Sports Mole previews Tuesday’s Major League Soccer clash between Real Salt Lake and Houston Dynamo, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Facing elimination, Real Salt Lake host the Houston Dynamo in game two of that best-of-three MLS Cup playoff series at America First Field on Monday.
Orange Crush scored 11 minutes from the end to win the opening encounter between the two, 2-1, putting Claret and Cobalt on the verge of being eliminated in the first round of the playoffs for a second successive campaign....Click Here To Continue Reading>>
In what appeared to be an all-out defensive approach, the RSL backline ultimately succumbed to the Dynamo pressure, losing a sixth MLS fixture this year by a single goal.
Salt Lake had a mere 28% possession, while Houston put together twice as many passes as Claret and Cobalt throughout the 90 minutes.
While this team improved their position in the Western Conference table this season, they had difficulty staying compact defensively late in matches, conceding eight goals in the regular season and playoffs beyond the 75th minute.
Pablo Mastroeni’s men also had a habit of falling behind early and often throughout the domestic campaign, conceding the opening goal 18 times in the 2023 regular season and playoffs, winning only twice when doing so (2-1 versus the Vancouver Whitecaps both times).
On Monday, they will host an MLS playoff game for the first time since 2019, and they are unbeaten in their last five post-season encounters played in Sandy, Utah.
RSL have not been behind for a single minute in an MLS home playoff game since 2013, when the Portland Timbers were ahead of them for 21 minutes in the opening leg of that Western Conference Final before Salt Lake stormed back to win 4-2.
It was a solid opening game that Ben Olsen will be delighted about, as his side were in control versus RSL last Sunday, with their patience eventually paying off.
With the win, Orange Crush extended their unbeaten run to six matches in all competitions, giving them a chance to advance into the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 2017.
Over their unbeaten run, the Dynamo have yet to concede a goal in the opening half, while nine of their 13 goals scored in that span happened during the first 45 minutes of play.
They have not lost a domestic contest throughout the 2023 campaign when scoring first, winning their last three such encounters.
Houston have never lost a playoff encounter when netting multiple times, but before their opening game against RSL, they had gone goalless in three of their last four post-season contests.
Orange Crush only won three away contests during the regular season, but one of those victories came at America First Field versus RSL (3-0), while they have lost two of their last three playoff encounters as the visiting team.
Real Salt Lake Major League Soccer form:
Houston Dynamo Major League Soccer form:
Houston Dynamo form (all competitions):
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There will be numerous question marks regarding some key RSL players for this match as Marcelo Silva missed the opening game to attend a personal matter in Uruguay, Brayan Vera (ankle), Erik Holt (shoulder), Justen Glad (adductor) and Chicho Arango (hamstring) are all questionable with injuries, while Pablo Ruiz is out with a knee strain.
Last Sunday, Diego Luna scored for the sixth time across all competitions in 2023, becoming the youngest Claret and Cobalt player to ever find the back of the net in a playoff game, surpassing Yura Movsisyan.
Zac MacMath has conceded five goals in his previous two competitive matches versus the Dynamo after posting three successive clean sheets before the two sides met in the US Open Cup semi-final this year, while his last victory against them came in 2022 when former strikers Bobby Wood and Sergio Cordova found the back of the net and current defender Justen Glad also scored in a 3-0 triumph.
In the first match of this series, Houston were missing Tate Schmitt and Ifunanyachi Achara because of knee injuries, and they are both unlikely to see the field on Monday.
Hector Herrera notched the opener for Orange Crush last weekend as the Dynamo skipper has a goal contribution in three successive matches, while Amine Bassi put home the winner, his second in three games.
Steve Clark has conceded just once versus RSL in his last three matches played against them, posting a clean sheet in their previous visit to America First Field when Corey Baird, Daniel Steres and Adalberto Carrasquilla scored, enabling the Dynamo to prevail 3-0.Real Salt Lake possible starting lineup:MacMath; Hidalgo, Glad, Oviedo; Brody, Loffelsend, Julio, Ojeda; Savarino, Rubin, Luna
Houston Dynamo possible starting lineup:Clark; Dorsey, Sviatchenko, Micael, Escobar; Artur, Herrera; Carrasquilla, Bassi, Caicedo; Baird
We say: Real Salt Lake 0-1 Houston Dynamo
The high altitude in Utah could make it difficult for either side to create chances, but ultimately, we believe the midfield quality of Houston, combined with the injury concerns at RSL, will enable the visitors to advance into the next round.
How to watchYou can watch Real Salt Lake vs. Houston Dynamo and every MLS match this season live on Apple TV. Click here for more details on how to subscribe.For data analysis of the most likely results, scorelines and more for this match please click here.
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Erik ten Hag hails “very important” Harry Maguire after summer exit talk
Manchester United head coach Erik ten Hag praises central defender Harry Maguire for turning his Red Devils career around....Click Here To Continue Reading>>
Manchester United head coach Erik ten Hag has hailed Harry Maguire for his contribution to the team’s recent impressive results in the Premier League.
The Red Devils have won each of their last three league fixtures against Fulham, Luton Town and Everton, keeping clean sheets in all three games.
Maguire has been a vital player for the 20-time English champions in recent weeks, playing the full 90 minutes in each of their last six Premier League games, which have brought five wins.
The England international was heavily linked with a move away from Old Trafford over the summer, with West Ham United believed to have had an offer accepted for him.
However, the 30-year-old decided to stay at Man United to fight for his place, and the ex-Sheffield United youngster is now first pick in the middle of the defence.
Maguire’s form is keeping Raphael Varane out of the side, and there is an argument that Ten Hag’s first-choice centre-back pairing will be Maguire and Lisandro Martinez once the latter has returned from injury.
Jonny Evans had been featuring alongside Maguire before picking up an injury, with Victor Lindelof now filling in as the left-sided centre-back.
Ten Hag has lavished praise on Maguire for ‘fighting back’ from a difficult period, hailing the centre-back’s “mentality” and “very important” contribution to the team’s recent success.
“Absolutely. Very important. And he fought back and he showed great mentality. He can be proud of himself. But as I say: we are in a season, we are in the right direction,” Ten Hag told MUTV.
“Harry is in the right direction with this team. Now we make the next steps because we want to be successful and Harry is very ambitious. He wants to win trophies. So then, you know, you have to give every day your best.”
Maguire is now set to remain at Old Trafford, especially as there is huge uncertainty surrounding the futures of Varane, Evans and Lindelof.
Varane is believed to be keen to leave the Red Devils next year, with a number of clubs from Saudi Arabia said to be keeping a close eye on his situation.
Both Evans and Lindelof only have contracts until next June, meanwhile, although it is thought that a 12-month extension will be activated in the latter’s deal.
Scott McTominay is another player who was heavily linked with a move away from Man United over the summer, but he has also been vital for Ten Hag in recent weeks, coming up with four goals in all competitions.
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Newcastle United rise to fifth with deserved win over Manchester United
Newcastle United jump to fifth in the Premier League table with a deserved 1-0 win over Manchester United at St James’ Park.
Newcastle United made it three successive wins against Manchester United in all tournaments for the first time in over 100 years with a deserved 1-0 Premier League victory over the tepid Red Devils at St James’ Park.
A succession of chances came and went for Eddie Howe’s men in the first half, but Man United’s luck ran out when Anthony Gordon fired home early in the second half to sink Erik ten Hag’s team – who were second best all afternoon – although a concerning injury to Nick Pope partially marred the Magpies’ success.
While a decimated Newcastle side put out the exact same XI from their Champions League draw with Paris Saint-Germain, a handful of changes from Ten Hag saw Anthony Martial, Kobbie Mainoo, Diogo Dalot and the returning Marcus Rashford come into the fold....Click Here To Continue Reading>>
However, Ten Hag’s alterations did little to stem the flow of a rampant Newcastle, who saw almost all of the ball in the opening stages and came close in the 18th minute through Miguel Almiron, but Andre Onana was equal to his low effort.
Alexander Isak and Jamaal Lascelles both came close in the few moments that followed; the former had a strike deflected wide by Harry Maguire before Lascelles headed over the bar, which was then shaking in the 40th minute as Kieran Trippier’s free kick landed just an inch too high.
Newcastle’s shot counter displayed a whopping 14 as the referee’s whistle blew to signal half time, but Man United’s clean sheet remained intact, mainly thanks to their hosts’ wastefulness in the final third.
Any harsh half-time words from Ten Hag clearly did not have the desired effect, as Newcastle finally made one of their many forays forward pay in the 55th minute, where Gordon gave the hosts a fully merited lead.
The sloppy Red Devils were punished for losing the ball in the defensive third, allowing Trippier to flash a low ball across the six-yard box, where Gordon was on hand to tap home at the back post.
The ex-Everton man’s opener saw him stretch his St James’ Park scoring streak to four successive Premier League matches, and Ten Hag responded by calling upon Antony and Rasmus Hojlund in place of the ineffective Martial and Rashford.
Man United’s alterations did little to spark any life into the meek visitors, who were indebted to Aaron Wan-Bissaka for making a crucial block to deny Lewis Miley in the 78th minute, but it was Fabian Schar’s turn to deny Sergio Reguilon from scoring a sensational volley with a terrific block of his own four minutes later.
As Pope dived to meet Reguilon’s blocked shot, though, the Newcastle number one injured himself and stayed down as Man United built their next attack, which was stopped in its tracks to allow the stricken Pope to receive treatment.
The Englishman was able to rise to his feet, but he was evidently struggling with his shoulder and slowly trudged off to be replaced by ex-Man United loanee Martin Dubravka.
The Newcastle number two had only been on the field a few moments before an Antony volley flew past him and into the back of the net, but Maguire – whom the ball took a nick off – was in an offside position, and the linesman’s flag came to the hosts’ rescue.
The Red Devils were granted nine minutes of additional time to try to find a leveller, but Newcastle stood firm to leapfrog their visitors into fifth spot in the table, bumping Ten Hag’s men down to seventh in the process.
Newcastle have four full days to rest up before a trip to Everton on Thursday, while Man United will return to their Old Trafford headquarters to meet Chelsea on Wednesday.
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Kobbie Mainoo ‘set to double Manchester United wages’
Manchester United midfielder Kobbie Mainoo is reportedly set to double his wages at Old Trafford on account of becoming a first-team regular for Erik ten Hag....Click Here To Continue Reading>>
Manchester United midfielder Kobbie Mainoo is reportedly set to double his wages at Old Trafford following his first-team breakthrough.
The 18-year-old is regarded as one of the brightest prospects in the Red Devils’ setup but was denied the chance to make an impression in the early stages of the 2023-24 campaign due to an ankle injury sustained in pre-season.
Mainoo took months to recover from the affliction, but the teenager has since exited the treatment room and was trusted by Erik ten Hag from the first whistle in last weekend’s 3-0 Premier League win over Everton.
Mainoo – who made his debut for the Red Devils against Charlton Athletic in a January EFL Cup clash – received high praise for a performance well beyond his years and was then brought off the bench for his Champions League debut against Galatasaray a few days later.
Sofyan Amrabat was given the nod in Europe instead of Mainoo, but the Fiorentina loanee was overlooked for the youngster in Saturday’s trip to Newcastle United, where the Red Devils fell to a 1-0 defeat.
Amid Man United’s indifferent form on the field and protracted takeover saga, Mainoo has been a shining light for the 20-time English champions, and his rapid rise is now set to be rewarded.
According to the Daily Star, Mainoo is currently on a modest £10,000 per week at the Theatre of Dreams, but his salary will soon double to £20,000 per week owing to a clause in his contract.
Back in February, the Red Devils tied the 2005-born lynchpin down to a new long-term deal until the end of the 2026-27 campaign, with the option of an additional 12 months.
Rather than Man United agreeing another fresh deal with Mainoo, the midfielder’s existing terms apparently include a clause stipulating that his wages will double in size once he becomes a first-team regular.
The report adds that Mainoo’s salary increase has not been triggered just yet, but he is “close” to taking home an extra £10,000 per week, and he would already be on a higher wage had he not spent a couple of months in the treatment room.
The 18-year-old – who has been with the club since the age of nine – completed 80 minutes of Saturday’s showdown with Newcastle, which was his sixth first-team appearance for the Red Devils.
However, Mainoo and his Man United teammates were run ragged by Newcastle, who deservedly picked up a 1-0 win in freezing temperatures thanks to a second-half Anthony Gordon goal.
Having also been beaten by the Magpies in this year’s EFL Cup and a 2-0 loss at St James’ Park in the 2022-23 Premier League, Man United have now suffered three successive defeats to Newcastle in all competitions for the first time since January 1922.
The Red Devils’ sixth league loss of the season has bumped them down to seventh place in the Premier League table, and the visit of Chelsea to Old Trafford is next up for Ten Hag’s troops on Wednesday.
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