Eric Alexander, Chris Wondolowski

MLS at mid-season: Staff discussion on Most Valuable Player, Rookie of the Year


With most teams having played somewhere between 16-18 games, we’re more or less at the halfway pole of Major League Soccer’s season.

So myself, Richard Farley and Noah Davis put our soccer brains together (Jenna Pel is in deep study for the upcoming Olympics) to sort out which MLS man is looking good for post-season awards, like Most Valuable Player, Rookie of the Year, etc. …

Steve Davis: As much as I hate to be master of the obvious, I like Chris Wondolowski right now. Obvious choice, I know, but MLS leading scorer and guiding force on the top team does scream “MVP,” eh? Is there a Danny Koevermans lover in the house? Thierry Henry, anyone? Somebody talk me off this ledge of the obvious.

Noah Davis: Hard to argue against Wondo (So good! So smiley!), but I’m taking Henry. I’ve been to a number of Red Bulls games this season – both with and without him playing – and I challenge you to find a player who makes a bigger impact on the game or his team when he’s playing. Plus, he spends time behind the seasons mentoring the younger guys (hey, Connor Lade), which is essential for a squad like the Red Bulls. Injuries slowed his scoring, but assuming he gets healthy (a big if) and returns to form (another big if), I can’t see voting against him at the end of the season.

Steve Davis: Ah, some good, old-fashioned East Coast media bias oozing into this process already! Wonderful. We needed some of that to establish credibility. Ahem.

Richard Farley: Allow the West Coast to even things out, even if I’m obvious in doing so? First, Wondo’s pure numbers are hard to debunk, but if you want a more “value to team” angle, look at the role he plays on that team. My line on San Jose all year has been they’re the best in the league because they have so many ways to beat you. Come minute 60, they can give you a totally different, equally effective look, but the key to that versatility is Wondo.

Steve Davis: Helps explain those amazing comebacks, eh?

Richard Farley: Exactly. Tuesday was a good example. Yallop started the game with Alan Gordon up top. But by the end, he was as much an attacking midfielder as forward, Yallop relying on him to provide the link between him and the midfield as well as get the ball to the speed merchants San Jose has wide. Everybody’s notice how good San Jose is in second halves. Wondo’s versatility’s a huge part of that.

Steve Davis: Hmmm. I’ll have to check Richard’s contract; I don’t remember any bonus clauses attached to Wonder Wondo and awards, but let me check.

So, Wondolowski for Rookie of the Year, too? Or do we have other thoughts on that one?

Noah Davis: Henry for RotY.

Steve Davis: Got ya down, Noah … do you have a second choice in case sanity or a technicality intervenes?source: Getty Images

Noah Davis: Sticking with the theme here, I’m taking Ryan Meara. He’s been a rock behind a defense that is, too often, in shambles. The Red Bulls have given up more goals than any team in the top-half of the league, but it’s hard to fault Meara for too many of them. When the would-be firefighter does give up goals, it’s because his backline hung him out to dry.

Richard Farley: I’m been struggling with this one. I want to give it to Ryan Meara (Noah outlines why), but that save percentage is really low. Whenever I see a stat that contradicts what I’m seeing with my eyes, I always ask what else is going into it. May New York just gives up a lot of quality chances. And they do, but ultimately Meara isn’t stopping as many shots as I think he should, If Nick DeLeon wasn’t putting in the work at D.C., I’d probably talk myself into Meara.

Steve Davis: You know, I keep waiting for the rookie wobble in NY goal, but it just doesn’t happen. I’m pulling for the kid. But…uh…Darren Mattocks in Vancouver. Healthy now. Four goals in eight games. Just sayin’…

(We’re taking a break for finger sandwiches and Oreos … We’ll talk about Coach of the Year and other mid-season honors tomorrow.)

EURO 2016: Who’s headed to France?

PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC - OCTOBER 10: Volkan Sen of Turkey in action during the UEFA EURO 2016 Group A Qualifier match between Czech Republic and Turkey at Letna Stadium on October 10, 2015 in Prague, Czech Republic. (Photo by Matej Divizna/Getty Images)
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The group stage of qualification is complete, as 20 teams have clinched a berth at EURO 2016, which kicks off next summer in France.

The top-two finishers in each group automatically qualified, as did the best third-place side out of all the groups (Turkey). France qualified automatically as the host nation.

[ MORE: EURO 2016 roundup ]

That leaves eight third-place teams to battle for the final four spots through a play-off. The draw for the matchups will take place on October 18, and those matches will be held from November 12-17 as a home-and-home play-off.

Group A

  1. Czech Republic
  2. Iceland
  3. Turkey (automatically qualified as best third-place side)

Group B

  1. Belgium
  2. Wales
  3. Bosnia and Herzegovina (qualified for play-off)

Group C

  1. Spain
  2. Slovakia
  3. Ukraine (qualified for play-off)

Group D

  1. Germany
  2. Poland
  3. Republic of Ireland (qualified for play-off)

Group E

  1. England
  2. Switzerland
  3. Slovenia (qualified for play-off)

Group F

  1. Northern Ireland
  2. Romania
  3. Hungary (qualified for play-off)

Group G

  1. Austria
  2. Russia
  3. Sweden (qualified for play-off)

Group H

  1. Italy
  2. Croatia
  3. Norway (qualified for play-off)

Group I

  1. Portugal
  2. Albania
  3. Denmark (qualified for play-off)

EURO 2016: Dutch disaster as Netherlands fail to qualify

AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - OCTOBER 13:  Robin van Persie of the Netherlands (19) reacts during the UEFA EURO 2016 qualifying Group A match between the Netherlands and the Czech Republic at Amsterdam Arena on October 13, 2015 in Amsterdam, Netherlands.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
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The group stage of qualifying for the 2016 European Championship has come to a close, and one of the top teams in the world will not be playing in France next summer.

Netherlands 2-3 Czech Republic

The Netherlands finished second at the 2010 World Cup and third at the 2014 World Cup, but have failed to qualify for EURO 2016. Playing in front of a home crowd in a must-win match against the Czech Republic, the Dutch got off to a dreadful start, falling behind 2-0 as manager Danny Blind was forced to make a substitution within the opening 40 minutes. The Czech Republic was sent to ten men before the break, but an own-goal from Robin Van Persie made it 3-0 as the Dutch couldn’t recover. A disastrous result for the Netherlands, as big changes will surely come from the top down.

[ RELATED: David de Gea fighting for starting goalkeeper position with Spain ]

Italy 2-1 Norway

Italy finishes atop Group H without a loss after defeating Norway 2-1 today. Norway took the lead through Norwich City’s Alexander Tettey, but late goals from Alessandro Florenzi and Southampton’s Graziano Pelle gave the Italians all three points.

Malta 0-1 Croatia

With Norway’s loss, Croatia jumped into second place in Group H and secured qualification to EURO 2016 with a 1-0 win away at Malta. Inter Milan’s Ivan Perisic scored the game’s only goal, as Croatia advances despite having one point deducted due to inappropriate actions from their fans.

Elsewhere in EURO qualifying

Group A

Turkey 1-0 Iceland
Latvia 0-1 Kazakhstan

Group B

Belgium 3-1 Israel
Wales 2-0 Andorra
Cyprus 2-3 Bosnia and Herzegovina

Group H

Bulgaria 2-0 Azerbaijan