PST Major League Soccer Player of the Week: Fabián Castillo

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Fabián Castillo gave one of the more dominant performances we’ve seen in weeks, leading FC Dallas to a 5-0 win Saturday in Santa Clara, Calif. With a hand in each of his team’s first four goals, the 22-year-old Colombian left a San Jose team short on speed with no answers against one of the league’s fastest players. The result was two goals, one assist, and a highlight reel performance for FCD’s emerging star.

Somehow, that wasn’t enough for win the league’s Player of the Week honor. In fact, in one of the clearest indications that the award has become about box scores more than actual performance, Castillo teammate Tesho Akindele took the honor. Though Castillo was clearly the game’s best player — the focal point of a Dallas team that gave one of its best performances of the season — Akindele had three goals, none of which would have happened if Jon Busch had a better day. The San Jose keeper was slow to react to Akindele’s first, while rebounds spilled in front of goal paved the way for the rookie’s second and third.

Akindele deserves kudos from being in the right place at the right time, but as Saturday’s game at Buck Shaw unfolded, there was little doubt who was the game’s dominant player. In the 30th minute, Castillo burst from his place in attacking midfield to terrorize Jason Hernandez on a ball deflected behind the San Jose defense. The Earthquakes defender, beaten, tried to pull Castillo down, but the attacker’s strength allowed him to maintain his feet before going in alone on goal.

In the 74th minute, Castillo again did most of the work himself, victimizing Hernandez for a second time after being sprung on a counter. In the middle of the penalty area, Castillo used a quick cut onto his right foot to send Hernandez to ground and give himself an opening inside the right post.

Between an assist on the second and playing the shot that set up the third, the late tally was the fourth straight goal to which Castillo had contributed, capping one of the most impressive individual performances of the season.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough to claim the league’s Player of the Week honor. Despite the league’s beat reporter naming Castillo as man of the match (and MLSSoccer.com feeling the need to follow up on Castillo’s remarkable night), Akindele got that magic third goal. If you didn’t actually watch the match, you could convince yourself Tesho outplayed Fabián.

Did the 10:30 p.m. ET kickoff leave people voting based on box scores? Or was the league’s vote the result of an honest assessment, that Akindele’s three goals, two of which came on short-range rebounds, outweighs Castillo’s two goals in a performance that defined Saturday’s match? Given the track record of this honor, it seems like the former. Much like last week, when two goals from Chris Schuler got him the nod of Matt Hedges (who took our award), goals the main consideration. While that makes sense, we’re at the point where no other criteria matter.

Regardless, for the second time this season, Fabián Castillo wins PST’s honor. For those that did vote off the box score: You missed a hell of a performance.

Klopp says post-match interview not a big deal

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It wouldn’t be too wild to call Jurgen Klopp’s Sunday post-match interview the most circulated exchange in the soccer world, at least in recent memory.

Klopp was back behind a microphone on Tuesday as Liverpool prepares for West Bromwich Albion, and was asked about his testy exchange with a reporter following the Reds’ 1-1 draw with Everton in the Merseyside Derby.

[ RECAP: Liverpool 1-1 Everton ]

He says it’s in the past for him and pretty much everyone. From The Liverpool Echo:

“Now I’m completely relaxed, I wasn’t five minutes after the game. Sometimes you look into the eyes of journalists and you feel they aren’t too interested in what you have to say. I’m not an actor.”

“It was nothing, I didn’t use any words I have to take back. I don’t like it but I cannot change it because I felt like this at that moment. I cannot act differently, but I can keep myself calm. It’s just an interview. I don’t think anybody remembers it. It was just an interview, nothing else.”

We’ll say this about the 1-1 draw: it still feels hollow, as Everton executed one of the greatest thefts in the Premier League this season. Even the awarded PK — Dejan Lovren‘s two-handed shove to Dominic Calvert-Lewin was a silly play in a non-threatening spot — was one of those, “Well, sure, but…” calls.

Liverpool dominated the game, and didn’t get three points. Everton got a point, but will want most of its day back. Thank goodness we get another chance at an enjoyable Merseyside Derby in the FA Cup next month.

Wenger: Man City, United should look to sumo wrestlers

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Arsenal is readying for a visit to West Ham United, but Arsene Wenger‘s mind took a detour to Japan.

In a wide-ranging pre-match interview touching on Mesut Ozil, Olivier Giroud, and the Manchester Tunnel Fracas (TM), it was the last topic that had Wenger musing on the post-match actions of sumo wrestlers.

[ MORE: Premier League Tues. preview ]

For those who missed it, there was an alleged dust-up between Manchester City and Manchester United after Jose Mourinho and his men objected to boisterous City celebrations in the away locker room on Sunday.

Ever the politician, the rail thin manager called upon rather large athletes to make the point of what he’d like to see. From Sky Sports:

“It happened to us, it’s happened to them. It’s unfortunate. Ideally you would commit 100% on the pitch and be an angel after. It’s not always the case. You want to keep that passion on the pitch.

“It is difficult to take when you lose a game, to see the celebration. When I was in Japan, I liked sumo wrestling because you could never tell who had won. The winner never showed his happiness as there’s a deep respect for the opponent.”

Wenger’s last managerial stop came in 1996 with Nagoya Grampus Eight in Japan.

There was plenty more from Wenger, who was asked about the statuses of Olivier Giroud and Mesut Ozil.

For the latter, it’s relatively straight-forward: There’s still no new contract between the playmaker and Arsenal, though no final offer has been made and Wenger remains optimistic about the hiring.

As for Giroud, who’s been tipped for a move away from Arsenal for some time, Wenger admits it’s tricky. The super sub would start on most teams but is quite valuable to Arsenal as the usual backup to Alexandre Lacazette.

And it’s not like Arsenal has hurt the Frenchman’s stock with one of the best international sides in the world.

“He’s a very important player and I have big respect for him. Look how many French caps he has got since he came here. He’s not wasted his time. I can understand his frustrations. He’s played many games, much more than many speak about. He’s played more than Lacazette for example. When you are at a big club with many strikers, you can’t guarantee.

“Personally I want him to stay at the club until the end of the season. Then we will see.”

If Wenger can massage the full season out of Giroud and then sell him, Arsenal will have to call it a win. But how different might the Gunners look next August, with Giroud, Ozil, and Alexis Sanchez all expected to be out the door?

Mexico captain Guardado suffers hamstring injury

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With the World Cup still half a year away, there’s plenty of time to heal from injuries and get the body right after tweaking things during the club season.

And yet, there will still be some concern among Mexico fans.

Team captain Andres Guardado suffered a hamstring tear, his club Real Betis confirmed on Monday, and is expected to miss 3-4 weeks. That’s nothing to write home about when it comes to preparing for the big tournament, but with Guardado 31 years old and struggling with injuries in recent years, Mexico fans will be keenly aware that hamstring injuries can return with a vengeance if not given the right time to heal.

Guardado has shown his age in recent times, not necessarily with his play on the field, which has been critical to his country, but with his fitness. Guardado has just four full 90 minute performances for Mexico dating back to October of 2016, missing time with ankle, leg, and now hamstring injuries in that span.

The 31-year-old has had a fine season so far for Real Betis, scoring one goal and assisting six while appearing in all 15 La Liga matches for the club thus far. The club sits 12th in the La Liga table with 18 points.

Guardado will be fine with plenty of time to spare, but if not fully healed properly, there’s always the risk that muscle injuries can flare back up, and Mexico fans will hope that their captain’s club gives him plenty of rest to recover.

Mark Hughes wants Stoke City to “suck it up”

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Mark Hughes is under fire at Stoke City with the Potters firmly entrenched in the relegation battle, and with that he’s charging his players, staff, and himself to gut the rest of the season out.

With Stoke heading to Turf Moor to take on Burnley, they sit just three points above the drop. The players were faced with jeers from angry fans at the train station following this past weekend’s 5-1 disaster against Tottenham. The fiery Hughes is hoping to use this jarring moment to jolt his squad.

[ PREVIEW: Tuesday’s Premier League action ]

“That is still resonating. It’s good we have a game because it is still fresh in their ears probably, and they can use it as a motivating factor,” said Hughes during his pre-match press conference.

“You either suck it up and do ­something about it or you go under, and we can’t accept players like that. I don’t feel we have players like that.”

With managers nowadays often reaching into the excuses barrel as they hope to save their own skins, Hughes refuses to do just that, instead placing the decision firmly on the players shoulders, telling them they are the only ones who can save the club.

“Maybe some hadn’t ­confronted that before – but sometimes you need a reality check, and understand how our results and ­performances affect people,” Hughes said. “When people criticize you, you have to grow a thick skin in this industry. If you don’t, you’re in the wrong place.”