Clint Dempsey

Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

U.S. Soccer names Player of the Year nominees

Leave a comment

We suppose it doesn’t matter all that much given the presumptive winner, but the five nominees for the United States male soccer player of the year lead to a bit of head-scratching.

Christian Pulisic, of course, is going to win the awards hands-down after an exceptional year, one of the rare stars in Stars and Stripes to not let down the USMNT in World Cup qualifying.

The men competing for spots Nos. 2-5? Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore, Jordan Morris, and Clint Dempsey. Of the three, only Morris has failed to win it before (which is not exactly a failure considering his young age).

[ MORE: Premier League Player Power Rankings ]

In terms of national team play, Bradley led the U.S. in minutes with 1,198 in 2017, with Dempsey’s five goals and four assists only bested by Pulisic’s six and four. Altidore scored four goals with three assists, while Morris has four goals and an assist.

Who can feel the most burnt? Well, DeAndre Yedlin for one, though he only played in six caps thanks to the U.S. going B side for the Gold Cup. Graham Zusi and Geoff Cameron would love shouts, but were limited in playing time.

Here’s a trivia *fun* fact: Can you name the USMNT’s Top Five minute men this season, including No.1  Bradley? Jorge Villafana is second, Darlington Nagbe third, Omar Gonzalez fourth, and Tim Howard fifth.

The Young Male Award, which cannot be won twice, is down to Josh Sargent, Tim Weah, Tyler Adams, Luca de la Torre,  Jonathan Gonzalez, and Erik Palmer-Brown.

Up for the women’s award? Julie Ertz, Alex Morgan, Lindsey Horan, Samantha Mewis, and Megan Rapinoe. Becky Sauerbrunn piled up a team-high 16 matches, tied with Mewis, and probably got the short end of the stick thanks to Rapinoe playing a more glamorous position.

Sounders finish off Dynamo to set up MLS Cup rematch

AP Photo/Elaine Thompson
Leave a comment

The game in 100 words (or less): MLS Cup 2017 will be a rematch of MLS Cup 2016 — same two teams, same venue, hopefully not the same boring final. Toronto FC booked their place by narrowly knocking off Columbus Crew SC on Wednesday, a day before the Seattle Sounders soundly defeated the Houston Dynamo, 3-0 on the night and 5-0 on aggregate, to claim a second straight Western Conference championship. The finalists will meet at BMO Field — where Seattle knocked off Toronto last year — on Saturday, Dec. 9. Victor Rodriguez scored the early goal that, for all intents and purposes, put the tie to bed. Clint Dempsey and Will Bruin chipped in with a second and third on the night, respectively, as Seattle native Brian Schmetzer watched his side cruise into next weekend’s

[ MORE: MVP favorites Valeri, Villa headline 2017 Best XI ]

Three moments that mattered

22′ — Bruin sets up Rodriguez, and it’s 3-0 — Ladies and gentlemen, Will Bruin, the play-making no. 10.

57′ — Dempsey taps home a perfect ball from Jones — It’s a shame Joevin Jones will be leaving MLS on a free transfer this winter.

66′ — Martinez sees red for violent conduct — What Tomas Martinez does here isn’t so much violent or dangerous, as it is bafflingly stupid and unnecessary. The stupidity is so nearly deserving of the sending-off on its own.

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

Man of the match: Will Bruin

Goalscorers: Rodriguez (22′), Dempsey (57′), Bruin (73′)

MLS Conference Finals: Toronto, Seattle on collision course?

Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The ties are leaning away from the underdog stories as the MLS Cup Conference Finals reach their second legs.

[ MORE: Premier League Weds. preview ]

Reigning champs Seattle are 90 minutes away from a return to the final after scoring a pair of away goals in Texas, while Toronto needs a win at home to bring out the fine china for a rematch of the 2016 title game at BMO Field.

Toronto FC vs. Columbus Crew — 7:30 p.m. ET Wednesday
Scoreless after one leg

The good news for Columbus Crew is that a scoring draw is good enough to take them through to a second MLS Cup Final in three seasons under Gregg Berhalter, taking the embarrassment of owner Anthony Precourt’s public desire to relocate an MLS original club to Austin, Texas.

The bad news? That scoring draw has to come at noisy BMO Field against the team with the best record in MLS history, a Toronto FC bunch which will be welcoming Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco back to the fold after suspension.

Columbus has veteran savvy and some wild cards like Pedro Santos, but it’s going to take a lot of defending to handle TFC’s field-switching work and busy full backs (let alone Altidore and Giovinco).

Seattle Sounders vs. Houston Dynamo — 10:30 p.m. ET Thursday
Seattle leads 2-0

Clint Dempsey is among the most important and accomplished players in American history, and his work since returning to Major League Soccer certainly ticks a lot of boxes: influential, clutch, prolific.

He’s helped the Sounders to an almost insurmountable advantage. At home for the second leg, the Sounders can make Houston’s task near impossible just by scoring a goal.

That said, Wilmer Cabrera is a heck of a coach and has assets that can attack and fire at will. While it may be improbable for Alberth Elis and Erick Torres to spring a massive comeback in Washington, it’s not quite impossible. That’s about as much as we can give the orange-clad men from Texas.

2017 CONCACAF Awards shortlist revealed

AP Photo/John Raoux
Leave a comment

The 2017 CONCACAF Awards shortlist is up, and fan voting counts.

Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey, and Christian Pulisic are among the nominees for Men’s Player of the Year. Philadelphia Union’s Jamaican backstop, Andre Blake, is also on the list along with Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez and others.

[ MORE: Big American Soccer Survey results ]

The Female Player of the Year is predictably American-heavy, with Alex Morgan, Carli Lloyd, Becky Sauerbrunn, Julie Ertz, Megan Rapinoe, Sam Mewis, and Tobin Heath competing with a trio of international players.

Tim Howard is the only American up for Male Goalkeeper of the Year, though Blake is again in the running. The female side has American backstops Adrianna Franch, Alyssa Naeher, Ashlyn Harris, Jane Campbell, and Nicole Barnhart.

The full ballot, including Best XI, coaches, referees, and goals, is up for your votes here.

MLS Conference Final preview: Rematch spoilers?

Yi-Chin Lee/Houston Chronicle via AP
Leave a comment

There’s an MLS Cup Final rematch on the cards if you play the favorites for this week’s conference finals.

Seattle beat Toronto in last season’s Cup final via penalty kicks, and Brian Schmetzer could again match wits with Greg Vanney come 4 p.m. ET on Dec. 9 in Ontario.

[ MORE: Pulis sacked | What’s next for WBA? ]

The finals begin Tuesday with a doubleheader of sorts, scheduled 90 minutes apart in Columbus and Houston.

Toronto FC vs. Columbus Crew
First leg — 8 p.m. ET Tuesday in Ohio
Second leg — 7:30 p.m. ET Nov. 29 in Ontario

The Trillium Cup rivals meet with a lot more on the line, and the subplots are many. Toronto FC is aiming to win its first MLS Cup title after a record-breaking season lifting the Supporters’ Shield. The Crew is being held hostage by its owner who’s done his level best to engineer a move to Austin come 2019, and the players are giving their fans on-field thrills to go with #SaveTheCrew protests.

There’s a terrific chance for Columbus to pull ahead in leg one as it did against New York City FC, as the Reds will be without suspended stars Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore.

The Crew are led by the wizardry of Justin Meram (Iraq) and the finishing of Norwegian striker Ola Kamara. Then there’s rejuvenated and/or ageless playmaker Federico Higuain, and young USMNT backstop Zack Steffen.

Managers Greg Vanney and Gregg Berhalter are both capable of sublime tactics, and how Tuesday looks may go beyond the missing stars if Vanney is able to trump his Columbus counterpart.

Seattle Sounders vs. Houston Dynamo
First leg — 9:30 p.m. ET Tuesday in Texas
Second leg — 10:30 p.m. ET Nov. 29 in Washington

Clint Dempsey’s defiant comeback tour rolls on. One year after he was relegated to street clothes champagne celebrator in Canada, Dempsey is rollicking through MLS with his heart surgery a poignant but distant memory.

Dempsey scored twice in the conference semifinal defeat of Vancouver, the lone two goals, and has been no worse for the wear despite an injury to key attack partner Jordan Morris. On the season, he’s nabbed 14 goals and 4 assists.

“Deuce” joins Nicolas Lodeiro and Cristian Roldan as key pieces in trying to deconstruct Wilmer Cabrera’s Dynamo, who are trying to add a second title to the city’s trophy haul following a difficult summer for Houston.

Houston has its band together for this critical time of year, with no Gold Cup or CONCACAF World Cup qualifying to deprive them of Alberth Elis or Erick Torres. Can it knock off the No. 2 seed after handing top-seeded Portland its demise?