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
South Korea and Venezuela clinched berths in the knockout rounds of the U-20 World Cup on Tuesday, while Germany and Argentina have surprising work to do after two matches in South Korea.
[ MORE: Allardyce steps down at Palace ]
South Korea 2-1 Argentina
Barcelona B man Lee Seung-woo helped South Korea take a 2-0 lead, then hold on for the win and group lead over England.
England 1-1 Guinea
Chelsea youngster Fikayo Tomori scored a wild long range own goal to cost England the three points, but the Blues are still well-positioned to advance out of the group stage. Bournemouth midfielder Lewis Cook scored for England, and it was a beaut.
Venezuela 7-0 Vanuatu
Seven different Venezuelans have scored through a pair of shutout wins, with Caracas’ Sergio Cordova the only one to bag a pair.
Mexico 0-0 Germany
Germany has just one point through two matches, thanks largely to Pachuca’s Abraham Romero’s seven saves. Mexico was outshot 12-6.
Marco Silva is one of the hottest properties in management, months after eliciting cries of “Who?” following his appointment at Hull City.
While those cries may have been a tiny bit myopic given his time at Sporting CP and Olympiacos, the 39-year-old is now visible to the world despite Hull’s relegation.
[ MORE: Real Madrid nabs $50m teen ]
Silva will be back in England to meet with Hull on Wednesday, but a clause in his contract that said he could leave if the club was relegated gives the Tigers very little hope.
Rumors have him wanted at Watford, and he’s also been linked with a number of other jobs including Southampton (should the club part ways with Claude Puel).
However, the former right back is also reportedly a target of one of the biggest clubs in his home country: Champions League side Porto.
Jose Mourinho’s big European gamble takes center stage on Wednesday in Sweden, when Manchester United attempts to topple young Ajax in the UEFA Europa League Final.
United’s chances for UEFA Champions League qualification, a magnificent opportunity, are overshadowed by the pall cast over Manchester by sinister terrorist attacks at a pop concert that killed and injured many on Monday night.
Alas, there’s soccer to be played, and Mourinho is looking to make it a trio of shiny items in his first year on the job. United beat Leicester City for the Community Shield, then topped Southampton in the EFL Cup Final en route to Sweden.
United’s well-documented dearth of healthy defenders will march out one more time on Wednesday, with Chris Smalling and Phil Jones tasked with manning the center of the back line. Expect Antonio Valencia and Matteo Darmian out wide.
[ MORE: Full 2016-17 season reviews ]
Despite the injury to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Mourinho’s attack is going to give Ajax fits. Marcus Rashford has been next level for most of the second half of the season, and United will also likely feature Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Paul Pogba atop Ander Herrera.
If someone is going to break United down, it could be midfield wizards Davy Klaassen and Lasse Schone. The creative middle men have a variety of options to find with the ball, including on-loan Chelsea man Bertrand Traore and Danish teenager Kasper Dolberg.
But how will they deal with United’s attack? Sure Ajax has stopped Lyon, Schalke, Copenhagen, and Legia Warsaw, but United and Mourinho? That’s another challenge for Peter Bosz and his men.
Ajax won the 1992 UEFA Cup, and this is United’s first ever trip to this particular final. The Red Devils are heavy favorites, and we expect United to prevail. Don’t sleep on Juan Mata heroics. Call it 3-1.
Sam Allardyce is walking away
on top outside the relegation zone.
The veteran Premier League manager, 62, resigned his post as Crystal Palace on Tuesday, weeks after leading another team to safety.
The move ends a tumultuous eight months for Allardyce, who was fired as England manager after an undercover sting exposed unethical dealings with agents.
[ MORE: Full 2016-17 season reviews ]
It also comes about an hour after somebody wrote that Crystal Palace should move on from Allardyce. What a jerk, that somebody.
Rarely at a loss for words, here’s Big Sam from cpfc.co.uk:
I want to be able to savour life while I’m still relatively young and when I’m still relatively healthy enough to do all the things I want to do, like travel, spend more time with my family and grandchildren without the huge pressure that comes with being a football manager.
This is the right time for me. I have no ambitions to take another job, I simply want to be able to enjoy all the things you cannot really enjoy with the 24/7 demands of managing any football club, let alone one in the Premier League.”
All kidding aside — and I’m far from a Big Sam fan — congrats to the man on walking away to enjoy the finer things in life. He had a heck of a run, and we’ll see how long he can resist being away from the fray. Cheers, Sam.