ProSoccerTalk’s MLS Team of the Week – Week 4

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Forwards

Álvaro Saborío, Real Salt Lake – Our PST Player of the Week, Saborío scored twice while helped RSL to a 3-0 win over Toronto FC – a No. 1 vs. No 2 matchup, based on last week’s Power Rankings.

We could be wrong about: Blas Pérez, FC Dallas

(MORE: Explaining Player of the Week – Saborío over Zusi)

Midfielders

Mauro Díaz, FC Dallas – The young Argentine is becoming automatic on this list, but whereas last week Díaz took a backseat to Fabian Castillo (or, drew so much attention that he paved the way), the former River Plate midfielder played hero on Saturday. His late goal against Portland lifted Óscar Pareja’s team to its third win of the season. Last week’s performance may have been more heralded for that otherworldly ball he played for Je-Vaughn Watson, but his contribution against Portland was more influential.

Javier Morales, Real Salt Lake – As RSL’s focal point on Saturday, Morales exploited the space between Toronto’s lines to play a key part in his team’s last two goals. Beyond the goals, however, Morales was central to taking advantage of the work of Luis Gil and Ned Grabavoy, allowing the reigning Western Conference champions to hand TFC its first loss of the season.

Pedro Morales, Vancouver Whitecaps – An amazing display of passing over Saturday’ first half hour saw the former Málaga midfielder spraying the ball all over BC Place’s field, his first timed, long balls always leaving the Whitecaps within one touch of finding Darren Mattocks and Kenny Miller. His cross after an early corner began the play which created Vancouver’s opening goal.

Lee Nguyen, New England Revolution – It was already Nguyen’s best night of the campaign before a 93rd minute counter attack allowed him to end San Jose’s 21- match unbeaten run with his first goal of the season.

Osvaldo Alonso, Seattle Sounders – A typically destructive performance from “Ossie” was made all the more special as his skill in possession almost allowed the 10-man Sounders to preserve a draw against visiting Columbus.

We could be wrong about: Graham Zusi, Sporting Kansas City; Diego Valeri, Portland Timbers; Michael Bradley, Toronto FC; Ricardo Clark, Houston Dynamo; Perry Kitchen, D.C .United; Federico Higuaín, Columbus Crew

Defenders

Michael Parkhurst, Columbus Crew – When defending is good, it should look easy, but that doesn’t mean Parkhurst shouldn’t be acknowledged. His was the best defensive performance of the weekend, one which saw him constantly cleaning up the space between Steve Clark and the Columbus defense while Seattle was playing with 11. Another week, this could have been a sneak Player of the Week winner.

Nat Borchers, Real Salt Lake – Borchers didn’t make it look quite as easy; then again, he was going up against Jermain Defoe. Not renown for his foot speed, the RSL defender kept up with the England international, leading the effort that kept Defoe off the scoresheet for the first time this season.

Jair Benítez, FC Dallas – A second straight Team of the Week appearance for Benítez, who most will remember for the fouls he laid on Darlington Nagbe during Saturday’s first half. Beyond that rough play, however, Benítez was again the weekend’s best left back, his crossing help produce Dallas’s first goal.

(MORE: Last week’s Team of the Week.)

Kellyn Acosta, FC Dallas – It was an off week for the league’s right backs, allowing Acosta’s role on Dallas’s first goal to claim a spot in this team. Playing against 10 men, Acosta saw more room through midfield than usual, space he used to help provide width for his own 10-man side.

We could be wrong about: Aaron Wheeler, Philadelphia Union; Jordan Harvey, Vancouver Whitecaps; Armando, New York Red Bulls; Eric Miller, Montréal Impact

Goalkeeper

Steve Clark, Columbus Crew – Clark’s save on Lamar Neagle in Saturday’s first half may have been the most important stop of the weekend, but it wasn’t the new Crew No. 1’s only contribution. Among other strong moments, Clark came up big again just before Djimi Traoré’s sending off, helping Columbus stay close enough to take advantage of the Seattle defender’s dismissal.

We could be wrong about: Dan Kennedy, Chivas USA

USMNT eyeing the table as it kicks off training camp

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COMMERCE CITY, Colo. (AP) Goalkeeper Tim Howard‘s uniform was filled with grass stains after the first day of training camp.

And this was considered a light workout.

“Just getting everybody back together, getting a sweat,” Howard said Monday after the U.S. squad went through a roughly 60-minute workout. “Day by day, we’re just trying to add on to the pile, put some concepts in and get some understanding between players.”

What awaits the squad in resumption of the final round of World Cup qualifying is certainly a gantlet. They have a game against Trinidad and Tobago on June 8 in Commerce City and then at Mexico three days later.

[ MORE: Wenger would pay Sanchez, Ozil ]

There’s little margin for error, with the U.S. currently in fourth place in the six-team standings. They have three home and three away matches remaining. The top three teams qualify, with the fourth-place squad going to a playoff against Asia’s No. 5 nation.

“We need to keep climbing that table. We feel like this is a good opportunity to do it,” said Howard, now with the Colorado Rapids and who will feel right at home with the Trinidad game on his turf at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. “One game, that’s as far as you can look. You can’t look to next week or the week after or two months from now.”

For now, Howard will be coach Bruce Arena’s goalkeeper over Brad Guzan, Ethan Horvath and Nick Rimando, who all were invited to camp. But it’s an ongoing evaluation.

“We have good goalkeepers here. That’s the least of my worries, to be honest,” Arena said.

Given the short amount of time between games, Arena fully plans on using more players than usual. One particular competition to watch will be at right back between Timmy Chandler and DeAndre Yedlin.

“I have a close eye on everything,” Arena said. “We have a bunch of good players here. … We’re watching everybody and thinking about how we can best utilize everyone.”

[ MORE: Kroenke, Wenger meet; Decision looms ]

The roster features a solid blend of youth and experience. Leading the youngsters is Christian Pulisic, the 18-year-old Borussia Dortmund midfielder who last weekend became the youngest American to win a club medal in Europe.

On the veteran side are players such as Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore, DaMarcus Beasley, Michael Bradley and Howard, all of whom have more than 30 World Cup qualifying appearances.

“We’re past the experimentation phase. These are all guys who the manager believes in whole-heartedly,” Howard said. “They’re not here for anything other than to play minutes, play important minutes.”

Arena couldn’t agree more.

“This is a nice group we have here. Hopefully, we can find the right balance in the team, putting them in the right position to complement them both individually and collectively,” Arena said. “If we can accomplish that, there’s no reason to believe we can’t be successful in these two games.”

Joining the camp in Colorado are a few players who weren’t with the squad in March. Guzan, Chandler, Fabian Johnson, Bobby Wood and Yedlin are all on the field. Guzan didn’t participate because his wife was expecting their second child, while the others were dealing with injuries, illnesses and yellow-card suspension.

Now, it’s a matter of getting their timing down – and accustomed to the altitude.

“There’s no reason to make it an excuse,” midfielder Paul Arriola said. “Just doing the best we can to acclimate to it.”

Arena’s squad will get things rolling in a friendly against Venezuela in Sandy, Utah, on Saturday.

“That’s a good game for us,” Arena said. “It gives us a little bit of exercise at lower altitude, which isn’t perfect for what we need to do to get ready here and Mexico City, but it’s a start. Think it will be good to give a chance to 16 players and build from there – get us ready for Trinidad and Mexico.”

Stam after Reading playoff final loss: “Tough to take”

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Jaap Stam has won silverware in three different leagues for five different teams, and has a Champions League title from his time at Manchester United.

He’s used to winning, and that includes his first stop as a full-time manager. And that makes Reading’s loss in Monday’s playoff final sting a bit more.

[ MORE: Wenger would pay Sanchez, Ozil ]

Reading lost in penalty kicks and it’s not like the Royals were thoroughly outclassed by Huddersfield Town. But it still burns. From Sky Sports:

“You don’t want to play football to be in the grey areas, you want to get the max out of your career, win trophies and play at the highest level.

“It’s tough to take, but it has to be difficult. It’s not good to lose a game like this, you need to feel it and experience it and then take that forward if you get into the same moment again. The good players do that.”

Reading loses a trio of loan players — Lewis Grabban, Reece Oxford, and Jordon Mutch — as well as American midfielder Danny Williams. It won’t be easy for Reading to get back into the playoffs without an injection of money, but Stam’s first rodeo as a manager was a good ride that came up just short.

Wenger, Kroenke meet; Board to learn decision Tues.

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Wenger watch is entering its final hours.

The BBC is reporting that Arsenal owner Stan Kroenke met with longtime manager Arsene Wenger on Monday to discuss the Frenchman’s future, and that the decision was going to be made together.

[ MORE: Wenger would pay Sanchez, Ozil ]

It seems almost certain that Wenger is going to come back to the Emirates Stadium. From the BBC:

The outcome is unclear but the decision rests solely with Wenger and Kroenke and will be relayed to directors at a Tuesday board meeting.

Fresh terms were agreed in principle some months ago, but nothing is signed.

There have been questions about whether Wenger would accept a sporting director being placed above him, and if Kroenke believes the repercussions of keeping the boss would negatively impact the business.

Barcelona to keep goalkeeper Ter Stegen until 2022

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona says it has reached a deal to extend the contract of goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen until June 2022.

The club said the new agreement, which has a buyout clause of 180 million euros ($201 million), will be signed on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Yaya to stay at Man City ]

Ter Stegen has been with the club since 2014, helping it win nine titles in three seasons.

The German goalkeeper has played 93 matches with Barcelona, conceding 90 goals in 71 wins, 10 draws and 12 losses.

Barcelona has already renewed the contracts of Javier Mascherano, Luis Suarez, Neymar, Sergio Busquets and Ivan Rakitic. It is still working on new deals for Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi.