Chivas USA responds to HBO’s Real Sports’ report on discriminatory practices

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We got a taste on Monday, but once the segment on HBO’s Real Sports aired last night, there was a newly palpable buzz surrounding discrimination allegations made against Chivas USA. For people who’ve followed the situation since Jorge Vergara assumed control of the club, there wasn’t any new information, but watching a news magazine like Inside Sports pick at the morsels we’ve been rolling around for months, you knew the controversy was going to hit a new level. There’s just something about a reporter like Soledad O’Brien interviewing the likes of James Riley, Dan Calichman and Teddy Chronopoulous (ex-coaches who have filed suit against the club), and a mother whose child was turned away from the club’s youth program that gives the story that extra weight.

Perhaps that’s why Chivas USA has decided to respond, with a release posted to the club’s web site earlier today. Here’s the English version, though as you’ll infer from a reading, the Spanish one better represents the club’s feelings on last night’s report:

One of the biggest strengths we have at Chivas USA is the talented and dedicated employees that make up our community, in which diversity prevails by having different nationalities, cultures and beliefs. Chivas USA is formed by employees from Argentina, Canada, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Egypt, Ireland, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Spain, and the United States. We aim to work in an environment reigned by harmony, regardless of skin color, language, and beliefs, which is also the base to one of our greatest strengths, as it allows multiple ideas to flow and complement each other.

Therefore, we are disappointed by the intent of some individuals who have chosen to use our diversity to define our club as a racist and discriminatory environment by reporting an incomplete and one-sided story in order to damage the image of Chivas USA and the hard working individuals who are part of our community.

At Chivas USA we are all part of the same Red-and-White colors and ideology, which strives for both personal and professional fulfillment on and off the field.

We absolutely reject any form of discrimination and racism.

“Our true nationality is mankind.” H. G. Wells

As strange as this story is, adding a high school yearbook quote to the end of an official (and quite serious) press release makes the whole thing so much more bizarre. When Chivas are in court defending themselves against Calichman and Chronopoulous’s suit, are they going to offer Wells’ platitude as a defense of their actions? And at this point, would we be shocked if they did?

Beyond Chivas USA, who are obviously making this bed for themselves, last night’s report was a black eye for Major League Soccer, who declined to speak to HBO but did offer them a statement. As O’Brien stood in a production studio, reading the league’s words in front of a televised league logo, you felt the helpless, hapless situation MLS has allowed itself to embrace. And with Vergara offering up the likes of Francisco “Paco” Palencia as last night’s sacrificial lamb, who knows how many times club officials (and by extention, the single-entity league) are going to be made to look foolish as they try to defend a concept which runs so contrary to North American sports culture, if not law.

Given the scope of Major League Soccer in the broader landscape, this still has the potential to blow over. Ten minutes on subscription cable isn’t going to define this issue. However, if Chivas USA continues to flounder, make mistakes, and doesn’t somehow correct course, HBO’s work will be linked to over and over again by people who need examples of Vergara’s misdeeds.

The information may not have been new, but now it’s all synthesized in one place, the story told coherently by a respected journalist. ‘Thorn in the side’ could be an understatement.

Lletget diagnosed with foot sprain, escaping further damage

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Word has arrived from the LA Galaxy camp that will see USMNT fans feel relieved as Sebastian Lletget has escaped the news many feared.

The young attacker was impressive in the first 18 minutes of the United States’ 6-0 win over Honduras, but was injured minutes after scoring the opening goal and could not continue. Replays showed that Lletget got his foot caught underneath a defender in the process of a hard challenge on the right wing.

There was concern that Lletget would be out for a significant amount of time, but the Galaxy announced that after testing over the weekend, Lletget did not suffer any structural damage and was diagnosed with a left foot sprain.

[ MORE: USMNT adds Paul Arreola to roster, drops Lletget, Brooks, Morris ]

Lletget will visit a specialist on Monday to determine a plan for recovery, and it’s possible that he will still have to miss some time in the near future. The Galaxy visit Vancouver on Saturday, and his status for that match has to be considered up in the air. They then host Montreal on April 7.

While Lletget obviously misses out on the next USMNT game at Panama on Tuesday having already been dumped from the roster, he will most definitely be available for the June games against Trinidad & Tobago and Mexico, and will likely be an option for Bruce Arena given the manager’s history with Lletget at Los Angeles.

The United States have been struck with a collection of injuries that all occurred just before the international break, hampering the squad significantly. Bobby Wood, Jordan Morris, and Fabian Johnson all went down in the days before reporting for international duty, and the team lost Lletget and John Brooks in the Honduras win. Lletget’s departure could see Alejandro Bedoya into the starting lineup on Tuesday, with the Union midfielder having replaced Lletget in the Honduras match. Also in contention is Jermaine Jones, who could come in after his suspension and push Darlington Nagbe onto the wing.

Southgate can see Defoe in England squad long-term

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Gareth Southgate praised Jermain Defoe after his contributions to England’s 2-0 win over Lithuania on Sunday, but accidentally put a condition on his position in the squad.

The 34-year-old scored the opening goal and contributed heavily to the buildup of Jamie Vardy‘s score, and Southgate was happy that his decision to play an in-form striker paid off.

“If he scores like he is in the Premier League, there’s no reason why he wouldn’t be,” Southgate said. “We’re never able to pick a full cohort, so it’s important we can call upon the likes of Jermain and he can have the impact like he did today.

“I think we’ve got to look every time we get together as to who is in form. I don’t know if we can have a distinct pecking order because players who are playing well deserve the opportunity. If we are going to be successful, we have to have that competition for places. The reality is we will always lose players to injury.”

[ MORE: Defoe walks out Bradley Lowery before England game ]

A reporter asked him to clarify why he specified that Defoe should be scoring in the Premier League, and with his club Sunderland under heavy threat of relegation, Southgate admitted he let one slip.

“I walked into that,” Southgate said. “I guess the ideal world for all our players is they are playing regularly at a high level. The flip-side is we don’t have a huge pool of players to pick from.  We have to balance off a few different things. I can’t constrain myself on selection entirely, but I know ideally what I’d like to have. His performances and his goalscoring form this season have counted for him.”

Defoe has 14 goals in 28 Premier League appearances for Sunderland this season, but he’s proved the Black Cats’ only threat as they sit bottom of the league table with 20 points. Defoe has become the center of opposition game plans, and as a result he’s slowed down, with just two goals in his last seven games, and the club has little else to pick up the slack.

Still, at 34 years old, many wonder how much longer Defoe can contribute, and if he’ll be a viable option for next year’s World Cup.

Group F gets messy as Slovakia and Scotland grab wins

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England is in control at the top of Group F, but below them things are beginning to get complicated.

Despite the absence of Marek Hamsik due to a last-minute injury, Slovakia defeated Malta 3-1. They took the lead just 97 seconds in as Vladimir Weiss put the visitors in front with a beautiful curling strike from outside the box. Malta struck back through domestic striker Jean Paul Farrugia in the 14th minute, but that was all Malta could muster.

Slovakia would go ahead just before halftime as FC Copenhagen midfielder Jan Gregus put them in front in the 41st minute. The speculative shot from Gregus came from a great distance out, and as it skipped across the ground, it appeared Malta goalkeeper Andrew Hogg saw it late, as his dive was poor and it skipped off his hands and in.

Both teams ended with 10 men on the field, as Farrugia was sent off with 16 minutes to go for a second yellow, and Adam Nemec saw the same fate in injury time, but before he was sent off, Nemec was there to kill the game off in the 84th minute.

That put Slovakia up to nine points, and it moved them into second place thanks to late drama in Glasgow. Chris Martin gave Scotland all three points with an 88th minute strike as the home side won 1-0 over Slovenia, who dropped from second to third with the loss. The Fulham striker got a beautiful feed through the back line from Stuart Armstrong, and while his shot wasn’t terribly accurate, it was enough to win the game as Slovenia goalkeeper Matus Kozacik gave it a poor effort.

The win for Scotland pulls them above Lithuania and into fourth, a point back of Slovenia in third.

Wasteful Poland snatches late 2-1 win at Montenegro

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Poland was in control for much of the game, but failed to finish in front of net until Borussia Dortmund full-back Lukasz Piszczek found the winner with eight minutes to go as the visitors increased their lead at the top of World Cup qualification Group E.

Robert Lewandowski put Poland in front five minutes before halftime with a brilliant free-kick that left Montenegran goalkeeper Mladen Blozovic completely baffled, but Montenegro looked sturdy at the back for much of the game and dangerous on the counter. They’d hit just past the hour mark as Stefan Mugosa headed in to level the score.

Lewandowski had a pair of massive chances in the second half, but couldn’t get either to go down as Blozovic was there to turn him away, and Montenegran defenders cleared off the line as well. Luckily for Poland, they had Piszczek who burst down the right to beat Aleksandar Sofranac, and he produced a stunning finish looped over the closing Blozovic from a tight angle, dinked off the far post, and into the back of the net.

That would do it for Montenegro who had little attacking ability outside of their countering abilities, and with Poland happy to ease out the clock, the hosts didn’t have enough.

The win pushes Poland six points clear at the top of Group E, a sizeable lead with five matches remaining. The battle for the second-place spot is tight, with Montenegro still in command on seven points, level with Denmark but ahead on goal differential. Armenia and Romania are even with six points each.