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.

New York Red Bulls introduce space at RBA for autistic families

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HARRISON, N.J. (AP) The Red Bulls have announced plans for a permanent sensory-friendly space at their stadium for families impacted by autism.

Formerly executive offices, the space overlooking midfield is a calm area that is free from the crowds and the noise of Red Bull Arena during matches. Families can use it for free.

The team announced the new space on Saturday before the Red Bulls were set to host the Chicago Fire. It was Autism Awareness Night at the stadium.

“Families deserve to feel welcome and comfortable each time they step foot into Red Bull Arena, not just one night a year,” Red Bulls GM Marc de Grandpre said in a statement released by the club. “We hope all sports teams and entertainment venues are inspired to take similar action to provide comfort for families with loved ones on the autism spectrum.”

League Two game restarted in empty stadium after fans storm field

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LONDON (AP) An English soccer game restarted in an empty stadium after a pitch invasion led to the crowd being told the fixture had been abandoned.

There were five minutes remaining in Leyton Orient’s fourth-tier game against Colchester on Saturday when a sit-down protest was staged on the pitch by Orient fans against Italian owner Francesco Becchetti.

It forced the referee to take the players off the field. The protests lasted for more than an hour before the crowd was told the game had been abandoned and the stadium eventually cleared. The teams came out and finished the game.

Leyton Orient lost 3-1 a week after its relegation from the English Football League was confirmed after 112 years.

“A decision was taken with the police to announce that the game had been abandoned as it was felt this would help clear the pitch, which proved correct,” the EFL said in a statement. “However, it was deemed appropriate that the game needed to be played to a conclusion in order to maintain the integrity of the competition.”

La Liga: Barcelona, Real Madrid hold serve in tight title race

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A roundup of Saturday’s action in Spain’s top flight…

[ MORE: Super-duper Sunday preview — North London derby, plus 6 of top 7 ]

Espanyol 0-3 Barcelona

Barcelona are doing all they can do — win — in their bid to usurp Real Madrid in the race for the title. While they entered the weekend — and still are — ahead of their El Clasico rivals based on head-to-head results this season, Los Blancos still have a game in hand which will surely decide whether Madrid claim their 33rd top-division title, or a 25th for Barca.

On Saturday, Luis Enrique’s side had more than just the title at stake — also at stake: the Derbi Barceloni, against fellow Catalan side Espanyol.

For 45 minutes, the home side held firm and refused to break, but once Luis Suarez put the Blaugrana ahead in the 50th minute, that was all she wrote. Ivan Rakitic doubled the advantage in the 76th minute, and Suarez completed the scoring 11 minutes later.

Real Madrid 2-1 Valencia

By the time the derby kicked off, Madrid had already applied the pressure and gone three points clear with a 2-1 victory that was a whole lot closer than the final score indicates.

Cristiano Ronaldo opened the scoring just before the half-hour mark, and Zinedine Zidane’s side was well on its way to victory. Ronaldo followed up his opening goal with a missed penalty kick 10 minutes into the second half, and Daniel Parejo pulled the visitors level with a sensational free kick just eight minutes before the end of regular time. Points looked sure to be dropped, and the door opened wider for Barca, but Marcelo was prepared to play the part of hero on the day, and the Brazilian left back bagged one of the season’s more improbable goals, a right-footed strike from the top of the box, in the 86th minute.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Las Palmas 0-5 Atletico Madrid
Real Sociedad 2-1 Granada

Sunday’s La Liga schedule

Osasuna vs. Deportivo La Coruña — 6 a.m. ET
Real Betis vs. Alaves — 10:15 a.m. ET
Eibar vs. Leganes — 12:30 p.m. ET
Celta Vigo vs. Athletic Bilbao — 2:45 p.m. ET

Monday’s La Liga schedule

Malaga vs. Sevilla — 3 p.m. ET

Championship Focus: It’s all about the playoff places now

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With Brighton & Hove Albion and Newcastle United having already clinched the Championship’s two automatic promotion places, all eyes turn to the four teams behind them still jockeying for playoff positioning…

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s coverage of the Championship ]

3rd — Reading — 82 points, +2 GD
4th — Sheffield Wednesday — 81 points, +16 GD
5th — Huddersfield Town — 81 points, +1 GD
6th — Fulham — 77 points, +27 GD

First of all, the Championship remains the least sensible league in the world. Disagree? Just try to explain the above wildly varying points totals and the corresponding goal differentials. Go ahead, I’ll wait

As for the weekend’s results, Reading and Wednesday did themselves major favors in the race for third with victories over Wigan Athletic (1-0) and Ipswich Town (1-0), respectively, while Huddersfield, who entered the weekend in that top playoff place, played 67 minutes with a man advantage against Birmingham City, and lost 2-0. All three of Reading, Wednesday and Huddersfield have clinched their place in the promotion playoffs, which begin two weeks from Saturday, on May 13.

[ MORE: PL Sunday preview — North London derby, plus 6 of the top 7 play ]

Given Leeds United’s 3-3 draw with Norwich City, a win would have clinched the fourth and final playoff place for Fulham, but the Cottagers dropped a pair of points themselves in a 1-1 draw with Brentford at Craven Cottage. Still, Fulham are all but into the playoffs with a three-point lead on Leeds, and a goal differential that’s 13 goals better.