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

Lamela needs hip surgery, out for rest of Spurs season

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Tottenham Hotspur won’t be getting an Erik Lamela boost any time soon.

The 25-year-old winger will undergo surgery on his ailing hip this Saturday, costing him availability for Spurs’ stretch run and Argentina duty.

[ MORE: RSL hires Petke ]

Lamela has been missing since Oct. 29, and left Spurs lineup with the team unbeaten in the Premier League (5W-4D).

He registered a goal and an assist in PL play, adding a goal and four helpers in the side’s first two rounds of the EFL Cup and two assists in three Champions League matches.

Real Salt Lake introduces Mike Petke as new head coach

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Mike Petke is getting a deserved next kick as an MLS coach.

The New York Red Bulls icon, 41, is taking over at Real Salt Lake, where he had been leading USL side Real Monarchs since December.

“They’re an animal waiting to be released from a cage,” Petke called RSL’s roster.

[ MORE: Zlatan to stay at United?

Petke won better than 41 percent of his matches as RBNY boss, leading the club to the 2013 Supporters’ Shield. This came after 351 matches between Colorado, the Red Bulls/MetroStars, and DC United.

He leaves Real Monarchs with a perfect 1-0 record. Unbeaten!

“The vision that he laid out, along with Craig and Rob, was music to my ears,” Petek said. “They really showed me what was ahead for the RSL organization, and it was an easy thing to be a part of.”

Petke thanked the Monarchs for restoring some of his love for managing, something he said was “kicked out of me”. The Red Bulls shockingly parted ways with Petke in January 2015, moving onto Jesse Marsch.

This is a low risk hire for Real, who gains a respected coach and soccer mind. The optics aren’t great coming so early into the season and so soon after his hiring at Monarchs raised eyebrows.

The hiring comes four days after RSL drew the Red Bulls 0-0 at Red Bull Arena, which is the only disappointment of this whole ordeal: Not getting to see the response at his old home.

Referee leaders want on-field official to see video replays

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LONDON (AP) Antoine Griezmann headed the ball into the net and was in full celebration mode with his France teammates when referee Felix Swayer pinned a finger into his left ear to block out the stadium noise.

[ VIDEO: VAR system used correctly

An assistant in front of a bank of monitors was assessing replays and had some bad news for Griezmann. Swayer was told through his earpiece that a player was offside in the buildup.

The goal was then ruled out, without Swayer seeing a replay. But that won’t necessarily be the case by the time video replays are fully approved to be rolled out across soccer.

For now, the experimental phase is still in full flow but if refereeing leaders get their way officials should always have access to the footage themselves around the field.

“The subjective decisions should be made by the on-field referee because they have got the feel for the game,” Mike Riley, general manager of English refereeing organization, told The Associated Press. “They can put it in the context of everything else. So as part of the process we have got to work out how we can do that as effectively as possible … without interrupting the flow of the game.”

The International Football Association Board, the game’s lawmaking body, is in its second year of trials with various versions of video assistant referees (VAR). Some games, like the France-Spain friendly, do not allow the referee to evaluate incidents and instead by rely on the VAR.

But VAR could end up only ruling on what Riley describes as “decisions of fact,” such as whether a ball was inside or outside the penalty area.

Ultimately, if you are appointing one of the top referees to preside over a major game, that person is seen as ideal for making the big calls, according to IFAB.

“Fundamentally we are told very much by players and coaches they want the referee to be making the most important decisions,” IFAB technical director David Elleray said, referencing England’s top referee. “They don’t know who is in a van out in the car park or 300 miles away in a match center.”

Soccer’s lawmakers only envisage video replays being used to correct game-changing decisions involving four situations: penalties being awarded, red cards, cases of mistaken identity and goals being scored.

That situation arose twice in the Stade de France on Tuesday as France lost 2-0 to Spain. After Griezmann’s goal was disallowed, video replays worked against France again but in Spain’s favor when an incorrect offside call against Gerard Deulofeu was overturned and his goal stood.

Swayer again relied on the information from a colleague benefiting from replays.

“Nicola Rizzoli was appointed to referee the last World Cup final because he is the best referee,” Elleray said. “But if actually the two most important decisions in the match are made by somebody watching a TV screen … the most important person is the man you put behind the TV screen not the man on the field.”

The challenges are how referees are able to view replays without lengthening the delay. For now the technology isn’t satisfactory for officials to use wearable devices and receive footage in real time. That means going to the side of the field to watch incidents with the eyes of thousands of fans in the stands on them. The screens are likely to be on the opposite side to the technical area to avoid coaches being able to surround and harangue the referee.

“Some of our stadiums don’t lend themselves to monitors by the side of the pitch because they are really tight,” said Riley, a former Premier League referee who is now in charge of appointments for games in the world’s richest soccer competition. “Is it right for referees to have to run 30 yards to go and look? Can you get the footage to the referee on the field somehow? All these things have to be explored through the experiment and come out with a solution that works for football.”

Live experiments are taking place in about 20 competitions this year, including the Confederations Cup in Russia in June and July that will serves as a World Cup test event.

Once IFAB adds video replays to the laws of the game, any competition meeting the requirements will be able to use them.

For Riley, permitting replays is “the most significant change in refereeing in the game for generations,” far more significant than the 2012 decision to allow technology that simply determines whether the ball crossed the goal line.

“If you are making such a significant change,” Riley said, “you need to really explore and understand all the potential implications.”

Rob Harris can be followed at http://www.twitter.com/RobHarris and http://www.facebook.com/RobHarrisReports

Amid fanfare, Bastian Schweinsteiger arrives in Chicago

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Arriving at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, it is clear Bastian Schweinsteiger is kind of a big deal…

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Posing for photos with fans as he stepped off the flight with his wife, former Serbian tennis star Ana Ivanovic, the former Bayern Munich midfielder was mobbed by Chicago Fire fans who are delighted he has arrived in Major League Soccer as the newest Designated Player.

The German legend has completed his move from Manchester United to the Fire and will be officially unveiled to the media on Wednesday after signing a one-year deal.

[ MORE: Latest MLS news ]

Schweinsteiger, 32, has already had a training session in the books and the World Cup winner is expected to make his debut in Chicago’s home clash with the Montreal Impact on Saturday at Toyota Park.

Below is a video of Schweinsteiger’s arrival in Chicago, his first training session and a collection of photos he took with ecstatic Fire fans.