Omar Gonzalez

MLS playoff focus: Notes on the LA Galaxy ahead of Thursday’s second leg against Real Salt Lake

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Ahead of Thursday’s second-leg of this Western Conference semifinal series, here are the must-knows about Bruce Arena’s LA Galaxy (Thursday’s match kicks off at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN2):

  • Still waiting for delivery from Robbie Rogers

His brave work in moving domestic sports into a better and more accepting place has been one of the great off-field stories of MLS in 2013. Maybe ever.

But Robbie Rogers simply isn’t delivering on the field. Rogers started once again along the right on Sunday in Los Angeles, but his body of work was pedestrian, at very best. If not for the great performance from Sean Franklin, whose big night in behind Rogers on the right included a lot of great defensive work, and generally so much more than that wonderful and important goal, then we would probably be spending more time dissecting Rogers’ night of lesser.

(By the way, that was Franklin’s first goal in 17 MLS playoff matches. And what a way to get No. 1 ! You’ve seen that thing, right?)

  • Can the Galaxy hold off RSL late?

The troubling statistic that has gotten better lately, but just won’t go away for the Galaxy is this: The Galaxy gave up 18 goals after the 75th minute this year, second highest in the league, ahead of only woeful Chivas USA.

The team has done better lately, particularly after Jaime Penedo summer addition helped stabilize the Galaxy in goal. And it hasn’t hurt that Omar Gonzalez (pictured), the club’s U.S. international and recently enshrined DP, has mostly been able to concentrate on club duties lately rather than toggling between national team and Galaxy chores.

Still, it’s something to consider if RSL, behind by a goal in the series, has to press for a late one to level the score on aggregate.

(MORE: Real Salt Lake-LA Galaxy second leg preview)

  • Donovan: “We are going there to win … not to tie”

A tie will do for the LA Galaxy – but that will not be the aim.

So says the club’s all-time leading scorer. He’s certainly correct in that so few teams, particularly if we aren’t talking about Serie A sides out of Italy, truly know how to play for  a draw.  Here’s what Donovan told the LA Galaxy blog:

“We have to be very good defensively, but we’re not going there to defend for 90 minutes, we’re going there to try to keep the ball and move the ball and put them under pressure too,” he said.

“I’m sure that they’re not going to go crazy because the reality is that they just need a goal at some point. For us the mentality is to be aggressive and get around the ball and get after the ball, but also when we have chances to possess and go forward.  We’re going there to win the game, we’re not going there to get a tie.”

(MORE: What we learned from LA Galaxy-RSL first leg)

  • LA Galaxy strong in conference semifinals

Playoff experience and understanding how to manage the matches (and the series) is clearly important. Just ask the Red Bulls, who just got knocked into off-season nether world by one of Major League Soccer’s ultimate playoff grinders, the Houston Dynamo.

But do you not give the Galaxy enough credit for their gift of grind?

The Galaxy has, after all, gone a perfect 6-for-6 in their last half dozen conference semifinal series. The fell in the semifinals in 2003 (the first year Major League Soccer’s current home-and-away format was adopted. Since then … they just don’t lose in this round. The Galaxy is 9-3-2 overall in this round in the current format.

(MORE: MLS playoff scheduling, timing and pace make no sense)

Report: Agent in China, Rooney could leave Man Utd this month

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 13:  Wayne Rooney of Manchester United poses with the Premier League trophy at the start of the Premier League trophy winners parade on May 13, 2013 in Manchester, England  (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
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Could Wayne Rooney‘s days at Manchester United be over as soon as the end of the month?

The BBC reports that Rooney’s agent is in China in the hopes of negotiating a contract with a Chinese Super League team.

[ MORE: Leicester grabs away goal ]

The 31-year-old is said to be wanted by Jiangsu Suning and Tianjin Quanjian. The former club has ex-Chelsea standout Ramires, while the latter is coached by Fabio Cannavaro and boasts Axel Witsel and Alexandre Pato.

From the BBC:

There are no guarantees of success and it is thought a deal remains highly unlikely before the Chinese transfer window closes on 28 February.

And if he does not leave this month it seems certain he will go in the summer.

Rooney is the all-time leading scorer for both Manchester United and England. While his legacy is secure at the former and the latter, will a move to the CSL end his time under Gareth Southgate at England before another World Cup?

So many questions to unpack as one of the Premier League’s all-timers looks set to leave the country in the next six months.

Real Madrid adds intrigue to La Liga race with rare loss (video)

Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo, right, and Real Madrid's Lucas Vazquez, left, react after failing to score against Valencia during the Spanish La Liga soccer match between Valencia and Real Madrid at the Mestalla stadium in Valencia, Spain, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017. (AP Photo/Alberto Saiz)
AP Photo/Alberto Saiz
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The lone Wednesday match on La Liga’s docket injected some drama back into the chase for Spain’s crown.

Real Madrid fell 2-1 at Valencia, unable to overcome conceding twice in the first 10 minutes.

The match was one of two matches-in-hand Real held on its rivals for La Liga’s title. Now Real’s one-point lead over Barcelona and three-point advantage over Sevilla seem a bit more manageable.

[ MORE: Man Utd onto Europa Rd of 16 ]

Simone Zaza and Fabian Orellana netted for Los Che, but Cristiano Ronaldo’s 44th minute goal was the only answer the leaders could muster before full time.

Zaza’s goal was a stunner:

Real could rebuild its lead over the weekend, with Barcelona off to Atletico Madrid on Sunday and Sevilla traveling to Betis on the heels of its UCL win over Leicester City.

But for now, life’s a bit more exciting in Spain. Real hosts Barcelona on April 23, and hosts Sevilla on the penultimate weekend of the season.

Standings

 

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Real Madrid 22 16 4 2 57 20 37 10-2-0 6-2-2 52
 Barcelona 23 15 6 2 63 19 44 7-3-1 8-3-1 51
 Sevilla 23 15 4 4 46 28 18 9-1-1 6-3-3 49
 Atlético Madrid 23 13 6 4 43 19 24 8-2-1 5-4-3 45
 Real Sociedad 23 13 2 8 36 32 4 7-2-3 6-0-5 41
 Villarreal 23 10 9 4 30 15 15 7-3-2 3-6-2 39

WATCH: Giovinco nets rain-soaked preseason beauty

TORONTO, ON - MAY 07:  Sebastian Giovinco #10 of Toronto FC is presented with the MLS Audi Golden Boot Award as leading scorer for the 2015 season prior to an MLS soccer game against FC Dallas at BMO Field on May 7, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images
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We still can’t get over Sebastian Giovinco’s omission from the list of finalists for the 2016 MLS MVP Award, and the Toronto FC magician gave us another reminder of his greatness on Wednesday.

Playing a preseason match against Minnesota United on a rain-soaked pitch, Giovinco scored a brace. One of those goals came off an ankle-breaking dribble and finished with rain splashing off the net.

[ MORE: Man Utd onto Europa Rd of 16 ]

Yeah, he’s still good.

Giovinco turned 30 last month but still looks good money to dance up the statistical leaderboard this season. The Reds open at Real Salt Lake on March 4.

Leicester after one leg vs. Sevilla: “We knew they are better than us”

Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri catches the ball during the Champions League round of 16 soccer match between Sevilla and Leicester City at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan stadium in Seville, Spain, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017. (AP Photo/Miguel Morenatti)
AP Photo/Miguel Morenatti
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Sevilla probably should’ve put Leicester City to bed.

Thanks to Kasper Schmeichel, the Spanish powers couldn’t do that. Now stubborn Leicester is a 1-0 win away from progressing to the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals.

[ MORE: UCL wrap-up ]

Credit to Jamie Vardy, too, who put away a rare Leicester chance to give the Foxes a road goal from its trip West, but Schmeichel was magnificent.

And Leicester certainly knows how to defend and hit teams on the break.

“We knew they are better than us, they have high quality in possession. We suffered. They showed their quality but we showed our heart. We showed belief and never game up. That makes me satisfied.

“At the end, if we are a little more calm on the counter-attack, we could have done more. It was very important to match them and every result is still open.”

It certainly wasn’t easy to get to the final whistle. Here’s Vardy.

“Everyone has given 110 percent and everyone has come off absolutely blowing. We knew we had to be patient and take our chances but we knew we could hurt them on the press and that’s what Danny (Drinkwater) did. He got it over to me and I slipped it in.”

Again, we wouldn’t sleep on Leicester despite Sevilla’s dominance at home. King Power Stadium will be riled up come March 14, and one moment of magic could be enough for another miraculous moment for Leicester lore.