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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

Napoli fans wear Koulibaly masks to support defender after racial abuse

NAPLES, ITALY - FEBRUARY 07:  Fans of Napoli  during the Serie A match between SSC Napoli and Carpi FC at Stadio San Paolo on February 7, 2016 in Naples, Italy.  (Photo by Maurizio Lagana/Getty Images)
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Napoli fans showed their support for Kalidou Koulibaly on Sunday after the Senegalese center-back was the subject of racial abuse in a match against Lazio last week.

[ MORE: La Liga & Serie A roundup ]

The Lazio match was temporarily stopped in the second half as Lazio supporters hurled racial insults at Koulibaly.

At Napoli’s match against Carpi on Sunday, fans wore Koulibaly masks and painted signs in his honor to show their support for the 24-year-old defender.

A statement from Napoli’s supporters’ group read: “Everyone in Naples is offended by what happened to our young star. Because of this, we want to show our full support to Koulibaly.”

[ VIDEO: Van Gaal rips journalist who questions his Manchester United future ]

Lazio was fined more than $50,000 and will be forced to close certain sections of their stadium for the next two league matches because of the incident.

Afobe says he scored 15 goals a game with Harry Kane at the Arsenal academy

during the Barclays Premier League match between Crystal Palace and A.F.C. Bournemouth at Selhurst Park on February 2, 2016 in London, England.
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Benik Afobe and Harry Kane are Premier League foes, but as kids, they were teammates.

Now Afobe is at Bournemouth and Kane at Tottenham, though both strikers played together with the Arsenal U-9 team as children.

[ RECAP: Bournemouth 0-2 Arsenal ]

While Kane left Arsenal at 10 and eventually settled at crosstown rivals Tottenham, Afobe stayed under contract with the club until 2015 despite never making an appearance for the Gunners.

Afobe went on six loan spells before moving to Wolverhampton last season, then joining Bournemouth in January.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

With three goals in his first five Premier League matches for the Cherries, Afobe is no stranger to scoring, as he said he would combine with Harry Kane for 15 goals a game back in the day.

I’ve got pictures of us from Arsenal.

He was so small at the time, a bit of a late developer, but he’s always loved scoring. The scores used to be 17-15 and stuff – we just knew we’d score in every game.

But it’s weird because he used to play in goal sometimes, and wasn’t bad actually. You wouldn’t think it – remember that goal he let in for Tottenham a couple of years ago (against Asteras Tripolis in the Europa League) when he had to play in goal.

I think Mauricio Pochettino and Spurs’ supporters are happy Harry Kane chose to play striker over goalkeeper…

[ MORE: Deficiencies visible on both sides as Chelsea draw Manchester United ]

Kane has proven that he is an elite goalscorer in the Premier League, and Afobe is off to a fine start himself. With both players just 22-years-old, we’ll likely be seeing many more goals to come from the duo.

Gary Neville under pressure as Valencia without a win in nine

EIBAR, SPAIN - DECEMBER 13:  Head coach Gary Neville of Valencia CF reacts during the La Liga match between SD Eibar and Valencia CF at Ipurua Municipal Stadium on December 13, 2015 in Eibar, Spain.  (Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images)
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Gary Neville was appointed manager at Valencia on December 2. He is still yet to win a La Liga match.

After falling 1-0 to Real Betis on Sunday, Neville is now winless in nine league matches at Valencia as pressure grows on the new boss.

[ MORE: La Liga & Serie A roundup ]

Some have called for Neville to step down from his position, as the club has fallen from 8th to 13th and now sit just four points clear of the drop.

However, the former Manchester United legend has said he has been judged too quickly and will work hard to turn things around.

I said before I came that I would be judged in five months. I have been judged in six weeks.

There’s no doubt that at times like this everyone needs to stay together.

Everyone suffers. It’s just not going for us at the moment. I continue to work, I continue to have belief.

Conversations with the owners are between me and the owners. We have to turn it round quickly, I understand that. It is hard to explain the defeat. It will turn.

Not only has Neville struggled in La Liga play, but he has also seen Valencia bounced from the Champions League and saw his side smashed 7-0 by Barcelona in the Copa del Rey semifinal.

[ MORE: Player ratings from Chelsea’s 1-1 draw with Manchester United ]

Valencia’s next league match is on Saturday against Espanyol, who sit three points below Valencia and haven’t won a match since December. If Neville fails to win again, there could be some real trouble at the Mestalla.

PSG down Marseille 2-1 for ninth-straight Le Classique win

HARRISON, NJ - JULY 21:  Zlatan Ibrahimovic #10 of Paris Saint-Germain is congratulated by teamamte Maxwell #17 after Ibrahimovic scored a goal in the second half against AFC Fiorentina during the International Champions Cup at Red Bull Arena on July 21, 2015 in Harrison, New Jersey.Paris Saint-Germain defeated ACF Fiorentina 4-2.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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France’s biggest rivalry has been quite one-sided, as Paris Saint-Germain defeated Marseille 2-1 on Sunday to take their ninth-straight Le Classique.

Marseille’s last win over PSG in Ligue 1 play was in November of 2011.

[ MORE: Juve win 14th straight ]

PSG got off to a dream start in Sunday’s Classique as Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored in the opening two minutes to give the Le Parisiens an early lead. It was Zlatan’s league-leading 21st goal of the season.

On loan from Newcastle, Remy Cabella equalized for Marseille in the 25th minute. Cabella scored on a brilliant individual effort, taking the ball from his own half on a solo run to the PSG box before firing a low shot into the bottom corner.

[ RELATED: Lewandowski’s agent confirms contract talks with Bayern Munich ]

However, PSG pushed on and claimed the win thanks to a 71st minute goal from Angel di Maria, who has been impressing in his first season in Paris. With eight goals and ten assists in Ligue 1 play, only Zlatan has been involved in more goals than di Maria.

Through 25 matches, PSG hold a ridiculous 24-point lead at the top of the Ligue 1 table.