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

Quick review of a busy Round 11 in Major League Soccer


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:


FOLLOW LIVE: 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs knockout round

Sporting Kansas City forward Dom Dwyer, center, is congratulated by teammates, including midfielder Roger Espinoza (27), following his goal during the first half of an MLS soccer match against the Houston Dynamo in Kansas City, Kan., Saturday, Aug. 1, 2015. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
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The knockout round of the 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs concludes on Thursday, as four teams vie for the final two places — one in the Eastern Conference, one in the Western Conference — in the conference semifinals, which begin on Sunday.

[ FOLLOW LIVE: MLS Cup Playoffs knockout round ]

Up first, the East’s fourth-seeded D.C. United welcome the five-seed Montreal Impact to RFK Stadium for the two sides’ third meeting of the 2016 season. Each of the year’s first two clashes finished a 1-1 draw, in July and August. Didier Drogba is expected to be unavailable for the win-or-go-home tie. United finished the regular season with four wins in the last five games, while the Impact won just two of their last eight.

[ MORE: Preivewing Thursday night’s knockout-round games ]

In the nightcap, the West’s fourth-seeded Seattle Sounders will take on the five-side, Sporting Kansas City, at CenturyLink Field. Sporting were victorious in both regular-season meetings this year — 1-0 on opening day, and 3-0 in late-July, the day the Sounders essentially quit on Sigi Schmid. Since that blistering hot day in KC, the Soudners have lost just twice in 14 games (eight wins, four draws).

Thursday’s MLS Cup Playoffs schedule

D.C. United vs. Montreal Impact — 7:30 p.m. ET
Seattle Sounders vs. Sporting KC — 10 p.m. ET

Cristiano Ronaldo says Ashley Cole is the toughest player he faced

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Cristiano Ronaldo has faced the best defenders in the world during his time with Manchester United, Real Madrid and the Portuguese national team.

He has also caused fits for most of those defenders with goal after goal for club and country. But, there have been some players who have at least made it difficult for the all-time leading goal scorer in Real Madrid and Champions League history.

According to Ronaldo, former Chelsea and Arsenal defender Ashley Cole was the toughest player he has faced in his career.

[ MORE: VIDEO: Incredible Pelle goal in China ]

“Over the years I had some great battles with Ashley Cole, he does not give you a second to breathe,” Ronaldo told Coach Mag. “He was such a tenacious player when he was at his peak, quick, tough in the tackle. You knew it would never be an easy game.”

During his time with Manchester United, Ronaldo faced Cole on numerous occasions while Cole was with Arsenal and Chelsea. The two have also faced off in international competition between Ronaldo’s Portugal and Cole’s England.

It’s certainly high praise for Cole, who now plays in MLS for the LA Galaxy. At the age of 35, Cole has started 25 matches for the Galaxy this season, scoring one goal.

Phil Neville praises Juan Mata’s play to Manchester United

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Juan Mata has appeared in 116 matches for Manchester United since moving to Old Trafford in 2014. In that time, Mata has scored 29 goals and recorded 18 assists.

Despite his performance for the team, some thought Mata would be moved when Jose Mourinho came to town, including former United player and assistant coach Phil Neville.

Neville told Sky Sports, “I actually thought he would be the first out of the door when Jose came, but he’s actually becoming one of the most important players.”

Neville praised Mata’s contributions and versatility for United. “He is never injured, he provides a lot of assists, he plays in two or three different positions, and he scores important goals.”

Manchester United has lacked an identity under Mourinho and recently faltered in the Premier League as the team is winless in its last three matches.

[ MORE: Mourinho gets FA charge ]

Could Mata be the answer to some of United’s problems?

The Spaniard is a classic No. 10 with the ability to dictate his team’s attack and create scoring opportunities for his teammates. Mata can also put the ball in the back of the net as evidenced by his winner against Manchester City in the EFL Cup.

Mourinho has options in the center midfield with the likes of Paul Pogba, Ander Herrera and Michael Carrick in addition to Mata on the roster.

However, given the team’s Premier League struggles, it could be worth giving Mata a chance as the team’s No. 10.

David Moyes faces FA charges after being sent off during EFL Cup

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David Moyes and Sunderland have gotten off to one of the worst starts in Premier League history.

If they fail to earn a point against Arsenal this weekend, they will tie the 1995-96 Manchester City team for the worst start ever through 10 matches with two points.

It appears those frustrations carried over to the EFL Cup for Moyes. On Wednesday, the manager was forced to leave the dugout toward the end of Sunderland’s 1-0 loss to Southampton after he protested a no-call from referee Chris Kavanagh.

Moyes was charged by the FA for his protests, saying the manager “used abusive and/or insulting words towards a match official”.

It’s just another thing to add to Moyes’ plate as he looks to keep Sunderland’s hopes of safety alive in the Premier League.