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“We missed something” — Guardiola blames self for last season

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The 2017-18 Manchester City squad — the one which held a 14-point lead in the Premier League title race, after just 20 games, entering this weekend — might very well go down as the best to ever grace torch England’s top flight, whether or not they finish the campaign unbeaten.

[ PL ROUNDUP: Chelsea leapfrog Man United for 2nd ]

It’s Pep Guardiola‘s second season in charge at the Etihad, and while this kind of domination was certainly envisaged and perhaps even expected by the club’s ambitious owners upon his arrival in the summer of 2016, it wasn’t supposed to happen in the first 18 months.

While much has been made of the money Man City have spent under Guardiola’s direction (net spend during Guardiola’s tenure: $385 million), it’s also true that enough credit hasn’t been given to Guardiola for what he’s done with a number of players already at the club when he arrived.

[ PL SUNDAY: Man City go for 19 straight; WBA-Arsenal ]

Kevin De Bruyne has blossomed into a arguably the best central midfielder (a “free no. 8” is what they’re calling it) in the world; Raheem Sterling has improved more than anyone anywhere; Gabriel Jesus hit the ground running from his first day in England; Nicolas Otamendi has been given a new lease on his career; and Fabian Delph is more than just a passable fill-in at left back — he might just make the England team at this summer’s World Cup. Each of the above statements is undeniably true, and each of the above players has Guardiola to thank.

Alas, being the strident self-critic that he is, Guardiola chooses to see plenty of the negative which can be gleaned from City’s destruction of the PL this season: to him, it simply means he failed miserably a year ago — quotes from Goal:

“Now when I speak with my staff I say that, in the end, we are playing with nine players from last season. So, we did something not good last season. We missed something.

“We didn’t change seven or eight players. I think the new players give energy, with the way they are in the locker room. New faces always help teams.

“But last season I missed something, when nine players who normally play are the same and the players in midfield and up front are the same.

“Something happened. Of course, they know us better and we know them better. Sometimes you need more time to adjust.”

“Last season, for example, I never thought to play Fabian Delph at full back.

“‘Oh, the brilliant Pep, how talented he is…’. Why didn’t I do that last season?

“Sometimes you need more time to see things. Now Mendy isn’t there. Fabian is there, he is able, he is smart, he is a midfield player.”

“The players who do not play regularly, they are exceptional human beings. We cannot create something when the people who do not play regularly, they always create problems, have bad faces and bad behavior.

“You can ask all the managers who have success and win titles, always there is a common thing — the group is strong. Not 11 players, the group.

“Everyone has desire to win, everybody wants to win and dreams to do that. When that happens, everything can happen.”

FC Dallas, Houston play to 1-1 after scoring early goals

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HOUSTON (AP) FC Dallas and the Houston Dynamo each scored early goals in a 1-1 draw Saturday night.

Matt Hedges put Dallas (11-3-6) ahead 47 seconds into the game with his first goal of the season, converting a header off a cross from Santiago Mosquera.

Houston (7-6-6) tied it in the eight on Mauro Manotas’ 10th goal of the season. He scored on a header off Romell Quioto’s cross.

Houston goalkeeper Joe Willis stuffed Roland Lamah‘s penalty kick at the 61st minute to keep the score knotted. Ten minutes later, Lamah missed an open look and sent a short shot high that ricocheted off the top of the post.

In stoppage time, Houston’s Alberth Elis missed high and wide to the right just outside the box.

Houston is unbeaten in four games.

MLS 3 Things: Resurgent Zardes, Toronto up, New England down

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A busy Saturday in Major League Soccer sees three interesting results bolstering the story lines of the final few months of the season.

[ MORE: Unstoppable Josef | Zlatan, too ]

1) Imagine a world with the reigning champs as your reward for finishing first.

With 14 matches to play, Toronto FC has Jozy Altidore back in the fold and has pulled to within eight points of the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot after a 2-1 win over the Chicago Fire on Saturday.

Sebastian Giovinco looks like Sebastian Giovinco in scoring another outstanding goal, just his fifth of the season, while Jonathan Osorio also scored in the win.

Before you watch Seba’s goal, picture you’ve won the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Now picture TFC as your semifinal reward.

2) New England is well and truly slumping

Brad Friedel‘s Revs are slipping after losing a third-straight league match, and New England has gained a solitary point since the calendar turned to July following a 2-0 loss at Red Bull Arena.

Fourth through ninth in the East are separated by nine points, and New England is very much in that mix now. Friedel is certainly at the most trying time of his tenure.

Second half goals from Bradley Wright-Phillips and Daniel Royer did the trick for RBNY, who have claimed 15 of the last 18 points available to them (The lone blemish is the Hudson River Derby).

The Red Bulls are now 8-1-1 at home this season, while New England is 1-4-4 away from Foxboro.

3) Gyasi Zardes’ return to form is surprising and wonderful

Columbus has its second win since May 19, and will be feeling much better about itself following a 3-2 comeback win over Orlando City which included a pair of equalizers.

One of those came in the 88th minute, as Gyasi Zardes completed his brace by converting a penalty won by new arrival Patrick Mullins.

The Crew won late via a rare Wil Trapp goal — the USMNT midfielder has just two in 161 matches — but let’s focus on Zardes.

Zardes’ 13th goal of the season continues an amazing turnaround under striker whisperer Gregg Berhalter. It’s Zardes’ second double-digit season, and his first since 2014. He is firmly in frame for another USMNT look, this time as a center forward, but first there’s plenty to like about the big man.

Surging Galaxy ride Ibrahimovic magic to 3-1 win (video)

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a man on fire, and the LA Galaxy are rounding into form.

The Galaxy overcame an early deficit in Chester to clobber the Philadelphia Union 3-1 on Saturday behind a goal and an assist from their world-class striker.

[ MORE: Neymar on diving ]

Romain Alessandrini had two assists, while Michael Ciani and Ola Kamara also scored for LA. CJ Sapong scored for Philly, assisted by Borek Dockal.

Unbeaten-in-seven LA moves into fourth in the West with the win, while Philadelphia remains three points back of sixth in the East.

Ibrahimovic has now scored in six of his last seven matches, and has 12 goals and two assists in 21 matches overall.

Let’s start with the assist, which we must’ve seen two dozen times when the big Swede was with Paris Saint-Germain.

Ibrahimovic takes a difficult pass out of the air with absurd touch, then waits for the right time to send an impeccable through ball into the path of Kamara.

As for the goal, you almost feel for Mark McKenzie.

The Union’s Homegrown defender has to choose between Alessandrini darting into his box and allowing Ibrahimovic a lick of space.

He gives it, understandably, then rushes to close down Ibrahimovic.

It wasn’t fast enough. Boom.

Americans on both sides, Weah scores as PSG fall to Bayern (video)

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Two hopes of the USMNT’s future — one more immediate than the other — squared off in the International Champions Cup on Saturday.

Paris Saint-Germain teenager Timothy Weah, 18, went 90 minutes and scored his side’s only goal in the 3-1 loss in Austria.

[ MORE: Neymar on diving ]

On the other side of the field was 62nd minute substitute Chris Richards, far less known to the American supporter.

Richards is on loan from FC Dallas, where he’s a Homegrown Player. The 18-year-old center back is going to play for Bayern’s U-19 side following a successful trial in April.

Both Bayern and PSG were without key pieces, as Weah went up against a decent Bayern back line of Juan Bernat, Javi Martinez, Josip Stanisic, and Rafinha.

Arjen Robben, Sandro Wagner, and Franck Ribery were the biggest names in Bayern’s XI, while David Alaba, Kingsley Coman, and Serge Gnabry came off the bench.

For PSG, Gianluigi Buffon started as did Adrien Rabiot.

Weah’s goal is below, and here’s what he had to say about it:

“It’s an amazing feeling and getting a well-done job. Me scoring goals, I was really happy to get my first goal for PSG and first goal in this competition. We’re going to Singapore with our head on our shoulders. We’re going to be really humble and keep playing.”