Plata vs. Marshall, forward vs. defender: Who was PST’s Major League Soccer Player of the Week?

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With his 93rd minute goal at Toyota Park, Real Salt Lake’s João Plata put his stamp on the league award. Not only did the Ecuadorian attacker complete his team’s remarkable comeback — a rally that saw Jeff Cassar’s team score three in the match’s final 22 minutes to overturn a 2-0 deficit — he also capped a two-goal, Player of the Week-worthy performance. Justifiably, Plata won the league’s honor.

Until late last night, I was going to go in the same direction, but I kept coming back to the same question: What does a player have to do defensively to make up for one goal? If a player with a one-goal game gave a dominant defensive performance, how dominant would that performance have to be to make up for Plata’s two-goal performance?

I never came up with an answer. In truth, I didn’t try that hard. Too much of those evaluations come down to how individuals see the game. It’s why some coaches are more successful than others. It’s why honors like these often benefit from being decided by crowds. Quickly, I reframed the question: How much does a player have to do defensively to convince me he’s made up for a goal?

source: AP
Chad Marshall’s first goal as a Seattle Sounder was the game-winner in Saturday’s 2-1 victory over visiting Philadelphia. The former MLS defender of the year also had six blocked shots and won five aerial duels. (Photo: AP Photos.)

My instinct, after a night’s study: Seattle’s Chad Marshall did enough. Like Plata, Marshall scored a late game winner, heading home a 84th minute corner in Seattle’s 2-1 win over Philadelphia. Though the timing of Plata’s goal made his more dramatic, it was no more valuable. It probably wasn’t as difficult to pull off. Regardless, the players’ game-winners were a bit of a wash.

But Plata had that 72nd goal, hit from just inside the penalty area, inside Sean Johnson’s right post; hence; our one-goal dilemma. Did Marshall do enough to make up for that?

His league-high six blocked shots may have (no other player had more than four). His four clearances helped, as did his typical dominance of anything in the air. Often Andrew Wenger went wide to serve as an outlet for the Union, part of the reason he won a game-high six aerial duels. But he also lost four. Marshall not only won five of his six aerial challenges, but as one of the few players in the league that can not only contest but control balls won in the air, the former Defensive Player of the Year made the most of those challenges. All together, it was one of the best individual defensive performances of the season – one that gave our one-goal question even more significance.

If Marshall’s defense on Saturday can’t make up for an attacker’s one-goal edge, what can? Can defense never be worth a goal? Because if Marshall’s performance didn’t make up the difference, almost no defensive performance could.

Can a defender only win Player of the Week if he goes Víctor Bernárdez, registers two goals and an assist, and claims a point in stoppage time (as the San Jose defender did in Week Two against RSL). That’s an unreasonably high bar, one I can’t imagine many coaches agreeing with if asked about the value of star defenders.

After his Week Nine performance, Marshall may be the brightest of those defending stars; at least, if the Defender of the Year race is any indication. Last week, we published our current top five for the year-end honor, a list that had the new Sounder third. But after a weekend in which Nat Borchers and Michael Parkhurst each made major errors (Borchers on Mike Magee’s second half chance; Parkhurst on Claudio Bieler’s game-sealing goal), Marshall’s stock would rise, if we republished our ranking today. Through two-plus months, he’s been the league’s best defender, in addition to being our Week Nine Player of the Week.

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
Mauro Díaz, FC Dallas
4 games, 2 goals, 0 assists
Week 5 Diego Chara, Portland Timbers
2 goals vs. Seattle
Clint Dempsey, Seattle Sounders
3 goals at Portland
Week 6 Clint Dempsey, Seattle Sounders
2 goals at Dallas
Clint Dempsey, Seattle Sounders
2 goals at Dallas
Week 7 Nick Rimando, Real Salt Lake
4 saves vs. Portland
Nick Rimando, Real Salt Lake
4 saves vs. Portland
Week 8 Bradley Wright-Phillips, New York Red Bulls
4 goals vs. Houston, at Columbus
Bradley Wright-Phillips, New York Red Bulls
4 goals vs. Houston, at Columbus
April Player of the Month Clint Dempsey, Seattle Sounders
4 games, 7 goals, 2 assists
Clint Dempsey, Seattle Sounders
4 games, 7 goals, 2 assists
Week 9 Chad Marshall, Seattle Sounders
1 goal vs. Philadelphia
João Plata, Real Salt Lake
2 goals at Chicago

Landon Donovan unveiled by Club Leon

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Landon Donovan was unveiled to Club Leon fans at Estadio Leon on Monday night.

The former USMNT star and longtime LA Galaxy forward came out of retirement for the second time to sign with the Liga MX side this past weekend. Leon finished 7th in the Apertura table, losing to Tigres in the first round of the playoffs. They currently have a perfect six points through the first two Clausura matches, sitting second in the table with a +3 goal differential.

Fans were allowed into the stadium for free, and they packed the lower stand on one end, waving USA flags and holding large “L” and “D” cutouts, and the fans faced a massive board on the field that read “I DON’T BELIEVE IN WALLS.” Chants of “U-S-A” rang out through the stadium before the unveiling.

ESPN reporter Tom Marshall pointed out that the last time the club had such a large event to welcome a player, it was in January of 2013 when the club brought Mexico captain Rafa Marquez in from the New York Red Bulls.

Donovan will don the number 20 for Club Leon.

Report: Rimando to return to RSL

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USMNT veteran and current MLS free agent Nick Rimando will reportedly return to Real Salt Lake for a 12th season with the club, according to a report by Goal.com’s Ives Galarcep.

The report states he received interest on the free agent market from both Los Angeles clubs, but the 38-year-old will return to the club he has made 350 appearances for.

Rimando came to Real Salt Lake from D.C. United in 2006, and has made at least 24 league appearances in every single season since. He has also made 22 playoff appearances for the club across eight playoff campaigns.

He last received a USMNT cap in January of 2017 in a friendly against Serbia, but was part of the 2018 World Cup qualification squad throughout 2017 backing up Tim Howard. Overall, Rimando has played 22 times for the US national team, with 14 goals conceded and nine clean sheets.

The report also states that Kyle Beckerman will return to Rio Tinto Stadium, with the veteran also testing the free agent waters but deciding to re-sign. The pair will be two of just four players left on the roster from the 2009 MLS Cup winning team.

Report: Aubameyang hands in transfer request at Dortmund

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According to German publication Bild, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has handed a transfer request to the Borussia Dortmund hierarchy.

Arsenal is the latest club linked with the Gabonese striker, with reports earlier this month of a deal to send Aubameyang to China. He has reportedly asked to leave Dortmund multiple times this January, and has been turned down thus far, and it’s causing problems. Aubameyang was suspended by the club for one match for missing a meeting last week, a match that ended in a goalless draw with Wolfsburg.

[ MORE: Man United, Chelsea battle for Alexis Sanchez ]

“We had a very heated discussion,” said Dortmund sporting director Michael Zorc after the suspension was announced. “He hasn’t behaved like this for years, he’s always been very professional. What has happened is very tolerable, there will be some fines, too. It’s not necessary to talk about a transfer, but it’s clear that things can’t continue like this because some important things are in jeopardy, and that there is tension inside the squad.”

The price tag, according to recent reports, would be around $76 million, and he would be purchased with money from the likely outgoing transfer of Alexis Sanchez.

Arsenal transfer guru Sven Mislintat is reportedly driving the deal, having signed Aubameyang at Dortmund during his days as a scout from Westfalinstadion. However, there is buzz among the British media that Arsene Wenger is unimpressed by Aubameyang’s recent insubordination and has expressed his concerns.

Emre Can says new Liverpool contract still a possibility

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Liverpool midfielder Emre Can is out of contract this summer, but says he could still sign back on at Anfield despite heavy rumors of his departure.

Still just 24 years old, the German came over from Bayer Leverkusen in the summer of 2014 and has improved in each of his four years at Liverpool, flourishing under Jurgen Klopp as a strong passer and versatile player who can be used in midfield or defense. With that, he has reportedly turned down a number of new contract offers, and Juventus is reportedly in the lead to sign him to a free transfer.

[ MORE: Arsenal should follow Liverpool’s rebuilding example ]

Can is eligible to sign a pre-contract agreement with anyone from now until the end of the season, but he says that doesn’t mean he will leave.

“My agent is looking after everything but I am here until the summer,” Can said. “I haven’t signed anything with anyone. I am talking with everyone. Of course I am talking with Liverpool. Why not? I still have a contract here. It is an amazing club. What can I say? My agent does the rest. I just concentrate on the scene, on my performance and the football. I will give everything for this team.”

The loss of Philippe Coutinho this winter is an obvious blow to the Reds, but an argument could be made that the loss of Can would hurt just as much if not more, as stout defensive midfielders are hard to come by. However, the arrival of Naby Kieta this summer could ease the blow of the German’s potential departure. Should Can stay, partnering with Keita in midfield could prove masterful as Liverpool looks to continue building towards a title challenge. Currently, Can has paired with Giorgino Wijnaldum in Liverpool’s midfield in recent weeks, and the club is on a five-match win streak that has seen them shoot into third place in the Premier League table.