Clint Irwin

Major League Soccer’s mid-season Rookie of the Year: Dillon Powers

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I’m not even going to pretend there’s an obvious choice here. Unless you didn’t read the headline, you know where we’re going with this one, but he may not even be the best rookie on his own team. And then there’s a certain defender in the northeast whose candidacy may gain momentum if New England’s defensive continues to shine. For now, though, we’re going with …

My pick: the Colorado Rapids’ Dillon Powers

Two winters back, Powers was rumored to be leaving Notre Dame after his junior year, the former U.S. U-20 midfielder set to forgo his last year in South Bend to start his professional career. Instead, the Texan decided to see out his NCAA eligibility, rounding out a senior year that saw him garner first team All-America honors.

When Colorado made him the 11th pick in January’s draft, Powers was that much more ready to go. As a result, the 21-year-old has been able to slot directly in the top of Oscar Pareja’s midfield, already accumulating 1561 minutes in his nascent career. With three goals and two assists, the former Fighting Irish midfielder has made a bigger, more immediate impact than most would have expected.

And not that he should get extra points for difficulty, but Powers has already provided us with one of the season’s highlights:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m8_6k4OuBmk]

If that shot went into the stands, Powers would still our pick. Somebody behind DSG’s goal would have been seriously injured, and the special effects from Man of Steel wouldn’t seem so unrealistic after that carnage, but Powers would have still taken up this space.

Colorado was intent on going with youth this season, regardless, but with injuries to the likes of Martin Rivero, Powers hasn’t had any time to adjust to life in Major League Soccer. Which is fine, since it turns out he didn’t it.

Also in the picture: Deshorn Brown, Andrew Farrell; Long shot: Carlos Alvarez

If you want to give this award to Brown, you have my blessing. I know that’s what you were waiting for, and I’m happy to give it, because the effect a player like Brown has had on Colorado’s attack is obvious, Defenses have had trouble with the big 22-year-old’s, speed, size, and willingness. In 1297 minutes (18 games, 14 starts), the Jamaica-born forward has five goals and four assists, leaving him on pace for a very impressive final return.

Andrew Farrell’s numbers aren’t so impressive. Defenders’ never are. That’s not to say he hasn’t been a factor. The right back is a key part of the league’s best defense, and the difference when he’s out of the lineup is obvious.

Still, and this is where the objections come flying, there is a difference between a right back and a central midfielder, and while Farrell may very well be the better long-term prospect, position needs to be a factor in this discussion. If we’re talking about which player has had the better season — who has performed the best, not only absolutely but within the responsibilities of his position — Farrell’s position works against him.

If he’s been good but a central midfielder has been just as good, albeit in a more difficult role, shouldn’t the guy in the middle win out? It’s a potentially interesting debate.

VIDEO: Premier League Team of the Week – Round 25

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In a week where defenders scored critical goals, it’s no surprise to see a 4-3-3 in the Premier League’s Team of the Week.

Robert Huth‘s brace while blanking Manchester City leads the way for the PL’s top XI from the weekend, while Southampton’s vaunted back line and keeper have two in mix.

[ MORE: Ailing Chelsea, Man Utd showcase obvious deficiencies ]

Liverpool and Arsenal both put offensive forces on the team, while big goals for safety hopefuls Newcastle United and Aston Villa found three players between the two in the XI.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Premier League Team of the Week — Round 25 ARCHIVE ]

Goalkeeper: Fraser Forster (Southampton)

Defenders: Kieran Trippier (Tottenham Hotspur), Maya Yoshida (Southampton), Robert Huth (Leicester City), Joleon Lescott (Aston Villa)

Midfielders: Aaron Lennon (Everton), Riyad Mahrez (Leicester City), Mesut Ozil (Arsenal)

Forwards: Roberto Firmino (Liverpool), Aleksandar Mitrovic (Newcastle United), Gabriel Agbonlahor (Aston Villa)

Premier League Player of the Week — Round 25

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Score one for the Midlands.

In a season for lowlights, Aston Villa captain Gabriel Agbonlahor is celebrating a bit of hope for his beleaguered club after his classy finish gave the 29-year-old his first goal of the season.

[ REACTION: Agbonlahor says Villa now ready to produce great escape ]

It also inspired Villa to consider that eight points off the Premier League safety chase isn’t unrealistic if it can put together some more gritty performances like the 2-0 defeat of Norwich City on Saturday.

Premier League Players of the Week

Week 1: Riyad Mahrez, Leicester City

Week 2: Romelu Lukaku, Everton

Week 3: Callum Wilson, Bournemouth

Week 4: Bafetimbi Gomis, Swansea City

Week 5: Steven Naismith, Everton

Week 6: Anthony Martial, Manchester United

Week 7: Alexis Sanchez, Arsenal

Week 8: Sergio Aguero, Manchester City

Week 9: Raheem Sterling, Manchester City

Week 10: Harry Kane, Tottenham Hotspur

Week 11: Arouna Kone, Everton

Week 12: Jesse Lingard, Manchester United

Week 15: Riyad Mahrez, Leicester City

Week 16: Ayoze Perez, Newcastle United

Week 17: Odion Ighalo, Watford

Week 19: Xherdan Shaqiri, Stoke City

Week 20: Jermain Defoe, Sunderland

Week 21: Jermain Defoe, Sunderland

Week 22: Sergio Aguero, Manchester City

Week 23: Dele Alli, Tottenham Hotspur

Week 24: Fraser Forster, Southampton

Week 25: Gabriel Agbonlahor, Aston Villa

Napoli fans wear Koulibaly masks to support defender after racial abuse

NAPLES, ITALY - FEBRUARY 07:  Fans of Napoli  during the Serie A match between SSC Napoli and Carpi FC at Stadio San Paolo on February 7, 2016 in Naples, Italy.  (Photo by Maurizio Lagana/Getty Images)
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Napoli fans showed their support for Kalidou Koulibaly on Sunday after the Senegalese center-back was the subject of racial abuse in a match against Lazio last week.

[ MORE: La Liga & Serie A roundup ]

The Lazio match was temporarily stopped in the second half as Lazio supporters hurled racial insults at Koulibaly.

At Napoli’s match against Carpi on Sunday, fans wore Koulibaly masks and painted signs in his honor to show their support for the 24-year-old defender.

A statement from Napoli’s supporters’ group read: “Everyone in Naples is offended by what happened to our young star. Because of this, we want to show our full support to Koulibaly.”

[ VIDEO: Van Gaal rips journalist who questions his Manchester United future ]

Lazio was fined more than $50,000 and will be forced to close certain sections of their stadium for the next two league matches because of the incident.

Afobe says he scored 15 goals a game with Harry Kane at the Arsenal academy

during the Barclays Premier League match between Crystal Palace and A.F.C. Bournemouth at Selhurst Park on February 2, 2016 in London, England.
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Benik Afobe and Harry Kane are Premier League foes, but as kids, they were teammates.

Now Afobe is at Bournemouth and Kane at Tottenham, though both strikers played together with the Arsenal U-9 team as children.

[ RECAP: Bournemouth 0-2 Arsenal ]

While Kane left Arsenal at 10 and eventually settled at crosstown rivals Tottenham, Afobe stayed under contract with the club until 2015 despite never making an appearance for the Gunners.

Afobe went on six loan spells before moving to Wolverhampton last season, then joining Bournemouth in January.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

With three goals in his first five Premier League matches for the Cherries, Afobe is no stranger to scoring, as he said he would combine with Harry Kane for 15 goals a game back in the day.

I’ve got pictures of us from Arsenal.

He was so small at the time, a bit of a late developer, but he’s always loved scoring. The scores used to be 17-15 and stuff – we just knew we’d score in every game.

But it’s weird because he used to play in goal sometimes, and wasn’t bad actually. You wouldn’t think it – remember that goal he let in for Tottenham a couple of years ago (against Asteras Tripolis in the Europa League) when he had to play in goal.

I think Mauricio Pochettino and Spurs’ supporters are happy Harry Kane chose to play striker over goalkeeper…

[ MORE: Deficiencies visible on both sides as Chelsea draw Manchester United ]

Kane has proven that he is an elite goalscorer in the Premier League, and Afobe is off to a fine start himself. With both players just 22-years-old, we’ll likely be seeing many more goals to come from the duo.