De Bruyne: “Three games won’t define Man City’s season”

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Manchester City’s magic number is now three — any combination of three points won, or points dropped by Manchester United, needed to win the 2017-18 Premier League title.

[ MORE: Man City on the brink of PL title ]

It’s been a foregone conclusion since mid-December, when their lead first reached double digits, and Saturday’s 3-1 victory over fourth-place Tottenham Hotspur has Pep Guardiola‘s side on Title Watch from here on out, with five games to play.

[ MORE: Three things we learned from City’s win over Spurs ]

Kevin De Bruyne has arguably been Man City’s standout player this season, and though he’ll likely lose out to Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah for Player of the Year honors, the Belgian superstar was over the moon when speaking during his post-game television interviews (above video) at the first mention of lifting the PL trophy next weekend. He was extremely defiant in refusing to let three games define what has been a brilliant, and perhaps still record-setting, season:

“We’re almost there. We knew we had to win two out of six games, so that’s not bad odds for us. Now it’s only out of five, and (Man) United don’t need to slip up, so we just need to do our thing and hopefully we can finish it next week.”

“It’s been a little more quiet, but not less confident. The Liverpool game away was a little bit [50-50], but I think the way we played against United and Liverpool at home showed that we performed well. I think in those games we deserve to win, but we didn’t. That’s football, you have to pick yourself up and be confident. The season’s been unbelievable, and these three games aren’t going to define our season.

“In the beginning, it’s the manager [who picked us up], obviously. But you need a day or two days to pick yourself up. We had a free day, you have your family in another environment, and then yesterday we had a little training and everybody was ready to try to perform today.

“I think [starting games quickly] shows the motivation of the team. We tried to do that against United and Liverpool at home, and it worked very well. It was a little bit less in both second halves, but we tried to do it today. We knew the second half is going to be tougher, it’s been a tough schedule for us, but the second half was about mental toughness and trying to dig in until the end.

[ MORE: Wolverhampton Wanderers win promotion, return to PL ]

Guardiola, who says he’ll spend his Sunday afternoon on the golf course while United take on West Bromwich Albion in a game of massive title consequences (Watch live, 11 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com), was simply proud of his players’ response after bowing out of the Champions League and blowing a 2-0 lead against the Red Devils last weekend:

“After what happened this week, coming here to play against Tottenham, one of the best teams with (one of) the best managers by far, and play the way we played the first half, after 15 minutes, I said, ‘We will be champions.’ Not today, that’s for tomorrow, but it doesn’t matter after what happened; how the players reacted, these guys are fantastic.

“We’ve [dominated games early on] many, many times. Of course we didn’t expect it today, because the opponent is so, so good, but what we did today, we’ve done it many, many, many times. That’s why we are in the position that we are.”

Puel insists Chelsea hasn’t inquired about goalkeeper Schmeichel

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Chelsea could very be in the market for a goalkeeper over the summer, but Leicester City’s manager insists that their number one isn’t being targeted by the Blues; or at least not yet.

[ MORE: Klopp discusses Christian Pulisic, Liverpool’s spending ]

With the Blues likely set to lose Belgium international Thibaut Courtois to Real Madrid, new manager Maurizio Sarri would have to look elsewhere to solidify the team’s goalkeeping situation.

One player that has drawn significant interest after a strong World Cup performance for Denmark is Leicester’s Kasper Schmeichel, who played a big role in the Foxes’ 2015/16 Premier League title.

Although Schmeichel would be a viable replacement for Courtois at Stamford Bridge, Leicester boss Claude Puel says Chelsea hasn’t expressed its interest to this point.

“No, there is no problem with this,” the Frenchman told Sky Sports. “There is a lot of speculation at this moment, it is normal.

“I think he [Ward] can bring more competition to the squad and more possibilities. It is a good thing to have competition between players in the squad to develop desire.

“It gives good focus and concentration.”

The Foxes recently brought in young Liverpool keeper Danny Ward, which raised further questions about the future of Schmeichel at Leicester.

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.