Sporting KC v DC United

MLS at mid-season: Staff discussion on Coach, Newcomer of Year


Richard, Noah and I continue our MLS at mid-season discussion.

We covered MVP and Rookie of the Year earlier.

Fortified with snacks, on we go …

Steve Davis: I have to say, Coach of the Year is turning out be the hardest choice since I had to pick between the nerdy-adorable girl and the drill teamer as my U2 concert date in high school.

I’d say Ben Olsen deserves some Coach o’ Year thought. So does Frank Yallop, clearly. But Martin Rennie is killing it at BC Place. And good heavens, Miss Sakamoto, Hans Backe’s team is almost beautiful, never mind that his locker room doubles as a triage staging area.

Richard Farley: I think Robert Warzycha deserves some consideration, too. His team’s tied for the best GAA, though the pace they play at probably has something to do with that (as does some awesome play from his goalkeeper). Still, it’s not like he has a ton to work with there.

That said, I like Olsen. He’s making us forget all the questions that surrounded D.C. coming into the season. He’s got the defense under control, he’s dealt with the lack of production from some big ticket items, and look at what he’s gotten out of Pontius and Santos?

That said, I feel like I’m underselling Rennie a bit. And aren’t I supposed to be the West Coast guy?

Noah Davis: I’ll take up the Rennie torch. The Whitecaps were terrible last year, finishing 18th out of, you know, 18, giving up 55 goals while scoring a league-low 35. Fast forward, and they are third in the Western Conference, sixth overall, and well-positioned for the playoffs. BC Place (5-1-3) is a fortress. There’s some turnover in the roster, but not that much. Rennie deserves credit for building a band of castoffs, misfits, goofballs, and, yes, genuine talents into a formidable squad. (As does director of soccer operations, Tom Soehn, for the changes he’s made and the picks he’s selected. Darren Mattocks is looking more and more like a superstar in the making.) If Rennie can successfully incorporate DP Barry Robson into the mix, he has my vote.

Steve Davis: Ok, Bruce Arena it is. Let’s move on.

I can’t remember, is Breakout Player an award? Well, we’re no slave to The Man … by gosh, let’s make it one. Power to the ProSoccerTalk people! I’ll take Michael Farfan from Philly.

Noah Davis: I’ll take Andy Gruenebaum. Guy deserves a trip to Philly.

Steve Davis: Maybe All-Stars coach Ben Olsen will make him a “coach’s choice” and bring him in a couple of weeks.

Hmmm. I’m getting weird looks from Richard, which either means I’m getting too much orange Cheeto substance on our official ballots or he wants to move on to Newcomer of the Year. Or that he is super PO’ed about my Bruce Arena funny.

source: Getty Images

Steve Davis: So … Newcomer of the Year: I suppose we have to leave some room for consideration over Alessandro Nesta, Barry Robson, Oscar Boniek Garcia and other summer signings. But I’m measuring up Victor Bernardez for a ProSoccerTalk Newcomer of the Year t-shirt. San Jose “D” is a such a lesser beast without him.

This is where Merritt Paulson stalks us on Twitter with talk of Kris Boyd’s huge second-half ahead, but we’ll see.

Richard Farley: Kris Boyd’s got to be a whole different discussion, but Bernardez? My notes from Tuesday game were crazy. I have this shorthand I use for effective headers: H+. Within 30 minutes, Bernardez had 6-7 H+’s by his name (going up against Boyd, incidentally). I said to my running mate, “Troy Perkins needs to start avoiding Bernardez.” I wish I’d been more clever.

Alright, Steve. As long as you put a bunch of “H+” stickers down those sleeves like they’re Ohio State buckeyes, I’m on board with Bernardez being back on top come game 34 …

Either him or Frank Lampard. I mean, why would a guy want to stay with a team he just helped lead to a Champions League?

Steve Davis: Well, Noah just said something about rehearsal for his Pearl Jam cover band starting early and went running out of the room.  …

So, I’ll see if I can get Hans Backe on the phone to fill out the rest of Noah’s ballot. Or, maybe we’ll just put down New England’s Saer Sene (8 goals, 15 games … not bad) for him and table the last discussions until tomorrow.

Richard, please text Noah and ask him to think up some choices for Defender of the Year, Goalkeeper of the Year and maybe some wild cards, like biggest disappointment or favorite Honduran or something.

MLS Cup Playoffs: Seattle Sounders 1-0 Sporting KC (video)

Seattle Sounders defender Roman Torres, right, exchanges words with Sporting Kansas City's Kevin Ellis, left, and Soni Mustivar, center, after Sounders' midfielder Osvaldo Alonso (not shown) was given a yellow card for a foul against midfielder Roger Espinoza in the first half of an MLS soccer playoff match, Thursday, Oct. 27, 2016, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
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The game in 100 words (or less): There’s a ton to unpack here, so we’ll dive right in. The Seattle Sounders topped Sporting Kansas City in the final knockout-round game of the 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs. Nelson Valdez scored the game’s only goal, an 88th-minute header, but not without supreme controversy. For starters, Valdez was offside as Joevin Jones played the ball into the box, just as Matt Besler was on a free kick for Sporting earlier in the second half. Besler’s goal was ruled out for offside, Valdez’s was allowed to stand. Benny Feilhaber, perhaps in his final game for Sporting, played like a man possessed and so nearly singlehandedly won the game for Sporting at multiple points on the night. Stefan Frei stood on his head and refused to allow such an occurrence. Osvaldo Alonso could have been sent off twice on the night — once on a straight red; once on a second yellow — but finished the game with just a single caution. Up next, the Sounders will take on Supporters’ Shield-winning FC Dallas in the Western Conference semifinals.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS Cup Playoffs preview coverage ]

Three Four moments that mattered

10′ — Zusi hits the post with a strike through traffic — Benny Feilhaber’s through ball to set up this double-chance for Sporting in sumptuous, and fully deserving of a proper finish.

53′ — Besler heads home, but he’s offside — This is about as close an onside/offside decisions get.

79′ — Frei denies Feilhaber after a spectacular run — Feilhaber’s run was mesmerizing, but Stefan Frei’s save was the tiniest bit better.

88′ — Valdez heads home the late winner — If Besler was offside, Valdez was offside. An unfitting end to a thrilling game.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Men of the match: Benny Feilhaber

Goalscorers: Valdez (88′)

MLS Cup Playoffs: D.C. United 2-4 Montreal Impact (video)

CORRECTS DATE - Montreal Impact forward Matteo Mancosu, back, celebrates his goal with Ignacio Piatti (10) during the first half of an MLS playoff soccer match against D.C. United, Thursday, Oct. 27, 2016, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
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The game in 100 words (or less): There are epic playoff collapses, and there is the MLS Cup Playoffs abomination put forth by D.C. United on Thursday. Playing host to a Montreal Impact side that won just two of its last eight regular-season games and crawled over the finish line, United — winners of four of their last five and one of the hottest teams in the league down the stretch — no-showed Thursday’s knockout-round tie, and their season is deservingly finished. Laurent Ciman put the Impact ahead inside the first five minutes, and United never recovered or seemed the least bit urgent with their season on the line. Matteo Mancosu bagged a brace either side of halftime to make it 3-0, and Ignacio Piatti, who was his usual brilliant self — so good, in fact, he made you forget Didier Drogba was unavailable due to injury/dispute over his role as a substitute — added a fourth not long before full-time. Lamar Neagle grabbed a late consolation goal for United, bringing them back to 4-1 before Taylor Kemp fired a laser past Evan Bush for 4-2 late in stoppage time, but that’s as close as they’d get. Up next for the Impact, it’s the New York Red Bulls in the Eastern Conference semifinals, beginning Sunday.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS Cup Playoffs preview coverage ]

Three moments that mattered

4′ — Ciman slots home from a corner for 1-0 — An absolute dream start for Montreal, as Ciman gets front side of his marker and benefits from a fortunate bounce after he scuffs the shot.

43′ — Mancosu slams home Piatti’s cross for 2-0 — Someone tell DCU that the knockout round is most definitely win-or-go-home. Horrific defending. Ball-watching all over the place. This is not the same team that won four of their last five in order to host this game.

58′ — Mancosu heads home at the near post for 3-0 — Steve Birnbaum has not had the greatest end to the 2016 season. Stay healthy, John Brooks and Geoff Cameron.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Men of the match: Matteo Mancosu

Goalscorers: Ciman (4′), Mancosu (43′, 58′), Piatti (83′), Neagle (90′), Kemp (90+4′)

FOLLOW LIVE: 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs knockout round

Sporting Kansas City forward Dom Dwyer, center, is congratulated by teammates, including midfielder Roger Espinoza (27), following his goal during the first half of an MLS soccer match against the Houston Dynamo in Kansas City, Kan., Saturday, Aug. 1, 2015. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
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The knockout round of the 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs concludes on Thursday, as four teams vie for the final two places — one in the Eastern Conference, one in the Western Conference — in the conference semifinals, which begin on Sunday.

[ FOLLOW LIVE: MLS Cup Playoffs knockout round ]

Up first, the East’s fourth-seeded D.C. United welcome the five-seed Montreal Impact to RFK Stadium for the two sides’ third meeting of the 2016 season. Each of the year’s first two clashes finished a 1-1 draw, in July and August. Didier Drogba is expected to be unavailable for the win-or-go-home tie. United finished the regular season with four wins in the last five games, while the Impact won just two of their last eight.

[ MORE: Preivewing Thursday night’s knockout-round games ]

In the nightcap, the West’s fourth-seeded Seattle Sounders will take on the five-side, Sporting Kansas City, at CenturyLink Field. Sporting were victorious in both regular-season meetings this year — 1-0 on opening day, and 3-0 in late-July, the day the Sounders essentially quit on Sigi Schmid. Since that blistering hot day in KC, the Soudners have lost just twice in 14 games (eight wins, four draws).

Thursday’s MLS Cup Playoffs schedule

D.C. United vs. Montreal Impact — 7:30 p.m. ET
Seattle Sounders vs. Sporting KC — 10 p.m. ET

Cristiano Ronaldo says Ashley Cole is the toughest player he faced

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Cristiano Ronaldo has faced the best defenders in the world during his time with Manchester United, Real Madrid and the Portuguese national team.

He has also caused fits for most of those defenders with goal after goal for club and country. But, there have been some players who have at least made it difficult for the all-time leading goal scorer in Real Madrid and Champions League history.

According to Ronaldo, former Chelsea and Arsenal defender Ashley Cole was the toughest player he has faced in his career.

[ MORE: VIDEO: Incredible Pelle goal in China ]

“Over the years I had some great battles with Ashley Cole, he does not give you a second to breathe,” Ronaldo told Coach Mag. “He was such a tenacious player when he was at his peak, quick, tough in the tackle. You knew it would never be an easy game.”

During his time with Manchester United, Ronaldo faced Cole on numerous occasions while Cole was with Arsenal and Chelsea. The two have also faced off in international competition between Ronaldo’s Portugal and Cole’s England.

It’s certainly high praise for Cole, who now plays in MLS for the LA Galaxy. At the age of 35, Cole has started 25 matches for the Galaxy this season, scoring one goal.