Gilles Barnes, and assist on the Dynamo’s first goal.

Seven minutes later, chaos in the six-yard box following a corner kick left Warren Creavalle to clean up for his first MLS goal, his score making up for two bad first half misses.

A 2-1 home win where the Dynamo wore down their opponent, converted a couple of crosses – that’s textbook Houston, right? Perhaps, although tonight’s textbook was missing a few of its key chapters.

“They’re not filling in,” Dominic Kinnear said of the absent players after the match. “They’re playing. We always say that. These guys, they’re not here to replace somebody. They’re here to keep us winning hopefully. There’s no mention of the guys who are not here because we cannot do anything about that.

Against an opponent choosing from almost all of their first choice players, the Dynamo still got a result. And in the process, they handed Vancouver their first loss of the season.

VIDEO: de Bruyne delivers gorgeous assist on Lukaku goal

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It took a little bit of patience, but Romelu Lukaku finally got on the scoresheet at the 2018 World Cup, thanks to a delicious assist from crosstown club rival Kevin De Bruyne.

The Manchester City playmaker delivered a spectacular outside-of-the-boot cross into the box, where Lukaku’s head met it and guided it towards the far post for Belgium’s second goal of the day.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news

Transfer Rumor Roundup: Arsenal close in on Leno; Man City near Jorginho signing, and more

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Arsenal looks like it will have a new man between the pipes for next season.

According to a report from German publication SportBild, Bayer Leverkusen goalkeeper Bernd Leno will be introduced as an Arsenal player on Tuesday, after a reported $23-29 million transfer fee. The 26-year-old was on Germany’s 35-man pre-World Cup squad, but was one of the last cuts as Joachim Low went with Manuel Neuer, Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Kevin Trapp in Russia.

Leno became the full-time starter for Leverkusen as a 20-year-old, and has held the position of the No. 1 for the last six seasons, earning plenty of Bundesliga and UEFA Champions League experience along the way.

It’s unclear what will happen to current Arsenal No. 1 Petr Cech. The 36-year-old Premier League legend experienced one of his worst seasons in net for Arsenal and he could begin the season as a backup, unless he moves to a new club. He reportedly has a contract through 2019.

Here’s some more transfer rumors from around the Premier League and Europe.

(more…)

VIDEO: Mertens scores wonderstrike for Belgium

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After a frustrating 45 minutes, it took only two minutes for Belgium to finally get on the board, even if it was a goal sprinkled with magic dust.

Off a partially cleared ball on the right side of the box, Belgium attacker Dries Mertens whalloped a shot that arced over Panama (and former LA Galaxy) goalkeeper Jaime Penedo, giving Belgium a 1-0 lead.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ]

Croatia’s Kalinic sent home from World Cup

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It’s only been five days, and we have our first World Cup dismissal.

According to a bombshell report out of Croatia, Croatia National Team head coach Zlatko Dalic has sent home striker Nikola Kalinic from the team’s camp, after the AC Milan player reportedly refused to be a substitute during Croatia’s 2-0 win over Nigeria.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ]

[Update: The Croatia FA confirmed the decision, releasing this statement from Dalic. “During the Nigeria encounter, Kalinić was warming up and was supposed to come on in the second half. However, he then stated that he wasn’t ready to come on due to a back issue. The same thing happened during the Brazil friendly in England, as well as before the practice session on Sunday. I have calmly accepted that, and since I need my players fit and ready to play, I have made this decision.”]

The report states that Kalinic refused to come on due to an injury, but Dalic had said recently that his team had no injuries that would keep players out, potentially meaning that Kalinic used the injury claim as an excuse.

Croatia’s FA is expected to confirm the news on Monday.

After a rough season at AC Milan, with just six league goals in 31 Serie A appearances, Kalinic, at 30, is likely finished with the Vatreni. He scored three goals in World Cup qualifying but hasn’t started for Croatia since a 2-0 win over Peru in March. Kalinic did score against Spain in Croatia’s shock 2-1 win exactly two years prior to Saturday’s match.

He was deemed second choice to Mario Mandzukic as the center forward up top, but was reportedly asked to spell Mandzukic during Croatia’s match against Nigeria, and Kalinic reportedly refused.

If true, Croatia will continue with 22 players for the remainder of the tournament.