Javier Hernandez

Getty Images

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

Leave a comment

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.”

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

Getty Images
Leave a comment

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

Getty Images
Leave a comment

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

Javier Hernandez explains retirement comments

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Javier ‘Chicharito‘ has explained comments he made about his move to the LA Galaxy and Major League Soccer as he mentioned the word ‘retirement’ in his YouTube reality show which featured him talking about his move to LA.

That’s right, using the words retirement and MLS in the same sentence will unleash an unreal level of fury among the most ardent supporters of North America’s top-flight.

Chicharito, 31, was shown in tears as he spoke with his parents on the phone about his move to the Galaxy and it appears his comments have been blown out of proportion as he was speaking about the end of his European journey as he returns to North America.

“It’s so simple. I think all over the world, but in my country, we love and we are, like, obsessed with drama and excess,” Hernandez said. “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.”

Drama? LA? Soccer? Surely not…

Hernandez has issued some much-needed perspective on this topic. Is he heading towards the end of his career? Well, folks, water is wet. Anybody who tries to say MLS is not a great place for stars from Europe to see out the final years of their careers is in denial. There is still a place in MLS for huge names to raise the profile of the league and have a swansong while they are paid handsomely.

MLS isn’t dominated by those type of players anymore but we’ve all seen the success David Villa, Thierry Henry and Robbie Keane had and more recently Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Wayne Rooney.

Yes, Hernandez probably should have not used the word ‘retirement’ but it was taken out of context and even if he now realizes he’s in the final years of his career he seems hellbent on enjoying them in the USA as he tries to restore the Galaxy’s status as the elite club in MLS.

Chicharito is keeping it real and we salute him for that. Anybody who has a serious problem with his comments should probably just go back to yelling at the clouds.

Chicharito seizes chance to be center of the Galaxy

Photo by Harry How/Getty Images
3 Comments

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.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

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.”