MLS Preview: LA Galaxy at Philadelphia Union

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It’s not just that the Galaxy have lost their last two games. If you want to start worrying about the defending champions (which, you shouldn’t), you can start with LA’s March 30 visit to Toronto. Beginning with that match, a 2-2 draw at BMO, Bruce Arena’s side has only two wins in eight games (counting CONCACAF Champions League). While their two victories were impressive – mauling Sporting Kansas City before a 2-0 victory at Rio Tinto – super team skeptics have given enough fodder to pick from.

But beyond the precedent of last year, when Los Angeles did a spring face plant before retaining their MLS Cup, there’s another reason we should refrain from judging LA took harshly. And thankfully, that reason gives us a great excuse to keep tuning into these uneven performances, even as stars like Robbie Keane, Landon Donovan, and Todd Dunivant are either out or rounding into form.

During these early, low leverage, regular season games, Bruce Arena is testing out the fruits of LA’s development system. Be it from home grown hype of youth national team contributions, they’re players we’ve been hearing about for some time, but as Arena tries them out over the season’s first two months, we’ll see which prospects can have an impact on LA’s question for a third-straight title:

  • Twenty-two year old Greg Cohchrane has been getting Dunivant’s starts at left back, and while early returns have been mixed (he struggled this weekend in Vancouver), that’s what this process is all about. Arena gets to see who will and won’t be part of the puzzle come August.
  • Jack McBean, who doesn’t turn 19 until December, is out with a broken (and since, repaired) clavicle. When he returns, he looks set to have some role in Arena’s attack. In seven appearances (370 minutes), the home grown product has a goal and two assists.
  • Jose Villarreal, a key to the U.S> qualifying for this summer’s U-20 World Cup, is getting playing time at 19, posted a goal and an assist in 348 minutes.
  • Midfielder Hector Jimenez has been given two starts, highly-touted Gyasi Zardes is back from injury, while rookie Charlie Rugg already has his first MLS goal.

Beyond the production, the important thing about this group is there mere playing time. Whether they’ll see as many minutes at the end of the year – after the Galaxy get fully healthy, acquire a third Designated Player, and potentially shop for another Christian Wilhelmsson – remains to be seen, but tonight in Philadelphia, you’ll likely see a number of the Galaxy kids on display.

For all those prospects, the trip to Chester presents an intriguing test. It’s a very winnable game, particularly with Omar Gonzalez fully capable of neutralizing Jack McInerney. The Union, a weak attack even when Jack Man’s on form, have only six non-McInerney goals in 15 games. Gonzalez may have his hands full with Conor Casey, but with McInerney already on seven goals, the Galaxy will be sure to have the league’s best defender keep an eye on the ascending poacher.

If Gonzalez and A.J. DeLaGarza can limit McInerney, then Landon Donovan, Mike Magee, and that strong midfield duo should be able to take full points at PPL Park. If any of the kids chip in, they’ll improve their odds of playing a part when Arena’s team truly comes together.

Mexico receives FIFA fine for insulting chant

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FIFA handed a $10,400 fine down to Mexico on Wednesday for “discriminatory and insulting chants” that occurred during El Tri’s 1-0 victory over Germany.

[ MORE: Spain tops Iran after overruled goal ]

The FIFA disciplinary committee reportedly levied the fine to Mexico for directing a derogatory chant towards German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.

“The FIFA Disciplinary Committee has sanctioned the Mexican Football Federation (FMF) with a fine of CHF 10,000 for the misconduct of a group of Mexican fans (cf. art. 67 of the FIFA Disciplinary Code) in relation to discriminatory and insulting chants during the first half of the 2018 FIFA World Cup match played between Germany and Mexico,” FIFA declared in a press release.

The Mexican Football Federation has aimed to eliminate an ongoing epidemic of homophobic chants that supporters have screamed during goal kicks for some time.

El Tri was sanctioned 12 times during CONCACAF World Cup qualifying for those chants.

Ronaldo explains his new chin hair at World Cup

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Now that Cristiano Ronaldo has taken to sporting a reasonable hairstyle atop his head, people are talking about the foliage on his face.

[ RECAP: Morocco 0-1 Portugal ]

Ronaldo, 33, drew speculation when he stroked his chin following a goal in his hat trick performance against Spain in the World Cup opener. Some said he was demonstrating defiance against Lionel Messi posing with a goat (Greatest Of All Time) in a recent photograph.

Ronaldo scored again on Wednesday, and there was seemingly little doubt his goatee was a wink to the speculators. But what did it mean, CR7? From ESPN:

“This goatee? It’s a joke I had with [Ricardo] Quaresma. “We were in the sauna [before Friday’s match against Spain] and I started to shave and I left the goatee. I said if I score tomorrow, I would leave it for the rest of the tournament. And it gave me luck.

“I scored in that game, I scored in this one, so it stays.”

Personally, I like to imagine Ronaldo starting to get as wild with his facial hair as he did his head hair.

Perhaps a beatnik style, or something like Serj Tankian from System of a Down. Get nuts, C-Ron.

Report: Southampton could sell Tadic to Ajax for $20m

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Could Southampton be selling one of its most creative forces?

Dusan Tadic, 29, is in the middle of a World Cup run with dark horse Serbia, but the Saints star is also being talked about as a purchase item for Ajax.

[ MORE: Serbia tops Costa Rica ]

The celebrated Eredivisie has traditionally been a selling club for the Premier League, but could be a $20 million buy for Ajax.

The report says director of players Marc Overmars and financial director Jeroen Slop have flown to Southampton to work out a deal.

Tadic starred for Dutch sides Groningen and Twente between 2010-14 before moving to St. Mary’s for a reported $12 million.

He’s scored 24 goals with 35 assists in 162 appearances for Saints, 21 and 30 of which came in the Premier League.

Toronto locks down USMNT backstop Bono with extension

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Toronto FC goalkeeper Alex Bono is going to stay Toronto FC goalkeeper Alex Bono.

[ RECAP: Morocco 0-1 Portugal ]

The newly-capped USMNT backstop, 24, has been attracting interest from abroad since breaking past Clint Irwin to win the TFC job and guiding the club to multiple MLS Cup Finals.

Now general manager Tim Bezbatchenko has locked down his young goalkeeper to an undisclosed contract extension. From TorontoFC.com:

“Alex was a big part of our success last season. He set club records for wins and clean sheets and was a critical piece of our championship team,” said Toronto FC Sr. Vice-President, Soccer Operations & General Manager Tim Bezbatchenko. “Since joining the club as a first round pick in 2015, Alex’s ability to make key saves in big moments has been critical to our success.”

The Syracuse-born product of Syracuse University has made 64 appearances for the Reds.