MLS Week in Review: Round 27

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source:  Fear the Galaxy

Every week we find another reason to see the Galaxy as one of the teams to beat, if not the team to beat, for MLS Cup. (It would mark an unprecedented third in a row for Bruce Arena’s star-strewn team.) This week we were reminded of three of them. Landon Donovan scored again, and that makes five in four league matches since returning from that sensational Gold Cup reminder that he is still the best attackers this country has produced. There was Robbie Keane, who continued to build a solid league MVP case with yet another goal and yet another assist. And there was Jaime Penedo, the Panamanian international who has stabilized the club’s formerly concerning situation in goal. It all came as the Galaxy made pretty easy work of rival San Jose in a 3-0 win at the StubHub Center.

The Galaxy is 4-0-1 in all competitions since the All-Star game, and has not conceded a goal in its last three matches.

Donovan inches closer to goals record

Already U.S. Soccer’s all-time leading scorer and the LA Galaxy’s all-time leading scorer, Donovan has drawn ever so close to Jeff Cunningham’s all-time mark in Major League Soccer. His strike on Saturday against the Earthquakes was No. 132, leaving the 31-year-old forward just two shy of the all-time league mark, which Cunningham took from Jaime Moreno just three years ago. Donovan, who made last week’s big off-field splash by re-signing with the Galaxy, will miss L.A.’s next match while pulling national team duty, but will have six chances after that for records chasing.

The big gamble

You really have to hand it to New York Red Bulls manager Mike Petke, who is not even a full year into his first pro coaching assignment. In polite company we would say it like this: the man has courage.

How else to describe Petke’s decision to bench French superstar and former World Cup winner Thierry Henry? Henry doesn’t always play well with others, wearing his lack of patience with lesser players on his Red Bulls sleeve, frequently showing up his teammates. But that’s nothing new, and everyone seems to tolerate it.

What Petke could not allow, apparently, was a training-ground blow-up on Thursday. They hashed it out, but the upshot was a place for Henry on the bench near Petke for a match the wildly inconsistent Red Bulls absolutely could not afford to squander.

Sure enough — and what a relief for the manager — the Red Bulls prevailed 2-1 over woeful D.C. United.

Eddie Johnson and the coming storm

Clint Dempsey is four games into his highly paid days with Seattle, still stuck on no goals and no assists. But Seattle is winning, so no real pressure points are being reached.

Well, they wouldn’t be except for Eddie Johnson’s brazen message to the club, his “pay me” celebration upon scoring he only goal in Seattle’s weather-delayed win at Columbus.

Johnson’s deal is up at year’s end, he wants to remain in Seattle, and now he is scoring while $5 million man Dempsey isn’t. So you do the professional contract math.

Dempsey and Johnson go way back, so there may not be tension between the pair; Dempsey probably wants to see Johnson get a big, fat raise,too.

But how will the this play with fans, who have right to wonder where Johnson’s true loyalties lie? And how will the rest of the Sounders see Johnson’s self-centered actions with the team in such a healthy place, on such a swell roll, steadily climbing in the West?

Real Salt Lake on a goal tear

Portland was the latest to find itself brushed aside by a Real Salt Lake team that has achieved top offensive gear. After hitting three versus Portland two weeks ago and then four versus Columbus last week, Javier Morales led the offensive way as RSL crushed Portland in Utah, 4-2. With the latest win in Utah, RSL extended its lead in the West and for the Supporters  Shield to five points, although all pursuers within bothering distance have games in hand.

“El Cubo” Torres rising

Chivas USA is getting something out of this season of misery. It’s Erick “El Cubo” Torres, the young striker on loan from mother Chivas, the Liga MX team in Guadalajara.

Torres had two more goals in Sunday’s 2-2 draw in Vancouver, including one very cool overhead kick. That followed last week’s two-goal evening, bringing the young striker’s total this year to six.

While it’s great that Chivas USA fans get something to feel good about this year, Torres is almost sure to be recalled for the Liga MX spring season – so he won’t be around the StubHub Center long.

Sporting KC back on track

Peter Vermes’ team found a rough patch in August, losing three times in league play losing ground in the tightly packed Eastern Conference playoff jostle, naturally)  and finding goals in awfully short supply lately. So a commanding 2-1 victory over visiting Colorado should go far in helping to fortify any sagging confidence around Sporting Park.

Speaking of that match …

The weekend’s top goal

Benny Feilhaber’s can be maddeningly inconsistent, but Sporting KC’s former U.S. national teamed always has a special goal or two lurking about him. He sure dropped a doozy on helpless Colorado goalkeeper Clint Irwin in Round 27, an outside of the foot bender that was as gorgeous as it was audacious. Watch and enjoy …

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USWNT opens Olympic qualifying with win over Haiti

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The USWNT was rusty, that much was clear. Vlatko Andonovski still made sure they took care of business.

Four different goalscorers delivered a 4-0 victory over Haiti to begin CONCACAF Olympic qualification, putting the United States in front of Group A early. Lynn Williams picked up a goal and assist, proving useful on an otherwise sputtery evening for Vlatko Andonovski’s attack.

Just 78 seconds into the game, Williams charged down the right flank and crossed to Christen Press at the far post for the opening goal. Williams’ assist came without the use of her left shoe which she lost while holding off a defender for the bobbling ball.

Despite the early lead, the United States seemed somewhat sluggish as Haiti built themselves into the match. There were few chances on net after the opening goal through the half-hour mark.

Haiti nearly caught the U.S. napping on a corner as the ball found the back of the net on 20 minutes, but the goal was somehow ruled out. It appeared to be for offside, but since it’s impossible to be offside from a corner, there must have been another reason for the official ruling. Nonetheless, it was a clear sign for the USWNT that they needed to pick up the level of play.

The U.S. continued to struggle after halftime, creating very little in front of net. There was a half-chance for Lloyd near the penalty spot but a quality tackle by Kethna Louis put that to bed. Then finally they put the game to bed on a corner, not coincidentally coming just five minutes after Megan Rapinoe entered the fray. Rapinoe delivered a corner to the doorstep where Williams headed in well under pressure, moving her upper body away from goal against the motion of her lower body to reach the delivery.

Another Andonovski substitute paid dividends however as Lindsey Horan scored, again coming off a corner. They played it short and Horan headed from a significant distance out, the ball squirting past the goalkeeper Kerly Theus and Louis who tried to clear off the line. It was clear that Haiti had begun to tire and the USWNT was taking advantage. Up front, Carli Lloyd had a poor game, unable to get involved in attacking play, but she found the scoresheet in stoppage time, bagging a header off a Rapinoe cross in the 93rd minute to finish out the scoring.

Emily Sonnett replaced Kelley O’Hara with 10 minutes to go for Andonovski’s final change, and the USWNT saw the rest of the match out. They have two matches remaining before the knockout stage, set to take on Panama on Friday before the group stage finale against Costa Rica on February 3. The top two teams in the group reach the knockout phase with the semifinals to begin on February 7.

Report: Chelsea may ask Abraham to play through injury

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Chelsea has so far come up empty in its search for a striker, so desperate times may call for desperate measures.

Tammy Abraham, who has been a revelation this season with 13 Premier League goals, went down with an ankle injury late in the 2-2 draw with Arsenal last weekend. The club has tried desperately to find a striker before the Friday transfer window closes, and while the Blues have been linked with Edinson Cavani and Krzysztof Piatek they so far have not had any success in finding a replacement.

Therefore, according to Matt Law of The Telegraph, Chelsea may ask Abraham to play through his injury against Leicester City this weekend. The match is a vital one as Chelsea, sitting fourth in the Premier League table, looks to put separation between themselves and Manchester United while also chasing the third-placed Foxes who sit eight points clear.

The thinking appears to be that Chelsea has a 16-day break between the Leicester City match and their subsequent game against Manchester United in mid-February thanks to the Premier League’s two-week break at the start of the month.

Earlier this month, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admitted regret for not resting a banged up Marcus Rashford, choosing instead to bring him off the bench in an FA Cup match against Wolves. Reports after the match confirmed that Rashford was carrying a single stress fracture in his back at the time of the appearance, and he was hauled off 16 minutes later with scans after the match showing his appearance against Wolves worsened the injury. He now he faces two to three months on the sidelines.

Abraham has also slowed of late after being so heavily used this season. The 22-year-old has logged a massive 2,359 minutes across all competitions this season, including 1,843 out of a possible 2,160 in Premier League play. Abraham scored his first 11 Premier League goals in his first 14 matches of the season, but has just three goals in the last 10 games.

Chelsea has Michy Batshuayi as a natural replacement for Abraham up top, but Frank Lampard has used him as solely a bench option the entirety of this season. Batshuayi has made 14 Premier League appearances this season, but has logged just 138 minutes across those matches. When used as a starter in cup action, Batshuayi has four goals in four domestic cup starts. Olivier Giroud is also on the roster, having made just five Premier League appearances this season.

Ed Woodward’s house attacked by Man United fans with flares

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Manchester United has been unable to reclaim the glory of the Sir Alex Ferguson days, and that has Red Devils fans up in arms. CEO Ed Woodward has taken much of the heat, with the executive unable to prevent the squad from degrading in quality and the team consequently has been unable to consistenly challenge for a top-four place, with his financial background not exactly a fit for his player recruitment position.

Some fans seem to have taken their frustration way too far.

A video emerged on social media claiming to show fans shooting flares at Woodward’s private residence, and reports from Sky Sports and The Daily Mirror corroborated that claim. The club then issued a statement condemning the incident.

“Manchester United Football Club have tonight been made aware of the incident outside the home of one of our employees.”We know that the football world will unite behind us as we work with Greater Manchester Police to identify the perpetrators of this unwarranted attack. Anybody found guilty of a criminal offense, or found to be trespassing on this property, will be banned for life by the club and may face prosecution. Fans expressing opinion is one thing, criminal damage and intent to endanger life is another. There is simply no excuse for this.”

The Sky Sports report claims that neither Woodward nor any of his family – particularly his wife and two children – were present in the home at the time of the attack. The Daily Mirror claims upwards of 20 or 30 fans were part of the attack on the house, with the caption “Ed Woodward’s gonna die” with three red circle emojis all in a Snapchat banner. Sky Sports also reports that red paint was sprayed on the gates of the home.

There are also reports of sickening chants during the recent FA Cup win over Tranmere Rovers, with fans singing about burning Woodward and the club owner Malcom Glazer in a bonfire.

Manchester United has reportedly looked to hire a Director of Football in recent months, but has so far stuck with Woodward as the head of recruitment. The squad has

PL Preview: West Ham v. Liverpool

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  • Liverpool has won 30 of its last 31 Premier League fixtures
  • West Ham is winless in its last 6 PL games against Liverpool
  • The Hammers have just 11 points at home this season, joint-low in the PL

Liverpool can go an obscene 19 points clear at the top of the Premier League table with a win over West Ham on Wednesday, with kickoff from London Stadium at 2:45 p.m. ET live on NBCSN or live online at NBCSports.com.

The Reds will be without Sadio Mane who pulled up in the first half of the win over Wolves. The news was positive, but still the argument could easily be made that Mane is the most important player in the Liverpool lineup, and replacing him will give Jurgen Klopp a headache. He could start Divock Origi on the wing in a direct replacement, but Origi is a striker by nature and would make things narrow on the left flank. He could also move Salah to the left and insert Xherdan Shaqiri on the right, but there’s no guarantee that the Swiss international will be fit enough to play.

Still, Liverpool will be massive favorites to build on its winning streak against a West Ham side limping into the match. The Hammers are vulnerable with a long injury list of their own, with just one win since the festive period. Felipe Anderson, Andriy Yarmolenko, and Jack Wilshere are the most significant of the injured West Ham army, but certainly not the only ones. By the most recent reports, five players will miss the match with another two to be assessed before the match.

The Hammers are only out of the relegation zone thanks to goal differential, and with a brutal upcoming fixture slate that includes another against Liverpool plus games against Man City, Arsenal, Spurs, Wolves, and Chelsea through the end of March, West Ham will have to scrap for every point available.

Injuries/suspensions

West Ham: OUT – Ryan Fredericks (hamstring), Felipe Anderson (back), Andriy Yarmolenko (thigh), Arthur Masuaku (knee), Jack Wilshere (groin). QUESTIONABLE – Robert Snodgrass (knee), Lukasz Fabianski (thigh).

Liverpool: OUT – Sadio Mane (thigh muscle), James Milner (thigh), Nathaniel Clyne (ACL). QUESTIONABLE – Xherdan Shaqiri (calf).


Probable lineups

West Ham: Randolph; Cresswell, Ogbonna, Diop, Zabaleta; Snodgrass, Noble, Rice, Antonio; Lanzini, Haller.

Liverpool: Alisson; Robertson, Gomez, van Dijk, Alexander-Arnold; Henderson, Wijnaldum, Oxlade-Chamberlain; Origi, Firmino, Salah.


What they’re saying

West Ham manager on being huge underdogs: “Everybody gets the chance to throw a punch at some point along the line, and sometimes you can get a lucky one. I’ve never gone into any game not expecting to win. Quite often, you don’t always win, but I really do expect the players to go out there, put a show on, and try and win. If that’s won by a set-piece, a flukey goal, I wouldn’t be bothered. That’s been my attitude throughout my whole career: I want to win. We’ll do everything we can to get points where we can.”

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp on how West Ham will play: “It will be a rather defensive line-up [from West Ham]. If it’s four in the back or five in the back, I don’t know, but we have to be ready for a big fight. They want to strike back, they have a tough program coming up, everybody knows that. They have no points to waste, no time to waste.”


Prediction:

Liverpool is without Sadio Mane, and that’s notable in any Premier League match, but against West Ham it shouldn’t matter. The Reds have been utterly unbeatable defensively, and against a West Ham side missing Felipe Anderson, Jack Wilshere, and Arthur Masuaku plus a banged up Robert Snodgrass, an eighth clean sheet in the last nine matches is likely. The Reds put on a clinic in a comprehensive 3-0 victory.