England interview another manager to replace Hodgson

The FA interviewed the 55-year-old yesterday as England search for a new manager to replace former boss Roy Hodgson.Bruce is currently the second longest-serving manager in the Premier League, behind Arsene Wenger after being with Hull for over fo4-0 rout Cadeof Everton.’Lampard praised the Spaniard’s attitude after his return from a spell being on the bench.He said, “The whole attitude and focus of the team felt really strong today after the Liverpool win and sometimes I have been searching for ur years.In his four years in charge of the Tigers, Bruce has led the club to two promotions to the Premier League and also to an FA Cup final, losing 3-2 to Arsenal on extra-time.The former Manchester United captain has made no er Christian Fuchs a new contract.The 33-year-old is out of contract in the summer and has been a bit-part player under Rodgers, having made 14 appearances this season.But Rodgers understands the Premier League winner’s importance to his squad.He saisecret of his desire to manage England.I’ve alwcontent_imgays said that, there’s nobody more patriotic than I am,” he told BBC Radio Humberside.”I’m honoured to be linked with it. It’s the pinnacle to go and manage your country. What bigger job in the world is there?”However, despite Bruce’s wish to take the job, Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce is currently the favourite for the role.

Benitez adamant Newcastle spirits still positive

Newcastle United boss Rafa Benitez insists squad morale is strong after a quiet winter market.The Spaniard insists the mood at the club’s Benton training base is “positive” as the Magpies head into the final, decisive third of the 2017/18 campaign.“The first message I gave to the players after the transfer window, after the training session on the morning, was, ‘Listen, this is the group of players that have to fight for every point until the end of the season.’ From now, there are no distractions, and everybody has to be sure they are ready,” he said. “The players, the team, they have to just concen深圳桑拿网trate on that, because some of them were maybe thinking, ‘I could go here, I could go there.’ Now, everybody’s here, and everybody has to give their best.“We are fine, the atmosphere is quite good, and the players are training really hard. We have a situation, it’s a normal football club trying to do their best in a competition like the Premier League, which is the best league in the world.”

​Atlético Madrid retain bankers CaixaBank

Atlético Madrid have extended their partnership with CaixaBank for a further five years, reports, /.The financial services company, which is based in Valencia, will continue to be listed as the official bank of the La Liga outfit, retaining a role it has held for over two decades. According to Spanish outlet Palco23, the new deal is worth 65 per cent more than the previous contract. The agreement will give CaixaBank customers the opportu深圳桑拿网nity to win exclusive guided tours of the team’s new Wanda Metropolitano stadium, which was officially opened at the beginning of this season.Additional benefits will include unique pitchside experiences, ticket offers for fans, personalised Visa cards, merchandise, and discounts on insurance, cinema visits and restaurants.CaixaBank, which holds partnerships with 16 La Liga teams, will also sponsor Atlético de Madrid Femenino, the club’s women’s team, in a deal that will see the company offer free tickets to customers.

​Mexico boss: West Ham striker Chicharito won’t worry about Moyes bustup

Mexico national team boss Juan Carlos Osorio has said that striker Javier Hernandez will not let his past experiences with David Moyes affect him at West Ham.Moyes was appointed as new Hammers boss on Tuesday after the club parted ways with Slaven Bilic as a result of their struggles this season. Hernandez does not enjoy good memories working under Moyes. The two worked together previously at Manchester United and it was under Moyes that Hernandez fell d深圳桑拿网own the pecking order at United which eventually resulted in his transfer to Bayer Leverkusen in 2015. Despite what may have transpired during the past, Osorio believes that Hernandez will be able to succeed at the Hammers with Moyes in charge. He said: “Javier is an intelligent person. “He knows he is in another club and it’s the start of a new relationship.”The perspectives and necessities are different at West Ham, who aren’t fighting in the top three places like United.”Javier will take it as a fresh challenge to win the starting spot.”

Learn the words to the brilliant Aston Villa chant you will hear at West Brom

There’s a fantastic new chant doing the rounds with the Aston Villa fans this season. You will have heard it being belted out by the claret and blue faithful – and now you can join in too. Anybody who has watched at Villa Park or on their travels this season – or heard the claret and blue faithful in fine voice on the telly – will have detected the popular new chant. Villa fans have been singing their hearts out throughout the campaign and even more so since arrival at his boyhood club sparked their latest Championship promotion push into life. The Villa Park masses – and the Holte End on tour – have put a claret and blue stamp on the ‘Allez, Allez, Allez’ chant which is regularly belted out in the stands of other clubs across Europe. From where does it originate? Well, we’re not going to get embroiled in the argument about which fanbase started it, but we can reveal that the ‘original’ is ‘L’Estate Sta Finendo’ (Summer Is Ending) a 1985 hit for Italian disco duo Righeira. Here’s a blast of it: But what about the Villa version? Well, if you’ve been on any Villa away days this term then you’ll probably know the words off by heart already. For those who can’t quite make them out but are determinedrd feels already settled in the Premier League.Trossard believes he is getting used to English football despite an injury setback which kept him out of half of Albion’s games so far.He said: “I have adapted really quickly. Because I am a more techn to sing along at future matches, then here’s the lyrics. You can see Villa fans belting it out in the concourses of Pride Park during the November victory over Derby County in the video at the top of this piece. All the latest Villa news Villa fans have continued to support their club in big numbers in the Championship with the Lions and Leeds United rTottenham Hotspur are the clear favourites to sign QPR midfielder Eberechi Eze.Spurs have been interested in Eze since Mauricio Pochettino’s time at the club.Sheffield United and Crystal Palace had also been intcontent_imgerested in the 21-year-old.But The Sun says QPR’s asking price of £20m has put off Spurs’ Premier League rivals.Eze has won three caps for England’s U21 side.ivalling each other to be the best supported club in the second tier this season.

‘A born leader’ Aston Villa fans pick their captain for Derby County

will be without their two main leaders against Derby County on Saturday. Club captain James Chester and vice skipper Alan Hutton are both out with knee injuries while John McGinn is also suspended. In Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Stoke City, Tommy Elphick wore the armband when Hutton departed, but who will get the nod this weekend? Villa fans have beway of Marvin Zeegelaar leaving this summer.Aris are looking sign Watford defender Zeegelaar.Sdna.gr reports that the Greek side are keen on the 28-year-old.He has little future at the Hornets under Javi Gracia.In the past, Zeegelaar has admitted thaen discussing the options – though insists he doesn’t need to during games.Sarri would chew cigarette filters at Chelsea as smoking is banned at English stadiums.”I smoke 60 a day, which is probably a few too many,” confessed Sarri.“I don’t particularly feel the need to smand have two players in mind: : “I do like the idea of Mings he’s definitely a good leader and shows real desire to win.” : “Mings would make a great captain.” “Elphick.” “Mings.Born leader.” “Elphick has done it before.” : “I agree with a few other comments….give it to Mings….already proven leader!” “Mings” “It’ll be Elphick I reckon.” “Mings no brainer UTV.” “Elphick or Hourihane.” : “Mings” : “Mings.” “Elphick.” “Mings” “Elphick” : “Mings” Good news  Jack Grealish is available for game with Derby County on Saturday, boss Dean Smith has confirmed.   The 23-year-old has trained this week and will be in the squad for the weekend outing following 10 weeks on the sidelines.   Smith said:   “Whether he starts or not we’ll wait and see.   “He’s worked really hard to get himself into contention and has trained well.   “It’s been well-documcontent_imgented results-wise that we haven’t been as good without Jack.   “I don’t put it just down to his absence. “We’ve been without James Chester, Axel Tuanzebe (through injury) and Yannick Bolasie (who ended his loan spell early) too,   “But I believe Jack is the best player in the league and any team who loses a player of that quality will suffer.   “We’ve suffered a bit without him so it will be nice to have him back.”   have won just two games from a possible 14 without their star man.   Earlier this week Grealish tweeted the following picture of himself in claret and blue, which was a clear hint that he was making good progress. Without Grealish available Villa’s play-off push has collapsed. Smith’s side have won just twice in 13 Championship games without their talisman and they’re eight points outside the top-six having played two games more than Bristol City who currently occupy sixth spot.   The Solihull-born star is desperate to return with huge games against Birmingham City, Nottingham Forest and Middlesbrough coming up after Derby.   Smith will once again be without the suspended John McGinn against Derby but new signing Tom Carroll could return to the fold. All the latest Villa news Mixed emotions Alan Hutton’s knee injury is not as bad as first feared – however the Scot will still struggle to return before the end of the season. Boss Dean Smith today confirmed that the 34-year-old ‘over-stretched’ the medial collateral ligament (MCL) in his knee, which is a good sign because first fears were that he had ruptured it. Hutton, who is out of contract at the end of the season following eight years at the club, is still set for a lengthy spell on the sidelines, though. “He’ll be out for a number of weeks,” Smith confirmed. “I’m hoping we will have him back before the end of the season but that’s hoping more than anything. “It’s not as bad a first feared. “The MRI scan has suggested it is not a full rupture of the MCL which is good news for him and ourselves. “But he’s certainly over-stretched that area.” Hutton, who has become a cult-hero at Villa in recent years, is now facing an anxious wait to find out whether he has a future at the club. The right-back’s contract expires in the summer and boss Smith said that discussions over a new deal are yet to take place.

Philly’s sweet tooth not satisfied after first playoff berth

CHESTER, Pa. – When Saturday’s game against Toronto FC ended in a 1-1 draw, there was hardly any celebration from the Philadelphia Union players.Yes, they had just qualified for the club’s first ever MLS Cup playoffs after seven grueling months. But no, they were not ready to mob each other in the middle of the field – not when there’s still so much more they hope to accomplish.The next few things on the team’s checklist include finishing atop the Eastern Conference, a deep run through the playoffs and, perhaps, an MLS Cup championship.“For 20 months, we’ve been standing in front of the store, looking through the window at the candies inside,” said Union manager Peter Nowak. “After all of our hard work, we’re in the store. But it’s up to us how many candies we will take. Will it be one or three or five? Or are we going to take the whole store?”The Union certainly hope for a sweet result Thursday when they take on the New York Red Bulls in a nationally televised showdown at Red Bull Arena (8 pm ET; ESPN2/ESPN Deportes, live chat on MLSsoccer.com).Philadelphia (11-7-15) are currently tied with Sporting Kansas City atop the Eastern Conference, and are just one point ahead of Columbus and two points ahead of Houston in the standings.Although they have already clinched a playoff berth, the Union could use a favorable result to claim a top three spot in the conference and avoid next week’s wild card games.“It’s an important game because of the standings,” Nowak said. “You have four teams right now and I think all four teams have a chance to be in the top three and be positioned well going into the playoffs.”Still, while many things remain in doubt when it comes to playoff seeding, one is certain: Nowak is proud of his club no matter when and where their postseason begins.And even though his team’s celebration was fairly muted following their playoff berth – and even though there are still many pieces of candy left to be eaten – the Union manager has mad深圳桑拿网e sure to remind everyone just what they already achieved.“For a franchise as young as ours, in our second year, to not only be in the playoffs but still be a contender to be first place in the East, that’s a great accomplishment for the whole group,” Nowak said. “Many teams out there wish to be in our position.”Follow@DaveZeitlin

D.C. United left stunned by stoppage time collapse vs. Fire

WASHINGTON – In the span of five minutes, a sense of relief was quickly replaced by utter dejection for D.C. United.In need of three points to keep their flickering playoff hopes alive, D.C. took a 1-0 lead in the 90th minute over the Chicago Fire, and just stoppage time separated them from a massive win in the chase for the postseason.But as has happened so often this year, their lead was not secure even for a few stoppage time minutes. Two quick-fire strikes from the Chicago Fire left D.C. United reeling for their fourth straight loss. D.C. now has to win their final two matches and hope for help to secure a wild card berth.“I’m gutted, absolutely,” a subdued Ben Olsen said after the game. “It’s one of the toughest losses I’ve ever taken.”Added forward Charlie Davies: “I’ve never seen that in my life. You think it’s in the bag, and all of a sudden they get an equalizer, and then they win the game. Two goals in two minutes.”A win would have lifted United to within two points of the New York Red Bulls, which lost 2-0 earlier in the day.“It doesn’t even c深圳桑拿网ross your mind, it’s very, very disappointing on a lot of fronts,” forward Josh Wolff said. “Obviously it means we’re in trouble, but hopefully we still have a chance to get in.”The stunning developments of the game’s closing minutes erased the joy of Dwayne De Rosario’s penalty kick, on a night in which D.C. struggled to create much offense with only one shot of 13 hitting the target.Coming off of two days of rest, Olsen had kept the plan simple in hopes of picking up the result.“Wasn’t an easy game for those guys, flying back from Vancouver after a tough loss,” he said. “I thought there was some heavy [legs] out there who pushed through it. The game plan was to grind it out – we did it, got our PK, thought there was a couple other ones potentially… It just fell apart from there.”It left players and coaches stunned, grasping for a way to explain the collapse.“It would be easy to say that’s a snapshot of what’s occurred throughout the year,” Wolff said. “We said these things can’t happen down the stretch and I don’t know how it happened but it did. It’s disappointing.”

Gringo Report: Gomez keeps streak going for Estudiantes

GUADALAJARA, Mexico – While the US national team was in camp in Florida, gave another a gentle reminder of his goal-scoring prowess with his fifth of the season for Estudiantes Tecos in an otherwise quiet weekend of action for Americans south of the border.Gomez scored with a diving header right at the death against Monterrey on Friday to make it three goals in three games. The 29-year-old came off the bench in the 64th minute in Estudiantes’ 3-2 loss.The 2010 World Cup veteran now has the best goal-to-minutes-played ratio among players near the top of the scorers’ chart in the Mexican Primera División with an average of one goal every 112 minutes. was involved in a humdinger of a game in the big relegation battle between Club Tijuana and Atlas on Saturday.Corona entered the match in the 55th minute with Atlas ahead 1-0. Playing a floating role just off the main striker, Corona helped Tijuana come back to 2-1 up before the hosts converted a last-minute penalty for a 2-2 draw., meanwhile, played the深圳桑拿网 full game for Guadalajara in their goalless draw with Toluca on Sunday.Chivas’ archrivals Club América drew 1-1 with Morelia in the later game Sunday with Calexico, Calif., native getting on the field for the last 15 minutes. Defender did not make the bench. played 23 minutes for Club León in Mexico’s second division, while down in Colombia, did not get playing time in América de Cali’s 1-0 win over Quindío.Tom Marshall can be reached at tom.marshall.mex@gmail.com.Follow@mexicoworldcup

Set pieces once again the Dynamo’s “bread and butter”

HOUSTON — Coming into the conference playoff series, the book on the Houston Dynamo read pretty clearly: Limit set pieces.After Houston pulled off a 3-1 aggregate win over the Philadelphia Union, including victories in both legs, it is clear that is easier to read the book than to understand it.Two of the Dynamo’s three goals came off set pieces, both struck by Brad Davis. In addition to the goals the Dynamo were dominant, winning a large portion of the aerial battles in and around Philadelphia’s area.Playing into the Dynamo’s hands was the physical nature of the series, which featured 46 fouls — 26 of which were whistled on the Union. Add in nine Dynamo corner kicks, and Houston had all the ammunition they needed to exploit their most dangerous weapon.In first-half stoppage time of the second leg on Thursday night, the Dynamo took advantage when Davis’ curling free kick found the charging Brian Ching, who headed home the winner.“It all comes down to delivery,” said Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear. “If you don’t have a guy who can deliver the ball you’ll get nowhere. The delivery from Brad was excellent and Brian got a good run into the box and there were other 深圳桑拿网times where we looked pretty dangerous too.Davis’ service is, of course, made to look even better when being delivered to the side’s corps of tall players, including Bobby Boswell (6-foot-2), Geoff Cameron (6-3), Andre Hainault (6 feet), and Ching.“[The media] have talked about it and other teams keep saying it, but I keep saying we’re going to get our chances every game and we look to capitalize on them,” said Davis who has nine of his 18 overall assists on set pieces. “Tonight we did it again.”In Sunday’’s looming showdown with Sporting Kansas City in the Eastern Conference Championship, the Dynamo will once again be on the prowl — Houston’s only goal this year against Sporting KC came from Davis on a set piece in their 1-1 draw.“I think we’ve been successful all year on them and in the past we’ve been the same way,” said Boswell, who has scored four of his five goals off set pieces this year. “It’s our bread and butter. It’s hard to mark everyone. It’s been working for us. Why change it if it’s working?”Follow@Dynamoexaminer

Red Bulls remain hopeful after 1st-leg loss to Galaxy

HARRISON, N.J. – It was mostly trick and maybe a little bit of treat for the Red Bulls, who were felled 1-0 by the LA Galaxy in the first leg of the Western Conference semifinal series on Sunday afternoon at Red Bull Arena.A 15th-minute goal by Mike Magee that came as New York defenders were distracted by an offside Robbie Keane – who intelligently didn’t participate in the play – proved the difference.But for Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe, his side showed well enough to give him confidence in a win in the return leg at the Home Depot Center on Thursday, Nov. 3 (11 pm ET; ESPN2, ESPN Deportes; live chat on MLSsoccer.com). New York actually held the run of play, including a 17-9 advantage in shots and 6-1 on corner kicks.“Not the result we wanted of course, losing at home, but a great performance – one of our better performances by far for a couple months,” Backe said after the match. “[We] totally controlled the game, dictated the game – [we had] four huge chances to tie the game.”Two of those four chances fell to Dane Richards and Rafa Márquez, both whose golden opportunities were denied by LA ‘keeper Josh Saunders.“We come out in the second half and there’s two or three great opportunities to bag a goal,” defender Stephen Keel said. “We kept it to just that one [goal]. Going into LA, it’s a series, it’s not just one game. That’s the good thing.”Still, the hosts’ do深圳桑拿网minance doesn’t overshadow the fact that the Red Bulls still walked away from the match in a hole heading into the return leg in Los Angeles, where the Galaxy were undefeated this season.“I felt like we got off to a slow start a little bit in the first half, but I thought we played well and fought well in the second half,” assessed right back Carlos Mendes. “Unfortunately, we didn’t put one of those chances away. But if we played the way we did today in LA, I think we’ll have a good chance to win.”Backe echoed his player’s comments.“For me, [the second leg] is totally wide open if we play can perform like this on Thursday,” he said. “We have won before in LA, we can do it again.”Follow@KristianRDyer

Fiery Rodgers provides the best, worst of himself vs. LA

CARSON, Calif. – In the span of 30 seconds on Thursday night, Luke Rodgers provided a microcosm of his entire persona.Just four minutes into the match, the Red Bulls striker was on the receiving end of a gorgeous Thierry Henry through ball after a tremendous buildup by his team. The diminutive Englishman ran onto it and cleanly deposited it past Josh Saunders for a 1-0 lead that left 20,000 at The Home Depot Center in stunned silence.Then, on the ensuing restart, he went studs up in a dirty challenge on David Beckham, receiving an immediate yellow card from Hilario Grajeda and the first rain of catcalls from the fans.“That’s Luke in a nutshell,” mused Red Bulls midfielder Dax McCarty. “He’s always going to give you that 100 percent effort.”But the fiery Rodgers wasn’t done endearing himself to the Galaxy faithful. In the eighth minute, he drilled a dead ball straight into the eastern stands of the stadium. And that was enough – with the amount of boos that came his way every time he touched the ball, he might as well have been Larry Bird to the LA fans.“You’re there to do a job,” Rodgers said after the match. “If their crowd don’t like me, then I’m doing my job, aren’t I?”Unfortunately, Rodgers couldn’t do quite enough to keep his team in the game. Momentum soon swung back the Galaxy’s way. In the end, LA won the match 2-1 and the series 3-1 on aggregate.But it wasn’t for lack of trying. Rodgers was the fly in the ointment for LA all night, as the danger he provided up top was constant, even if the service wasn’t. He nearly added another in the 57th minute after a great lead pass from McCarty, but drilled the side netting. The missed opportunity will eat at him, he admitted.WATCH: Rodgers puts Red Bulls up early“It’s not easy to score against a team like this,” he said. “I should definitely have been able to score the second goal. It’d have been a different game, but it wasn’t meant to be.”What was meant to be, obviously, was Rodgers’ influence on his team in 2011. Head coach Hans Backe praised the former Notts County man as a difference-maker during his debut season in MLS, but lamented tha深圳桑拿网t he rarely could count on a fully fit Rodgers. The 29-year-old striker scored nine goals in 23 games this season, but missed key stretches with various health issues.And his incendiary personality? That’s just the sign of a competitor.“I like big games,” Rodgers said. “Everyone’s on edge, everyone’s going into game nervous. That’s how you become a footballer in games like that. I was really up for it. I was probably a bit too up for it at the start of the game, to be fair.”Red Bulls fans will surely be up to having him back in 2012.

With lots at stake, Moffat bomb just what Houston need

HOUSTON – With 30,018 fans in the stands, there was quite a bit at stake for the Houston Dynamo on Sunday night.The players knew a win over the LA Galaxy could push them up to a second-place finish in the Eastern Conference, and past a pesky away wild card fixture. But there was a concern on Houston’s part that they’d come out tight against a reserve-laden Galaxy team that had little to play for.With a slow start affecting both teams, it looked like the game could game drag on much longer than the Dynamo would have liked.Then Adam Moffat broke the tension.In the 27th minute, the midfielder hit a rocket from深圳桑拿网 38 yards out – his second from beyond 30 this season – to break the ice in what became a 3-1 Dynamo win.“When you’re 38 yards out and you hit a ball so hard that Donovan Ricketts – who’s one of the best shot-stoppers in the league – doesn’t dive for it, it’s a special goal,” Houston goalkeeper Tally Hall said after the match. “Getting the first goal is always a major hump in any game, and today, it was equally important.”The shot invigorated the Dynamo, revving up Houston’s attack and allowing them to put the game away. Bobby Boswell and Carlo Costly both added goals in the second half to put the game out of reach.But it was Moffat’s goal that woke the Dynamo out of their sleep.“The field was fast and bumpy and it made it difficult to get any rhythm,” said head coach Dominic Kinnear, who collected his 100th career win. “Then Adam’s shot just raised the level of intensity and the level of enjoyment for the team and the fans. We were all kind of shaking our heads at seeing him do this two times now.”It was perhaps exactly what the Dynamo needed on a night in which they had to come out firing. Thanks to Moffat’s jumpstart, Houston got the job done, earning a date with the Philadelphia Union in the Conference Semifinals, including a second leg at home.“We got some momentum from that,” Geoff Cameron said of the wonder-strike, “and then from there, it was a great night.”Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on twitter at @Dynamoexaminer. Follow@Dynamoexaminer

Kick Off: Storybook finish has some pondering: Best yet?

Confetti. Queen blaring over the speakers. Grown men wiping misty eyes which shimmer with the reflection of the brightly polished MLS Cup.Late Sunday night, the LA Galaxy capped off an incredible year which already boasted the best record in the league with a playoff triumph as well. View match highlights of the 1-0 win over the Houston Dynamo in the final.But this was no ordinary triumph. For one, it came in front of a home crowd at the Home Depot Center (with over 30,000 crammed inside). It also was a trophy five years in the making, with David Beckham waiting until the last MLS game of his five-year contract to win the league’s most celebrated prize.It marks the first time a team with a Designated Player has won MLS Cup, which led to some mulling about the impact the Galaxy’s win will have on the purse strings of owners across the league.Others wondered where the 2011 Galaxy rank among the best teams in MLS history. The consensus: right at the tippy top.Bruce Arena coached another of the teams in contention, the D.C. United outfit that won the first two MLS Cups. He equivocated when asked where the Galaxy ranked, saying he’d leave that to journalists to decide, but he didn’t shy away when evaluating the season. “This is a damn good year, it really is.”It took Arena three-and-a-half years in California to build a championship team. But the former US boss admits he nearly ran away when he got his first glance at t深圳桑拿网he Galaxy roster upon taking over midway through the 2008 season.Questions following the match quickly turned to Beckham’s future, with the Englishman’s contract expiring at the end of the calender year. The 36-year-old shrugged off that topic, maintaining that no decision had been made. “Whatever he decides to do, I support it, 100 percent. He’s earned that,” Arena said. “If he decides to get on his horse and ride into the sunset, I’m all for it – whatever he wants to do. He’s earned the right to make the kind of decision he wants to make for him and his family.” (VIDEO)The emotion of the moment caked Becks’ face and broke through in an incessant grin. With the final whistle, Beckham called his three sons out onto the field and onto the podium for the trophy celebration. Then he enjoyed the triumph in the locker room in good ole American fashion: with a Budweiser.Beckham has now won titles in three different nations. Still, there were some who doubted his ability while still in his 20s at Real Madrid. In the press conference, he wore a mischievous grin as he pointed out that: “It’s always nice to have doubters along the way. And it’s always nice to prove them wrong.” There’s no need to convince Arena of his star midfielder’s quality. “I’ve been around great athletes and competitors in my life in different sports,” the coach said. “This guy is as good as they come.”Perhaps most impressively, Beckham injured his hamstring on Tuesday and didn’t train for most of the week. Additionally, Arena revealed that goalscoring hero Landon Donovan has been carrying a quad injury for a couple months.All three DPs connected to score the game’s lone goal. Beckham headed the ball to Robbie Keane, who fed Donovan. “I remember the first day [Keane] got here,” Donovan said. “Watching him pass the ball, I was really impressed. I didn’t realize what a good passer he was. And the pass he gave me for the goal was fantastic. Absolutely world class.” The offense will dominate the headlines, but equally vital in beating Houston was the LA backline. The Galaxy won 11 matches with 1-0 scorelines in 2011, wich speaks to the tightness of the defense throughout the season.The formidable pair in the heart of defense for LA has been together for six seasons. The catch? Omar Gonzalez and A.J. DeLaGarza have only been in the league for three years. Prior to that, they anchored Maryland’s back line.Of course, on the other side, the Dynamo were left only with “what-ifs” and disappointment. Watch Dominic Kinnear and Brian Ching don steel-eyed gazes as they magnanimously fielded questions during the postmatch press conference: “We were a little bit slow. We just weren’t clearing our lines fast enough,” Kinnear allowed. (VIDEO)Kinnear also rued a strain to Geoff Cameron’s right knee, which he felt hampered his side’s ability to press: “He wasn’t his normal self.”Still, the two-time MLS Cup-winning coach couldn’t complain too much, as he felt LA worthy of the title. “They’re the best team in the league from Day 1 to now,” Kinnear said. “They kind of led from the first to the last (day), and they’re a deserving champion.”With the Galaxy celebrating into the night, the Dynamo fans could only remorsefully turn around and head back to Texas. A full 48 rode buses 28 hours to witness the match, and all they have to show for their devotion is a handful of the 1,000 orange flash lights passed out to recall the Western Conference final in 2009 when power outages impacted a Galaxy win.But the two teams playing weren’t the only sides with real consequences from the game. LA’s win means the Seattle Sounders qualify directly into the CONCACAF Champions League group stages next year.In the CCL, Sounders FC will wear a new third kit, dubbed “cyan blue,” which replaces the old “electricity yellow.” They’ll feature in most cup competitions. (PICTURE)Along with a new jersey in tow, Seattle will head into the 2012 with something else freshened up: the schedule. The league announced an unbalanced schedule in 2012 focused on prioritizing local rivalries and limiting travel.The new schedule is one of many changes happening across the league. Commissioner Don Garber spoke with several media outlets about MLS as a whole and its direction in the buildup to the final. Perhaps the most thorough was a lengthy interview with SI.com..Also ahead of the final, MLS announced the club and executive award winners. The Portland Timbers’ Mike Golub won the Doug Hamilton Executive of the Year prize. Catch the full list here.Golub’s distinction came hot on the heels of the news that the Timbers, who sold out every home game in 2011, have already sold out of season tickets for 2012.Portland easily rank as one of the best MLS attendance stories. So too do Sporting Kansas City’s uptick in support. The 2011 season saw an attendance jump of 73 percent at home games. “At a very basic level, the team is now playing in a field that’s the correct shape for soccer,” said Josh Whisenhunt, who is part of Sporting KC’s communications team.As MLS grows in attendance and popularity, so soccer gains prominence in the United States. This San Francisco Chronicle feature takes a look at soccer’s rise in America over the past several years.While the offseason provides ample opportunity to take stock of soccer’s place, club officials focus on kick off in 2012. Real Salt Lake found themselves stretched thin by injuries and suspension in an ultimately disappointing 2011, and coach Jason Kreis would like more roster wiggle room: “I think we need to get our roster deeper. I think it needs to be 28 strong that we can rely on next year, but we won’t need to rely on a lot of those players until the end of the season.”Over the Rocky Mountain range, the Colorado Rapids plot a return to the MLS Cup summit. One thing that may help are the lessons midfield anchor Jeff Larentowicz picks up training with England’s Bolton during the winter: “The more I am able to play with players of this calibre, the more I learn and improve.” Sunday night’s game marked the last MLS game until March, but the soccer on TV is endless. At 1 p.m. ET, Tottenham Hotspur take on Aston Villa in the English Premier League on ESPNDeportes and ESPN3.com.Lastly, some sad news. The funeral for former Revs and Galaxy player Winston “Fanna” Griffiths was held over the weekend. The testimonials and memories make for touching reading.Top 50 MLS Cup Moments: #1 I Am LegendMLS Cup Player Ratings: LA Galaxy vs. Houston DynamoGallery: MLS Cup 2011 in picturesThe Kick-Off

Mock Draft: MLSsoccer.com editors project Impact picks

Injury slowed him this year, as has been the case throughout his short career, but he also showed his tremendous potential.A steady performer at left back, and falls under the young and cheap banner that’s attractive to an expansion side.A spunky left back who came into his own in 2011 after being an afterthought as a rookie. Best deal in the draft.Needs a new contract, but proved with RSL that he can be a starter on a good team and Montreal needs a bunch of those.Competing for a spot in RSL’s vaunted midfield has kept him from being the starter and impact player his talents deserveA bit bigger, a bit younger than Nelson Rivas and, before his injury, was ready to take on a full-time starting job for the league’s best D.Kimura is the obvious pick, but Montreal already have some fullback depth, so Nyassi gets the nod after a strong season.Perfect trade bait to acquire a top-notch holding midfielder like New England’s Shalrie Joseph or Chivas USA’s Paulo Nagamura.Didn’t play much on loan to Montreal, which could show that they aren’t confident in him, but he’s experienced and doesn’t hit the cap too hard.Defensive depth will be the foundation of any success Montreal manage. Ianni brings plenty of MLS experience to the table.The easiest pick in the draft – lots of upside, without much risk with the 19-year-old striker.An 11-year vet, but still just 27 years old, who could provide the expansion side some much-needed guidance in their first year..Another high upside, low cap hit kind of guy. Saad’s former college teammate is a solid pick-up even if only as a reserve.Underappreciated. With a high soccer IQ, he might be a good fit in a Jesse Marsch midfield.Might not be a starter, but could be a solid contributor if you believe what you saw from him late in the season.It’s not every day a 20-year-old 深圳桑拿网defender with an international pedigree and MLS experience is available with no strings attached.His height, experience and low cost make him a great option for a team that will want veteran leadership.A spark-off-the-bench type of guy who could start up front or on the wing if you needed him. And he’s not costly.His salary could scare Montreal away, but has the experience to lead a defense that will have to start from square one.