Selecting Player of the Week gets difficult when we get an outstanding performance – although one perhaps not as essential to a result as another bright outing elsewhere in the league.
Chris Wondolowski’s hat trick against Colorado got a lot of splashy headline treatment, and it certainly should have. The record-chasing element further elevates this intriguing story. But was it really the performance that tipped the balance in a match (one that finished 4-1)?
It’s just a judgment call, of course. Last week, Thierry Henry was our Player of the Week, and you could argue that his team might have been fine without his goal and three assist. Mostly, I suppose, it comes down to what else is out there and whether the night in question was spectacularly dazzling or just damned good?
In this case, I saw something else every bit as deserving as Wondolowski’s night, not only for the individual performance aspect, but also for what it meant to his team.
The Chicago Fire was going the wrong way, clearly, having lost two in a row at a highly inopportune moment.
So Sherjill MacDonald delivered the very kind of afternoon, smart, skillful and determined all at once, that can turn a team’s fortunes.
The Fire’s Dutch striker was massive in his hold-up play and work off the ball in the visitor’s 2-0 win at New York. He had both goals, opportunistic finishes in the 65th and 79th minutes as Chicago made a huge move up the Eastern Conference table.
Spas Delev scored both Bulgarian goals (5th and 20th minutes) to secure all three points and send Danny Blind’s Netherlands side (7 points) into fourth place in Group A, six points back of leaders France and three back of second-place (qualifying playoffs) Sweden.
17-year-old Matthijs de Ligt was handed his international debut for the Dutch; he was ultimately at fault for both of Delev’s goals; he was subbed off at halftime (as was Georginio Wijnaldum).
Luxembourg 1-3 France
Olivier Giroud scored twice (28th and 77th minutes) for France, and Antoine Griezmann added the other (37th minute – penalty kick), as Les Bleus maintained their three-point lead in Group A. Kylian Mbappe, Monaco’s 18-year-old rising star, made his international debut in the 78th minute, when he replaced Dimitri Payet.
Portugal 3-0 Hungary
Cristiano Ronaldo bagged the 69th and 70th goals of his international career (36th and 65th minutes), as Portugal (12 points) kept pace with an unbeaten Switzerland side (15 points) which managed a 1-0 victory over Latvia to keep their 100-percent record intact. Andre Silva scored the opener (32nd minute) for Portugal, the 21-year-old Porto striker’s fifth goal in six international appearances.
Belgium 1-1 Greece
Romelu Lukaku‘s 89th-minute rescued a point for Group H leaders Belgium (13 points), but it did little to mask an otherwise uninspiring performance from Roberto Martinez’s side. Kostas Mitroglu put Greece ahead in the first minute of the second half, but Panagiotis Tachtsidis saw his second yellow of the game in the 65th minute, and that was the start of Greece’s unraveling. The draw was just enough to keep Greece (11 points) in second, ahead of Bosnia-Herzegovina, whose 5-0 thrashing of Gibraltar moved them to 10 points with a superior goal differential.
Elsewhere in UEFA’s World Cup qualifying
Sweden 4-0 Belarus
Switzerland 1-0 Latvia
Andorra 0-0 Faroe Islands
Bosnia-Herzegovina 5-0 Gibraltar
Cyprus 0-0 Estonia
What else needs to be said about Minnesota at this point? What else can be said? The number of goals they’ve conceded in their first four MLS games: 5, 6, 2, and 5. While (we think) a bit of luck will eventually go their way, and they’ll curtail the goals they’re conceding (we can’t be sure anymore), Adrian Heath’s side is on pace to conceded 153 goals this season.
Anyway, New England picked up their first win of the season. The quality (and ease) of goals scored will tell you everything you need to know about Minnesota’s defending.
Five days after firing head coach Jeff Cassar, RSL returned to their inept, toothless ways in a scoreless draw away to New York. Through four games, the Claret and Cobalt have scored all of one goal, and genuinely look the league’s most lifeless side; Minnesota have at least shown signs of quality in the attacking half.
On Saturday, New York created the majority of the game’s best chances — a pair of shots from distance, masterfully saved by deputy goalkeeper Matt VanOekel — but the chance that will live in the memories of RSL fans for a lifetime came and went in agonizing fashion.
TIRANA, Albania (AP) Albania’s soccer federation has strongly denounced the incident that halted the World Cup Group G qualifier with Italy for nearly nine minutes on Friday.
During the match, which was won by Italy, 2-0, a group calling itself Illyrian Elite threw flares onto the pitch.
“Such totally extremist actions from the grouping Illyrian Elite have nothing to do with the excellent Albanian fans” who were distinguished in the EURO 2016 finals in France for their friendship and camaraderie in their festivities, the statement added.
The federation said an coach Gianni De Biasi also was “upset by the flares,” adding that during five years he has been in charge “I’ve seen something that’s never happened before.”