Javier Hernandez

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MLS to get its kicks with 5-week video game tournament

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Sporting Kansas City midfielder Wan Kuzain is more than your average gamer. He’s got street cred.

That’s because when he was 17, Kuzain accepted a challenge from noted video game enthusiast (and former NFL player) Chad Johnson – and beat him.

The former Pro Bowler known as Ochocinco tweeted afterward that the “losing experience was worse than the time I lost my virginity” and added a crying emoji.

So it’s no surprise that Kuzain will be Sporting’s representative in a virtual MLS tournament starting Sunday. A number of the league’s top players, including Chicharito and Nani, will participate in the nationally televised event.

It goes like this: Two players from opposing teams will face off in EA Sports’ FIFA 2020 game. Then the league’s eMLS players will compete in a second leg. The losing team is eliminated. Fox Sports soccer commentators will call the action over the five-week event.

Other sports have also moved to virtual competition during the coronavirus pandemic, notably NASCAR. Like the already established eMLS competition, NASCAR had an iRacing Series for gamers. Drivers joined when COVID-19 suspended real races.

Individual athletes, including Meyers Leonard of the Miami Heat and Women’s World Cup winner Allie Long, are also playing regularly on Twitch, a live streaming platform. The Phoenix Suns played out the season after the season was suspended on NBA 2K20 on Twitch.

One of the highlights Sunday will be a virtual ‘El Trafico’ rivalry match, pitting LA Galaxy striker Javier Hernandez, better known as Chicharito, against LAFC forward Adama Diomande.

MLS Works and FOX Sports will make a donation on behalf of the winning team to Feeding America after each episode. Donations will also be made to Food Banks Canada.

“You’ll see in some instances we’ve got some real gamers among our professional players. They’re going to show up to win. So while it is a great cause, we’re also out to entertain. I think you’ll see a real competitive edge come through as well, ” said Camilo Durana, the league’s senior vice president of properties and events.

Now 21, Kuzain said he’s been playing FIFA since the 2012 edition.

Kuzain was part of Sporting’s academy team before he was signed to the team’s USL affiliate, the Swope Park Rangers.

One day around that time he noticed that Chad Johnson was in the Kansas City area. Johnson was known at the time for dropping in on random gamers to play FIFA, so Kuzain – who had a picture of himself playing soccer on his Twitter profile – tweeted at him. The next thing he knew, Johnson was at his door.

“We played a couple of games. I’d say three or four,” Kuzain said. “He was really good. He was definitely worth all the tweets and commotion that he’s caused within the FIFA community.”

Afterward, Kuzain showed Johnson around a bit, taking him to the local indoor soccer complex.

“Like it’s crazy how nice he is and how he just can fit so many people that he doesn’t know into his schedule like that. So I’m really thankful for that experience,” Kuzain said. “And he did send a nice little tweet, and that was our promise, if I beat him he would shout me out.”

Kuzain signed with Kansas City’s first team as a Homegrown Player in 2018. He appeared in Sporting II’s first game before the season was suspended because of the coronavirus.

Asked if he was the best gamer among his Kansas City teammates, Kuzain didn’t mince words.

“It might hurt some feelings,” he said. “but I would say yeah, for sure.”

Report: Real Madrid weighing up summer move for Wolves’ Raul Jimenez

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Raul Jimenez may be on his way back to Madrid, Spain this summer.

Wolverhampton Wanderers’ star striker is reportedly garnering interest from Spanish giants Real Madrid ahead of the summer transfer window, according to Spanish outlet Don Balón.

With Luka Jovic, who may be loaned out this summer in order to get minutes, and Mariano struggling to make wholesale impact as secondary options to Karim Benzema, Zinedine Zidane and company are reportedly weighing up a lucrative summer bid for the the former Atletico Madrid striker.

The 28-year-old Mexican has proven to be indispensable for Nuno Espirito Santo this season, scoring 22 goals and recording 10 assists in 44 matches across all competitions. In the 2018-2019 season, Jimenez registered 13 Premier League goals and eight assists, prompting Wolves to shell out a club-record $42 million purchase option via a loan agreement with Benfica.

Featuring 27 times for Los Colchoneros from 2014 to 2015, Jimenez, if a move to the Santiago Bernabeu were to materialize, would be the second Mexican to play for both Madrid giants, with Hugo Sanchez being the other. The striker would become the third Mexican to play for Los Blancos, joining Sanchez and Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, who was on loan with the La Liga side during the 2014-15 season.

Last December, the Mexico international told Marca that he wouldn’t rule out a return to Spain’s top-flight, if the option were to arise: “No, never. I had a good experience there and I would like to go back at some point and try things again in La Liga. It is not something to rule out.”

Mexicans Abroad: Pizarro, Pulido show off goalscoring talents in MLS

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During the winter, there was an unprecedented influx of Mexican talent to MLS. Two weeks into the new season, a couple of them are already making recognizable differences for their respective teams.

The Liga MX 2019 Apertura scoring winner, Alan Pulido doesn’t lack any knowledge as it pertains to scoring goals. The 29-year-old showcased exactly that against the Houston Dynamo on Saturday, introducing himself to the Blue Hell with a goal and assist. That’s two goals in two games for the former Chivas striker.

Rodolfo Pizarro, too, wrote his name in Week 2’s stats sheet, scoring Inter Miami’s first-ever MLS goal in the nation’s capital.

Across the Atlantic Ocean, in Spain, Andres Guardado put together a laudable performance against Real Madrid. Real Betis shocked Zinedine Zidane’s men 2-1 on Sunday.

Here is a list of several other Mexico national team affiliates making a name for themselves (or not) outside of Mexico this weekend.


Premier League

Raul Jimenez, Wolverhampton Wanderers —  Jimenez started and played all 90 minutes in Wolves’ 0-0 draw against Brighton. The forward registered a lone shot on target.

La Liga

Hector Herrera, Atletico Madrid —  After not appearing on Atletico’s bench in February, Herrera was called up by Diego Simeone for Los Colchoneros’ draw against Sevilla. Herrera was left on the bench, however.

Andres Guardado, Real Betis —  Guardado played all 90 minutes against Real Madrid on Sunday. In addition, the midfielder contributed an assist, but saw a yellow card in the 74th minute.

Diego Lainez, Real Betis — The 19-year-old did not make the bench in Betis’ win on Sunday.

Nestor Araujo, Celta Vigo — Despite drawing a yellow card, Araujo registered eight clearances, one blocked shot, four interception and two tackles throughout 90 minutes in Celta’s 0-0 draw.

Serie A

Hirving “Chucky” Lozano, Napoli —  Lozano and Napoli were inactive this weekend.

Primeira Liga

Jesus “Tecatito” Corona, FC Porto — Tecatito started and played 90 minutes in Porto’s 1-1 draw with Rio Ave.

Eredivisie

Erick Gutierrez, PSV Eindhoven —  Gutierrez was left on the bench in PSV’s 1-0 win over Groningen on Sunday.

Edson Alvarez, Ajax — Alvarez featured for the final eight minutes of Ajax’s win on Saturday. 

Jupiler Pro League

Omar Govea, Zulte Waregem — Govea played 90 minutes in Zulte’s 7-0 loss to Anderlecht on Saturday.

Major League Soccer

Carlos Vela, LAFC – LAFC and Vela host the Philadelphia Union on Sunday.

Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, LA Galaxy – In his first MLS regular season game at Dignity Health Sports Park, Chicharito went missing – both on and off the field. The 31-year-old failed to registered a shot on goal, and after Galaxy’s 1-0 loss to the Whitecaps, was a no-show at the team’s press conference. A very slow start for MLS blockbuster signing.

Jonathan dos Santos, LA Galaxy – Recently back from injury, Galaxy’s captain was limited to 45 minutes on the field.

Rodolfo Pizarro, Inter Miami – It took two, whole minutes for Pizarro to score Miami’s first-ever MLS goal. The 26-year-old followed up with a solid 88 minutes against D.C. United, who took all three points when the final whistle blew.

Alan Pulido, Sporting Kansas City – Pulido played 90 minutes and scored a goal in SKC’s 4-0 trouncing of the Houston Dynamo.

Oswaldo Alanis, San Jose Earthquakes – Alanis played all 90 minutes in the Earthquakes’ shambolic 5-2 loss to Minnesota United on Saturday night. Not the best night for the defender, who was coming off a stellar debut.

Elsewhere around the globe:

Ulises Davila, Wellington Phoenix – Davila played all 90 minutes and provided and assist in Phoenix’s 3-1 win over Central Coast Mariners on Saturday.

Marco Fabian, Al-Sadd – Fabian played in Al-Sadd’s 1-0 loss to Al Rayyan.

Hector Moreno, Al-Gharafa – Moreno played all 90 minutes and was awarded a yellow card in Al-Gharafa’s win on Thursday.

FOLLOW LIVE: MLS kicks off 25th season in grand style

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Major League Soccer celebrates the start of its 25th season with a full slate of games on Saturday.

[ FOLLOW: MLS scoreboard ]

The star signing of the offseason, Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez makes his MLS debut, as the Los Angeles Galaxy travel to Houston to take on the Dynamo in front of a sold-out BBVA Stadium.

In between, the San Jose Earthquakes look to start season two under Matias Almeyda on a strong note when they host Toronto FC, while Nashville SC – one of two new MLS franchises – receives a high-powered Atlanta United.

Opening day wraps up with Sporting Kansas City taking on the Vancouver Whitecaps, which will see two former Liga MX goal scorers in Alan Pulido and Lucas Cavallini make their debuts.

Saturday’s full MLS schedule

Montreal Impact v. New England Revolution — 3:00 p.m. ET
Houston Dynamo v. LA Galaxy — 3:30 p.m. ET
San Jose Earthquakes v. Toronto FC — 5:30 p.m. ET
FC Dallas v. Philadelphia Union — 6:00 p.m. ET
Orlando City v. Real Salt Lake — 6:00 p.m. ET
Nashville SC v. Atlanta United — 8 p.m. ET
Vancouver Whitecaps v. Sporting Kansas City — 10:30 p.m. ET

Mexicans Abroad: Rodolfo Pizarro’s goalscoring start headlines handful of debuts

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A handful of Mexicans abroad debuted with their respective clubs over the weekend, but none were at par with Rodolfo Pizarro’s.

The 26-year-old attacking midfielder scored on his fourth touch as an Inter Miami player, two minutes after coming off the bench. Pizarro’s right-footed strike proved to be historic, as it became the first official goal in club history.

Also on Saturday, in different regions of the United States, Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez and Alan Pulido, respectively, made their debuts. Chicharito played 78 minutes in Los Angeles Galaxy’s 2-1 preseason loss to Toronto FC, while Pulido logged 61 minutes in Sporting Kansas City’s scoreless bout.

Qatar’s new marquee star, Marco Fabian, debuted in Al-Sadd’s hard-earned cup win.

Here is a list of several other Mexico national team affiliates making a name for themselves (or not) outside of Mexico this weekend.


Premier League

Raul Jimenez, Wolverhampton Wanderers —  Jimenez started and played all 90 minutes in Wolves’ 0-0 draw against Leicester City. The forward registered four shots off target and one blocked.

La Liga

Hector Herrera, Atletico Madrid —  Herrera was not called up by Diego Simeone for Atletico Madrid’s draw against Valencia on Friday.

Andres Guardado, Real Betis —  Guardado dressed but didn’t take the field on Sunday.

Diego Lainez, Real Betis — The 19-year-old was is out after undergoing appendicitis surgery.

Nestor Araujo, Celta Vigo — Araujo played a vital part in La Liga’s most surprising outcome of the matchweek – Celta’s 2-2 draw with Real Madrid. The defender recorded eight clearances, one interceptions and two tackles throughout the 90 minutes.

Serie A

Hirving “Chucky” Lozano, Napoli —  Lozano, Napoli’s most expensive player in team history, was not called up by Gennaro Gattuso on Sunday. The 24-year-old and the Italian manager seem to be on different pages, and the situation doesn’t appear to be getting better with time. It might be time to panic for Lozano’s development in Italy.

Primeira Liga

Jesus “Tecatito” Corona, FC Porto — Tecatito started and played 84 minutes in Porto’s 2-1 victory over Vitoria, which was marred by racist abuse towards Moussa Marega by Vitoria supporters.

Eredivisie

Erick Gutierrez, PSV Eindhoven —  Gutierrez played the final five minutes of PSV’s 3-0 thumping of AOD Den Haag.

Edson Alvarez, Ajax — After several weeks of little activity, Alvarez seems to be making his way back into Ajax’s starting lineup. On Sunday, the Mexican defender played his second set of 90 minutes in four days.

Jupiler Pro League

Omar Govea, Zulte Waregem — Govea played 76 minutes in Zulte’s 2-1 loss on Sunday.

Major League Soccer

Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, LA Galaxy – In front of a semi-full Dignity Sports Park, Chicharito made his Los Angeles Galaxy debut. The storied forward, however, failed to score despite seeing a decent amount of chances. Galaxy open the MLS season against Houston Dynamo on February 29.

Rodolfo Pizarro, Inter Miami – It took two minutes for an Rodolfo Pizarro to score on his unofficial Inter Miami debut. Ironically, the brand-new MLS franchise has yet to announce the signing of the 26-year-old from Monterrey.

Alan Pulido, Sporting Kansas City – Pulido played 61 minutes in SKC’s scoreless, preseason draw against Real Salt Lake.

Elsewhere around the globe:

Ulises Davila, Wellington Phoenix – Davila played all 90 minutes in Phoenix’s 1-0 victory over Melbourne City. The attacker also managed to pick up a yellow card throughout the match.

Marco Fabian, Al-Sadd – Fabian debuted for Xavi’s Al-Sadd on Saturday, playing all 120 minutes in his team’s win via penalties.

Hector Moreno, Al-Gharafa – Moreno and Al-Gharafa were inactive this weekend.