MLS Snapshot: LA Galaxy 2-2 San Jose Earthquakes

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One game, 100 words or less: Don’t need 100 words for this California Clasico.

LA dominated possession (70% of it), San Jose struck early on the counter, the hosts finally took advantage of their possession, San Jose hung on for dear life, it finished level.

About sums it up.

Goals

San Jose – Wondolowski 18′, Garcia 31′
LA Galaxy – Zardes 29′, Gonzalez 49′

Three moments that mattered:

18′ – Wondo strikes on the counter – A shot from Marcelo Sarvas was blocked as the Galaxy dominated possession and shots on goal, and the ball fell kindly to San Jose for a breakaway. Shea Salinas did the hard work through the middle of the pitch, and he found Chris Wondolowski in the 18-yard-box one-on-two. The USMNT striker worked himself space for a shot from a very tight angle, but it didn’t matter. Wondo pinpointed the far corner and struck it on a dime with a low shot.

29′ – Zardes breaks through – With the Galaxy clearly the team on top despite their deficit, the home side pelted the San Jose defense with shots. Robbie Keane thought he’d put a shot on goal, but the blocked attempt fell to Gyasi Zardes right next to him. The in-form striker had plenty of the goal to aim at with Jon Busch wrong-footed on the block, and he struck a curling ball past a lunging Busch and home for the equalizer.

49′ – Gonzalez levels again –  After Matias Perez Garcia netted in the first half to put San Jose up again – and again on the counter – LA needed just four minutes to equalize again. A set piece did the trick, as Omar Gonzalez beat Atiba Harris in the corner scrum and headed home the goal. It was a poor showing by Busch as well as Salinas, as the header squeaked between the pair covering the near post.

LINEUPS

LA Galaxy – Penedo; Gargan (Hoffman 89′), Gonzalez, DLG, Rogers; Ishizaki (Jamieson 82′), Sarvas (Husidic 80′), Juninho, Donovan; Keane, Zardes.

San Jose – Busch; Francis, Bernardez (Harden 70′), Hernandez, Stewart; Harris, Cronin, Pierazzi, Salinas (Cato 89′), Perez Garcia (Koval 83′); Wondolowski.

Three lessons going forward:

1. The Galaxy are vulnerable on the counter – LA controlled much of this match, but their high-pressing style made them weak at the back, and with a few lucky bounces San Jose took full advantage. This isn’t anything terribly novel, but teams can sit back and frustrate the Galaxy and still bear fruit on the other end.

2. Wondolowski finally has a capable partner – The signing of new Designated Player Matias Perez Garcia may not be enough this year to save the Earthquakes’ season, but over the long term it will heavily benefit Chris Wondolowski to have another dangerous player. Wondo’s brilliant backheel to Perez this game for San Jose’s second goal was a beauty, and the new boy knew exactly where to be on the counter. With more possession, this pair could be dangerous.

3. The Galaxy will be fine once Donovan is gone – Already no longer the focal point of his team’s attack, Donovan is a very important player, but he’s no longer irreplacable. Gyasi Zardes is a very capable front man who is also a creative producer, and the team has a compliment of creative midfielders who will take over the roles. With so much possession tonight, the team was able to dish the ball to just about every option and give each player a chance to show what they’re capable of.

Where this leaves them: A point unfortunately helps neither side.

LA Galaxy – The Galaxy for now go ahead of FC Dallas and into sole possession of the Western Conference’s third spot on 34 points, but with FC Dallas set to play, a point may not be enough to secure the spot long-term. They do stay unbeaten in now nine straight home matches, and four straight overall.
San Jose –
If the Earthquakes wish to make a push for the playoffs, they’ll want more than a point. They were dominated, but hitting back on the counter, two goals could have been enough. Instead, they move to 24 points and still wallow back in eighth place.

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.