Starry nights: MLS Team of the Week – Round 8

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ProSoccerTalk’s Best XI from Week 8 in Major League Soccer includes plenty of familiar names – unlike past weeks in 2013, where so many newer faces tended to dominate the weekly Best XI talk.

Goalkeeper:

  • Portland Timbers’ Donovan Ricketts

Why we like him: This was a tough call between the Timbers man, who had four important stops in a draw at San Jose, and Real Salt Lake’s Nick Rimando, whose penalty kick stop was among five saves while blanking Chivas USA. Has there ever been a goalkeeper in MLS better at turning away spot shots? Doubtful. Have you seen his numbers?

Back line:

  • FC Dallas’ George John
  • LA Galaxy’s Omar Gonzalez
  • Sporting KC’s Aurelien Collin

Why we like them: Dallas’ John keeps appearing here. The guy just keeps delivering, getting it done again on defense in Round 8 and helping to create the penalty area mayhem that put the Western Conference leaders in front early against Vancouver.

Collin was part of the defense that gave up two in a loss to the LA Galaxy. But that was SKC’s second game in four nights, and it followed cross-country travel. Collin was quite strong (as was the entire Sporting back line) in blanking Thierry Henry and the Red Bulls in Harrison to begin Week 8 in MLS.

Midfield:

  • LA Galaxy’s Landon Donovan
  • Seattle’s Osvaldo Alonso
  • New York Red Bulls’ Dax McCarty
  • FC Dallas’ David Ferreira
  • Real Salt Lake’s Javier Morales

Why we like them: Shalrie Joseph supported Alonso’s busy ball-winning and distribution in the Sounders’ huge road with at Colorado – allowing Alonso to be even more, you know, “Alonso.”

Donovan had a goal and assist and just keeps moving himself in the right direction. Across the country, McCarty opened the scoring in New York’s win over New England. That was in addition to his usual chores in anchoring the midfield around Red Bull Arena.

Ferreira had his Colombian footprints all over Dallas’ early goal in the victory in North Texas, and his work on the ball helped keep the Red Stripes in charge through most of their 2-0 win.

Real Salt Lake’s playmaker had a similar night, and then some. Morales hit the game-winner and was probably the best player in the field for a big stretch of his team’s 1-0 win over Chivas USA.

Forwards:

  • Philadelphia Union’s Jack McInerney
  • Philadelphia Union’s Conor Casey (pictured above, on the right)

Why we like them: We’ve talked enough about McInerney; if you haven’t seen it, then you aren’t spending enough time with ProSoccerTalk!  (And there may be more coming … hint, hint.) So let’s get on that, eh?

Meanwhile, let’s be sure to mention all of Casey’s good work in the Union’s 3-2 triumph at D.C. United. His passing and hold-up play was useful throughout the afternoon. And the former U.S. international gets his statistical due in this one, as well, with a goal and assist. Truly, this might have been Casey’s best game since 2010.

Spanish police dismantle match-fixing scheme in 3rd, 4th tiers

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MADRID (AP) Spanish police have dismantled a match-fixing scheme involving players and clubs in the country’s lower divisions.

Authorities said more than 20 people have been detained as part of the police operation launched on Monday, including players, although no names were immediately disclosed.

The matches under suspicion were in the third and fourth divisions this season and last season.

The match-fixing scheme reportedly involved Chinese betting sites.

The Spanish league said the operation was based on information collected by its analysts about suspicious activities.

UCL preview: Chelsea host Barcelona; Bayern vs. Besiktas

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  • Chelsea vs. Barcelona, at Stamford Bridge
  • Bayern Munich vs. Besiktas, at Allianz Arena
  • Champions League round of 16 resumes on Tuesday

[ UCL: Spurs fight back to draw Juventus | Liverpool thrash Porto in leg 1 ]

Chelsea, mired in some of their worst form since the disastrous 2015-16 season, welcome a Barcelona side enjoying one of the best six-month runs of results in the famed club’s entire history. The Blues have won just four of their last 12 games across all competitions, while the Blaugrana have lost once in 38 games.

On the plus side, Chelsea enter Tuesday’s colossal clash as winners of their last two games — back-to-back wins for the first time in 2018 — having outscored the likes of West Bromwich Albion and Hull City by a combined 7-0. Star striker Alvaro Morata returned to action against Hull after five weeks out with a back injury, thus Antonio Conte has something of a selection dilemma on his hands with the Spaniard perhaps only partially fit, and Olivier Giroud racking up a goal and three assists in the last two games, his first starts for the club.

Barcelona, meanwhile, have conceded just two goals in their last nine games (all competitions) and even managed to overturn their lone defeat, to Espanyol, and advance to the Copa del Rey semifinals (and eventually final). Despite losing Neymar in the summer, Barca mostly cruised through their Champions League group, only dropping points in draws away to Juventus and Olympiacos. Lionel Messi has, strangely, never scored a goal in his eight career appearances against Chelsea, a record which has been spoken about at length in the build-up to Tuesday — similarly to the goal-less record which plagued him against Juve goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, whom he finally bested back in September.

[ MORE: Man City win big away to Basel | Real Madrid 3-1 PSG ]

In the other round-of-16 first-leg matchup on Tuesday, five-time (soon-to-be six) defending Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich host surprise winners of Group G, Besiktas, ahead of the likes of Monaco, RB Leipzig and Porto.

Since taking over on an interim basis (through the end of the season), Bayern boss Jupp Heynckes has won 21 of 22 games of which he’s been in charge, including four of six games during the group stage en route to finish second behind Paris Saint-Germain, while also racing out to a 19-point lead back home in Germany.

Aguero involved in clash with Wigan fan after FA Cupset

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MANCHESTER, England (AP) Sergio Aguero was involved in a confrontation with a Wigan fan as ugly scenes marred the end of the third-division side’s shock FA Cup win over Manchester City on Monday.

[ MORE: Wigan shock Man City, the world and themselves ]

Fans spilled on to the pitch at DW Stadium as the host celebrated its 1-0 fifth-round win against the runaway English Premier League leader.

Supporters from both clubs were involved in disturbances, while television pictures appeared to show a home supporter and striker Aguero involved in a physical exchange.

Aguero appeared to hit the supporter after the fan said something to the player, and Aguero had to be held back by his City teammates.

[ MORE: Money from Wembley replay “will support Rochdale for 2 or 3 years” ]

Advertising hoardings were also ripped out and thrown as a pitch invasion by Wigan fans got out of hand while the defeated City players were being escorted off the pitch.

Footage also appeared to show objects, including an advertising board, being thrown at police officers by fans in the City end.

Wigan shock themselves: “Not sure how it feels, hasn’t sunk in yet”

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Wigan Athletic didn’t just shock Manchester City with their FA Cup fifth-round slaying of the runaway Premier League leaders; nor did they merely shock the rest of the footballing world; they also shocked themselves into disbelief, according to defender Dan Burn.

[ MORE: Goodbye, quadruple! Wigan bounce 10-man City from FA Cup ]

Speaking following Monday’s triumph over Pep Guardiola‘s quadruple-chasing side at the DW Stadium, Burn admitted he himself didn’t know what to make of the night that would undoubtedly highlight and change his own professional career — quotes from the BBC:

“Not sure how it feels, hasn’t sunk in yet. It was a really tough game. The belief was always there. We’ve got Will Grigg, who does what he keeps doing.

“We pride ourselves on our clean sheets. We had a couple bad results before, so we wanted to prove ourselves, so a clean sheet against the best team in England is great.

“Once we scored, the fans really got behind us, just knew we needed to hang on. It was the longest 10 minutes of my life.”

[ MORE: Money from Wembley replay “will support Rochdale for 2 or 3 years” ]

Manager Paul Cook was able to articulate his happiness and pride only slightly better — “It feels great” — but offered the highest of praises to his players, whom “had to ride [their] luck at times” during the game, and gave everything they had to the cause, because that’s the only way you beat a team like Man City:

“It feels great. It’s such a severe test. They’re such a strong side and move the ball so well. We had to ride our luck at times and the sending off is always a big incident.

“Our lads deserve credit for their work and some of the blocks they made were outstanding, and to beat Man City you have to do that.”