Drilling down on: L.A. Galaxy 4, Chicago Fire 0

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The LA Galaxy will not, we know now, begin 2013 in that wildly deflated, almost shockingly poor way they launched 2012.

The champs began their three-peat quest with a commanding 4-0 win over visiting and surprisingly tame Chicago on Sunday at the Home Depot Center.

Mike Magee’s hat trick powered the home team’s win, while the Galaxy midfield and defense had a comfortable afternoon, keeping debuting goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini from extending himself more than once.

Man of the Match

The Galaxy will need a little more of what Mike Magee gave them Sunday, supplying his side’s first three goals in a performance that will almost surely net the underrated veteran (and fifth-year Galaxy man) an opening weekend MLS Player of the Week award. With Landon Donovan still on hiatus and David Beckham’s replacement still just a gleam in the AEG eye, players rising the way Magee did Sunday will be pure Galaxy gold.

(MORE: Highlights package, with Magee’s hat trick)

Threesome of knowledge: what we learned

  • Chicago can go ahead and start the season. Anytime now.

Playing on the sacrificial road lamb for the champs to begin 2013 isn’t the easiest of assignments, clearly. Still, the Fire needs more. And in a hurry.

It’s not just the final score. (Which could have been worse, by the way, but for Sean Johnson’s busy, steady work in Chicago goal.)

The marking was jayvee on LA’s first goal, which had been coming. But the defending, ironically, wasn’t even Chicago’s larger issue. Rather, nobody in an advanced position for the visitors did a darn thing.

Maicon Santos missed a wonderful chance, an uncontested first-half header from eight yards that he left wide. If Santos, on his third club in three years, ever wants to stick as a starting striker, that ball must fly in.

Patrick Nyarko was contained on the right. And Chris Rolfe, the attacking midfielder in Frank Klopas’ 4-2-3-1, simply must find more ways to influence the game.

Dilly Duka along the left was OK for Chicago.

  • Robbie Keane is doing fine, thank you

It seemed logical to assume that LA Galaxy striker Robbie Keane would be OK in the 2013 early going. But you never know until you know.

Sure enough, the Irish international had lots of hop and pop, just as he did late last year when Keane was Major League Soccer’s top striker over the season’s last 2-3 months. Today, like then, it’s that wise movement off the ball as much as the outright shooting and scoring that counts with Keane.

Then again, he did plenty on the score sheet, too, with a goal and an assist in Sunday’s romp-and-stomp for the champs.

  • What of free kicks and corner kicks for LA?

If you’re interested, Juninho took the first free kick for Los Angeles in what we would have known previously around the Home Depot Center as “David Beckham time.”

With no Beckham, and with the club’s second choice dead ball delivery man weeks from getting back on the field (Landon Donovan, that is), expect the quality chances to shrink on free kicks and corner kicks. Yes, Beckham did that very, very well.

That’s a shame, too, for the champs; Omar Gonzalez is a mighty juicy target for the player who can aim those things precisely.

Packaged for take-away

  • Fire center back Arne Friedrich, the German veteran, was held out as a precaution while still dealing with an injury.
  • Sherjill MacDonald was on the bench to start for Chicago. Not to pick on Santos, but if MacDonald cannot beat out the journeyman forward on opening day, this is a pretty big problem already around Toyota Park.
  • It looks like the way Klopas wants the 4-2-3-1 to work is with Jeff Larentowicz holding dependably while Joel Lindpere does more of the two-way work.
  • Debuting Galaxy goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini made an absolute mess of a 32nd minute situation, handing a ball to Rolfe about 30 yards out. An in-form Rolfe would have scored. But Chicago’s top attacker is such a streaky sort, as we know. So the not-in-form Rolfe drove himself into a bad angle and then left his rolling shot just wide of the far post.
  • Best one-on-one combat of the afternoon: Galaxy right back A.J. De La Garza and Dilly Duka.
  • Another nice, ongoing battle Sunday: Galaxy left midfielder Colin Clark vs. Fire right back Jalil Anibaba.
  • Referee Kevin Stott missed a PK early in second half, when Fire center back Austin Berry got a handful of Keane’s jersey, although the Irishman did go down a bit easy. Tough call for Stott, in all honesty.

Wigan player races off for son’s birth after scoring 2 goals

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WIGAN, England (AP) It was better than a hat trick.

A player for English soccer team Wigan had a night to remember when he scored his second goal before dashing off the field and to the local hospital, where his girlfriend was in labor.

[ MORE: Chelsea advances to UCL Round of 16 after win over Qarabag ]

A picture of Ryan Colclough holding his new-born baby, Harley, while still in his soccer uniform was shared on social media by Wigan chairman David Sharpe.

Colclough said his father, sitting in the stands on Tuesday for Wigan’s 3-0 win over Doncaster in the second division, “gave me the action that the waters had broken,” but he didn’t want to come off until the ball was out of play.

“My head was a little bit battered, but I went and scored, looked at the manager and he said we’ll bring you off now,” Colclough said Wednesday of his 58th-minute goal, which he celebrated by pretending to rock a baby. “I came off and was straight down the tunnel, grabbed my keys and my phone, and went to hospital.”

Colclough had visited the midwife that day, and was told the baby was unlikely to arrive for “another couple of days.”

Lille suspends coach Marcelo Bielsa

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LILLE, France (AP) French club Lille has provisionally suspended coach Marcelo Bielsa following a string of poor results in the top tier.

[ MORE: Basel stuns Man United late to keep UCL hopes alive ]

The northern side said in a statement that Bielsa has been suspended “as part of a procedure started by the club.” Lille did not elaborate.

Bielsa joined Lille this season but has failed to make the club competitive again, with the team second to last after 13 matches.

The 2 Robbies podcast: PL sides in the UCL, Pulis sacking and more

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In today’s Euro Pod Edition, the Robbies breakdown the latest Champions League action. Man United lose at Basel, Chelsea cruise at Qarabag, Spurs impress against Dortmund, Man City continue to win, Liverpool surrender a 3-goal lead against Sevilla. Plus, the guys weigh in on the Oumar Niasse ban for diving and the Tony Pulis sacking.

Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.

All of the The 2 Robbies content can be accessed by clicking on this link:

Click here for The 2 Robbies archive ]

Listen to the latest pod by clicking play below.

Follow them on Twitter @The2Robbies

Europa League preview: Arsenal looks to wrap up Group H and more

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While several teams have already booked their place in the knockout phase, the Europa League reaches its penultimate round on Thursday with many big matches in hand.

[ MORE: Yannick Bolasie finally returns to Everton training ]

Of the two Premier League sides in the competition, only one will advance to the Round of 32, as Arsenal have all but assured themselves of the top spot in Group H. The Gunners can do so tomorrow with a win over Koln or a Red Star Belgrade defeat.

The other end of the spectrum features Everton, who has already been eliminated from reaching the next round after acquiring just one point in its first four matches.

European giants AC Milan can lock up a spot in the knockout phase on Thursday despite the club’s ongoing struggles in Serie A, while fellow Italian side Atalanta can move a step closer to the Round of 32 in Group E along with Lyon.

Here’s the full rundown of Thursday’s UEL matches.

Astana vs. Villareal — 11 a.m. ET
Konyaspor vs. Marseille — 1 p.m. ET
Rosenborg vs. Real Sociedad — 1 p.m. ET
Lazio vs. Vitesse — 1 p.m. ET
Viktoria Plzen vs. Steaua Bucuresti — 1 p.m. ET
Lokomotiv vs. Copenhagen — 1 p.m. ET
Zenit vs. Vardar — 1 p.m. ET
Red Bull Salzburg vs. Vitoria — 1 p.m. ET
Athletic Bilbao vs. Hertha Berlin — 1 p.m. ET
BATE vs. Red Star Belgrade — 1 p.m. ET
Ostersund vs. Zorya — 1 p.m. ET
Koln vs. Arsenal — 1 p.m. ET
Nice vs. Zulte Waregem — 1 p.m. ET
Lugano vs. Beer-Sheva — 1 p.m. ET
Ludogorets vs. Istanbul — 3:05 p.m. ET
Braga vs. Hoffenheim — 3:05 p.m. ET
AEK vs. Rijeka — 3:05 p.m. ET
AC Milan vs. Austria Wien — 3:05 p.m. ET
Lyon vs. Apollon — 3:05 p.m. ET
Maccabi Tel Aviv vs. Slavia Praha — 3:05 p.m. ET
Sheriff vs. Zlin — 3:05 p.m. ET
Partizan vs. Young Boys — 3:05 p.m. ET
Skenderbeu vs. Dynamo Kyiv — 3:05 p.m. ET
Everton vs. Atalanta — 3:05 p.m. ET