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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.

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“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.”

NCAA D1 soccer to vote on expanded season

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A report by the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Jonathan Tannenwald has revealed that NCAA Division 1 men’s soccer is close to heading towards a full-season schedule, expanding the current fall schedule that sees the College Cup finish up around mid-December.

Tannenwald’s report, which cites Maryland head coach Sasho Cirovski who has led the charge for a full calendar season, states that the new proposal would drop the regular season schedule from 25 to 23 total games, but would expand the campaign across the entire school year. The first half would consist of 13 games and end around Thanksgiving, before picking back up in the spring with nine official games. Three exhibitions would be spread around the season, as opposed to the current setup of five meaningless exhibition games all set in the spring offseason.

The main goal of the plan, which is years in the making, is to eliminate midweek games, helping to cut down on missed class time for players. At least, that’s what Cirovski is selling to the NCAA. His true goal is to help players get used to a full professional schedule, knowing that currently, collegiate players tend to hit a wall in their first few professional seasons, holding their careers back.

Tannenwald reports that the eventual vote, which will be held in April, will consist of 64 total submissions. Each Power 5 conference will have four votes each, while the Group of 5 conferences get two votes each and the remaining conferences get one vote each. To pass, the proposal needs a full majority, meaning 33 yes votes are required out of the 64. The report states that the Atlantic 10 confirmed to the Inquirer that they will vote yes to the proposal, while the Ivy League said it will vote no.

“The college coaches on the men’s side are going to be working hand in hand for the next three months to try to get us to the finish line, to do something that is transformational, an evolutionary and positive change, and a game-changer in this country for not only college soccer, but we feel for soccer in general,” Cirovski said.

The report states that Cirovski has solid support from inside the college soccer space, and also in the pro soccer community where there is excitement that the new proposal will help development and transition from college soccer to professional life. It says that while this would only cover the Division 1 men’s schedule for now, it’s likely that the women’s ranks would follow soon after should this initial proposal pass through, and D2 and D3 could also tag along.

Bale’s agent denies loan reports; ‘not many clubs can afford him’

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Gareth Bale‘s agent Jonathan Barnett has called recent reports claiming the Real Madrid superstar could be loaned elsewhere “ridiculous” on the basis that “there are not many clubs that can afford him anyway.”

[ MORE: Daniel Levy reportedly met with Real Madrid about Bale ]

Bale has reportedly been unhappy in Madrid and at odds with manager Zinedine Zidane, leading to months of speculation that he could leave the Santiago Bernabeu. However, due to his nearly $600,000-per-week wages, very few — if any — clubs in the world can afford his wages, let alone the transfer fee required as well.

Therefore, a loan move would seem to make sense, only Barnett seems to be offended that a player of Bale’s caliber would ever be discussed as a loan candidate — quotes from the BBC:

“Why would one of the best players on Earth go on loan? That’s ridiculous. At the moment, he is going to be playing football for Real Madrid and he has got two and a half years left on his contract.

“He is happy and hopefully he will win a couple of more things with Real Madrid.”

“Things can change, but loans are ridiculous and there are not many clubs that can afford him anyway.”

Bale’s contract runs through the summer of 2022. He has scored just two goals in nine league games this season.

Southampton cruise past Palace

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Southampton continued their incredible run of form as they cruised past Crystal Palace and won 2-0 at Selhurst Park.

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The scoreline didn’t reflect the dominance of Ralph Hasenhutt’s side as Nathan Redmond and Stuart Armstrong scored stunners in each half to grab all three points.

With the win Saints move up to ninth on 31 points as they jump ahead of Palace who have 30 points.


3 things we learned

1. Away day specialists do it again: Southampton have now won five Premier League games in a row away from home. They’ve beat Aston Villa, Chelsea, Leicester City and now Palace on the road as Ralph Hasenhuttl‘s side are so lethal on the counter and seem to catch teams out. Their intense pressure pins their opponents back and the pace of Obafemi and Redmond was too much for Palace to handle. Six of their nine PL wins have come away from home and if they could somehow replicate this form at home, they will be battling for a top four finish. Southampton have won 65 percent of their points in away games this season (20/31), the highest such ratio in the PL.

2. Palace’s lackluster attack needs an upgrade: Zaha had an off day out wide but Ayew and Tosun ahead of him missed chances and didn’t look sharp at all. Palace brought in Tosun on loan and he blazed a great chance over at 0-0 and he probably isn’t the answer to their goalscoring woes. Only Watford have scored fewer than Palace’s 22 goals from 24 games and Roy Hodgson was a disgruntled figure at the final whistle. His squad have been stretched to its limits and hit by injuries and their exploits away at Man City on Saturday hit them hard.

3. Saints’ squad stronger than they think: With Cedric going down injured during the game, Jan Bednarek out injured and Danny Ings rested, perhaps Saints don’t need to do business this month. Maybe a new right back would be good, but aside from that Obafemi played well and Vestergaard was solid enough aside from one scary moment.

Man of the Match: Stuart Armstrong – The Scotsman was everywhere and had so many shots and he finally curled home a beauty. He has been a big part of Saints’ resurgence since they switched to a 4-2-2-2 formation. A special mention to James Ward-Prowse, who had to slot over to right back to replace the injured Cedric and shut down Wilfried Zaha.


Southampton started really well and had plenty of possession as Palace sat back and soaked up the pressure.

The first big chance of the game came via a counter attack as Jannik Vestergaard intercepted the ball but was caught in possession as Cenk Tosun went through on goal but blazed over.

Cedric and Shane Long both went down with injuries early on and Southampton’s Portuguese right back came off injured with Oriol Romeu coming on.

Moments after that sub Southampton took the lead as Redmond turned Martin Kelly inside out, then rifled a superb effort into the far top corner to give the visitors a deserved 1-0 lead.

Vicente Guaita then denied Stuart Armstrong’s deflected effort as he tipped it over the bar and the Scotsman dragged another effort wide as Saints dominate the first half.

Saints hit Palace on the break and Redmond set Long clean through but the Irish striker got his first touch all wrong and the ball went out of play, then Long’s flicked header went just wide.

VAR reviewed an incident on the break as Wilfried Zaha clashed with Ward-Prowse and appeared to put his hand in the face of the Southampton man.

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Palace started the second half well as Tosun headed wide after good work down the left with James Ward-Prowse a growing influence in the game.

Saints doubled their lead in spectacular fashion as Redmond worked the ball inside and teed up Armstrong who curled home from distance to send the away fans wild.

Vestergaard almost made it 3-0 as his flick from a set piece almost looped in, then Long shot straight at Guaita from a great position.

Substitute Connor Wickham was played in by fellow sub Max Meyer but he couldn’t control the ball in a good situation and subs Danny Ings smashed over from an offside position as Saints eased to victory.

Bournemouth hammer Brighton

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Bournemouth beat Brighton and Hove Albion 3-1 at the Vitality Stadium on Tuesday as Eddie Howe‘s men secured a big win in their battle against relegation.

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Harry Wilson scored the opener and an own goal from Pascal Gross made it 2-0, while Callum Wilson made it 3-0 before Aaron Mooy‘s late consolation.

With the win, which ended a run of four-straight defeats, Bournemouth move up to 18th on 23 points, while Brighton are now just two points above the drop zone and are without a win in four PL games.


3 things we learned

1. Bournemouth find their shooting boots: Eddie Howe’s side hadn’t scored in the four previous games but both Wilson’s looked sharp and Ryan Fraser caused Brighton plenty of problems. Bournemouth had their swagger back in attack and that is great news for the Cherries who secured just their second win in their last 13 Premier League games.

2. Wilson’s goal drought is over: Bournemouth have been struggling in attack and much is that is down to Callum Wilson’s lack of goals. His first strike in 13 games will be a huge relief to him and his team, as he worked the Brighton defense and kept plugging away. The England international has quality and now he should have confidence.

3. Brighton’s lack of a clinical edge concerning: They were met by a goalkeeper who played well but Brighton should have buried at least two or three of the chances they created. That has been a reoccurring theme for Graham Potter‘s side in recent months as their fast start to the season has evaporated.

Man of the Match: Aaron Ramsdale – Yes, Bournemouth finally got going in attack but at the other end of the pitch Ramsdale was brilliant, making at least three wonderful saves to deny Brighton. The young English goalkeeper is making quite the name for himself.


Brighton pinned Bournemouth back and whipped in plenty of dangerous crosses.

The game was predictably a scrappy one with Bernardo catching Harry Wilson clattered into and the first big chance of the game fell to the Seagulls.

Aaron Mooy’s clever ball found Neal Maupay but Aaron Ramsdale denied him, then Nathan Ake brilliantly bocked his rebound.

Bournemouth then took the lead with their first Premier League goal of 2020. Brighton half cleared a long ball but Dominic Solanke picked it up and set up Harry Wilson who smashed home.

The Cherries then doubled their lead soon after as a corner from the right found him at the back post and Wilson battled with Pascal Gross who bundled it into his own net.

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Alireza Jahanbakhsh‘s shot from distance took a huge deflection and looped just over as Brighton pushed hard to get back in the game.

Bournemouth pushed hard to put the game to bed late on as Brighton struggled to get out of their own half as Mat Ryan saved superbly from close range to deny Phillip Billing.

Both goalkeeper continued to play well as Ramsdale denied Lewis Dunk, Maupay and then Mooy with Brighton peppering the Bournemouth goal.

The Cherries then wrapped up the win as Wilson got his first Premier League goal in 13 games with a calm finish to send the home fans delirious. Mooy’s stunning strike turned out to be no more than a consolation as the Australian smashed home to make it 3-1.