Getty Images

Giovani Dos Santos on a new season with the Galaxy, El Tri, and more

Leave a comment

It’s a new year, and that means a fresh start for Giovano Dos Santos.

2017 was a trying year for the 28-year-old. In his second full season with the LA Galaxy, the Mexican star battled injuries and poor form as his MVP-level production from 2016 dropped to scoring just six goals to go with three assists (he had 15 goals and 13 assists in 2016).

There were some worried that Dos Santos, and his brother Jonathan, a holding midfielder for the Galaxy, would drop in form so far that they wouldn’t be able to make as much of an impact with the Mexican National Team.

[MORE: North American bid “afraid” to lose 2026 World Cup]

But after some time off during the winter, Giovani Dos Santos appears fresh and ready to go with a re-vamped LA Galaxy side and for the green, red and white of El Tri.

“I feel we have a really strong team this year,” Dos Santos told PST as part of the Pepsi Generations global soccer campaign. “We’ve been training together for almost two months already, I think the chemistry between everyone is getting better every single day. As a Galaxy player, we know the responsibility and expectations are always high for this team.”

Last season, the Galaxy missed the playoffs for the first time in nearly a decade as the team couldn’t overcome a rash of both long-term and short-term injuries. Robbie Rogers and Sebastian Lleget missed nearly the entire season, while the likes of Dos Santos, Baggio Husidic, Gyasi Zardes, and Daniel Steres all missed significant time due to injuries.

Sigi Schmid was brought in midway through the season but even he couldn’t keep the Galaxy in the playoff picture.

“It’s difficult to explain what happened last year,” Dos Santos said. “Of course expectations are always high for us but I think it was a learning year for everyone. The past is in the past, we learn from it and we’re ready to take over this year.”

With the new year comes a lot of new faces, as well as others returning from injury. The Galaxy signed Giovani’s brother Jonathan last summer and then over the offseason they rebuilt the team’s spine, signing goalkeeper David Bingham, midfielder Perry Kitchen and striker Ola Kamara to go with other role players.

Those moves paid dividends in the first week of the MLS season, with the Galaxy knocking off the Portland Timbers 2-1.

Dos Santos called it a “dream” to be playing again at the club level with his brother, as the pair did together in the Barcelona youth ranks and at Villarreal.

“It’s been incredible to be together with my brother again, to share a moments together in our careers and our lives,” Dos Santos said, noting Jonathan lives with him in Los Angeles. “It’s our dream to be together so we feel blessed to be together again.”

The pair will be spending plenty of time this year together on and off the field, not only in the Galaxy shirt but also the green, white and red of Mexico.

In the prime of his career, assuming he stays healthy, Dos Santos will be expected to make a massive impact for Mexico at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, with El Tri opening up against defending World Cup champion Germany before taking on South Korea and Sweden.

Expectations are sky high for El Tri this summer, with a crop of players who won FIFA youth tournaments in the past finally coming into their prime as well as a number of high-profile players excelling overseas. While Dos Santos has ventured back to North America, the likes of Carlos Salcedo, Hrving “Chucky” Lozano and Jesus “Tecatito” Corona are beginning their European journeys and are expected to help bring Mexico over the fifth-game wall it’s failed to overcome in the past.

Amazingly, despite all the success of El Tri in CONCACAF and even on the world stage, Mexico has never made it past the quarterfinals.

“Obviously we’re going to go to the World Cup with the best expectations,” Dos Santos admitted. “We’re going to go game by game, hopefully we can get through.

“I think we have great players and a great squad,” Dos Santos added. “This is the most important year for the national team, we have the World Cup coming and I’m so excited for it.”

Although he’s left his European career behind for the project of winning a title in MLS, Dos Santos still keeps his eye on his former club in the Premier League, Tottenham, as well as a coach who he never worked with directly but knew from his time in Barcelona.

With the eight-hour time difference between London and Los Angeles, Dos Santos can’t watch many games live, but he said when he gets a chance, he tunes in to the Premier League. He said he’s been particularly impressed with Manchester City this year.

“I was in the first team when he was there,” Dos Santos said, referring to Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola. “I think he’s a great coach and he deserves all the success he’s having now.”

Being an El Tri star, Dos Santos has continental appeal, and he’s making use of that. Dos Santos is part of the 2018 global “Pepsi Generations” soccer campaign, joining forces with former teammate Lionel Messi along with U.S. Women’s National Team star Carli Lloyd, Tottenham’s Dele Alli and Real Madrid pair Marcelo and Toni Kroos.

“I’m really excited to be in this campaign with such an iconic brand like Pepsi around the world and to be able to be alongside with such great players like Messi, Marcelo and Kroos is a blessing,” Dos Santos said.

Pique finds solidarity with criticized NBA players

AP Photo/Alberto Saiz
1 Comment

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

Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
Leave a comment

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

Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images
Leave a comment

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

AP Photo/Armando Franca
Leave a comment

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.”