Didier Drogba

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Hazard glows after brace in Chelsea win

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Eden Hazard is buzzing after breaking the 100-goal barrier for Chelsea, and supporters of the Blues are going to love his comments following a 2-1 win at Watford on Boxing Day.

[ RECAP: Watford 1-2 Chelsea ]

Hazard, 27, ends the day with 11 goals and nine assists this season for Chelsea and another two goals in the League Cup.

While he’s flirted with Real Madrid and the transfer market for some time, he’s feeling Chelsea this festive season. Here’s his response to breaking the century mark, via the BBC:

“It means a lot, especially because we won today. 101 goals with this amazing club is something i will never forget but now the fans, staff and players want more. I want to score more for this club and then try to be a legend like Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba and John Terry.”

He even had jokes!

After playing another match as a center forward, Hazard claimed his versatility is beyond our expectations.

“I can even play at centre back,” he said. “My target is to score goals and to try and win the game, as a winger or a striker. I missed a couple of chances today, especially in the first half, but I scored two so its important to keep focus.”

USL Playoffs: FC Cincinnati, Phoenix’s Drogba stage farewell tours

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The last three clubs to participate in the USL Cup Final are still alive in the 2018 edition of the USL Cup Playoffs, but all eyes are a fourth club.

FC Cincinnati hasn’t lost a match since May 26, the soon-to-be MLS club kickoff off a 24-match unbeaten run with a win over New York Red Bulls II a week later.

[ MORE: MLS Decision Day ]

Those two sides meet in the quarterfinals on Saturday, a match-up of the top team in the league and a Red Bulls side which won the cup in 2016.

The winner will meet either No. 2 seed Louisville City or No. 6 Bethlehem Steel. Louisville is led by USL Golden Boot winner Cameron Lancaster, a 25-year-old Londoner who made a single 12-minute appearance for Tottenham Hotspur against Wigan in 2014.

Out West, there’s another Premier League experienced player who plenty more neutrals have known for some time. Didier Drogba returned after four months off to play three of Phoenix Rising’s final four regular season matches, turning on the juice with a goal in the first round of the playoffs as Phoenix blew out Portland Timbers 2.

Phoenix faces No. 7 seed Swope Park Rangers, which has lost the past two USL Cup finals and should not be overlooked.

The fourth quarterfinal sees Orange County SC and Reno 1868 FC meeting in Irvine. OC is paced by former Akron University standout Aodhan Quinn, who has 11 goals and 15 assists. Former Southampton man Jos Hooiveld is also on the squad, and may be tasked with shutting down Jamaican striker Brian Brown.

Phoenix Rising releases gorgeous soccer-specific stadium renderings

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The Phoenix Rising FC franchise is bidding for an MLS expansion bid some time down the road, and the club just showed off what it could offer to MLS in terms of a home venue.

The club released its first stadium renderings for an open-air 21,000 seat stadium with an awning over the seats but an opening over the playing surface. Phoenix Rising is working with stadium design firm Populous and a local firm to design the futuristic-looking stadium.

Phoenix Rising is co-owned by former Chelsea great Didier Drogba, who is playing his final season on the field this year.

Due to Phoenix’s hot climate, especially during July and August – the middle of the soccer season in the U.S. – the club is proposing a stadium that is engineered to maximize wind and airflow through the concourses and entrances, water walls to cool fans as they enter the stadium, and plenty of shade in the seats. The majority of seats will be on the west-end of the stadium, facing away from the sun.

“The renderings really bring the stadium to life,” said Brett Johnson, co-chairman for Phoenix Rising FC. “We are excited for the fans to see the innovative, one-of-a-kind design with special attention paid to maximizing shade and airflow in the stadium to ensure player and fan comfort.”

Regardless of if Phoenix Rising makes it to MLS, if the ownership group commits to fund and build a modern stadium as close to the renderings as possible, it can only be a boon to professional soccer in the Southwest.

There are some controversies involved though. Due to the climate, it would be tough to play games during the dog days of summer at home, forcing Phoenix to possible play a majority of its summer matches on the road or later in the evening once the sun has set.

In addition, the stadium site is located 10 miles east of downtown Phoenix. According to a report from SI.com, MLS has allowed the site to be used, but it bucks the trend and request from MLS for teams to build downtown stadiums that can attract more fans. Phoenix’s argument with their preferred stadium site is that it’s located near two highways and isn’t far from Arizona State University.

The site is located on land owned by Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, which has made the land purchase complicated as well. But if the team feels comfortable enough to release stadium renderings, perhaps they feel confident a land deal will be agreed soon.

Ahead of last season, Drogba admits interest in Marseille role

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Didier Drogba loves everything about soccer, but his time on the field is finally coming to a close.

[ PL PREVIEW: Stoke vs. Man City ]

The Phoenix Rising owner turned 40 on Sunday, and signaled the end of his playing career in November with an announcement than the 2018 USL season would be his last.

But a Telefoot interview shows the player-owner may take a role with American businessman Frank McCourt’s Marseille project (translated by ESPN):

“We’ll have to see what is offered. I’m always ready to help. … In any case, Marseille are showing good things this year. Rudi Garcia’s project is taking shape, they’re building a team with young players. It’s excellent to stay in the top three with a team like that. As a fan, I have a lot of faith in them.”

Drogba scored 32 times in his only season at Marseille.

He also netted nine times with three assists in 14 appearances last season as Phoenix finished fifth in the USL’s Western Conference before bowing out in penalty kicks against Swope Park Rangers in the first round of the playoffs.

Premier League Preview: Chelsea vs. Southampton

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  • Chelsea leads all-time 41W-28D-28L
  • Saints have points in 3 of 5 at Stamford Bridge
  • Southampton winless in four straight league games

Chelsea returns home following an emphatic away win to meet a Southampton side fresh off embarrassment at home (Watch live Saturday at 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Saints were battered 4-1 at St. Mary’s by former coach Claude Puel, while Antonio Conte‘s Chelsea rebounded from a loss at West Ham by battering Huddersfield Town 4-1 at the John Smith’s Stadium.

Conte was asked to compare Alvaro Morata to club legend Didier Drogba, as the Spanish striker has reportedly been studying footage of the big Ivorian.

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“They are two different players with different characteristics,” he said. “Didier Drogba brought history to this club and he’s a wonderful player, a wonderful striker because he continues to play. He’s a great striker, more powerful than Alvaro but Alvaro, don’t forget, has a lot of space for improvement. He’s strong physically, he’s a technical player and I see a great future for Alvaro.”

Chelsea still won’t have David Luiz available, while Southampton has no new injury concerns despite the recent schedule congestion.

What they’re saying

Antonio Conte on Southampton premonitions“‘My expectation is for us to suffer, I have this sensation, so we must pay great attention. When you play after a bad defeat, especially at home, there is great attention of the coach and the club because they don’t want to continue a bad run. They want to give a good answer against a strong team like Chelsea.”

Saints’ Mauricio Pellegrino on facing Chelsea: “We want to show our best version. Chelsea is a really difficult side but maybe we can find more space.  We have to do a really good game to have a possibility of winning, but hopefully after a difficult moment we can bounce back. In this club, we want to show we are committed to trying to be competitive, our energy and commitment to the club.”

Prediction

Saints are wounded, but Chelsea has the better depth and form. Charlie Austin or Sofiane Boufal may force a goal past Thibaut Courtois, but look for the Blues to pull out a 2-1 win.