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
There was a terrible incident in Liverpool on Tuesday when a Reds supporter was set upon by Roma fans and left in critical condition.
Sean Cox, 53, was attacked outside a pub before Liverpool’s 5-2 UEFA Champions League semifinal first leg win over AS Roma.
[ MORE: LFC 5-2 Roma | Klopp reacts ]
Liverpool has released its plans to keep supporters safe should they be among the 5,000 with tickets in Rome on Wednesday (via LiverpoolFC.com), pledging the “most comprehensive safety and security advice.”
The club has taken the exceptional measure of requesting an extraordinary meeting in the Italian capital, which will take place on Friday April 27. … At the behest of Liverpool, club officials will join AS Roma, UEFA and the relevant Italian police and security services to discuss specific ongoing concerns.
Merseyside Police chief superintendent Dave Charnock backed up Roma’s police demand that Liverpool fans without tickets skip the trip to Italy. According to the BBC, Liverpool was asked to put fans names on their tickets to the game.
“While we understand and appreciate that many Liverpool fans will want to travel to Rome, I would encourage fans who do not have tickets to not travel,” he said.
AS Roma, for its part, posted a photo of Cox with the statement, “His recovery and the safety of all fans attending football matches, is the only thing that matters now.”
Could Steven Gerrard‘s first foray into management come against his old manager and in one of the most heated derbies in the world?
The BBC is reporting that the Liverpool legend is on the shortlist for Rangers as the Glaswegian side prepares to hire a new manager in its bid to reverse Celtic domination of the Scottish Premiership and the Old Firm Derby.
[ MORE: Fulham, NFL owner to buy Wembley? ]
Brendan Rodgers has engineered a marvelous run of form for Celtic, who went unbeaten in the league last season. Rodgers is also a sought-after managerial candidate for bigger jobs in Europe, and may not be at Celtic if and when Gerrard is hired by its rivals.
Either Celtic or Rangers have won the Scottish top flight title dating back to 1984-85, when champions Aberdeen were led by some guy named Alex Ferguson.
Rangers are facing a Manchester United moment this weekend, traveling to Celtic Park for a Sunday derby against Celtic which would see their rivals clinch the Premiership with a win.
Celtic has a 10-point lead on Rangers and Aberdeen, and is extremely likely to win its seventh-straight Premiership title. The record for most consecutive Scottish titles is nine, shared by Celtic (1966-74) and Rangers (1989-97).
Zlatan Ibrahimovic‘s public flirtation and seeming committal to returning to the Swedish national team for the World Cup was a big tease.
Whether it’s his call or not is up for debate.
The Swedish Football Association reports that it’s spoken with Ibrahimovic and the 35-year-old LA Galaxy striker has declined the chance to return to the fold.
[ MORE: Fulham, NFL owner to buy Wembley? ]
Sweden’s sporting director Lars Richt says Ibrahimovic has not changed his mind on international retirement despite his own words.
Sweden’s current team may have a role in that.
We imagine Richt and Sweden may be cushioning the blow for Ibrahimovic, especially if national team goalkeeper Karl-Johan Johnsson is speaking on behalf of a team vibe when he speaks of Zlatan being “an individualist” who could ruin Sweden’s team-first concept.
Fulham owner Shad Khan also owns a National Football League team, and could have two top-flight teams from different nations playing in England soon.
For Fulham, the Cottagers are currently very much in the race for automatic promotion to the Premier League and at the least will have a chance at qualifying through the playoffs.
[ MORE: TFC loses CCL Final in PKs ]
For the Jaguars, who have rarely needed all the seats in their stadium, it could mean a move to London if Khan goes through with what’s being reported as an accepted $700 million bid to buy Wembley Stadium.
Tottenham Hotspur’s new stadium was also built with the design to host NFL games.
Here’s how ProFootballTalk’s Michael David Smith puts a bow on it (on one of the biggest days of the NFL calendar, nonetheless):
So it’s possible that there could soon be two iconic soccer stadiums in London with strong NFL ties, one which was built with NFL games in mind, and another that is owned by an NFL owner. The league is pouring serious resources into London.
It seems unlikely Khan would move Fulham from Craven Cottage, but there are other repercussions of this move for soccer in England.
There’s the potential for the England national team to no longer utlizie a permanent home, and the FA Cup and League Cup both potentially requiring new or rotating venues for their final rounds.
A lot to monitor here, and we’ll surely have all the details as they emerge from Khan’s crew.