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ProSoccerTalk’s MLS Player of the Week: Fabian Castillo

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Maybe I’m just trying to be different, because for the third week in a row, the league’s award has gone one way while ProSoccerTalk’s had gone another. Yet after taking a second look at all of Week 3’s matches, there was still (at least) one performance that was more influential than Bernardo Anor’s. Though the Columbus midfielder’s two goals in the Crew’s 2-1 win over Philadelphia garnered him the league’s honor, FC Dallas Fabian Castillo’s performance against Chivas USA earned PST’s Player of the Week.

If you boil it down to a one-on-one comparison (something that does a disservice to Anor’s teammate, Wil Trapp), the question is an easy one: Did Castillo do enough to make up for Anor’s long-distance bomb? Where each candidate scored one on a set piece, the big, broad stroke difference was Anor’s second goal. What did Castillo do to make up for that shot?

(MORE: This blast from Columbus’s Bernardo Anor completes Venezuelan’s first half brace against Philadelphia)

And let’s not just call it a shot, as if that fairly describes it. Anor’s was knuckling rocket from 34 yards – a shot that gave his team a valuable goal just before half time. It was a low percentage chance that came good through little effort but his own (again, we’re doing Trapp a disservice here). Instead of Columbus going into halftime up one, Anor’s blast two minutes into first half stoppage time gave Gregg Berhalter’s team the ability to sit on their lead. Ultimately, it was the game-winner.

Castillo, however, did his damage in what was probably one of the least-watched matches of the weekend. With Dallas hosting Chivas USA in a relatively late Eastern time kickoff, the Colombian attacker’s play before his 71st minute goal may have been overlooked. The fact that he was a part of of five different attacks before his goal (15′, 17′, 27′, 45+2′, 47′) didn’t come across in most highlights packages. Dallas may not have converted those chances, that wasn’t Castillo’s fault. On another day, Castillo would have had some assists to go with this opening goals.

As with any great night, Castillo had some help. With Blas Pérez dropping back from the defense, demanding Chivas’s attention, the Goats’ defense was ripe to be be beaten by Castillo and Je-Vaughn Watson’s pace. Mauro Díaz occupying the midfield’s eyes, giving Castillo all the room he wanted once he came in from the left flank. With the inexperienced Eriq Zavaleta starting in defense and midfielder Agustín Pelletieri suspended, Chivas was ready to be run over.

That’s the best argument for Anor. Whereas Castillo was doing his damage against a weakened Chivas, Anor was going up against a Philadelphia team that gave their third straight good performance. If you’re accounting for level of competition (which, of course we do), Anor has a great case.

That’s part of the reason why this week’s was the hardest decision of the season. The underlying question: Go you want the guy who scored twice, or do you want the guy who scored once and generated four or five other chances? Ultimately, we went with the latter, giving the honor to Castillo.

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
Week 3 Fabian Castillo, FC Dallas
1 goal vs. Chivas USA
Bernardo Anor, Columbus
2 goals vs. Philadelphia

Robbie Keane still entertaining offers ahead of return

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 12:  Soccer Player Robbie Keane arrives at the Premiere of IFC Films' "Pele: Birth Of A Legend" at Regal Cinemas L.A. Live on May 12, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
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Robbie Keane is still sorting out his future, and it seems unlikely he’s heading back to the past.

Keane is training in Dublin ahead of a return to the pitch. The 36-year-old striker left the LA Galaxy this offseason, and says he’s had several offers from Championship squads in England as well as a few clubs abroad.

[ MORE: Top Premier League story lines ]

Although he’s starred for Wolverhampton and Leeds, destinations where fans would welcome his arrival, Keane says not to hold your breath.

From TalkSport.com:

“I’ve had a lot of people asking me about coming back to Leeds and Wolves, and they’re great clubs I’ve played for, but you can’t go somewhere if people actually don’t offer you anything.

“Until it’s actually in writing to me I can’t comment much on it, but I definitely haven’t heard from Leeds or Wolves.”

Whether Stateside or in England, Keane can still have an impact on a team’s fortunes. We look forward to seeing him back on the field, and to hear some more quips as well.

Consider his answer to whether he’d entertain an offer from China:

“If they gave the money Diego Costa was offered, I’d walk there now,” Keane said.

Galaxy adds center mid from Portuguese top flight

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LA Galaxy’s roster reformation continues with the addition of Joao Pedro, a day after formalizing a deal with USMNT midfielder Jermaine Jones.

The 23-year-old center midfielder was with Vitoria Guimaraes in Portugal’s top flight, and comes to the club as a “Special Discovery Player” with Targeted Allocation Money.

[ MORE: Top Premier League story lines ]

Pedro has a goal in 17 appearances this season, as Vitoria Guimaraes sits fifth in the Primeira Liga.

From LAGalaxy.com:

“Joao is an extremely talented midfielder who has experience playing at a high level in Portugal,” said Galaxy general manager Peter Vagenas in a written statement released by the club.

“He is only 23 years old and has the best years of his career front of him. We identified him as a top target this offseason and we think he can immediately help strengthen our midfield. We look forward to welcoming Joao to Los Angeles as we continue to prepare for the upcoming season.”

Pedro was a regular for Vitoria Guimaraes but is far from a certainty to star for the Galaxy. We do know that Vagenas has probably done his research as to whether Pedro fits with Jermaine Jones.

AFCON wrap: Senegal clinches first knockout round slot

Senegal's, Sadio Mane, right, is challenged by Zimbabwe's, Willard Katsande, left, during the African Cup of Nations Group B soccer match between Senegal and Zimbabwe at, Stade de Franceville Stadium, in Franceville, Gabon Thursday Jan. 19, 2017. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
AP Photo/Sunday Alamba
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Senegal has advanced to the knockout rounds of the Africa Cup of Nations, leaving three teams to work for the second Group B slot come the final day.

[ MORE: Top Premier League story lines ]

Senegal 2-0 Zimbabwe

Sadio Mane (Liverpool) and Henri Saivet (Saint-Etienne) scored within the first 13 minutes as Senegal clinched Group B with a win over Zimbabwe. There were 48 shots between the two teams, 24 for Senegal, in a fairly open affair. As for the Warriors, they’ll need to beat Tunisia on Monday.

Algeria 1-2 Tunisia

Tunisia rebounded from a loss to Senegal without scoring from the run of play. Lille mid Naim Sliti scored a penalty after an Algeria own goal made it 1-0. Anderlecht midfielder Sofiane Hanni scored for Algeria.

Friday’s matches
Ivory Coast vs. DR Congo — 11 a.m. ET
Morocco vs. Togo — 11 a.m. ET

Wenger concerned Chinese wages become benchmark for players

BARCELONA, SPAIN - MARCH 15:  Arsene Wenger manager of Arsenal looks on during an Arsenal press conference ahead of their UEFA Champions League round of 16 second leg match against Barcelona at Camp Nou on March 15, 2016 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images
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LONDON (AP) Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is hoping the high quality of competition in Europe will keep players from leaving for the financial gain in China.

Wenger is facing regular questions about the future of both Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez, and the big money on offer in the Chinese league can complicate negotiations.

[ MORE: Top Premier League story lines ]

Argentine striker Carlos Tevez joined Shanghai Shenhua last month in a deal worth $40 million over two years.

“The danger (is) that the Chinese offers become the benchmark for Europe,” Wenger said Thursday. “You cannot compete with that, but I still think that, when you’re a footballer, the first thing is that you want to play against the best players in the best teams.”

Wenger said players that want the best compensation for playing in the best quality league need not look to Asia.

“I think that combination is the best in England at the moment, so I don’t see why the players should leave the English Premier League,” Wenger said.

Wenger, whose team is fourth in the standings, has made only one signing in the January transfer window, picking up defender Cohen Bramall from non-league club Hednesford.

Arsenal has also decided to keep captain Per Mertesacker for another season. Wenger announced Thursday that the club has taken up a one-year option to extend the contract of the 32-year-old German, who has not played this season because of a knee injury sustained during a friendly in July.

Mertesacker faces a fight to get back into the team because Shkodran Mustafi, an offseason signing from Valencia, has built a strong partrnership with vice captain Laurent Koscielny at the heart of Wenger’s defense.