New York Red Bulls v Portland Timbers

Nobody is really worried about Mikael Silvestre … Right?


The Portland Timbers could become a poor man’s Barcelona for all we know. They could intimidate clubs with high pressure, flummox with passing that’s quick and intricate, and score goals in numbers only dreamed about over the first two seasons at Jeld-Wen.

But if the Timbers 2.0 cannot staunch the flow of defensive boo-boos, no amount of fancy-schmancy when in possession will matter.

And it certainly won’t matter if the club’s new high-priced veteran defender Mikael Silvestre cannot get his personal roses in a bunch along the back line in the Rose City.

I’ll get out on the limb here and say it: the 35-year-old Frenchman will be fine. (Well, so long as this, along with the inexorable sands of time, do not become quickly toxic to the man’s confidence. It shouldn’t.)

He had a bad moment on that unwise back pass against New York on Sunday. Later, the ball that got by on New York’s second goal was likely as simple as unfamiliarity with a surface on which Silvestre has almost no experience.

Not saying he’s blameless, just saying the good will eventually top the bad here.

I could be wrong, of course … but that means two coaches are wrong, too. Timbers coach Caleb Porter clearly believes in the guy. Sigi Schmid told me three weeks ago in Arizona that Silvestre could clearly defend effectively in MLS.

And this piece from Stumptown Footy makes the case as well. Geoff Gibson talks Timbers fans off the ledge on this one. A quick excerpt, on how Silvestre rebounded nicely in the second 45 minutes.

We saw it in the second half. Silvestre, for all his woes in the first half, was a completely different player in the second. He marked his men. He made daring tackles when needed. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a far better performance. We saw it in the preseason as well when Silvestre was very capable of marking and tackling MLS forwards.”

Clearly, a tiring bunch from New York, guided by the older likes of Tim Cahill, Juninho and Thierry Henry, was causing far fewer problems. Still, there was occasional work to be done, and the Timbers back line dealt with problems that needing dealing with.

LINEUPS: Tim Howard starts for USMNT against Costa Rica

SALVADOR, BRAZIL - JULY 01:  Tim Howard of the United States gestures during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Round of 16 match between Belgium and the United States at Arena Fonte Nova on July 1, 2014 in Salvador, Brazil.  (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)
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The United States takes on Costa Rica in a friendly tonight at Red Bull Arena, as the USMNT must put the Mexico match behind them and focus on the upcoming World Cup qualifiers.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USMNT coverage ]

The biggest inclusion in tonight’s starting XI is that of Tim Howard in goal, marking his return to the national side after taking a self-imposed sabbatical. It will be Howard’s first appearance for the USMNT since his legendary performance against Belgium in the 2014 World Cup.

Klinsmann has chosen to go with a 4-4-2 tonight, and Geoff Cameron remains the only starter in the back-line from the Mexico match. He’ll partner with Michael Orozco in the center of defense, with Brad Evans and Tim Ream on the outsides.

[ MORE: Fabian Johnson sent home from USMNT after fall-out with Klinsmann ]

In the midfield, Klinsmann has put some speed on the wings through the likes of DeAndre Yedlin and recent call-up Brek Shea. Danny Williams joins Jermaine Jones as the central midfielders.

Up top, Jozy Altidore will play alongside Gyasi Zardes, who returns to his more comfortable position as forward.

Cristiano Ronaldo wins record fourth European Golden Boot

MADRID, SPAIN - OCTOBER 13:  Real Madrid football player Cristiano Ronaldo poses with his four Golden Boot Awards as maximun goal scorer of European leagues at The Westin Palace Hotel on October 13, 2015 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
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Cristiano Ronaldo has added another trophy to the collection, winning his fourth Golden Boot as Europe’s top scorer for the 2014-15 season.

The award accounts for goals in league play only, which means the Champions League and domestic tournaments are not included. In La Liga, Ronaldo scored 48 goals in 35 appearances.

[ MORE: 2015 MLS playoff scenarios ]

Ronaldo first won the award after the 2007-08 season with Manchester United, and has now added three more with Real Madrid in 2010-11, 2013-14, and 2014-15.

With his fourth win, Ronaldo moves ahead of Lionel Messi as the only player to win the award four times. Messi has won three, while eight players have won two.

Below is a post from Ronaldo’s Facebook page reflecting on the award:

What a special moment in my professional life!

Winning four Golden Boots is a privilege for me and I’ll keep challenging myself because I want to do better every time and I want to keep chasing for more records.

I have to thank everyone in Real Madrid that made this possible and we want to keep winning more titles and more trophies. Thank you everyone.

Ronaldo alone scored more goals in La Liga play last season than 14 clubs did, which shows how prolific his season was. The only player to score more than 48 league goals in a European season was Messi, who scored 50 in 2011-12.

[ EURO 2016: A look at the 20 teams that have qualified for France ]

While it was a successful year for Ronaldo personally, it was a very disappointing campaign for Real Madrid, who fired manager Carlo Ancelotti after finishing the season without a trophy.