Starry nights: MLS Team of the Week – Round 7

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ProSoccerTalk’s Best XI from Week 7 in Major League Soccer includes two men from Houston’s bustling midfield and one Colorado rookie who keeps leaving a big impression:

Goalkeeper:

  • Toronto FC’s Joe Bendik

Why we like him: Nine saves for Toronto FC from the former Portland Timbers man in his team’s 1-1 draw. Not bad at all considering he’s the backup to Stefan Frei around BMO Field.

Back line:

  • Portland Timbers’ Mikael Silvestre (pictured)
  • New England’s José Gonçalves
  • FC Dallas’ George John

Why we like them: Second week in a row on this list for Silvestre, who has clearly found his MLS feet after a couple of notorious, early wobbles.

Goncalves was big all night in guiding the Revs to a well-earned point on the road, and his late intervention on Steve Zakuani from point blank range before intermission was absolutely critical.

John gave up a potentially costly PK, but we’ll provide some benefit of the doubt here because Jose Villarreal was clearly looking for the contact and could have easily avoided the FCD defender. Besides, John scored the winning goal and laughted off a beer can to the noggin’. That’s a good night!

Midfield:

  • Houston’s Dynamo’s Andrew Driver
  • Portland Timers’ Will Johnson
  • Real Salt Lake’s Ned Grabavoy
  • Houston Dynamo’s Brad Davis

Why we like them: The two Houston Dynamo men, Driver on the right and Davis on the left, were dominant in the Dynamo’s record-setting 2-1 win over Chicago.

Grabavoy’s bustling industry was impressive as it was important as RSL went on the road to get a point in Vancouver.

And what a free kick from Johnson; we love our goals around here that are technical as well as important and Johnson’s was certainly both, the game-winner as Caleb Porter’s team won its second consecutive match.

Forwards:

  • New York Red Bulls Thierry Henry
  • Colorado Rapids’ Deshorn Brown
  • Columbus Crew’s Dominic Oduro

Why we like them: Yes, D.C. United’s Bill Hamid should have done better on Henry’s clever curler to open the scoring Saturday at RFK – but it was still a clever curler. Henry continues to be a real difference-maker when healthy; this was his first start in almost a month.

Brown was one of the few Rapids who made Chivas USA defenders work in Colorado’s big three points on the road. Besides, telling a rookie to go take the penalty kicks (this one turned out to be an early game-winner) shows a tremendous amount of faith in the guy.

Oduro’s stinger in a 1-1 draw with Montreal (one delayed 24 hours by weather) was among the weekend’s top goals.

Andorra’s 11-year, 58-game losing streak is over

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Rarely has a scoreless stalemate in front of the home fans tasted so sweet.

But 11 years of nothing but losing will do that to a team.

Andorra’s 0-0 draw with fellow minnow Faroe Islands in World Cup qualifying on Saturday ended its run of 58 competitive defeats.

It was the first point in qualifying for the Pyrenees mountain principality, population 80,000, since a scoreless draw with Finland in 2005.

Faroe Islands finished with 10 men after Joan Edmundsson was booked a second time with 15 minutes to play.

World Cup qualifiers: Dutch disaster persists; Greece hold Belgium

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A roundup of all of Saturday’s World Cup qualifying fixtures, as Groups A, B and H hit the halfway point in Europe…

[ MORE: USA 6-0 Honduras | Three things we learned | Player ratings ]

Bulgaria 2-0 Netherlands

Spas Delev scored both Bulgarian goals (5th and 20th minutes) to secure all three points and send Danny Blind’s Netherlands side (7 points) into fourth place in Group A, six points back of leaders France and three back of second-place (qualifying playoffs) Sweden.

17-year-old Matthijs de Ligt was handed his international debut for the Dutch; he was ultimately at fault for both of Delev’s goals; he was subbed off at halftime (as was Georginio Wijnaldum).

Luxembourg 1-3 France

Olivier Giroud scored twice (28th and 77th minutes) for France, and Antoine Griezmann added the other (37th minute – penalty kick), as Les Bleus maintained their three-point lead in Group A. Kylian Mbappe, Monaco’s 18-year-old rising star, made his international debut in the 78th minute, when he replaced Dimitri Payet.

Portugal 3-0 Hungary

Cristiano Ronaldo bagged the 69th and 70th goals of his international career (36th and 65th minutes), as Portugal (12 points) kept pace with an unbeaten Switzerland side (15 points) which managed a 1-0 victory over Latvia to keep their 100-percent record intact. Andre Silva scored the opener (32nd minute) for Portugal, the 21-year-old Porto striker’s fifth goal in six international appearances.

Belgium 1-1 Greece

Romelu Lukaku‘s 89th-minute rescued a point for Group H leaders Belgium (13 points), but it did little to mask an otherwise uninspiring performance from Roberto Martinez’s side. Kostas Mitroglu put Greece ahead in the first minute of the second half, but Panagiotis Tachtsidis saw his second yellow of the game in the 65th minute, and that was the start of Greece’s unraveling. The draw was just enough to keep Greece (11 points) in second, ahead of Bosnia-Herzegovina, whose 5-0 thrashing of Gibraltar moved them to 10 points with a superior goal differential.

Elsewhere in UEFA’s World Cup qualifying

Group A

Sweden 4-0 Belarus

Group B

Switzerland 1-0 Latvia
Andorra 0-0 Faroe Islands

Group H

Bosnia-Herzegovina 5-0 Gibraltar
Cyprus 0-0 Estonia

MLS (afternoon) roundup: Historically awful MNUFC spanked again

Photo credit: New England Revolution / Twitter: @NERevolution
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The fourth (partial — playing during international breaks should be banned) MLS Saturday of 2017 is two-thirds of the way complete. A quick roundup of the day’s early games…

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

New England Revolution 5-2 Minnesota United

What else needs to be said about Minnesota at this point? What else can be said? The number of goals they’ve conceded in their first four MLS games: 5, 6, 2, and 5. While (we think) a bit of luck will eventually go their way, and they’ll curtail the goals they’re conceding (we can’t be sure anymore), Adrian Heath’s side is on pace to conceded 153 goals this season.

Anyway, New England picked up their first win of the season. The quality (and ease) of goals scored will tell you everything you need to know about Minnesota’s defending.

[ MORE: USA 6-0 Honduras | Three things we learned | Player ratings ]

New York Red Bulls 0-0 Real Salt Lake

Five days after firing head coach Jeff Cassar, RSL returned to their inept, toothless ways in a scoreless draw away to New York. Through four games, the Claret and Cobalt have scored all of one goal, and genuinely look the league’s most lifeless side; Minnesota have at least shown signs of quality in the attacking half.

On Saturday, New York created the majority of the game’s best chances — a pair of shots from distance, masterfully saved by deputy goalkeeper Matt VanOekel — but the chance that will live in the memories of RSL fans for a lifetime came and went in agonizing fashion.

Albanian federation denounces “extremist acts” of their fans in Italy

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TIRANA, Albania (AP) Albania’s soccer federation has strongly denounced the incident that halted the World Cup Group G qualifier with Italy for nearly nine minutes on Friday.

During the match, which was won by Italy, 2-0, a group calling itself Illyrian Elite threw flares onto the pitch.

“Such totally extremist actions from the grouping Illyrian Elite have nothing to do with the excellent Albanian fans” who were distinguished in the EURO 2016 finals in France for their friendship and camaraderie in their festivities, the statement added.

The federation said an coach Gianni De Biasi also was “upset by the flares,” adding that during five years he has been in charge “I’ve seen something that’s never happened before.”