Los Angeles Galaxy v San Jose Earthquakes - Western Conference Semifinals

Looking back on Omar Gonzalez’ very ill-advised elbow


Word on post-season Disciplinary Committee action (from Major League Soccer’s league office): “The process is the same as the regular season, but the initial reviews have been accelerated.”

If that’s the case, Omar Gonzalez could be getting a some bad news in the next couple of days. At a minimum, the Galaxy defender – so crucial to Los Angeles’s chances this postseason – deserves strong committee consideration after this right elbow landed flush on San Jose’s Steven Lenhart in the 41st minute of last night’s game in Santa Clara:

The angle at 0:23 is especially telling. You can see Gonzalez’s elbow come up and nail Lenhart flush across the nose. The most concerning part of the action: The location of Gonzalez’s arm before he elevates. His arm is extended and bent in front of his chest. As he elevates, Gonzalez throws his elbow back, striking Lenhart.

It’s not exactly the most natural jumping motion.

Before talking about the Disciplinary Committee, lets consider referee Kevin Stott, who produced a yellow card on the play. How do you see that challenge, adjudicate it a foul, and not issue red? We often see players dismissed to merely leading with an elbow on aerial challenges. This was more than leading. This was swinging.

Was the swing intentional? Accidental? If the league’s Disciplinary Committee looks at the incident, that might effect a potential punishment’s weight, though it’s difficult to dissociate Gonzalez’s recent comments about Lenhart from Wednesday’s incident. Gonzalez’s recently called Lenhart “the biggest bastard in the league.” Those comments make it difficult to give him the benefit of the doubt.

That’s not to say the Disciplinary Committee will come down on last year’s Defender of the Year. Although any review will be handled the same way it was in the regular season, taking a playoff game away from somebody may require a special threshold. In the regular season, the committee may hand out punishment as a message, hoping to provide a deterrent to future actions. You want to be doing more than message-sending come playoff time.

To us, the foul clearly meets that special threshold, so you’ll forgive us for indulging in a piece of wild speculation: If Gonzalez does miss Sunday’s Western Conference final first leg, how much of an effect will that have on the series?

Given how important Gonzalez has been to LA’s defense since returning mid-season, the effect could be huge. Gonzalez is the man tasked with organizing the defense, and in situations where the Galaxy can control who’s marking whom, Gonzalez gets the more difficult assignment. That means he’d be the man tasked with stopping Real Salt Lake’s Alvaro Saborio. He’d be the man taksed with stopping Seattle’s Eddie Johnson. Particularly with A.J. DeLaGarza out, it’s hard to see how LA picks up the slack.

No matter how you look at it, the elbow was (to use a euphemism) highly ill-advised. At best, Gonzalez concedes a foul in a dangerous space while his team’s trying to protect a lead. A more likely scenario sees his team reduced to 10 with 49 minutes left in an elimination game. Worst case: Gonzalez gets suspended.

Now we wait and see if MLS will have their say.

“Overweight” Costa comes to Mourinho’s defense

Diego Costa, Chelsea FC
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Diego Costa says he and his Chelsea teammates are to blame for Chelsea’s horrid start to the 2015-16 Premier League season.

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Speaking Thursday, during a bit of downtime over the current international break (Costa was left out of Vicente del Bosque’s squad for Spain’s final two EURO 2016 qualifiers this week), Costa placed the majority of blame at the feet of the entire team, but went on to most harshly critique himself for coming into the season unfocused and “overweight.”

Costa, on his lack of fitness and form to begin the season — quotes from the Guardian:

“We know we’re not in the form we were supposed to be at the beginning of the season. We need to blame the players because we came back from holiday very confident, thinking we could go back into how it was last season, and then realized the team was already in a bad situation.

“I’m going to be very honest: maybe a few weeks ago, five or six weeks ago, I was not on top of my game. At least physically. We talk within the players and we know that, maybe at the beginning, we were not 100 percent as we were supposed to be when we got here. I got injured at the end of last season and then I went on holiday. Maybe I got out of my diet and, when I came back, I was not the way I was supposed to be. I was a little bit overweight. That affected my game. You can be selfish and blame it on the manager but I’m not going to do that. I’m responsible 100%, and so are the other guys.

Given that Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said on Thursday he doesn’t quite know what’s wrong with the defending Premier League champions, hearing someone — anyone — speak up and explain the club’s worst start to a season in 37 years will surely be a welcome sound to any Blues supporter’s ears.

[ MORE: Liverpool appoint Klopp as manager | Allardyce to Sunderland? ]

Costa, who is eligible to return from suspension next weekend when Aston Villa visit Stamford Bridge, has scored just one goal in league play this season (six appearances) after scoring 20 in 26 games last season.

Sam Allardyce to open talks with Sunderland

Sam Allardyce, West Ham United FC
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Now that Liverpool have selected and named their new manager, it appears Sunderland are finally ready to move forward with their own managerial search. (That’s clearly a joke, because it implies Liverpool and Sunderland ever duke it out for the same managerial candidate.)

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Anyway, the Black Cats will have to hire someone to replace the recently-departed Dick Advocaat at some point. We all knew that, despite the fact he’s probably earned a shot at that level, Bob Bradley was never really going to be considered for the job. With that in mind, if you’re not going to endear yourself to the entire United States of America with this hire, you might as well go for the best unemployed manager who’ll actually consider your approach.

That’s what Sunderland chairman Ellis Short appears to have done, as it was reported Thursday that despite an initial reluctance from Sam Allardyce — let’s be honest, he actually was holding out hope for the Liverpool job — the 60-year-old most recently in charge of West Ham United was willing and ready to enter into negotiations with the northeastern club.

One of the major sticking points during Sunderland’s courting of Allardyce is expected to be his demand for autonomy in the transfer market as well as a sizable transfer budget to sign his own players during the January window.

[ MORE: Advocaat: Sunderland squad too thin, chairman to blame ]

Allardyce seems like the no. 1 guy you’d like to bring in to steady a capsized ship — cough Sunderland cough — in any situation. Not only does he have a successful track record in the Premier League, but he’s the kind of no-nonsense leader a club like Sunderland so desperately needs as they find themselves in yet another relegation battle just eight games into the new season.

Short hopes to have Allardyce signed, sealed and delivered when the Premier League returns to action next weekend. In that event, Allardyce’s first game in charge of Sunderland would be a trip to West Bromwich Albion. His first home fixture? Home to Tyne-Wear derby rivals Newcastle United, a club whose boisterous fanbase still holds a great deal of disdain for Big Sam. Sometimes the football gods really are looking out for us.