Starry nights: MLS Team of the Week – Round 6

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ProSoccerTalk’s Best XI from Week 6 in Major League Soccer includes the man who sprang huge goal for Chivas USA.

Goalkeeper:

  • Vancouver Whitecaps’ Joe Cannon

Why we like him: We told you yesterday how a couple of the late “saves” in mad scramble to hold a point against San Jose may not have actually been his saves. It was so hard to tell. Either way, the Whitecaps’ veteran in goal did enough to earn the honor, making five saves while beaten only once (and that by Chris Wondolowski’s unstoppable screamer.)

Back line:

  • Portland Timbers’ Mikael Silvestre
  • Philadelphia Union’s Amobi Okugo (pictured)
  • Sporting Kansas City’s Matt Besler

Why we like them: While we keep looking at Sporting Kansas City’s midfield and studying the proper mix between guys like Graham Zusi, Benny Feilhaber, Claudio Bieler and others, the defense just keeps steadily throwing up those shutouts. No one is more responsible that Besler, who had another excellent night in a 1-0 shutout over visiting D.C. United. That four clean sheets in a row for SKC.

Lots of good performances all around for Portland (read on, further down along this list), including a couple of men along the Timbers back line. Silvestre was sure-footed on the slick Jeld-Wen turf, helping to prevent Houston Dynamo danger despite an early change with his central partner due to David Horst’s first-half injury.

Midfield:

  • Colorado Rapids’ Hendry Thomas
  • FC Dallas’ Andrew Jacobson
  • Portland Timber’s Diego Chara
  • Chicago Fire’s Daniel Paladini

Why we like them: The lesser known central and holding mids dominate this week’s list. Hendry was a ball-winning, midfield disrupting machine in Colorado’s huge win over rival Real Salt Lake. (And all those young RSL midfielders cannot be easy to keep up with!)

Jacobson continues to be an underrated element in FC Dallas’ fast start (including the Texans’ 2-2 draw in Toronto). Chara was just this side of flawless on both sides of the ball in his team’s commanding 2-0 win over Houston. And Paladini played a big role as Chicago unleashed itself from the ranks of the winless with a late (but oh-so-important) win over New York.

(MORE: Chara is ProSoccerTalk’s MLS Player of the Week)

Forwards:

  • Chicago Fire’s Maicon Santos
  • Portland Timbers’ Ryan Johnson
  • Sporting Kansas City’s Claudio Bieler

Why we like them: Two Santos in Chicago’s win, and off the bench no less! If he can find just a little more consistency, the starting striker job is certainly up for grabs around Toyota Park. Johnson hit two in the Rose City to help clear the runway for a big win landing at Jeld-Wen. And Bieler nailed the late game-winner as SKC took all the points in a Friday night win over D.C. United.  

Henry, Aguero discuss playing up top under Pep

Photo by Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images
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One great striker got another one to open up on an up-and-down year at Manchester City.

Thierry Henry — one of the greatest of all-time, it must be said — sat down with Sergio Aguero ahead of Thursday’s Manchester Derby at the Etihad Stadium, and asked the Argentine about Pep Guardiola, Gabriel Jesus, and more.

[ PL PREVIEW: Manchester Derby ]

At times, it’s a fascinating discussion on playing lone striker. Even apart from the obligatory questions regarding Jesus’ arrival at City, Henry and Aguero speak their craft in a manner you don’t see too often.

That’s helped by the fact that Henry played for Guardiola at Barcelona, and can relate to the positional demands of Man City’s boss. Consider this exchange, from Sky Sports:

HENRY: When I was at Arsenal, I played up front and if I wanted to drift out to the left, I could. But when I got to Barca, I had to stay out wide and press. Sometimes doing that can be hard.

AGUERO: The thing I’ve found the hardest has been getting into my head the fact that I have to press the centre-back and the goalkeeper in matches. That’s what Pep asks me to do. It may not be a big deal, but in terms of processing it, the two of us speak a lot. He knows what I’m like.

I’ve been gradually learning and adapting to that style of pressing over the last few months. The first thing he taught me was how to press and how to do it well. Obviously there are times when I might drift out of position or I might press in an area where I’m not supposed to be, which might make it hard for the wingers or midfielders.

In the game itself, I may not realise because I’m so immersed and you can’t stop yourself. I’ve learnt a lot from him in terms of zones. He asks me to play as a No 9 and to stay in that position. I often drift out wide during matches and he looks at me and says, “If there’s a player out wide who wants to cross it in, who’s in there? Nobody.”

HENRY: I know all about that, believe you me.

I love this, because it shows how difficult it is for an elite striker to adapt his mentality. Both Henry and Aguero found world-celebrated success by playing in a certain fashion, and Guardiola understood that and still demanded a change. Earlier this season, the manager somewhat famously spoke of improving Aguero.

Aguero has been linked with Real Madrid given the tumult at City.

PHOTO: Liverpool unveils 125th anniversary kit for next season

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Liverpool rolled out its 125th anniversary kit, featuring a special crest to celebrate the occasion.

The Liver bird has 1892 on one side and 2017 on the other, with “125 YEARS” spelled out underneath the club’s emblem.

[ PL PREVIEW: Manchester Derby ]

The red shirt with a gold crest has a white V-neck and white at the ends of the sleeves. The goalkeeper kit is green.

The jersey will be available on May 19, and was announced last month.

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Jara’s goal lifts Pachuca to CONCACAF Champions League crown

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Hirving Lozano’s dipping shot rebounded into the path of Franco Jara, who scored the goal that won Pachuca its fifth CONCACAF Championship early Thursday morning.

The Argentine’s goal was the only one of the win over UANL Tigres, and gave Pachuca its first continental title since 2009-10. USMNT veteran Omar Gonzalez played for the winners, while Jose Torres started for Tigres.

[ PL PREVIEW: Manchester Derby ]

Major League Soccer teams were eliminated in the semifinals, with FC Dallas falling to Pachuca and Vancouver Whitecaps losing to Tigres.

Beginning with the 2017-18 tournament, qualified MLS and Liga MX teams will not enter the tournament until the Round of 16. The entire tournament will be held in the same calendar year.

USMNT: Brooks out with hip strain; World Cup qualifiers loom

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John Brooks is out of Hertha Berlin’s lineup “for the time being” after scans revealed a hip strain suffered in this weekend’s win over Wolfsburg.

That’s all Hertha has said, and that makes it hard to imagine whether American fans should be a little concerned or very concerned ahead of the USMNT’s World Cup qualifiers against Mexico, and Trinidad and Tobago in early June.

Brooks was unavailable for two weeks with an adductor strain in September, missing a month before returning to the starting lineup.

The U.S. center back pool isn’t teeming after Brooks and Geoff Cameron. Matt Besler, Tim Ream, Omar Gonzalez, and Walker Zimmerman were called up for the last World Cup qualifiers, and Gonzalez struggled but is a Bruce Arena favorite from their time in L.A.