Chicago Fire v New York Red Bulls

Starry nights: MLS Team of the Week – Round 31



  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.

“Overweight” Costa comes to Mourinho’s defense

Diego Costa, Chelsea FC
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Diego Costa says he and his Chelsea teammates are to blame for Chelsea’s horrid start to the 2015-16 Premier League season.

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Speaking Thursday, during a bit of downtime over the current international break (Costa was left out of Vicente del Bosque’s squad for Spain’s final two EURO 2016 qualifiers this week), Costa placed the majority of blame at the feet of the entire team, but went on to most harshly critique himself for coming into the season unfocused and “overweight.”

Costa, on his lack of fitness and form to begin the season — quotes from the Guardian:

“We know we’re not in the form we were supposed to be at the beginning of the season. We need to blame the players because we came back from holiday very confident, thinking we could go back into how it was last season, and then realized the team was already in a bad situation.

“I’m going to be very honest: maybe a few weeks ago, five or six weeks ago, I was not on top of my game. At least physically. We talk within the players and we know that, maybe at the beginning, we were not 100 percent as we were supposed to be when we got here. I got injured at the end of last season and then I went on holiday. Maybe I got out of my diet and, when I came back, I was not the way I was supposed to be. I was a little bit overweight. That affected my game. You can be selfish and blame it on the manager but I’m not going to do that. I’m responsible 100%, and so are the other guys.

Given that Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said on Thursday he doesn’t quite know what’s wrong with the defending Premier League champions, hearing someone — anyone — speak up and explain the club’s worst start to a season in 37 years will surely be a welcome sound to any Blues supporter’s ears.

[ MORE: Liverpool appoint Klopp as manager | Allardyce to Sunderland? ]

Costa, who is eligible to return from suspension next weekend when Aston Villa visit Stamford Bridge, has scored just one goal in league play this season (six appearances) after scoring 20 in 26 games last season.

Sam Allardyce to open talks with Sunderland

Sam Allardyce, West Ham United FC
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Now that Liverpool have selected and named their new manager, it appears Sunderland are finally ready to move forward with their own managerial search. (That’s clearly a joke, because it implies Liverpool and Sunderland ever duke it out for the same managerial candidate.)

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Anyway, the Black Cats will have to hire someone to replace the recently-departed Dick Advocaat at some point. We all knew that, despite the fact he’s probably earned a shot at that level, Bob Bradley was never really going to be considered for the job. With that in mind, if you’re not going to endear yourself to the entire United States of America with this hire, you might as well go for the best unemployed manager who’ll actually consider your approach.

That’s what Sunderland chairman Ellis Short appears to have done, as it was reported Thursday that despite an initial reluctance from Sam Allardyce — let’s be honest, he actually was holding out hope for the Liverpool job — the 60-year-old most recently in charge of West Ham United was willing and ready to enter into negotiations with the northeastern club.

One of the major sticking points during Sunderland’s courting of Allardyce is expected to be his demand for autonomy in the transfer market as well as a sizable transfer budget to sign his own players during the January window.

[ MORE: Advocaat: Sunderland squad too thin, chairman to blame ]

Allardyce seems like the no. 1 guy you’d like to bring in to steady a capsized ship — cough Sunderland cough — in any situation. Not only does he have a successful track record in the Premier League, but he’s the kind of no-nonsense leader a club like Sunderland so desperately needs as they find themselves in yet another relegation battle just eight games into the new season.

Short hopes to have Allardyce signed, sealed and delivered when the Premier League returns to action next weekend. In that event, Allardyce’s first game in charge of Sunderland would be a trip to West Bromwich Albion. His first home fixture? Home to Tyne-Wear derby rivals Newcastle United, a club whose boisterous fanbase still holds a great deal of disdain for Big Sam. Sometimes the football gods really are looking out for us.