Major League Soccer Week in Review – Round 17

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The league was back to a full slate of matches for Week 17:

The champs are complete – well, almost: The two-time defending champion Galaxy had something that very closely resembled a first-choice lineup for one of the few times this year. Robbie Rogers started along the left, with Landon Donovan on the right in midfield. Omar Gonzalez and Robbie Keane, critical pieces in the mix, were back from international duty. Result: a 1-0 win over Chivas USA in Major League Soccer’s version of a SuperClasico, a win that upended the Galaxy’s run of three without a win.

The caveat here is that L.A. still has David Beckham’s Designated Player slot open… so we’ll see.

The big streaks: One really stands above the rest, Portland’s 15-game unbeaten streak. There are a few too many ties to make this one truly sexy. Then again, a few more showpiece wins like Sundays, a commanding 3-0 result over visiting and suddenly struggling Colorado, may color this one differently.

And one very nasty streak that was busted: D.C. United won. No … seriously. Chris Pontius’ early penalty kick was enough against visiting San Jose. D.C. United’s 1-0 result snapped a club-record 13-game winless streak.

More Mike Magee magic: How this man, traded away from Los Angeles for Robbie Rogers, has single-handedly ignited Chicago’s offense really is something else.

Magee (pictured) scored once as the Fire took all the points mid-week against Colorado, that time from the penalty spot. Then the American attacker had another goal over the weekend in yet another 2-1 win, this one on the road against Columbus. Magee has 10 goals now in 2012, including four matches with the Fire since his move from L.A. last month. He has six goals in six matches with Chicago including U.S. Open Cup contests.

A star is (re)born in Philly: John Hackworth’s Philadelphia Union have been a little mid-pack-ish this year. And even that has been somewhat tenuous, so much about the surprisingly high scoring rate for 20-year-old striker Jack McInerney. To escape ordinary and begin approaching something special, goals needed to start coming from Conor Casey. And voila! After just three goals in 13 games before Sunday, the 31-year-old striker supplied two in the Union’s win over 10-man New York.

The killer red for Sporting KC: What C.J. Sapong did in Dallas was certainly not the worst thing you’ll ever see in a soccer game. Something like this will never injure another player – but it was just so doggone silly and needless. And when a player checks the box on “silly and needless,” he has given the referee an opportunity to show red. Which is exactly what Mark Geiger did after Sapong kicked a ball (barely … but still) into a fallen Andrew Jacobson, an FC Dallas midfielder.

Worse still, SKC was up 2-0 at the time. But down a man in the Texas heat, the visitors conceded twice late and left with a draw.

The red-hot team we aren’t talking about: Yes, yes … Portland keeps rolling. But what about Real Salt Lake? After dismantling Seattle in Utah on Saturday – don’t let a rather tame 2-0 score fool you; RSL out-shot the visitors 17-2 – the team from Utah is now 8-1-1 in all competitions since April. Not bad for a club in a youth movement.

Houston has a scoring problem: And it’s not just about Round 17, although two more shutouts in this go-round won’t help things one little bit around BBVA Compass Stadium.

Houston even missed a penalty kick in a 2-0 loss to Montreal. (Giles Barnes skied that bad boy by several yards!) And then to get blanked at home by a Toronto side being held together by loanees and Scotch tape? No, things aren’t looking good.  Since pushing four goals past D.C. United in early May, Dominic Kinnear’s team, last year’s league runner-up, has scored twice in six league matches. Yuk.

Goal of the Week:  Chivas USA is usually on the other side of these things. But Tristan Bowen smacked a beauty in the Goats’ mid-week loss to Vancouver. Here it is:

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Chicharito says Mexican team “always feels welcome” in the United States

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Mexico will take on Wales on Monday at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA as they warm up for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Playing in the United States is nothing new for the USMNT’s southern neighbors, and it doesn’t phase them. In fact, they love it.

Star striker Chicharito told reporters that he and the rest of the squad is more than happy playing north of the border, because according to him, apart from a pair of venues, they can’t even tell they’re on the road.

“We always feel welcome here,” Chicharito said. “It’s like our second country, if we can say that, apart from Columbus [Ohio] and apart from the stadium in Miami when we played Colombia…those two stadiums, that’s the only time I’ve felt that we were the away team.”

Chicharito knows that the high population of his countrymen and women in the United States helps the Mexican team feel close to home when they play over the border. He’s all for the melting pot of the US.

“We feel at home [in the United States],” Chicharito said. “We have plenty of Mexicans here, so I don’t know what else to tell you, we feel welcome, we feel glad, happy to be in touch with those people here. They are sacrificing a lot of things, and they are all enjoying their lives that they decide to live in the USA…it’s great. It’s great when you come to another country and you feel like you are home. You see all the stadium green, shouting and screaming your names, screaming your goals, so yeah, it’s great.”

Mexico will play Wales on Monday at 9:00 p.m. ET, and will return home to take on Scotland at Azteca on Saturday at 8:00 p.m. ET.

England international Delph expecting child in middle of World Cup

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England international Fabian Delph could face quite the dilemma if England advances past the group stage of the World Cup.

Delph’s wife Natalie is expecting the couple’s third child on June 30, which is two days after their pivotal group stage match against Belgium, and two days before the squad would take the field July 1 for its Round of 16 game should they win Group G. If they finish second in the group, they would play their Round of 16 game on July 3.

When asked what his plans are, Delph joked that his wife would manage on her own. “She’s tough, she’s a Yorkshire lass so she’ll deal with it,” Delph said with a smile.

He then coughed up the truth: they’re not quite sure what the plan is.

“We’re not 100% certain, with a game on the 28th there might be an opportunity to fly back and then get back fast,” he said. “[England manager] Gareth [Southgate] has been fantastic. There’s nothing more important than family to me – family always comes first and always will.”

There’s another dilemma that Southgate must navigate involving Delph. The 28-year-old is a natural winger, but played wing-back in Pep Guardiola‘s title-winning system for much of the year and saw a massive uptick in form in the new role, playing in place of the injured Benjamin Mendy. Southgate must decide where he wants to deploy Delph – if at all – and if he wishes to fit his formation and tactics to mold Delph’s season under Guardiola.

Authorities drop assault charges against Hope Solo

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KIRKLAND, Wash. (AP) — Prosecutors in Washington state have dropped domestic violence charges against former U.S. national team star goalkeeper Hope Solo.

Solo was charged with two counts of fourth-degree assault in 2014 after police said she assaulted two family members at a home in Kirkland, east of Seattle. The case was delayed by appeals.

KING-TV reports that city prosecutors dropped the charges Wednesday, saying the witnesses in the case wanted to move on with their lives and did not want to participate in a trial. An attorney for Kirkland, Melissa Osman, wrote in court documents that the circumstances were unlikely to be repeated.

The longtime national team goalkeeper and two-time Olympic gold medalist recently ran unsuccessfully for president of the U.S. Soccer Federation. She has called for equal pay and equal treatment for the U.S. women’s team.

Mark Hughes signs new long-term contract at Southampton

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Mark Hughes has gone from Stoke City outcast to Southampton savior in little under six months time.

The Welsh boss was let go from Stoke City with the Potters 18th in the table and headed towards eventual relegation, but he was picked up by fellow relegation candidates Southampton after the departure of Mauricio Pellegrino. He steered the club to safety, finishing three points above the drop in 17th.

With the Saints in the top flight for another season, the club has announced the signing of Hughes to a new three-year contract.

“Mark, Eddie and I are thrilled to have signed long-term contracts with the club. It was the only option we considered, having spent the last eight weeks with the club,” Hughes said of himself and his assistant coaches Mark Bowen and Eddie Niedzwiecki. “Now it is vital that we take the unbelievable support we received from the fans during the last few games into next season. The staff and the players will work hard every day to deliver the success this club deserves, and with everyone pulling together we will achieve our goals.”

Hughes guided Stoke City to three consecutive ninth-placed finishes, the highest the club had ever finished in the English top flight, but they finished 13th last year and regressed even further this campaign. The sale of playmaker Marko Arnautovic was particularly damaging, and the club scored just 35 goals in 38 games as a result.

At Southampton, Hughes took over a club that sat in 17th with just eight matches to go. He lost three Premier League games in a row to start his tenure and only won two league matches with Saints the rest of the way, but managed to keep the club barely afloat.