I love the idea of MLS-Liga MX friendlies – but only where they make sense.
Chivas de Guadalajara or a couple of the other clubs that have healthy fan bases in the United States? Sure, those make (dollars and) sense.
Even the middle-weights of Mexico can draw a crowd and give a good game to MLS clubs in Texas or California where the Latino populations are large enough to have reasonably sized fan bases nearby.
Or, catching the flavor the moment in these friendlies represents a solid plan, too.
So I’ve got mixed feelings about the LA Galaxy’s upcoming friendly against Liga MX champions Club Tijuana. Just announced yesterday, the nearby neighbors meet Feb. 19 at the Home Depot Center.
Formerly obscure Tijuana is an amazing story in regional sports, having just won the Liga MX Apertura title, punctuating a rags-to-riches rise that we just don’t see very often on highly financed soccer.
In this one, Bruce Arena is likely to deploy his starters for at least a half. That’s different than what we often get in mid-summer friendlies that feature MLS-Liga MX matchups. In the stack-up of league matches, Open Cup contests and game in CONCACAF Champions League, some clubs have no choice but to run out a team of reserves.
It’s a real ticket sales conundrum, because fans are asked to support a game devoid of stars – and are sometimes stuck with a portion of the bill when their season ticket series includes “International Game A” and “International Game B” and so on.
The problem then becomes this: Where does the match fall for the Mexican club? Here, the answer for the Xolos is “In the worst possible place.”
Club Tijuana actually has a Copa Libertadores match the same day! And that is a far, far more important match for such a tiny club.
A roundup of Saturday’s preseason friendlies involving Premier League clubs…
Celtic 1-1 Leicester City
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Leicester City winger (and 2015-16 PFA Player of the Year) Riyad Mahrez opened the scoring with a sensational, curling goal guided inside the far post by his magical left foot (WATCH HERE). The Foxes conceded an equalizer just before the hour mark (Eoghan O’Connell), but Claudio Ranieri‘s side still has a number of key players to welcome back into the starting lineup ahead of the opening day for the 2016-17 Premier League season, which is just three weeks from today.
PEC Zwolle 0-4 Southampton
Southampton continued their preseason preparations, under the direction of new manager Claude Puel, with a 4-0 victory over Eredivisie side Zwolle. Nathan Redmond, who arrived from Norwich City in the summer, scored twice on the day (second goal below), while Charlie Austin and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg bagged a goal each.
Portsmouth 3-3 Bournemouth
Bournemouth managed a 3-3 draw with fellow South Coast side Portsmouth, with Lewis Grabban, Jordan Ibe (fresh off signing from Liverpool) and Dan Gosling scoring for the Premier League side.
Barnsley 0-3 Everton
Ross Barkley scored twice and Kevin Mirallas netted the other goal, as Everton, under new boss Ronald Koeman, brushed aside Championship side Barnsley
Elsewhere in preseason action
Bradford City 1-4 Burnley
Rotheram 1-2 Sunderland
Preston North End 1-1 Stoke City
Scunthorpe United 0-2 Hull City
Watford 0-0 Anzhi Makhachkala
PSV Eindhoven vs. West Bromwich Albion — canceled
Don’t stab at the ball!
It’s a cry that echoes from youth matches to the upper reaches of the game, but Riyad Mahrez has a tendency to force defenders into forgetting fundamentals.
[ MORE: Sunderland hires Moyes ]
The Leicester man, linked to Arsenal, danced through the Celtic defense in Saturday’s International Champions Cup action to whip a shot home and give the Foxes a 1-0 lead in Glasgow (The Bhoys have since tied it up).
We’ve seen this so many times from the Algerian, who hopefully sticks around Leicester for the club’s UEFA Champions League run and Premier League title defense.
DeAndre Yedlin left the United States for England in January 2015, the latest step in a career trajectory simply described as “Up”.
Yedlin, now 23, acclimated to life in the Premier League before making a late season appearance with Tottenham to close the 2014-15 season.
[ MORE: Sunderland hires Moyes ]
The next year saw him force into Sam Allardyce‘s Sunderland lineup, transforming his defensive acumen in a way that few USMTN fans could deny during this summer’s Copa America Centenario (That pesky red card aside).
But not only is Tottenham in the UEFA Champions League, but Yedlin’s manager at Sunderland is gone. What does this mean for Yedlin? Let’s consider three primary options:
Sunderland still buys him — New manager David Moyes loves him a mobile fullback with offensive capabilities. Not that Yedlin is Leighton Baines, but a starting right back slot in the Premier League could still be in the cards.
Tottenham keeps him around — Mauricio Pochettino likes to rotate his defenders and will have a heavy schedule on his plate. Kieran Trippier was unable to unseat Kyle Walker last season, so the No. 2 chair could be open for Yedlin (although Trippier showed he’s on the level while at Burnley, leading the league in crosses during 2014-15).
Tottenham loans him out — Speedy right backs will be in demand at several spots, and Sunderland is just one destination where fans are clamoring for reinforcements. Lack of purchases is one big reason Steve Bruce just left Hull City, and clubs like that will be aiming for relatively proven players on loan.
Fabian Delph means no offense to Martin O’Neill, Paul Lambert, and Manuel Pellegrini, but he’s never seen anything like the management of Man City boss Pep Guardiola.
“The first three weeks have been amazing. I’ve learned more than I have throughout my whole career,” he said to the BBC. “It is a big statement but it is the truth.”
[ MORE: Wenger open to big spending ]
He’s not alone in his praise for Guardiola, as defender Gael Clichy is thrilled at what’s transpiring in front of him at training.
“That’s something new as before we were quite open and if you look at our games from last year we were conceding a lot of goals on the counter-attack because we were an offensive team and open. I guess he’s trying to make us as offensive as previous years but just as solid at the back.”
Later in the article, Clichy talked about his friendship with Delph (which really ties our post together). City’s site even used the term “bromance”. So they’ve got that going for them, which is nice.