MLS Season Preview: LA Galaxy

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After failing to make it to their third-straight MLS Cup final last season, it’s very much a case of unfinished business for LA in 2014.

With a fired up Landon Donovan back and set to break the MLS goalscoring record, Robbie Keane captaining the side and Omar Gonzalez ready to hit the ground running before he heads to the World Cup in Brazil, LA have some stunning players who will help lead the charge for a title.

LA are seeking a record-breaking fifth Supporters Shield and MLS Cup title, plus their second CONCACAF title when they square off against Liga MX side Club Tijuana in March in an epic border battle. With trophies to fight for on multiple fronts, the Galaxy have strengthened and have a large squad full of MLS experience but still have plenty of young talent coming through the ranks as Homegrown products, such as Gyasi Zardes, are expected to have a big year.


With a young team augmented by veterans, LA are hoping more silverware arrives at the StubHub Center in 2014 under legendary MLS head coach Bruce Arena.

Transfers In: Baggio Husidic (Free transfer, Hammarby), Rob Friend (Free transfer, Eintracht Frankfurt), Stefan Ishizaki (Free transfer, Elfsborg) Samuel (Loan, Fluminese)

Transfers Out: Colin Clark (Option declined), Laurent Courtois (Option declined), Sean Franklin (Option declined), Michael Stephens (Out of contract), Pablo Mastroeni (Retired), Jose Villarreal (Loan to Cruz Azul), Hector Jimenez (Trade to Columbus), Kyle Nakazawa (Retired)

source: Reuters
Keane, right, will be LA’s go-to man once again this season. But will his age be a factor?

Key Player: Robbie Keane

The Irish superstar is coming off a sensational second full season in MLS and with a new long-term contract signed, Keane’s days of terrorizing MLS defenders are far from over. Keane’s clinical finishing has resulted in 34 goals and 21 assists in 55 regular season games. Yeah, he’s that good. At the age of 33 he is slowing down a little but a double Achilles surgery over the offseason means he should be refreshed and ready to take a charge at yet another MLS Cup. Can ‘Keano’ lead the Galaxy into another season of success? You bet. When you have predatory skills like his around the box, it doesn’t matter how many miles you have on the clock. His famous celebration will be on show around MLS plenty of time this season. No doubt.

Manager: Bruce Arena is the master of rebuilding squads, but he really doesn’t have to do that with LA. 2013 goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini didn’t fare too well in MLS but his replacement Jaime Pinedo looks a real star. The only long-term LA player who left over the offseason was Sean Franklin, as the Galaxy should mount another assault on MLS’ finest. Arena’s no-nonsense approach and his ability to integrate MLS youngsters in with stars shouldn’t be underestimated. Plus his new long-term contract brings stability to the Galaxy.

Outlook: If LA isn’t in the Western conference final, it would be a huge surprise. Sure Donovan and Keane are aging but with their star quality and Arena building a solid team around Gonzalez in defense, LA will be tough to beat this year. It could be a roller-coaster year, but I’m thinking LA will finish in the top two in the West and go deep in the playoffs.

Pique finds solidarity with criticized NBA players

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There have been a number f outstanding pieces in The Players’ Tribune since its launch, but few as colorful and entertaining as Thursday’s entry from Gerard Pique.

The Barcelona star center back spilled the beans on any number of funny stories in his post, from Roy Keane’s cell phone anger and Sir Alex Ferguson‘s guiding hand to Lionel Messi’s greatness and more.

[ MORE: Zlatan in MLS an auto success ]

But perhaps most interesting was his take on the grief he’s received for supporting the vote for Catalan independence. Pique points out that he’s been proud to represent the Spanish national team, but won’t veer from his democratic beliefs.

And guess what? Even in Spain, athletes rightly bristle at the “Stick to Sports” crowd.

It’s funny, I noticed some people in America have started telling the NBA players to “just shut up and dribble” when they express their opinions on real problems in society.

It’s ridiculous, no?

It’s the same here in Spain. They say, “Just shut up and play football. It’s all you know.”

Sorry, but I will not just shut up and play. It’s not all I know. There’s a lot more depth to footballers than most people realize, and I think it’s important that we express ourselves and our views.

Given relative health, Zlatan’s success MLS is close to automatic

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The only question is his knee at his age.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is coming to Major League Soccer. Having confirmed his departure from Manchester United, the announcement that the living Swedish legend is joining the LA Galaxy is expecting next week.

[ MORE: MLS Weekend Preview ]

Some have asked whether he’ll cut muster in the league, to which we point to the lead: Few players have arrived to MLS with as dominant a career as Ibrahimovic, and the Swede would need his knee to fall apart in order to fail in California.

The man’s game isn’t based on speed, but it does require his abnormal power and grace. He scored just once for United in very limited time this season, but don’t forget how dangerous he was against Premier League and Europa League defenses last season.

He scored 28 goals with 10 assists last season, with 17 and 5 coming in league play. He was suspended for three matches and injured for seven, meaning this is a 20-goal Premier League scorer arriving in MLS within a calendar year of doing so.

Try putting his resume in perspective: Didier Drogba was extremely good for Montreal but a half-decade removed from his last double-digit goal PL season (Don’t forget that Drogba bagged 11 in 11 to start life on our shores). Robbie Keane was about the same time removed from his run of 10-plus goal seasons in the Premier League. He was good for LA.

The only risk here is that Ibrahimovic never gets healthy and LA takes a bit of a loss on his salary (one which is at least partially negated by the sheer number of Ibrahimovic Galaxy jerseys sold).

Entering this season, Ibrahimovic had failed to score 15 goals once since 2006. He’a also had a fairly religious assist output (10+ most years). With names like Alessandrini, Kamara, and dos Dos Santos, this should be a stand-up double if not a homer for LA and for MLS.

Plus the vicious looks after teammates miss him badly with a pass, let alone the press conferences and paparazzi hits: This should be a lot of fun.

MLS Weekend Preview: Friedel’s Revs get NYCFC test

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It’s an international break, and Major League Soccer is only sorta observing it.

More than half of the league’s clubs will participate on Saturday match days, with several shorthanded by national team duty.

[ MORE: Southgate on racism in football]

Columbus won’t have Zack Steffen and Wil Trapp for a visit from DC United — who is missing Zoltan Steiber, Bruno Miranda, and Oniel Fisher — while the Red Bulls will be without Tyler Adams, Kemar Lawrence, and Michael Murillo for Minnesota United’s visit.

NYCFC won’t have Alexander Ring, Ronald Matarrita, and Rodney Wallace, Portland’s without David Guzman and Andy Polo, and Sporting KC loses Daniel Salloi.

The Whitecaps won’t have center back Kendall Waston, while opponents LA Galaxt are without Ola Kamara.

New England Revolution vs. New York City FC — 1:30 p.m. ET Saturday

Brad Friedel‘s New England revolution, purposely lower case, is making believers out of its players. It would take a giant step if it could slow the NYCFC juggernaut. The visitors have allowed just one goal in their 3-0 start.

As for the hosts, Friedel has made his mark in a way that mostly makes you wonder what in the world Jay Heaps was doing:.

(Bunbury) pointed to a fine system in the locker room, increased accountability, how Friedel posts the starting XI on game day, and occasional two-a-day training sessions, which never occurred in the forward’s four years under Heaps.

“I think it unifies the team,” Bunbury said. “The broad sense of professionalism, it’s about having respect for each other and making sure you are held accountable in every part of this club.”

Never occurred under Heaps? Woof.

FC Dallas vs. Portland Timbers — 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday

FCD had an uninspiring ending to their CONCACAF Champions League dreams, but that’s little compared to the Timbers’ 0-2 start under Gio Savarese. A trip down South isn’t a surefire way to right the ship.

Vancouver Whitecaps vs. LA Galaxy — 10 p.m. ET Saturday

A long trip up North is only made worse by a laundry list of injuries for Sigi Schmid’s Galaxy. We’re only listing it amongst our Top Three because an LA win would be wildly impressive given the ‘Caps strong start.


Columbus Crew vs. DC United — 6 p.m. ET Saturday
New York Red Bulls vs. Minnesota United — 7 p.m. ET Saturday
Colorado Rapids vs. Sporting KC — 9 p.m. ET Saturday

Mourinho: “People with brains” understand Man Utd in transition

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Jose Mourinho’s been having a little fun on his international break, “managing” a team of superstars including Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt in a charity match.

[ MORE: Southgate talks racism in football ]

Speaking CNN as part of a publicity run, Mourinho was asked about Manchester United’s second place campaign and disappointment after dropping out of the UEFA Champions League.

Mourinho reiterated his position that United is a team in transition, and that the season is going along at an acceptable clip.

“I understand the frustration, I understand the sadness of being knocked out in the Champions League, but I don’t understand anything more than that,” Mourinho said to CNN’s Amanda Davies.

United has scored the third-most goals in the Premier League, and allowed the fourth-fewest. It’s drastically reduced its propensity to draw matches, which hurt its table position last season, and has already surpassed last season’s goal total.

Two more wins, 10 goals better differential, and the list goes on but unfortunately also includes crosstown rivals running away with the league and still alive in the UCL.

“Of course in the future we want to have 19 clubs behind us but this is the reality,” said Mourinho. “And the reality is for people with brain, with sense, with common sense, with knowledge of what sports is, we are in a moment of transition. Being in a moment of transition and still manage to do what he did last season and win trophies and to do what we are trying to do this season, which is still trying to win a trophy, and try to be second, because in this moment it’s the only top position that is possible for us to get. I think we are in a good position.”