Starry nights: MLS Team of the Week – Round 31

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Goalkeeper:

  • FC Dallas’ Kevin Hartman

Rationale, motive and intent: Hartman contributed seven huge saves, each as valuable as the other (and a couple to be stamped “spectacular”) as he single-handedly kept a little playoff breath going in the FC Dallas body. They are just barely in the hunt – but he did his part and then some.

Back line:

  • Real Salt Lake’s Nat Borchers
  • Chicago’s Arne Friedrich (pictured)
  • Philadelphia’s Carlos Valdes

Rationale, motive and intent:

Borchers helped settle things down and then forcefully lock things down for Real Salt Lake after the visitors were nearly overrun in the first 20 minutes by the sizzling Galaxy.

Friedrich delivered when its team had to have it, keeping things tidy in the back against Thierry Henry and the offensively stacked Red Bulls. Friedrich also made an impact on the Fire attack with his selective bursts forward.

Valdes was his steady self, delivering the goods in two wins while keeping young, continually emerging center back Amobi Okugo pointed in the right direction.

Midfield:

  • Vancouver’s Dane Richards
  • San Jose Marvin Chavez
  • Seattle’s Christian Tiffert

Rationale, motive and intent: Richards was nearly unstoppable as the Whitecaps finally looked like a playoff team in a resounding 4-0 win over Chivas USA.

Chavez had a goal and an assist as the Earthquakes went into Denver and picked apart the home side.  And Tiffert was a force in the wide areas for Seattle in the 3-0 crusher over Portland, one witnessed by quite a few folks.

Forwards:

  • Chicaco’s Sherjill MacDonald
  • San Jose’s Chris Wondolowski
  • Real Salt Lake’s Fabian Espindola
  • Philadelphia’s Jack McInerney

Rationale, motive and intent: We covered MacDonald’s two-goal night in the Player of the Week post from about an hour ago.

Wondolowski moved closer to the single-season goal mark with his 23rd, 24th and 25th goals this year, those in a 4-1 destruction of the Colorado Rapids outside Denver. Two more games to catch Roy Lassiter’s all-time MLS mark.

Espindola hit twice as the visitors upset David Beckham and the Galaxy outside L.A.

McInerney, barely 20 years old now, had two goals and an assists as the Union won twice last week. Too bad more of this didn’t happen around PPL Park earlier this year – the winning that is, not necessarily McInerney’s late-season exploits.

AT HALF: Lletget, Bradley, Dempsey spur USMNT to 3-0 lead

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The United States men’s national team’s bid to recover their 2018 World Cup hopes is off to a flying start.

As it stands, the 3-0 halftime lead provided by Sebastian Lletget, Michael Bradley, and Clint Dempsey has the Yanks up from sixth to fourth in the Hex table.

Sebastian Lletget scored a fifth minute goal to ease the tensions of the Avaya Stadium crowd in San Jose, though he’d leave the match with injury before the match was 20 minutes old.

Sloppy Honduran defending caused a turnover outside the 18, and Jozy Altidore played Christian Pulisic in on goal.

[ LIVE – Play-by-play via @USSoccer ]

Keeper Donis Escober got a piece of Pulisic’s shot, but no one followed Lletget to the back post and the ex-West Ham and current LA Galaxy man quickly put the Yanks up 1-0.

Then it was the captain who doubled the lead, as Honduras inexplicably gave him the room to walk across the arc of the 18 to rip a shot across goal. 2-0.

It was Clint Dempsey’s turn in the 33rd minute, after an otherworldly scooped pass from Pulisic.

What. A. Pass. Kid.

LINEUP

USMNT: Howard; Villafana, Gonzalez, Brooks, Cameron; Bradley, Lletget (Bedoya, 18′), Nagbe; Pulisic, Dempsey, Altidore.

Goals: Lletget (5′), Bradley (27′), Dempsey (33′)

LIVE – USMNT looks to right ship vs. Honduras

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The United States starts to make amends for its 0-2 start to the final round of World Cup qualifying with a match against Honduras on Friday in San Jose.

Losses to Mexico and Costa Rica cost Jurgen Klinsmann his job and Bruce Arena will try things differently

[ LIVE – Play-by-play via @USSoccer ]

Most importantly for Arena, Geoff Cameron and Tim Howard are available this time around.

Cameron starts at right back, with John Brooks and Omar Gonzalez in the center of the back four. Jorge Villafana slots into the mix at left back.

Captain Michael Bradley will sit atop the midfield, with Darlington Nagbe, Sebastian Lletget, and Christian Pulisic in the midfield.

Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore are the forwards. Kickoff is set for 10:55 p.m. EDT from Avaya Stadium.

Minnesota’s Molino lifts Trinidad and Tobago to big win (video)

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Minnesota United attacker Kevin Molino has given Trinidad and Tobago life in the race to win a spot at the 2018 World Cup.

Molino’s 37th minute goal gave hosts T&T a 1-0 lead against visiting Panama at Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain on Friday, and the Soca Warriors held on to win its first points of qualifying.

Panama had a Luis Tejada goal controversially ruled offside as Los Canaleros nearly pulled their fifth point of the Hex. Panama faces the USMNT on Tuesday in Panama City.

[ WATCH: Zaha scores wonder vs. Russia ]

Molino fooled long time LA Galaxy goalkeeper Jaime Penedo with a low shot across the body. The Panama backstop couldn’t get low enough or far enough with his dive to stop the shot.

The win has T&T in fifth place on the Hex table, behind Honduras on goal differential and three points ahead of the last place USMNT.

The U.S. needs a two-goal win to pass T&T, and a three-goal win to climb above Honduras.

WATCH: Zaha drives Russia nuts with mazy dribble goal

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Wilfried Zaha combined balance, deft touch, and breakneck speed to score his first international goal for the Ivory Coast.

With his side leading Russia 1-0 on Friday, the Crystal Palace winger worked his way through four defenders before burying his shot.

[ MORE: Smalling hurt, Gibson called up ]

Zaha especially fooled with Ilya Kutepov, a harsh cut nearly tipping both to the field.

He’s just 24, and it seems much longer ago that he made his failed move to Manchester United in 2013.

Failed may be a rough verb considering it all contributed to making him the player he is for Crystal Palace and Ivory Coast today.