Talking Houston, El Tri, Chivas loan with Erick “Cubo” Torres; Ready to “do all the right moves” in MLS

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2014 was a heck of year for Erick “Cubo” Torres. The young striker scored his first senior goal for the Mexican national team, starred for Chivas USA during its final year in Major League Soccer and watched an uncertain club future play out before finding a home with the Houston Dynamo.

Now on loan to Chivas Guadalajara, Torres can focus on his game knowing his national coach likes him and his club isn’t going anywhere. Torres, 22, traded some Q&A with PST during a promotional tour celebrating a relationship between his Mexican club’s relationship with Tecate/Tecate Light in the United States.

Torres isn’t headed back to MLS for a little bit still, but the striker has been encouraged not only by the Houston community but the support of Mexico head coach Miguel Herrera for those El Tri players plying their trade in the U.S.

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“It’s very meaningful to hear what my mentor and teacher Miguel Herrera has expressed,” said Torres, who netted his first El Tri goal in October versus Panama.

“He has influenced a big deal in my decision to remain in the MLS, now with the Dynamo in Houston, because just like the national Mexican soccer Team, Miguel’s advice has motivated me a lot. The eyes are on the MLS, and my efforts are being looked (at). It’s important that everybody sees the work that is being done in the MLS.”

Torres mentioned DaMarcus Beasley as a player he’s most interested in getting to know, and playing alongside, noting Beasley’s vast experience and time in Mexico. And he mentioned that Dynamo fans’ welcoming thoughts on social media have been a boon to his confidence, and that Houston’s ethnic diversity is a big part of his comfort.

“The Hispanic community in Houston, it’s very important,” he said. “It’s a beautiful city, where I will feel very comfortable, since its so close to my country and where there is a lot of people who will make me feel at home.”

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Torres has found playing time tight for relegation-threatened Chivas Guadalajara

But Torres wasn’t averse to discussing his wild 2014. The striker and his Chivas USA teammates had to watch as fans speculated about the future of the club, Los Angeles “rebrand” badges were bandied about, and the league eventually decided that the Goats would be no more. I asked Torres whether he was relaxed or anxious about the impending changes.

“Honestly, I was very excited for this new change in my life and career, a new type of soccer and new lifestyle overall change,” said Torres, who exploded for 15 goals in 26 matches last season with the Goats.

“I thank God because I’ve had a lot support from a lot of people who helped in this transition process and quickly adapt to the new city and the MLS. I took this challenge with a lot of enthusiasm because I knew it was going to be a good opportunity to move forward in my career.”

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He’s also relishing the loan, even knowing Houston could try to trigger its end before May 13.  A lifelong Chivas fan raised in Guadalajara, moving away from his boyhood club hasn’t been easy.

Knowing that Chivas is not entirely safe from Liga MX relegation doesn’t make it less difficult, and finding playing time in a forward corps of Omar Bravo, Aldo de Nigris, and Rafael Marquez Lugo hasn’t been easy work, either. But Torres knows there’s a greater good despite being limited to a pair of substitute appearances for Guadalajara since Jan. 18.

We asked Torres about his goals for the season ahead, with Chivas, Houston and Mexico.

“Now that I’m with Chivas I’d like to close this tournament the best way possible, try to add more goals and minutes as wells as in the near future be able to play with the national soccer team, because there are important events coming such as Copa America and Copa Oro. In either of this two events, there could be an open opportunity for young players, so I¹m definitely working towards that. Also, there is an interesting process with the national team within my category and I am concentrating fully putting my mind in representing my country. After incorporating with my new team in Houston, I hope to adapt as fast as I can to do all the right moves.”

Torres should thrive in Houston, and it’ll be interesting to monitor how Herrera uses “Cubo” this summer. The striker was dynamite to watch in 2014 and should help the Owen Coyle’s Dynamo be a part of the discussion in a loaded Western Conference.

*Many thanks to Tecate’s Gustavo Guerra and Shaun Levy for arranging the discussion with Torres.

Crystal Palace – Chelsea, Watford – Norwich: Stream, How to watch

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Crystal Palace – Chelsea promises to be an intriguing clash at Selhurst Park on Tuesday (start time, 1pm ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) in a London derby, while Watford – Norwich is a massive game in the relegation battle (start time, 1pm ET online via NBCSports.com).

Christian Pulisic continues to be the main man for Chelsea as the USMNT star put in another superb display in their 3-0 win against Watford and the Blues remain on track to finish in the top four and qualify for the Champions League. As for Palace, they have lost their last three games on the trot without scoring and Roy Hodgson’s side look destined for a midtable finish.

CRYSTAL PALACE – CHELSEA STREAM LIVE

WATFORD – NORWICH STREAM LIVE

As for Watford, they need a win to boost their survival hopes and if they get it, they will send bottom club. Norwich even closer to their relegation zone.

Below is everything you need to know ahead of Crystal Palace – Chelsea and Watford – Norwich.


Team news

Palace will be without James Tomkins, Jeffrey Schlupp and Martin Kelly, while Hodgson may bring back Cheikhou Kouyate and Scott Dann who were rested.

Chelsea will be without N’Golo Kante and Mateo Kovacic through injury, as Billy Gilmour starts in central midfield.

Watford bring in Masina and Welbeck after the loss at Chelsea.

Norwich bring Pukki back into the starting lineup.

Odds and ends (full matchweek odds)

Crystal Palace are huge underdogs (+650) as Chelsea (-220) are the red-hot favorites given their three wins from their first four games of the restart. The tie at +335 is where the value is at because as we saw with Chelsea’s shock defeat at West Ham last week, they can be dominated from set pieces and hit on the counter. Those two aspects are huge strengths of Palace’s game.

Watford are the favorites (-152) while Norwich (+440) are hoping for their first win, and points, since the restart. The tie at +285 seems intriguing to me.

Predictions

We are all expecting a Chelsea win here but don’t be surprised if Wilfried Zaha has a day at makes it a very tough outing for this leaky Chelsea defense. Palace have been fired up and shocked Chelsea before but I think the Blues, led by Pulisic, have too much for Palace. 3-1 to Chelsea. As for Watford against Norwich, I’m going for a 1-1 draw. Watford have been bad since the restart and Norwich have nothing to play for, really. That is dangerous.

Transfer news: Ake to Man United; Rice to Chelsea

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In the latest transfer news Nathan Ake has been linked with a move to Manchester United, while Declan Rice could be heading back to Chelsea.

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Starting in Manchester, a post-game chat between Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Nathan Ake has turned heads following Man United’s 5-2 win against Bournemouth at the weekend.

Apparently Solskjaer told Ake: “We need a left-footed centre-back, so keep going.”

Ake, 25, has been linked with a return to Chelsea (who have a $48 million buy-back clause) and Manchester City, but it appears Nathan Ake to Manchester United has some legs. Solskjaer has been looking for a new center back with Kalidou Koulibaly, Dayot Upamecano and others linked to line up alongside Harry Maguire.

Victor Lindelof has struggled at times and is ahead of Eric Bailly in the pecking order and Man United do need to strengthen their defense slightly as they have plenty of options in midfield and attack, although a new true holding midfield could be a must in the next few windows.

If Bournemouth are relegated from the Premier League, Ake will surely leave and Man United could pick him up for a lot less than $48 million.

Declan Rice to Chelsea
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Switching to west London, Declan Rice could be heading back to Chelsea this summer.

A report from The Times states that Chelsea want Rice, 21, to return and become a ball-playing center back to shore up their defensive unit.

The report goes on to state that the boyhood Chelsea fan is seen as the perfect successor to John Terry at the heart of the Chelsea defense.

Rice has shone in recent weeks and is the one player in West Ham’s team who has been consistent despite their struggles at the wrong end of the Premier League table this season.

Chelsea have been searching high and low for defensive reinforcements and want more power and strength at center back. Rice can play at center back and in a three he would be prefect. His main position is in holding midfield and his flexibility to strengthen Chelsea’s shaky defense would be key. Rice is close friends with Mason Mount and after leaving Chelsea’s academy as a 14-year-old he has forged out a very good career for himself as a regular for West Ham and England.

Rice would cost a huge sum and this move to Chelsea may hinge on whether or not West Ham are relegated in the final weeks of the 2019-20 Premier League season.

Mexico boss: Jimenez should move to Man United, if he leaves Wolves

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Mexico boss Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino has said Raul Jimenez should move to Manchester United, if he leaves Wolves.

Jimenez, 29, has been consistently linked with a move to Manchester United, Juventus, Barcelona, Real Madrid and other European giants and the in-form striker has scored 24 goals in all competitions for the Premier League side this season.

Now his El Tri boss has weighed in on the speculation and speaking to ESPN show Futbol Picante, Martino said he would prefer Raul Jimenez to join Manchester United over Juventus if he left Wolves.

“Looking at it from the outside today I cannot see a specialist No. 9 like Raul at United,” Martino said. “There are many forwards like [Marcus] Rashford, [Anthony] Martial and the boy who now plays as right winger: [Mason] Greenwood but since Romelu Lukaku left I can’t see a pure No. 9 like Raul. At Juventus he will have more of a fight because [Cristiano] Ronaldo shares the inside of the pitch with whoever plays alongside him, with [Paulo] Dybala or with [Gonzalo] Higuain and maybe he has a tougher fight there.”

Martino went on to state that he wants Jimenez to do whatever he feels happiest doing and moving to a ‘super club’ doesn’t always work out, as he knows from his one season in charge of Barcelona. Martino also brought up the fact that Jimenez has been at Atletico Madrid and Benfica before and that didn’t really work out, so perhaps staying at Wolves is best for Mexico’s star striker.

“Maybe he wants a bigger challenge because he feels that he is in good shape and has to take advantage of it, maybe he wants to stay in this place, maybe the options you read about are not real and do not exist,” Martino said. “I think the best thing is for Raul to make the decision based on the analysis he makes and with the consensus of his family because, when it comes to enjoying, not only the player suffers and enjoy, but also the family do it.”

Jimenez will be linked with plenty of top clubs this summer and he hasn’t exactly slammed the door on links to some of Europe’s big boys in the past. His manager at Wolves, Nuno Espirito Santo, responded to Martino’s comments by saying: “It’s not the moment to think about anything else. I’m sure Raul is totally, 100% focused on what he has to do at Wolves.”

Since he arrived at Wolves in the summer of 2018 he’s scored 41 goals in 92 games in all competitions and has become one of the top central strikers in the Premier League. His hold-up and link-up play is envied across the league and Martino is right, he would fit in well at Man United as Anthony Martial could move out wide.

Manchester United probably don’t need to sign another striker, though, so Jimenez heading to Juve or one of the Spanish giants makes more sense. Watch this space.

PHOTOS: New Chelsea away kit for 2020-21 unveiled

New Chelsea away kit
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The new Chelsea away kit for 2020-21 has been unveiled and the Blues will wear it for the first time against Crystal Palace on Tuesday (start time, 1pm ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Chelsea have gone back to a sky blue away jersey and the design has a herringbone knit throughout, which is the same as their new home jersey for the 2020-21 season which debuted last week.

The west London club state that this away kit “adds an injection of millennial swagger – perfect for the confident, emerging talents lighting up Stamford Bridge under head coach Frank Lampard.”

When it comes to a a new Chelsea kit, or any new kit for that matter, there are always plenty of amateur fashion designers out there. But the response to this new away jersey has been largely positive.

They also have a new shirt sponsor in telecommunications company “Three UK” and you can’t really miss their sponsorship logo on the front of the shirt.

Check out the photos below to see what Christian Pulisic and Co. will be wearing in the Premier League next season, and Frank Lampard hopes it will be worn in the Champions League too as the Blues continue to push to seal a top four finish in his debut season in charge at Stamford Bridge.

This new Chelsea kit, like most kits, will divide opinion.