MLS, David Beckham and referee criticism … we’re about to see if a double-standard exists

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Let’s talk about the elephant in the MLS room:

(And, yes, we’re going to discuss referees. Again.)

It’s David Beckham’s treatment by the men in the middle. And possibly by the league, where the question of “double-standard” may be getting a big test.

For all the good things we can say about the Galaxy, worthy champs in 2011, ambitious club that pushes others to be better, attendance drivers, etc. … they’ve long had a victimization complex. When things go wrong, it’s too often someone else’s fault. They are the victims.

Only, things frequently do go the Galaxy way. They get the benefit of the doubt as much as anyone else. Obviously they don’t believe so – but who ever does?

Now, regarding Beckham:

He gets away with stunts that most players don’t. Bad tackles last year and early in 2012 that went unpunished or under-punished are perfect examples. And we could talk about the times put his hands on an opponents face or neck with impunity … but, in all honesty, Thierry Henry and Dwayne De Rosario often get away with that mess, too.

That’s the star-double standard at work; we see the same in other sports.

Beckham is also allowed wide latitude in the amount of demonstrative carping allowed. That man will get in a referee’s face more than an eye doctor.

But whatever. Those are tricky, in-the-moment decisions by referees who aren’t stupid; everyone knows Beckham’s value to the league, to sponsors and ticket sellers, etc., and the men in the middle do, as well.

But Wednesday … this is different. We’re about to see, for 100 percent sure, if a double standard is at work. Because Beckham went on the record, cameras rolling, with stinging criticism of referee Jair Maruffo.

Here’s what he said:

Unfortunately, we had someone in control of the game tonight that, every time we’ve had him, he wants to be the star, and that’s what happens when you have a referee who wants to be on ‘SportsCenter.’ That was disappointing.”

I’d say the “wants to be on SportsCenter” is going too far. Then again, I’m not on the Disciplinary Committee.

Let’s hit the WABAC machine. There are plenty of examples of players / managers getting suspended or fined for criticizing referees. Let me draw a circle around a couple I can find.

Here’s what RSL manager Jason Kreis said in 2008 to get suspended:

After three successive weeks of game-changing decisions, it’s time we vent a little bit and put things right. I have a team doing their best to reward fans through a frustrating time and a frustrating few years. I feel the players are doing what they need to, the coaching staff is doing what they do, but being wronged by critical referee decisions is unacceptable.

“It’s about time they start first off trying to be right, and then being fair. It’s too many game-breaking calls, all of them against Real Salt Lake.

“Inconsistency is when it goes one way one week and another the next week. (Decisions) are consistently going against us.”

And here’s what Timbers manager John Spencer said last year to earn a one-game suspension: (The referee in question in Abbey Okulaja, whose fitness is being called into question here.)

My 67-year-old mother-in-law can see it from the club deck. There’s an official standing right there, and you’re asking me why I’m having a go at the fourth official?”

“The referee was getting tired. He couldn’t cover the ground. And I said that to the fourth official, ‘He can’t cover the ground. He’s blowing calls from 50 to 60 yards away.’ Poor, poor performance by the referee.”

“You can’t keep brushing this . . . under the carpet . . . and hoping it’s going to go away.”

You’re on the spot, Major League Soccer. Beckham has put you there. What say you?

Mexico captain Guardado suffers hamstring injury

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With the World Cup still half a year away, there’s plenty of time to heal from injuries and get the body right after tweaking things during the club season.

And yet, there will still be some concern among Mexico fans.

Team captain Andres Guardado suffered a hamstring tear, his club Real Betis confirmed on Monday, and is expected to miss 3-4 weeks. That’s nothing to write home about when it comes to preparing for the big tournament, but with Guardado 31 years old and struggling with injuries in recent years, Mexico fans will be keenly aware that hamstring injuries can return with a vengeance if not given the right time to heal.

Guardado has shown his age in recent times, not necessarily with his play on the field, which has been critical to his country, but with his fitness. Guardado has just four full 90 minute performances for Mexico dating back to October of 2016, missing time with ankle, leg, and now hamstring injuries in that span.

The 31-year-old has had a fine season so far for Real Betis, scoring one goal and assisting six while appearing in all 15 La Liga matches for the club thus far. The club sits 12th in the La Liga table with 18 points.

Guardado will be fine with plenty of time to spare, but if not fully healed properly, there’s always the risk that muscle injuries can flare back up, and Mexico fans will hope that their captain’s club gives him plenty of rest to recover.

Mark Hughes wants Stoke City to “suck it up”

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Mark Hughes is under fire at Stoke City with the Potters firmly entrenched in the relegation battle, and with that he’s charging his players, staff, and himself to gut the rest of the season out.

With Stoke heading to Turf Moor to take on Burnley, they sit just three points above the drop. The players were faced with jeers from angry fans at the train station following this past weekend’s 5-1 disaster against Tottenham. The fiery Hughes is hoping to use this jarring moment to jolt his squad.

[ PREVIEW: Tuesday’s Premier League action ]

“That is still resonating. It’s good we have a game because it is still fresh in their ears probably, and they can use it as a motivating factor,” said Hughes during his pre-match press conference.

“You either suck it up and do ­something about it or you go under, and we can’t accept players like that. I don’t feel we have players like that.”

With managers nowadays often reaching into the excuses barrel as they hope to save their own skins, Hughes refuses to do just that, instead placing the decision firmly on the players shoulders, telling them they are the only ones who can save the club.

“Maybe some hadn’t ­confronted that before – but sometimes you need a reality check, and understand how our results and ­performances affect people,” Hughes said. “When people criticize you, you have to grow a thick skin in this industry. If you don’t, you’re in the wrong place.”

Louis van Gaal calls Mourinho’s United “far more boring”

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Louis Van Gaal has picked just the right time to pipe up.

The former Manchester United manager, who took flak while in charge for his side being hideous to watch, has now taken shots of his own at his successor Jose Mourinho, kicking Manchester United while they’re down after a 2-1 derby defeat at home.

The Dutchman told Fox Sports Netherlands, “If you ask me how did I do at United, I will say it was my best year ever, given the circumstances I was working under. We played football that was quite alright. But it’s not football that is appreciated in England. And yet, right now, looking at United, I have to conclude Mourinho is not being criticized while it’s far more boring football.”

[ PREVIEW: Premier League Tuesday matches, including Chelsea vs. Huddersfield ]

Van Gaal was blasted consistently for playing a boring style, especially in front of the home crowd, and now Mourinho is being criticized for the same concept. Mourinho was denounced for similar reasons while in charge of Chelsea, but with the club winning multiple titles under his leadership, the noise was always less while the team was winning. With Manchester United still unable to crack the top 4, Mourinho is feeling the heat.

“What United produce now is defensive football,” van Gaal said. “I always played attacking football. The proof is that the opposition were always parking the bus. They don’t do that now because Jose Mourinho plays so defensive.”

To van Gaal’s point, Manchester United is seventh in the Premier League in possession, holding 51% possession this season. They were out-possessed by Manchester City 65-35 at Old Trafford over the weekend. Meanwhile, van Gaal’s last full season with Manchester United, the 2015/16 season, saw the Red Devils hold 54%, which ranked third in the Premier League, just a percentage point behind leaders Arsenal. However, van Gaal’s United ranked 15th in the Premier League in total shots, while Mourinho’s United this season ranks sixth at this point.

Van Gaal made sure to point out he prefers their cross-town rivals.

“I would rather watch City play than United. You need quality in a squad and it’s clear City have a better squad.”

Conte blames fatigue for dip in Chelsea form

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Antonio Conte has figured out what is plaguing his Chelsea side as they sit 14 points back of Premier League leaders Manchester City.

“I think when you play every three days, it is impossible to have a training session and to work on the physical aspects,” Conte said in his pre-match press conference as the Blues get set to play Huddersfield Town on Tuesday. “It’s impossible. It’s impossible because you have to prepare with the players for a game every three days.”

Chelsea has yet to find itself eliminated from a single competition, drawn against Barcelona in the Champions League while navigating fixtures across all four competitions.

And yet, this is nothing new for Conte. The Blues boss is more than familiar with fixture congestion, having taken charge of Juventus and regularly competing at a high level on multiple fronts. In 2012/13, he won the Serie A title, won the Supercoppa Italia, and reached the quarterfinals of the Champions League.

However, this is new for Conte at Chelsea. Last season, the Blues did not take part in a European competition thanks to their disastrous season the previous year. While they reached the FA Cup final, they were knocked out of the EFL Cup in the 4th round.

“We have to try to do our best,” Conte said. “For sure, some players can be tired, that’s normal because some players are playing from this summer and our tours in China and Singapore. It’s normal. But I repeat we have to find the best solution. We have to find more rotations. I’m doing this, we will try and do our best with hunger and desire. We will fight.”

As an example, Conte said Alvaro Morata will miss the match on Tuesday against Huddersfield Town due to fatigue, with the Spaniard battling a slight back injury. “Morata is out. He is a bit tired and he has a problem in his back.