Houston ‘houstons’ Columbus, makes Bruin set piece goal stand up

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Set piece execution. Solid defending. If Houston would have added a counter attack goal on Wednesday, it would have fully played to the cliché that often floats around Dom Kinnear’s team. Against visiting Columbus, however, they didn’t need it that second goal.

Thanks to a Brad Davis second half restart that appeared to go off Will Bruin’s back, the Dynamo were able to claim a 1-0 at BBVA Compass Stadium, a result that leaves the team on a two-game winning streak. Columbus, on the other had, were shut out for the second match in a row, with the team winless in six after suffering its third loss of the season.

The game played out as you would expect, given the two teams’ styles and personnel. Columbus were able to control more of the ball, holding 56 percent of the game’s possession at match’s end. Perhaps surprisingly, the Crew were also able to register 18 shots (to Houston’s 11), five of which tested Tally Hall. In the second half Justin Meram can close to an equalizer only to hit Hall’s right post.

Houston’s response to the Crew’s play: Execution. At the back, the team made sure few of their guest’s chances were good ones, while all the offense they’d need came in the 50th minute. After a foul down their left by Tony Tchani, the Dynamo saw their captain play his restart just inside the six-yard box, with Bruin beating his man to redirect the cross off the name on his shirt and into goal.

The result leaves the teams moving in opposite directions, though those trends paint a deceiving picture for one of the teams. For Houston, the team has moved on from the embarrassing loss it suffered in New York, answering the questions that lingered after its convincing victory this weekend. While the level of competition may have been an issue against Chivas USA, Columbus showed it’s a quality team.

That’s why those drawing conclusions from the Crew’s winless run will be deceived about Gregg Berhalter’s team. They were fine this weekend in Kansas but ended up on the wrong end of a close result; against the defending champions, no less. Again on Wednesday, the Crew were fine but just ended up on the wrong end of another close result. Life on the road isn’t always kind.

Columbus’s problem isn’t how it’s playing now, it’s how the team was playing in the middle of its run, only getting draws at home against D.C. United and New York. If the Crew can end their current level of play next week against visiting Vancouver, they should be able to get back into the win column.

Reina faces hearing over links with trio connected to mafia

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ROME (AP) Outgoing Napoli goalkeeper Pepe Reina has been summoned to a hearing at the Italian football federation over his association with people with links to the mafia.

Reina, along with Paolo Cannavaro and Salvatore Aronica, is to face the FIGC’s disciplinary committee after an investigation by Naples’ anti-mafia department.

It is reportedly one of the reasons why Napoli decided not to renew Reina’s contract, with the former Liverpool goalkeeper set to move to AC Milan on a free transfer.

The FIGC says Reina “has had and continues to have inopportune association and friendship with Gabriele Esposito, Francesco Esposito and Giuseppe Esposito.” It adds that that includes holidays and “an exchange of favors.”

Cannavaro, who had two spells with Napoli, retired at Sassuolo last year. Aronica also spent several years at the southern club before joining Palermo in 2013.

Iran names initial squad for World Cup

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TEHRAN, Iran (AP) Jalal Hosseini and Vouria Ghaffouri have both been left off Iran’s provisional 24-man squad for the World Cup.

Iran coach Carlos Queiroz did not say why Hosseini, a Persepolis defender, and Ghaffouri were not included.

There was space for midfielders Masoud Shojaei and Ehsan Hajsafi, however. Both played with Greek club Panionios against Maccabi Tel Aviv in August 2017. Iran does not recognize Israel and its supreme leader has threatened the country in the past. Both Shojaei and Hajsafi missed matches with the national team after the game.

Alireza Jahanbakhsh, a 24-year-old forward who plays in the Netherlands with AZ Alkmaar, is also in the squad, which was announced Sunday.

In the midfield, Queiroz chose Saeid Ezatolahi, although the Amkar Perm player will miss the team’s first World Cup match because he was given a red card in a game against South Korea in qualifying.

Nottingham Forest midfielder Ashkan Dejagah was also chosen.

Goalkeeper Amir Abedzadeh of Portuguese club Maritimo made the squad. His father, Ahmadreza Abedzadeh, was Iran captain and goalkeeper at the 1998 World Cup in France.

Iran will play in Group B at the World Cup with Portugal, Spain and Morocco. The team will play warm-up matches in Turkey and Greece before heading to Russia.

Goalkeepers: Alireza Beiranvand (Persepolis), Rashid Mazaheri (Zob Ahan), Amir Abedzadeh (Maritimo)

Defenders: Ramin Rezaeian (KV Oostende), Mohammad Reza Khanzadeh (Padideh), Morteza Pouraliganji (Al Saad), Pejman Montazeri (Esteghlal), Seyed Majid Hosseini (Esteghlal), Milad Mohammadi (Akhmat Grozny), Roozbeh Cheshmi (Esteghlal)

Midfielders: Saeid Ezatolahi (Amkar Perm), Masoud Shojaei (AEK Athens), Mehdi Torabi (Saipa), Ashkan Dejagah (Nottingham Forest), Omid Ebrahimi (Esteghlal), Ehsan Hajsafi (Olympiakos), Vahid Amiri (Persepolis), Saman Ghoddos (Ostersunds FK), Ali Gholizadeh (Saipa)

Forwards: Alireza Jahanbakhsh (AZ Alkmaar), Karim Ansarifard (Olympiakos), Mahdi Taremi (Al-Gharafa Sports Club), Sardar Azmoun (Rubin Kazan), Reza Ghoochannejhad (SC Heerenveen)

Six Premier Leaguers named to Argentina, but no Icardi

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Argentina’s World Cup roster features a number of the usual suspects, particularly up front, but Serie A’s top goalscorer has been surprisingly left off the list of 23.

[ MORE: Belgium goes to World Cup without Nainggolan ]

Manager Jorge Sampaoli’s squad was made official on Monday, which includes the likes of Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain.

The Albiceleste won’t be taking Inter Milan striker Mauro Icardi though, which has raised some questions about the decision.

Icardi led all scorers in Italy’s top flight this season, scoring 29 goals in 34 Serie A matches, while Paulo Dybala edged out the final striker spot in the Argentina squad.

Dybala is teammates with Higuain at Italian giants Juventus.

Meanwhile, six Premier League players were named into the South American nation’s squad, including goalkeepers Sergio Romero (Man United) and Willy Caballero (Chelsea), as well as Nicolas Otamendi (Man City), Marcos Rojo (Man United) and Manuel Lanzini (West Ham).

Men in Blazers POD: FA Cup recap, UCL final preview and more

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Rog and Davo recap a spite-fueled, snear-filled, peak Phil Jones FA Cup Final, preview this weekend’s Champions League tilt between Liverpool and Real Madrid and eulogize Big Sam… gone the opposite of too soon. Plus, World Cup rosters and MLS.

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