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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.  

Ex-Leicester boss Pearson hired by Derby County

Nigel Pearson, Leicester City FC
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Nigel Pearson lives.

The combustible former manager of Southampton, Hull City and Leicester City will now lead Derby County in the hopes of Premier League promotion.

Derby has been on the edge of promotion to the Premier League for several seasons, but neither Steve McClaren and Darren Wassall could do the trick.

[ MORE: Mourinho confirmed | Speaks more ]

Enter Pearson, 52, who has been hired on a three-year deal. It’s his first stop since a roller coaster ride saw him guide Leicester into the Premier League, only to be fired in the aftermath of some players being involved in a racist sex tape incident on a tour of Thailand.

This was after a bizarre season that saw him put his hands on an opposing player’s throat, call a journalist an ostrich, and ultimately save Leicester from the drop.

From Derby County’s site:

“I am honoured to be named as the Manager of Derby County, which is one of the biggest clubs in the country, a club in excellent shape and one with strong ambitions. It is firmly focused on achieving Premier League football.

“I will give absolutely everything I have to this role and do all I can to bring exciting, entertaining and winning football which our supporters can be proud of.”

At the very least, the Rams will be interesting to watch next season.

Castillo called up to take place of injured Chandler on USMNT roster

COLUMBUS, OH - MARCH 29:  Edgar Castillo #23 of the United States Men's National Team controls the ball against Guatemala during the FIFA 2018  World Cup qualifier on March 29, 2016 at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. The United States defeated Guatemala 4-0.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images
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The United States men’s national team has applied to have left back Edgar Castillo take the place of Timmy Chandler on the Copa America Centenario roster.

The Monterrey back played well in the Yanks’ 4-0 win over Guatemala in World Cup qualifying, but was passed over for Chandler and others in the 23-man roster for this summer’s tournament in the United States.

[ MORE: USMNT-Bolivia preview ]

But Chandler has picked up a quadriceps strain and Jurgen Klinsmann will add Castillo in his stead.

Perhaps this is a sign that fate is on the Yanks’ side.

USMNT-Bolivia preview: Yanks look for momentum ahead of Copa America

COLUMBUS, OH - MARCH 29:  Michael Bradley #4 of the United States Men's National Team controls the ball against Guatemala during the FIFA 2018  World Cup qualifier on March 29, 2016 at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. The United States defeated Guatemala 4-0.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images
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Momentum is a funny thing. Numbers don’t really back it up, claiming the better team has momentum simply by nature of being better, but many players and coaches swear by it.

And the United States men’s national team might just have a bit of it heading into next week’s Copa America Centenario if it can topple Bolivia on Saturday.

The Yanks played their best half in ages on Tuesday night, eventually getting a deserved winner against Ecuador when Darlington Nagbe rifled in his first national team goal in the 90th minute.

[ COPA AMERICA PREVIEWS: Group A | BC | D ]

All told, the Yanks are 6-1-1 in their last eight, the lone blemish a deplorable loss to Guatemala in World Cup qualifying. That’s kinda the story of the U.S. under Jurgen Klinsmann: pretty good record despite the on-field not always matching the numbers.

Again, that changed in Tuesday’s second half. With Michael Bradley lying deep and Darlington Nagbe attacking, the U.S. had plenty going for it even with Bobby Wood’s finishing touch a bit off. Whether Klinsmann goes back to Clint Dempsey and Gyasi Zardes in the Starting XI will go a long way to see if the coach feels he learned anything (at least if Dempsey is a center forward again).

Juan Carlos Arce of Bolivia (Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images)

Bolivia made a surprise run into the quarterfinals of last year’s Copa America, but recent history hasn’t been kind to them outside of that.

La Verde is 3-9-1 in its last 12, a pair of the wins coming against Venezuela and the other over Ecuador. That said, the losses come against far superior competition than many confederations, as CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying is an onslaught of desperate, talented teams.

Longtime Club Bolivar attacker Juan Carlos Arce is at the forefront of Bolivia’s attack, with New York Cosmos striker Yasmani Duk breaking into La Verde’s scoresheet in recent matches. Goalkeeper Romel Quinonez is also integral to a defense that can yield big chances.

The United States should pick up a win at home against Bolivia, and if they do it in style we may see an invigorated USMNT fan base heading into the Copa America. If not, unease may abound.

Atleti’s Torres ready for “game of his life” in UEFA Champions League final

MADRID, SPAIN - MAY 21: Atletico de Madrid players Saul Niguez (L) and Fernando Torres (R) stretch during the training session during the Club Atletico de Madrid Open Media Day ahead of the UEFA Champions League Final match against Real Madrid CF on May 21, 2016 in Majadahonda, Spain.
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Fernando Torres has won the UEFA Champions League before, but a victory on Saturday would ring as true as ever.

Calling it the game of his life, the Atletico Madrid striker spoke about this year’s final against Real Madrid.

[ MORE: Three battles that could determined UCL final ]

A lot has changed since the 2012 victory over Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena, when Torres subbed into Chelsea’s comeback win.

His decline at Chelsea found him on loan to Milan, where he transferred before finding another loan back home to Atleti. Now 32, Torres has his most goals since 2013 and is preparing for a Madrid Derby final.

From Sky Sports:

“Tomorrow [Saturday] is the game of my life, without doubt,” said Torres. “To me it means everything. Everything you dream when you’re a kid, I have the chance tomorrow to make this dream come true.

“I’ve played for great teams, and won many things, but this one is special, it is different, it’s what I wanted when I was a kid.”

Later lauding Atleti for giving him the chance “to come back and fight for what I wanted”, Torres is clearly hungry for a bit of redemption. And if his side comes out on top, he’ll likely be a big part of it.