MLS commissioner Don Garber says “You suck … ” chant must stop

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There are big bags full of “interesting” in Brian Straus’ wide-ranging interview with MLS commissioner Don Garber, which just posted in two parts on the Sporting News’ website.

One of the most fascinating and potentially incendiary part of the conversation was Garber’s response to the “You Suck …” chant, an ongoing conundrum that still reverberates painfully through some MLS grounds.

The chant, on opposition goal kicks is, “You suck, ***hole.”

It’s juvenile. Furthermore, it’s a doggone cliché, not a bit creative. The YSA-obsessed brigade really should just cut it out for the better good.  There are so many appealing ways to express true fan passion through displays and chants that are relevant and uniquely meaningful.

But the fans aren’t really attached to that chant per se; it’s the larger meaning and the desire in some fan corners to take MLS into more edgier places that a few supporters’ groups are determined to protect. So the YSA chant debate, so silly on its face, has come to represent something larger; it’s a proxy in the tussle between two disparate sets. More on that in a minute; first, here’s what Garber had to say:

That is just infuriating to me. It’s just so uncreative and ridiculous, and we need to stop it. Our broadcast partners don’t like it. When vulgarity is going over the air, it’s an issue with the FCC and we’ve got to stop it. (New England Revolution president) Brian Bilello stopped it in New England, and I really appreciated what the Midnight Riders did. They weren’t happy about it, but I looked to that as I sat with Sunil Gulati at the (Red Bulls) game and I said, “How’d you stop it in New England?”

He said, “We sat down with them and said, ‘You’ve just got to stop.’ ”

They need to stop it in New York, and they need to stop it in a handful of other markets. And if they don’t stop it, we’re going to have to find a way to eradicate it from our game. We can’t have young kids in stadiums listening to vulgarity. No other league would tolerate it. No other public event would have it and we can’t tolerate it in Major League Soccer.

As I said, the deeper fissure here isn’t the chant. Most reasonable supporters, especially upon hearing Garber’s sound reasoning, would gladly drop that particular set of words. But the debate opens deeper wounds, some of which are infected from years of scab-picking abuse.

It’s a fight between “fans” and “the establishment,” in some places.

On one side are “true fans,” the hard-core set that loves soccer, dies hard with their side and badly wants their home ground to emulate those overseas and in points south, a place of one shared, unbending desire: to see their team win.

On the other side are organizations that seek to protect a more contained set, the “families.” The moms and dads are looking for a night where soccer meets some loosely defined notion of wholesome entertainment. This set might not be as invested in the outcome, and in many cases they are more concerned with decorum and public civility than with win-loss records.

So YSA has become a referendum on what the club and it’s most identifying, tangible element (its stadium) will become. In places like Portland, Seattle and Kansas City, it’s a fans’ funland, where most anything goes so long as it rests inside the letter of the law.

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In places like New England, Columbus, Denver and Dallas, more weight is given to families, in large part because that’s their current customer demographic. Efforts to placate the harder-edged set amount to an ongoing push and pull, efforts that usually resemble a marriage of convenience. Progress comes and goes and the couples sometimes enjoy a good time together, but diverging ideas remain unresolved and an underlying hostility can never completely be erased.

Here’s the thing: everybody’s dollar is just as green. There are ways of compromise on the bigger issues.

It does seem to be about ongoing communication. The answers aren’t easy, but they are out there – so long as everyone doesn’t check their “reason” and “common sense” when they meet to talk about it.

That probably starts by eliminating YSA. It really is such a pointless and useless cliché.

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.