ProSoccerTalk MLS Team of the Week – Week 6

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Forwards

Clint Dempsey, Seattle Sounders – One jaw-dropping blast, a game-winner, with a forced own goal in between. Dempsey’s Saturday was better than his hat trick in Portland. That he somehow managed to top a three-goal performance against Seattle’s arch rivals with a better performance in Dallas has to rank as one of the best eight-day runs in MLS history. He was our Player of the Week.

Robbie Keane, LA Galaxy – It was a typical day for Robbie Keane; and by typical, I mean he was probably the best player on the field. His second half run to put home Stefan Ishizaki’s cross is the type of movement we’re starting to take for granted, though his first half blast at David Ousted’s net nearly left the Ireland international with his first multi-goal game of the season.

We could be wrong about: Obafemi Martins, Seattle Sounders, Chris Wondolowski, San Jose Earthquakes

Midfielders

Federico Higuaín, Columbus Crew – San Jose’s two-man shield forced Higuaín to drop deep to pick up the ball, a roll the Argentine is accustomed to assuming in Columbus’s set up. Just before half time, however, neither of those midfielders could prevent Waylon Francis from finding Higuaín just in front of the defense, with the No. 10’s quick finish giving Pipa his fourth goal of the season.

Lloyd Sam, New York Red Bulls – Saturday was another in a strong of strong performances from Sam, whose consistently strong service from the right has only highlighted New York’s shortcomings up top. If Red Bulls had even average finishing on Saturday, the chances Sam created would have given New York its first win of the season. That Mike Petke’s team became the second straight victim at RFK can’t cost Sam a spot in this team.

Maurice Edu, Philadelphia Union – Another strong performance from the Union’s midfield anchor allowed Jack Hackworth’s trio to go toe-to-toe with RSL’s diamond, with Edu’s presence in the middle serving as the team’s greatest asset. His late header inside Jeff Attinella’s left post allowed Philly to take a deserved point, earning the U.S. international a place in this week’s squad.

Kyle Beckerman, Real Salt Lake – It’s tempting to make an Edu versus Beckerman comparison, given the increasing (but misguided) notion the midfielders are competing for a spot in Brazil. In reality, the two are very different players who went about their Saturday excellence in different ways. Beckerman’s anchored, disruptive presence helped RSL take a point in Chester, with his late second half goal nearly delivering full points.

We could be wrong about: Kyle Bekker, Toronto FC; Will Johnson, Portland Timbers; Javier Morales, Real Salt Lake; Vincent Nogueira, Philadelphia Union

Defenders

Kevin Alston, New England Revolution – Alston’s first Major League Soccer goal was a memorable one, with the fill-in left back bursting in from the flank to fire home Saturday’s winning goal. Part of a defense that held Houston without a shot on target, the former Hoosier this week’s the easy choice at left back.

Giancarlo Gonzalez, Columbus Crew – It wasn’t a perfect day for the Costa Rican, but it was close, with quick reads and decisive clearances allowing him to keep the space in front of Steve Clark as clear as possible. His 13 clearances were more than the rest of Columbus’s defense combined, making Sunday his most convincing performance since moving to Major League Soccer.

Clarence Goodson, San Jose Earthquakes – If you think Goodson could have done more on Columbus’s goal (he was the closest man to Higuaín), then the U.S. international doesn’t deserve this spot. Give it to Gonzalez, and consider this my tacit concession. You may be right.

If you’re inclined to think Goodson was right to keep dropping back with the rest of the San Jose line, Sunday becomes one of his best this season. A number of strong first half reads allowed the Earthquakes to thwart most of Columbus’s early incursions, keeping his team close enough to claim a point with its early second half breakthrough.

Dan Gargan, LA Galaxy – A strong run at the end of Saturday’s first half nearly saw Gargan assist on Landon Donovan’s record-setting goal, though the Galaxy attacker ended up pushing his header wide. Still, the ball was an example of the consistently strong crosses the journeyman defender has provided since assuming a spot in the starting lineup. Along with Baggio Husidic, Gargan’s become one of the latest examples of Bruce Arena salvaging veteran talent.

We could be wrong about: Waylon Francis, Columbus;  Jámison Olave, New York Red Bulls; Omar Gonzalez, LA Galaxy; Andrew Farrell, New England Revolution

Goalkeeper

Jaime Penedo, LA Galaxy – Of the four big saves the Panamanian international made on Saturday, his 32nd minute stop on Kekuta Manneh was our favorite. On a ball moving from left-to-right across his goal, Peneda quickly got off his line to cut down Manneh’s angles, charging toward the Vancouver attacker before he even turned toward goal. The Whitecaps eventually lost 1-0, with Penedo keeping a clean sheet in his return to Arena’s starting XI.

We could be wrong about: Andrew Dykstra, D.C. United

Report: Arsenal interested in Leicester keeper Kasper Schmeichel

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According to a report by The Sun, Arsenal is monitoring the progress of Leicester City goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.

The rumor does make sense. With Petr Cech at 34 years old and having a poor season in front of net and backup David Ospina failing to challenge him for the starting job, the Gunners are looking elsewhere to bring in a potential future starter.

Schmeichel has been one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League the past two seasons. Last season he led the Foxes to the Premier League title, organizing a stunningly good defensive line of patchwork players. This season, the defense has largely regressed and let Schmeichel down, but he has still performed well and has the metrics to remain one of the league’s top shot-stoppers.

The Danish keeper is 30 years old himself, but that puts him in his prime for a goalkeeper. He has been with Leicester City since 2011, and he will tick 250 appearances for the club with his next match. Schmeichel was rumored to be a member of the secret player delegation that worked hard to see Claudio Ranieri pushed out of the club, a sentiment which he and the other players have strongly denied.

Still, with an improbable Premier League title in hand and an appearance in the Champions League quarterfinals now on the cards, there probably isn’t much else for him at Leicester City. It’s possible Schmeichel could look to bank on his past performances and secure a move to a bigger club this summer.

Should Arsene Wenger stay with Arsenal past this season, a possibility that looks more and more likely, he could look to move on from Cech despite signing the former Chelsea goalkeeper just two summers ago.

Diego Costa injured, but will stay with Spain squad for friendly

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Chelsea striker Diego Costa pulled up in Spain training on Sunday, and with the Blues in first in the Premier League and Costa in great form, there were obvious concerns.

With Costa struggling with leg and ankle injuries, the RFEF informed Chelsea that there was an issue, and Costa was pulled from training and sent for tests. X-Rays at the local hospital in Madrid were negative, and he’s rejoined the squad.

According to the RFEF, doctors will continue to monitor the 28-year-old and he will continue with the national team for the rest of the international break. With a World Cup qualification win over Israel already in the books and just a friendly against France to go on Tuesday, it’s odd that Spain would risk Costa moving forward, but they will continue to keep him around.

Costa has scored 18 goals this season to lead the Blues, and he scored in the win over Israel. Spain takes on France in Saint-Denis on Tuesday, with both teams leading their World Cup qualification groups. Spain has a goal-differential lead on Italy with both teams miles above the rest of the Group G, and France is ahead of Sweden by three points in Group A, with the Netherlands back in fourth.

Foul or flop? Player “headbutts” referee, is sent off

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Well, there must be something in the water down in Brasilia, because things got a little weird this evening.

Flamengo drew with Vasco da Gama 2-2, but that was just the start.

In the 54th minute, with Vasco da Gama leading 1-0 at Estadio Nacional Mané Garrincha, 36-year-old Luis Fabiano was sent off for “headbutting” the referee. Headbutting is in quotes because looking at the video, it certainly appears there was little to no contact, and the referee flops.

Yes, the referee flopped. Take a look:

To be fair, Fabiano was already on a yellow, so getting in the referee’s face even without the headbutt/pelvic thrust would likely still have seen him sent to an early shower.

So the former Porto and Sevilla man was sent off, and Vasco da Gama was down to 10 men. Immediately after the red card, Flamengo took advantage, powering in a pair of goals via Willian Arao and Orlando Berrio to take the lead 2-1. But Vasco wouldn’t quit, and they earned a penalty five minutes into stoppage time, which Nene buried for the 2-2 draw.

To top things off, a player named Yago Pikachu scored the opener for Vasco da Gama, which was followed by a delay in the game seven minutes later after a power surge in the stadium. Go figure.

Lletget diagnosed with foot sprain, escaping further damage

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Word has arrived from the LA Galaxy camp that will see USMNT fans feel relieved as Sebastian Lletget has escaped the news many feared.

The young attacker was impressive in the first 18 minutes of the United States’ 6-0 win over Honduras, but was injured minutes after scoring the opening goal and could not continue. Replays showed that Lletget got his foot caught underneath a defender in the process of a hard challenge on the right wing.

There was concern that Lletget would be out for a significant amount of time, but the Galaxy announced that after testing over the weekend, Lletget did not suffer any structural damage and was diagnosed with a left foot sprain.

[ MORE: USMNT adds Paul Arreola to roster, drops Lletget, Brooks, Morris ]

Lletget will visit a specialist on Monday to determine a plan for recovery, and it’s possible that he will still have to miss some time in the near future. The Galaxy visit Vancouver on Saturday, and his status for that match has to be considered up in the air. They then host Montreal on April 7.

While Lletget obviously misses out on the next USMNT game at Panama on Tuesday having already been dumped from the roster, he will most definitely be available for the June games against Trinidad & Tobago and Mexico, and will likely be an option for Bruce Arena given the manager’s history with Lletget at Los Angeles.

The United States have been struck with a collection of injuries that all occurred just before the international break, hampering the squad significantly. Bobby Wood, Jordan Morris, and Fabian Johnson all went down in the days before reporting for international duty, and the team lost Lletget and John Brooks in the Honduras win. Lletget’s departure could see Alejandro Bedoya into the starting lineup on Tuesday, with the Union midfielder having replaced Lletget in the Honduras match. Also in contention is Jermaine Jones, who could come in after his suspension and push Darlington Nagbe onto the wing.