PST’s Major League Soccer Player of the Week: Diego Chara

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Although a demon in the middle third, a long-time critique of Portland’s Diego Chara has been his lack of effectiveness in the attacking or defensive thirds. Given how important the midfield is in the modern game, Chara has always been a valuable player, but his lack of punch in the final third meant he was less of a star than a role player. He added a valuable dimension to Portland, albeit only one.

On Saturday against Seattle, that all changed. With two goals from beyond the penalty area, Chara got on the scoresheet for the first time since 2011, part of an effort that led Portland to a 4-2 lead on the arch-rival Sounders. While Clint Dempsey’s late goals eventually took two points from the Timbers, they couldn’t take this week’s PST award away from Chara. The Portland midfielder is our Player of the Week.

Chara’s first chance came on an opportunity he created, taking the ball off Gonzalo Pineda in the first half before beating Stefan Frei from just outside the penalty area. Five minutes later, Chara created another turnover that led to a goal, this time winning the ball in the middle of the park ahead of Diego Valeri’s go-ahead goal

Ten minutes into the second half, Chara completed his double, taking a ball worked in from the right through Alvas Powell and Kalif Alhassan and again converting from the edge of the penalty area. On his 28th birthday, the Colombian destroyer doubled his career goal total, giving his best performance since arriving in the league in 2011.

Along the way, Chara was his typical destructive self, ending the match with four interceptions and two tackles. He also completed 94 percent of his passes, an accuracy that’s become another trademark of the midfielder’s game.

When you look at what separates Chara’s performance from Dempsey’s (who claimed the league award with his hat trick), it’s the Timber’s influence in more than one facet of the game, along with Dempsey’s third goal being from the spot. Seattle’s Saturday captain had the bigger impact at the end, but Chara’s 90-minute performance was better.

That’s why, for the fifth time this season, we’re breaking with MLS’s official award. While the league has honored standout performances, it has also tended to honor players who’ve grabbed headlines or prominent spots in highlight packages. That acclaim, however, doesn’t necessarily mean the player was the weekend’s best.

While Dempsey’s hat trick may have been Week 5’s best story, Chara was actually the week’s best player.

PST Award MLS Award
Week 1 Will Bruin, Houston Dynamo
2g, 1a vs. New England
Nick Rimando, Real Salt Lake
8 saves, PK save at LA
Week 2 Víctor Bernárdez, San Jose Earthquakes
2g, 1a vs. Real Salt Lake
Jermain Defoe, Toronto FC
2 goals at Seattle
Week 3 Fabian Castillo, FC Dallas
1 goal vs. Chivas USA
Bernardo Añor, Columbus
2 goals vs. Philadelphia
Week 4 Álvaro Saborío, Real Salt Lake
2 goals vs. Toronto FC
Graham Zusi, Sporting Kansas City
1 goal, 2 assists at Colorado
March Player of the Month Michael Bradley, Toronto FC
3 games, 0 goals, 0 assists
Week 5 Diego Chara, Portland Timbers
2 goals vs. Seattle
Clint Dempsey, Seattle Sounders
3 goals at Portland

U.S. Open Cup roundup: Poku lifts Miami; Red Bulls, Cincy win on PKs

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While MLS represents the majority of the remaining clubs in this year’s U.S. Open Cup, one side continues to defy the odds.

[ MORE: Minnesota United adds Hearts midfielder Sam Nicholson ]

Miami FC reached their first quarterfinal in club history after knocking off Atlanta United late on Wednesday, behind a goal and an assist from Kwadwo Poku. The victory for Miami sets up a date with FC Cincinnati — who pulled off an unbelievable shootout win against the Chicago Fire.

Meanwhile, the New York Red Bulls and New England Revolution both advanced on the night with wins over the Philadelphia Union and D.C. United, respectively. The Red Bulls and Revs will meet in the final eight as well.

Sporting KC kept its hope of hoisting a fourth U.S. Open Cup title alive on Wednesday with a 2-0 win over the Houston Dynamo. The 2015 winners will take on FC Dallas — who defeated the Colorado Rapids on Tuesday night.

Here are all the results from tonight’s Open Cup action.

Houston Dynamo 0-2 Sporting KC
New England Revolution 2-1 D.C. United
Miami FC 3-2 Atlanta United
New York Red Bulls 1-1 (5-3 on PKs) Philadelphia Union
FC Cincinnati 0-0 (3-1 on PKs) Chicago Fire
San Jose Earthquakes 2-1 Seattle Sounders
LA Galaxy 2-0 Sacramento Republic

Report: City Football Group set to expand outreach with Girona deal

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City Football Group appears on the verge of adding to its global outreach, and it’s next destination looks to be in Spain.

[ MORE: Are Southampton’s days of selling behind the club? ]

The group of investors, which are known for controlling Premier League side Manchester City, are reportedly nearing a deal to purchase a partial stake in Spanish club Girona — which is set to make its La Liga debut in 2017/18.

CFG is said to be gaining a near “50 percent” stake in the club, with the rest of the club owned by Media Base, a company owned by Pep Guardiola‘s brother, Pere.

Over recent years, CFG has vastly expanded its ownership outreach and currently has a stake in five clubs around the world, with Girona set to be the sixth.

MLS side New York City FC, Australian A-League side Melbourne City FC, Japan’s Yokohama F. Marinos and Club Atletico Torque in Uruguay are all part of the CFG enterprise, alongside Man City.

New York Red Bulls ink goalkeeper Luis Robles to new deal

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The “Iron Man” will keep up his amazing journey with the New York Red Bulls, after signing a new deal with the club on Wednesday.

[ MORE: Wesley Sneijder on verge of joining Los Angeles FC ]

Goalkeeper Luis Robles has extended his contract with the reigning Eastern Conference champions, as the American continues to raise his consecutive starts streak, which stands at 157.

The terms of the deal were not disclosed in the club’s release.

Robles joined the Red Bulls back in 2012 after playing in Germany, and the shot-stopper hasn’t missed a start ever since.

Report: Minnesota United adds Hearts midfielder Sam Nicholson

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Minnesota United has had its shares of ups and down in its debut MLS season, but the Loons are on the verge making an exciting young signing.

[ MORE: Wesley Sneijder closing in on Los Angeles FC move ]

ESPN FC is reporting that Minnesota will sign Hearts winger Sam Nicholson from the Scottish Premier League on a deal that makes him a Loon until 2019.

The young attacker is expected to join the MLS side when the summer transfer window opens on July 10.

Nicholson, 22, has played with the Edinburgh side since his youth days, and made his senior debut with the club in 2013. During his time at Hearts, Nicholson scored 16 goals in all competitions for the team.

Last season, Nicholson missed 16 matches due to a significant knee injury.

According to the report, Scottish sides Rangers and Aberdeen were also among those interested in acquiring Nicholson, while English Championship clubs Bristol City and Barnsley also reached out about the attacker.