ProSoccerTalk’s Award conversations: Major League Soccer Coach of the Year

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Three soccer brains are clearly better than one. So Richard Farley, Noah Davis and I huddled up virtually to sort out our ProSoccerTalk picks for Major League Soccer awards.

We started with Coach of the Year:

Steve Davis: All right guys, the other day on a radio show I just kind of prattled something off the top of my head about D.C. United’s Ben Olsen being the obvious choice. But I find life without a backspace key brings out the stupid in me. Not that Olsen is a bad choice; first playoff berth for United since 2007? No Dwayne De Rosario at the end? And he’s the league’s youngest coach?

But I talked about it like there was no choice to be made. Which really is quite stupid. (It was too early; no more radio interviews without morning coffee for me!)

So, who wants to make the case for … can I get a Frank Yallop? …

Richard Farley: I’ll gladly do so, since I was the PST guy that fell in love with San Jose at the beginning of the season. If Frank’s still driving, I’m still riding.

For Coach of the Year, I look for what a guy did with the talent he had, but I want to be able to point to specific examples (just in case a Steve Davis of the world asked me to go on record). By this standard, Yallop’s got the best case.

At the beginning of the season, few were picking San Jose to make the playoffs. The West was tough, and their talent just didn’t look up to snuff. Early on, though, it was apparent that he had fused the parts together to create a greater sum. In a year in which they were supposed to be gone by November, San Jose cruised to the Supporters’

Shield, Yallop’s setup getting career years out of almost all of his regular starting XI. You could say all the stars aligned for him, but that’s a lot of stars and a very straight line. It’s far more plausible that Yallop’s done an incredible job.

If he needs more support, look at San Jose’s late match effectively.

Not only does that speak to the changes Yallop makes in-game (San Jose is regularly a completely different team come full time), but it also tells of the mentality he’s helped instill in the team.

Noah Davis: I’ll see your Yallop — the Goonies can’t win all the post-season awards — and raise you my midseason pick, Mr. Martin Rennie. Getting that Whitecaps team to the promised land of the playoffs, even if it is simply to lose to the Galaxy, ain’t no thang. That roster, being kind here, is not that good. Sure, Jay DeMerit is the best on-field leader in MLS but someone has to put the pieces on the field. While I didn’t love all the moves they made up in the Great White North, they made enough to eek into the post-season. Now it’s time for the real test.

Steve Davis: Hmmm. I think Noah has already run out of provisions in his NY bunker. Somebody rush the man over some Slim Jims and a mineral water. Stat!

Rennie helped erect that crane and wrecking ball they took to a team that was doing pretty well. They “rebuilt” the roster to within an inch of its life.  I like the guy personally, but I just don’t think the final product in 2012 speaks well of him.

source: Getty Images

Richard Farley: Crane and wrecking ball? Is that an allusion to Merritt Paulson and John Spencer? Very clever, Mr. Davis.

Steve Davis: So, you are advocating John Spencer then?  I kid, I kid! Anybody else we need to consider before moving on to Rookie of the Year?

Richard Farley: I’d be curious to hear your guys’ thoughts on Chicago’s Frank Klopas [pictured].

Steve Davis: Meh.

Noah Davis: I’m with Steve. Too late to throw my lot in with Yallop?

Steve Davis: Got you down, Noah. So I’m out-voted. Democracy rules. Thomas freakin’ Jefferson got nothing on us.

Our Pick: San Jose’s FRANK YALLOP

Barcelona plan Cruyff tribute at club’s training center

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) One year after his death, Barcelona says it will name the future stadium at its training center after Dutch great Johan Cruyff.

The new stadium at Barcelona’s training center just outside the Catalan city will be called “Johan Cruyff Stadium” in honor of the club’s former player and coach.

Barcelona says in a statement that “the most emblematic building in the facility where future Barca players are coached is to be named after somebody who played such a central role in fostering youth talent at the club.”

Barcelona also says it will commission a “commemorative sculpture” of Cruyff, who died of lung cancer on March 24 last year at age 68. The statue will be placed at Barcelona’s main Camp Nou stadium.

Cruyff is largely credited with launching Barcelona’s era of trophy success, both as a player and a coach.

As a player, Cruyff joined Barcelona midseason in 1973 and led the middle-of-the-table team to its first national title in a decade.

He later returned as a coach and guided Barcelona to four consecutive Spanish leagues from 1991-94 and the club’s first European Cup in 1992.

“I think the tributes are very warming,” said Cruyff’s son, Jordi Cruyff. “It sort of changes the sadness that we might feel as family to lose a father, a husband and a grandfather. It changes to a certain kind of pride to understand that he left something behind.”

MLS Snapshot: Defense optional — Crew SC outlast Timbers, 3-2

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The game in 100 words (or less): As far as teams who get out in the open field and score the lion’s share of their goals on the counter-attacking, there aren’t many MLS teams better than Columbus Crew SC and the Portland Timbers. The two sides met Saturday night at MAPFRE Stadium, site of their MLS Cup 2015 clash, and lived up to their reputations. Of the five goals scored, two were notched on flat-out counters and two more came to pass through quick transitional movements. Portland (9 points) dropped their first points of the season, falling 3-2 to goals scored by Justin Meram, Ola Kamara and Niko Hansen, while Crew SC have back-to-back wins and find themselves level on points (7) with the New York Red Bulls with each side having played four games.

[ MORE: Saturday’s MLS (afternoon) roundup ]

Three Four Five moments that mattered

4′ — Asprilla opens the scoring early on — 2017 Crew SC defending, same as 2016 Crew SC defending.

11′ — Meram fires home the rebound for 1-1 — One of Portland’s biggest weaknesses last season was their set-piece defending. Looks like not much has changed.

19′ — Higuain feeds Kamara for a 2-1 lead — The question mark that Portland will eventually have to answer is this: How much, if at all, have they improved defensively in the open field? Based on this Crew SC counter-attack, the answer might be “not much.”

45+3′ — Adi recovers to make it 2-2 — Everything Adi does these days (even the bad things, like this first touch) ends up being good.

84′ — Hansen cleans up at the back post for 3-2 — Jake Gleeson made a spectacular reaction save to deny Kamara his second goal of the game, but the rookie, making his MLS debut, was in the right place at the right time.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Men of the match: Wil Trapp

Goalscorers: Asprilla (4′), Meram (11′), Kamara (19′), Adi (45+3′), Hansen (84′)

Andorra’s 11-year, 58-game losing streak is over

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Rarely has a scoreless stalemate in front of the home fans tasted so sweet.

But 11 years of nothing but losing will do that to a team.

Andorra’s 0-0 draw with fellow minnow Faroe Islands in World Cup qualifying on Saturday ended its run of 58 competitive defeats.

It was the first point in qualifying for the Pyrenees mountain principality, population 80,000, since a scoreless draw with Finland in 2005.

Faroe Islands finished with 10 men after Joan Edmundsson was booked a second time with 15 minutes to play.

World Cup qualifiers: Dutch disaster persists; Greece hold Belgium

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A roundup of all of Saturday’s World Cup qualifying fixtures, as Groups A, B and H hit the halfway point in Europe…

[ MORE: USA 6-0 Honduras | Three things we learned | Player ratings ]

Bulgaria 2-0 Netherlands

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

Group A

Sweden 4-0 Belarus

Group B

Switzerland 1-0 Latvia
Andorra 0-0 Faroe Islands

Group H

Bosnia-Herzegovina 5-0 Gibraltar
Cyprus 0-0 Estonia