The More They Stay The Same: LA Galaxy, One Year On

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CARSON, Calif. — Houston looks better (much better) than this time last year, when a late Landon Donovan goal broke a deadlock between them and eventual MLS Champions LA Galaxy. But that’s only half the picture. Teams don’t improve in vacuums. They improve relative to their competition.

But while Houston’s story is “The Most Things Change,” for a Galaxy team making it third MLS Cup Final in four seasons, the narrative is “The More They Stay The Same.” Whereas Dominic Kinnear’s team will be better at up to six positions (with the loss of defender Geoff Cameron the only significant departure), Bruce Arena’s team may start 10 of the players who claimed the coach’s third league title.

Here’s how LA’s two teams line up, the 2011 versus 2012 versions:

2011 Pos. 2012
Josh Saunders G Josh Saunders
Sean Franklin RB Sean Franklin
Omar Gonzalez RCB Omar Gonzalez
A.J. DeLaGarza LCB DeLaGarza/Meyer
Todd Dunivant LB Todd Dunivant
Landon Donovan RM Christian Wilhelmsson
Juninho CM Juninho
David Beckham CM David Beckham
Mike Magee LM Mike Magee
Adam Cristman SS/ST Landon Donovan
Robbie Keane ST Robbie Keane

The big question for LA team is whether A.J. DeLaGarza, the starter along side Omar Gonzalez through the Galaxy’s best part of the season (August and September), plays. Out with a knee injury for the playoffs, DeLaGarza could return to action on Saturday, though that would entail demoting Tommy Meyer, who has yet to crack against the likes of San Jose and Seattle.

Bring DeLaGarza, out of action for nearly two months, back for the final? Or stay with the kid from Indiana? Unless Bruce Arena’s told us (and big shock, he hasn’t), it would be senseless to speculate. Any insight we could offer would be mitigated by the fact we haven’t see how DeLaGarza and Meyer have trained. While it’s easy to say keep Meyer in, don’t risk a rust factor with DeLaGarza, but A.J. may be out-performing Tommy in practice.

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Just short of a wink from the Galaxy captain.

Elsewhere in the team, swapping Christian Wilhelmsson in for Adam Cristman is an upgrade, especially given the relationship that’s developed between Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane. Donovan is always a weapon, but moved closer to Keane from the get-go, the two MLS Best XI selections form the league’s most dangerous forward tandem.

One place where Los Angeles is almost certainly better than last year: The bench, not listed above. In 2011, Arena only used one substitute, bringing on Chris Birchall for Cristman in the 57th minute. On Saturday, we’re almost guaranteed to see Marcelo Sarvas for Beckham late (if Sarvas doesn’t get the call over Juninho at the onset). Edson Buddle, Michael Stephens, or Jose Villarreal could also see action.

The names in the table, however — the people most likely to actually play — don’t tell the whole story. When you see Franklin and Franklin across a line, Gonzalez and Gonzalez, Dunivant and Dunivant, you just assume those positions are a wash, but they’re not. Dunivant and Gonzalez had huge 2011s. On Saturday, are they likely to play to that standard? It’s possible, but based on what we’ve seen from them, Franklin, Saunders, and David Beckham in the middle, there are multiple places within this Galaxy team where a sheepish fan can ask whether this vintage is really as good as 2011’s. It’s a difficult case to make, particularly with Beckham.

The juxtaposition between that regression and Houston’s near-across the board improvement is what makes this year’s matchup so compelling. We’ve heard some misgivings about this year’s final being a repeat of last year’s, but it’s not. Sure, you can say that about any rematch — something almost always changes — there are huge improvements for Houston. And for an LA team which may have hit a crest last year, Saturday’s final sets up to be much more difficult than the one they nearly won a year ago.

If LA’s to repeat as MLS champions, they likely have to play better than they did a year ago.

MORE: How the 2011 Dynamo compare to this year’s model


Final note: Here is the side-by-side of LA’s 2009 finalists (who lost in the seventh round of penalty kicks to Real Salt Lake in Seattle) and this year’s likely XI:

2009 Pos. 2012
Donovan Ricketts G Josh Saunders
Sean Franklin RB Sean Franklin
Omar Gonzalez RCB Omar Gonzalez
Gregg Berhalter LCB DeLaGarza/Meyer
Todd Dunivant LB Todd Dunivant
Landon Donovan RM Christian Wilhelmsson
Chris Birchall CM Juninho
David Beckham CM David Beckham
Mike Magee LM Mike Magee
Jovan Kirovski SS/ST Landon Donovan
Edson Buddle ST Robbie Keane

Report: US Soccer wants to add new GM role

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Amid a intriguing race to appoint a new president of U.S. Soccer, it is being reported that the U.S. Soccer Board of Directors want to add a new General Manager role.

A report from ESPN states that after a meeting in Toronto last week, the U.S. Soccer Federation wants to create a new GM role between now and February 2018 when the presidential election takes place at their AGM in Orlando, Florida.

What is all this about?

It is believed that the USSF Board of Directors discussed revamping several roles and they want to create a GM position for U.S. Soccer who would appoint head coaches for the USMNT and report directly to the U.S. Soccer President, with the USMNT head coach reporting to the GM.

In theory this would eliminate a “non soccer person” from making key soccer decisions, at least when it comes to the USMNT.

Per the report, it is unknown if this GM would also oversee the USWNT and if they would also act as the Technical Director of U.S. Soccer. The changes are expected to be ratified in January when the Board of Directors meet again with USSF CEO and secretary general leading the meetings.

Many believe this is the correct route for U.S. Soccer to go down and it’s hard to argue with that. Many national teams around the world have a soccer federation in place to deal with the day-to-day running, then a completely different set of people in charge of the national teams.

Long-time USSF President Sunil Gulati had plenty of success off the field, growing U.S. Soccer successfully in terms of finances and many other aspects, but often he was the key decision maker when it came to hiring and firing coaches.

Where does this leave the eight candidates running to become the new president of U.S. Soccer?

Well, it’s complicated. Some of the candidates are more focused on the business aspects behind U.S. Soccer (Carlos Cordeiro and Kathy Carter especially), while the former USMNT players running (Eric Wynalda, Kyle Martino and Paul Caligiuri) have more expertise in making soccer focused decisions and would perhaps see the GM role as a better fit.

Either way, there are interesting times ahead for the U.S. Soccer Federation.

The role of GM would be wide-ranging and you would have to think candidates must have a deep knowledge of the intricacies of U.S. Soccer and Major League Soccer.

Argentina’s Independiente wins Copa Sudamericana in Rio

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SAO PAULO (AP) Argentina’s Independiente is the champion of Copa Sudamericana, the second most prestigious tournament in South America. A 1-1 draw with Brazil’s Flamengo on Wednesday night in Rio de Janeiro gave the Argentinians a 3-2 victory in the aggregate result and their second title in the competition.

The winners of Copa Sudamericana secure a spot in the next edition of Copa Libertadores, the region’s most prestigious competition.

The final was surrounded by trouble, with hundreds of Flamengo fans breaking into the Maracana and attacking Independiente supporters on nearby streets. Police used stun grenades to calm the situation. Since Tuesday night more than 50 Flamengo fans were detained in incidents with Independiente followers.

Independiente fans were filmed making racist gestures to locals.

With the support of more than 54,000 fans in an overpacked Maracana, Flamengo striker Lucas Paqueta opened the scoring meters away from the line in the 29th minute after a low cross from defender Rever.

The Brazilians did not celebrate long. A controversial penalty allowed 18-year-old midfielder Ezequiel Barco to tie the match in the 36th. The second half gave the Brazilians two clear chances to score, but Independiente held on to win its first continental title since it was relegated in 2013 from Argentina’s top-flight division.

“We showed we deserved the title during all our campaign, today was no different,” an emotional Barco told journalists on the pitch. On its way to the title, Independiente eliminated Argentina’s Atletico Tucuman and Paraguay’s Nacional and Libertad until they met Flamengo in the final.

Barco, one of the best players of the tournament, is leaving the club to play at Major League Soccer, for Atlanta. He could have played his last match for Independiente at the Maracana.

“I never imagined I could leave Independiente, but now all I want to do is to celebrate this title and thank fans for their support all those years,” the youngster said.

Coach Ariel Holan, who spent most of his career working at field hockey teams, criticized the animosity involving the match.

“This title is a dream to me. But these problems off the pitch need to be eradicated. Not only in Brazil, but all over Latin America,” he said.

Premier League player Power Rankings

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The games keep coming thick and fast in the Premier League and that means plenty of movement in our player Power Rankings.

[ MORE: Power Rankings archive ]

Players from Manchester City dominate our rankings, which is no surprise given their record-breaking exploits. Plus plenty of players from in-form Leicester City are in our list, while Tottenham and Chelsea are also well represented.

Remember: this is a list of the top 20 performing players right now in the Premier League.

Let us know in the comments section below if you agree with the selections of the top 20 players in the PL right now.


  1. David Silva (Man City) – Up 7
  2. Kevin De Bruyne (Man City) – Down 1
  3. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) – Down 1
  4. Riyad Mahrez (Leicester) – Up 1
  5. Heung-Min Son (Tottenham) – New entry
  6. Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace) – New entry
  7. David De Gea (Man United) – Down 3
  8. Raheem Sterling (Man City) – Down 2
  9. Eden Hazard (Chelsea) – Down 6
  10. Harry Kane (Tottenham) – New entry
  11. Wayne Rooney (Everton) – New entry
  12. Ederson (Man City) – New entry
  13. Demarai Gray (Leicester) – New entry
  14. Jamie Vardy (Leicester) – New entry
  15. Christian Eriksen (Tottenham) – New entry
  16. Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal) – Down 6
  17. Jack Cork (Burnley) – New entry
  18. Willian (Chelsea) – New entry
  19. Jack Butland (Stoke City) – New entry
  20. Marko Arnautovic (West Ham) – New entry

26 people arrested after massive soccer fan brawl in Serbia

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BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) Police in Serbia have arrested 26 people after a massive fan brawl during a soccer match between Belgrade rivals Red Star and Partizan left at least 20 people injured.

Police say foreign nationals are among those who were detained after Wednesday’s match, which ended 1-1. They did not specify the nationalities.

The brawl erupted between two rival Partizan fan groups. Several people suffered head injuries and burns from torches. Some fans were stripped naked before being kicked out of the stands as riot police intervened with batons.

Clashes between Partizan and Red Star fans have been common for one of the world’s most intense soccer rivalries.

With the draw, Red Star is leading Partizan by nine points halfway through the championship.