The final nine rounds of play will tell all in this one, especially as one of my top three choices has just turned up injured and will miss one match, possibly a second.
1. Sporting Kansas City’s Matt Besler
Whereas some center backs will have nights of dominance mixed with nights of wobble, Besler (pictured) is as steady as the most loyal high school sweetheart. He never looks rattled back there, never seems to have a bad match. Plus, Besler’s confidence keeps growing, in MLS and in international waters.
Fellow KC center back Aurelien Collin adds a lesser stable element along the club’s back line, but so long as Besler is around, things always seem under control in the whole.
2. New England’s Jose Goncalves
Who knew that the Portuguese veteran would become one of the most important off-season additions around MLS? Goncalves is providing the stabilizer arm that Jay Heaps’ team lacked in the back last year. And don’t underestimate his influence on rookie Andrew Farrell, who is starting along the right.
New England’s defense is third in goals allowed, with 23 conceded in 24 matches.
3. New York Red Bulls Jamison Olave
Yes, Olave has suffered the odd rickety performance here and there. But on his game, no MLS center back is more dominant. The guy is so big that it’s easy to forget how fast he is. And all that speed helps cover for mistakes made by the Red Bulls outside backs – and there are several of those each match.
We’ll know more about how valuable the veteran Colombian is to New York this week, as Olave sits out injured. He may miss a second game with a quad tear picked up last weekend.
The game in 100 words (or less): Vancouver is a long way from Houston. That could’ve been a problem for a Dynamo team that had yet to see a road point through six games. DaMarcus Beasley made sure to put the Dynamo on the front foot with a goal that turned back the hands of time and, after a shoving match between Alex and Pedro Morales left both sides down a man, Octavio Rivero scored an outside of the foot goal to level things up. Russell Teibert was an artistic passing machine for the ‘Caps, and both Tyler Deric and David Ousted made terrific stops as it ended 1-1.
Three moments that mattered
20′ — Beasley scores a beauty — This run, dribble and finish is something this man has done many-a-time in his long and storied career.
42′ — Alex and Morales trade shoves, see red — No reason for this, fellas.
52′ — Rivero scores an attractive equalizer — A measured, bending shot from a man capable of authoring beauty with his feet.
[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage | Standings | Stats | Schedule ]
Man of the match: Russell Teibert
Goal scorers: Beasley (20′), Rivero (52′)
What did Jurgen Klinsmann learn from Tuesday’s win over Ecuador?
[ FOLLOW: PST’s Andy Edwards live from KC ]
Michael Bradley will be lying deep, while Bobby Wood is in for Graham Zusi and Ale Bedoya completes the midfield picture. Kyle Beckerman is out.
Oh, and left back belongs to Sporting KC center back Matt Besler. With Timmy Chandler injured, Edgar Castillo just arriving and Fabian Johnson going 90 against Ecuador, this was one of his only moves.
Still no Darlington Nagbe in the starting lineup, nor Christian Pulisic. Both were inspired subs against Ecuador.
The Yanks and Bolivia kick off from Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City at 8 p.m. ET, and this is how Jurgen Klinsmann has chosen to line up his USMNT.
Lineup: Guzan; Besler, Brooks, Cameron, Orozco; Jones, Bradley, Bedoya; Wood, Dempsey, Zardes.
The world was treated to the rare sight of a shirtless Cristiano Ronaldo as he celebrated the clinching penalty in a win over Atletico Madrid in the UEFA Champions League final in Milan on Saturday.
Jokes aside, one of the greatest players of his generation did get a moment to remember despite having a rather forgettable 120 minutes beforehand. Ronaldo buried the final penalty to give Real a 5-3 win in kicks after a 1-1 score line post-regulation.
[ MORE: Match recap | Bale reacts to second title ]
He almost sounded apologetic after the match, one that saw Real struggle to assert itself after a strong 45 minutes.
From the BBC:
“The penalties are always a lottery, you never know what will happen but our team showed more experience and we showed it by scoring all the penalties. A fantastic night for us.
“It is the end of the season and people are not fit, we have to rest and we have to go for the Euros.”
Then again, when you’re a superstar and have a trio of UCL crowns, you can feel however you like. Ronaldo’s never been a man for John Wooden-style quotes — heck, we’d even take David Beckham’s personality from him — but he’s won it all thrice.
And to be fair, the other two were better games (and performances from him). Ronaldo scored for Manchester United against Chelsea and capped off the scoring in the 2014 Real win over Atleti.
It took 120 minutes and penalty kicks, but Real Madrid outlasted Atletico Madrid for the second time in three seasons to win its 11th UEFA Champions League final on Saturday in Milan.
[ MORE: Match recap ]
Welsh star Gareth Bale made his spot kick before Cristiano Ronaldo took advantage of Juanfran hitting the post on his attempt, and Real won 1-1 (5-3) on the night.
Bale was thrilled.
From the Fox Sports broadcast:
“What an amazing feeling. In extra time a lot of people became cramped but we showed resilience, what we’re made of and we won the 11th.
“They gave it a great game. We feel a little bit sorry for them but you have to win a final.”
Afterwards, Bale said Wales would try to win the Euro 2016 because, “Why not?”
Why not, Gareth? Why not?