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MLS (late-night) roundup: Dynamo drop Sounders; Rapids roll on

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With one MLS Saturday afternoon/evening officially in the books, only 33 more to go…

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Houston Dynamo 2-1 Seattle Sounders

Seattle’s defense of MLS Cup got off to a rocky road start on Saturday, as Erick (formerly “Cubo”) Torres finally scored his first goal for Houston — 20 months in the making — followed by an MLS debut goal for Honduran international Romell Quioto. Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei’s vision was at least partially blocked on the opener, as the 2016 MLS Cup hero went one way, and Torres’s free kick went the other.

22 minutes later, Quioto received the ball 45 yards from goal, took five touches while running straight at Roman Torres, cut inside onto his right foot, and unleashed a curling effort to the far post which Frei never had a chance of saving.

It was all Sounders in terms of possession — 64 percent for the visitors — though the handful of quality chances they managed to create were few and far between. Clint Dempsey made his return to the field, and the scoresheet, after missing the end of the 2016 season after learning of an irregular heartbeat. His put-back of Tyler Deric’s 58th-minute save was as close as Seattle would get.

Colorado Rapids 1-0 New England Revolution

It’s time we all accept something we cannot change: Pablo Mastroeni’s Rapids will frustrate, annoy and sap your will to live until his tenure’s dying day. It was the recipe for success in 2016, and it was equally effective once again on Saturday.

Playing against a much quicker, devastating counter-attacking Revolution side, Colorado clogged up the middle of the field with Sam Cronin and Michael Azira, combatted aerial king Kei Kamara with the likes of Axel Sjoberg and Jared Watts, and made the most of set-piece opportunities through Dominique Badji, the scorer of the game’s only goal.

San Jose Earthquakes 1-0 Montreal Impact

San Jose held Montreal without a single shot on goal over the course of 90 minutes, as the home side picked up their first victory of 2017, with thanks to Anibal Godoy’s delicate, 17th-minute chip to beat Evan Bush.

D.C. United 0-0 Sporting Kansas City

Tim Melia needlessly gave away a penalty kick in the 16th minute of Sporting KC’s scoreless draw with D.C. United, but atoned for his mistake a minute later, as he made a fantastic double-save to keep Marcelo Sarvas, and then Patrick Mullins on the follow-up, off the scoresheet.

Elsewhere in MLSAFTERNOON ROUNDUP

Columbus Crew SC 1-1 Chicago Fire
LA Galaxy 1-2 FC Dallas
Real Salt Lake 0-0 Toronto FC

Sunday’s MLS schedule

Orlando City SC vs. New York City FC — 5 p.m. ET
Atlanta United vs. New York Red Bulls — 7:30 p.m. ET
Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Philadelphia Union — 9:30 p.m. ET

Leicester City’s Rodgers: ‘Good news’ on Vardy injury

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Brendan Rodgers says there’s good news when it comes to the injury suffered by Jamie Vardy in Leicester City’s 4-1 blowout of West Ham United on Wednesday.

Vardy hurt his glute in the win, temporarily returning to the match after treatment from the trainer but ultimately subbing off before halftime.

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“It wasn’t his hamstring, so that’s good news for us,” Rodgers said, via The Leicester Mercury.

“He just felt a twinge in his glute, so we just have to wait and see on that in the next day or so. Thankfully his hamstring is okay and he just felt some pain in his glute, so we will have to assess that over the next few days.”

Vardy has a Premier League-best 17 goals, one more than Man City’s Sergio Aguero.

He was replaced by Kelechi Iheanacho, who assisted one of Ayoze Perez’s two goals on the day. Perez’s seven goals are second on Leicester, while James Maddison‘s six are third.

Iheanacho has six goals and three assists in 485 minutes and there’s reason to believe he can feast off Leicester’s playmaking if Vardy needs a match or two to heal.

Whether he can fill Vardy’s shoes in the long-term is a big question, especially as Leicester aims to return for the Champions League.

Transfer rumor roundup: Willian Jose to Spurs, Bournemouth after Croatian CB

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London could get itself another Willian.

Willian Jose, 28, was left out of Real Sociedad’s squad at his request on Wednesday, with the club Tweeting that he’d prefer not to play until his situation is resolved.

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Jose Mourinho said he would not comment on another team’s players, but Willian Jose could help Spurs bridge the gap to Harry Kane‘s return.

Willian Jose has been a double-digit scorer for Real Sociedad in La Liga for the previous three seasons, and is well on his way to another 10-goal campaign. He’s got eight goals in 20 matches this season.

Bournemouth needs defensive help, and is reportedly rivaling Newcastle United and Blackburn Rovers for Portuguese giant Toni Borevkovic.

The 22-year-old Croatian has one goal in just over 3000 minutes with the side since arriving from domestic side NK Rudes.

He’s averaging 1.3 interceptions, .9 tackles, and 3.3 clearances per game in league play.

Rio Ave sits seventh in Portugal’s top flight and is managed by former Premier League boss Carlos Carvalhal.

Dropped points in Top Four race point to wild February

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Regardless of whether Wolves end Liverpool’s unbeaten Premier League season on Thursday, there will be five teams within seven points of fourth place heading into Matchweek 25.

Chelsea has 40, a comfortable-enough six-point lead on Manchester United, Spurs, and Wolves (who meet Liverpool at 3 p.m. ET Thursday on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com). Sheffield United has 33 points.

February, specifically the next three matchweeks, will see the teams inside that group learn a lot more about their fates, and give Chelsea and Sheffield United big opportunities to cement their places in the Top Four and Seven, respectively.

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In the case of the latter, it’s because the Blades are the only team in the bunch who don’t face a Top Four six-pointer; Chris Wilder‘s men will meet Crystal Palace, Bournemouth, and Brighton, while the others will be beating up each other.

Chelsea’s path is fraught, but a big opportunity. The Blues travel to Leicester City before hosting both Manchester United and Spurs. Nine points there would effectively Top Four-proof Frank Lampard‘s side.

By the way, how’s this for a hot take? If any of Chelsea, Man Utd, or Spurs find their center forward or playmaker help in the window, they’ll have a leg up on their Top Four rivals. And, really, is that extra few million pounds worth the spoils of the Champions League? Yup.

Bruno Fernandes is not (yet) with United, and the Red Devils face Wolves and Chelsea in their next two matches. Spurs have City and Chelsea. Tumult is probable!

A draw with Newcastle and loss at Watford dampened Wolves’ hopes of riding into fourth. Beginning with Thursday’s visit from Liverpool, however, Nuno Espirito Santo‘s men face three of the Top Seven and then a visit from Norwich City. It’s not over.

And don’t entirely rule out Leicester City from dropping into the fray; The Foxes host Chelsea and Man City, and visit Wolves.

One more nod, however improbable: Arsenal sits 10 points back of fourth but meets Burnley, Newcastle, and Everton over those three match weeks. A perfect run could have the Gunners thinking big (Man City is after that, alas).

Matchday 25
Leicester City v. Chelsea
Crystal Palace v. Sheffield United
Manchester United v. Wolves
Spurs v. Man City

Matchday 25
Sheffield United v. Bournemouth
Wolves v. Leicester City
Chelsea v. Manchester United
Aston Villa v. Tottenham Hotspur

Matchday 27
Chelsea v. Tottenham Hotspur
Leicester City v. Man City
Wolves v. Norwich City
Sheffield United v. Brighton
Manchester United v. Watford

Spurs play Wolves the next week, too!

Mourinho: Spurs don’t have attacking depth, but do have ‘family’

Mourinho on Spurs win
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In this “whole new Jose Mourinho” world, the key word is family.

Mourinho said it six times in his post-match presser after Tottenham Hotspur scrapped to a 2-1 defeat of Norwich City on Wednesday in London.

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Spurs had an early lead disappear when Ryan Sessegnon gave away a penalty to Max Aarons, and Teemu Pukki converted it for a 70th-minute deadlock.

Heung-Min Son scored nine minutes later. It was a win that is good for the whole family.

From Football.London:

“It was fantastic what happened after the 1-1, which happens in a difficult moment for us where I look to the bench and I don’t have attacking players to change the game the team is a little bit fatigued, especially Lucas, Son and of course Lamela. I took him off because he was in trouble and he is a player who is coming from very important and long injury, so very difficult.

“How can we change the game? With the family spirit, the family character and desire.”

Mourinho also praised Giovani Lo Celso‘s work on the wing for attack-short Spurs as “a good experience for the family,” and Paulo Gazzaniga‘s support for returned goalkeeper Hugo Lloris as “a good member of the family and he is such a special friend of Hugo.”

I mean, I’m getting the warm and fuzzies.

Clearly, Mourinho is stressing unity and there’s a bit of bunker mentality involved, as the manager mentioned some dicey calls not going their way against Watford, Liverpool, and now Norwich.