In defense of Chelsea: The best team won, and looked just fine doing it

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Chelsea are the champions of England, and anyone holding a gripe with the Blues’ title simply harbors some other form of resentment for the London club.

In some ways it pains me to say it — in different ways, Diego Costa and John Terry are arguably more dastardly villains than Luis Suarez — but there’s no question Chelsea are deserved champions, and the best offensive and defensive team in England.

And before we go any further, “looked just fine” refers to how they played with the ball, attacked and defender, not in how Jose Mourinho claimed an official’s conspiracy against Chelsea, nor in the Blues’ swarming of referees whenever Oscar decided to turn a foul into a near-fatal threat to his life.

“Boring, boring Chelsea” is the refrain being sung around critical circles this week and last, criticizing Mourinho’s unit simply by analyzing score lines without the back-up of proof.

[ MORE: Top seven moments of Chelsea’s season ]

Consider the “false nine” 0-0 draw against Arsenal in late April, a match whose first-half alone could’ve seen three or four goals has Michael Oliver reached for his whistle on penalty claims at the Emirates Stadium. Chelsea looked just as dangerous as Arsenal despite not playing a true striker. This wasn’t some brash move from Mourinho, rather his answer to injuries to Diego Costa and Loic Remy.

And the Blues avenged both of their losses so far this season. After falling 2-1 at Newcastle, Chelsea handled the Magpies 2-0 at Stamford Bridge a month later. The wide-open, thrilling 5-3 loss to Spurs at White Hart Lane? Chelsea got its revenge with a comprehensive 2-0 win in the League Cup final.

The Blues have scored the second-most goals, just two shy of Manchester City, while allowing the fewest. They have a 13-point lead in the table and have won in almost any manner imaginable. More importantly, Chelsea has taken 13 of 21 points while giving a total of four to their Top Five rivals in head-to-head contests this season.

Chelsea vs. The Top Five
Arsenal: 2-0 (H), 0-0 (A)
Manchester City: 1-1 (H), 1-1 (A)
Manchester United: 1-1 (A), 1-0 (H)
Liverpool: 2-1 (A), Saturday (H)

source: AP
Sliding his way to a League Cup celebration

Which team carries legit complaints? Arsenal will point to injuries and their perceived attacking style, but they’ve been blanked the Blues by five-straight occasions. In both losses this year, the Gunners managed a single shot on target. As for Arsene Wenger’s laughable thought that it’s easier to win when you’re in first, maybe that’s somehow true for Chelsea, but it hasn’t been the case for the Gunners.

Man City can claim it won a better-looking title last year, yes, but this year it lost to four teams that finished ninth or worse. Chelsea has one loss like that (to a then-contending Newcastle team which has since imploded). And that better-looking title came with a pair of losses to the Blues, but I suppose that’s digression. Pellegrini is also a man who claimed he had too much flair and not enough grinders at Real Madrid, so there’s that.

[ MORE: Chelsea wins in record fashion ]

As for Manchester United, you’ll remember that Louis van Gaal was faced with similar criticism during the 2014 World Cup run with the Netherlands, so we doubt he’d do anything but applaud his friend Jose.

I have a Dutch friend who will tell me this is a “very American” way of thinking, but Chelsea won matches in almost every way imaginable this season, and would’ve been foolish to keep up any sort of run-and-gun mentality with a big table lead and injured strikers.

The fact is that Chelsea is the best team in the Premier League, and accumulated more than enough style points on the journey to forgive a slightly more defensive style in securing the title.

La Liga roundup: Atletico Madrid win first opener in four years

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Spain’s top flight is two days into a new season, and here’s a roundup of all of Sunday’s action.

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Atletico Madrid 1-0 Getafe

It wasn’t done in aesthetically pleasing fashion, but Atletico Madrid won their first opening season game in four years.

In fact, the first half was rough with both Atletico and Getafe loosing players to straight red cards. Getafe’s Jorge Molina saw red for a studs-up challenge in the 38th minute, while Renan Lodi was asked to leave the field in his debut for Los Colchoneros. 

Summer signing Alvaro Morata proved to be the difference for Atletico, however. Assisted by former Tottenham fullback Kieran Trippier, the team’s academy product scored early on in the 23rd minute – the goal made Atletico one of eight clubs to start the season with three points.

$140 million signing Joao Felix also made his La Liga debut, and impressed the home crowd with a dazzling run in the second half that ended drawing a penalty for Atletico. Morata missed.

Not the smoothest of games for Diego Simeone’s side, but like Real Madrid, they already have an edge on Barcelona.

Espanyol 0-2 Sevilla 

Julen Lopetegui can finally breathe (and coach) in peace.

Following a series of unfortunate events with the Spanish national team and Real Madrid, Lopetegui and Sevilla started their new era in a winning way.

Sergio Reguilon got things started for the visiting side with a tap in inside the six-yard box. And in the final minutes, no stranger to stepping up for Sevilla, Nolito slotted one past Diego Lopez.

With only two shots on frame to speak for them, Espanyol was one, two steps behind Los Hispalenses, who look for another top-six finish in Spain’s top-flight league.

Sevilla’s young quest for that continues as they travel to Granada. Meanwhile, Espanyol have no time to waist with a Europa League play-off bout against Ukrainian side Zorya lined up midweek.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Real Betis 1-2 Real Valladolid

Alaves 1-0 Levante

Report: Edinson Cavani set to join Inter Miami next summer

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Edinson Cavani is reportedly set to make a big splash in Florida.

According to Uruguayan journalist Alvaro Izquierdo, Cavani, 32, is set to join David Beckham’s Inter Miami next summer. The club will make their MLS debut next season.

The specifics of the supposed move are not know, but per the report from Izquierdo, Cavani will join Miami on a free transfer after his contract with PSG expires in June. Since joining in 2013, El Matador has been irreplaceable for the French giants, scoring over 160 goals and becoming the club’s all-time leading goalscorer. This season, Cavani is off to a perfect start -scoring in the first two games of the Ligue 1 season.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

The striker is one of the first superstars linked to Miami, but the general vibe given off by owners Jorge Mas and Beckham is that the club will look to spend big – similar to Atlanta United, LAFC and LA Galaxy.

Miami has signed three players so far ahead of their 2020 MLS debut – Christian Makoun, Julian Carranza, and Matias Pellegrini all currently makeup the squad.

‘But hey this is MLS’: Wayne Rooney slams MLS’ travel arrangements

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Wayne Rooney is not a fan of MLS’ travel arrangements.

D.C. United lost 1-0 to the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday in Canada, and had to fly back to the nation’s capital before prepping for a midweek showdown with visiting New York Red Bulls. To the 33-year-old Englishmen the trip should’ve taken six hours, not half a day.

MLS is notoriously known for the lack of charter flights it offers its teams, a mere four per season is the reported amount each team is allocated. Traveling on commercial flights has caused routine delays for a slew of team’s this season, with certain teams arriving only hours before the first whistle in some cases.

Players, however, will reportedly push for better travel in the upcoming CBA negotiations. Not only for Rooney, but for the majority of professional athletes around the world, flying charter is customary.

Upon his arrival to D.C. in 2018, Rooney turned down first-class flights offered by the Black-and-Red, among other fine accommodations. “If you are going to be part of the team, you have to be part of the team,” Rooney said on his decision to reject first-class flights and private hotel rooms. “All in and do the same things. I don’t want special treatment — I wanted to be treated the same as the players. I’m part of this team.”

Rooney, despite being on his way out of D.C. to join Derby County in January, is certainly a part of the team.

He is also now a part of the complex fight for better travel in MLS.

Vela scores 24th, LAFC clinches playoff berth

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SANDY, Utah (AP) – Carlos Vela scored his MLS-leading 24th goal of the season, Tyler Miller had four saves and Los Angeles FC beat Real Salt Lake 2-0 on Saturday night to clinch a playoff berth.

LAFC played a man down after defender Walker Zimmerman, who was shown a yellow card for time wasting in the 17th minute, was given a red for unsporting behavior in the 48th., Real Salt Lake’s Aaron Herrera, who blocked two would-be goals in the first half, was shown a straight red for denial of a goal scoring opportunity on Vela, who then converted from the spot to make it 1-0 in the 64th minute.

Vela, whose 15 assists are tied with Diego Valeri of the Portland Timbers for the league lead, broke the MLS record for combined goals and assists. Sebastian Giovinco’s had 22 goals and 16 assists for Toronto FC in 2015.

Miller has eight shutouts this season for LAFC (18-3-4), who have won four consecutive games and seven of their last eight dating to June 28.

Adama Diomande side-netted a rising right-footer to cap the scoring in the 82nd minute.

Salt Lake (12-10-4) had its six-game unbeaten streak, including three straight wins, snapped and allowed multiple goals for the first time since a 4-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls on June 1.