Frank Lampard delighted to sign for New York City FC, start MLS adventure

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On Thursday Frank Lampard became a Major League Soccer player.

The Chelsea and English national team legend signed for New York City FC at the iconic setting of Pier 5 in Brooklyn, as the 36-year-old signed a two-year deal for NYC FC and will join the club ahead of their inaugural MLS season in 2015.

[RELATED: Lampard seals NYC FC deal]

[RELATED: Lampard biggest signing in MLS history?]

Lampard leaves behind a glittering career in the Premier League, as he won every trophy possible domestically and in Europe with Chelsea over the past 13 years. The Londoner also became the Blues all-time leading goalscorer, from midfield, to cement his legendary status at Stamford Bridge.

Asked by reporters why he chose to leave London for New York, Lampard revealed the challenge is exciting him.

“Why not choose New York City?,” Lampard said. “You talk about it ticking all the boxes, personally for me it does that. It is a very exciting challenge for me, in life terms too. I had a fantastic 13 years at Chelsea. I can look  back on that with immense pride. However it was certainly a good time for myself, and for Chelsea that I moved on. I want to test myself, carry on challenging myself, I want to be that leader and that person on and off the pitch that can make things happen for this club.”

With Claudio Reyna as the director of soccer and head coach Jason Kreis sat alongside Lampard at the unveiling, NYC FC is starting to come together as the England international became their fourth player signing after David Villa, Jeb Brovsky and Josh Saunders. Starting a club from scratch isn’t but Lampard believes in the vision.

“Having meet with everyone from the club, I’ve seen the vision,” Lampard said. “I’m not talking about starting a new franchise and just throwing things at it and hoping it comes off. There is a real long-term plan from the club and I wanted to be part of that.”

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Lampard became NYC FC’s fourth player as the new franchise continues to take shape.

As questions continued to pour in for Lampard, it was also confirmed they are not sure if he will join their sister team in Melbourne between now and next March, inevitably he was asked about David Beckham’s time in MLS and if he spoke to the former LA Galaxy star about making the switch Stateside.

“No I didn’t,” Lampard said. “I know David well, but I’m not on everyday speaking terms with him. I had spoken to him about his experiences here in the past in the MLS and he says nothing about great things about the league. I already knew it. The decision was all mine. I had to weigh up where I wanted to play. When the opportunity to New York came up, it is a difference experience to what he had but I am coming to a great city and I hope to show people I am a good player, a big personality in the dressing room and outside of that to help this thing move on.”

Lampard also discusses his national team future, which at the age of 36 many believe could be over but he confirmed he has yet to make a decision about international retirement.

He then moved on to praise the U.S. national teams performance at the World Cup, then Lampard finally gave the league a glowing reference and claimed the rest of the soccer world has grown to respect North America’s top-flight.

“Back home in England we saw David Beckham come here and the league take big strides not just because of him, because of a lot of stable work made by people at MLS, Lampard said. “The quality has gone up and up. I’ve been watching MLS games back home in England for a long time now, big players are coming out here. David Villa signing here, Jermain Defoe, Robbie Keane and the homegrown U.S. players. In general the respect for MLS around the world has grown and that is the same for me. That is what makes it such a great opportunity and challenge for me.”

Mexico captain Guardado suffers hamstring injury

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With the World Cup still half a year away, there’s plenty of time to heal from injuries and get the body right after tweaking things during the club season.

And yet, there will still be some concern among Mexico fans.

Team captain Andres Guardado suffered a hamstring tear, his club Real Betis confirmed on Monday, and is expected to miss 3-4 weeks. That’s nothing to write home about when it comes to preparing for the big tournament, but with Guardado 31 years old and struggling with injuries in recent years, Mexico fans will be keenly aware that hamstring injuries can return with a vengeance if not given the right time to heal.

Guardado has shown his age in recent times, not necessarily with his play on the field, which has been critical to his country, but with his fitness. Guardado has just four full 90 minute performances for Mexico dating back to October of 2016, missing time with ankle, leg, and now hamstring injuries in that span.

The 31-year-old has had a fine season so far for Real Betis, scoring one goal and assisting six while appearing in all 15 La Liga matches for the club thus far. The club sits 12th in the La Liga table with 18 points.

Guardado will be fine with plenty of time to spare, but if not fully healed properly, there’s always the risk that muscle injuries can flare back up, and Mexico fans will hope that their captain’s club gives him plenty of rest to recover.

Mark Hughes wants Stoke City to “suck it up”

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Mark Hughes is under fire at Stoke City with the Potters firmly entrenched in the relegation battle, and with that he’s charging his players, staff, and himself to gut the rest of the season out.

With Stoke heading to Turf Moor to take on Burnley, they sit just three points above the drop. The players were faced with jeers from angry fans at the train station following this past weekend’s 5-1 disaster against Tottenham. The fiery Hughes is hoping to use this jarring moment to jolt his squad.

[ PREVIEW: Tuesday’s Premier League action ]

“That is still resonating. It’s good we have a game because it is still fresh in their ears probably, and they can use it as a motivating factor,” said Hughes during his pre-match press conference.

“You either suck it up and do ­something about it or you go under, and we can’t accept players like that. I don’t feel we have players like that.”

With managers nowadays often reaching into the excuses barrel as they hope to save their own skins, Hughes refuses to do just that, instead placing the decision firmly on the players shoulders, telling them they are the only ones who can save the club.

“Maybe some hadn’t ­confronted that before – but sometimes you need a reality check, and understand how our results and ­performances affect people,” Hughes said. “When people criticize you, you have to grow a thick skin in this industry. If you don’t, you’re in the wrong place.”

Louis van Gaal calls Mourinho’s United “far more boring”

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Louis Van Gaal has picked just the right time to pipe up.

The former Manchester United manager, who took flak while in charge for his side being hideous to watch, has now taken shots of his own at his successor Jose Mourinho, kicking Manchester United while they’re down after a 2-1 derby defeat at home.

The Dutchman told Fox Sports Netherlands, “If you ask me how did I do at United, I will say it was my best year ever, given the circumstances I was working under. We played football that was quite alright. But it’s not football that is appreciated in England. And yet, right now, looking at United, I have to conclude Mourinho is not being criticized while it’s far more boring football.”

[ PREVIEW: Premier League Tuesday matches, including Chelsea vs. Huddersfield ]

Van Gaal was blasted consistently for playing a boring style, especially in front of the home crowd, and now Mourinho is being criticized for the same concept. Mourinho was denounced for similar reasons while in charge of Chelsea, but with the club winning multiple titles under his leadership, the noise was always less while the team was winning. With Manchester United still unable to crack the top 4, Mourinho is feeling the heat.

“What United produce now is defensive football,” van Gaal said. “I always played attacking football. The proof is that the opposition were always parking the bus. They don’t do that now because Jose Mourinho plays so defensive.”

To van Gaal’s point, Manchester United is seventh in the Premier League in possession, holding 51% possession this season. They were out-possessed by Manchester City 65-35 at Old Trafford over the weekend. Meanwhile, van Gaal’s last full season with Manchester United, the 2015/16 season, saw the Red Devils hold 54%, which ranked third in the Premier League, just a percentage point behind leaders Arsenal. However, van Gaal’s United ranked 15th in the Premier League in total shots, while Mourinho’s United this season ranks sixth at this point.

Van Gaal made sure to point out he prefers their cross-town rivals.

“I would rather watch City play than United. You need quality in a squad and it’s clear City have a better squad.”

Conte blames fatigue for dip in Chelsea form

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Antonio Conte has figured out what is plaguing his Chelsea side as they sit 14 points back of Premier League leaders Manchester City.

“I think when you play every three days, it is impossible to have a training session and to work on the physical aspects,” Conte said in his pre-match press conference as the Blues get set to play Huddersfield Town on Tuesday. “It’s impossible. It’s impossible because you have to prepare with the players for a game every three days.”

Chelsea has yet to find itself eliminated from a single competition, drawn against Barcelona in the Champions League while navigating fixtures across all four competitions.

And yet, this is nothing new for Conte. The Blues boss is more than familiar with fixture congestion, having taken charge of Juventus and regularly competing at a high level on multiple fronts. In 2012/13, he won the Serie A title, won the Supercoppa Italia, and reached the quarterfinals of the Champions League.

However, this is new for Conte at Chelsea. Last season, the Blues did not take part in a European competition thanks to their disastrous season the previous year. While they reached the FA Cup final, they were knocked out of the EFL Cup in the 4th round.

“We have to try to do our best,” Conte said. “For sure, some players can be tired, that’s normal because some players are playing from this summer and our tours in China and Singapore. It’s normal. But I repeat we have to find the best solution. We have to find more rotations. I’m doing this, we will try and do our best with hunger and desire. We will fight.”

As an example, Conte said Alvaro Morata will miss the match on Tuesday against Huddersfield Town due to fatigue, with the Spaniard battling a slight back injury. “Morata is out. He is a bit tired and he has a problem in his back.