ProSoccerTalk’s MLS Player of the Week: Víctor Bernárdez

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Defenders just can’t give up chances. Over the course of 90 minutes, great attacker are going to generate enough opportunities on their own. Teams can’t afford to have individual mistakes make it easier for the opposition.

That’s why those errors get judged harshly in PST’s weekly awards. When DeAndre Yedlin gets caught on the ball in the first half against Sporting Kansas City, a mistake that lead to a chance within seconds, it’s was enough to knock him to honorable mentions in our first Team of the Week.  As strong as Yedlin was in week one, if you had a whole back line making similar errors, you’d give him far more good chances than similar defenses. Mistakes tend to outweigh the series of smaller contributions defenders make throughout matches.

That’s what made this week’s Player of the Week honor so difficult. San Jose’s Víctor Bernárdez was certainly the weekend’s big hero, scoring twice in Saturday’s final 30 minutes to help pull the Earthquakes even with the league’s best team (spoiler alert), but he also played a part in two big Real Salt Lake chances. When Joao Plata’s feint bought the RSL forward extra time ahead of his team’s second goal, it was Bernárdez’s lack of effort to get back in position that allowed the Ecuadorian to exploit the space closer to the spot. And in the second half, Álvaro Saborío beat the Honduran badly on a ball that ended up off the base of Jon Busch’s post.

At the other end of the field, however, Bernárdez more than made up for those mistakes. The 2012 Defender of the Year assisted on Chris Wondolowski’s sixth minute opener. In the 75th minute. his headed finish off a set piece pulled San Jose within one, while his 95th minute winner through a desperate RSL defense earned the Earthquakes a 3-3 draw.

All of which still makes his choice as Player of the Week a skeptical one. Jermaine Defoe had two goals in Seattle, but he also was allowed to click it into cruise control for 67 minutes. Seattle’s part in his brace meant his level of difficulty was low. Maurice Edu and Michael Bradley had strong days in their respective midfields, while Bernárdez teammate Shea Salinas may have been the best player on the field at Buck Shaw on Saturday. Consider the San Jose winger a close second this week. (Even as I type this, I want to give Salinas the award.)

Ultimately, we couldn’t ignore Bernárdez. It’s not just that he scored goals. They were big goals, scored against the best team in the league – a team that’s going to make other defenders look back this season. In a week were there was no clear Player of the Week winner, Bernárdez Goonie-ism serves as the tiebreaker.

This season’s Player of the Week winners:

  PST Award MLS Award
Week 1 Will Bruin, Houston Dynamo
2g, 1a vs. New England
Nick Rimando, Real Salt Lake
8 saves, PK save at LA
Week 2 Victor Bernardez, San Jose Earthquakes
2g, 1a vs. Real Salt Lake
Jermain Defoe, Toronto FC
2 goals at Seattle

College Soccer Update: Stingy Kentucky picking up speed; Cal Poly’s overhead wonder (video)

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Three-hundred thirty-two minutes and 26 seconds. That’s how long it’s been since an opponent has managed to put a ball into the goal behind the University of Kentucky men’s team.

It’s a statistic which not only makes an impression, but carries hope; Hope that the Wildcats will improve upon last season’s tournament work that saw them exit their conference tourney and the NCAA tournament early.

“If you go back to last year we had a really good run, but got knocked out in our conference tournament and then in the first round of the NCAA Tournament,” said fourth-year head coach Johan Cedergren. “Peaked too early and got a little overconfident.”

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The Wildcats are atop Conference USA with a 3-0 record in league play, having knocked off a strong New Mexico side this weekend. They’ll face Evansville and Ohio State the following two Wednesdays before meeting fellow CUSA 3-0 squad South Carolina.

It’s all according to plan for Cedergren, who is experiencing the senior years of his first recruiting class. One of those is goalkeeper Callum Irving, who is one clean sheet away from making program history for the most blankings as a Wildcat.

It’s helped having a versatile team to help out. Despite injuries to a pair of key backs, junior center back Jordan Wilson and senior holding mid Kristoffeer Tollefsen have combined with Irving to keep the side well-organized.

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“Over here you are very stat focused and Callum wouldn’t have these numbers without (Wilson),” Cedergren said. “And Tollefsen plays that holding mid role that is very hard to quantify. He made third team all conference last year, but he’s one of the best players and he’s playing at 75% percent.”

Cedegren also credits Hermann Award watch lister Napo Matsoso, who leads the team in shots, with keeping teams off-balance. And between Irving and the attack, the coach hopes that this season is the year the Wildcats will peak at the right time.

Three stars

  1. Oregon State — The Beavers opened PAC-12 play with a pair of 1-0 wins, knocking off UCLA with a Timmy Mueller (remember the name goal) before knocking off San Diego State by the same score. Next weekend? Cal and Stanford, both on the road.
  2. Nick DePuy, UCSB —  The 6-foot-4 junior forward has only been held off the score sheet thrice this season, and fired off 10 shots including three goals this weekend. Two were road game-winners at UC Irvine and Cal State Northridge.
  3. Chase Minter, Cal Poly — All three stars stay on the West Coast, thanks to Minter’s work setting himself up for this bicycle kick goal.

Other notes

— Creighton is back as the unrivaled No. 1 in the country amongst men’s Division I sides, claiming all 24 votes.
— Only one change in the Top 10, as Virginia moves up a spot to No. 10 and Elon falls three spots to No. 13. Leaping into the Top 25 after not receiving any votes last week is Oregon State. Kentucky, Butler and Syracuse move from receiving votes to Top 25.
— There s a single player who is in both the D-1 Top Ten in goals and assists, and his name will be familiar to those who read this space: Buffalo’s Russell Cicerone has eight goals and six assists after a 2+3 performance at St. Bonaventure on Saturday night.
— Also No. 1: Midwestern State (Men’s D2), Franklin & Marshall (Men’s D3), North Carolina (Women’s D1), Gannon (Women’s D2), Messiah (Women’s D3)

Samir Nasri rules out return to France squad; Likes MLS over Ligue 1

Manchester City's Samir Nasri celebrates after scoring during the English Premier League soccer match between Everton and Manchester City at Goodison Park Stadium, Liverpool, England, Sunday Aug. 23, 2015. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
AP Photo/Jon Super
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When Samir Nasri is done with his time at Manchester City, he doesn’t want a return to Ligue 1. We knew that. He’s said it in March, and again over the summer.

But his willingness to stay away from home goes for club and country, as he’s not interested in a return to the national team fold. Heck, they could hire his family and he’s scoff at the idea.

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Nasri played in Marseille from his age 10 year through 2004, when he headed to Arsenal. He also scored five goals in 41 caps before being removed from the French fold by Didier Deschamps.

That hurt.

From Sky Sports:

“Even if my dad is coach, I will not return,” he said on French television. “I’ve suffered with the selections… missing a World Cup destroys you a bit. After 2012 I wanted to stop but my father told me I had to play the World Cup. I tried to be good.

“I do not see myself returning to Ligue 1. I love the Premier League. I like my life in England,” said Nasri. “I see myself going to play in the MLS, to discover something other than France.”

That makes at least three times Nasri has proffered a “come get me… eventually” plea to American powers-that-be.

Nasri is a bit of a loose cannon, but he’s also the sort of player who could punish defenses in MLS if given the chance to operate as the focal point of an attack. Perhaps with Didier Drogba in Montreal?

No, his time at the Etihad Stadium isn’t nearing an end just yet but… Yes, please. Maybe Nasri is one of those “In the league but not at the risk of my favorite team” players, but yes, please.