Brad Davis head shot

Eight teams, two World Cup hopefuls represented in PST’s Major League Soccer Team of the Week

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Forwards

Bradley Wright-Phillips, New York Red Bulls – New York’s broadcast has talked about this on air, but the key to Wright-Phillips’ rise has been his fit with Thierry Henry. His single-minded commitment to patrolling the penalty area has provided a perfect complement, making the most of the attention his play-making partner draws. On Saturday, Wright-Phillips scored his seventh, eighth, and ninth goals of the season, nearly snagging another Player of the Week honor.

We could be wrong about: Mark Sherrod (Houston Dynamo), Patrick Mullins (New England Revolution)

Midfielders

Harry Shipp, Chicago Fire – Two rookies are among our reserves up top, but this first year pro claims a place in our Best XI. Thanks to three goals and an assist against New York, Shipp also snared our Player of the Week award.

Brad Davis, Houston Dynamo (pictured) – Quietly, Davis had an very good week, one that was overlooked because Sunday’s game against Real Salt Lake was played 10-on-11. Thanks to Davis, however, the game seemed like an even strength affair until Houston’s legs went late. Between an assist on Wednesday’s winning goal and another helper against RSL, Davis had the numbers to support his case, but watching him play, you see he’s taking All-Star form into Palo Alto.

Javier Morales, Real Salt Lake – Another controlling, occasionally dominating performance from Morales overcame our bias against selecting players who play against 10. Two of the RSL midfielder’s three goals came against a full strength Dynamo, while the rest of his Sunday showed why he deserves greater consideration in early Most Valuable Player discussions.

Diego Fagundez, New England Revolution – There he is! We’ve been looking for last year’s Diego all season. On Saturday, we found him. With two first half goals flashing the finishing that pushed him into double-digits last year, Fagundez finally got onto the scoresheet. Consistent production from last year’s leading scorer could lift New England from upstart challenger to true contender.

Matias Laba, Vancouver Whitecaps – If there was one non-scorer who had a case for Player of the Week, Laba was it. He recorded an astounding 10 tackles head-manning Vancouver’s defense against the Crew. The Whitecaps only won 1-0, but thanks in part to Laba, the team generated enough open chances to take a four-goal result out of Columbus.

We could be wrong about: Jose Mari (Colorado), Lee Nguyen (New England Revolution), Diego Valeri (Portland), Andy Dorman (New England Revolution)

source: Getty ImagesDefenders

A.J. DeLaGarza, LA Galaxy – His most valuable position is in the middle, he started the season on the right, but on Sunday in Portland, DeLaGarza made his contributions on the left. Key clearances in the ninth and 31st minutes were the highlights of the versatile defender’s strong performance.

Victor Bernardez, San Jose Earthquakes (pictured) -It was a difficult call between Bernardez and partner Clarence Goodson, who (at times) seemed the better candidate. He also assisted on Cordell Cato’s goal. But Bernardez was actually the more prolific of the duo, recording 15 clearances as San Jose defended its lead against Dallas’s man advantage. Add in Bernardez’s contributions to Wednesday’s shutout of Colorado, and the Honduran international gets the spot.

David Horst, Houston Dynamo  – How can a player whose team gave up five goals be part of the team of the week? The answer is simple: By playing really, really well. Expect for one moment in Sunday’s game against RSL, Horst was his typical very strong self – somebody who has out-performed last year’s Bobby Boswell. The one time he made a mistake (allowing Javier Morales a chance on the counter), he also recovered to stifle the chance. Having also lead his team to a midweek shutout of Columbus (along with Tally Hall), Horst gets this spot.

Darius Barnes, New England Revolution – For a team that thrived after dispossessing Seattle, Barnes was involved in a number of first half turnovers at the edge of New England’s penalty area. In a three-minute span between minute 18 and 21, Barnes either created or contributed to five changes of possession. Between him and Andrew Farrell, Seattle was stunted drifting left after the match’s first moments.

We could be wrong about: Michel (FC Dallas), Farrell, Bobby Burling (Chivas USA), Dan Gargan (LA Galaxy)

Goalkeeper

Jon Busch, San Jose Earthquakes – Busch’s week: Two games, one goal allowed off the cross-bar, and a save on Blas Perez that made the highlight reels. Bobby Shuttleworth, however, made a similar save early in New England’s game against Seattle (recovering, attacker hit the ball right at the keeper). What really set Busch apart was his combined play over 180 minutes since Wednesday, a stretch that gives us a reason to tout a slightly underrated contributor.

We could be wrong about: Shuttleworth.

Klinsmann wants top-four finish at Copa America, but can the USMNT do it?

KANSAS CITY, KS - MAY 28: The USA soccer team poses for a group photo before taking on Bolivia in the international friendly match between Bolivia and United States on May 28, 2016 at Children's Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas.  (Photo by Kyle Rivas/Getty Images)
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With the United States kicking off the Copa America this Friday, Jurgen Klinsmann has made his goal clear:

Reach the final four.

After a disappointing showing last summer in the Gold Cup and a poor finish to 2015, the USMNT heads into the Copa winners of six of their last seven matches and ready to make a run. But can they really reach the semifinal?

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USMNT coverage ]

The U.S. faces their toughest test in the opening match against Colombia. One of the most dangerous teams in the tournament, few are expecting the U.S. to get a result against Los Cafeteros. Just a draw would be a great result for Klinsmann’s men, but it will be a big ask against the fourth-ranked team in the world.

The second match against Costa Rica is key. The two CONCACAF foes have plenty of experience playing against each other, and it is a relatively even matchup. The last time these sides met in October, the U.S. put in one of their worst performances ever under Klinsmann, and he must avoid a similar result at the Copa. If the United States wants to secure their position as one of CONCACAF’s top two sides along with Mexico, they cannot afford to drop points against Costa Rica.

Paraguay will be the USMNT’s final opponent, a very intriguing matchup for Klinsmann. Paraguay’s recent form doesn’t look threatening on paper, as Ramon Diaz’s side has not won since November, taking just two wins from their last 12 matches overall. However, they reached the quarterfinals in last summer’s Copa, earning a draw against Argentina and knocking out Brazil in penalty kicks.

[ MORE: Klinsmann excited about USMNT’s promising youngsters ]

The two sides that advance from Group A will face off against Group B in the quarters. Brazil are the heavy favorites in that group, paired with Ecuador, Peru, and Haiti. The U.S. beat Ecuador last week, defeated Peru in a September friendly, and are strides above Haiti, arguably the weakest team in the field. With Brazil likely to win Group B, a second-place finish in Group A would give the U.S. a brutal matchup in the quarters. Brazil embarrassed Klinsmann’s side in Massachusetts last fall, walking over the U.S. en route to an easy 4-1 win.

[ MORE: Mexico’s Pulido fought off kidnappers to call police for help ]

With the prospect of potentially facing Brazil in the quarters, the U.S. needs to put all their focus on winning Group A if Klinsmann really wants to reach the semifinals. The only match that the U.S. is not expected to take points from is the opener against Colombia, meaning a surprise result, however unlikely it may be, could kickstart a nice little run for the Stars and Stripes.

Firm issues plan urging companies to let employees watch EURO 2016

SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND - MAY 27:  Wayne Rooney of England celebrates with team mates after scoring his team's second goal of the game during the International Friendly match between England and Australia at Stadium of Light on May 27, 2016 in Sunderland, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
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Worried about trying to balance work with EURO 2016 this summer? Acas is here to help.

Acas, a British conciliation firm that helps companies maintain good working relationships with their employees, has called for bosses to allow their staff to watch EURO matches.

[ MORE: Bellerin to make Spain squad ]

Some matches, including England’s Group B showdown with Wales, kick off during the workday at 3 p.m. London time.

Sir Brendan Barber, who is the chairman of Acas, believes workers should be given some time off during games, or work later hours on other days to allow time to watch the EURO.

The EURO 2016 tournament is an exciting event for football fans but staff should avoid getting a red card for unreasonable demands or behaviour in the workplace during this period.

Employers should have a set of agreements before kick-off to help ensure their businesses remain productive while keeping staff happy too.

Our guidance can help managers get the best from their teams, arrange substitutions if necessary and avoid unnecessary penalties or unplanned sendings off.

With the tournament getting underway on June 10, I suggest printing out Acas’ statement and seeing if your boss will follow the sage advice of Sir Brendan Barber.

VIDEO: Payet scores sensational free kick winner for France

AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - MARCH 25:  Dimitri Payet of France in action during the International Friendly match between Netherlands and France at Amsterdam Arena on March 25, 2016 in Amsterdam, Netherlands.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
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Don’t let Dimitri Payet get a free kick, because he’s probably going to score.

After scoring four of his 12 goals for West Ham from dead-ball situations this season, his touch has carried over to the French national team.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s EURO coverage ]

With France playing Cameroon and the match tied 2-2 in the 90th minute, Payet stepped up from about 30 yards out and did this:

While there may be some suspect goalkeeping on this one, it’s a stellar strike that found the top corner perfectly from a tough angle for a right-footed shot.

[ MORE: Saints set to give Long new contract as Liverpool, Spurs show interest ]

Payet has three goals for the French national team, with two of them coming from free kicks. After being named to the PFA Team of the Year this season, Payet will be a key member of the France squad that has high hopes as the host nation for the upcoming EURO.

El Tri striker Pulido fought kidnappers, used cell phone to call police

HYERES, FRANCE - JUNE 01:  Alan Pulido (no.19) of Mexico celebrates his goal during the Toulon Tournament Final between  Mexico and Turkey at Stade Perruc on June 1, 2012 in Hyeres, France.  (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)
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More details have been released regarding Alan Pulido’s kidnapping in Mexico.

The Mexican international and Olympiakos striker was taken at gunpoint early Sunday morning in Tamaulipas. He was then freed on Monday after a police “rescue operation.”

Seen leaving the police station with a bandaged hand, officials have now given information on how Pulido was injured.

[ MORE: PSG defender Aurier arrested ]

The 25-year-old striker cut his hand while punching through a glass pane in an attempt to escape. Officials also said Pulido fought his kidnapper, doing enough to grab a cell phone and notify police of his whereabouts.

From BBC News:

State prosecutor Ismael Quintanilla said the masked gang had taken Pulido to a house in Ciudad Victoria where he eventually found himself alone with one of his abductors.

“They traded blows. He takes it [the phone] and calls [emergency number] 066. It all happened very quickly,” Mr Quintanilla told Imagen radio.

An official report of the calls Pulido made to the emergency operator, obtained by the Associated Press, revealed that he threatened and beat the kidnapper while on the phone, demanding to be told where they were.

In one of the calls, Pulido said police were outside and starting to shoot so he described what he was wearing to avoid being mistaken for a kidnapper.

A wild situation, but the most important thing is that Pulido is safe while one arrest has been made.