MLS Rivalry Week backstories: LA Galaxy vs. Chivas USA

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If we examine the back stories on how rivalries achieve their deliciously acrimonious state – real rivalries, that is, and not the manufactured ones fans tend to sniff out and disregard with extreme prejudice – they usually check the box on one or more of the elements you see in the box below.

Here we look at the Chivas USA-LA Galaxy, and which boxes get checked in the Los Angeles derby:

The teams meet at 5 p.m. ET Sunday at the Home Depot Center.

source:

The backstory:

Inner city derbies are the stuff of soccer legend. Two teams competing for the soccer soul of a town? Yes, that’s wonderfully provocative stuff.

But what if the logistical proximity is mightier still? When you share a facility – and not just on game day, but every doggone day of the week – there’s bound to be some tension.

There certainly is with Chivas USA and the LA Galaxy, Major League Soccer’s version of El Clasico.

There’s a culture clash here, one that goes beyond the usual crankiness of opposing supporters groups. The Galaxy has attempted to establish itself as the league’s glamour team (and they’ve done a pretty good job of it – or perhaps you haven’t heard that David Beckham played six seasons in the Galaxy kit?). In that regard, Chivas USA fans like to see themselves as soccer fans, wondering aloud it the Galaxy is more about glitz?

From a Chivas USA supporter in the MLSSoccer.com piece linked above: “They used to be a team that represents Los Angeles, but not anymore. They should change their name to the Hollywood Galaxy. Most of their “fans” (not all of them) have no clue of what soccer really is.”

Given the Goats poor launch in 2005 (four wins in 32 matches … yuk!), this one might have lacked some competitiveness early. Luckily, Bob Bradley’s introduction as head coach created stability, and the back-and-forth was on.

Oh, and there was Jesse Marsch.

The hard-nosed Chivas USA midfielder gave this rivalry the hostile moment it needed to really catch fire in a clash with Beckham. Back in 2007, Marsch launched a naughty boot toward the global icon, nearly stirring up a full-fledged donnybrook between the sides.

Good times!

And definitely a good derby rivalry.

Sunday’s match:

source: Getty Images

To call Chivas USA  a team in transition is to vastly undersell what is going on. New manager Jose (“Chelis”) Luis Sanchez Sola, under a new-old Chivas mothership plan of developing Latino talent, has completely remade the roster.

Chivas collected its first win of the “Chelis” era last week over FC Dallas, but outstanding goalkeeper Dan Kennedy and his teammates have more work to do in this one. The two-time reigning MLS champion Galaxy has been nothing less than outstanding in three outings, two in CONCACAF Champions League and a dominant 4-0 win over Chicago at the Home Depot Center.

And this is without Landon Donovan (who is expected back from Galaxy-approved sabbatical later this month) or without the replacement for high-profile DP David Beckham. Of course, perhaps that’s not so surprising with Omar Gonzalez (pictured), the league’s top center back, on patrol in the back for L.A.

The full match preview from MLSSoccer.com is here.

MLS on NBC makes its 2013 debut Saturday when Arlo White and Kyle Martino call New York Red Bulls against D.C. United at 12:30 p.m. ET. NBC Sports Network carries two contests after that (Sporting KC vs. Chicago Fire, then Seattle vs. Portland). In between, “The Breakaway” will show goals from foursome of matches NBC is not carrying.

ProSoccerTalk’s series of Rivalry Week back stories:

Premier League notes: Wanyama, Bolasie return after long layoffs, Sakho injured

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Two Premier League clubs saw a pair of players return to the field after long spells on the sidelines.

Tottenham revealed that Victor Wanyama took part in training on Monday for the first time since suffering a knee injury in late August, which has kept him off the field since then. Wanyama started in both of Tottenham’s first two fixtures of the season before the injury.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ]

At the same time in the northwest of England, Yannick Bolasie returned to the field for Everton’s reserves for the first time since suffering a torn ACL last December against Manchester United. Everton manager Sam Allardyce hinted recently that Bolasie could even make the first team subs bench before the end of the calendar year as he continues his rehab.

(more…)

Report: Sporting KC on verge of signing French midfielder Croizet

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Sporting Kansas City could be adding some European flair to its midfield this offseason.

According to multiple reports, the MLS club is in negotiations to sign French midfielder Yohan Croizet, who currently plays for Belgian first division side KV Mechelen. Croizet, who reportedly cost Mechelen a transfer fee worth more than $1 million, has started all 15 games he’s played for his side this season but has been substituted off on seven occasions and Mechelen are currently struggling in the league, sitting in 13th place with 18 points from 18 games.

Croizet hasn’t played since November 17, and appears on his way out.

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Sporting Kansas City coach Peter Vermes, a Hungarian-American, is no stranger to the European market and has brought over plenty of diamonds in the rough from Europe to star with Sporting KC. Some previous examples, though in different positions from Croizet, include current winger Gerso, Krisztián Németh, Uri Rosell, and Aurelien Collin.

It will be interesting to see where Croizet plays in the Sporting KC side should it sign him, and how he works with Benny Feilhaber, who is turning 33-years old in January.

Arsenal lands Ostersunds in Europa League draw

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Arsenal will face a team with an English connection in the UEFA Europa League Round of 32.

The Gunners were paired with Swedish side Ostersunds in the Europa League knockout stage draw Monday, with matches set to be played on February 15 and February 22. Ostersund are managed by Englishman Graham Potter, who played in the Championship and lower in England before starting his managerial career with Ostersunds in 2010 in the fourth tier of Swedish soccer.

[READ: UCL draw+analysis]

Ostersunds surprised many earlier this year winning the Swedish Cup to qualify for the Europa League, and then advanced out of a group that included Hertha Berlin and Athletic Bilbao.

It represents an interesting draw for Arsenal, which will have to balance the squad during a tough February. The weekend prior to the first-leg match is the second leg of the North London derby against Tottenham, and following the second match with Ostersunds is a showdown with Manchester City.

Here’s a look at how the rest of the draw shook out:

Champions League last 16 draw sets up huge clashes

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The Round of 16 draw for the UEFA Champions League did not disappoint.

[ MORE: Champions League schedule

We have some monster clashes with Chelsea facing Barcelona, once again, and the reigning champs Real Madrid paired with the favorites Paris Saint-Germain.

With five Premier League teams remaining, Tottenham have been handed a tough draw against Italian champions Juventus who were also runners up in the UCL last season, while Manchester City, Manchester United and Liverpool will all be rather happy with their draws.

United have been drawn against Spanish side Sevilla, Liverpool will face FC Porto and Man City clash with Basel.

Below is the draw in full, while UEFA has also released the schedule for the games with Man City, Spurs, Liverpool and Man United all playing their second legs at home.