Eric Alexander, Chris Wondolowski

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

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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.)

Wales manager says Arsenal could have avoided Aaron Ramsey injury

GOTHENBURG, SWEDEN - AUGUST 07: Aaron Ramsey of Arsenal during the Pre-Season Friendly between Arsenal and Manchester City at Ullevi on August 7, 2016 in Gothenburg, Sweden. (Photo by Nils Petter Nilsson/Ombrello/Getty Images)
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Wales manager Chris Coleman says Arsenal could have prevented Aaron Ramsey‘s current hamstring injury had they left him out of the early-season matches.

Ramsey was withdrawn in 62nd minute of Arsenal’s season opener against Liverpool after pulling up, and Coleman believes it happened for a reason. “It’s disappointing he’s got an injury. Could it have been prevented? Possibly, yes,” Coleman told the media ahead of the international window. “I think we all expected him to [miss the start of the season]. So I don’t know what happened between then and when he ended up on the pitch. Obviously only Arsenal can answer that. I think, to a man, if you were looking at [Arsenal’s team-sheet], it was a bit of a surprise he started.”

Ramsey helped Wales progress to the Euro 2016 semifinals. Many starts from countries that went deep in the Euros got a rest to start the season. Many of France’s team members, including Dimitri Payet and even Ramsey’s Arsenal teammate Olivier Giroud saw time off to start the Premier League season.

“When you’ve got a player as good as Aaron, take him out of any team and you are going to know about it,” Coleman said. “He is irreplaceable. He makes a huge impact for us. He is a great player and it’s a shame he’s not here. He’s a loss to any team.”

Wales has a World Cup qualifier against Moldova on September 5.

MLS Snapshot: Orlando City SC 1-2 Toronto FC

TORONTO, ON - MAY 07:  Sebastian Giovinco #10 of Toronto FC dribbles the ball during the second half of an MLS soccer game against FC Dallas at BMO Field on May 7, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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The game in 100 words (or less): The Orlando City defense played a 75 minute match, and those 15 minutes off cost them the match. A pair of sleepy moments early and late in the match saw Toronto bag two goals on the road and leave Citrus Bowl Stadium with all three points. Sebastian Giovinco had the assists on both, a pair of perfectly timed through balls – one over the top and one through the middle – sprung the Toronto strikers.

Three moments that mattered

7′ – Toronto had a dream start just seven minutes in when a looping ball from Sebastian Giovinco found Tousaint Ricketts. He torched Tommy Redding down the right, breaking free on goal and finishing the one-on-one chance around Joe Bednik cooly.

56′ – Greg Vanney’s anger was doubled. First, the Toronto FC manager was left seething at a foul called as Marco Delgado clipped Matias Garcia and gave Orlando a set-piece opportunity. In the ensuing spell of possession, a cross from Luke Boden met the head of Clye Larin, who deposited it into the back of the net. A stone-faced Vanney was left seething on the bench as the home side leveled it up at 1-1.

86′ – Jozy Altidore came off the bench to finish off the game, and while he had a horrible miss just minutes into the game, he atoned at the end. The visitors again caught the Orlando defense completely asleep, with the back line pressed way high up the pitch. Altidore timed his run perfectly, and the hosts didn’t even attempt to catch up. One-on-one, the USMNT striker finished easily.

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Man of the match: Sebastian Giovinco

Goalscorers: Ricketts 7′, Larin 56′, Altidore 86′

Men In Blazers podcast: Leicester vs. Arsenal, plus wins for Mourinho, Pep, and Conte

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Rog and Davo recap the discordant draw that was Leicester vs. Arsenal and break down perfect starts for Mourinho, Pep and Antonio Conte.

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Hope Solo suspended from USWNT for 6 months, contract terminated

KANSAS CITY, KS - JULY 22:  Goalkeeper Hope Solo #1 of the United States in action during the game against Costa Rica at Children's Mercy Park on July 22, 2016 in Kansas City, Kansas.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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U.S. Soccer has announced that Hope Solo has been suspended from the USWNT for six months following the comments she made about Sweden’s performance in the quarterfinal match that saw the U.S. eliminated from the 2016 Olympics in the quarterfinals.

Sweden played a defensively-minded match, which finished in a 1-1 draw and progressed to penalties, where Sweden defeated the reigning World Cup champions. Solo told reporters following the match that “I think we played a bunch of cowards” and “the best team did not win.”

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“The comments by Hope Solo after the match against Sweden during the 2016 Olympics were unacceptable and do not meet the standard of conduct we require from our National Team players,” said U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati in a statement on Wednesday evening. “Beyond the athletic arena, and beyond the results, the Olympics celebrate and represent the ideals of fair play and respect. We expect all of our representatives to honor those principles, with no exceptions. ”

The statement said that prior incidents were considered “as well as the private conversations we’ve had requiring her to conduct herself in a manner befitting a U.S. National Team member” when determining the length of the suspension. Solo was suspended in 30 days back in 2015 for a build-up of conduct issues. Even considering her prior conduct problems, the length of suspension is surprising for simply inflammatory comments, but U.S. Soccer made it clear in the statement that there is likely more to this than meets the eye.

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With the six-month layoff, Solo will be eligible to return to the team in February of 2017. The team has just two more matches scheduled for the remainder of 2016. She can still play for her club team Seattle Reign during the suspension. There was another term of punishment levied on Solo:

Other reports have confirmed that, because U.S. Soccer pays her club contract as well, only her national team portion of the contract was revoked.

“During our current National Team camp, Hope made a poor decision that has resulted in a negative impact on U.S. Soccer and her teammates,” coach Jill Ellis said in a separate statement. “We feel at this time it is best for her to step away from the team.”

Solo responded to the suspension, saying, “I apologize for disappointing my teammates, coaches and the Federation who have always supported me,” she wrote. “I think it’s best for me to take a break, decompress from the stress of the last several months, and come back mentally and physically ready to positively contribute to the team.”

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While Hope Solo seems to accept the decision, the player’s union isn’t so much.