Diego Valeri

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MLS names 53-player shortlist for 2017 MVP award

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As the MLS Cup playoffs are nearly arrived, it’s almost awards season for those around the league.

Recently, MLS released a list of 53 players eligible for capturing this year’s Landon Donovan MLS MVP award. The award is voted on by a combination of media members covering MLS, technical staff around the league and players.

[ MORE: Bruce Arena steps down as USMNT manager ]

Players like Nemanja Nikolic, David Villa and Diego Valeri are among those considered favorites to take home the award after having stellar seasons for their respective clubs and tallying lots of goals in the process.

Meanwhile, newcomers Atlanta United boast three spectacular names on the list in Miguel Almiron, Josef Martinez and Hector Villalba, who have all scored at least nine goals this season.

Check out the entire list of nominees below.

Club Player Pos
ATL ALMIRON, Miguel M
ATL MARTINEZ, Josef F
ATL VILLALBA, Hector “Tito” F
CHI NIKOLIC, Nemanja F
CHI SCHWEINSTEIGER, Bastian M
COL BADJI, Dominique F
COL HAIRSTON, Marlon M
COL HOWARD, Tim GK
CLB HIGUAIN, Federico M
CLB KAMARA, Ola F
CLB MERAM, Justin M
DC ACOSTA, Lucho M
DC HAMID, Bill GK
DAL BARRIOS, Michael M
DAL URRUTI, Maxi F
HOU CABEZAS, Juan David M
HOU ELIS, Alberth F
HOU TORRES, Erick F
MIN IBSON M
MIN RAMIREZ, Christian F
MIN SHUTTLEWORTH, Bobby GK
MTL PIATTI, Ignacio M
NE DELAMEA, Antonio D
NE NGUYEN, Lee M
NYC RING, Alex M
NYC VILLA, David F
NY KLJESTAN, Sacha M
NY WRIGHT-PHILLIPS, Bradley F
ORL BENDIK, Joe GK
ORL KAKA M
ORL SPECTOR, Jonathan D
PHI BLAKE, Andre GK
PHI MEDUNJANIN, Haris M
PHI SAPONG, C.J. F
POR VALERI, Diego M
RSL BECKERMAN, Kyle M
RSL PLATA, Joao F
RSL RUSNAK, Albert M
SJ JUNGWIRTH, Florian D
SJ URENA, Marco F
SJ WONDOLOWSKI, Chris F
SEA DEMPSEY, Clint F
SEA FREI, Stefan GK
SEA LODEIRO, Nicolas M
SKC BESLER, Matt D
SKC MELIA, Tim GK
SKC OPARA, Ike D
TOR BRADLEY, Michael M
TOR GIOVINCO, Sebastian M
TOR VAZQUEZ, Victor M
VAN MONTERO, Fredy F
VAN REYNA, Yordy M/F
VAN WASTON, Kendall D

Who’s your favorite to take home the award this year? Villa? Valeri? Another? Let us know below in the comments section.

Tackling the MLS MVP debate: Which players are for real?

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We have a former MVP, a league newcomer and everything in between this season as MLS’ most prestigious individual award nears its end.

[ MORE: Atlanta continues home-field dominance with win vs. Impact ]

New York City FC’s David Villa is strongly in position to win his second MVP award in a row, while Diego Valeri, Josef Martinez and others chase the former Barcelona man.

PST takes a look at five serious candidates for the Landon Donovan MLS MVP award this season.

David Villa

The debate starts with the NYCFC captain for a second consecutive season. “El Guaje” has come out and lit it up once more for the Bronx side and propelled his side into a prime spot to grab a first-round bye in the Eastern Conference, despite Atlanta’s hot pursuit. The biggest thing working against Villa right now is a combination of injuries and lacking finishing. The Spanish international hasn’t scored an MLS goal since August 20, making his stock fall a bit.

Diego Valeri

Is there a player hotter than Diego Valeri right now? Well, there might be one other, but we’ll talk about him in a minute. The Argentine is simply scorching MLS defenses right now, scoring in nine straight matches and lifting the Portland Timbers to within a point of the Western Conference lead. Not only has Valeri exhibited incredible finishing technique in 2017, but the 31-year-old has also recorded nine assists for Caleb Porter’s group. Valeri’s most important trait could very well be his clutch factor. The attacker has six (yes, six) game-winning finishes this season for the Timbers.

Josef Martinez

Cut the whole “he missed half the season” argument out of the equation because that argument actually helps his case. The Designated Player has scored 17 goals in 16 matches this season for newcomers Atlanta, and while the expansion side has plenty of attacking firepower, such as Miguel Almiron, Hector Villalba and Yamil Asad, it’s Martinez that has proven to be the vital piece for Tata Martino and Co. down the stretch. By the way, Atlanta is 9-2-2 this season when Martinez starts for them. That’s not a coincidence.

Ignacio Piatti

These last two players won’t be sexy picks given the possibility that neither of their teams will make the postseason, but just listen to why they should be in consideration. Piatti has recorded a 25.3 percent conversion rate this season, which ranks second-highest in MLS when accounting for players that have scored 10 goals or more. The Impact have given up the second-most goals in the East this year, making it more difficult for Piatti and Co. to work

Lee Nguyen

To many, this pick will be a bit out of left field, but bear with me for a second. The 30-year-old has recorded 10 goals and 15 assists this season, making him the New England Revolution’s most dangerous attacking player because of his duel-threat abilities. Nguyen is the only player in Revolution history to record double-digit goals and assists in the same season, which further makes the case for what a historic season he is having. The Revs will need some help in order to qualify for the playoffs, but if they do, Nguyen’s stock will have to increase even more.

MLS Snapshot: POR carve up 9-man ORL, keep pace with VAN, SKC

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The game in 100 words (or less): All of a sudden, the Western Conference has sprung to life as the 2017 regular season winds down — Vancouver Whitecaps, winners of five of their last seven games (unbeaten); Portland Timbers, winners of four of their last six following Sunday’s 3-0 victory over 10-man nine-man Orlando City SC at Providence Park; Sporting Kansas City, losers of just two of their last 15 games; Seattle Sounders, who had their 13-game unbeaten run snapped on Saturday; and Real Salt Lake, winners of four of their last five. With fewer than a handful of games remaining, Vancouver’s lead on Portland and Sporting KC remains one point after all three sides won this weekend; RSL and Seattle are separated by just three points, three points back of second and third. As for Saturday’s game, Diego Valeri is now a top-two candidate for MVP after scoring two more goals (his 19th and 20th, to go with 9 assists) against 10-man Orlando.

[ MORE: TFC’s Shield celebration delayed | RSL end Seattle’s run at 13 ]

Three moments that mattered

15′ — Valeri extends his streak, makes it 1-0 — The last time Valeri failed to score in a game, the date was July 23.

29′ — Mattocks taps it home after Asprilla’s cross — Huge credit to Diego Chara for the through ball to spring Dairon Asprilla into acres of space. The ball to Mattocks was simple, and he got it right.

59′ — Valeri gets no. 20, makes it 3-0 — Joe Bendik managed to deny Mattocks’ initial effort, but Valeri followed up when everyone in white had already quit on the play.

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

Man of the match: Diego Valeri

Goalscorers: Valeri (15′ – PK, 59′), Mattocks (29′)

MLS Snapshot: RSL climb into playoff position with win over POR

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The game in 100 words (or less): Look away, FC Dallas fans, because your six-week slide (winless in nine games, including five losses) has finally cost you one of the Western Conference’s top six places. If the season ended, and the playoffs started, today, the current Supporters’ Shield holders wouldn’t even be competing in the postseason. Currently taking their place, following Saturday’s 2-1 win over the second-place Portland Timbers, would be Real Salt Lake. With four wins from their last six games, Mike Petke’s team has settled on a system (4-2-3-1) and a lineup (Kyle Beckerman, flanked by Luke Mulholland, deep in midfield; Joao Plata and Jefferson Savarino either side of Albert Rusnak, the no. 10, and Luis Silva the lone striker leading the line) that’s picking up results and vaulting RSL up the standings on a weekly basis. Rusnak and Savarino (assisted by Rusnak) bagged the goals for RSL, nullifying Diego Valeri’s second-half equalizer, his eighth straight game with a goal scored to set a new MLS record.

[ MORE: MLS weekend preview — TFC’s Shield chase continues in LA ]

Three moments that mattered

14′ — Rusnak takes it himself, hammers home for 1-0 — Someone should probably consider stepping up to Rusnak, at some point, any point. Anybody.

47′ — Valeri heads his way into the record book — Of all 55 of Valeri’s regular-season goals, probably only two or three have been scored with his head, so of course he scores a record-breaking goal with his head.

61′ — Savarino sticks it upper-90 with authority — It’d be tough to hit one any more upper-90 than this one.

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

Man of the match: Albert Rusnak

Goalscorers: Rusnak (14′), Valeri (47′), Savarino (61′)

MLS Snapshots: TFC’s lead restored to 9 as NYCFC, CHI falter

Photo credit: Toronto FC / @torontofc
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Toronto FC 4-0 San Jose Earthquakes

The game in 100 words (or less): TFC have taken all the excitement out of the final days and weeks of the regular season… with two months of the regular season still to go. Saturday’s 4-0 victory, their fifth straight win, over San Jose not only sent a(nother) clear message to the rest of the league that 1) they’re hellbent on MLS Cup vengeance, and 2) they might just be the best team in league history, but also re-established Greg Vanney’s side’s nine-point lead atop the Eastern Conference and in the Supporters’ Shield race (with thanks to results elsewhere — see below). Jozy Altidore bagged a pair of second-half goal, doubling and tripling the lead established by league-leading assist man Victor Vazquez. Jonathan Osorio competed the scoring with TFC’s third in 21 minutes to start the second half. Sebastian Giovinco left the contest at halftime with tightness in his quad.

[ MORE: MLS Power Rankings — Week 26 | Weekend preview ]

Three moments that mattered

26′ — Vazquez fills an empty net after Tarbell’s blunder — Andrew Tarbell made every effort imaginable in an attempt to get a touch on Steven Beitashour’s cross, but the second-year ‘keeper only wound up looking a fool as Vazquez bagged his sixth goal of the season (to go with 14 assists).

48′ — Altidore slots home for 2-0 — Goals don’t come much easier than this one, for which all Altidore had to do was not send his shot 20 rows into the stands, and he’d make it an even dozen on the season. (Scratch that earlier note — 15 assists for Vazquez)

64′ — Altidore heads past Tarbell for 3-0 — So it’s a baker’s dozen for Altidore, and four goals in TFC’s last three games.

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

Man of the match: Victor Vazquez

Goalscorers: Vazquez (26′), Altidore (48′, 64′), Osorio (66′)


New York City FC 0-1 Portland Timbers

The game in 100 words (or less): Three short days after cutting TFC’s lead to six points, NYCFC crashed and burned their own Shield dreams as they lost at Yankee Stadium for just the second time all season, falling to Portland, 1-0. Diego Valeri scored the game’s only goal and made a bit of history in the process (see below). The victory pushes Caleb Porter’s side two points clear of the Seattle Sounders for the Western Conference’s top spot (though Seattle now have two games in hand). Portland become the first West side to reach a dozen wins on the season, and extend their current unbeaten run to four games (three wins). TFC are the only side to beat Portland in the Timbers’ last eight games.

[ MORE: MLS Power Rankings — Week 26 | Weekend preview ]

Three moments that mattered

44′ — Valeri hammers past Johnson for 1-0 — No one pressured Valeri and he fired past Sean Johnson to give himself a goal in seven straight games, which ties the Argentine for the all-time record in MLS history.

47′ — Brilliant nearly scores from his stomach — Frederic Brilliant so nearly scored the weirdest goal of the 2017 season, a pool-ball tap-in from his belly, but the Frenchman couldn’t quite hit the corner pocket.

84′ — Johnson makes a spectacular save to keep NYCFC in it — This is just absolutely ridiculous from Johnson, who’ll very likely ride this one to Save of the Year glory.

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

Man of the match: Diego Valeri

Goalscorers: Valeri (44′)


Chicago Fire 1-1 New York Red Bulls

The game in 100 words (or less): Chicago’s tailspin might very well be over, but Veljko Paunovic’s side still dropped a pair of points at home on Saturday, in a 1-1 draw with New York. After putting a four-game losing skid to bed last weekend, Chicago were made to scrap their way to a point against a side four points (and two spot) below them in the East. Now 14 points back of TFC (they were the only side within three of the Reds a month and a half ago) and five back of NYCFC for second, the dreaded knockout round is looking a likelier destination everyday for Chicago. Two positives for Chicago: a loss would have meant just one point stood between themselves and New York (and three from falling out of the top-four, thus the right to host the knockout round game), and Nemanja Nikolic scored his first goal since July 1, a stretch of 10 games without the Hungarian finding the back of the net.

[ MORE: MLS Power Rankings — Week 26 | Weekend preview ]

Three Two moments that mattered

8′ — BWP’s in the right place at the right time, and it’s 1-0 — That describes, what, roughly 80 percent of BWP’s goal in MLS. That’s not a slight on the Englishman, because always popping up in the right spot is 99 percent skill and 1 percent luck.

66′ — Nikolic breaks his drought, makes it 1-1 — Nikolic gets the goal, but Michael de Leeuw should get all the attention for this delicate touch. As the ball came falling out of the sky, the Dutchman so carefully laid it across the face of goal and gifted Nikolic a chance he couldn’t miss.

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

Man of the match: Sacha Kljestan

Goalscorers: Wright-Phillips (8′), Nikolic (66′)