Reactions and thoughts as MLS reveals its Best XI team

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First the basics … this is how MLS players, club leadership, and media members voted for the league’s top 11 players in 2013:

  • Goalkeeper – Donovan Ricketts (Portland Timbers)
  • Defender – Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City)
  • Defender – Jose Goncalves (New England Revolution)
  • Defender – Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy)
  • Midfielder – Tim Cahill (New York Red Bulls)
  • Midfielder – Will Johnson (Portland Timbers)
  • Midfielder – Diego Valeri (Portland Timbers)
  • Midfielder – Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
  • Forward – Marco Di Vaio (Montreal Impact)
  • Forward – Robbie Keane (LA Galaxy)
  • Forward – Mike Magee (Chicago Fire)

The one who shouldn’t be there: Donovan Ricketts reminded us in 2013 that big, flashy, flying saves will get you a bunch of attention. And there were some jaw-dropping and praise-worthy moments. But the less glamorous stuff, the precise footwork, the business of not leaving rebounds in bad places, the providing of information to defenders … it’s all important, too. And for me, Ricketts wasn’t always good enough in these more mundane matters. Ricketts was a good goalkeeper in 2013 – but hardly the league’s best in my opinion.

(For the goalkeepers that we liked, see this link.)

And one more who looks a bit questionable: Omar Gonzalez had another good season for the Galaxy. But was it his best season? Hardly. And compared to how dominating he was after coming off injury in 2012, this one suffered by comparison. Perhaps it was the extra strain of international duty, or the distraction of ongoing contract negotiations … but Gonzalez dropped a short notch this go-round.

The math that doesn’t add up: THREE men from Portland Timbers? C’mon. There are 19 clubs, and THREE Timbers find their way to this team? If that’s the case, Portland should have won 24 or 25 games, right?

Johnson is deserving. Ricketts and Valeri … not necessarily.

A couple of snubs: We get reminded (sigh…once again) that holding midfielders are undervalued in MLS. No Osvaldo Alonso or Kyle Beckerman? Hmmmm. Will Johnson is the closest we get to a holding mid, even though he’s really more of a two-way man in Portland’s 4-3-3.

Nothing wrong with Graham Zusi, Diego Valeri or Tim Cahill – but their seasons weren’t any better than the ones had by Alonso (who made a very, very average Seattle defense look better than it really was with so much faithful soldiering as a midfield screener) or Beckerman.

(MORE: ProSoccerTalk’s staff choices for Best XI)

MLS Snapshot: New York City FC 2-1 New England Revolution (video)

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The game in 100 words (or less): For nearly 75 minutes, NYCFC couldn’t muster up any chances in the attacking third, but thankfully their captain did what he does best. David Villa scored his 19th goal of the season on Sunday night to pull out a 2-1 win against the New England Revolution, but it was rookie Jonathan Lewis that notched the winner. The visitors took the lead 20 minutes prior after Sean Johnson spilled a shot in front of his own goal, allowing Teal Bunbury to pounce on the rebound. NYCFC now moves to within four points of Eastern Conference leaders Toronto FC with nine matches remaining in the regular season.

Three four moments that mattered

16′ — Harrison breaks ankles, but Villa can’t finish — This might be the only time all see you’ll see David Villa miss a chance like this…

38′ — Johnson gets a finger tip to Rowe’s blast — Sean Johnson had no work to do in the first half, at least until Kelyn Rowe decided to rip a shot from distance just before halftime.

57′ — Johnson’s error grants Bunbury, Revs the lead — Look away, NYCFC fans.

77′ — Villa find the back of the net — When you need a goal, who you gonna call? That’s right. David Villa. The NYCFC captain is now up to 19 this season.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: David Villa

Goalscorers: Teal Bunbury (57′), David Villa (77′), Jonathan Lewis (90+4′)

Honoring victims of attacks, Barcelona wins league opener

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Wearing shirts honoring victims of the recent attacks in Spain, Barcelona opened its Spanish league season with a comfortable 2-0 win over Real Betis on Sunday.

[ MORE: Neymar double helps PSG cruise past Toulouse ]

Players had the word “Barcelona” instead of their names on the back of their shirts, and the Catalan hashtag “TOTSSOMBARCELONA” (We are all Barcelona) was on display around the Camp Nou stadium. The message was also shown on the stadium’s large screens, as well as on many banners carried by fans.

An emotional minute’s silence was held before the game as the music of Catalan cellist Pau Casals played in the background.

Before the minute was up, the more than 55,000 fans at the stadium broke into a round of applause and began chanting “No tinc por” (I’m not afraid), a chant which has become a symbol of people’s reactions to the attacks that killed 14 people and injured more than 120 in Barcelona and the nearby seaside resort of Cambrils.

Extra security was implemented in and around Camp Nou.

There was a minute’s silence before every Spanish league match this weekend.

Without Neymar and the injured Luis Suarez, Barcelona got off to a winning start in the league after consecutive losses to rival Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup final.

It scored two goals three minutes apart near the end of the first half – an own-goal by Betis defender Alin Tosca and a close-range shot by Sergi Roberto. Both goals came after plays started by Gerard Deulofeu, one of the players expected to try to replace Neymar after his world record transfer to Paris Saint-Germain.

“We lost depth with Neymar’s departure and we have to find a way to overcome that,” Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said.

Lionel Messi looked lively but wasn’t able to score his 350th goal in La Liga. He came close, though, being denied by the woodwork three different times.

AP Sports Writer Tales Azzoni contributed to this report.

More AP Spanish soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/LaLiga

Brighton breaks club record with signing of winger Jose Izquierdo

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Brighton hasn’t gotten off to the ideal start in its debut season in the Premier League, but a key reinforcement is on the way.

[ MORE: Chelsea tops Spurs at Wembley behind Alonso’s brace ]

After starting the 2017/18 campaign with back-to-back defeats, the Seagulls announced on Sunday the signing of Colombian winger Jose Izquierdo from Club Brugge in Belgium for a record fee.

The 25-year-old spent three seasons in Belgium’s top flight and totaled 38 goals across all competitions for Brugge, prior to making the move to England.

Additionally, Izquierdo has worked his way into the Colombia squad as of late, and scored his first international goal for his country in June 2017 in a friendly against Cameroon.

MLS Follow Live — NYCFC hosts Revs, Minnesota meets Sounders

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Only two matches will feature on the MLS docket Sunday evening, but luckily two of the league’s most exciting teams will take to the pitch.

[ MORE: Toronto tops Fire as East leaders reach 50 points on season ]

First, New York City FC will attempt to continue its ascent up the Eastern Conference ladder when they host Kei Kamara and the New England Revolution.

In the night cap, the Seattle Sounders look to extend their unbeaten streak to nine matches when they welcome newcomers Minnesota United to CenturyLink Field.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

Here’s the schedule and kick-off times for Sunday’s two MLS fixtures.

New York City FC vs. New England Revolution — 6 p.m. ET
Seattle Sounders vs. Minnesota United — 10 p.m. ET