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

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

(MORE: Coach of the Year conversation and choice)

(MORE: Rookie of the Year conversation and choice)

(MORE: Defender of the Year conversation and choice)

Steve Davis: Instead of talking about Goalkeeper of the Year, should we all just take a moment to pen a note for Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes. I mean, he’s done the lifting for us right? He pretty much said we’re all dumb as a box of hammers if we don’t make his man Jimmy Nielsen our “slam dunk” choice. So, we should just check the box and move on … right?

Noah Davis: You mean every mom’s fantasy man? Have you seen the Q&A that came out of KC?  That’s courtesy of Zac Rigg.

Richard Farley: It’s as if he and Sigi Schmid have competing PACs.

Schmid’s been beating the Michael Gspurning drum with Thor’s hammer, going out of his way two weeks ago to remind people that his man was still viable in a race everybody’d written off.

I’ll be honest: I’m not thrilled with either option. Nielsen’s got life easy for KC (though has been very good when called upon), and while Gspurning’s very good, there’s little about him that screams “award winner” …

Until you look at his competition. There isn’t much.

Steve Davis: Well, the numbers do lean ‘Gspurning.’ His goals-against average [0.73] was the third best in MLS. Ever! The team WAS 11-3-5 with their big Austrian.

But much as I hate to admit, Vermes is probably right. I suppose he’s been right about a lot of things this year. Probably more than anybody this side of Frank Yallop. And Ben Olsen.

Noah Davis:  Andy Gruenebaum [from Columbus]?

Steve Davis: I do love me some Gruenebaum. Guy was under siege like Justin Bieber at the local mall. But these things never go to dudes that don’t make the playoffs. Wait, Dwayne De Rosario last year … ? Oh, never mind. I’ll go with Nielsen.

Noah Davis: It’s no fun when we all agree. Ryan Meara? Ah, hell, I gotta go with Nielsen as well.

Steve Davis: I kinda like it when we all get along. I feel a big group hug coming on …

Our choice: Sporting Kansas City’s Jimmy Nielsen

Former Czech Republic defender Rajtoral kills himself

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PRAGUE (AP) Former Czech Republic defender Frantisek Rajtoral, who won the domestic league title four times before joining Turkish club Gaziantepspor, died on Sunday. He was 31.

[ MORE: Bayern scouted Kyle Walker, Alex Sanchez this weekend ]

The Czech football federation said in a statement that Rajtoral had “committed suicide in Turkey.”

His agent Pavel Zika confirmed the player’s death, describing it as a “huge tragedy.”

Gaziantepspor announced Rajtoral’s death in a brief statement on its website.

Rajtoral played 14 international matches for the Czech Republic.

In the top Czech league, he won four titles with Viktoria Plzen and played in the group stage of the Champions League twice for the club. He moved to Hannover in the Bundesliga in 2014 for half of the season, on loan.

He left Viktoria Plzen last year to move to Turkey.

Bellerin wants to represent Spain U21s despite Wenger’s wishes

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Arsene Wenger has made it clear about Hector Bellerin representing Spain this summer but the Arsenal defender is prepared to go against his manager’s wishes if he is selected.

[ MORE: Bayern scouted Kyle Walker, Alexis Sanchez over the weekend ]

The 22-year-old has said he hopes to play for Spain’s Under-21 side this summer during the 2017 European U-21 Championship but Wenger has been weary of Bellerin’s injury status and wants his fullback to maintain a clean bill of health throughout the offseason.

“I really want to play,” Bellerin told IBTimes. “Representing Spain is very important. If [Albert] Celades gives me the chance I’ll be there.

“Those are opinions of the managers. I have to keep working. The truth is that I had a difficult injury but I think that I am at 100% now and I’ll try to prove it when I get the chance.”

Bellerin signed a six-and-a-half year deal with the Gunners in November, where he has resided since coming up in the club’s academy. He has made 102 appearances for Wenger’s team in that span over all competitions.

Roma boosts bid for 2nd in Serie A by beating Pescara 4-1

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PESCARA, Italy (AP) Roma boosted its bid for second place in Serie A and automatic entry into the Champions League with a 4-1 win at Pescara, which was mathematically relegated on Monday.

[ MORE: Newcastle joins Brighton in promotion to Premier League ]

Roma moved four points clear of third-placed Napoli, which drew against Sassuolo 2-2 on Sunday. Third place in Serie A receives a Champions League playoff.

Pescara remained 15 points behind Empoli. There are only five matches left and Empoli has the better head-to-head record, which is the deciding factor if two teams finish level on points.

There were 48 goals in total in the 33rd round, matching the record set in October 1992.

Roma took control shortly before halftime, with Kevin Strootman breaking the deadlock after Stephan El Shaarawy unselfishly rolled the ball across the area.

Radja Nainggolan, who earlier hit the bar, doubled Roma’s lead two minutes later.

Mohamed Salah extended Roma’s advantage three minutes after the break and the winger doubled his tally on the hour following a swift counterattack.

Ahmad Benali got a consolation for Pescara and a Cristiano Biraghi free kick also hit the post for the home side.

Frank Yallop resigns as Phoenix Rising coach shortly after Drogba arrival

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The timing is a bit sudden and certainly leaves many questions up in the air, but Phoenix Rising will have to look for a new manager.

[ MORE: Chicharito talks heating up with LA FC ]

On Monday, head coach Frank Yallop resigned from his position with the United Soccer League (USL) club less than one day after former Chelsea legend Didier Drogba joined the organization as a player-owner.

With Phoenix seen as one of several lower-level clubs with ambitions of making the leap to MLS over the coming seasons, Yallop’s departure is surely a shock to many.

According to ESPN FC, Rising lead owner Berke Bakay was quite surprised by Yallop’s decision to step down, as was Drogba.

“Didier was as surprised and disappointed as we were that Frank is unable to continue coaching our Club,” Bakay told ESPN FC. “But, we all respect his decision to put his family first.

“Didier’s focus will remain on improving our team as a player and assisting our MLS expansion team ownership group as a co-owner. Frank will be helping with our international search for a new head coach.”

Rick Schantz, the current Rising assistant coach, will head the team’s managerial duties for the interim while the club completes a full search for a new manager.