Analyzing the ills of Chivas USA on the field

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I tend to take a public fleecing whenever I write about Chivas USA. Something about how I have it in for the little Goats, how I only write about bad things happening around the club, etc.

Of course I have written nice things here and there. But pretty things to fawn over are just so doggone hard to find with this club; it’s like looking for true wisdom on The Learning Channel.

So as we analyze what has gone wrong for the Goats, now 3-6-1 and positioned bottom of the West, I’ll let the Chivas USA experts take over. I listened in on the What the Flock podcast (find it here through the link at The Goat Parade blog), devoted to all things Chivas USA.  And before we get into the whys and wherefores, how about this from one of the trio of Goat blogger-podcasters:

This team is destroying my marriage. It’s destroying the relationship with my kids. The voices in my head  are all whack … I need muscle relaxers.”

Yes, that’s a good place to start.

The feel like Jose (“Chelis”) Luis Sanchez Sola has failed to adapt to MLS in too many way. His personnel does not reflect the physical nature of the league. Chivas’ young players are technically adept, but far from prepared for a league where brute force still too often rules.

Nor has Chelis seemed to adapt his broader tactics. Chivas USA remains married to that three-man back line, which gets repeatedly exploited for playing so dangerously high up the field.

Teams generally don’t play three in the back in MLS, although it has been done, notably by some of Steve Nicol’s better teams at New England a few years back.

But to roll with three in the read and play so high requires speed, something in dreadfully short supply around the Home Depot Center’s second tenant. Bobby Burling, for instance, may be a reasonably equipped defender – but he just doesn’t have the recovery speed to play that far up the field without sufficient cover.

(MORE: Chelis increasingly sounds like a man broken by Chivas)

The Goat Parade’s Alicia Ratterree sees an offense now showing signs of life, with just a little more of a plan and perhaps even some rhythm slowing creeping in. But it all falls apart due to that overmatched defense – because what offense can reliably produce the three or four goals a game that seem to be needed?

She also mentions the lack of a midfield destroyer, which is exactly what I saw during Saturday’s 4-1 loss to Real Salt Lake.

That dubious strategy of playing such a high, three-man backline only has a chance if the midfield can apply constant pressure, and a cop on the ball-winning beat in there, some Osvaldo Alonso-type hunter, would be a great start.

Said Rodriguez: “On the one had the attack got going, and on the other hand the defense is brutal.”

(MORE: Connecting false dots with David Beckham and Chivas USA)

They crack wise on the point that that this coaching regime (under Chelis) is doing things quite differently than the last coaching regime (Robin Fraser), which was doing things quite differently than the previous coaching regime (Martin Vasquez) … and yet the results look remarkably, painfully similar.

And then there is the Juan Agudelo trade. The trio discusses recent reports that Chivas USA got no more than $75,000 in allocation money for the young U.S. international, a pretty bad deal, even if Agudelo does cruise overseas at the end of the MLS season.

Said Rodriguez:

For the kind of talent he is, and if you watch even just the highlights his first game with New England, he played phenomenally … He showed his impact right away with his new team.

“I can see why theoretically you could want to get some value for a player who is not going to stick around for long. But as far as getting results on the field, it seems to have been a disastrous move. Ever since he came out of the [Chivas] lineup when he got hurt, that’s when the attack fell apart. … It was certainly puzzling.”

So there you go. They said it. I didn’t have to.

Cristiano Ronaldo could face tax-fraud charges in Spain

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MADRID (AP) Spanish prosecutors are considering whether Cristiano Ronaldo should face charges over allegations by the country’s tax agency that he defrauded the authorities of 15 million euros ($16.7 million) between 2011 and 2014.

Prosecutors said Thursday they have until the end of June to decide whether to charge the Real Madrid star, based on evidence from an investigation by tax officials.

The alleged irregularities were mostly related to money that Ronaldo had in the Virgin Islands.

Tax officials said Ronaldo adjusted his tax declarations and paid an extra 6 million euros ($6.7 million) in 2014.

Prosecutors said that if they decided to charge him, and if the Portugal captain was subsequently found guilty by a court, he would face a prison sentence of at least 15 months. However, it would be unlikely he would go to jail as a first-time offender.

Barcelona’s Lionel Messi was convicted of tax fraud last year.

Terry: “I couldn’t care less” about 26th-minute farewell criticism

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John Terry is a man who… well, let’s just say, does things his way.

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For instance, remember the time Chelsea won the UEFA Champions League, by beating Bayern Munich, in penalties? Remember Chelsea’s post-game celebrations, which saw Terry, who was suspended for the final at the Allianz Arena, joyously jumping around with his teammates wearing his full kit, shin guards and all?

Was it over the top and a bit silly? Sure it was, but was anyone hurt or genuinely upset by it? Of course not. On Sunday, as Terry said goodbye to the only club he’s ever known (apart from a six-game loan spell at Nottingham Forest in 2000), he toed the line between what’s acceptable and what’s outlandish. Just like in 2012, Terry caused a minor uproar, and just like in 2012 he “couldn’t care less” — quotes from the Guardian:

“I couldn’t care less, I promise you. All I care about is celebrating with my Chelsea fans. Me and them have a wonderful rapport and have done for 22 years. Nothing that people write or say can ever get in the way of that.

“If that’s the way I want to go out, that’s the way I go out because I’ve been here 22 years, I’ve won so many trophies — so if I wanted to play one minute and come off, I would have done.

“I wanted to play 26 minutes because the shirt number means a lot to me and the supporters so as long as they are happy – and I was over the moon with the reception – I promise you I could not care less.”

“It was an unbelievable send-off from the supporters to help me to celebrate 22 years at the club.

“I’m very grateful to them, and it was something I will never forget. It was so emotional after the game, I was in bits.”

There’s something to be said about the success that Chelsea have had as a club, and the way its recency leads them to feel they are perceived by the outside world. Other clubs, “bigger,” most historic clubs — Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal, for example — have been winning trophies pretty regularly for decades, while 70 percent of the major trophies (14 of 20) won in the club’s history have come since Roman Abramovich bought the club 14 years ago, in 2003. Chelsea is a 112-year-old football club.

[ MORE: Pogba, Mkhitaryan fire Man United to Europa League trophy ]

Chelsea’s players and fans are so clearly away of their bought-and-paid-for status, thus everything is celebrated on the grandest scale, almost as if to legitimize their accomplishments (which stand up just fine on their own two feet) and standing within the hierarchy of English football. “Contrived” (and admittedly so) is the word that comes to mind and best describes Terry’s send-off.

No one in this space is saying there’s anything wrong with that, but everyone connected to Chelsea must realize and accept that it looks silly to supporters of the aforementioned long-time giants, and they’re going to be pointed at and laughed at every time they do it.

FA Cup: Three key battles between Arsenal, Chelsea

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The FA Cup final usually brings out terrific entertainment for the fans, and this Saturday’s finale should be no different.

When Arsenal and Chelsea take the field at Wembley Stadium, it will be the last chance this season for some of the Premier League’s stars such as Eden Hazard and Diego Costa for Chelsea and Alexis Sanchez and Mezut Ozil for Arsenal to bring glory to their club.

[ MORE: Follow all the FA Cup scores here ]

The match features two teams heading in different directions. Chelsea, the Premier League champions are in the ascendency after a one-year hiatus out of European competition, while Arsenal finished outside the top-four places in the Premier League for the first time in 20 years under manager Arsene Wenger.

In addition, there’s plenty of other storylines to watch on the field, from whether it’s Costa, Sanchez and Ozil’s potential last matches with their respective teams to how Arsenal will deal without two of its three regular centerbacks they’ve used this season.

Here’s a look at three key battles on the field ahead of the FA Cup final:


Arsenal’s centerbacks vs. Diego Costa

Diego Costa may be a thorn in Chelsea’s side off the field when it comes to the constant speculation of a move away from Stamford Bridge, but on the field this season he’s been brilliant. Costa scored 20 goals in the Premier League and another goal in FA Cup action, and he contributes off the ball as well, drawing the defense in towards him while opening up space for teammates including Hazard and Willian.

Heading into Saturday, it’s unclear who on Arsenal will be tasked with marking Costa. Laurent Koscielny was issued a straight red card in Arsenal’s 3-1 win over Everton and will miss the FA Cup final due to suspension while fellow centerback Gabriel left the field on a stretcher after suffering a knee injury. In addition, Shkodran Mustafi is still recovering from a concussion and is a doubt for Saturday.

That leaves Wenger with just Per Mertesacker and Rob Holding as healthy centerbacks, which could force Wenger to revert back to his usual four-man backline from the more recent three-man backline that’s been used.

Regardless of who Arsenal put out there, expect Costa to be at his best, attempting to physically dominate his opponent and get under their skin.


Nemanja Matic and N'Golo Kante vs. Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez

Arsenal are at their best when they play through the middle of the field before finding runners out wide, setting up crossing attempts into the middle or perhaps another chance to play through the lines in the center of the field.

Standing in Arsenal’s playmaking duo of Mezut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez’s way are Nemanja Matic and N’Golo Kante. Kante, as Riyad Mahrez saw last year, does so much of the dirty work defensively that he allows his teammates including Matic and Hazard to bomb forward and either create or finish goal-scoring opportunities.

Kante will have his hands full dealing with Ozil and Sanchez in midfield, and Matic may need to sit a bit deeper to cut off the passing lanes, potentially taking him out of Chelsea’s counter attack.


Eden Hazard vs. Hector Bellerin

For all the speed that Hazard possesses on the ball, there’s at least one player on Arsenal who can keep stride pace-for-pace.

With Hazard likely lining up on the left wing, Arsenal’s right wing back Hector Bellerin will likely face Hazard up one-on-one at both ends of the field, setting up a fun encounter. With Bellerin’s speed and ability to track back, he may be open to a few 40-yard springs into space down the right wing, knowing that Hazard probably won’t be in hot pursuit.

But if Bellerin doesn’t end up with the ball and there’s an Arsenal turnover, Hazard on his own or against a centerback on the left wing could be a nightmare for Arsenal to deal with.

Man United, Man City come together to support terror victims

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The Manchester derby is known as one of the world’s fiercest rivalries, but in the wake of a devastating terrorist attack this week, both sides are joining together to support the city of Manchester and victims of the attack.

Manchester United and Manchester City announced Thursday they pledged together nearly $1.3 million into the We Love Manchester community fund. The fund was set up to assist the families of the 22 people who died and 64 people who were injured in the attack.

“The barbarism of Monday evening’s attack has shocked everyone,” Manchester United executive vice chairman Ed Woodward said in a statement. “Our clubs are right at the heart of our local communities in Manchester and it is right that we present a unified response to this tragedy. The money will help of course but the work of the two clubs and their respective foundation and community scheme can build on the fantastic spirit that Mancunians have shown in the immediate aftermath.”

Folks who want to donate to the fund can visit http://www.redcross.org.uk/manchester or http://www.justgiving.com/campaigns/charity/redcross/ManchesterEmergencyFund.

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