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.

STREAM: CONCACAF tripleheader concludes with USMNT

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CONCACAF’s bottom three sides in the Hex standings look to make the table incredibly tight as World Cup qualifying finds three-straight matches on the docket beginning at 5 p.m. EDT.

Honduras vs. Costa Rica

Los Catrachos were creamed 6-0 by the U.S. on Friday, and return home hoping a wounded Costa Rica remains vulnerable. Honduras is dead last on goal differential, but three points would be huge and put them level with Los Ticos. Costa Rica won its first two matches before falling to Mexico on Friday.

Trinidad and Tobago vs. Mexico

El Tri has two wins and a draw from their first three Hex matches, and will be without Rafa Marquez on Tuesday. A win guarantees Mexico the top spot heading into the next round of matches in June. The Soca Warriors surprised some with their 1-0 win over visiting Panama on Tuesday. Mexico is a different class.

Panama vs. USMNT

Despite its miserable start, the U.S. can find itself as high as second with a win and help from Honduras. The injuries remain plenty for the Yanks, who are without Fabian Johnson, Bobby Wood, Sebastian Lletget, and John Brooks. Panama has allowed just a single goal through three Hex matches, but also has only managed one.

AFC and Oceania wrap: Iran, New Zealand take next steps

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With CONMEBOL and CONCACAF serving as the main course later Tuesday, the morning and afternoon saw big World Cup qualifiers on the other side of the world.

[ MORE: Three keys for USA v Panama ] 

Asian qualifying

Iran is on the verge of qualification for Russia 2018 after Persepolis star Mehdi Taremi bagged his ninth international goal in a 1-0 home win over China.

Iran leads Group A by four points, but second-place South Korea and third-place Uzbekistan kept pace with 1-0 home wins of their own. Hong Jeong-ho scored in South Korea’s win over Syria, while Odil Ahmendov’s 65th minute free kick was enough to push Uzbekistan past Qatar.

The goalkeeping was… less than ideal.

Over in Group B, shutouts were the name of the game for high-powered hosts as well.

Japan stayed atop the group with a 4-0 win over Thailand, as a trio of players with Premier League experience — Maya Yoshida, Shinji Kagawa, and Shinji Okazaki — joined Gent’s Yuya Kubo on the scoreboard.

Saudi Arabia is level with Japan on points thanks to Yahya Al-Shehri’s post-halftime goal in a 1-0 win over Iraq, while Australia saw off United Arab Emirates thanks to goals from Burton Albion’s Jackson Irvine and Ingolstadt’s Mathew Leckie.

That leaves Australia three points behind Saudi Arabia and Japan in the race for two of three automatic spots. The Socceroos hosts the Green Falcons in June before an August trip to Saitama in a pair of matches which will decide who goes directly to Russia and who has to win a pair of playoffs: One against the Group A’s third-place team and another against CONCACAF’s fourth place side.

Oceania qualifying

New Zealand took the next step in collecting Oceania’s berth in the intercontinental playoff with a 2-0 win over Fiji in Wellington. PEC Zwolle winger Ryan Thomas bagged a brace for the All Whites.

New Zealand will next face either Tahiti, Solomon Islands, or Papua New Guinea over two legs in late August and early September for the right to battle the fifth place CONMEBOL team for a World Cup berth. That could be Ecuador, Chile, Paraguay, or even Colombia.

Tahiti hosts Papua New Guinea at 1 a.m. EDT Wednesday, and will be the odds-on favorite to face New Zealand with a win.

After further tests, Lletget to miss 4-6 months

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So much for initial reports.

Less than 24 hours after the LA Galaxy announced that Sebastian Lletget had come through his injury on USMNT duty with no structural damage, a specialist found something worse.

Lletget has a Lisfranc injury and requires surgery, meaning the Galaxy and the U.S. will be without the midfielder for four to six months.

[ MORE: Spurs eager for U.S. return ]

Lletget, 24, spent a half-decade with West Ham but couldn’t break into the squad before returning to the U.S. last summer. He became a mainstay for the Galaxy, earning a call-up to the national team.

He scored his first USMNT goal on Friday to open the World Cup qualifier against Honduras, but was injured after a hard sliding tackle from Ever Alvarado.

Galaxy has depth beyond Lletget and Jermaine Jones, with Rafael Garcia, Joao Pedro, and Baggio Husidic able to fill a similar role, but this one stings for the Galaxy. Get well, Sebastian.

Scouting report: Everton target Orlando’s Cyle Larin

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Reports have been suggesting the Orlando City’s star striker Cyle Larin is attracting some serious interest from Premier League side Everton.

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Larin, 21, has started the MLS season off in red-hot form and the report suggests the Toffees have bid $4 million for his talents. They’ll likely have to up that offer for the Canadian national team star.

What is Larin all about?

With Romelu Lukaku seeming to be heading towards the exit door this summer as his contract saga rumbles on, it’s not outlandish to state that Larin has a very similar style to the prolific Belgian international. Of course, he has yet to test himself in the PL and Lukaku’s boots would be a big pair to fill if Larin did arrive at Goodison Park as some kind of replacement in the coming months, yet when you watch Larin play there are so many similarities between the pair.

Ronald Koeman is always eager to give youth a chance and with Tom Davies, Ademola Lookman and Dominic Calvert-Lewin all getting regular minutes this season, so Larin would get chances to impress if he ended up on Merseyside.

Here are some key stats Toffees fans will want to know too:

  • 17 – Number of goals Larin scored in his debut MLS season, the most-ever by a Rookie
  • Larin has scored all three of Orlando’s goals so far in the 2017 MLS season
  • He has scored 39 goals in 68 appearances for Orlando since arriving in 2015
  • For Canada, he has five goals in 19 appearances after making his debut as a teenager
  • Larin became the first-ever Canadian to be selected as the first overall pick in the MLS SuperDraft when he joined Orlando in 2015

Click play on the video above to see Larin’s best moments so far in MLS, as he continues his impressive development.