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Three things: Sounders cruise after (and before) early red

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The Seattle Sounders all but booked a return appearance in the 2017 MLS Cup final on Tuesday, doing so by beating the Houston Dynamo 2-0 in the first (away) leg of the Western Conference finals on Tuesday. The game wasn’t as close at the final score might appear to indicate.

[ RECAP: Sounders take 2-0 lead over Dynamo ]

We learned the following three things over the course of the 90 minutes…


The red card hurt Houston

No way, you’re kidding, right? Clearly a 28th-minute red card (shown to Jalil Anibaba for the denial of an obvious goal-scoring opportunity) is going to have a massive impact on the outcome of a game. But, it really crippled Houston, given the way they play — having a numerical advantage in the center of midfield is so important to Wilmer Cabrera’s side, in the name of frantically winning the ball back after conceding half or even two-thirds of the field.

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When you have to haul off one of three central midfielders, in hopes of still being about to force-create chances on the rare occasion you recover the ball and move it forward, three things are bound to happen: 1) legs are going to get very heavy, very quickly; 2) the clock appears to be counting up in double-speed; 3) you begin to concede two-thirds and three-quarters of the field instead — every move Seattle worked during the second half came after a waltz in the final third before finally meeting resistance.

At right, you can see every Sounders pass originating in Houston’s half of the field — remember, Seattle are the away team here. Playoff games rarely, if ever, come much easier than that.


Addition by subtraction… again?

This one isn’t so much a lesson from Tuesday’s game, as much as it’s a trend played out over the course of an entire season: much like they wound up being in 2016 following Clint Dempsey‘s heart condition robbing him of the final four months of the season, the Sounders are once again, dare I say it, better without another indomitable figure: Osvaldo Alonso.

Here’s the numbers to back it up: without Alsono in the starting lineup this year, Seattle went 6W-2D-2L. In those 10 regular-season games, they scored 20 goals (2.0 per game, versus 1.3 with him in the lineup) and conceded 12 (1.1 per game, same when he played).

The central midfield pairing of Cristian Roldan (7) and Gustav Svensson (4) has proven a formidable foe for anyone and everyone during the second half of the season. On Tuesday — granted, against 10 men for more than an hour — they could do no wrong. (Passes attempted on the right; defensive actions on the left — green triangles are tackles won, orange are recoveries, blue are interceptions, purple are clearances, red are tackles lost.)

MLSsoccer.com

Alonso has been an unbelievable servant for nine MLS seasons, he’s an MLS Cup champions, a four-time U.S. Open Cup winner, a Supporters’ Shield winner and one of the best defensive midfielders in MLS history. He’s also 32 years old with a growing history of lower-body injuries that seem to never fully heal, and he’s now clearly third in the pecking order behind Roldan and Svensson. It’s clearly an oversimplification to say that soccer is a young, mobile man’s game these days, but it’s certainly true of MLS, and the results are in near total agreement.


May I have some hope, please?

Here’s a not-so-fun fact if you’re a Dynamo fan: your team won one — singular — game on the road in 17 tries this season. Not a dark enough outlook? OK, have this: that lone away win came against D.C. United, who finished 21st out of 22 teams if you put MLS into a single table.

Maybe Seattle weren’t so good at home this year… I’m really just searching for anything at this point, you’re thinking. OK, it’s possible, I suppose. They lost once at home all season, to Toronto FC, the best regular-season team in MLS history, by the final score of 1-0, in the month of May.

We’ll see you in Toronto or Columbus for MLS Cup, Seattle Sounders.

UEL roundup: AC Milan, Celtic, Rangers reach last round of qualifying

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Europa League results: AC Milan, Celtic and Rangers were all victorious in the third round of UEFA Europa League qualifying on Thursday, advancing to the playoff round — the final round — on Oct. 1.

[ MORE: Son to the rescue as Spurs advance in UEL qualifying (video) ]

AC Milan 3-2 Bodo/Glimt

Hakan Calhanoglu scored twice — once in each half, including the game-winning goal in the 50th minute — as Milan did just enough to knock out Norwegian side Bodo/Glimt.

Lorenzo Colombo got the other goal for Stefano Pioli’s side, with Bodo/Glimt tallies bookending the Italians’ three.

Riga 0-1 Celtic

Celtic’s progression into the playoff round was far more dramatic, and uncertain. Neil Lennon’s side found itself level at 0-0 as they entered the 90th minute. Exra-time, and maybe even penalties, seemed likely.

Mohamed Elyounoussi had other ideas. It wasn’t the most visually pleasing goal scored on Thursday, but Elyounoussi’s bouncing, first-time finish had just enough on it to evade the goalkeeper and hit the back of the net.

Willem II 0-4 Rangers

As for the other side of Glasgow, Rangers cruised past Dutch side Willem II and were just about through to the next round before halftime. James Tavernier converted from the penalty spot in the 22nd minute, followed three minutes later by a goal from Ryan Kent.

Filip Helander made it 3-0 in the 55th, and Connor Goldson finished the rout in the 71st. Steven Gerrard’s team was one of the most impressive sides on the day, and looked ready for a season-long battle for the Scottish Premiership title. Having played one more game than their local rivals, Rangers currently lead Celtic by a single point.

Notable Europa League results

Shkendija 1-2 Tottenham Hotspur (FULL RECAP)
Mura 1-5 PSV Eindhoven
Wolfsburg 2-0 Desna Chernihiv
Sporting CP 1-0 Aberdeen

Notable Europa League playoff matchups

Tottenham Hotspur v Maccabi Haifa
Rio Ave v AC Milan
Sarajevo v Celtic
Rangers v Galatasaray
Rosenborg v PSV Eindhoven
AEK Athens v Wolfsburg
Sporting CP v LASK

League Cup: Liverpool win 7-2; Man City survive and advance

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A roundup of League Cup third round results on Thursday, as Liverpool and Man City booked their places among the final 16 teams…

[ MORE: Edouard Mendy to Chelsea: What does it mean for Kepa, Blues’ defense? ]

Lincoln City 2-7 Liverpool

Jurgen Klopp fielded a team of most of his seldom used players, and had virtually no issues getting past League One side Lincoln. Xherdan Shaqiri opened the scoring in the ninth minute, and he did so in truly fantastic free-kick fashion.

Takumi Minamino scored twice — once either side of halftime — beginning with his first-time, curled beauty in the 18th minute to make it 2-0. The Japanese international appears to have stockpiled plenty of confidence to force his way into the Reds’ star-studded first team with greater regularity.

From there, Liverpool were off to the races. Curtis Jones bagged a brace in the 32nd and 36th minutes, followed the second from Minamino to make it 5-0 after 46 minutes. Lincoln hit back right on the hour mark, but Marko Grujic restored the five-goal lead just five minutes later.

The Imps clawed back another goal just a minute later, but an 89th-minute tally from Divock Origi ensured the Reds would triumph by the five-goal margin.

Up next for Liverpool is a heavyweight fourth-round showdown, at home against Arsenal.

[ MORE: Transfer news: Reyna to Liverpool; Jorginho to Arsenal ]

Man City 2-1 Bournemouth

Pep Guardiola’s men were far from full stretch, and far from their best, en route to a 2-1 victory over recently relegated Bournemouth. With as many as six first-team regulars given the rare night off, City found themselves level at 1-1 with the final 15 minutes approaching. U.S. men’s national team goalkeeper Zack Steffen was one of the backups to feature.

Fortunately for City, Phil Foden has stepped forward in recent outings and asserted himself a star of the present — no longer of the future — and reaffirmed his ascent with a well-place winner in the 75th minute.

It was one of the youngsters, 17-year-old Liam Delap, who opened the scoring in the 18th minute, when he hammered a left-footed strike into the upper-90 of the far post. Foden provided the diagonal through ball for Delap and picked up the assist on the play. The lead lasted barely four minutes, though, before Sam Surridge had drawn the Cherries back to level terms.

Up next in the League Cup, City will visit Burnley in the fourth round.

Bristol City 0-3 Aston Villa

A pair of new signings — Ollie Watkins and Bertrand Traore — bagged goals, alongside the opener from Anwar El Ghazi, for Dean Smith’s Villa, to make it a comfortable 3-0 victory over Championship side Bristol City.

Villa will host Championship side Stoke City in the next round.

Son to the rescue as Spurs advance in UEL qualifying (video)

Europa League - Tottenham
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Son Heung-min got to play the role of hero once again for Tottenham Hotspur, as it was the South Korean superstar’s second-half goal and assist which lifted his side to a 3-1 victory away to North Macedonia side Shkendija in the third round of Europa League qualifying on Thursday.

[ MORE: Edouard Mendy to Chelsea: What does it mean for Kepa, Blues’ defense? ]

Spurs took an early lead through Erik Lamela’s fifth-minute strike. Son found his Argentine teammate atop Shkendija’s 18-yard box and Lamela hit his right-footed shot with pinpoint accuracy.

Spurs were in control, without being dominant, for the remainder of the first half. Though they failed to make a handful of half-chances count, Jose Mourinho’s men looked like they never had to move past second gear to remain 1-0 ahead at the halftime break.

The second half, however, was a bit more tricky. Shkendija needed just 10 minutes, and two shots, to pull level.

[ MORE: Transfer news: Reyna to Liverpool; Jorginho to Arsenal ]

Valmir Nafiu let fly from 22 yards out, and there was very little — if anything — Joe Hart could do to get close to the upper-90-bound laser.

After scoring four goals in Spurs’ 5-2 thrashing of Southampton on the weekend, Son provided the moment of quality so desperately needed in the 70th minute. Lucas Moura’s initial effort on goal was saved, but it fell ever so kindly to Son 12 yards from goal. His finish was far from simple, though, as no fewer than two outfield players and the goalkeeper obstructed his path to goal. In the end, he picked out the top-left corner for a delicately placed finish.

It was another moment of quality from Son which propelled Spurs to a two-goal advantage not even 10 minutes later. He whipped in a cross from the left wing and found Harry Kane perched near the six-yard box, where he rose highest and put plenty of power behind his header.

Up next for Spurs will be a playoff-round clash with Israeli side Maccabi Haifa. The winner of that single-leg tie will qualify for the group stage draw.

Burnley – Southampton: How to watch, start time, team news, odds

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Burnley – Southampton: Two committed and hard-working clubs clash at Turf Moor on Saturday (Watch live at 3pm ET online via Peacock) as both teams are aiming for their first points of the season.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]  

Sean Dyche’s Burnley lost at Leicester in their opening game of the season last weekend, while Ralph Hasenhuttl saw his Southampton side hammered 5-2 at home by Tottenham are losing at Crystal Palace on the opening day.

[ MORE: ProSoccerTalk unfiltered, Week 2 ]

These clubs are evenly-matched as Burnley finished 10th and Saints 11th last season, but both clubs know they have increasing competition to finish in midtable.

Here’s everything you need to know ahead of what should be an extremely physical early-season clash.


Team news: Burnley – Southampton (INJURY REPORT)

Burnley are without a host of players as Jay Rodriguez suffered an injury in the midweek League Cup win at Millwall and joins Ben Mee, James Tarkowski, Robbie Brady, Johann Berg Gudmundsson, Jack Cork and Ashley Barnes in the treatment room.

Southampton only have one player missing through injury, Nathan Redmond, while Mohammed Salisu isn’t quite up to full speed following his arrival this summer.


Odds and ends (full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet)

With all of their injuries Burnley (+220) are the underdogs but Southampton (+135) have never fared well at Burnley and last won at Turf Moor in 2007 when both teams were in the second tier.

PointsBet is our Official Sports Betting Partner and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on PointsBet for the first time after clicking our links


Burnley – Southampton prediction

This is a real clash of style as Hasenhuttl’s Saints will press high and look to force the issue, while Burnley will sit back and soak up the pressure and look to go direct. Burnley always seem to catch Saints out on the break or from set pieces and I think that will be the case here too, but with all of the Clarets’ injuries I think Southampton will come away with something. Burnley 1-1 Southampton.


How to watch Burnley – Southampton stream and start time

Kickoff: 3pm ET Saturday
TV Channel: Peacock
Online: Stream via NBCSports.com