Koffie of the Vancouver Whitecaps celebrates his goal against the L.A Galaxy during the first half of their MLS soccer game in Vancouver.

PST’s Major League Soccer Team of the Week – Week 12

Leave a comment

Forwards

Landon Donovan, LA Galaxy – Back up top, back scoring goals. Donovan, back playing as a forward, added an assist to his first two goals of the season as he became Major League Soccer’s all-time leading scorer, helping his team to a 4-1 win over visiting Philadelphia in the process.

Robbie Keane, LA Galaxy – The captain’s two-goal, two-assist week maintains LA’s curious coincidence. The team remains undefeated when Keane scores, winless when he does not.

We could be wrong about: Thierry Henry (New York Red Bulls), Fabian Espindola (D.C. United)

Midfielders

Federico Higuaín, Columbus Crew – Two perfect passes behind the Chicago defense allowed Columbus to put the Fire away early. The assists also highlighted another Team of the Week-worthy performance from Columbus’s field general.

Diego Fagundez, New England Revolution – For the second week in a row, Fagundez registered a goal and an assist, only instead of being part of a five-goal outburst, Saturday’s performance saw the 19-year-old play a part in both New England goals.

Khari Stephenson, San Jose Earthquakes – Stephenson’s return after one year in Utah has added some much needed variation to San Jose’s midfield. On Sunday, he also added two goals as the Earthquakes beat Houston, both from dead ball situations. A direct kick in the 38th minute sent San Jose into halftime with a lead, while his 58th minute conversion from the spot saw the Jamaican double his 2013 goal total.

Gershon Koffie, Vancouver Whitecaps (pictured) – Saturday’s freakish goal from 35 yards out was the highlight of a monster performance, one that saw Koffie’s midfield dominance translate into seven shots and a 91 percent pass completion percentage. On a less competitive weekend, this would have been a Player of the Week-caliber performance.

We could be wrong about: Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy), Benny Feilhaber (Sporting Kansas City), Juninho (LA Galaxy), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew)

Defenders

Cristian Fernandez, D.C. United – After a terrible mistake cost his team two points last weekend, the Spaniard responded with two good performances in Week 12, adding an assist on Fabian Espindola’s goal in New England.

Shane O’Neill, Colorado Rapids – Montréal didn’t give the young Rapid many moments to stand out in defense, but in the 58th minute, the converted midfielder got to make his Team of the Week case at the other end of the field. Finishing from beyond the penalty area following a corner kick, O’Neill scored his first Major League Soccer goal, augmenting a performance that also included a team-high three interceptions.

Chris Schuler, Real Salt Lake – Schuler’s performances have been so consistent, he’s always in the Team of the Week discussion. In lieu of another defender stepping up to take this spot from him, Schuler’s typical, borderline dominant play was enough to make our XI. With seven clearances, six aerial duels won, six interceptions and four tackles, the 26-year-old’s numbers matched his on-field influence, part of the season why Dallas was held scoreless at Rio Tinto.

Tony Beltran, Real Salt Lake – Amid of collection of right back candidates that had trouble distinguishing themselves from each other, Beltran’s performance opposite Fabian Castillo gets our nod. After giving the Galaxy so much trouble mid-week, Castillo was relatively quiet on Saturday, with Beltran’s five interceptions helping Jeff Cassar’s team prevent the Colombian from tying up RSL’s defense.

We could be wrong about: Chris Tierney (New England Revolution), Eric Gehrig (Columbus Crew), Jose Gonçalves (New England Revolution), Zach Loyd (FC Dallas)

Goalkeeper

Steve Clark, Columbus Crew – The consistently strong reads and solid positioning of Clark tend to take this honor whenever somebody doesn’t go Rimando on the league. Without that kind of virtuoso performance, a four-save clean sheet from Clark gives us another opportunity to highlight one of the offseason’s better acquisitions, with the 28-year-old still flying under the radar in Columbus.

We could be wrong about: Donovan Ricketts (Portland Timbers)

MLS Snapshot: Colorado Rapids 1-1 FC Dallas (video)

COMMERCE CITY, CO - JULY 23: Marlon Hairston #94 of Colorado Rapids celebrates after scoring a first half goal past Chris Seitz #18 of FC Dallas during a game at Dick's Sporting Goods Park on July 23, 2016 in Commerce City, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The game in 100 words (or less): In keeping with the the theme of “we never really learn anything in MLS, it just kind of happens,” both the Colorado Rapids or FC Dallas had the chance to make a massive statement in the two sides’ ongoing race for the Western Conference and Supporters’ Shield (FCD entered Saturday’s clash at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park with a three-point lead), but they ultimately settled for a 1-1 draw, and we settle for “wait until next week, maybe we’ll actually learn something then.” At least the goals were great, though — Marlon Hairston opened the scoring by rounding the goalkeeper with traffic in all directions, and Victor Ulloa unleashed a rocket from well outside the penalty area to equalize late on. In that sense, the 90 minutes were befitting a first-versus-second matchup. The draw means the Rapids are unbeaten in their last 15 league games, but the LA Galaxy, who won away to the Portland Timbers and inched two points closer to the league’s elites, are ultimately the day’s biggest winners.

[ MORE: Previewing the rest of the MLS weekend ]

Three Four moments that mattered

26′ — Akindele goes inches wide of the far post — Quick, decisive movement around the penalty area is the only way to create that half-yard of space needed to fire a shot off.

33′ — Hairston breaks out, Zimmerman makes the dramatic block — Hairston was thisclose to having a one-on-one chance on goal, but Walker Zimmerman made a spectacular recovery run and an even better last-second sliding tackle to deflect Hairston’s shot narrowly wide of the post.

44′ — Hairston rounds Seitz to make it 1-0 — Composure, quickness, finesse. Hairston displayed it all on this goal, his second in as many games.

82′ — Ulloa unleashes a blast from 25 yards out f0r 1-1 — If not for the net on the goal, Ulloa’s strike might still be traveling at an ever-so-slightly upward trajectory for the rest of time.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Sam Cronin

Goalscorers: Hairston (44′), Ulloa (82′)

MLS Snapshots: Impact 5-1 Union | Toronto FC 4-1 DC United (video)

Didier Drogba
Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press via AP
Leave a comment

The game in 100 words (or less): Look out, America, for the Canadians of Major League Soccer are here, and they mean business. Saturday night saw the Montreal Impact and Toronto FC thrash the Philadelphia Union (5-1) and D.C. United (4-1), two playoff-caliber teams in their own right, each at home, to move to within four and six points, respectively, of New York City FC, the current leaders of the Eastern Conference. The stars for the two sides? Would you believe me if I told you Sebastian Giovinco and Didier Drogba each scored a hat trick on the night? Of course you would, because they’re Giovinco and Drogba. At their best, it’s hard to argue any team in the East is better than either Montreal or Toronto. Here’s to 180 minutes of Drogba vs. Giovinco in the Eastern Conference finals.

[ MORE: Previewing the rest of the MLS weekend ]

Three moments that mattered

19′ — Silky smooth build-up ends with a Drogba tap-in — If you’re allowing Drogba chances that are this easy, good luck to you. The real story here, though, is the backheel by Piatti. A moment like this is enough to flip me into a second-assist advocate.

42′ — Drogba slots home a rebound for 2-0 — Unlucky carom on the rebound, but you’re really not doing a great job of “don’t give Drogba chances that are that easy,” Union defense.

52′ — Drogba gets his hat trick — The Union are really, really not doing a good job of making life even the least bit difficult for Drogba.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Didier Drogba

Goalscorers: Drogba (19′, 42′, 52′), Pontius (72′), Piatti (87′), Mancosu (90+1′)


Three moments that mattered

21′ — Giovinco ends his skid with a stunning free kick — It had been eight full games since Giovinco last scored a league goal for TFC, by far the longest such streak of his time in MLS. The wait was (almost) worth it. (WATCH HERE)

39′ — Giovinco does it again — What is there to say at this point? The angle is ridiculous. The power is ridiculous. The swerve is ridiculous. Giovinco is a ridiculous player. (WATCH HERE)

90+1′ — A hat trick for Seba — Not to be outdone, Giovinco bags his third of the night.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Sebastian Giovinco

Goalscorers: Giovinco (21′, 39′, 90+1′), Jeffrey (24′), Delgado (29′)

WATCH: Giovinco’s goal drought is over after a pair of stunning free kicks

Toronto FC's Sebastian Giovinco celebrates after scoring his team's second goal against Colorado Rapids during the first half of the MLS soccer game in Toronto on Saturday, Sept. 19, 2015. (Chris Young/The Associated Press via AP)
Chris Young/The Associated Press via AP
1 Comment

Oh, how we have missed you, Sebastian Giovinco, scorer of amazingly beautiful, video game-like goals.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

If you can believe it, Toronto FC’s tiny superstar entered Saturday’s clash with D.C. United without a goal in any of his last eight league games. Six minutes before halftime, the drought was over after not one, but two “only Giovinco could do that” free kicks (videos below).

[ MORE: Previewing the rest of the MLS weekend ]

It was by far the longest such streak of Giovinco’s (brief) time in MLS, and at least he had the decency to make it worth our wait.

Scholes: Pogba “nowhere near worth” rumored Man United transfer fee

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 05:  Paul Pogba of Manchester United looks on during Paul Scholes' Testimonial Match between Manchester United and New York Cosmos at Old Trafford on August 5, 2011 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Chris Brunskill/Getty Images)
Photo by Chris Brunskill/Getty Images
3 Comments

If a player is only worth what a club is willing to pay them, then aren’t they also worth a price at the top of the pay scale, as long as a club is willing to pay it?

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Manchester United legend Paul Scholes doesn’t think so, at least not in the case of Paul Pogba, the highly-sought Juventus (and former Man United, which he left for free) midfielder. Rumored to be the subject of $113-million bid by the Red Devils, Pogba’s footballing future remains a question, though an answer will have to be realized in the coming days and/or weeks, as the 2016-17 Premier League season kicks off 21 days from today.

That’s a price that, according to Scholes, should be reserved for “someone who is going to score 50 goals a season like Ronaldo or Messi” — quotes from the Guardian:

“He was a very talented young player, I played with him and I knew how good he was. He played for the first team maybe once or twice, but from my understanding he was asking for too much money [when he left in 2012].

“For his age, he was asking for far too much money, for a player who hasn’t played first-team football. OK, he has gone on to great things. I think certainly there has been a lot of improvement. He needed to improve if he is going to be a player worth £86m.”

While United may have to pay closer to [$131 million], Scholes added: “I just don’t think he is worth [$86 million]. For that sort of money, you want someone who is going to score 50 goals a season like Ronaldo or Messi. Pogba is nowhere worth that kind of money yet.

[ PRESEASON: PL clubs in action with opening day three weeks ago ]

On Scholes’ assertion that Pogba was asking “for far too much money”: United have finished 7th, 4th and 5th in the last three PL seasons, while in that same time Pogba has gone on to become on of the top five players in the world; meanwhile, none of the world’s 20 best (or is it 50?) players currently play for United. It would have been a risk to pay a 19-year-old with three first-team appearances like a seasoned veteran, to be sure, but so much of succeeding at the top level of the sport is down to hitting pay dirt on exactly that kind of calculated risk. If everyone plays it by the book, no one’s ever going to get ahead.

On Scholes’ obviously fear he may no longer be United’s greatest “Paul”: It’s OK, Scholesy, it’ll be terribly difficult to top in 10 years what you achieved in 18.