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Chicharito seizes chance to be center of the Galaxy

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Carson, Calif. — Javier Hernandez has been to the top of the soccer world. He spent the last 10 years in Europe’s top leagues, winning trophies and representing some of the biggest clubs.

Yet from Manchester United to Sevilla, the Mexican striker better known as Chicharito often struggled to get consistent playing time.

Whether his path was blocked by Wayne Rooney‘s brilliance or a manager’s lack of confidence in him, Hernandez rarely got to show his full talent. When he wasn’t fighting injuries, he often served as a key backup instead of a centerpiece.

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That’s the main reason the 31-year-old Hernandez agreed to return to North America with the LA Galaxy, who introduced their latest superstar acquisition Thursday.

Chicharito is the center of the Galaxy now, and he is thrilled.

“I just want to play,” Hernandez said in his distinctively rapid bilingual delivery. “This league and this team, it’s giving me that opportunity (to show) that I’m one of the best players around the world. That’s why they want me to be here, to try to improve this league and this team. … It’s a win-win-win-win. I know I’ll be on the pitch most of the time if I keep working hard for the club. I’m going to be doing what I loved since I was in the belly of my mother.”

With Chicharito playing in only nine games so far this season for Sevilla, the timing was finally perfect for this long-rumored combination of player and club.

While the Galaxy made major improvements and reached the playoffs last season behind Zlatan Ibrahimovic‘s franchise-record 30 goals, they desperately needed another topflight striker at the center of coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto’s attack when Ibrahimovic chose to return to Europe. Unlike most Major League Soccer clubs, the Galaxy have the money to go get elite talents, even in the January transfer window.

Hernandez is well aware of the five-time MLS champions’ history of landing world-class players, reeling off his own list of favorites: “Robbie Keane. Steven Gerrard. Giovani Dos Santos. Jonathan Dos Santos. Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Landon Donovan. David Beckham, that’s the most iconic one, obviously. And then my name is over those. I’m just so blessed and so humble that I can be a part of all this.”

The speedy, shifty Chicharito likely fits Barros Schlelotto’s style even better than the hulking Zlatan, and the Argentine coach worked aggressively behind the scenes to land Hernandez.

While Chicharito’s European career got off to a strong start at Manchester United under the guidance of Sir Alex Ferguson, he repeatedly struggled elsewhere when managers clearly didn’t believe in his abilities.

[ MORE: Premier League Club Power Rankings ]

“More than anybody, Guillermo was involved in making it happen,” said Galaxy general manager Dennis Te Kloese, who has known Chicharito since the player’s childhood. “In the end, it had to do with Javier’s interest in being a part of this organization because he’s going to be in a team and with a coach who has a lot of trust in him.”

That clearly wasn’t always the case in Hernandez’s European career. After four years in Manchester, Chicharito spent one season at Real Madrid and two more at Bayer Leverkusen, followed by two seasons back in the Premiership at West Ham. He scored goals at every stop, but never landed a permanent, consistent role matching his importance to the Mexican national team.

“I think what makes a lot of the world-class players even better is (how) they get used to their circumstances,” Chicharito said. “That’s something that I think I can bring. I want to show them that I’ve never been a selfish player – even though strikers are going to be in front of everyone, and I’m probably going to take the shot. I’m completely motivated.”

The top goal-scorer in the history of the Mexican national team already knows Los Angeles from many trips representing El Tri, which is invariably treated as the home team at the Rose Bowl by California’s massive Mexican-American population. Chicharito was greeted at the airport by hundreds of noisy fans when he arrived with his young family Wednesday night.

“I’ve been playing in this country since I was 16 years old,” Chicharito said. “I’ve won a lot of games here, and I’ve been treated with a lot of value and respect. I want that, and it’s coming from the best club in the USA. They came to get me, and that speaks of what they think of me.”

While the MLS is an undeniable step back in overall exposure and competition, Hernandez knows he will deal with even more scrutiny on his home continent from the fans and Spanish-language media based in Los Angeles.

That extra scrutiny has already started: When Chicharito’s YouTube reality show released an episode Wednesday in which Hernandez told his father that moving to the Galaxy was “like the beginning of my retirement,” fans and critics immediately seized on the term often used to denigrate MLS.

Chicharito explained himself with a smile before he held aloft his Galaxy jersey and formally began his next chapter.

“In my country, we love and we are, like, obsessed with drama and excess,” Hernandez said, clarifying that he only meant he had finished the European portion of his career.

“They don’t really listen to what I said at the beginning of the retirement (comment). This retirement could last 10 years. That word is strong for them when I mention (retirement), but it’s just the beginning of that. Hopefully this beginning is going to last so long.”

Burnley – Sheffield United stream: How to watch, team news, prediction

Burnley - Sheffield United stream
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Burnley and Sheffield United jockey for potential Europa League footing at Turf Moor on Sunday (Watch live at 7 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

The eighth-place visitors and their ninth-place hosts open the day a win back of seventh-place Arsenal.

Seventh is currently set to be a Europa League place thanks to the European ban handed to second-place Manchester City, who is protesting the ban.

Eighth would also be a UEL spot with all four FA Cup semifinalists currently in the top seven. Arsenal could still finish outside the top eight and win the FA Cup, which would leave seventh as the last qualifying place.

STREAM BURNLEY – SHEFFIELD UNITED LIVE

Team news

Burnley – Sheffield United Prediction

Burnley can scrap with anyone but Blades have a bit more depth and comfort with their XI. Sheffield United 1-0.

Chelsea’s Pulisic reacts to Eden Hazard comparisons

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Last week, Frank Lampard compared Christian Pulisic’s potential to that of the finished products shown by Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah, and Raheem Sterling.

After another terrific performance for Chelsea in a 3-0 defeat of Watford, he was asked about being compared to Chelsea royalty: Eden Hazard.

“Obviously he was an incredible player for Chelsea,” Pulisic said. “He’s a world-class player. I’m not trying to compare myself to him just yet. I’m just trying to be my own player and hopefully the fans like that guy.”

[ MORE: Pulisic Watch — His day v. Watford ]

Pulisic drew a penalty and had the pass before the assist on Ross Barkley’s late goal to salt away the win and fourth place in the Premier League for another few days.

The Blues had lost late to West Ham United at midweek, and Pulisic admits the boys were fired up to avenge the setback.

“We needed that one today,” he said. “There was a little extra bit of energy because of that loss. We wanted to come out and prove a point today.”

Finally, Pulisic was asked what he’d be doing if he was home in the States on the Fourth of July.

“If I was home in the U.S. I’d be having a barbecue with my family and enjoying Independence Day.”

Stock answer. Only way he could lose points with us today.

Chelsea cruises past relegation-worried Watford

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Chelsea got goals from Willian, Ross Barkley, and Olivier Giroud in a comfortable 3-0 defeat of Watford at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

USMNT star Christian Pulisic drew a penalty for Willian’s goal and helped set up Barkley’s third goal in his fourth-straight start in 10 days.

[ MORE: Pulisic Watch – USMNT star shines again ]

Chelsea moves back atop Manchester United for fourth place, one point behind Leicester City.

Watford’s 28 points are one point better than two of the bottom three, with Aston Villa holding a match-in-hand and set to visit Liverpool on Sunday.

[ MORE: Pulisic reacts to Hazard comparisons ]


Three things we learned

1. Chelsea holds serve in top four fight: Wins for Manchester United and Leicester City meant the Blues could finish the day in either fourth or fifth. The decisive performance was a welcome one for Chelsea boss Frank Lampard following a late loss at West Ham earlier in the week. The Blues meet Crystal Palace, Sheffield United, and Norwich City before Liverpool and Wolves make for a dangerous final two league fixtures.

2. Pearson plans for midweek: Norwich City looks as down-and-out as any club right now, so it’s not likely a coincidence that Etienne Capoue and Troy Deeney came off the pitch with the score line 2-0 and 26 minutes to play. Watford will aim to find points in its home ground against a poor Canaries side on Tuesday.

3. Kante limps off: While Christian Pulisic and Ruben Loftus-Cheek have remained fit and available to Lampard, the manager won’t be happy that N’Golo Kante’s injury-hit season saw a possible concern with a 78th-minute sub for Billy Gilmour.

Man of the Match

It was either Pulisic or Willian, and we’re going to go with the Brazilian if only because CP gets a lot of run in these parts.


Chelsea – Watford recap

Christian Pulisic came out of the gates in lively form and within minutes Olivier Giroud had an odd-angled chance to head toward goal.

The Blues were all over Watford for the first 20 minutes, Pulisic, Willian, and Giroud very involved in the display.

Giroud put the Blues on the board with an experienced, spinning strike in the 29th minute. Getting the ball off a Ross Barkley feed, the Frenchman hit a cushioned low shot across his body and just inside the far post.

Pulisic played a role in the second goal, dribbling to the end line and getting manhandled by an out-of-his-mind Christian Kabasele on his cut back toward play. Penalty, Willian. 2-0.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ]

The second half was mostly Chelsea, too, and Willian forced Foster into a terrific 68th-minute save and corner kick to the Blues.

Watford had their moments late, including a Danny Welbeck effort that Kepa Arrizabalaga did very well to save.

Pulisic had a shot blocked in the 90th minute, and Will Hughes couldn’t convert a Welbeck-inspired play at the other end.

Instead, the American would settle for a “hockey assist,” slipping the ball to Azpilicueta inside the 18 before the Chelsea veteran set up Barkley’s exclamation point.

Pulisic Watch: In-form Chelsea star shines on Independence Day

Pulisic Watch
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Chelsea’s in-form American winger stayed that way, as Christian Pulisic won a penalty and looked lively throughout the Blues’ match with Watford at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

[ MORE: Chelsea 3-0 Watford ]

Here are the moments he was in focus in his fourth-straight start for Frank Lampard, as the USMNT star had another brilliant performance on his nation’s Independence Day.

[ MORE: Pulisic reacts to Hazard comparisons ]


8th minute: Pulisic comes out of the gate in lively form and cuts between a pair of defenders before finding Mason Mount, whose cross is blocked out for a corner.

10th minute: Pulisic plays Giroud wide, and the Frenchman’s first touch is a bit wayward. A cross back towards Pulisic is cleared before it reaches the American.

15th minute: Pulisic is one of three players to hit the deck trying to get on the end of Reece James’ delightful cross from the right.

19th minute: Pulisic takes the ball from Willian and finds Giroud, whose shot is saved by Foster and winds up with Willian. His cross doesn’t reach the American and Giroud fouled a defender anyway.

30th minute: Moments after Giroud put the Blues up 1-0, Pulisic nods a high cross back toward the far post but Foster rescues the ball without much worry.

42nd minute: Pulisic won a second penalty kick of the restart when he cut back at the end line and was run over by Christian Kabasele.

[ MORE: Arsenal beats Wolves ]

47th minute: Cuts inside and tears into an ambitious shot that has too much pepper on it.

48th minute: He’s at it again a moment later, moving the ball left to Cesar Azpilicueta for a half-cleared cross.

56th minute: Pulisic works a 1-2 with Mason Mount but the ball doesn’t quite get back to the American thanks to Michael Dawson.

85th minute: Protests wildly for a penalty after Kabasele takes him down in the box once again. VAR doesn’t change anything and Pulisic is set to go 90 minutes for the third time in 10 days (He went 72 minutes in the fourth encounter during that time span).

90th minute: Azpilicueta slides Pulisic into the left of the box, but the American’s shot is blocked.

Stoppage time: Takes a short pass and gives it to Azpilicueta in the box, getting a “hockey assist” when Barkley slots home. Pulisic then nearly wins a corner with a pressuring run down the left.

Stat line: Three shots, one on target, one blocked. One-of-3 dribbles completed, one penalty won. Passed at 89 percent (33-of-37) with two key passes and 9-of-15 duels won. Four fouls drawn and three tackles (SofaScore).