Thursday's soccer news starts with Chicharito Hernandez arriving in LA as the next Galaxy superstar. He joins an impressive list of players carrying that title, with the Galaxy in no doubt that winning the local market means winning the West. Chicharito isn't a Zlatan Ibrahimovic stand-in. He's a different player, though how he operates at the top of the Galaxy attack carries the same importance. Goals are the Galaxy's best chance to cover for an underwhelming defense. Since MLS rarely spends to build from the back, it was the obvious option for the club in 2020.
How Chicharito changes the Galaxy is the question. He's the type of player that makes the whole better, rather than putting the focus squarely on his own ability to score. That puts him in a slightly different category than Ibrahimovic and LAFC star Carlos Vela. Chicharito shouldn't be challenging for the league lead in goals. It's not his game, and the rest of the Galaxy attack has to adjust around that for this revamp to succeed.
For all the noise surrounding Chicharito's move, including his own comments on his YouTube series about MLS as the beginning of his retirement, the Galaxy has a simple response. Their performance on the field will tell the story. That might seem beyond obvious, but MLS is a forgiving league. The four-game losing streak seems to happen to most clubs at some point during the season. It doesn't mean that the season ends there. The Galaxy may be chasing LAFC, but the city's other MLS team is also chasing what they did and didn't do last season. LAFC's 72 points from 34 games set the new MLS record. Their eventual playoff loss to Seattle in the Western Conference final still resonates. Both of those are targets in 2020.
That's what pushes the LA derby to the forefront. It's already the marquee match-up, with the addition of Chicharito or a player at that level almost a given whenever a star leaves or fades. There's too much to play for between these two teams. Both know how quickly a team can take a step back in MLS and the importance of spending on players. Charting the Galaxy last season was a push/pull between giving up goals and Zlatan mostly scoring them. Even by MLS standards, it was an outlier. An acknowledged world-class talent pulling the Galaxy along with him. It almost worked, with the LAFC vs Galaxy semifinal an atypical MLS game played wide open. That 5-3 LAFC win earned them 90 more minutes of soccer in 2019.
It's not that this season is proof of concept for either of them. The Galaxy's superstar model is well established. LAFC's abilities aren't going to surprise any of the other teams in this league. Both are sending that clear message of intent this season. It's as expected as it is difficult to match on the field. By design, that's the game both LA teams want to play.
Also in the soccer news, Cameron Carter-Vickers wasn't in the squad for Tottenham's 2-1 home win over Norwich City. Dele Alli put Spurs up in the 38th minute with Norwich equalizing from the penalty spot in the 70th. Son Heung-Min scored in the 79th minute. A league down, Tim Ream's Fulham drew 0-0 at Charlton Athletic. Luca de la Torre was on the bench for Fulham. Matt Miazga was on the bench for Reading's 1-1 draw at Nottingham Forest. Giving up a goal in the 80th minute, Sam Baldock equalized for Reading in the 83rd.
Matt Polster wasn't in the squad for Rangers in their 1-0 home win over St Mirren. Jermain Defoe scored in the 34th minute. Sergino Dest's Ajax shutout Spakenburg 7-0 at home in the KNVB Beker round of 16. Siem De Jong scored a hat-trick and Lassina Traore had two goals. Dusan Tadic made it 6-0 in the 55th with Naci Unuvar converting an 86th minute penalty. Shaq Moore's Tenerife beat Real Valladolid 2-1 at home in the Copa del Rey round of 32. Trailing from the 52nd minute, Joselu equalized in the 67th and Dani Gomez converted a Tenerife penalty in the 86th.
The NY Times' Rory Smith uses Wolverhampton forward Adama Traore to make a point about player development. The Athletic's Laurie Whitwell on Manchester United's latest loss. The Independent's Mike McGrath offers a reason for why the January transfer window seems unspectacular in Europe. AP's Rob Harris reports on agent anger at FIFA's attempt to regulate fees.
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