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PST’s Major League Soccer Team of the Month – March

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Forwards

Jermain Defoe, Toronto FC – Even while being kept off the scoresheet at Real Salt Lake, the England international showed what a handful he’ll be for Major League Soccer defenses. His three goals over the previous games represent Toronto FC’s only offense, enough to lift last year’s ninth place finishers in the Eastern Conference to a 2-1-0 month.

We may be wrong about: Alvaro Saborío, Real Salt Lake; Erick Torres, Chivas USA

Midfielders

Mauro Díaz, FC Dallas – The league’s best creator in March, Díaz surprisingly finishes the month with no assists, even though his through ball ahead of Je-Vaughn Watson’s goal against Chivas USA may have been the pass of the month. The young Argentine added two goals while leading Dallas to three wins in four games.

Federico Higuaín, Columbus Crew – Pipa hasn’t had any Player of the Week-caliber performances, but he has been consistently excellent throughout the Crew’s 3-0-0 month. No player is more important to his team’s attack than the 29-year-old Argentine, whose creativity has given new coach Gregg Berhalter a focal point to build around.

Mauro Rosales, Chivas USA – Rosales caught the league’s attention with his play in Chivas USA’s opening day win, but while his team has yet to replicate that result, the former Sounder has persisted. He defensive efforts against Vancouver, where the Goats where down a man for nearly 80 minutes, and this weekend at New York (responsible for five changes of possession in the second half) give him this nod.

Michael Bradley, Toronto FC – Our March Player of the Month. Bradley has already established himself as the league’s best player, and while that won’t surprise anybody familiar with the U.S. international, the speed with which he’s adjusted is still noteworthy.

Osvaldo Alonso, Seattle Sounders – A little insight into how this will work: I’m not going to be afraid to pick the same players month-after-month for variety’s sake. Players don’t get extra credit for transcending our preconceived notions. Great players don’t get penalized for being great.

With that in mind, expect to see Osvaldo Alonso’s name often. There may be months where a player like Kyle Beckerman can shake up this burgeoning Alonso-Bradley duopoly in our team’s pivot, but after four weeks where Alonso was nothing more than his usual, destructive self, he still made our Team of the Month.

We may be wrong about: Shea Salinas, San Jose Earthquakes; Maurice Edu, Philadelphia Union; Vincent Nogueira, Philadelphia Union; Kyle Beckerman, Real Salt Lake

Defenders

DeAndre Yedlin, Seattle Sounders – His only blemish came on national television, playing a part in Jermaine Defoe’s first MLS goal. Around that, the 20-year-old U.S. international was MLS’s best combination of consistency and occasional excellence at right back (though admittedly, he would have been amongst the close calls were it not for Kofie Sarkodie’s hand ball this weekend in Vancouver).

Michael Parkhurst, Columbus Crew – The former MLS Defender of the Year looks like an early contender for a second honor. A strong night of infrequent tests in D.C. gave way to a more unsteady performance at home against Philadelphia, but Saturday’s game in Seattle affirmed his place in this team.

Chad Marshall, Seattle Sounders – Like Parkhurst, Marshall’s month wasn’t perfect, but it was pretty close. A small hiccup against Toronto saw him play a part in one goal, but the rest of the month vaulted his consistently strong play back into MLS’s collective consciousness. It’s funny (and sad) what going from the of the shadows of Columbus to the spotlight of Seattle will do for one’s reputation.

Jair Benítez, FC Dallas – Benítez’s use of the space behind Fabian Castillo earned him two spots in our Teams of the Week, making him a natural fit for March’s Best XI. In addition to the service he’s provided from the left, Benítez has also had impact in the middle of the park, occasionally venturing in from his flank while helping Dallas to its surprise start.

We could be wrong about: Kofie Sarkodie, Houston Dynamo; Nat Borchers, Real Salt Lake; Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Chicago Fire; Fabinho, Philadelphia Union

Goalkeeper

Steve Clark, Columbus Crew – Players like Nick Rimando and Luis Robles have snared headlines their individual saves, but Clark has also has his share of spectacular stops (this weekend against Lamar Neagle) while making the rest of his job look easy. And, unlike most of his peers, Clark has been virtually mistake free over the season’s first month. If he was out of position a little more often and forced to be more dramatic about his saves, the former Michigan Buck may be getting more attention. Renowned or not, Clark had a great month.

We could be wrong about: Luis Robles, New York Red Bulls

Napoli fans wear Koulibaly masks to support defender after racial abuse

NAPLES, ITALY - FEBRUARY 07:  Fans of Napoli  during the Serie A match between SSC Napoli and Carpi FC at Stadio San Paolo on February 7, 2016 in Naples, Italy.  (Photo by Maurizio Lagana/Getty Images)
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Napoli fans showed their support for Kalidou Koulibaly on Sunday after the Senegalese center-back was the subject of racial abuse in a match against Lazio last week.

[ MORE: La Liga & Serie A roundup ]

The Lazio match was temporarily stopped in the second half as Lazio supporters hurled racial insults at Koulibaly.

At Napoli’s match against Carpi on Sunday, fans wore Koulibaly masks and painted signs in his honor to show their support for the 24-year-old defender.

A statement from Napoli’s supporters’ group read: “Everyone in Naples is offended by what happened to our young star. Because of this, we want to show our full support to Koulibaly.”

[ VIDEO: Van Gaal rips journalist who questions his Manchester United future ]

Lazio was fined more than $50,000 and will be forced to close certain sections of their stadium for the next two league matches because of the incident.

Afobe says he scored 15 goals a game with Harry Kane at the Arsenal academy

during the Barclays Premier League match between Crystal Palace and A.F.C. Bournemouth at Selhurst Park on February 2, 2016 in London, England.
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Benik Afobe and Harry Kane are Premier League foes, but as kids, they were teammates.

Now Afobe is at Bournemouth and Kane at Tottenham, though both strikers played together with the Arsenal U-9 team as children.

[ RECAP: Bournemouth 0-2 Arsenal ]

While Kane left Arsenal at 10 and eventually settled at crosstown rivals Tottenham, Afobe stayed under contract with the club until 2015 despite never making an appearance for the Gunners.

Afobe went on six loan spells before moving to Wolverhampton last season, then joining Bournemouth in January.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

With three goals in his first five Premier League matches for the Cherries, Afobe is no stranger to scoring, as he said he would combine with Harry Kane for 15 goals a game back in the day.

I’ve got pictures of us from Arsenal.

He was so small at the time, a bit of a late developer, but he’s always loved scoring. The scores used to be 17-15 and stuff – we just knew we’d score in every game.

But it’s weird because he used to play in goal sometimes, and wasn’t bad actually. You wouldn’t think it – remember that goal he let in for Tottenham a couple of years ago (against Asteras Tripolis in the Europa League) when he had to play in goal.

I think Mauricio Pochettino and Spurs’ supporters are happy Harry Kane chose to play striker over goalkeeper…

[ MORE: Deficiencies visible on both sides as Chelsea draw Manchester United ]

Kane has proven that he is an elite goalscorer in the Premier League, and Afobe is off to a fine start himself. With both players just 22-years-old, we’ll likely be seeing many more goals to come from the duo.

Gary Neville under pressure as Valencia without a win in nine

EIBAR, SPAIN - DECEMBER 13:  Head coach Gary Neville of Valencia CF reacts during the La Liga match between SD Eibar and Valencia CF at Ipurua Municipal Stadium on December 13, 2015 in Eibar, Spain.  (Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images)
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Gary Neville was appointed manager at Valencia on December 2. He is still yet to win a La Liga match.

After falling 1-0 to Real Betis on Sunday, Neville is now winless in nine league matches at Valencia as pressure grows on the new boss.

[ MORE: La Liga & Serie A roundup ]

Some have called for Neville to step down from his position, as the club has fallen from 8th to 13th and now sit just four points clear of the drop.

However, the former Manchester United legend has said he has been judged too quickly and will work hard to turn things around.

I said before I came that I would be judged in five months. I have been judged in six weeks.

There’s no doubt that at times like this everyone needs to stay together.

Everyone suffers. It’s just not going for us at the moment. I continue to work, I continue to have belief.

Conversations with the owners are between me and the owners. We have to turn it round quickly, I understand that. It is hard to explain the defeat. It will turn.

Not only has Neville struggled in La Liga play, but he has also seen Valencia bounced from the Champions League and saw his side smashed 7-0 by Barcelona in the Copa del Rey semifinal.

[ MORE: Player ratings from Chelsea’s 1-1 draw with Manchester United ]

Valencia’s next league match is on Saturday against Espanyol, who sit three points below Valencia and haven’t won a match since December. If Neville fails to win again, there could be some real trouble at the Mestalla.

PSG down Marseille 2-1 for ninth-straight Le Classique win

HARRISON, NJ - JULY 21:  Zlatan Ibrahimovic #10 of Paris Saint-Germain is congratulated by teamamte Maxwell #17 after Ibrahimovic scored a goal in the second half against AFC Fiorentina during the International Champions Cup at Red Bull Arena on July 21, 2015 in Harrison, New Jersey.Paris Saint-Germain defeated ACF Fiorentina 4-2.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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France’s biggest rivalry has been quite one-sided, as Paris Saint-Germain defeated Marseille 2-1 on Sunday to take their ninth-straight Le Classique.

Marseille’s last win over PSG in Ligue 1 play was in November of 2011.

[ MORE: Juve win 14th straight ]

PSG got off to a dream start in Sunday’s Classique as Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored in the opening two minutes to give the Le Parisiens an early lead. It was Zlatan’s league-leading 21st goal of the season.

On loan from Newcastle, Remy Cabella equalized for Marseille in the 25th minute. Cabella scored on a brilliant individual effort, taking the ball from his own half on a solo run to the PSG box before firing a low shot into the bottom corner.

[ RELATED: Lewandowski’s agent confirms contract talks with Bayern Munich ]

However, PSG pushed on and claimed the win thanks to a 71st minute goal from Angel di Maria, who has been impressing in his first season in Paris. With eight goals and ten assists in Ligue 1 play, only Zlatan has been involved in more goals than di Maria.

Through 25 matches, PSG hold a ridiculous 24-point lead at the top of the Ligue 1 table.