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

Champions League score picks – Week 2

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The UEFA Champions League group stage kicks off Week 2 on Tuesday, so let’s have some fun and try to predict the scores.

[ MORE: Champions League schedule ]

Feel free to join in down in the comments section, as I’m predicting another unbeaten week for all five Premier League teams in action.

[ MORE: Group stage predictions ] 

Below you will find score predictions for all 16 UCL games across the next two days.


Tuesday

Group E
Sevilla 3-1 Maribor
Spartak Moscow 1-1 Liverpool

Group F
Man City 3-0 Shakhtar Donetsk
Napoli 3-1 Feyenoord

Group G
Besiktas 0-2 RB Leipzig
Monaco 2-1 FC Porto

Group H
Borussia Dortmund 1-3 Real Madrid
APOEL 0-3 Tottenham Hotspur

Wednesday

Group A
CSKA Moscow 1-2 Manchester United
Basel 0-2 Benfica

Group B
Paris Saint-Germain 2-2 Bayern Munich
Anderlecht 2-1 Celtic

Group C
Atletico Madrid 1-2 Chelsea
Qarabag 1-3 Roma

Group D
Sporting Lisbon 1-3 Barcelona
Juventus 2-1 Olympiacos

Court hearing opens into spectators attacking referees

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MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay (AP) Witnesses in Uruguay’s capital testified before a judge on Monday about an attack on two referees by spectators at a soccer match.

A male and a female referee were attacked on Saturday during a second division under-19 game between Basanez and Platense.

The next day, the Uruguay Football Association cancelled all organized football as referees protested the violence by refusing to officiate. Officials are expected to meet on Wednesday to decide if they will lift the stoppage.

Witnesses told Judge Julia Staricco it started after a kid threw rocks on the field with encouragement from his father. The female referee’s partner asked the kid to stop, leading to an argument with other spectators who punched and kicked the referees.

An attorney representing the country’s referees union, Fernando de Los Santos, says the officials suffered bruises to their bodies.

“There are several people responsible here: The players, especially who are all young in the under-19 category; their parents, and their families,” de Los Santos said.

“This is not new. We’ve seen this kind of violence in the lower divisions. But this is the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

The Basanez and Platense clubs have issued statements condemning the violence. Basanez also said it fired one of its players who was part of the attack.

The case is being handled by the same local judge who recently charged three people for violent acts during the Penarol-Nacional derby.

Morata has a warning for Chelsea’s Premier League rivals

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Alvaro Morata believes his fast start to life in the Premier League at Chelsea is only a taster of what is to come.

[ MORE: Who is the PL’s most complete striker? ]

After scoring a hat trick at Stoke City on Saturday in Chelsea’s 4-0 win, Morata spoke to reporters about the chances he missed and admitted he could have had five goals to his name.

The Spanish striker, 24, is clearly not content with simply replacing Diego Costa at Chelsea.

“I am happy with my start in the Premier League but I can do better,” Morata said. “I had two chances at the end of the game against Stoke [but didn’t take them]. I also need to improve my physical condition to be as good as possible.”

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Can do better. Six goals in your first six Premier League games is a pretty decent return, Alvaro.

Still, you can see what he’s saying. Morata has looked good in fits and starts so far this season but his undeniable quality is there for all to see. He scored three goals and added two assists with his head before Saturday’s breakout where he proved he can also score with his feet.

Morata struggled against Arsenal 10 days ago as he seemed isolated up top and the physicality of the Premier League seems to still surprise him at times.

It is still early days for the Spanish international who joined for $77.8 million (which could rise to $93.9 million) but the way in which he accelerated past Stoke’s defense on his first and second goals, then finished coolly reminded us all that of his schooling at Real Madrid and Juventus.

Morata is now undeniably a contender for the Golden Boot and looks like a more refined, agile replacement for Costa. His quickness of thought and elegance has replaced the brute force and desire of Costa and it seems like it will work out just fine.

Jose Mourinho on Man United’s midfield injury crisis

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Jose Mourinho has been speaking in Moscow ahead of Manchester United’s UEFA Champions League clash with CSKA Moscow on Wednesday.

[ MORE: UCL team news for PL clubs ]

The Man United boss has had a positive start to the new season with seven wins from nine games in all competitions as his side are second in the Premier League table only on goal difference.

[ MORE: Champions League schedule

That said, injuries are mounting up for the Red Devils, particularly in central midfield as Marouane Fellaini, Paul Pogba and Michael Carrick are all missing for United’s trip to CSKA.

“We don’t have Fellaini. We don’t have Pogba. We don’t have Carrick. All three midfield players that we lose for this match. The solutions are not many,” Mourinho said. “We are trying not to focus on individual battles in specific areas on the pitch. We are going to have a team with quality and balance to try to win the match. That’s our objective.”

What are Mourinho’s solutions to plug these gaps?

Ander Herrera will likely start in central midfield alongside Nemanja Matic which should be enough but given the extent of the injuries to both Pogba and Fellaini they will also have to play against Crystal Palace on Saturday.

Fellaini was injured by Southampton’s Shane Long on Saturday and Mourinho confirmed the Belgian midfielder would not play again before the international break.

“Fellaini was lucky. It could be a much worse situation but in a moment where we don’t have Pogba and Carrick he becomes even more important than he always is. I expect Fellaini not to be out for a long time,” Mourinho added.

As for Mourinho, he was asked about the decision by the English Football Association to take no further action after he was sent to the stands late on in United’s 1-0 victory at Southampton on Saturday.

“If I am not punished it is because there are no reasons for the sending off,” Mourinho said. “I am happy that it is recognized and I can do my work normally against Crystal Palace. That’s enough for me.”