ProSoccerTalk’s MLS Team of the Week – Week 3

1 Comment

Forwards

Obafemi Martins, Seattle Sounders – Scored Seattle’s second goal in the 58th minute but had an equally good (and remarkably saved) finish in the 17th minute. Acting as a focal point in Sigi Schmid’s impromptu 4-3-3, Martins’ holdup play helped Seattle produce its best performance of the season, a description that also applies to the Nigerian’s individual effort in Montréal.

We could be wrong about: Robbie Keane, LA Galaxy

Midfielders

Fabian Castillo, FC Dallas – Things can get easy when you have Blas Pérez and Mauro Díaz on your side, but as we see on a game-in, game-out basis, opportunities don’t always translate to execution. Castillo continuously created chances for his team until he opened the scoring in the 71st minute, helping Dallas to a 3-1 win over Chivas USA.

Bernardo Anor, Columbus Crew  – A two-goal, first half outburst from the Venezuelan built Columbus’s lead in what turned out to be the weekend’s best match. His long distance strike in first half stoppage time will be one of the goals of the season.

Mauro Díaz, FC Dallas – This week it was about quality over quantity for the FCD playmaker. His 71st minute chip over Chivas USA’s high line burned the Goats ahead of Saturday’s opening goal, while his long ball behind left back Tony Lochhead on Dallas’s second set up Je-Vaughn Watson’s game winner.

Wil Trapp, Columbus Crew – A dominant performance in the middle of the park for Columbus’s 21-year-old anchor appeared on the highlight reels when he dispossessed Vincent Nogueira ahead of Anor’s bomb. Involved in both Crew goals, Trapp has just as much of a Player of the Week claim as his teammate, if not more so.

Michael Bradley, Toronto FC – It was a typical Bradley performance, but against a D.C. United midfield that offered no resistance, both he and Jonathan Osorio were allowed to have big days. Bradley, however, sparked the movement for the first goal as well as managed the game while Toronto spent the first hour breaking their visitors down. Add in the qualities that make him a perpetual candidate for this team, and the U.S. international earns the nod.

We may be wrong about: Federico Higuaín, Columbus; Dax McCarty, New York; Osvaldo Alonso, Seattle; Je-Vaughn Watson, Dallas; Dillon Powers, Colorado

Defenders

DeAndre Yedlin, Seattle Sounders – A couple of shaky moments when Seattle started to bunker may have stuck in people’s minds, but around those hiccups, Yedlin gave his best performance of what’s already a strong sophomore season. Montréal, leaning toward its right, stayed away from Yedlin for the first half-hour, after which the U.S. hopeful was involved in everything. Both in defense and in possession, Yedlin made the right choices on Sunday.

Chad Marshall, Seattle Sounders – Why more people aren’t talking about Marshall’s performance, I don’t know, but the offseason import for Columbus was a rock for Sigi Schmid in Montréal. As if tuned into the Impact attacks, Marshall continuously and calmly cleared Montréal’s forays toward goal, helping Stefan Frei post a relatively easy shutout. He made this choice easy.

Ibrahim Sekagya, New York Red Bulls – Starting in place of the suspended Armando, Sekagya was excellent on Sunday, especially in the air. Particularly on chances in the 73rd and 93rd minutes in Chicago, Sekagya came up big, part of the reason the Red Bulls were able to take a point out of Toyota Park.

Jair Benítez, FC Dallas – What was supposed to be a matchup between him and Chivas USA right midfielder Mauro Rosales never materialized. Instead, Benítez used the space he was afforded to have an impact going forward, especially as Dallas turned up the heat in the second half.

We may be wrong about: Aaron Wheeler, Philadelphia; Josh Williams, Columbus; Matteo Ferrari, Montréal, Nat Borchers, Real Salt Lake; Carlos Bocanegra, Chivas USA

Goalkeeper

Bill Hamid, D.C. United – Good Bill showed up in Toronto on Saturday, part of the reason D.C. was able to hold out for an hour against one of the best teams in the league. His first half, point-blank save on Jermain Defoe was the big one.

We may be wrong about: Steve Clark, Columbus

Conte praises Hazard’s style, wouldn’t want him to be “more selfish”

Julian Finney/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Antonio Conte made two bold decisions on Saturday afternoon as his Chelsea side prepared to take on Tottenham in their FA Cup semifinal.

[ MORE: Oriol Romeu shines with Saints as he prepares for Chelsea return ]

The Italian manager has been known for his innovation and risk-taking in the past, but many were critical of the 47-year-old when his team sheet came out ahead of the match.

Conte left key attacking duo Eden Hazard and Diego Costa on the bench, allowing out-of-favor striker Michy Batshuayi and Pedro to get the starting nod.

Although Hazard nor Costa saw the field for the opening hour, the former made his presence known when he was summoned by Conte in the second half.

Often times Hazard has been known as a facilitator, someone that can pick apart defenses with his tremendous foot skills and clever passing. But the Belgian international has also shown his capabilities of scoring on a regular basis as well, which has prompted great interest from other giant clubs around Europe.

When Conte was asked about Hazard and if his attacker should be more selfish, the Italian gave an emphatic “NO” as his response.

“No, no, no, absolutely not,” Conte said. “I don’t think that a player like Messi is a selfish player. The first target for every great champion is to play for the team and to put your talent into the team. If you do this, the team [increases] your talent.

“The best players in the world don’t exist without a team. For me, it’s sad to listen to this, that a player must ‘be more selfish’ to reach the top level. That’s very sad. It’s not my idea of football and I will never understand this. Never, never. In my team, I don’t want selfish players.

“I prefer to lose a game than to have a selfish player. For me, I don’t want this and I can’t accept this. I don’t want my club to buy me a selfish player one day. Never. No.”

Newcastle joins Brighton in promotion to Premier League

Stu Forster/Getty Images
1 Comment

Two sides have now booked their trips to England’s top flight after Newcastle United rattled off its 27th win of the season.

[ MORE: Oriol Romeu — The perfectly poised destroyer ]

The Magpies earned a decisive 4-1 victory over Preston North End on Monday afternoon at St. James’ Park as the second-place side ensured its finish inside the top two in the English Championship.

Newcastle joins already-promoted club Brighton & Hove Albion, who currently sit atop the Championship on 92 points.

Ayoze Perez paced the hosts with goals on both sides of halftime, while Christian Atsu and Matt Ritchie also converted for Newcastle.

U.S. Men’s National Team defender DeAndre Yedlin was on the bench for the Magpies but didn’t feature in Monday’s match.

The third and final team to be promoted from the Championship will be decided by the league’s annual promotion playoff, which is held at the end of the season and contested by four sides that finish third through sixth position.

As it stands, Reading, Sheffield Wednesday, Huddersfield Town and Fulham occupy the four playoff positions.

Marseille making Olivier Giroud top transfer target this summer

Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Marseille did well to bring in one star this season but could the French side have another trick up its sleeve this summer?

Sky Sports is reporting that the Ligue 1 club is preparing to sign Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud over the summer and the sixth-place side is “willing to pay up to £20m (roughly $25 million).

Marseille made a splash this season when the club re-signed Dimitri Payet, who was playing with Premier League side West Ham at the time.

The team does boast several quality attacking options such as Payet and Bafetimbi Gomis, but Giroud could serve as an ideal target man in the Marseille attack.

Prior to joining the Gunners in 2012, Giroud starred for Montpellier and with a potential link-up in the attack with a creator like Payet, it could present a dangerous attacking threat to the rest of Ligue 1.

Giroud, 30, has scored 95 goals in all competitions since arriving in London with Arsenal.

Report: Chicharito talks heating up with Los Angeles FC

AP Photo/Martin Meissner
1 Comment

We’ve seen MLS teams make major splashes in the past, and one of next year’s newcomers could be a really big draw if they can manage to seal the deal on a Mexican international.

[ MORE: Schweinsteiger shares thoughts on MLS and more in interview ]

According to Metro New York, Los Angeles FC is continuing its talks with Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez about a potential deal that would prove massive in terms of MLS spending.

While LAFC won’t debut in MLS until 2018, the club could potentially make the Mexico striker the highest-paid player in league history with an average salary of roughly $10 million.

The 28-year-old Hernandez currently plays in Germany with Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen, where he’s plied his trade since joining the club during the 2015/16 season.

Additionally, the former Manchester United man has dominated the international scene for El Tri, scoring 46 goals in 90 appearances for the CONCACAF nation.