ProSoccerTalk’s MLS Team of the Week – Week 8

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Forwards

Bradley Wright-Phillips, New York Red Bulls – Our Player of the Week, the 29-year-old registered his first MLS hat trick last Wednesday, part of a four-goal week. When New York’s clicking, he’ll be able to go on these types of runs, something that could allow Tim Cahill to resume his role partnering Dax McCarty in central midfield.

Clint Dempsey, Seattle Sounders – Had two goals within seven minutes of halftime against Colorado and also played the key part in Lamar Neagle’s first half opener. This is becoming an obligatory spot for Dempsey, but given the damage he and partner Obafemi Martins inflicted on a usually strong Colorado defense, the place was well-earned.

Obafemi Martins, Seattle Sounders – Martins didn’t put up Fabian Espindola’s numbers (two goals, one assist), but he also wasn’t playing against 10-men, as D.C.’s attackers did for most of Dallas’s visit to RFK. Against Drew Moor and Shane O’Neill – a very good central defense – Martins’ movement was key to opening tearing apart the  Rapids line. One goal understates his impact. Six shots on target do not.

We could be wrong about: Fabian Espindola, D.C. United; Thierry Henry, New York Red Bulls; Álvaro Saborío, Real Salt Lake

Midfielders

Patrice Bernier, Montréal Impact – His contribution to the game’s only goal was part of Saturday’s shot highlight real, but Bernier’s presence against a strong Philadelphia midfield proved just as important. It was the closest Bernier has come to matching his early 2013 self, part of the season Montréal finally broke through.

Dax McCarty, New York Red Bulls – McCarty’s slow return to form is a big reason why New York look like their former selves. Against the talented, deep midfields of Houston and Columbus, the Red Bulls’ holder played two of his best games of the year. Part of that is due to McCarty’s up-and-down season, but part of that is due to a strong, two-match week. We’re giving him some degree of difficulty points because of the strength of his opposition, but against the likes of Federico Higuaín and Boniek Garcia, McCarty acquitted himself quite well.

Gonzalo Pineda, Seattle Sounders – Pineda has formed such a good partnership with Osvaldo Alonso, it will be interesting to see how Sigi Schmid uses Brad Evans when the U.S. international returns to full health. Strong play winning the ball (five tackles) proved a vital part of Seattle maintaining the pressure that resulted in 13 shots on target. On a weekend that lacked stand-out central midfield performances, another predictably above-average day from the former Mexican international gets rewarded. Also, had a Beckham assist on Dempsey’s second goal.

We could be wrong about: Matías Laba, Vancouver Whitecaps; Leandro Barrera, Chivas USA; Lee Nguyen, New England Revolution

Defenders

Roy Miller, New York Red Bulls – Second week in a row for the Red Bulls’ captain, who terrorized Warren Creavalle last Wednesday. A solid performance in Columbus didn’t help or hurt his cause, but on the back of his contributions to New York’s rout of Houston, the Costa Rican international retains this spot.

Clarence Goodson, San Jose Earthquakes – Goodson’s consistently strong performances since returning from injury have put him in consideration for this team almost every week. After helping his team to a shutout of Chivas USA (and San Jose’s first win of the season), he claims a spot for the second time this season.

Chris Schuler, Real Salt Lake – Like San Jose, Real Salt Lake has a pair of center backs that compete for this team week in, week out. On Saturday, we thought Schuler was the slightly better of Jeff Cassar’s duo. RSL may have given up two goals late, but their central defenders weren’t to blame, with Schuler leading the way with nine clearances.

Hassoun Camara, Montréal Impact – If this wasn’t the best defensive performance by a right back this year, it was at least the most prolific, with Camara recording 13 interceptions, five tackles, and seven clearances. He was my first choice right back in last year’s best XI, and although the move outside unseats rookie Eric Miller, Camara is back where he can had the greatest influence for Montréal.

We could be wrong about: Steven Beitashour, Vancouver Whitecaps; Jámison Olave, New York Red Bulls; Víctor Bernárdez, San Jose Earthquakes; Chris Wingert, Real Salt Lake

Goalkeepers

Steve Clark, Columbus Crew – In what turned into a bit of a goalkeepers’ duel, another strong performance from Clark allowed Columbus to take a point from visiting New York. Overlooked for most of the season, Clark’s performance against the surging Red Bulls was the latest in what’s been an all-star caliber season. Perhaps he hasn’t been Nick Rimando, but on a weekend where the RSL No. 1 struggled, Clark may have cast some well-deserved light on himself.

We could be wrong about: Luis Robles, New York Red Bulls.

 

Report: FIFA president Infantino in hot water

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The more things at FIFA change, the more they stay the same.

According to a bombshell report from The Guardian, FIFA president Gianni Infantino was under investigation by the FIFA Ethics Committee before the president disbanded the committee in May. The report states that Infantino spent around $1.16 million on his election campaign, despite declaring publicly he had only spent around $583,000 on flights around the world to meet with national FA presidents.

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The report claims Infantino was also being investigated by then committee chairman Cornel Borbely over whether he influenced the election of a new president in the Confederation of African Federations, or CAF.

FIFA rules state that presidential candidates must declare campaign expenditures publicly.

The latest bad press on FIFA follows the arrest of Spanish Football Federation president and UEFA vice president Angel Maria Villar and his son among other national and regional officials on charges of corruption and improper management.

Villar appeared in court on Thursday, and a judge denied he and his son bail.

Transfer Rumor Wrap: Liverpool rejects Barca bid for Coutinho, Roma offer for Mahrez turned down

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Liverpool isn’t planning on cashing in on one of the Premier League’s stars this summer.

Jurgen Klopp and Co. gave Barcelona a resolute “no” after Barcelona submitted a transfer bid of more than $93 million for Philippe Coutinho. Coutinho signed a new five-year contract with the club in January.

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“The main thing I think about is how we can make the next step with the players we had last season,” Klopp told reporters in Hong Kong earlier this week. “The good news is that actually we didn’t lose – and we will not lose – a player we want to keep this summer. That’s the best news actually and then we’ll see who can bring into the squad.”

Coutinho signed for Liverpool in 2013 but had a breakout year in 2015-2016, earning the PFA Young Player of the Year. Last year Coutinho became an even more consistent goal-scorer and playmaker, scoring 13 goals with seven assists in 34 Premier League appearances.

Keeping Coutinho is of supreme importance for Liverpool, which is back in the UEFA Champions League for the first time since the 2014-2015 season.

(more…)

La Liga releases schedule: First El Clasico coming in December

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It’s Christmas in July for fans of La Liga Friday as the Spanish league published its schedule for the upcoming season.

Defending champions Real Madrid travel to Deportivo La Caruña on August 20, the opening match of the season while its rival Barcelona hosts Real Betis.

As it’s La Liga, the first date most fans searched for was the first El Clasico of the season, and the biennial battles between Real Madrid and Barcelona will take place on December 20 and May 6, with Real Madrid hosting the first match.

The first match comes just ahead of the Spanish winter break, while the second match comes at a busy period at the end of the season, where both teams will be hoping to still be competing in the UEFA Champions League.

Other interesting matches to keep an eye on in the first few weeks of the season include Real Madrid hosting Valencia in week two, the Barcelona derby between Barca and Espanyol in week three and Atletico Madrid taking on Sevilla in week six.

Here’s a look at this year’s La Liga schedule.

Conte: Costa “situation was very clear” in January

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At this point, there is no doubt Diego Costa‘s future lies away from London and Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte broke his silence on the Brazilian-born Spain international striker, saying he’s been ready to move on from Costa since January, when Costa and Conte had a disagreement following a big-money offer from Chinese club Tianjin Quanjian during the winter transfer window.

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“I don’t like to talk about players who are not here but the only thing I can tell you [is that] in January, the Costa situation was very clear, for the club for him and his agent,” Conte told reporters Friday. “For me the situation is closed.”

It’s an amazing turn of events after Costa scored 20 Premier League goals in Chelsea’s title-winning 2016-2017 season, including 14 goals through the end of December. But after falling out with Jose Mourinho a year earlier, the same issue happened again under Conte, with Costa proving much less effective down the stretch.

But Conte and Costa were able to put their differences aside on the field, photographed multiple times hugging after wins, as well as after winning the title.

Costa is reportedly now agitating for a move back to his former club Atletico Madrid, but the Spanish club’s transfer ban until the next window complicates matters. In a World Cup year, would Costa be willing to sit out half a season just to leave Chelsea?

If Costa’s time in the Premier League is up, he’ll go down as one of the league’s best pound-for-pound goalscorers. He scored 52 goals in 89 Premier League appearances, with seven more cup goals in his three-year spell at Chelsea.

And if he is gone, defenders across the Premier League will sure be happy to wave goodbye.