ProSoccerTalk’s MLS Team of the Week – Week 2

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Forwards

Jermain Defoe, Toronto FC – The Tottenham import put the Reds’ opener on ice early with two goals in his first 23 Major League Soccer minutes, displaying the type of finishing that makes him the league’s highest paid player.

We could be wrong about: Joao Plata, Real Salt Lake; Obafemi Martins, Seattle Sounders; Giles Barnes, Houston Dynamo.

Midfielders

Shea Salinas, San Jose Earthquakes – Particularly after San Jose introduced a third forward early in the second half, everything want through the Earthquakes’ winger in their 3-3 draw with Real Salt Lake. Salinas had a strong case for Player of the Week.

Maurice Edu, Philadelphia Union – A second straight staring performance from the Stoke City refugee. Without Brian Carroll’s help (out, illness), Edu continued to provide the anchor in the middle, accumulating six tackles and four interceptions as Philadelphia dominated New England. If there was a Best XI after two weeks, he’d be in it.

Kyle Beckerman, Real Salt Lake – A strong start to the U.S. international’s 2014 was accentuated with a great, left-footed, 26-yard goal in Santa Clara. His team gave up three goals, but they all had to go over and around RSL’s captain.

Leonardo Fernandes, Philadelphia Union – A number of the honorable mentions have a claim to this spot, but playing his part in Philadelphia’s midfield dominance, Fernandes and his first half assist give him the edge on the field. In his first Major League Soccer start, the Brazilian completed 88 percent of his Saturday passes.

Mauro Rosales, Chivas USA – Rosales was the inspiration behind the Goats’ Sunday showing, one which nearly saw a 10-man team take full points from visiting Vancouver. Though they conceded late, Rosales’s effort, skill on set pieces, and open play creativity kept his team in the game, particularly in the moments after Agustín Pelletieri’s early dismissal.

We might be wrong about: Minda, Chivas USA; Jeff Larentowicz, Chicago Fire; Jonathan Osario, Toronto FC; Michael Bradley, Toronto FC; Luke Mulholland, Real Salt Lake, Boniek Garcia, Houston Dynamo

Defenders

Tony Lochhead, Chivas USA – Other Chivas USA defenders were strong this weekend, but among the league’s left backs, the New Zealand international rose to the top of the list. Like the rest of his teammates, Lochhead’s performance was crucial to overcoming Pelletieri’s 13th minute red card.

Aurélien Collin, Sporting Kansas City – FC Dallas couldn’t get much going on Saturday, partly because their rare forays into their attacking half were often met with Collin and Matt Besler preserving Sporting’s possession. In the 81st minute, Collin distinguished himself from his partner in central defense by heading Kansas City in front.

Víctor Bernárdez, San Jose Earthquakes – Our Player of the Week had an up-and-down performance but delivered when it mattered most, scoring in the 75th and 95th minutes as San Jose salvaged a 3-3 draw.

Kofie Sarkodie, Houston Dynamo – For the second straight week, both Dynamo fullbacks put in noteworthy performances, but just as Collin’s goal distinguished him from Besler, Sarkodie’s second half clearance off the Houston line gave him the edge on Corey Ashe. BBVA Compass is the home to MLS’s best fullback tandem.

We might be wrong about: Corey Ashe, Houston Dynamo; Doniel Henry, Toronto FC; Carlos Bocanegra, Chivas USA; Marvell Wynne, Colorado Rapids; Raymon Gaddis, Philadelphia Union

Goalkeeper

Zac MacMath, Philadelphia Union – Though we went gaga over Nick Rimando’s stop at Buck Shaw, MacMath’s save on Diego Fagundez in Saturday’s first half was equally impressive. Instead of giving up three goals in a draw, though, MacMath had three saves in a shutout win. No doubt, the Revolution made his day an easy one, but MacMath also prevented what was close to a sure-fire goal. He’s the third Union player in our team this week.

We might be wrong about: Tally Hall, Houston Dynamo

Herrera: Ibrahimovic competitive drive insatiable in everything

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Ander Herrera is dishing the goods on his Manchester United teammates while on Spain duty this week, and was asked about Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

The Swede is a fierce competitor on and off the pitch, which Herrera jokes is an ever-present challenge to personal patience.

[ MORE: Deulofeu laments early Messi talk ]

It almost seems like there’s a bit of envy that Ibrahimovic can charge into public comments the way Herrera goes into tackles.

From Marca:

“[Ibrahimovic] is a genius, he’s very intense because he wants to win everything, even football-tennis,” Herrera said to Radio MARCA.

“He assumes this role of doing or saying what he likes in front of the media because he does not care, he can say that he’ll score 30 goals or is the best because he can afford to.”

There’s certainly something to stature when it comes to saying what you feel (though on the other hand, being egotistical is rarely controversial. It’s not like Ibrahimovic is often railing on controversial soccer or social issues).

We’re sure there are plenty of players across all sports, casual and professional, who don’t understand hyper-competitive teammates, but we love a guy who doesn’t turn it down when it comes to on-the-field activities. Hopefully Ibrahimovic is the Jaromir Jagr of soccer.

Gerard Deulofeu calls early Messi comparisons “detrimental”

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Players often like to brush off speculation or criticism in the moment by claiming they don’t read stories written about themselves, but we all know better.

Former Everton winger Gerard Deulofeu confirmed that sentiment by citing specific comparisons he remembers as a youth with Barcelona, citing stories that compared him to Lionel Messi. Now 23 years old, Deulofeu reflects on those early comparisons and wishes the media wasn’t so quick to jump to conclusions about his career.

“In the end, [the comparisons] were more detrimental than beneficial,” he told weekly magazine Forza Milan. “Normally I don’t read newspapers, but that headline I remember well. It created too much expectation among Barcelona fans. There’s only one Messi.”

With expectations high, Deulofeu made just six senior team appearances without a goal or assist before loan spells at Sevilla and Everton saw him out of the club permanently. His time at Goodison Park was up and down as well, with his ability to dazzle a crowd punctuated by long spells of invisibility, failing to earn himself a consistent starting role.

Deulofeu is now on loan from Everton at AC Milan, looking to revitalize his career. He has started every league game since arriving, and has picked up a goal and three assists in 11 matches. There is speculation he could end up in Milan on a permanent basis this summer, but he’s not focused on that right now.

“My future? It’ll be seen to,” Deulofeu said. “My sights are in the present, from experience I know it’s best to leave the past behind and focus on the present. We’ll see what happens in the future. For now, I just want to enjoy the good time that I‘m having at Milan.”

Barcelona plan Cruyff tribute at club’s training center

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) One year after his death, Barcelona says it will name the future stadium at its training center after Dutch great Johan Cruyff.

The new stadium at Barcelona’s training center just outside the Catalan city will be called “Johan Cruyff Stadium” in honor of the club’s former player and coach.

Barcelona says in a statement that “the most emblematic building in the facility where future Barca players are coached is to be named after somebody who played such a central role in fostering youth talent at the club.”

Barcelona also says it will commission a “commemorative sculpture” of Cruyff, who died of lung cancer on March 24 last year at age 68. The statue will be placed at Barcelona’s main Camp Nou stadium.

Cruyff is largely credited with launching Barcelona’s era of trophy success, both as a player and a coach.

As a player, Cruyff joined Barcelona midseason in 1973 and led the middle-of-the-table team to its first national title in a decade.

He later returned as a coach and guided Barcelona to four consecutive Spanish leagues from 1991-94 and the club’s first European Cup in 1992.

“I think the tributes are very warming,” said Cruyff’s son, Jordi Cruyff. “It sort of changes the sadness that we might feel as family to lose a father, a husband and a grandfather. It changes to a certain kind of pride to understand that he left something behind.”

MLS Snapshot: Defense optional — Crew SC outlast Timbers, 3-2

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The game in 100 words (or less): As far as teams who get out in the open field and score the lion’s share of their goals on the counter-attacking, there aren’t many MLS teams better than Columbus Crew SC and the Portland Timbers. The two sides met Saturday night at MAPFRE Stadium, site of their MLS Cup 2015 clash, and lived up to their reputations. Of the five goals scored, two were notched on flat-out counters and two more came to pass through quick transitional movements. Portland (9 points) dropped their first points of the season, falling 3-2 to goals scored by Justin Meram, Ola Kamara and Niko Hansen, while Crew SC have back-to-back wins and find themselves level on points (7) with the New York Red Bulls with each side having played four games.

[ MORE: Saturday’s MLS (afternoon) roundup ]

Three Four Five moments that mattered

4′ — Asprilla opens the scoring early on — 2017 Crew SC defending, same as 2016 Crew SC defending.

11′ — Meram fires home the rebound for 1-1 — One of Portland’s biggest weaknesses last season was their set-piece defending. Looks like not much has changed.

19′ — Higuain feeds Kamara for a 2-1 lead — The question mark that Portland will eventually have to answer is this: How much, if at all, have they improved defensively in the open field? Based on this Crew SC counter-attack, the answer might be “not much.”

45+3′ — Adi recovers to make it 2-2 — Everything Adi does these days (even the bad things, like this first touch) ends up being good.

84′ — Hansen cleans up at the back post for 3-2 — Jake Gleeson made a spectacular reaction save to deny Kamara his second goal of the game, but the rookie, making his MLS debut, was in the right place at the right time.

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

Men of the match: Wil Trapp

Goalscorers: Asprilla (4′), Meram (11′), Kamara (19′), Adi (45+3′), Hansen (84′)