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MLS: ATL run wild on 10-man SJ; MNUFC fall to CLB, at home

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Atlanta United 4-2 San Jose Earthquakes

The game in 100 words (or less): Here’s the toughest part of facing Atlanta: they come at you in waves, and they. do. not. ever. stop. coming. San Jose learned that lesson the hard way — made even more difficult by Kofi Sarkodie’s 32nd-minute red card, which forced Chris Leitch’s side to play a man down for an hour, on the road, against one of MLS’s highest-tempo teams — on Tuesday. Tommy Thompson gave the visitors an early lead, which they would hold onto until the 55th minute, at which point all hell broke loose. Carlos Carmona equalized, Josef Martinez put Atlanta in front 10 minutes later, but Chris Wondolowski answered fewer than 90 seconds later. Anton Walkes bagged the winner, Atlanta’s third goal of the night scored on a ball delivered from a wide area, in the 81st minute, and Martinez put the game to bed one minute before full-time. With the victory, Atlanta sit 4th in the Eastern Conference, just three points back of New York City FC, five back of Toronto FC, and seven back of league-leading Chicago Fire.

[ MORE: Dwyer, Acosta power USMNT to win over Ghana | Three things ]

Three Four Five Six moments that mattered

2′ — Thompson bags his first MLS goal for 1-0 — It took him 2,563 minutes of playing time over three and a half seasons, but Thompson finally has a league goal to his name.

32′ — A second yellow for Sarkodie, SJ down to 10 — Kofi Sarkodie was more than a little fortunate to still be on the field after just 10 minutes, so he can’t complain too much when he’s shown a soft second yellow card 22 minutes later.

55′ — Carmona taps in the equalizer — Josef Martinez is just an unbelievable joy to watch. Some of the things he tries, and pulls off, are so rare to MLS. Turns out, he’s also an Olympic high-jumper.

65′ — Martinez heads home for 2-1 — Greg Garza serves up a tasty ball from his left back spot, and Martinez loves to go up and get it.

66′ — Wondo equalizes 78 seconds later — Apparently, current MLS defenders haven’t been watching MLS at all this decade, because they’ve still not figured out the league’s one unbreakable rule: never leave Wondolowski alone on either post.

81′ — Walkes heads home for 3-2 — Julian Gressel served up the corner kick, no one for San Jose dealt with it, and Walkes powered the header past David Bingham to seal all three points.

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

Man of the match: Josef Martinez

Goalscorers: Thompson (2′), Carmona (55′), Martinez (65′, 89′), Wondolowski (66′), Walkes (81′)


Minnesota United 0-1 Columbus Crew SC

The game in 100 words (or less): Theoretically, all 22 teams are still very much alive in the race for six playoff places in each the Eastern and Western Conferences. Realistically, however, teams like Minnesota can’t afford to drop many more points the rest of the way — especially at home — if they’re to claw their way back into the fight out West. Tuesday’s 1-0 home defeat to Columbus, while not season-killing, was a bitter blow with Adrian Heath’s side seeking to move to within a single point of 6th-place LA Galaxy. Instead, the Loons managed just a single shot on target all game long and dropped all three points for the sixth time in their last nine games. All four teams that stand between Minnesota and a playoff place currently have at least one game in hand.

[ MORE: Dwyer, Acosta power USMNT to win over Ghana | Three things ]

Three moments that mattered

56′ — Steffen makes the diving save on Ibson — The Loons were headed for a 1-0 lead not long before the hour mark, but Zack Steffen was all over Ibson’s free kick.

58′ — Manneh fires from distance, makes it 1-0 — Perhaps letting Manneh take so many touches through the center of the field wasn’t so wise.

65′ — Shuttleworth goes full-stretch to deny Kamara — Ola Kamara had picked out the near post with his volley from the edge of the box, but Bobby Shuttleworth was quick to cover his near post and make the save.

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

Man of the match: Wil Trapp

Goalscorers: Manneh (58′)

Cristiano Ronaldo captures Best Male Player at FIFA awards

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The yearly debate as to whom the best player in the world is won’t be settled in the minds of fans across the globe, but on Monday, FIFA gave its two cents.

Real Madrid attacker Cristiano Ronaldo took home Best Male Player honors at the FIFA Best awards, beating out Lionel Messi and Neymar for the title.

[ MORE: Mbappe wins Golden Boy award, beats out Pulisic, others ]

Meanwhile, all three superstars were named in the FIFA Best XI for the year, alongside the likes of Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and Andres Iniesta.

Here’s a look at some of the other winners from Monday’s FIFA awards.

Best Male Player: Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid)

FIFA World XI: Gianluigi Buffon; Dani Alves, Sergio Ramos, Leonardo Bonucci, Marcelo; Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, Andres Iniesta; Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar.

FIFA Men’s Coach of 2017: Zinedine Zidane (Real Madrid)

Puskas Award for Best Goal: Olivier Giroud (Arsenal)

Best Female Player: Lieke Martens (Netherlands)

PST names Best XI for 2017 MLS season

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The 2017 MLS regular season saw some of the finest performances from players across the league.

New arrivals in Atlanta, such as Josef Martinez and Miguel Almiron, garnered a great amount of attention, while Chicago Fire striker Nemanja Nikolic went on to capture the Golden Boot in his first season in MLS.

Stars like Sebastian Giovinco and David Villa continued to leave a lasting impression on the league, but with only 11 spots available for selection, some of game’s best had to be left off.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

Budding U.S. Men’s National Team figures have emerged throughout the MLS scene, including from each of last season’s MLS Cup final squads.

Below is the PST built its Best XI for the 2017 MLS season.

MLS Best XI via Lineupbuilder

Players that just missed the cut

GK: Luis Robles, Bill Hamid

Defense: Roman Torres, Ike Opara, Andrew Farrell, Joevin Jones

Midfielders: Lee Nguyen, Sacha Kljestan, Alex Ring, Romain Alessandrini

Forwards: Miguel Almiron, Sebastian Giovinco, Justin Meram


Which players would you have included in your Best XI? Who was the best player in the league? Tell us below.

Justin Meram discusses Crew’s hot form, facing Atlanta and more

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The Eastern Conference has established itself within the ranks of Major League Soccer given the quality of the sides at the top.

While Atlanta United — in its first MLS season — and Toronto FC dominate headlines, alongside New York City FC, lost in the shuffle is Columbus Crew SC.

[ MORE: Impact fire Mauro Biello after team loses nine of last 10 matches ]

The Crew finished fifth in a congested East after settling for a 2-2 draw on Decision Day against NYCFC, however, Greg Berhalter’s squad has been among the best in MLS for the second half of the season.

Pro Soccer Talk caught up with Crew midfielder Justin Meram ahead of his side’s first-round matchup against Atlanta in the MLS Cup Playoffs.

“I wouldn’t say there’s less pressure on us,” Meram told PST. ” We might be written off in terms of the attention that they have had this season. Some networks have come out by saying that they [Atlanta] are the favorites, but nothing changes with this group.

“We let all that outside noise stay outside and we don’t let it affect us. Whether they have us winning a game, or whatever the case may be, we have a game plan and a style of play that we look to execute no matter where we go.”

Decision Day around MLS has created havoc — and a great narrative — but Sunday’s result against NYCFC proved to be the difference between potentially hosting a playoff game, or possibly having a bye, versus now having to travel to Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

“Obviously that’s what makes Decision Day so much more exciting,” Meram said. “We didn’t control our own destiny, but the way things went with Atlanta and Chicago we could have jumped from fifth to second. It’s just one of those things that didn’t go our way.

“We didn’t play our best in the first half, but we also faced a really good team and I was pleased with how we bounced back. I think that showed our quality and our ability to claw back into games on the road, which is crucial during the playoffs.”

The Crew have been one of the league’s top home sides in 2017, winning 12 matches at MAPFRE Stadium — which ranks second in MLS behind only Toronto FC.

However, Meram and his side now face a stiff test against an Atlanta team that has lost just one of its eight matches since moving over from Bobby Dodd Stadium in mid-September.

“I need to be at my very best on Thursday,” Meram said. “We all need to be on top of our game because we need a collective effort in order to beat Atlanta.”

Scheduling has a funny way of factoring into the outcomes of matches at times, but given the fact that the Crew and Atlanta haven’t met since July 1 all bets are off in terms of which side is the  favorite to advance.

Atlanta won both matches earlier in the season as the two clubs met in home-and-home fixtures over a span of three weeks, but Meram remains confident that his side’s current form will help them prevail.

“Their attack is lethal,” Meram said when asked about facing an Atlanta side that scored 70 regular season goals. “One small little mistake allows them to pounce on chances. They punish you.

“We have to be clinical with our build up play and shape throughout the match. When we get our half-chances we need to bury them. When we played Atlanta the first time, we had a couple of breakaways that we didn’t put away and it hurt us.

“We have the quality, but playing at their home, with their fans, we need to focus on finishing our chances in order to advance.”

The topic of relocation has come as a shock not just in Columbus, but throughout MLS since last week’s announcement that owner Anthony Precourt would explore his options for the club moving forward.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

Meram has insisted though that he and his Crew teammates remain focused on winning MLS Cup — which would be the club’s second in franchise history.

“Obviously we haven’t let it affect us,” Meram told PST. “We played a really good game on Sunday. We’re just staying with the same mindset that we’ve had the second half of the season, which doesn’t reflect the owner’s announcement.

“There’s not much I can say. I have a job to do. He [Precourt] has a job to do. The fans have their job to do. Right now, it’s about focusing on the playoffs and seeing what happens. There’s nothing definitive about staying or going, so I can’t speculate at this point.

“At the end of the day, I want a championship, and I believe that’s the feeling for all of our guys right now. That’s how it has to be from the player’s perspective because the second we shift our mindset we’re going to get punished by other sides.”

Montreal fires Biello after Impact loses nine of last 10

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Mauro Biello is out.

The Montreal Impact have parted ways with its entire coaching staff following a terrible end to a disappointing 2017 season which failed to see them build on an Eastern Conference Finals run.

[ MORE: Yaya Toure to NYCFC? ]

Montreal lost nine of its last 10 despite beating Toronto FC in Toronto, finishing with 39 points. That’s 11 points out of a playoff spot, which looked all but certain before their miserable finish to the campaign.

This despite an MVP caliber season from recently-extended Ignacio Piatti, who scored 17 goals with five assists. That the Impact failed was a bit baffling, especially following the midseason addition of Blerim Dzemaili, who chipped in seven goals and 10 assists in 22 matches.

There are some interesting pieces for the next boss, should 24-year-old Anthony Jackson-Hamel and 18-year-old Ballou Jean-Yves Tabla stick around.

The 45-year-old Biello finishes his first managerial gig following a playing career with the Impact (pre-MLS), Rochester Rhinos, and several indoor sides including the Impact, Toronto Thunderhawks, and Buffalo Blizzard.

Follow @NicholasMendola