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ProSoccerTalk’s Premier League Best XI: Suarez and Yaya Toure headline

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Certain players just stick out when crafting a Best XI from the 2013/14 Premier League.

Luis Suarez, Yaya Toure, Eden Hazard — no right-minded journo would argue that these men don’t deserve a place in the Best XI. This season we can even throw Southampton’s talismanic captain, Adam Lallana, into that mix after the 26-year-old attacking midfielder swerved and slipped his way through nearly every defense he faced.

Yet the deeper one delves into a Best XI, the more controversial the picks become. Many would argue Steven Gerrard should be guaranteed a spot, while others will tell you that the love for Stevie G is the result of a heavy-handed media and too many conversions from the penalty spot.

Mile Jedinak in his place? Don’t be ridiculous. But the fact is, Jedinak was a bull in the Crystal Palace midfield this season and arguably just as important to his team as Gerrard was to Liverpool. Plus, Jedinak didn’t slip up when everything was on the line.

Too soon?

Point being, one of the best things about the beautiful game is it truly is in the eye of the beholder. Below, we the writers of ProSoccerTalk set forth our Best XI of the Premier League season.

Disagree? Consider the comments your friend space.


source: Getty ImagesBesides the greatest villain/owner the Premier League has ever known (Vincent Tan), the best thing to come out of Cardiff City this season was undoubtedly David Marshall.

In his first Premier League season, the 29-year-old Scot wowed audiences with his plastic-like extensions and finger-tip saves, 153 of them to be exact. Proving why, despite the Bluebirds being relegated, Marshall is a prime candidate for a summer transfer back to the Premier League.

PST’s Goalkeeper Nominees
Nicholas Mendola: Wojciech Szczesny
Kyle Bonn: David Marshall
Joe Prince-Wright: David Marshall
Richard Farley: David Marshal
Mike Prindiville: David Marshall


source: APThe best center-back duo joins the best full-back duo in our team of the year. It was a glorious season for the Chelsea defense, conceding a league best 27 goals, with Terry and Cahill forming a formidable partnership along the way. Both men possess the bulk, aerial and tackling ability to frustrate any striker and remain persistent threats on set pieces.

The partnership of Baines and Coleman frustrated many a side by playing more like wingers who recover defensively than full-backs who get forward. In past seasons, Everton’s pitch was tilted left towards Baines but this season things evened out and perhaps even tilted in the opposite direction when the tireless Coleman bombed forward to score six goals.

PST’s Defender Nominees
Nicholas Mendola: Pablo Zabaleta, Martin Skrtel, Curtis Davies, Leighton Baines
Kyle Bonn: Pablo Zabaleta, John Terry, Vincent Kompany, Leighton Baines
Joe Prince-Wright: Seamus Coleman, John Terry, Gary Cahill, Luke Shaw
Richard Farley: Seamus Coleman, Gary Cahill, John Terry, Leighton Baines
Mike Prindiville: Seamus Coleman, Branislav Ivanovic, John Terry, Leighton Baines


source:  No shocks here as all four of these players enjoyed incredible seasons. At 31-years-old, Yaya Toure beasted his way towards his best season ever, scoring 20 league goals, more than double his tally from any previous season. That effort was nearly mimicked by Gerrard, who at 33-years-old ripped off 13 goals and 13 seasons in a redefining season for the Liverpool captain.

Perhaps no player busted out this season like Lallana, who notched nine goals and six assists for the Saints earning him an undisputed spot on the plane to Brazil. Joining the playmaker is Hazard, who lit up the Chelsea wing, scorching defenders for 14 goals and 7 assists all the while infuriating manager Jose Mourinho for a lack of defensive grit. Go figure.

PST’s Midfielder Nominees
Nicholas Mendola: Yaya Toure, Adam Lallana, Eden Hazard, Mile Jedinak
Kyle Bonn: Yaya Toure, Adam Lallana, Eden Hazard, Steven Gerrard
Joe Prince-Wright: Yaya Toure, Adam Lallana, Eden Hazard, Steven Gerrard
Richard Farley: Yaya Toure, Adam Lallana, Eden Hazard, Fernandinho
Mike Prindiville: Yaya Toure, Adam Lallana, Eden Hazard, Ross Barkley


source: Getty ImagesArguably the most competitive spot to earn a Best XI accolade was up top where, besides the Premier League record tying goals feat of Luis Suarez (31), it was a free for all.

Sergio Aguero and Edin Dzeko both enjoyed fantastic seasons, the former slightly derailed by injury and the latter by a lack of early season playing time, while Wilfried Bony (16 goals) basically put the entire Swansea City side on his back and dragged them to relegation safety.

But at the end of the day, Daniel Sturridge was fantastic putting home 21 goals and seven assists in just 29 appearances. Alongside Suarez, the duo known as SAS was the most formidable strike partnership in the world but even more impressive was the class Sturridge displayed when the Uruguayan was out – scoring worldies from all over the pitch. Late season injuries dulled him down a bit but it mattered little because in the 2013/14 season, Sturridge announced himself as one of the most dangerous strikers in the world.

PST’s Forward Nominees
Nicholas Mendola: Luis Suarez, Wilfried Bony
Kyle Bonn: Luis Suarez, Wayne Rooney
Joe Prince-Wright: Luis Suarez, Sergio Aguero
Richard Farley: Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge
Mike Prindiville: Luis Suarez, Edin Dzeko

‘Ravens’ challenge soccer orthodoxy in Belarus

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MINSK, Belarus (AP) Less than three years ago, Alexander Skshinetsky’s soccer career seemed over.

The former under-21 international found himself unemployed after his career stalled, and was working on construction sites when an offer came. Would he consider joining an amateur team that had been playing seven-a-side soccer but now wanted to go pro, founded by a small group of fans staking thousands of dollars of their own money to build a club from scratch?

Two seasons and two promotions later, the 26-year-old midfielder is a key player in one of European soccer’s most unlikely success stories. In only its third professional season, Krumkachy Minsk is playing top-flight soccer, beating established names and challenging the economic orthodoxy in one of Europe’s most closed-off countries.

[ MORE: Nyarko says DC can aim high in MLS Playoffs ]

Krumkachy – “Ravens” in Belarusian – has soared into the country’s top league with a shoestring budget but an enthusiastic and growing fan base of hipsters, families and others turned off by the stagnation of soccer in the ex-Soviet nation. Before a recent run of losses, it was even challenging for Europa League qualification.

The secret has been finding talented players on the verge of leaving the game, or even those who have already quit, “people who have been underestimated and put down,” in the words of co-founder Denis Shunto, who set up Krumkachy with friends in 2011. “We get those guys and we can really make them into a team.”

After starting out in recreational competitions, Shunto and his friends decided to aim higher. Belarusian soccer has a three-tier league system packed with clubs backed by various government agencies and state-run factories in the country’s Soviet-style economy, a set-up which prefers predictability over ambition and can give rise to conflicts of interest. With a spot open in the third tier, but without a state patron, Krumkachy scraped together a few thousand dollars to apply. Each subsequent step up the pyramid brought predictions of imminent financial collapse.

“Everyone said we wouldn’t have the money, we couldn’t take part,” said Skshinetsky, the midfielder. “We played for free in the second division, and in the first division it wasn’t much. Maybe $100 for a win in the first division and salaries maybe $150 (a month).”

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On a freezing Friday night in Minsk, the crowd was small and the game scrappy. Goalkeeping errors helped to hand Krumkachy a 2-1 win which all but ensured the club’s top-flight survival for 2017 in the Belarusian league’s calendar-year system. Financial survival is always a trickier question.

“We’ve got the smallest budget (in the league) and we’re still putting money in ourselves,” said Shunto, who wonders if the approach of going without government funding may be “too romantic.”

At Friday’s game, commercial tie-ups were prominent and Krumkachy’s shirts were covered in a myriad of small logos from various businesses which have chipped in as sponsors, while opposition Granit Mikashevichi bore only the logo of its backer, a state-run quarry. Consumerism may be the norm in most European leagues, but in Belarus’ state-dominated economy, it’s the mark of the plucky underdog.

After ending a nine-game wait for victory, the players came over to celebrate with the sparse crowd. An hour later, the reserve players were still sharing the field with fans and their children having a kickabout.

“It’s an atmosphere like home, very warm. It’s been helping the guys not to give up,” said Vasily Khomutovsky, one of Krumkachy’s two co-coaches.

At a recent away game, “a woman with two children who went there, with two small kids 7 and 10 years old, she made each player a little souvenir by hand and signed it, something different for each player,” Khomutovsky said.

There’s a family atmosphere within the club, too, with Shunto’s brother serving as a backup goalkeeper and Skshinetsky’s wife in charge of fitness training.

[ MORE: Power rankings — Going to the playoffs edition ]

Vladimir Harlach, one of the team’s supporters, said Krumkachy reminds him of AFC Wimbledon, the English club founded by fans after owners relocated its previous incarnation to another town, and which has since shot up several divisions.

“That’s a bit different, there was history,” Harlach said. “Here, it’s from scratch. History is being written in front of our eyes. You could compare it to other countries 100 years ago, when (soccer) was all being created.”

Krumkachy’s average home attendance of about 1,500 is tiny by European standards, but enough to put it comfortably above all but the biggest clubs in Belarus, as well as higher than that of FC Minsk, the city government-run club whose stadium Krumkachy is using.

Some at the club wonder whether European qualification might be possible next year, another improbable step up, but the top spot in Belarus appears far out of reach. Able to outspend rivals with cash from occasional Champions League appearances, BATE Borisov has just sewn up its 11th straight title.

Khomutovsky welcomes the comparison to Leicester, a team which was promoted to top division in England, survived one season, then won a wildly unlikely title the following year.

“I hope next year,” Khomutovsky said, “we do what we can to become the Belarusian Leicester.”

MLS Cup Playoffs Weds. preview: Toronto, LA host openers

Toronto FC's Sebastian Giovinco, right, celebrates after scoring his team's second goal against the New England Revolution during first-half MLS soccer game action in Toronto, Saturday, Aug. 6, 2016. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP)
Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP
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Here we go, sports fans.

Major League Soccer starts its playoffs with a pair of knockout round games on Wednesday and another two on Thursday.

[ MORE: MLS Cup predictions ]

Philadelphia Union at Toronto FC — 7:30 p.m. ET

The Union are back in the playoffs for just the second time in playoff history, the same amount as Toronto. The difference is that Toronto has made the postseason in back-to-back season and isn’t entering the second season on a brutal cold streak.

Philly has lost three-straight and five of seven, making the playoffs on goal differential and — as Brotherly Game points out — has the lowest points-per-game of a playoff team since 2006.

That’s probably not going to fly at the new, loud BMO Field, where TFC’s supporters will finally get a home playoff match. Sebastian Giovinco is close to full fitness, Jozy Altidore has been on fire, and Michael Bradley isn’t exactly a player who shirks the big game spot light.

But it’s going to be players like Drew Moor and Clint Irwin who keep TFC calm under the bright lights. They’ve been here before. In fact, Moor has actually been at BMO in the playoffs, when Colorado trumped FC Dallas for a 2-1 win at MLS Cup 2010.

[ MORE: Nyarko says DC can aim high in MLS Playoffs ]

Real Salt Lake at LA Galaxy –10:30 p.m. ET

Before the season began, LA looked like it had an embarrassment of riches that could challenge for one of the best records in MLS history. Between Giovani Dos Santos, Robbie Keane, Ashley Cole, Nigel de Jong, Steven Gerrard, and Gyasi Zardes — let alone the rest of the crew — the Galaxy were terrifying.

CARSON, CA - SEPTEMBER 11: Robbie Keane #7 of Los Angeles Galaxy celebrates his goal with Giovani dos Santos #10 to take a 4-1 lead over the Orlando City FC at StubHub Center on September 11, 2016 in Carson, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Dos Santos and Keane (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

About 700 miles northeast was a team expected to do, well, not much. Real Salt Lake had its mainstays in Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando, but had the club done enough to make up a 10-point playoff deficit from 2015?

Injuries and defections stopped the Galaxy from reaching its potential, while RSL rode a hot start into the playoffs. Both teams finished their seasons in cold fashion; In Real’s case, ice cold.

The Galaxy only lost one game at the StubHub Center this season, and it’s realistic to think that trend will continue on Wednesday. But there’s something about RSL and the playoffs — and the potential absences of not just Zardes but Keane and Gerrard — that lead us to believe something strange could be coming by the time Thursday morning hits the East Coast.

USMNT’s Zardes nearing return for LA… but not this week

CARSON, CA - FEBRUARY 09:  Gyasi Zardes #11 of Los Angeles Galaxy attemps to break away from Leiton Jimenez #30 of Club Tijuana at StubHub Center on February 9, 2016 in Carson, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Photo by Harry How/Getty Images
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Gyasi Zardes waits on X-rays, and it’s not just a matter for LA Galaxy concern.

Yes, the MLS side is chasing its sixth Cup and has as many as two playoff matches coming in the next five days.

But Jurgen Klinsmann has regularly called upon the 25-year-old attacker for the United States men’s national team who, in case you haven’t heard, have two of the toughest World Cup qualifiers on their slate in the next few weeks.

[ MORE: Nyarko says DC can aim high in MLS Playoffs ]

There’s good news and bad news. First, the good, from

Gyasi Zardes, returning from a broken foot this past August, happily took to the field with his teammates in a sign of a potential return in time for the postseason. The offensive favorite spent a little under an hour with the team, not quite completing a full training session, but definitely close to returning to his usual fitness.

Now the less good: Zardes cannot return until his next scheduled X-ray on the aforementioned broken foot.

That X-ray comes next Thursday – well after Wednesday’s game and any weekend matches.

Will a fit Zardes instantly reclaim a spot in Klinsmann’s 23? Wingers have had strong performances in his stead, and the coach’s take on that position is a bit unknown as we anticipate the United States and Mexico in Columbus on Nov. 11.

Juventus CEO: agent to earn $30 million for Pogba transfer

VERONA, ITALY - JANUARY 31:  Paul Pogba of Juventus celebrates the victory after the Serie A match between AC Chievo Verona and Juventus FC at Stadio Marc'Antonio Bentegodi on January 31, 2016 in Verona, Italy.  (Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images)
Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images
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TURIN, Italy (AP) Juventus CEO Giuseppe Marotta has revealed that Paul Pogba‘s agent will be paid 27 million euros ($30 million) for the player’s record transfer to Manchester United.

Pogba returned to United in August for a world-record fee of $116 million.

Marotta was quoted by Italian media as telling Juventus’ shareholders meeting Tuesday as saying “27 million (euros) will be paid to (Pogba’s) agent Mino Raiola. So the total net gain for Pogba was 72 million ($78 million)” after other fees are taken into account.

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Marotta says that Pogba joined Juve from United in 2012 for a bargain price of 1.5 million euros ($1.6 million).

Marotta adds that Juan Cuadrado‘s two-year loan from Chelsea costs 5 million euros ($5.4 million) per season and if Juventus wins Serie A this season it will be obliged to buy Cuadrado’s full rights for an additional 20 million ($22 million).