MLS Season Preview: LA Galaxy

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After failing to make it to their third-straight MLS Cup final last season, it’s very much a case of unfinished business for LA in 2014.

With a fired up Landon Donovan back and set to break the MLS goalscoring record, Robbie Keane captaining the side and Omar Gonzalez ready to hit the ground running before he heads to the World Cup in Brazil, LA have some stunning players who will help lead the charge for a title.

LA are seeking a record-breaking fifth Supporters Shield and MLS Cup title, plus their second CONCACAF title when they square off against Liga MX side Club Tijuana in March in an epic border battle. With trophies to fight for on multiple fronts, the Galaxy have strengthened and have a large squad full of MLS experience but still have plenty of young talent coming through the ranks as Homegrown products, such as Gyasi Zardes, are expected to have a big year.

LATEST 2014 MLS PREVIEWS, RIGHT HERE

With a young team augmented by veterans, LA are hoping more silverware arrives at the StubHub Center in 2014 under legendary MLS head coach Bruce Arena.

Transfers In: Baggio Husidic (Free transfer, Hammarby), Rob Friend (Free transfer, Eintracht Frankfurt), Stefan Ishizaki (Free transfer, Elfsborg) Samuel (Loan, Fluminese)

Transfers Out: Colin Clark (Option declined), Laurent Courtois (Option declined), Sean Franklin (Option declined), Michael Stephens (Out of contract), Pablo Mastroeni (Retired), Jose Villarreal (Loan to Cruz Azul), Hector Jimenez (Trade to Columbus), Kyle Nakazawa (Retired)

source: Reuters
Keane, right, will be LA’s go-to man once again this season. But will his age be a factor?

Key Player: Robbie Keane

The Irish superstar is coming off a sensational second full season in MLS and with a new long-term contract signed, Keane’s days of terrorizing MLS defenders are far from over. Keane’s clinical finishing has resulted in 34 goals and 21 assists in 55 regular season games. Yeah, he’s that good. At the age of 33 he is slowing down a little but a double Achilles surgery over the offseason means he should be refreshed and ready to take a charge at yet another MLS Cup. Can ‘Keano’ lead the Galaxy into another season of success? You bet. When you have predatory skills like his around the box, it doesn’t matter how many miles you have on the clock. His famous celebration will be on show around MLS plenty of time this season. No doubt.

Manager: Bruce Arena is the master of rebuilding squads, but he really doesn’t have to do that with LA. 2013 goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini didn’t fare too well in MLS but his replacement Jaime Pinedo looks a real star. The only long-term LA player who left over the offseason was Sean Franklin, as the Galaxy should mount another assault on MLS’ finest. Arena’s no-nonsense approach and his ability to integrate MLS youngsters in with stars shouldn’t be underestimated. Plus his new long-term contract brings stability to the Galaxy.

Outlook: If LA isn’t in the Western conference final, it would be a huge surprise. Sure Donovan and Keane are aging but with their star quality and Arena building a solid team around Gonzalez in defense, LA will be tough to beat this year. It could be a roller-coaster year, but I’m thinking LA will finish in the top two in the West and go deep in the playoffs.

Yaya Toure talks future, wants to play with Paul Pogba

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There is very little debate: Yaya Toure is his own special case.

The longtime Manchester City midfielder does what he wants, flies his own flag, has the worst agent in the game, and is pleased or dismayed in unusual ways.

[ UCL: What would Real 3-peat mean? ]

Toure, 35, has been linked with a move to NYCFC now that he’s leaving Man City, but the Ivorian still wants to play two more seasons for a Champions League or Europa League club.

And he wants to get together with Paul Pogba. You can see where this is going… (from The Manchester Evening News):

“Pogba is the same size, power – but different in the way he wants to go. Technically as well, the ability to score goals as well. It is a player I want to play with, to be honest, just to teach him some things.”

That must mean both are going to Paris Saint-Germain because… Yaya at Manchester United? No way, right? Right? Even with last year’s reports from his — again — terrible agent that it was an option, that still seems too villainous.

“I don’t rule big teams out. The big teams are very important for me. What they want to achieve, the way they want to go, for me is very important. … I want to go somewhere I can win and achieve. It’s going to be hard one day to play against City, but I have to do that. It is part of my job.”

Toure later said he was “no good in an office,” which had us thinking, well, what if they properly celebrated your birthday, Yaya?

WATCH: Miami United midfield unleashes Open Cup laser

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Tomas Granitto, have yourself an extra plate at the postgame buffet.

The Miami United midfielder scored a gorgeous goal in Wednesday’s 2-0 win over fellow NPSL side Jacksonville Armada in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup’s third round.

[ MORE: 3 Key Battles for UCL Final ]

Complete with aesthetically-pleasing post-ping, the former El Salvador U-20 player laid into a 25-yard shot to open the scoring in Florida.

Granitto, 24, has played for Timbers 2, Swope Park Rangers, FC Edmonton, since leaving NCAA side Florida Gulf Coast.

Rondon wanted by Atleti, Inter Milan, and West Ham

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The big boys are looking to Salomon Rondon as a bargain striker.

Yes, $22 million is a bargain in the striker market these days.

[ MORE: Napoli hires Ancelotti ]

West Brom’s Venezuelan international, 28, stands 6’2″ and has a relegation release clause that is reportedly interesting Inter Milan, Atletico Madrid, and West Ham United.

Atleti and Inter are in the Champions League next season, but Rondon played for new West Ham boss Manuel Pellegrini at Malaga, posting 25 league goals in two seasons.

He’s scored 24 goals in three Premier League seasons at West Brom, almost a quarter of the 104 produced by the Baggies.

He also picked up three assists this season as the target man for Tony Pulis, Alan Pardew, and Darren Moore (and was fouled more often than any other Baggie (Baggy?)).

Rondon and Marko Arnautovic next to each other would be a real handful for PL defenses. Then again, maybe he’ll stay loyal to West Brom and set the Championship scoring record next season.

Three German organizers of 2006 World Cup indicted for tax evasion

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FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) Three German organizers of the 2006 World Cup have been charged with tax evasion linked to a payment to FIFA.

German news agency dpa reported that Theo Zwanziger, Wolfgang Niersbach and Horst R. Schmidt confirmed Wednesday they are indicted by Frankfurt prosecutors in a long-running investigation.

[ MORE: 3 Key Battles for UCL Final ]

They are accused of falsifying tax returns on behalf of the Germany soccer federation (DFB) in 2006. The DFB has already paid 19.2 million euros ($22.4 million) in back taxes. All three deny the charges, which were first reported by German daily Bild

The allegations are also being investigated by Swiss federal prosecutors and FIFA’s ethics committee. They have targeted German soccer great Franz Beckenbauer, who led the 2006 tournament organizing committee.

Beckenbauer, Zwanziger and Niersbach were members of FIFA’s executive committee in turn from 2007 through 2016.

In 2016, the DFB published an inquiry report into a complex payments trail including 6.7 million euros ($7.8 million) to FIFA in April 2005. Zwanziger and the DFB claimed the money was for a World Cup opening gala and therefore tax-deductible.

However, the payment went through FIFA and ended in a Swiss account belonging to former Adidas chief Robert Louis-Dreyfus, who died in 2009.

The inquiry report did not rule out, but could not prove, that votes were bought when Germany beat a Nelson Mandela-supported South Africa bid for the hosting rights in a 12-11 vote of FIFA executive committee members in 2000.

Swiss prosecutors said in 2016 they had opened a criminal proceeding against the four German officials the previous year, on suspicion of fraud, money laundering, criminal mismanagement and misappropriation. That case spun off from a wider Swiss investigation of suspected corruption linked to FIFA and World Cup hosting votes that is ongoing.

Niersbach lost his seat on FIFA’s ruling committee when he was banned for one year for failing to disclose possible unethical conduct.

The various investigations have tarnished the reputation of the 2006 World Cup that was a popular success in the host nation, which called it the “Summer Fairytale.”