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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

Thibaut Courtois committed to Chelsea despite links to PSG

WATFORD, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 03:  Thibaut Courtois of Chelsea in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Watford and Chelsea at Vicarage Road on February 3, 2016 in Watford, England.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
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Thibaut Courtois has denied reports he could leave London for Paris Saint-Germain this summer after a disappointing season at Chelsea.

The 23-year-old goalkeeper missed a large portion of the season through injury and failed to regain his top form when healthy as the Blues struggled throughout the year.

With a new manager in Antonio Conte taking over in June, some believed Courtois would be sold to allow the Italian to bring in a goalkeeper of his choice.

[ MORE: Atletico Madrid reach UCL final ]

Despite recent reports linking Courtois with a transfer to PSG that would make him the most expensive goalkeeper in the world, the Belgian international does not fancy a move to France.

Speaking to French newspaper Le Parisien, Courtois said he is happy at Chelsea and will “100-percent” be back at Stamford Bridge next season.

I have never had any contact with PSG. I have played a lot against PSG recently – twice last season, again this season in a friendly and twice more in the Champions League this year.

They are a good club who win their league easily. Me, I like playing in England. Paris is a very good club but I am happy at Chelsea.

I have a contract for three years, so I will say 100 per cent [be staying at Chelsea]. Rumours affect any club where things are going badly. People think the top players want to leave because they are not in the Champions League.

Those words show quite a change from Courtois’ opinion a few months ago, when he cast doubt over his Chelsea future.

At just 23, Courtois has already made more than 200 appearances in his career for Atletico Madrid and Chelsea. Although he did not have a standout season this year, Courtois has shown his talent as a potential top-five goalkeeper in the world and Conte would be wise to keep him.

Former CONMEBOL president has petition to stop extradition rejected

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ASUNCION, Paraguay (AP) Paraguay’s top court has rejected a petition by Nicolas Leoz, the former head of the South American football confederation, to halt his extradition to the United States.

Leoz is being held under house arrest in Paraguay. He is accused of receiving millions in bribes and kickbacks and was among dozens of top officials indicted in the FIFA corruption scandal.

[ FOLLOW: Leicester City’s miracle ]

Leoz’s lawyer Ricardo Preda told The Associated Press that his petition was turned down, but that he would continue to appeal against the extradition.

Leoz was the head of CONMEBOL from 1986 until 2013 when he resigned, and was replaced by Eugenio Figueredo of Uruguay.

Figueredo is under house arrest in Uruguay on similar charges. Figueredo was replaced by Juan Angel Napoul of Paraguay, who is under house arrest in Miami.

Cristiano Ronaldo back healthy for Real Madrid; will play vs. Man City

MADRID, SPAIN - MAY 03:  Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid warms up during a training session ahead of the UEFA Champions League Semi Final Second Leg between Real Madrid and Manchester City at Valdebebas training ground on May 3, 2016 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
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Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane has confirmed that Cristiano Ronaldo is “100-percent” for Wednesday’s Champions League semifinal match against Manchester City.

Ronaldo missed the first leg at the Etihad while recovering from a thigh injury, which ended a scoreless draw.

[ MORE: UCL semifinal preview ]

The Champions League’s all-time leading scorer with 93 goals, Ronaldo has not featured for Real since suffering the injury in a La Liga match against Villarreal on April 20.

Real Madrid had the better of chances in the first leg in Manchester, but Joe Hart’s heroics stopped Zidane’s side from grabbing an all-important away goal. However, Ronaldo’s absence was clearly visible and his return is a massive boost for Real.

[ RELATED: Atletico Madrid eliminate Bayern Munich, advance to UCL final ]

Even if Ronaldo is not 100-percent fit as Zidane claims, his inclusion in the lineup is still vital for Real’s success. A threat in so many different aspects of the game, his presence alone can throw off opposing defenses, leaving more time and space for his teammates to expose a City back-line that has its flaws.

Premier League chairman: Leicester City made mugs of all of us

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 03:  Leicester reacts to Leicester City's Premier League Title Success on May 03, 2016 in Leicester, England.  (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)
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Premier League executive chairman Richard Scudamore has been around football for a long time, but even he can’t explain Leicester City’s miraculous title run.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s Leicester coverage ]

With the Foxes now officially champions of England, Scudamore hailed the achievement as “the biggest sporting story ever.”

Speaking to BBC Sport, the Premier League’s top exec said Leicester’s run has silenced all the bookmakers and critics who said it could never happen, but that he wouldn’t want it any other way.

It’s probably the biggest sporting story ever and the biggest sporting achievement ever.

Nobody saw it coming and even when it was halfway through the season nobody said it could be sustained.

We don’t know what the future holds because we’ve all become completely hopeless at predicting anything, including the bookmakers and everybody else – because this one nobody saw coming.

It’s made mugs of all of us and that is just the most fantastic feeling.

If the bookmakers had it as a 5,000-1 event, you would imagine you should achieve these type of things once every 5,000 years. It gives us 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 years of being able to say: ‘Leicester 2016. Just remember Leicester 2016.’

Pegged as pre-season favorites for relegation, Leicester defied the odds (5,000-1 odds) and claimed the most unlikely of championships. A top executive with the Premier League since 1999, even Scudamore had to admit he had a bit of egg on his face.

[ VOTE: What is the top moment from Leicester’s fairytale run? ]

Scudamore may not have believed in the Foxes, but few outside the city really did. One thing the chairman did have right though, is that we will all remember ‘Leicester 2016.’