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.

 

LIVE, FA Cup semifinal: Chelsea v. Southampton

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Chelsea and Southampton clash in the FA Cup semifinal at Wembley on Sunday (10 a.m. ET kick off) for the right to play Manchester United in the final on May 19.

[ LIVE: Updates from Wembley ]

Antonio Conte led Chelsea to the FA Cup final last season but they lost to Arsenal. Even though the Blues are up against it to finish in the top four in the league, winning the cup would be a big success for Conte.

Saints haven’t made a cup semifinal since 2003 when they lost to Arsenal in the final. Mark Hughes‘ side are entrenched in the relegation zone and have a bigger challenge than making the final.

[ MORE: Minute-by-minute on Chelsea v Saints

Click on the links above to follow the action live, while we will have reaction and analysis live from Wembley right here on Pro Soccer Talk.

Arrests made after violent soccer riot in South Africa

AP Photo/Bongani Mbatha - African News Agency
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DURBAN, South Africa (AP) Police say two people have been arrested and more arrests are imminent after a violent riot at a South African soccer game on Saturday night, when hundreds of fans ripped up parts of the stadium, invaded the field, and seriously assaulted at least one security guard.

Players had to run for the safety of the dressing rooms as the fans swept onto the field soon after the final whistle.

[ MORE: The latest Arsene Wenger news ]

Police responded with stun grenades to disperse the rioters, and television pictures showed riot police storming the field and a white armored police vehicle racing across the edge of the pitch.

South African Police Services spokeswoman Nqobile Gwala on Sunday confirmed the arrests and said the two people were facing charges of public violence and malicious damage to property.

The violence mainly by Kaizer Chiefs fans followed their team’s 2-0 loss to Free State Stars in the semifinals of the Nedbank Cup competition at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in the east coast city of Durban, one of the stadiums built for the 2010 World Cup.

In the most disturbing scenes, a female security guard was set upon by a group of supporters on the field. She lay on the ground as they hit her with plastic chairs. A man then kicked her twice in the head. After the second kick she lay motionless and face down on the grass.

Police spokeswoman Gwala did not say if anyone had died in the violence, saying police had no information yet from stadium or medical authorities on any deaths.

Kaizer Chiefs coach Steve Komphela resigned after the game.

“Emotional” Mertesacker: Send Wenger off “with a cup”

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Arsenal defender Per Mertesacker has made 220 appearances for the club, all with one man in charge of the Gunners: Arsene Wenger.

[ MORE: The latest Arsene Wenger news ]

Mertesacker has won three FA Cups with Wenger, and he took up his pen — or laptop — for Sunday’s Matchday program.

The 33-year-old German says it’s down to Arsenal’s players to send off Wenger right: With two more successful rounds in the UEFA Europa League against Atletico Madrid and either Red Bull Salzburg or Marseille. From the BBC:

“We were only informed on Friday about the manager’s decision to step down at the end of the season, so it’s still quite emotional,” Mertesacker said.

“He’s been the major figure of this club for more than 20 years. He’s been so impressive for me and he has trusted me so much throughout my career, in bringing me here and making me captain even when I was injured. He also gave me a future role here at the club so I am very grateful and humbled for the opportunity he gave to me.

“There’s now an emphasis on us doing it for him too. We want to give him the send-off he deserves: with a cup.”

The French legend to end his time at Arsenal against Marseille would be delightful, don’t you think?

Watch Live: Arsenal-West Ham, Stoke-Burnley

AP Photo/Alastair Grant
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The Premier League has a pair of 8:30 a.m. ET Sunday kickoffs for us this morning, including one of Arsene Wenger‘s final matches at Arsenal.

There’s a London Derby between Arsenal and West Ham United at the Emirates Stadium, as the Gunners look to stay fresh for Atletico Madrid and the Hammers aim to firm up their Premier League status for next season (Watch live at 8:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

LINEUPS

Arsenal: Ospina, Bellerin, Koscielny, Mustafi, Monreal, Elneny, Xhaka, Ramsey, Iwobi, Welbeck, Lacazette. Subs: Macey, Mertesacker, Holding, Chambers, Maitland-Niles, Nelson. Aubameyang.

West Ham United: Hart, Zabaleta, Ogbonna, Rice, Cresswell, Masuaku, Kouyate, Noble, Fernandes, Mario, Arnautovic. Subs: Adrian, Cullen, Evra, Lanzini, Hugill, Carroll, Chicharito.


Stoke City’s climb out of the relegation zone will have to overcome Burnley’s desires for a Top Six place, as the Clarets can pass sixth place Arsenal with a win and a Gunners loss to West Ham (Watch live at 8:30 a.m. ET on NBC Sports Gold via NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

LINEUPS

Stoke City: Butland; Johnson, Shawcross, M.Indi, Pieters; Bauer, Allen, Badou, Shaqiri; Crouch, Diouf. Subs: Haugaard, Zouma, Ireland, Cameron, Fletcher, Ramadan, Campbell.

Burnley: Pope, Lowton, Long, Tarkowski, Ward, Lennon, Cork, Westwood, Gudmundsson, Wood, Barnes. Subs: Heaton, Taylor, Marney, Vokes, Hendrick, Walters, Bardsley.