We begin to roll out our choices for the league’s top defender, top goalkeeper, top rookie, MVP and more:
Today we look at ProSoccerTalk’s writer’s picks for Major League Soccer’s Defender of the Year:
Jose Goncalves, New England
I had to go to the stats for this one – to one stat, that is: games played. Sporting Kansas City’s Matt Besler is as smooth as they come, tackling and intercepting without fouling (fewer than once per game on averaged), and he reads the game as carefully as a real estate lawyer reads contracts. But he played just 23 times this year for SKC. That’s not his fault … but if we’re talking about biggest impact to a defense, then its Goncalves, who played in all 34 Revolution matches. If not for the unheralded Portuguese arrival – a darn smooth operator in central defense, himself – now way New England makes it to the playoffs for the first time since 2009.
Jose Goncalves, New England
Interesting race this year. Besler missed a lot of time with the national team. The LA Galaxy’s Omar Gonzalez had a prolonged dip. In their wake, I saw this as a race between Goncalves, New York’s Jámison Olave and Kansas City’s Aurélien Collin, and I went with the Portuguese. Olave’s infrequent mistakes were a tiebreaker of sorts, whereas I just felt Goncalves was better than Collin, particularly in one-one-one situations.
Matt Besler, Sporting Kansas City
Another incredible season for Besler as he marches on with his hometown Sporting Kansas City squad. The American defender has also had a breakout season on the international stage and should be a clear starter for the United States when the first game of the World Cup rolls around this summer. From Notre Dame stud to MLS star and now a USMNT veteran in the making, it’s been an incredible rise for the soft spoken center back. His pace, reading of the game and focus has seen him rise to the top in KC. I suspect the best is still to come.
ProSoccerTalk’s choices for MLS awards
- Wednesday: Defender of the Year
- Thursday: Goalkeeper of the Year
- Friday: Rookie of the Year
- Monday, Nov. 25: Coach of the Year
- Tuesday, Nov. 26: MLS Most Valuable Player
- Wednesday, Nov. 27: MLS Best XI
LIMA, Peru (AP) Peru has extradited the country’s former soccer boss to the United States for his alleged involvement in a multibillion-dollar FIFA bribery scandal involving marketing and broadcasting rights.
Manuel Burga was sent to New York on a commercial flight before dawn on Friday.
He has been in jail since December 2015 as part of the investigation. Peru’s Supreme Court in June cleared the way for his extradition and President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski signed a decree authorizing the move a week ago.
Burga oversaw Peru’s football federation for more than a decade until 2014. He has denied any wrongdoing.
While the battle for MLS Cup 2016 has been dwindled down to two sides, the rest of the league continues to make roster transactions in preparation for next season.
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The San Jose Earthquakes announced on Friday that the club has exercised options on six players, including goalkeeper David Bingham, Fatai Alashe, Kip Colvey and Victor Bernardez.
Additionally, the Earthquakes have released nine players, including U.S. Men’s National Team defender Clarence Goodson, Marc Pelosi and Tommy Thompson, however, the latter two are reportedly in talks to return to the club in 2017.
NAPLES, Italy (AP) Napoli eased to a 3-0 win over Inter Milan in Serie A on Friday, with two goals in the opening five minutes.
[ MORE: Top 5 PL storylines heading into weekend ]
The home side got off to a lightning start as, following a wonderful team move, Jose Callejon headed back Marek Hamsik’s chipped pass for Piotr Zielinski to volley into the bottom left corner.
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Zielinski turned provider moments later as Hamsik beat the offside trap to run onto his pass and fire into the bottom right corner.
It was Hamsik’s 104th goal for Napoli, moving him level with Edinson Cavani in third in the clubs’ goalscoring charts. The Slovakia forward needs 11 more to equal Diego Maradona’s record.
Inter started the second half aggressively but hopes of getting back into the match were scuppered six minutes after the restart when Lorenzo Insigne netted his fourth goal in three league matches after visiting goalkeeper Samir Handanovic only flapped at a corner.
Napoli moved level on points with Atalanta, which visits league leader Juventus on Saturday, and fourth-placed Lazio, which hosts Roma in the capital derby on Sunday.
Inter, which beat Fiorentina 4-2 on Monday for its first win under coach Stefano Pioli, remained eighth ahead of the rest of the weekend’s fixtures.
On a day where Atlanta United added another young talent, the 2017 MLS expansion side could be preparing to make a major splash for a South American playmaker.
According to numerous Argentine media outlets, Atlanta is closing in on signing Paraguay international Miguel Almiron for an MLS-record fee of $13 million from Lanus at the end of 2016.
Almiron, 22, has scored three goals in 34 appearances for Lanus since joining the Argentine club in 2015. The young winger began his professional career back in 2013 with Cerro Porteno, where Almiron also played for the club’s youth academy.
On the international stage, Almiron has already earned seven caps for Paraguay after previously representing the nation’s Under-17 and U-20 national teams.