James Riley injury shines new light on LA Galaxy’s defense

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Cross James Riley off the short list of fullback options for the Galaxy. After this weekend’s injury at Real Salt Lake, the veteran defender is out for six months. On Thursday, LA Galaxy confirmed the 31-year-old had undergone successful surgery to repair a torn left lateral meniscus. If his recovery goes as planned, Riley will back in late September, long after the point where Bruce Arena will need to find an alternative.

Originally, Riley was an alternative. After spending last season with D.C.United, the former Sounders full back latched on as a depth option in L.A., eventually giving Arena somebody who could start in place of Todd Dunivant on opening day. Riley’s ability to play on the right allowed Arena to move A.J. DeLaGarza into the middle in Utah after the team’s poor performance in Mexico. When he was forced out of Saturday’s game early, Dan Gargan — the alternative to the alternative — finished out the draw.

Unfortunately, aside from Home Grown right back Oscar Sorto, that’s all Los Angeles has. Greg Cochrane, Sean Franklin, and Bryan Gaul are all gone, a situation Riley and Gargan’s signings were intended to address. They were supposed to be Plan Bs for Dunivant and DeLaGarza.

Now Riley is out, and because a central pairing of Omar Gonzalez and Leonardo looked molasses slow over the team’s first three games, DeLaGarza may be needed in the middle. The one-deep fullback depth charts Arena had this preseason are back. If they’re not, that means Leonardo’s been put back in the starting lineup.

This was the big question about LA in the preseason. It wasn’t so much that they lacked a back four. It’s was more about the lack of a alternatives. What if Dunivant didn’t find his 2012 self? What if Leonardo didn’t let DeLaGarza move outside? What if anybody got injured?

They’re questions that don’t need answers in March. As evidenced by LA’s first two league results, the team’s capable or working through the problem; at least, in the short-term. While their back line may have been the reason they didn’t advance in Champions League, those things are going to happen to MLS teams. Sometimes, a team is just not going to be ready for March’s knockout rounds.

At some point, however, it looks like LA’s going to have to make a move. Maybe two. James Riley may not be the biggest loss in the world, but in an already thin defense, his injury shines new light on the Galaxy’s biggest weakness.

CCL wrap: Toronto tops Colorado; Herediano’s insane comeback (video)

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On a single-digit Tuesday that severely limited the attendance at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, where the Colorado Rapids and Toronto FC dueled in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals.

Jonathan Osorio’s second half goal put the Reds in front and Sebastian Giovinco had a goal and an assist and the visitors take a 2-0 decision back to Ontario.

The best chance of a preseason quality first half saw Dominique Badji flub the best chance of the stage into the feet of Alex Bono.

Toronto took the lead, nabbing the away goal through Osorio’s header of a Sebastian Giovinco cross. And the Atomic Ant got on the board with a goal of his own off an Auro assist with 17 minutes to play.

[ MORE: Georgia teen heading to Schalke ]

Tuesday’s other first leg saw Herediano and Tigres play to a 2-2 draw in Costa Rica, with the Liga MX visitors taking a pair of away goals but shocked by a pair of stoppage time concessions.

Francisco Meza scored in the 15th minute and Lucas Zelarayan seemingly put it to bed with 15 minutes to play.

But Yendrick Ruiz converted a 90th minute penalty kick before ex-DC United forward Jairo Arrieta did this ahead of the Feb. 22 second leg in Mexico.

Another American heads to Schalke: Zyen Jones

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Schalkamerica?

Bundesliga mainstays Schalke have added yet another American, this one 17-year-old Zyen Jones of Atlanta United. Jones is a forward with the U.S. U-17 national team.

Like Josh Sargent, who signed his deal with Werder Bremen on Tuesday, he’ll head overseas and sign a pro contract on Aug. 25, his 18th birthday.

[ MORE: Chelsea-Barca recap | JPW’s 3 things ]

Jones will join several potential USMNT teammates in Gelsenkirchen, including injured senior team midfielder Weston McKennie and youngster Nick Taitague (19). Forward Haji Wright is on loan at Sandhausen.

Report: Simon Dawkins making move to Minnesota

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The Loons are taking a flier on Simon Dawkins.

The London-born Jamaican international hasn’t done a ton since returning to MLS from Derby County, and turned 30 over the offseason, and Paul Tenorio says the player is on his way to Minnesota United.

[ MORE: Chelsea-Barca recap | JPW’s 3 things ]

Dawkins scored 14 goals between 2011-12 with San Jose, but scored just five times in his return to California and was blanked in 14 appearances last season. He registered just 10 shots in those matches.

The left winger would join an attack with Christian Ramirez, Kevin Molino, Ethan Finlay, and a pair of Generations Adidas forwards: Abu Danladi (2017 SuperDraft) and Mason Toye (2018).

Champions League Weds. preview: Sevilla-Man Utd, Shakhtar-Roma

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Jose Mourinho says Manchester United is one round away from having legitimate hopes of winning the UEFA Champions League.

[ MORE: Chelsea-Barca recap | JPW’s 3 things ]

That makes the Round of 16 tie against Sevilla — beginning Wednesday in Spain — a bit of a dream qualifier for the Red Devils.

“I normally say that Champions League dreams start around the quarter-finals and not yet in the last 16,” Mourinho said on ManUtd.com. “Last 16 still looks a long way to go. When a team reaches the quarter-finals, I think it’s the moment where even the teams that are not favourites – which is our case – they start realising that anything is possible.

The injury-hit side got a bit of a boost on Tuesday in Sevilla, where Paul Pogba, Antonio Valencia, Marcus Rashford and Ander Herrera all trained ahead of the first leg.

As for the hosts, manager Vincenzo Montella admitted that he hopes Pogba won’t play, and joked that he’d prefer to tie up and “padlock” Alexis Sanchez in a bid to defend against the Chilean star.

The final Round of 16 tie to start will be Roma’s pairing with Shakhtar Donetsk, with the first leg taking place in Ukraine.

Shakhtar hasn’t played in some time, but the great equalizer is the bitter cold at Donbass Arena, where the temperature is set to be between 21 and 28 degrees Fahrenheit come kickoff.

Don’t worry, Roma fans, Daniele De Rossi is busy breathing fire into any teammates angling for excuses:

“The cold weather could affect things a little because we’re not used to it but at the end of the day it comes down to how well you perform out there. We must be mentally ready from the get-go because the cold might hit us in the opening minutes.

“If it was that much of a factor, these teams would win the Champions League every year. You don’t go through because of the weather.”