MLS Preview: LA Galaxy at Vancouver Whitecaps

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Is this game too early to call it a ‘must win’ for Martin Rennie? Definitely.

But the Scotsman is correct to be alarmed at the way his team have performed in recent weeks.

The Whitecaps are struggling through several growing pains, with new acquisitions taking far too long to gel. Against Real Salt Lake last weekend, Rennie didn’t mince his words when assessing his sides performance.

“The players have to decide whether they’ve got the desire or not,” Rennie said. “In my opinion, they need to apologize to the fans for that performance. They need to take a good, hard look at themselves and they need to decide if they want to be a part of the club going forward.”

Wow. Okay. So maybe hosting the two-time reigning MLS Cup champs at home is exactly what this ‘Caps team needs to snap out of the slump they find themselves in. Maybe not. Vancouver currently boast a 0-5-1 record against LA.

Vancouver sit second from bottom in the West, level on points with bottom side Seattle, but Vancouver have played one game more. They have won twice this season from nine games, both those were at home. Those wins also came in the first two games of the season. They ‘Caps haven’t won a single MLS games since March 9. No time like the present.

On the flip side, the visiting LA Galaxy have plenty of positives going in to this game. DP, captain and 2012 leading goalscorer Robbie Keane should return after missing out after he suffered an ankle injury against Sporting KC on April 20. Todd Dunivant is also close to returning as he also missed the last two games through a knock.

LA have lost just once away from home this season, a 1-0 defeat to Western conference leaders FC Dallas. With their young stars performing wonderfully of late, can they keep their place in the lineup as the experienced pros return?

With Vancouver keen to make the playoffs once again this season, a few minor tweaks here and there should do the trick. Up front the pace of Kekuta Manneh and Darren Mattocks will give any defense problems, especially at BC Place. LA’s defense will have to be on their toes.

The Galaxy will be looking to bounce back to winning ways after their 1-0 defeat at home to the Houston Dynamo last weekend. While Vancouver will take a point. I can see a narrow win for LA in this, 2-1, as Landon Donovan continues to regain his form and fitness, Keane returns and LA try to ramp up the heat on Dallas, RSL and Portland above them in the standings.

Conte praises Hazard’s style, wouldn’t want him to be “more selfish”

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Antonio Conte made two bold decisions on Saturday afternoon as his Chelsea side prepared to take on Tottenham in their FA Cup semifinal.

[ MORE: Oriol Romeu shines with Saints as he prepares for Chelsea return ]

The Italian manager has been known for his innovation and risk-taking in the past, but many were critical of the 47-year-old when his team sheet came out ahead of the match.

Conte left key attacking duo Eden Hazard and Diego Costa on the bench, allowing out-of-favor striker Michy Batshuayi and Pedro to get the starting nod.

Although Hazard nor Costa saw the field for the opening hour, the former made his presence known when he was summoned by Conte in the second half.

Often times Hazard has been known as a facilitator, someone that can pick apart defenses with his tremendous foot skills and clever passing. But the Belgian international has also shown his capabilities of scoring on a regular basis as well, which has prompted great interest from other giant clubs around Europe.

When Conte was asked about Hazard and if his attacker should be more selfish, the Italian gave an emphatic “NO” as his response.

“No, no, no, absolutely not,” Conte said. “I don’t think that a player like Messi is a selfish player. The first target for every great champion is to play for the team and to put your talent into the team. If you do this, the team [increases] your talent.

“The best players in the world don’t exist without a team. For me, it’s sad to listen to this, that a player must ‘be more selfish’ to reach the top level. That’s very sad. It’s not my idea of football and I will never understand this. Never, never. In my team, I don’t want selfish players.

“I prefer to lose a game than to have a selfish player. For me, I don’t want this and I can’t accept this. I don’t want my club to buy me a selfish player one day. Never. No.”

Newcastle joins Brighton in promotion to Premier League

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Two sides have now booked their trips to England’s top flight after Newcastle United rattled off its 27th win of the season.

[ MORE: Oriol Romeu — The perfectly poised destroyer ]

The Magpies earned a decisive 4-1 victory over Preston North End on Monday afternoon at St. James’ Park as the second-place side ensured its finish inside the top two in the English Championship.

Newcastle joins already-promoted club Brighton & Hove Albion, who currently sit atop the Championship on 92 points.

Ayoze Perez paced the hosts with goals on both sides of halftime, while Christian Atsu and Matt Ritchie also converted for Newcastle.

U.S. Men’s National Team defender DeAndre Yedlin was on the bench for the Magpies but didn’t feature in Monday’s match.

The third and final team to be promoted from the Championship will be decided by the league’s annual promotion playoff, which is held at the end of the season and contested by four sides that finish third through sixth position.

As it stands, Reading, Sheffield Wednesday, Huddersfield Town and Fulham occupy the four playoff positions.

Marseille making Olivier Giroud top transfer target this summer

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Marseille did well to bring in one star this season but could the French side have another trick up its sleeve this summer?

Sky Sports is reporting that the Ligue 1 club is preparing to sign Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud over the summer and the sixth-place side is “willing to pay up to £20m (roughly $25 million).

Marseille made a splash this season when the club re-signed Dimitri Payet, who was playing with Premier League side West Ham at the time.

The team does boast several quality attacking options such as Payet and Bafetimbi Gomis, but Giroud could serve as an ideal target man in the Marseille attack.

Prior to joining the Gunners in 2012, Giroud starred for Montpellier and with a potential link-up in the attack with a creator like Payet, it could present a dangerous attacking threat to the rest of Ligue 1.

Giroud, 30, has scored 95 goals in all competitions since arriving in London with Arsenal.

Report: Chicharito talks heating up with Los Angeles FC

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We’ve seen MLS teams make major splashes in the past, and one of next year’s newcomers could be a really big draw if they can manage to seal the deal on a Mexican international.

[ MORE: Schweinsteiger shares thoughts on MLS and more in interview ]

According to Metro New York, Los Angeles FC is continuing its talks with Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez about a potential deal that would prove massive in terms of MLS spending.

While LAFC won’t debut in MLS until 2018, the club could potentially make the Mexico striker the highest-paid player in league history with an average salary of roughly $10 million.

The 28-year-old Hernandez currently plays in Germany with Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen, where he’s plied his trade since joining the club during the 2015/16 season.

Additionally, the former Manchester United man has dominated the international scene for El Tri, scoring 46 goals in 90 appearances for the CONCACAF nation.