Wondo’s wonderful goal, and time to ask questions in Seattle

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In Houston, the Dynamo were able to overcome a great goal from that match’s most dangerous man. In Santa Clara, Seattle couldn’t say the same, with an almost even battle between two of the West’s assumed best decided by this:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cZ79Ajy5FIA]

Eighty yards and two Chris Wondolowski touches later, and Michael Gspurning is watching the shot go in off his left post. Not only was that unstoppable, it was the match winner, with the 1-0 win giving San Jose their second victory of the season.

How “Wondo” saw it:

“I was lucky enough to get the touch and control the ball. I saw Seattle’s goalkeeper [Michael Gspurning] shading toward the ball. He probably wasn’t expecting me to shoot from outside the box. I got a good foot on it and was able to score far post..”

And despite three close games, the Sounders are still winless, with losses to Montréal and San Jose sandwiching last week’s draw against Portland. Counting CONCACAF Champions League matches, Seattle 1-1-3 and have already been shutout three times this season.

Looking at the final numbers, you could argue Seattle was hard done by Wondolowski’s momentary brilliance. Shot totals were similar (16-13, Seattle), as were the shots on goal (5-4, San Jose). Seattle had the possession advantage, but part of that is explained by their chasing the match. Though Seattle caused a couple bits of Jon Busch panic, San Jose was just as threatening towards Gspurning.

“We had three very good chances to score and I feel that we deserved the win tonight,” San Jose head coach Frank Yallop said.

The only thing that separated the sides is the same thing that decides so most matches: Finishing.

“[A] little bit of quality at the right moments, better service at the right moments would’ve made a difference,” Sigi Schmid told the assembled media after the match.

“I don’t know if we deserved to win,” Schmid said, “but I think we deserved to get out of here with a tie.”

It’s an easy argument to make, but it’s not very convincing (and I can’t imagine Schmid being to vociferous while making his case). The balance of play hints Seattle deserved something, but scoring goals matters. A lot. People who can finish matter, which is why all things being equal, a team that starts Chris Wondolowski is more likely to win than a team that starts Sammy Ochoa and David Estrada.

“I thought Estrada and Ochoa were a handful today up front,” Schmid said. “Could that quality be a little better? That’s what Wondo displayed.”

That’s not to say Seattle was particularly hard done by the international break. They were missing two of their starters, both forwards (Eddie Johnson and Obafemi Martins), while San Jose were missing two of theirs (Justin Morrow and Victor Bernardez), both defenders. San Jose was also without their starters at right back (Steven Beitashour), right wing (Martin Chavez), and No. 9 (Steven Lenhart, Alan Gordon, Mike Fucito). There’s no point complaining about the absences of Johnson and Martins.

The bigger problem for Seattle is in midfield. They’re getting nothing going forward. Christian Tiffert hasn’t been replaced. Fredy Montero’s ability to fill that space was ultimately underrated. The injury to Brad Evans has hurt, while Shalrie Joseph still isn’t ready to start. Osvaldo Alonso is doing his typical dominating best defensively, but for a team that’s scored only once in 180 MLS minutes, something more is needed in the middle.

It’s still early, but unable to solve that problem, Seattle find themselves in last place in the West. At the same time, a San Jose team that’s faced their own series of obstacles is 2-1-1.

It’s time for Seattle to start finding answers, and if they can’t, it’s time to start worrying. With Obafemi Martins, they may have two of the best forwards in the league, but as of now, how are they going to get them the ball?

Sigi Schmid quotes used in this piece came from the Twitter account of The Seattle Times’ Joshua Mayers: @joshuamayers.

Mexico captain Guardado suffers hamstring injury

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With the World Cup still half a year away, there’s plenty of time to heal from injuries and get the body right after tweaking things during the club season.

And yet, there will still be some concern among Mexico fans.

Team captain Andres Guardado suffered a hamstring tear, his club Real Betis confirmed on Monday, and is expected to miss 3-4 weeks. That’s nothing to write home about when it comes to preparing for the big tournament, but with Guardado 31 years old and struggling with injuries in recent years, Mexico fans will be keenly aware that hamstring injuries can return with a vengeance if not given the right time to heal.

Guardado has shown his age in recent times, not necessarily with his play on the field, which has been critical to his country, but with his fitness. Guardado has just four full 90 minute performances for Mexico dating back to October of 2016, missing time with ankle, leg, and now hamstring injuries in that span.

The 31-year-old has had a fine season so far for Real Betis, scoring one goal and assisting six while appearing in all 15 La Liga matches for the club thus far. The club sits 12th in the La Liga table with 18 points.

Guardado will be fine with plenty of time to spare, but if not fully healed properly, there’s always the risk that muscle injuries can flare back up, and Mexico fans will hope that their captain’s club gives him plenty of rest to recover.

Mark Hughes wants Stoke City to “suck it up”

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Mark Hughes is under fire at Stoke City with the Potters firmly entrenched in the relegation battle, and with that he’s charging his players, staff, and himself to gut the rest of the season out.

With Stoke heading to Turf Moor to take on Burnley, they sit just three points above the drop. The players were faced with jeers from angry fans at the train station following this past weekend’s 5-1 disaster against Tottenham. The fiery Hughes is hoping to use this jarring moment to jolt his squad.

[ PREVIEW: Tuesday’s Premier League action ]

“That is still resonating. It’s good we have a game because it is still fresh in their ears probably, and they can use it as a motivating factor,” said Hughes during his pre-match press conference.

“You either suck it up and do ­something about it or you go under, and we can’t accept players like that. I don’t feel we have players like that.”

With managers nowadays often reaching into the excuses barrel as they hope to save their own skins, Hughes refuses to do just that, instead placing the decision firmly on the players shoulders, telling them they are the only ones who can save the club.

“Maybe some hadn’t ­confronted that before – but sometimes you need a reality check, and understand how our results and ­performances affect people,” Hughes said. “When people criticize you, you have to grow a thick skin in this industry. If you don’t, you’re in the wrong place.”

Louis van Gaal calls Mourinho’s United “far more boring”

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Louis Van Gaal has picked just the right time to pipe up.

The former Manchester United manager, who took flak while in charge for his side being hideous to watch, has now taken shots of his own at his successor Jose Mourinho, kicking Manchester United while they’re down after a 2-1 derby defeat at home.

The Dutchman told Fox Sports Netherlands, “If you ask me how did I do at United, I will say it was my best year ever, given the circumstances I was working under. We played football that was quite alright. But it’s not football that is appreciated in England. And yet, right now, looking at United, I have to conclude Mourinho is not being criticized while it’s far more boring football.”

[ PREVIEW: Premier League Tuesday matches, including Chelsea vs. Huddersfield ]

Van Gaal was blasted consistently for playing a boring style, especially in front of the home crowd, and now Mourinho is being criticized for the same concept. Mourinho was denounced for similar reasons while in charge of Chelsea, but with the club winning multiple titles under his leadership, the noise was always less while the team was winning. With Manchester United still unable to crack the top 4, Mourinho is feeling the heat.

“What United produce now is defensive football,” van Gaal said. “I always played attacking football. The proof is that the opposition were always parking the bus. They don’t do that now because Jose Mourinho plays so defensive.”

To van Gaal’s point, Manchester United is seventh in the Premier League in possession, holding 51% possession this season. They were out-possessed by Manchester City 65-35 at Old Trafford over the weekend. Meanwhile, van Gaal’s last full season with Manchester United, the 2015/16 season, saw the Red Devils hold 54%, which ranked third in the Premier League, just a percentage point behind leaders Arsenal. However, van Gaal’s United ranked 15th in the Premier League in total shots, while Mourinho’s United this season ranks sixth at this point.

Van Gaal made sure to point out he prefers their cross-town rivals.

“I would rather watch City play than United. You need quality in a squad and it’s clear City have a better squad.”

Conte blames fatigue for dip in Chelsea form

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Antonio Conte has figured out what is plaguing his Chelsea side as they sit 14 points back of Premier League leaders Manchester City.

“I think when you play every three days, it is impossible to have a training session and to work on the physical aspects,” Conte said in his pre-match press conference as the Blues get set to play Huddersfield Town on Tuesday. “It’s impossible. It’s impossible because you have to prepare with the players for a game every three days.”

Chelsea has yet to find itself eliminated from a single competition, drawn against Barcelona in the Champions League while navigating fixtures across all four competitions.

And yet, this is nothing new for Conte. The Blues boss is more than familiar with fixture congestion, having taken charge of Juventus and regularly competing at a high level on multiple fronts. In 2012/13, he won the Serie A title, won the Supercoppa Italia, and reached the quarterfinals of the Champions League.

However, this is new for Conte at Chelsea. Last season, the Blues did not take part in a European competition thanks to their disastrous season the previous year. While they reached the FA Cup final, they were knocked out of the EFL Cup in the 4th round.

“We have to try to do our best,” Conte said. “For sure, some players can be tired, that’s normal because some players are playing from this summer and our tours in China and Singapore. It’s normal. But I repeat we have to find the best solution. We have to find more rotations. I’m doing this, we will try and do our best with hunger and desire. We will fight.”

As an example, Conte said Alvaro Morata will miss the match on Tuesday against Huddersfield Town due to fatigue, with the Spaniard battling a slight back injury. “Morata is out. He is a bit tired and he has a problem in his back.