Let’s talk (again!) about David Beckham and Major League Soccer’s apparent double standard

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Major League Soccer’s next chance to duck and cover, to lamely hide from its responsibility and permit David Beckham carte blanche in breaking the rules at his pleasure is upon us.

So what if the man is frustrated over not being selected for Great Britain’s Olympic team? Life is full of disappointment, and if things never get any worse than this for Beckham, a man more fabulously blessed than almost every human being who has ever walked the Earth, then he should faithfully count his blessings each and every day.

And if the temperature went up on an MLS contest, one that wasn’t perhaps properly managed, well, we’ve got a word for that: we call it a “Saturday.”

MLS and U.S. Soccer finally, after years of stubbornly pretending there wasn’t a problem on overall match management and temperament, is trying to fix things. Still, it’s going to take time and further action. In the meantime, these hot-headed, action-packed and difficult-to-referee contests do happen, even in the best-officiated of leagues.

Teams and players just have to deal with it – and comport themselves better than Beckham did at Stanford Stadium last night, site of the latest code red contest.

It was San Jose’s enthralling 4-3 win over the Galaxy, a match that even most members of the losing side admitted was a memory maker and a hoot to be a part of.

Things unraveled in the end, and a lot is on Beckham – who lost his cool. It happens. It doesn’t make him a bad person.

But … he needs to be accountable.

He probably won’t be. We’ve seen it before; go back and check this one out, where the league demonstrated a clear double standard at work when it comes to Beckham and referee criticism.

Let me bust the mystery on that one: no action was taken.  Shocking, I know. We’ve seen it before with terrible tackles and other post-game incidents that came and went with impunity for the L.A. Galaxy’s No. 23. There are clearly different guidelines at work on action and consequence for the league’s highest paid man.

Long story short from Saturday, Beckham became frustrated when San Jose began delaying the match in its dying minutes. Beckham kicked not one, but two balls in the direction of referee Hilario Grajeda and a fallen San Jose Earthquakes’ player.

ESPN L.A. has a fairly detailed account of that bit of naughtiness and the ensuing pushing, shoving and post-game histrionics – a bunch of boyish silliness that the former England captain, a veteran and leader, should be diffusing, not initiating.

So, we’ll see.

While we wait on any potential league action, consider that:

  • The league suspended Galaxy teammate Mike Magee earlier this year for throwing a ball in the direction of referee Silviu Petrescu in the Galaxy’s loss at Houston.
  • The league suspended New York’s Rafa Marquez three games during last year’s playoffs for throwing a ball at Landon Donovan, initiating a full (and rather comedic, in retrospect) post-game donnybrook. Marquez missed the teams’ following playoff contest.
  • The league suspended FC Dallas’ Brek Shea for three games earlier this year for kicking a ball at a linesman.

The Marquez and Shea tosses and kicks were more egregious; Beckham’s double kick in the direction of the San Jose player and Grajeda don’t perhaps rise to that level, although his provocative post-game conduct ups the stakes.

Beckham will miss at least one match; the caution issued from Grajeda put him over the limit for yellow card accumulation; The Galaxy can’t be too happy about that one, since the L.A. playmaker will miss a match this week in addition to whatever time off he might request later this month for ceremonial Olympic participation.

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.