Bobby Boswell

MLS Snapshot: DC United 4-0 Chicago Fire

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The game in 100 words (or less): That’s a little bit more like it, D.C. United. After snapping a six-game winless streak with a 2-1 victory over New York City FC last week, Ben Olsen’s Black and Red thrashed the lowly, nothing-to-play-for Chicago Fire at RFK Stadium on Sunday, to the tune of 4-0, to make the Eastern Conference standings even more jumbled up (as if that was necessary) with one week of the 2015 regular season to be played. Chris Pontius, Bobby Boswell, Fabian Espindola and Alvaro Saborio provided the goals to put United on 51 points, one clear of Columbus Crew SC in the race for second (and the knockout round bye that comes with it). As if the entire season was scripted by MLS’s schedule makers, United and Crew SC face off next Sunday at MAPFRE Stadium.

[ MORE: East playoff scenarios | West | TFC 0-2 CLB | NE 0-1 MTL ]

Three moments that mattered

39′ — Pontius rounds Busch, makes it 1-0 — We haven’t seen these kind of wheels on Pontius since, oh, let’s say, the 2012 season, when he scored 12 times. Maybe it’s just for one play, but the explosion, the agility in tight spaces, the finish from practically the end line… it was all there from Pontius as he made it 1-0 for United.

67′ — Boswell heads home to make it 2-0 — When you’ve got a set-piece target the size of Boswell, you might as well use the guy. Espindola understands this very well, which is why he was happy to whip this corner kick to the edge of the six-yard box and let the veteran center back do the rest.

71′ — Espindola gets a deflection, makes it 3-0 — There’s really nothing Lovel Palmer could have done here. Sometimes you play decent enough defense, stick a foot in to block the cross and end up deflecting the ball past your own goalkeeper. It was a microcosm of the Fire’s 2015 season.

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

Man of the match: Fabian Espindola

Goalscorers: Pontius (39′), Boswell, 67′), Espindola (71′), Saborio (80′)

MLS Team of the Week — Stars of Week 8

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As I wrote late on Saturday night, this week’s Major League Soccer action — that of Saturday night, in particular — was incredibly special from an entertainment standpoint — 20 goals in four games!!! — which means picking the Week 8 MLS Team of the Week was an extremely tall task.

First things first, when four games average five goals per game, how do you select just seven attacking players to fill out the midfield and forward lines? Furthermore, where do you find three (at a minimum) defenders and a goalkeeper? Let’s just say, thank you, Sunday, for returning this crazy league back to normalcy.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s Week 8 MLS coverage | Standings | Stats | Schedule ]

As I said already, Saturday night was the place to be, if goals are your thing. Six of this week’s seven attackers (six, because it’s time to give Scott Caldwell some love on the week that he scored his first MLS goal) played on Saturday night. Jozy Altidore, he of two goals scored and Player of the Week consideration, was the lone shining light from Friday and/or Sunday.

Kei Kamara has five goals and two assists already in 2015 after one of each on Saturday night, while Giles Barnes bagged his third and fourth goals of the season against Sporting Kansas City, who were extremely lucky when Benny Feilhaber’s “plasma rocket” found the back of the net in Houston. And then there was Ethan Finlay, who we’ll probably talk about much more in one hour.

[ MORE: 2015 MLS Team of the Week archive ]

MLS Team of the Week — Week 8

Goalkeeper: Joe Bendik (Toronto FC)

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Defenders: Chris Tierney (New England Revolution) Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders), Bobby Boswell (D.C. United)

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Midfielders: Ethan Finlay (Columbus Crew SC), Benny Feilhaber (Sporting Kansas City), Juan Agudelo (New England Revolution), Scott Caldwell (New England Revolution)

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Forwards: Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Kei Kamara (Columbus Crew SC), Giles Barnes (Houston Dynamo)

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MLS Snapshot: Vancouver Whitecaps 1-2 D.C. United

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The game in 100 words (or less): It’s really, really tough to go on the road in MLS and win. Even when you have a man advantage for 50 minutes. So, big credit goes to D.C. United for doing just that on Saturday night, beating the Whitecaps 2-1 at BC Place, but in truth, the red card was 90 percent Vancouver’s undoing. Sure, they remained the dominant side with United playing conservatively on the road, but the typical lethal edge was missing from Carl Robinson’s side, realizing they couldn’t quite get the same numbers as usual forward. As for United, they just beat perhaps MLS’s best team, on the road, with a five-man bench and a couple of key starters missing. That’s impressive. Really, really impressive.

[ RECAPS: Two games on Friday night ]

Three moments that mattered

9′ — Boswell turns his header home to equalize — United were a goal down after 70 seconds (Pedro Morales), but Bobby Boswell reminded everyone he’s still got a bit of spring left in those aging legs of his, getting up over two defenders and beating David Ousted to the near post.

42′ — Yellow card No. 2 for Laba, and he’s gone — Matias Laba probably didn’t need to trip Fabian Espindola, because he had the human eraser, Kendall Waston, still behind him and able to take a yellow card, if need be. Instead, Laba tripped Espindola and saw his second yellow. Vancouver still controlled the game, but lacked their usual cutting edge a man down.

64′ – Rolfe’s snap shot can’t be stopped — Despite holding a man advantage for nearly 25 minutes at this point, the Whitecaps were still in control of the game and creating more scoring chances. So, imagine their level of surprise when Chris Rolfe popped up with the most opportunistic of goals, taking a nothing 50-50 ball and slamming it home from the top of the penalty area.

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

Man of the match: Bobby Boswell — Not only scored the equalizing goal early on, but, along side Kofi Opare, had Octavio Rivero in his back pocket all night long. Sure, the man advantage helped, but Boswell was flawless all game long.

LINEUPS

Vancouver Whitecaps: Ousted, Adekugbe, Kah, Waston, Beitashour, Laba, Teibert (Manneh 70′), Mattocks (Koffie 46′), Rosales (Techera 76′), Rivero

Goals: Morales (2′)

D.C. United: Dykstra (Worra 58′), Korb, Opare, Franklin, Pontius (Doyle 90′), Farfan, Kitchen, DeLeon, Rolfe (Silva 76′), Espindola

Goals: Boswell (9′), Rolfe (64′)

Brad Evans and others say MLS union standing firm, says strike “imminent”

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“I think at this point a strike is imminent if we don’t get what we want. And that’s kind of where we stand.”

Those are ominous words from Seattle players’ union representative Brad Evans regarding the labor dispute plaguing Major League Soccer.

With the MLS season set to begin on March 6, Evans thinks things could get really tight up to the deadline, with players standing hard and fast on the major dividing point of free agency.

“If that’s what it takes, that’s what it takes,” Evans says. “But we all have to be smart about it and we’ve all got to look at the repercussions, but we’ve got to know that a lot of players have built this league and feel they should be rewarded with some sort of movement where they play.”

With Major League Soccer build as a single-entity league structure, the league is in full control of player contracts, and thus where players end up. However, players are arguing that because the league is beyond the infancy level, it should be acting like all other major sports leagues, with a franchise structure that allows individual teams to sign players to separate contracts. The league, however, is arguing that free agency will balloon player contracts to a level that the league cannot sustain, thus putting massive financial pressure on the league. To Evans, that’s not a viable end to the means.

“We feel we deserve it now,” Evans said. “We feel we’ve put in another five years of growing this league and especially those that have played in the league for 10 years. We think we should be able to choose where we go,” Evans said. “We don’t want astronomical prices. We understand the economics of it. We’ve had a phenomenal economics team look at where the league stands, where we stand as players, and we want what is fair for everybody.”

The current labor contract expired January 31, and the only way a season can progress is if a new labor deal is negotiated, or if a temporary extension of the old one is agreed upon. The second option doesn’t sound likely, from Evans’ comments. “Right now we’re far off from where we want to be,” he said. “It’s going to take some fighting. It’s going to take some grittiness. It’s going to take everyone staying together, but at the end of the day I hope we can get something resolved.”

When the most recent labor agreement came to a head, the two parties agreed to an extension just five days before the start of the 2010 season, but even then such a controversial and wide-reaching issue wasn’t present then. If the league agrees to free agency, it would likely begin a massive and complete overhaul of the entire league structure.

Major League Soccer issued a simple statement in response, saying, “Although there are a number of open issues, both the league and the union are working hard to reach agreement.”

Other team representatives sounded a similar tune as Evans. One of the DC United player reps, Bobby Boswell, took a step back from the Sounders’ veteran, but still had the same pessimistic views.

“There’s some progress,” Boswell told SoccerWire.com. “We both are optimistic that we can get a deal done. But we have some fundamental issues. We don’t agree with each other on how to get where we want to go. It’s not like [negotiators] are in there yelling at each other. It’s civil, but there are some issues we’re not eye to eye on and we’re pretty far apart on some pretty important stuff.”

The hammer: “We’d like to see more progress … I’m not so sure it gets done in time.”

The other DC United rep, Chris Rolfe, didn’t mention free agency specifically, but heavily hinted that the league refused to even discuss it, and that was making the union instinctively pull back at the table. “While we are making progress on some fronts, there are some things that we as players feel are essential that they’re not even addressing,” Rolfe said, also to SoccerWire. “They aren’t showing us any respect on those issues.”

Which 11 players make the cut for PST’s MLS Team of the Year?

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Perhaps there hasn’t been an easier time putting together a buzz-worthy XI in MLS history. While defenders rarely get their due, this season brought some names to the forefront in ways that garnered MVP talk, like Chad Marshall in Seattle. And the World Cup and qualifying provided some other defenders a cannon from which to launch their stars into the sky.

Yet it’s still pretty tricky to cull 11 players from the hundreds who dot rosters around Major League Soccer. So we’ve brought in two XIs for you (and I may sneak in a third). Myself and Joe Prince-Wright will now put our Teams of the Year out for your perusal, hatred and laurels.

[ MLS: Playoff predictions/preview | Season-ending awards ]

Joe Prince-Wright is up first, being the lead writer/editor and all, and starts with USMNT backstop Nick Rimando of Real Salt Lake as his netminder. Marshall makes his cut as one of four Seattle Sounders stars. Matt Besler slides in at back after his tremendous World Cup.

source: AP

JPW’s MLS best XI (3-4-3)

Nick Rimando (RSL)

Jose Goncalves (NE) – Chad Marshall (SEA) – Matt Besler (SKC)

Lee Nguyen (NE) – Clint Dempsey (SEA) – Osvaldo Alonso (SEA) – Diego Valeri (POR)

Robbie Keane (LA) – Bradley Wright-Phillips (NYRB) – Obafemi Martins (SEA)

As for me, you’ll see a lot of the same faces, but seeing as I’m the guy compiling the post, I’ll submit a second XI as well. Take that, JPW.

For me, to watch the ‘Caps is to watch the best goalkeeper in the league, as David Ousted has been simply phenomenal. Just his play in the final 20 minutes against Colorado was a reason for cheers, high-fives, fist-bumps and other modes of congratulatory sentiment. Landon Donovan gets a nod from me for his record-setting season in L.A., while Matt Hedges may’ve quietly been the best defender in the league.

source: AP

Nick Mendola’s MLS best XI (3-4-3)

David Ousted (VAN)

Matt Hedges (DAL) — Chad Marshall (SEA) — Jose Goncalves (NE)

Diego Valeri (POR) — Lee Nguyen (NE) — Landon Donovan (LA) — Clint Dempsey (SEA)

Robbie Keane (LA) — Obafemi Martins (SEA) — Bradley Wright-Phillips (NYRB)

As for a second XI, it pains me as a Buffalonian to slot a player in over New England’s shot-stopper Bobby Shuttleworth, but what Steve Clark did in Columbus this year was fantastic. His two PK stops put him just past Bill Hamid in my book. I had a very difficult time not slotting in Kendall Waston, who only played 10 games for Vancouver but was simply wonderful. Twenty-two games, however, was enough to get Omar Gonzalez a look in my second side.

source: Getty Images

Nick Mendola’s MLS second XI (3-4-3)

Steve Clark (CBS)

Bobby Boswell (DC) — Chris Schuler (RSL) — Omar Gonzalez (LA)

Tony Tchani (CBS) — Javier Morales (RSL) — Osvaldo Alonso (SEA) — Pedro Morales (VAN)

Thierry Henry (NYRB) — Dom Dwyer (SKC) — Erick Torres (CHV)

What do you think? Harsh to leave out Gyasi Zardes, Chris Wondolowski, Seb Le Toux, Federico Higuain and Ethan Finlay? My goodness, I could’ve put together more XIs and still felt like I was uppercutting the league!