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Giovani Dos Santos on a new season with the Galaxy, El Tri, and more

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It’s a new year, and that means a fresh start for Giovano Dos Santos.

2017 was a trying year for the 28-year-old. In his second full season with the LA Galaxy, the Mexican star battled injuries and poor form as his MVP-level production from 2016 dropped to scoring just six goals to go with three assists (he had 15 goals and 13 assists in 2016).

There were some worried that Dos Santos, and his brother Jonathan, a holding midfielder for the Galaxy, would drop in form so far that they wouldn’t be able to make as much of an impact with the Mexican National Team.

[MORE: North American bid “afraid” to lose 2026 World Cup]

But after some time off during the winter, Giovani Dos Santos appears fresh and ready to go with a re-vamped LA Galaxy side and for the green, red and white of El Tri.

“I feel we have a really strong team this year,” Dos Santos told PST as part of the Pepsi Generations global soccer campaign. “We’ve been training together for almost two months already, I think the chemistry between everyone is getting better every single day. As a Galaxy player, we know the responsibility and expectations are always high for this team.”

Last season, the Galaxy missed the playoffs for the first time in nearly a decade as the team couldn’t overcome a rash of both long-term and short-term injuries. Robbie Rogers and Sebastian Lleget missed nearly the entire season, while the likes of Dos Santos, Baggio Husidic, Gyasi Zardes, and Daniel Steres all missed significant time due to injuries.

Sigi Schmid was brought in midway through the season but even he couldn’t keep the Galaxy in the playoff picture.

“It’s difficult to explain what happened last year,” Dos Santos said. “Of course expectations are always high for us but I think it was a learning year for everyone. The past is in the past, we learn from it and we’re ready to take over this year.”

With the new year comes a lot of new faces, as well as others returning from injury. The Galaxy signed Giovani’s brother Jonathan last summer and then over the offseason they rebuilt the team’s spine, signing goalkeeper David Bingham, midfielder Perry Kitchen and striker Ola Kamara to go with other role players.

Those moves paid dividends in the first week of the MLS season, with the Galaxy knocking off the Portland Timbers 2-1.

Dos Santos called it a “dream” to be playing again at the club level with his brother, as the pair did together in the Barcelona youth ranks and at Villarreal.

“It’s been incredible to be together with my brother again, to share a moments together in our careers and our lives,” Dos Santos said, noting Jonathan lives with him in Los Angeles. “It’s our dream to be together so we feel blessed to be together again.”

The pair will be spending plenty of time this year together on and off the field, not only in the Galaxy shirt but also the green, white and red of Mexico.

In the prime of his career, assuming he stays healthy, Dos Santos will be expected to make a massive impact for Mexico at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, with El Tri opening up against defending World Cup champion Germany before taking on South Korea and Sweden.

Expectations are sky high for El Tri this summer, with a crop of players who won FIFA youth tournaments in the past finally coming into their prime as well as a number of high-profile players excelling overseas. While Dos Santos has ventured back to North America, the likes of Carlos Salcedo, Hrving “Chucky” Lozano and Jesus “Tecatito” Corona are beginning their European journeys and are expected to help bring Mexico over the fifth-game wall it’s failed to overcome in the past.

Amazingly, despite all the success of El Tri in CONCACAF and even on the world stage, Mexico has never made it past the quarterfinals.

“Obviously we’re going to go to the World Cup with the best expectations,” Dos Santos admitted. “We’re going to go game by game, hopefully we can get through.

“I think we have great players and a great squad,” Dos Santos added. “This is the most important year for the national team, we have the World Cup coming and I’m so excited for it.”

Although he’s left his European career behind for the project of winning a title in MLS, Dos Santos still keeps his eye on his former club in the Premier League, Tottenham, as well as a coach who he never worked with directly but knew from his time in Barcelona.

With the eight-hour time difference between London and Los Angeles, Dos Santos can’t watch many games live, but he said when he gets a chance, he tunes in to the Premier League. He said he’s been particularly impressed with Manchester City this year.

“I was in the first team when he was there,” Dos Santos said, referring to Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola. “I think he’s a great coach and he deserves all the success he’s having now.”

Being an El Tri star, Dos Santos has continental appeal, and he’s making use of that. Dos Santos is part of the 2018 global “Pepsi Generations” soccer campaign, joining forces with former teammate Lionel Messi along with U.S. Women’s National Team star Carli Lloyd, Tottenham’s Dele Alli and Real Madrid pair Marcelo and Toni Kroos.

“I’m really excited to be in this campaign with such an iconic brand like Pepsi around the world and to be able to be alongside with such great players like Messi, Marcelo and Kroos is a blessing,” Dos Santos said.

FIFA considering four bids to host 2023 Women’s World Cup

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FIFA has received bids from Brazil, Japan, Colombia and a joint bid from Australia and New Zealand to host the 2023 Women’s World Cup.

[ MORE: Gerrard extends contract amid strong start as Rangers boss ]

Soccer’s international governing body will now assess the bids, which will include visiting each country. Evaluations will be submitted to the FIFA Council and a vote on the host will be held at the organization’s meeting in Ethiopia next June.

Anticipated bids from South Korea and South Africa were withdrawn before Friday’s deadline.

The 2023 World Cup will feature 32 teams, up from the 24 that competed this summer at the tournament in France. The United States won its second straight World Cup title and fourth overall this year, and the event enjoyed unprecedented television viewership of 1.12 billion worldwide.

“France 2019 was certainly a watershed moment for women’s football, and now it is FIFA’s responsibility to take concrete measures to keep fostering the game’s incredible growth,” FIFA President Gianni Infantino said in a statement. “With the FIFA Women’s World Cup generating an unprecedented interest across member associations, we are ensuring that the process to select the hosts is seamless, objective, ethical and transparent. By the time the FIFA Council announces the hosts, there should be no doubt whatsoever as to why that choice was made.”

[ MORE: Ljungberg wants quick appointment of new Arsenal manager ]

The Japan Football Association has already launched a website hyping its bid, which encourages supporters to submit “My Dream of 2023” hopes for the event. Japan’s association proposes using eight stadiums, including the new National Stadium.

Japan is hosting the Olympics next summer.

Football Federation Australia and New Zealand Football announced the co-confederation bid Friday in Melbourne, just hours before the official bid book was submitted to FIFA.

“There is so much untapped potential, not just in Australia but right across Asia and the Pacific region, that I really do believe we would offer something incredibly special,” said Sam Kerr, a striker for the Matildas, Australia’s national team.

[ MORE: Lampard: Chelsea youngsters can’t worry about January transfers ]

Brazil hosted the men’s 2014 World Cup as well as the 2016 Olympics.

The Korean Football Association had initially pushed to jointly host the games with North Korea at the urging of Infantino but strained inter-Korean relations failed to realize a unified bid. South Korea, which hosted the 2002 men’s World Cup with Japan, announced its withdrawal shortly before Friday’s deadline.

South Africa, which hosted the men’s World Cup in 2014, also withdrew an expected bid.

Gerrard extends contract amid strong start as Rangers boss

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Steven Gerrard is quite keen to stick around as Rangers boss following a strong start to his managerial career, leading the 39-year-old first-time manager to sign a two-year contract extension on Friday.

[ MORE: Ljungberg wants quick appointment of new Arsenal manager ]

With his current contract previously set to run through the 2021-22 season, Gerrard’s services have been secured until the summer of 2024.

Gerrard has been largely successful since taking over the Scottish Premiership side last summer, guiding Rangers to their highest points total (78) since returning to the first division in 2016, and a second-place finish (also for the first time) behind rivals Celtic. Rangers reached the Europa League’s round of 32 on Thursday, marking their first trip to the knockout round of European competition since 2011.

That much success so quickly will undoubtedly lead to Gerrard’s name being linked with increasingly large jobs in England, likely prompting Rangers to act preemptively.

“I’m delighted to be extending my stay at this fantastic football club. When the chairman approached me about the possibility of extending my contract with Rangers, it was a very easy decision to make because I’m very happy and feel that we are building something special together at the club.

“I’d like to thank the board for the backing they have given me already in my time at the club and also most importantly, the Rangers fans who have given me and the team such tremendous backing both this season and last.”

Ljungberg wants quick appointment of new Arsenal manager

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Freddie Ljungberg is honored to serve as Arsenal’s interim manager following Unai Emery’s dismissal, but the Swede is also hoping for a speedy conclusion to the club’s search for a permanent replacement.

[ MORE: Lampard: Chelsea youngsters can’t worry about January transfers ]

In theory, taking over the most famous club for which Ljungberg played was a no-brainer. In practice, though, he openly admits it’s been not only a difficult time for everyone emotionally, but also in terms of the staff members available to assist him during the day-to-day grind. Throw in the fact he has no idea whether or not he’ll still have a role at the club when the new manager arrives, and it’s beginning to sound like a no-win situation. Perhaps he’s being considered to remain in the job permanently, but Ljungberg says he’s been given no indication of any such thing — quotes from the Guardian:

“The club have said I have to wait until they make a decision, so I can’t do anything at the moment. I have Per [Mertesacker] but at the same time he is academy manager. He is helping me with the coaching. The club has said when they make a decision then that’s it — or I’m leaving, obviously — and maybe then we can do something with the staff. But it’s up to the club.

“If you look at the person who was here before, he had a lot of staff and maybe I don’t have so many. So if you keep on going like that for months and months, it’s not so easy. But that’s totally up to the club.”

“I haven’t got any indication of if I’m here or not. What I’ve said to the bosses and the club is I will do everything in my power to do as well as I can for this club and the players. Then obviously it is up to them to make a decision. I try not to put any emotions into that.”

Arsenal came back from a goal down (twice) to draw Norwich City in Ljungberg’s first game in charge, then the Gunners were comprehensively beaten (at home) by Brighton & Hove Albion. The bounced back with a win over West Ham United on Monday, but could only draw Standard Liege (albeit with a weakened team) in the Europa League on Thursday.

Lampard: Chelsea youngsters can’t worry about January transfers

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Frank Lampard knows it’s only natural that some of Chelsea’s youngsters will have worries about the January transfer window and the Blues’ newfound ability to sign players, considering they were only afforded a first-team opportunity by the club’s transfer ban.

[ PL Preview: Chelsea v. Bournemouth ]

He doesn’t, however, want those thoughts and fears to dominate their thoughts for the next three weeks, until the window opens and Chelsea can sign players for the first time since January of this year. As Lampard sees it, the fact he has roughly $200 million to inject into the squad doesn’t necessarily mean they promising teenagers and early-20-somethings will immediately be cast aside. It does, however, mean he has to navigate this very unique set of circumstances extra carefully — quotes from the Guardian:

“I haven’t banned the talk [about the January window], but I am not going to set out to engage in it. If players want to come and see me and talk then I will happily have a conversation with them individually, but that hasn’t happened.

“I speak to them regularly. I can be, not hard on them, but I push them because I think they need that. I think they feel the trust I have in them because they know I’m prepared to give them the opportunities if they train well and they come in the team and play well. I think they should naturally feel a little bit of tension all the time so that’s not the worst thing.

“They just need to work and believe in their own talents because their talent is there for all to see. We also have to be patient with that because it may take different periods of time for them to fully blossom as players. They might have a period in and out of the team, have a run of the games and then not. I am prepared to stick with them through that because I really believe in them.”

22-year-old Tammy Abraham currently sits second in the race for the Premier League Golden Boot with 11 goals in 15 appearances. 21-year-old Christian Pulisic, while not an academy product, has shone brightly of late with a half-dozen goals and nearly as many assists to his name in the last two months. 20-year-old Mason Mount was a surprising revelation in the season’s opening weeks. 21-year-old defender Fikayo Tomori has been a regular starter for the last three months. 20-year-old Reece James has made the starting job at right back his own.

While the temptation to sign high-priced replacements for these budding stars will be hard to resist, perhaps Chelsea would be wiser to sign players in other positions and ride the wave of what could turn out to be a golden generation of homegrown products.