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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

Premier League player Power Rankings – Week 22

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 22:  Alexis Sanchez of Arsenal celebrates scoring his team's second goal during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Burnley at the Emirates Stadium on January 22, 2017 in London, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
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So. Much. Movement.

[ MORE: Power Rankings archive

We have a new numero uno in our Power Rankings and plenty of movers and shakers up and down the list, plus nine new entries. Players from Chelsea, Tottenham and Arsenal continue to dominate our rankings.

Remember: this is a list of the top 20 performing players right now in the Premier League.

Let us know in the comments section below if you agree with the selections of the top 20 players in the PL right now.


  1. Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal) – Up 3
  2. Dele Alli (Tottenham) – Up 1
  3. Diego Costa (Chelsea) – New entry
  4. Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Man United) – Down 2
  5. Harry Kane (Tottenham) – Down 4
  6. Andy Carroll (West Ham) – New entry
  7. Kevin De Bruyne (Man City) – Up 6
  8. Michail Antonio (West Ham) – Down 3
  9. Olivier Giroud (Arsenal) – Down 3
  10. Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal) – Down 2
  11. Thibaut Courtois (Chelsea) – Down 1
  12. Roberto Firmino (Liverpool) – New entry
  13. Shkodran Mustafi (Arsenal) – New entry
  14. Raheem Sterling (Man City) – New entry
  15. Adam Lallana (Liverpool) – Down 8
  16. Phil Jones (Man United) – New entry
  17. Seamus Coleman (Everton) – New entry
  18. James Ward-Prowse (Southampton) – New entry
  19. Gary Cahill (Chelsea) – New entry
  20. Marko Arnautovic (Stoke City) – Down 4

Report: Granit Xhaka accused of racial abuse

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 22:  Granit Xhaka (R) of Arsenal protests to referee Jonathan Moss after shown a red card during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Burnley at the Emirates Stadium on January 22, 2017 in London, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
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Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka has not had the best 48 hours of his life.

[ MORE: Coutinho key to Liverpool? ]

Xhaka, 24, was sent off for the ninth time in his career on Sunday for a two-footed lunge in Arsenal’s dramatic 2-1 win against Burnley.

It has new been reported by the Telegraph that Granit Xhaka has been accused of racially abusing a member of staff at Heathrow Airport on Monday, just over 24 hours after being sent off.

The Swiss midfielder, who joined Arsenal from Borussia Monchengladbach for $43.8 million in the summer, was reported by a third party for abusing the staff member as he dropped off a friend at Heathrow airport but they were then refused entry to security after turning up late for the flight.

Xhaka is said to have abused the staff member in German but he refutes the claim.

“Police were called at 19:29hrs on Monday, 23 January following an allegation that a member of staff had been racially abused at Heathrow Airport, Terminal Five. The allegation was made by a third party. Officers attended and spoke with a man in his 20s. He was not arrested. He voluntarily attended a west London police station where he was interviewed under caution. Enquires continue.”

Arsenal have no comment on what they call “a private matter” according to Sky Sports, but it has certainly not been a great 48 hours for the club who also had manager Arsene Wenger hit with a misconduct charge by the FA after being sent to the stands for his reaction at a late penalty kick was awarded to Burnley.

Wenger is also being investigated for an apparent push on fourth official Anthony Taylor as he watched from the tunnel area with many expecting Arsenal’s manager to receive a touchline ban.

Again, not a vintage 48 hours for Arsenal as they sit eight points clear of Chelsea and prepare for a pivotal week in their Premier League title hopes which culminates with a battle against their London rivals on Feb. 4 at Stamford Bridge.

How important is Philippe Coutinho to Liverpool?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 24:  Philippe Coutinho of Liverpool scores their fourth goal during the Premier League match between Liverpool and Hull City at Anfield on September 24, 2016 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
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With reports circulating that Philippe Coutinho‘s agent is in talks with Liverpool over a new deal, it is easy to see why the Reds want to reward the Brazilian playmaker.

[ MORE: Klopp on title chances

Coutinho, 24, is undoubtedly the key cog in Jurgen Klopp‘s offensive machine and since he went down with an ankle injury in November against Sunderland they’ve missed him being back to his best.

In the nine games since Coutinho was injured Liverpool have dropped 12 points in the Premier League. In the 13 PL games before his injury they dropped just nine.

Now, this isn’t down to one man but there’s no coincidence here. He makes Liverpool tick and as good as Adam Lallana and Roberto Firmino have been, Coutinho is the main man. Even when you look at Liverpool’s defensive record, their much-maligned backline is slightly better with Coutinho in the team. They conceded 14 goals in 13 games before he was injured and they’ve conceded 13 in their last nine games.

Maybe that’s because Coutinho takes the pressure off his teammates by getting on the ball, dipping between the lines of defense and attack and easing pressure to allow Liverpool to dominant play rather than seeing them susceptible to counter attacks like we did against Swansea City.

Klopp’s main man started at Plymouth last week and against Swansea at the weekend, playing over an hour in each game and showing flashes of his ability. Slowly but surely he is getting back to his best and Liverpool need him to be fully fit for a pivotal stretch of games.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

On Wednesday they host Southampton in the EFL Cup semifinal second leg as the Reds trail 1-0 from the first leg. They then play an FA Cup game against second-tier Wolves and host Premier League leaders Chelsea next Wednesday in a game which they simply must win to have any hope of overhauling Chelsea to win the Premier League title.

Top four is the priority for Klopp’s men but keeping Coutinho fit and in-form is a close second.

This season he has scored five goals and added five assists in just 13 starts in the Premier League and Coutinho’s ability to thread balls in-behind to onrushing attackers, always seem to have time on the ball and ability to change the direction of play has been much missed by Liverpool over the past two months. It is inevitable that in recent displays Coutinho hasn’t looked as sharp as he did before he got injured but Klopp will be hoping the rust has been shaken off and he’s back to his best in the next week.

Along with Sadio Mane‘s absence at the Africa Cup of Nations with Senegal (which will likely be until the first week of February at least as he led them to the knockout stages) Liverpool’s attack looks less dangerous and that extra bit of quality and pace is missing.

That’s because Mane and Coutinho have been missing.

With Mane away, more pressure is now on Coutinho’s shoulders.

Last season was Coutinho’s most productive of his career with 10 goals and seven assists in all competitions. He is well on the way to breaking that record this season based on goals and assists in the Premier League alone.

If Liverpool is going to at least finish in the top four this season and make at least one Wembley final, they have to keep calm and pass it to Coutinho.

He’ll do the rest.

Yaya Toure slams big money moves to China

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 21:  Yaya Toure of Manchester City looks on during the UEFA Champions League Group D match between Manchester City and Sevilla at Etihad Stadium on October 21, 2015 in Manchester, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
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Yaya Toure is sick of hearing about players moving to the Chinese Super League for big money.

[ PLAYBACK: Ref calls cost Man City ]

Toure, 33, is out of contract at the Etihad Stadium this summer but after coming back into the fold at Manchester City in recent weeks (thanks to an apology from his agent to manager Pep Guardiola) he has been a key cog in central midfield and wants to stay at City.

The towering Ivorian midfielder has been instrumental since joining City in 2010 from Barcelona. Toure has won the FA Cup, two League Cups and two Premier League titles with City and has questioned what means more to players.

Money or enjoyment?

“I always say that if I went to China I would end up feeling angry there. Do you play football because you love football, or do you play because you want to make money? What’s the purpose?” Toure said. “Me, I just want to play football because I enjoy it, I love playing. I enjoy helping my team-mates, I enjoy playing against the big players and teams. I want to carry on in that way. Some people have the mentality that they want to do that, to try something different but, for me, my feeling is that I want to play more football.”

Toure also said that he hopes to remain at City beyond the end of his current deal which expires in the summer.

“I’ve said before that I’ve been involved with a lot of clubs but, especially at City, I want to give something back to the fans,” Toure said. “I’d like to continue to work hard for them, keep giving them entertainment, keep them happy – that’s what I want. If I was tired, I’d say ‘no more, move on’, but I don’t feel like that. I feel very, very good. I feel young.”

Over to you Pep and Man City. Toure clearly wants to say.

Toure certainly has a lot more to give and now that Pep is on board, a two-year extension would surely be signed if it was offered.

The song below becomes more and more poignant. All together now…