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Three RSL, two Sporting players highlight PST’s MLS Team of the Week

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Forwards

João Plata, Real Salt Lake – Major League Soccer’s Player of the Week, Plata scored twice in Real Salt Lake’s comeback from in Chicago. When healthy, he’s been RSL’s best attacker, and after providing the team’s first and last goals on Saturday, the Ecuadorian’s up to five in six appearances this season.

We could be wrong about: Álvaro Saborío, Real Salt Lake; Patrick Mullins, New England Revolution; Giles Barnes, Houston Dynamo

Midfielders

Diego Valeri, Portland Timbers – The Portland number 10 played a key part in all three goals during the Timbers’ first win of the season: from his cross for Gastón Fernández on the first minute opener; his corner for Futty Danso on Portland’s second; to his ball to the near post for Maxi Urruti’s 94th minute winner. Portland may be struggling to recapture its 2013 form, but Diego Valeri is not.

Kekuta Manneh, Vancouver Whitecaps – The Vancouver winger only played 57 minutes, but in that time he scored one of the weekend’s best goals, fed Darren Mattocks ahead of Vancouver’s penalty kick, and assisted on Pedro Morales’s second goal. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to justify keeping the 19-year-old out of the starting XI.

Javier Morales, Real Salt Lake – Though he was overshadowed by Plata’s exploits, Morales was his typical, brilliant self, with his ability to make himself available for his teammates — be it wide, or dropping deep — particularly valuable. Morales assisted on the team’s opening goal, led his team in passes (77, at an 89 percent clip), and, per Opta, set up five chances for his teammates.

Pedro Morales, Vancouver Whitecaps – It took his three tries, but on the third he had from just beyond San Jose’s penalty area, he made the Earthquakes pay, burying what would become the day’s game-winning goal. Before that, the Chilean had converted from the spot as well as resumed the dominant, tempo-pushing form we saw from the Designated Player before his back problems. Combined with BC Place’s field, Morales may be the most entertaining player in Major League Soccer. Let’s hope the leg injury that hobbled him in Saturday’s second half isn’t serious.

Kyle Beckerman, Real Salt Lake – Like left backs, right backs … goalkeepers, fullbacks, and strikers … we’re committed to keeping a defensive midfielder in this team, since almost every team uses one. This week, however, wasn’t a stand-out week for destroyers (holders, anchors, sitters, what have you), which allowed a typically solid Beckerman week to snare this spot. After a somewhat slow start, Beckerman’s distribution was key to RSL maintaining pressure on the Fire, pressure that eventually produced a 3-2 win.

We could be wrong about: Boniek Garcia, Houston Dynamo; Darlington Nagbe, Portland Timbers; Lee Nguyen, New England Revolution; Harry Shipp, Chicago Fire

Defenders

Chance Myers, Sporting Kansas City – The ball Myers played in ahead of Jacob Peterson’s opening goal was the right back’s highlight package contribution, but a series of smaller contributions made the former first overall pick an easy choice at fullback. Be it with good reads that helped Sporting maintain possession or smart switches of play, Myers even exceeded his normal, solid self. Relative to his competition, this was one of the clearer picks on the board.

Chad Marshall, Seattle Sounders – We already sang Marshall’s praises in our Player of the Week post, so it should be no surprise he ends up here again. As Seattle has struggled to work out its midfield and adjust to a new goalkeeper, Marshall’s experience has helped limit the damage at the back. Through nine weeks, he’s been Major League Soccer’s best defender.

Matt Besler, Sporting Kansas City – Four days after we noted the ever-solid Besler had yet to have a stand-out performance (or, yet to be asked to give one), the Sporting captain played his best game of the season, making up for the absence of partner Aurèlien Collin. His switch of play before the defending champions’ first goal garnered the gasps, but his four defensive plays between the 45th and 55th minutes may have been more important. Chris Schuler had a more prolific day, but Besler still snared our honor.

Raymon Gaddis, Philadelphia Union  – Every time we note the competition at a position wasn’t strong in a given week, it feels like a put-down to the player we select, but often those weeks give us a chance to recognize a player whose steady performances have kept him under the radar. This week, an almost error-free performance from Raymon Gaddis gives us a chance to sing his praise. The versatile Philly defender had a down moment in Saturday’s 75th minute, around which he was his typical, reliable self. Despite the presence of DeAndre Yedlin and Sheanon Williams, he was the day’s best fullback.

We could be wrong about: Josh Williams, Columbus Crew; Chris Schuler, Real Salt Lake; Drew Moor, Colorado Rapids

Goalkeepers

Luis Robles, New York Red Bulls – Goalkeepers for teams playing 11-on-10 shouldn’t be put in a position to make Team of the Week. Good thing for New York they have one of the league’s best shot stoppers, with Robles coming up with a huge second half penalty to keep the Red Bulls even (they would go on to win, 1-0).  Robles finished with three saves, enough to give him the nod in a week where no number one stole the show.

We could be wrong about: Steve Clark, Columbus Crew

UEFA Champions League final preview — Madrid’s finest Real or Atleti?

MILAN, ITALY - MAY 27:  Diego Simeone head coach of Atletico Madrid looks on during an Atletico de Madrid training session on the eve of the UEFA Champions League Final against Real Madrid at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on May 27, 2016 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
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Saturday’s UEFA Champions League final isn’t quite the unstoppable force against the immovable object — Real’s defense is good and Atleti has plenty of attacking intent — but it’s fair if you’re expecting the Madrid Derby final to be Diego Simeone’s diligent defenders attempting to counter Cristiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid’s potent attack.

[ MORE: Mourinho confirmed ]

Simeone’s built his name on tight teamwork, and La Liga teams broke Atleti down a mere 18 times in 38 matches this season. Before you crow about the weakness of Spain’s top flight from top to bottom, Real only managed a single goal against Atleti in a 1-1 draw that came at the Vicente Calderon. Atleti triumphed 1-0 at the Bernabeu to take four of six points from their derby mates.

But this is the big one, and a rematch of the late thriller we saw in the 2014 final. That’s when Diego Godin’s 36th minute goal came within seconds of being the difference, only for Sergio Ramos to net in stoppage time and Real to score three goals in extra time for a 4-1 win.

[ MORE: Torres ready for “game of my life” ]

Ronaldo will be fine to go, which is obviously bad news for Atleti. While his goal at the end of the 2014 final was just chiseled-ab window dressing, he has scored in both of his UCL finals (He scored for Manchester United in the 26th minute of their 2008 defeat of Chelsea).

(Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)

The beauty of Atleti’s defense is how well it springs into the attack, with Godin and Filipe Luis both capable of providing offense.

But really, with respect to Gabi and Antoine Griezmann… that defense! Atleti allowed three goals in the group stage, and just seven across its 12 UCL matches.

How will Simeone aim to stop Real this time around? Will it be banks of four or five, with Torres and Griezmann waiting to strike on a fleet-footed counter? That could serve their disciplined unit well, but something tells me Simeone has something special cooked up for this much-anticipated rematch, and manager is a distinct edge for Atleti against a still-learning Zinedine Zidane.

As an aside, Griezmann has been fantastic, scoring 32 times this year with seven coming in the UCL. Torres is second in scoring, with 12.

Championship playoff preview: Sheffield Wednesday vs. Hull City

DERBY, UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 14:  Eldin Jakupovic of Hull City celebrates as Andrew Robertson of Hull City scores their third goal during the Sky Bet Championship Play Off semi final first leg match between Derby County and Hull City at the iPro Stadium on May 14, 2016 in Derby, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
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One is hoping to rejoin the Premier League at the first time of asking, while the other to see its first top flight action since 2000 with a win in Saturday’s promotion playoff final at Wembley Stadium.

Hull City did not make the top flight from its inception in 1904 until winning the playoffs in 2008. Since, the Tigers have spent a pair of 2-season stints in the Premier League.

Sheffield Wednesday, for its part, spent nine seasons in the top tier from 1991-2000, but fell as low as League One in the 21st century before a run to the playoffs this season.

[ MORE: Three battles that could determine UCL final ]

Hull’s stingy defense allowed 35 goals this season, tied for the second-best mark in the league, while scoring the fourth-most goals (69). The Tigers finished in fourth place to Wednesday’s sixth, and the sides drew 0-0 at Hull and 1-1 in the reverse fixture.

Uruguayan striker Abel Hernandez was far and away Hull’s most deadly scorer, notching 21 goals in the Championship this season, while Sam Clucas paced the club with 8 assists.

Wednesday’s scoring was paced by former Watford attacker Fernando Forestieri’s 15 goals. Veteran Gary Hooper added 13 for the Owls, who got a team-best eight assists from Ross Wallace.

It’s the “richest game in sports”, and kicks off at Noon ET Saturday.

Sturridge injured again, Rashford set for England debut

England v Norway - International Friendly
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GATESHEAD, England (AP) England striker Daniel Sturridge has picked up another injury, potentially affecting his chances of being selected for the European Championship.

England manager Roy Hodgson says Sturridge has a calf injury that has prevented him from training and is a doubt to play in the warmup match against Australia on Friday. Hodgson has until Tuesday to finalize his 23-man squad for the tournament in France.

[ MORE: Mourinho confirmed | Speaks more ]

Sturridge has been beset by injury problems in recent years.

His latest injury increases the possibility of 18-year-old Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford‘s fairytale season being extended to include Euro 2016.

Hodgson said Thursday that Rashford will make his debut against Australia in Sunderland – as a starter if Sturridge isn’t fit. Rashford only made his United debut in February.

Ex-Leicester boss Pearson hired by Derby County

Nigel Pearson, Leicester City FC
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Nigel Pearson lives.

The combustible former manager of Southampton, Hull City and Leicester City will now lead Derby County in the hopes of Premier League promotion.

Derby has been on the edge of promotion to the Premier League for several seasons, but neither Steve McClaren and Darren Wassall could do the trick.

[ MORE: Mourinho confirmed | Speaks more ]

Enter Pearson, 52, who has been hired on a three-year deal. It’s his first stop since a roller coaster ride saw him guide Leicester into the Premier League, only to be fired in the aftermath of some players being involved in a racist sex tape incident on a tour of Thailand.

This was after a bizarre season that saw him put his hands on an opposing player’s throat, call a journalist an ostrich, and ultimately save Leicester from the drop.

From Derby County’s site:

“I am honoured to be named as the Manager of Derby County, which is one of the biggest clubs in the country, a club in excellent shape and one with strong ambitions. It is firmly focused on achieving Premier League football.

“I will give absolutely everything I have to this role and do all I can to bring exciting, entertaining and winning football which our supporters can be proud of.”

At the very least, the Rams will be interesting to watch next season.