Darren Mattocks, Nigel Reo-Coker, Russell Teibert, Jun Marques Davidson

Quick review of a busy Round 11 in Major League Soccer

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Busy, busy week: The usual MLS week comes and goes with 8-10 matches. But Round 11 was a lulu, with 15 matches. We’ll need to put in for overtime trying to sort out that Team of the Week.

Weirdest incident: Mario de Luna pushing a ball boy? Yep … that’s got to be it. And by the way, there seems to be some social media sentiment about it being a “little shove” or how the Chivas USA defender “barely touched the kid” or whatever. That’s a bunch of hooey. Professional athletes can never put their hands in an aggressive manner on any staff member, official or, most certainly, a kid.

Best win:We’re going to have to call this one a draw. Because Seattle’s 4-0 thumping of San Jose was a grand day around CenturyLink Field, where things are bright and right again after that disastrous opening month. But Sporting Kansas City did something no team has done in almost two years: invade Houston and walk away with all the points. SKC’s 1-0 win snapped the league’s longest home unbeaten streak over all 18 years; the Dynamo had gone 36 matches across all competitions without a loss in South Texas.

Most significant breakthrough: Vancouver checked a couple of big boxes with its well-earned 3-1 win over the two-time defending MLS champion Galaxy. First, this was the Whitecaps’ first win since March 9. Two months is a long, long time to go without lifting a celebratory pint. And it was the club’s first win ever over the Galaxy; the ‘Caps were winless in seven previously against Bruce Arena’s club.

Best goal: You can’t top a bicycle kick game-winner. Thierry Henry put a real flourish on his game winner over Montreal. Watch it from all angles at the bottom of this post. As Red Bulls analyst Shep Messing said, “That is a thing of beauty.”

Best week for a club: Sorry, you members of the Timbers Army, but we’ve got to go with Seattle on this one.

Yes, the Timbers had a fantastic week, walking out of FC Dallas Stadium with a draw (and perhaps deserving more against the league leaders) and then clobbering Chivas USA at home. But Sigi Schmid’s Sounders did one better, winning at Sporting Kansas City and then doing some clobbering of their own in a 4-0 win over San Jose.

Lots of character, apparently: Everyone seems to be beating the drum for “character.” Montreal Impact manager Marco Schallibaum referenced it after his team rebounded from a midweek setback, rallying from a goal-down late Saturday to nick Real Salt Lake at Stade Saputo.

And in Texas, manager Schellas Hyndman talked about his team’s character in a 2-1 win over D.C. United. His team was missing five starters, including its top two men, center back George John and former league MVP playmaker David Ferreira.

Dismissal watch: Unfortunately, the league’s youngest manager remains on the hottest of managerial hot seats. This was a very bad week for Ben Olsen at D.C. United. That loss in Dallas won’t have anyone too upset. But being the seventh loss in a row (a club record) multiplies the misery, especially coming of a 4-0 loss at home three nights earlier.

Here’s Henry’s magnificent goal, as promised:

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Dempsey returns to training after second heart procedure

SAN JOSE, CA - JULY 28:  Clint Dempsey #2 of MLS All-Stars chases after the ball up field against the Arsenal FC during the second half of the AT&T MLS All-Star Game at Avaya Stadium on July 28, 2016 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
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Many were concerned about USMNT and Seattle Sounders attacker Clint Dempsey‘s future when he underwent a pair of heart procedures in 2016.

The 33-year-old Dempsey took another step to allay those fears when he hit the pitch for Seattle’s first day of preseason camp.

[ MORE: How will U.S. line up vs. Serbia? ]

The Sounders won the 2016 MLS Cup despite the absence of Dempsey, and his return would further strengthen the side. General manager Garth Lagerwey said Dempsey won’t be rushed, but could be nearing a return.

EFL Cup second legs preview: Liverpool, Hull City aim for comebacks

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 11:  Divock Origi of Liverpool battles with Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (L) and Ryan Bertrand of Southampton during the EFL Cup semi-final first leg match between Southampton and Liverpool at St Mary's Stadium on January 11, 2017 in Southampton, England.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images
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Manchester United and Southampton are 90 minutes from Wembley Stadium.

Hull City and Liverpool would prefer to change that.

After first legs a fortnight ago, the EFL Cup semifinals play out on Wednesday and Thursday ahead of Feb. 26’s final at Wembley.

[ MORE: How will U.S. line up vs. Serbia? ]

First up is Southampton‘s trip to Liverpool, with the Saints nursing a 1-0 lead from the first leg at St. Mary’s. The Wednesday kickoff sees Saints hoping the Reds’ poor run of form will continue at Anfield. Liverpool has one win 2017, and that was an FA Cup replay victory over Plymouth Argyle.

Southampton boss Claude Puel knows the Reds will be ornery:

“We know Liverpool. They lost against Swansea at home, and I am sure they will want to react against us, but it’s important to keep all of our focus about our play.

“We know they are fantastic, a great team, with great players, but you saw in the first leg we have the ability to produce a strong game against them. It will be important to make a strong game – a perfect game – I think.”

Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United got a terrific result in the first leg at Old Trafford, scoring twice and holding Hull City from scooping up a valuable road goal. Juan Mata and Marouane Fellaini scored the goals in the 2-0 win, but the KC Stadium will be rocking on Thursday as the Tigers look to reverse the result.

United midfielder Michael Carrick says the Red Devils will play as if they are starting from scratch:

“It’s definitely not over, we all know that. We are telling ourselves that. I think we’ll be pretty much full strength and will approach the game like it’s a 0-0 and starting from scratch.

“It’s dangerous when you go in there defending a lead to tell yourself this result will do or that result will do, or we can afford to do this or that.”

Report: China tempting TFC’s Giovinco with big offer

Toronto FC's Sebastian Giovinco celebrates his goal against the Philadelphia Union during the first half of an MLS soccer playoff match in Toronto, Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2016. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)
Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP
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Could Sebastian Giovinco’s chances of another MVP award be diminishing?

It wouldn’t be on account of a lack of production, rather massive money coming his way from the Chinese Soccer League.

[ MORE: How will U.S. line up vs. Serbia? ]

Great, and right when we were daydreaming about how Toronto FC’s Italian attacker could run a revenge tour on the folks who somehow left him out of the MVP finalists last year.

Giovinco turns 30 on Thursday.

From The Toronto Sun’s Kurtis Larsson:

“The Chinese club seems to be very interested, but I don’t think it’ll be easy to take him away from Toronto,” Giovinco’s agent, Andrea D’Amico, told the broadcaster.

“We received an important offer from China and we’ll talk to Toronto to decide, along with Sebastian, what to do.”

Giovinco is with Toronto FC for preseason training camp, and both the club and player have shown no interest in moving on from the diminutive winger and 2015 MVP.

But if China comes calling with crazy money, say a $25-30 million transfer fee, shouldn’t TFC think twice? Any figure above $25 million would be more than the sum of the three biggest incoming transfer fees in MLS history (Miguel Almiron, Michael Bradley, Jermain Defoe).

AFCON wrap: Ivory Coast bounced, DR Congo wins Group C

Congo's soccer players celebrate after scoring a goal against Togo during the African Cup of Nations Group C soccer match between Congo and Togo at the Stade de Port-Gentil, Gabon, Tuesday Jan. 24, 2017. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
AP Photo/Sunday Alamba
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Down went another knockout round mainstay from the Africa Cup of Nations, as the Ivory Coast failed to capture one of the top two spots in Group C.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Morocco 1-0 Ivory Coast

Needing a win to move on, the Ivory Coast fell in its final group match. Rachid Alioui scored a 64th minute goal that meant the Ivory Coast needed two to advance to the quarterfinals. The goals didn’t come, and Morocco will face the Group D winner next.

Togo 1-3 DR Congo

Junior Kabananga, Paul-Jose M’Poku, and Ndombe Mubele scored as the Leopards finished the group stage with an unbeaten record of 2-1. DR Congo will face the runner-up of Group D in the quarterfinals.

Wednesday’s matches

Ghana is through with six points, while Uganda is out. Egypt will go through with a result against Ghana, while Mali needs a win and an Egypt loss to get to tiebreakers.

Egypt vs. Ghana — 2 p.m. ET
Uganda vs. Mali — 2 p.m. ET