Drilling down on: Los Angeles Galaxy 3, San Jose 1

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Where was this from the Galaxy over the last 10 days? Whoever stole all the hop and the pop from the Galaxy attack must have given it back.

Because the champs threw the whole kit and caboodle at the Earthquakes, shredding the Supporters Shield winner’s defense with three goals before the break.

From there, the Galaxy managed things well enough in the back to prevent yet another furious, signature Earthquakes’ rally.

So Landon Donovan, David Beckham, Robbie Keane and the rest move into the conference finals, while the San Jose Earthquakes become the latest in a long line of Supporters Shield winners to fall short of MLS Cup glory.

It was always possible, of course. But who saw a 3-1 win coming?

The Galaxy advance on a 3-2 aggregate.

Man of the Match:

Robbie Keane has been Major League Soccer’s top striker over the last two months.The Irish international had come agonizingly close to scoring over the weekend when the Galaxy put themselves in a series bind in that 1-0 loss at the Home Depot Center. Well, he finished the job Wednesday, driving forward aggressively and banging one off the inside of the post to light the fuse on the Galaxy scoring onslaught. Midway through the second half, he set up Christian Wilhelmsson beautifully.

Threesome of knowledge: What we learned

San Jose picked a bad time to have a bad night.

This is what the Galaxy did so well last year, ruthlessly exploiting the booboos and the weak links. So it was Wednesday, as the Earthquakes fell for the first time this year at Buck Shaw Stadium.

Steady central midfielder Sam Cronin picked a bad time to have a stinker of a match. Or, at least a stinker of a 30-minute period to open matters, as he and central partner Rafael Baca were no match for David Beckham and Juninho, who had the run of things in the center of the park.

Cronin wasn’t the only one. The league’s 27-goal scorer, Chris Wondolowski missed an absolute sitter from eight yards in the first half with goalkeeper Josh Saunders down on the turf, in a tangle with center back Omar Gonzalez. He put another close-range shot over the bar in the second half.

Donovan still has something to offer. A lot, in fact.

This is the guy talking about retiring? After wilting in a couple outings, the national team’s all-time scoring leader reminded us that there is plenty of soccer left in his 30-year-old legs.

Donovan set up two of those first-half goals, going aggressively forward with the ball and seizing the initiative in ways he wasn’t before.

He responded favorably to a tactical re-positioning. Rather than working alongside Keane as a second forward, Donovan was positioned out wide. Edson Buddle started as the second striker, permitting Donovan’s relocation to the flank, the position where he has spent the bulk of his league and international career.

Donovan seemed to enjoy being wider, with a little more space in which to dash about, better able to see the field and the runners around him. Later, as Buddle left, Donovan moved back alongside Keane and found different ways then to trouble the Earthquake defenders.

San Jose is not the same without Victor Bernardez.

There is a reason the Earthquakes big center back is about to be named MLS Defender of the Year – even if that’s nothing more than a prediction on my part. For now.

So when the commanding Honduran defender left injured, San Jose was in trouble. Replacement Ike Opara just doesn’t have focus and awareness. He fell asleep, for instance, on the second Galaxy goal, caught unaware when Keane crashed across with a strong diagonal run.

We saw the same early in the season when Bernardez missed some time due to injury. Of course, that wasn’t in an elimination series in November.

Packaged for take-away

  • Referee Kevin Stott got on top of this one early, which made for a better match, one with just a little less of the silly stuff.
  • L.A. rookie center back Tommy Meyer, with wildly varying levels of success this year, may have played his best match to date.
  • Meyer’s central partner, Gonzalez, was immense, too. He was an aerial beast, in command of almost every ball that dropped into the Galaxy defensive third.
  • Beckham collected a yellow card, so he’ll need to be careful in the conference final opener; if the former England captain is cautioned in the first leg, he’ll miss the back end of the home-and-away series.
  • Opara had a wonderful chance to score an 11th goal in stoppage time for the Earthquakes, but blasted his shot high.

Lukaku working to shed extra muscle he put on for World Cup

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Romelu Lukaku has found it difficult to replicate his international form at club level since returning to Manchester United from the 2018 World Cup, but Belgium’s superstar no. 9 is confident he’s worked out the main reason why: he came back carrying too much muscle.

[ MORE: Chelsea hand Man City a first loss | Liverpool win to go top of PL ]

After scoring four goals in six appearances in Russia, Lukaku has netted just six times in 15 appearances in the Premier League and has received considerable criticism with the Red Devils slumping to their current sixth-place standing in the league table.

In preparation for the World Cup, the 25-year-old says he packed on a few extra pounds of muscle to better stand up to the international game’s highly physical nature. Once he returned to Manchester, though, he quickly realized that all that extra weight would be hugely detrimental in the fast-paced, end-to-end PL. It’s taken some time and effort, but it sounds like Lukaku is just about where he would like to be again — quotes from the Guardian:

“In the Premier League, I cannot play with the same amount of muscle as international football. That was something that when I came back I knew straight away — ‘Nah, I cannot play in this style like this.’ I had to lose muscle basically. So you just stay out of the gym, drink a lot of water, and a lot of vegetables and fish, and it helps.”

“After the World Cup, I think I really was a bit tired. But, you know, I had the same thing in 2014 after the World Cup when I came back to Everton, I was really in a slump after the World Cup. So now I think I am in a decent level again and ready to go again. I knew this. Me and the [United] medical staff, we did like a lot of tests to see what was the problem. I had a hamstring injury, which is something that never happens to me.”

“We are doing more prevention in the gym and I am trying to do speed bursts in training and that’s the most essential”

Things are certainly looking up for Lukaku as he’s scored twice in Man United’s last three PL games — the first time he’s managed to do so since tallying in back-to-back fixtures at the start of September.

Burnley’s Mee defends tackle that broke Joe Gomez’s leg

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Joe Gomez is expected to miss the next six weeks after suffering a broken leg during Liverpool’s 3-1 victory over Burnley on Wednesday, but there was absolutely nothing wrong with the tackle which resulted in the injury, according to Clarets defender Ben Mee.

[ MORE: Chelsea hand Man City a first loss | Liverpool win to go top of PL ]

Mee, who tackled the ball away from the Liverpool defender halfway through the first half, took the opportunity this weekend to defend his tackle, calling it “unfortunate” and saying that strong challenges are “part of the game” — quotes from the BBC:

“I don’t think anything was wrong with my tackle personally. You can’t take tackles out of the game.”

“I’ve seen Liverpool make tackles and get the crowd up and things like that. For me, you can play fair, but you can also play hard as well.

“We’re at the bottom of the table and we need to get out of it, so we’re obviously going to work our socks off to win games. It was just unfortunate and I send my best wishes to him.”

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp seemed to side with Mee’s version of events following the game earlier this week, calling it “the cleanest” tackle made by a Burnley player all game — a clear reference to what he felt was a highly physical outing by the Clarets. Burnley boss Sean Dyche called it a “fantastic tackle.”

Serie A: AC Milan frustrated by results, missing out on Zlatan

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MILAN (AP) AC Milan’s problems in front of goal show no signs of abating and it has been forced to admit defeat in its attempts to bring back Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Milan was held at home to a 0-0 draw by Torino in Serie A on Sunday. The Rossoneri have scored just three goals in their past four league matches, and only three of the other sides in the top 10 in Serie A have scored fewer than Milan’s tally of 24 in 15 rounds.

Milan had been trying to bring back the 37-year-old Ibrahimovic on loan from the Los Angeles Galaxy. The former Sweden international scored more than 50 goals for Milan in his two seasons at the club, 2010-12.

“He gave his word to Galaxy that he would stay if they satisfied his conditions and they did so,” sporting director Leonardo said. “It would have been a really lovely story because it would have given a significant weight to the team.

“We can’t deny that both parties thought of it but it will not be possible.”

Patrick Cutrone should have snatched the win for Milan with four minutes remaining on Sunday but he fired wide of the right post when one-on-one with Torino goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu.

The 20-year-old Cutrone put his head in his hands in dismay, while other Milan players were also visibly shocked at the miss.

Milan’s teenage goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma pulled off a stunning save in the fifth minute to keep out Iago Falque’s header from close range.

“I’ve had a really difficult year but I’m much more calm now,” said Donnraumma, who has faced criticism recently following several poor performances.

Milan remained fourth, three points behind Inter Milan, which lost at league leader Juventus on Friday. Milan is a point ahead of Lazio, which drew 2-2 at home to Sampdoria on Saturday.

Torino also remained in the fight for the final Champions League place, and is four points behind Milan.

The 2 Robbies: Chelsea top Man City; Liverpool go top

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Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe discuss what was perhaps a title-defining weekend which saw Chelsea hand Manchester City their first defeat of the season with a 2-0 victory at Stamford Bridge (4:30) and Liverpool beat up on Bournemouth with a 4-0 win at Vitality Stadium to go top of the Premier League table (22:15). Plus, thoughts on wins for Tottenham Hotspur (31:50), Manchester United (39:25) and Arsenal (47:55) before the midweek Champions League fixtures.

Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.

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