By AARON CRANFORD
In nine years, the Houston Dynamo had not suffered a worse season than that of 2014.
The Dynamo recorded the team’s lowest finish, eighth in the Eastern Conference, and also suffered 17 defeats, the most in club history. There needed to be changes in Houston, and they came.
The solution: a new head coach in Owen Coyle and a proven MLS goalscorer in Erick ‘Cubo’ Torres. The Dynamo also penned Raúl Rodríguez, a 27-year-old center back who comes from Liga BBVA’s RCD Espanyol. Rodríguez made 80 first-team appearances for his former Spanish club, regularly facing the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid over the course of five seasons.
The Dynamo will want him to shore up a defense that conceded 58 goals, tied for 17th out of 19 teams in goals against in 2014. But with Houston only scoring 39 goals all season, the changes did not stop with Rodríguez. The Dynamo offense needed a new look.
Torres’ signing was announced in December, which was a vital pickup for the league and for the Dynamo. But in January, Houston announced the signing of Leonel Miranda on loan from C.A. Independiente in Argentina. With the addition of Miranda, a 21-year-old midfielder who made 34 appearances and scored two goals for El Rojo, the biggest offseason changes were complete. Houston acquired a new head coach, a proven goalscorer, a dynamic and young midfielder and a tested veteran defender. And still, the additions kept coming.
Here is a closer look at the 2015 Houston Dynamo: Continue reading
By IVES GALARCEP
The CONCACAF Champions League has long been a source of disappointment for Major League Soccer teams, and that same familiar storyline played out again on Thursday in Costa Rica with D.C. United’s destruction at the hands of Alajuelense.
Episode 193 of The SBI Show takes a look back at D.C. United’s 5-2 loss to the Costa Rican side, and digs into the continued issues MLS has with succeeding in CCL play. We also discuss Montreal’s impressive 2-2 tie with Pachuca.
Co-host Garrett Cleverly and I also discuss the MLS labor talks, and the likelihood of a strike, which is growing by the day as the two sides reach an apparent stalemate over free agency.
Give Episode 193 of The SBI Show a listen after the jump:
By ADAM TROXTELL
Chelsea’s clash with Tottenham in the English League Cup Final highlights a busy Sunday of soccer on TV.
It’s a rematch of the 2008 final, one that Blues fans will want to forget after London-rivals Spurs came back to win 2-1. That was Tottenham’s first, and so far only, trophy after a nine year drought.
Prior to that game, in-form Liverpool hosts second-place Manchester City as both clubs chase down teams ahead of them in the standings. The Reds are trying to keep pace with Southampton, Arsenal and Manchester United in the race for UEFA Champions League spots, while Manchester City can cut the deficit at the top of the table to just two points with a victory Sunday. Man United hosts Sunderland on Saturday, and the Gunners face Everton on Sunday.
Similar clashes take place in Spain on Sunday, with fifth-place Sevilla playing third-place Atletico Madrid. First place holders Real Madrid host sixth place Villarreal, who is currently six points behind Valencia in the final Champions League spot.
In Mexico, Tijuana will try to maintain its spot at the top of Liga MX on Friday night with a win against Pachuca. Xolos took first place away from Cruz Azul, who will try to take advantage of any slip ups against Toluca on Sunday.
Here is this weekend’s soccer on TV (schedule after the jump):
By DAN KARELL
Two years ago, with high hopes and expectations, the U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team were shocked by Honduras U-17s in a must-win match, eliminating the U.S. from the 2013 FIFA U-17 World Cup.
Now two years later, with another team loaded with talent from front to back, the U.S. are hoping to right those wrongs and earn a place in the 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Chile later this year.
As luck would have it, the U.S. will have to face Honduras again at this year’s version of the CONCACAF Under-17 Championship, which is being held in Honduras and begins on Friday. The tournament is playing under a new format though, like we saw at the CONCACAF U-20 Championship, meaning that the margin for error is slightly larger for the U.S. squad.
The U.S., featuring the likes of Joe Gallardo, Haji Wright, and Christian Pulisic, will kick off the tournament against Cuba on Friday before facing Trinidad and Tobago, Guatemala, Honduras, and Jamaica in group stage matches. If the U.S. wins their group, they’ll qualify automatically for the World Cup. If they finish second or third, they’ll be able to play in a “crossover” game, with the winner moving on to the World Cup.
Here’s a closer look at the U.S. U-17s squad, schedule, and a preview of what to expect:
By AYDIN REYHAN
After suffering losses in midweek European action, Liverpool and Manchester City can give their domestic campaigns a boost when they face off in Premier League play.
The reigning Premier League winners and runners-up collide Sunday, as Manchester City looks to rebound from a loss to Barcelona while Liverpool is fresh off Europa League elimination at the hands of Besiktas.
A victory by Liverpool could potentially lift the Reds into the top four, while Manchester City can close the gap atop the table to two points with a victory and Chelsea loss.
In other action, Borussia Dortmund welcomes Schalke in the Revierderby, Real Madrid looks to extend their lead in La Liga when they host Villarreal, and Roma hosts Juventus in a battle between Serie A’s top sides.
Here is a deeper look at the action in the top leagues this weekend: Continue reading
By RYAN TOLMICH
Just one day after sealing their passage into the next stage, the remaining 16 teams vying for the Europa League title learned their fate Friday with the competition’s Round of 16 draw.
Tim Howard and Everton will face a trip to Ukraine, as the Toffees have been paired with Dynamo Kyiv. Roma and Fiorentina, meanwhile, won’t have to travel nearly as far as the Premier League side, as the two Serie A powerhouses will face off in the Round of 16.
Serie A boasts three other representatives in the final 16, as Inter Milan takes on Wolfsburg, Napoli faces Dinamo Moskova, and Torino matches up with Zenit.
The match between the AS Roma and Fiorentina is also not the only intra-country matchup, as reigning champions Sevilla are set to face off with Villarreal.
The opening legs of the Round of 16 will kick off March 12.
Take a closer look at the upcoming Europa League matchups below: Continue reading