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

Huddersfield seal fairytale promotion to Premier League

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LONDON — Huddersfield Town have been promoted to the Premier League.

Let that sink in.

[ MORE: Wagner reacts to “fairytale” ]

The Terriers, for the first time in their history, will play in the PL and for the first time since 1972 they will be in the top-flight of English soccer.

German-American manager David Wagner has worked a miracle to turnaround a team who finished in 19th place in the Championship last season. They beat Reading 4-3 on penalty kicks on Monday after a tight, tense 120 minutes of action at Wembley Stadium, holding their nerve to seal an estimated windfall of $218 million next season and up to $372 million if they survive in the PL for another season.

All day long, and perhaps all season long, it has felt like Huddersfield were destined for promotion.

Huddersfield sold out their full allocation of tickets, 39,150, and their fans made the most noise all day long. There was no contest.

In central London Huddersfield’s fans piled on to the tube heading to Wembley for their day of reckoning.

“It’s his first full season as a fan!” said a proud mother decked out in a Huddersfield shirt as she hugged her five-year-old son proudly. “What a time to start!” replied a stranger, also a Huddersfield fan.

Excited chatter filled the 15 minute tube ride from Baker Street to Wembley Park as fans “I can’t believe it,” said one fan to another, quietly. “It will hit home when we get into the stadium,” his friend replied.

Steven Sunderland stood outside Wembley with his wife Melanie and their daughter Megan.

He summed up the surprise that Huddersfield were even one game away from the Premier League to start with.

“It would be amazing to play all of the big clubs, Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, clubs like that,” Sunderland said. “I never thought we would make it. No chance. I just thought if we make midtable, it would be an improvement on last season because we’ve been struggling with relegation the last few seasons. This season, David Wagner has got the team playing really well, best team spirit I’ve ever seen for a long, long time. The fans are really connected. It shows today, there are nearly 40,000 Huddersfield fans here today and they are up for it.”

Oh yes. Yes they were.

Amid dissecting the struggles of Yorkshire rivals Leeds United, talk of just going up to the PL for one year and then enjoying it “no matter how we do” was rife among the Huddersfield fans. One Terriers supporter puffed out his cheeks, gripping his can of cider nervously as he walked up Wembley Way.

Tense was the word of the day.

With the future of both clubs on the line, the game itself didn’t deliver end-to-end excitement. With an estimated $218 million on the line for next season and $370 million if they manage to stay up one year in the PL, the economic benefit for Huddersfield the club, and the town, will be huge.

When Michael Hefele headed wide and Isaiah Brown missed a glorious chance early on, you began to wonder if it was Huddersfield’s day. In the end none of that mattered.

Christopher Schindler stepped up and slotted home the winning penalty kick after Danny Ward saved from Jordan Obita as Huddersfield had reached the promised land.

Huddersfield chairman Dean Hoyle summed up his emotions after taking over the club and putting in a prudent plan for promotion involving loan players and a budget less than $12 million this season.

“I’m so emotional. To say I’ve been supporting this club since 1969, to be a Premier League team now – dreams come true,” Hoyle said. “It’s huge what it means for Huddersfield, we’re on the big stage. It proves you don’t have to blow your brains to get promoted. We’ve done it the right way.”

What impact will this have on the Yorkshire town?

Sunderland and his family summed it up perfectly as yet another underdog, just like Bournemouth, Blackpool and Burnley before them, has risen to the promised land.

“It is massive. It is the land of milk and honey if you like, the place where everybody wants to be,” Sunderland said. “It will be brilliant, for the town. Just that little bit of success makes a big difference. We’ve been on TV this season more times than we have been the last 10 seasons. Next year it will be high profile very week. Match of the Day, on TV… Champions League the year after!? You never know.”

What did Wagner have to say? He told ProSoccerTalk he wants Huddersfield to keep the identity he has helped build and nurture.

“We have to be focused on ourselves and this football club has to be focused on themselves. This football club has created an identity and this was always our target, that we create an identity and a style of football where even if we wear neutral jerseys people from outside are able to say ‘okay, that could be Huddersfield.’ I think it makes no sense to compare ourselves with other small clubs. This football club has its own story and I think, we are on the way.”

They certainly are. Watch out, Premier League. Huddersfield are on their way.

David Wagner reacts to Huddersfield’s promotion

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LONDON — There will be an American coach in the Premier League next season.

David Wagner, 45, led Huddersfield Town to its first-ever promotion to the Premier League as the Terriers beat Reading 4-3 on penalty kicks after a tense Championship Playoff Final at Wembley which ended 0-0 after 120 minutes.

Speaking after the nail-biting win, Wagner was delighted that his team proved everyone wrong and came from nowhere to reach the top-flight for the first time since 1972.

“A lot of the pundits wrote us off before the season,” Wagner told Sky Sports. “Over the season I thought we could do a little bit more, I thought around Christmas when we’d played everyone we had a chance. What happened is an unbelievable story – a fairytale.”

The former U.S. national team forward has galvanized the club, linking the team and fans together with passion and a plethora of loan players from the likes of Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea.

What he has achieved this season has left Huddersfield fans stunned as the former Borussia Dortmund II boss, who left the German giants in November 2015, has built a hardworking, organized team.

ProSoccerTalk asked Wagner if he will look at any of the smaller teams who have been recently promoted to the PL — the likes of Bournemouth, Burnley et al. — to follow a blueprint of how to plan ahead.

“We have to be focused on ourselves and this football club has to be focused on themselves,” Wagner said. “This football club has created an identity and this was always our target, that we create an identity and a style of football where even if we wear neutral jerseys people from outside are able to say ‘okay, that could be Huddersfield.’ I think it makes no sense to compare ourselves with other small clubs. This football club has its own story and I think, we are on the way.”

They are certainly on their way and we will be hearing a lot about the Terriers in the days and weeks to come.

Huddersfield promoted to Premier League after PK drama

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LONDON — Huddersfield Town beat Reading 4-3 on penalty kicks in the Championship Playoff Final at Wembley on Monday to secure promotion to the Premier League for the first time in club history.

[ MORE: JPW on”miracle” for Terriers ]

In a tense, tight game Huddersfield missed big chances early on and Reading fought back valiantly but the Terriers won and secured an estimated $218 million jackpot for next season.

German-American manager David Wagner who got the better of Jaap Stam as his team won 4-3 on penalty kicks as Danny Ward saved Jordan Obita‘s spot kick and then Christopher Schindler scored the winner.

[ MORE: Wagner reacts to fairytale

A remarkable story as Huddersfield secured promotion to the top-flight of English soccer for the first time in 1972.

Huddersfield had the first big chance of the game as Aaron Mooy‘s free kick from the left found Michael Hefele but he nodded just wide after rising at the back post.

The Terriers continued to press and had a glorious chance to take the lead as Elias Kachunga got free on the right side of the box and his shot across goal looked destined to be tapped home by Isaiah Brown… but somehow he shinned the effort wide from one yard out.

At the other end Reading went close when Lewis Grabban dropped deep and curled towards the top corner but it flew just wide.

Huddersfield continued to pour forward in search of the opener as Nahki Wells’ cross was hooked clear and Reading, somehow, went in level at the break.

Reading started the second half well as John Swift burst into the box but his show was straight at Danny Ward who saved.

That effort sparked Huddersfield back into life as they twice surged into the box but couldn’t find the final pass at the crucial moment.

The game grew more tense as the clock ticked closer to 90 minutes with substitute Collin Quaner failing to get proper contact on Aaron Mooy’s cross.

Late on Reading pushed forward as Hefele made a wonderful last-ditch clearance with Yann Kermorgant lurking and Huddersfield lost captain Tommy Smith to a serious injury.

Seven minutes of stoppage time couldn’t find a winner, so the game went in to extra time but an extra 30 minutes failed to open up the game as Garath McCleary drilled a low shot wide and then Nahki Wells dragged a tired effort wide in the 116th minute and that was as close as either team came to scoring.

After 120 minutes it finished 0-0 and penalty kicks were needed to decide who gained promotion to the Premier League.

Huddersfield won on penalty kicks after Danny Ward saved Jordan Obita’s spot kick and then Schindler stepped up to send the Terriers into the top flight for the first time since 1972.

Marco Reus out several months with cruciate ligament tear

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DORTMUND, Germany (AP) Borussia Dortmund attacking midfielder Marco Reus has been ruled out for several months with a partial tear of the cruciate ligament in his right knee.

Reus suffered the injury in Saturday’s German Cup final and Dortmund says, “Further examinations will be conducted over the next few days to determine what course of treatment is required. Borussia Dortmund will therefore not make any precise prognosis on the possible length of the player’s absence.”

Reus, who had been left out of Germany’s Confederations Cup squad after a season plagued by injury, suffered the latest blow in the first half of Dortmund’s 2-1 win over Eintracht Frankfurt in the German season’s showpiece in Berlin.

Dortmund’s win gave the 27-year-old Reus his first title in a career of persistent injury setbacks.