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.)

Soccer world reacts to the Manchester attacks

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NBC News is reporting that at least 19 people have been killed and another 50 are injured following a possible suicide bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester.

Multiple senior U.S. intelligence officials who are monitoring British authorities told NBC News that preliminary reports indicate that a single explosion took place outside the arena on the southwest side opposite the train station. The explosion occurred as the concert ended, catching people as they exited.

Soccer personalities around the world are reacting to the horrible event.

Juventus purchases Cuadrado from Chelsea

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If you didn’t realize Juan Cuadrado still belonged to Chelsea, you’re forgiven.

The Colombian attacker will complete his second season at Juventus after the UEFA Champions League Final against Real Madrid, and won’t be headed back to Chelsea afterwards.

Juve has purchased Cuadrado, and the fee is $22 million, and Juve will pay it over three seasons. Cuadrado, 28, is now signed through 2020 with The Old Lady.

Cuadrado first went on loan to Juve in Aug. 2015, and has eight goals and 18 assists in 83 career appearances with the club.

Chelsea bought Cuadrado from Fiorentina for around $32 million in the January 2015 transfer window, but made just 14 appearances with the club.

Report: Jermain Defoe meeting with Bournemouth

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Sky Sports is reporting that Jermain Defoe may head back to the south of England following Sunderland’s relegation.

Defoe, 34, spent two seasons with Portsmouth between 2008-09, scoring 15 goals in 31 appearances.

[ MORE: ‘The Moment’ of each PL club’s season ]

The 56-times capped England striker had a clause in his Sunderland contract allowing him to leave the Stadium of Light were the Black Cats to be relegated, as they were this season. He’d have little interest in dropping into the Championship given his desire to stay a part of the England squad ahead of the 2018 World Cup.

Bournemouth’s strike corps includes Joshua King, who scored the most goals of any player not on a Top Seven side this season. King’s 16 goals were one more than Defoe’s 15, though the latter scored just one goal following a brace against Crystal Palace on Feb. 4.

Chelsea’s Conte wins pair of top managerial honors

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Antonio Conte took league and national honors from the League Managers Association on Monday night.

The Chelsea boss was named Premier League Manager of the Year and Manager of the Year after leading the Blues to the PL title and an FA Cup Final in his first year on the job.

Brighton and Hove Albion boss Chris Hughton nabbed another Championship boss of the year award after leading the Gulls to the Premier League. He also won the honor with Newcastle United in 2010.

The League One winner is Chris Wilder of Sheffield United. Wilder won the honor with Northampton Town last season.

In League Two, Paul Cook of Portsmouth was named the winner.