Starry nights: MLS Team of the Week – Round 5

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ProSoccerTalk’s Best XI from Week 5 in Major League Soccer includes two very young men from Real Salt Lake and one prominent “reservist” off the bench:

Goalkeeper:

  • Seattle’s Michael Gspurning

Why we like him: Rarely does the man find his way onto this list whose team has suffered a weekend loss. But Michael Gspurning heroically prevented his team from being laughed on the field in Utah. The Sounder’s Austrian ‘keeper had six saves in the first half alone. That’s a full days work and then some on most MLS afternoons.

Back line:

  • FC Dallas’ Zach Loyd
  • Houston’s Jermaine Taylor
  • LA Galaxy’s Todd Dunivant

Why we like them: MLS scorer extraordinaire Chris Wondolowski was oddly quiet in the Earthquakes’ loss to Houston; Taylor was a major reason.

As for Dunivant, he wasn’t just on top of things (as usual) along the Galaxy’s left side. He also had the bonus of doing something important to help cement the Galaxy’s locker room and team chemistry.

Loyd had a great night up and down the right side against New England, just edging a good performance out of right back from Sporting KC’s Chance Myers.

Midfield:

  • Real Salt Lake’s Luis Gil
  • Sporting Kansas City’s Benny Feilhaber
  • Houston’s Ricardo Clark (pictured)
  • Portland’s Will Johnson
  • Real Salt Lake’s Sebastian Velasquez

Why we like them: SKC needs the Big Benny Feilhaber, not the shrunken one seen in recent weeks, and also seen too often last year in New England. The former U.S. international had two assists in a big win over Montreal, the Impact’s first loss this year.

Gil, as previously noted, is just 19. We need to keep reminding everyone of that. This kid’s upside is spectacular. Midfield mate Velasquez is just a wee bit older at 22.

We could have picked pretty much anyone in the Dynamo midfield, which spent the evening making Houston hash of the Earthquakes central core. When in doubt, go with “Rico” and all the miles he covers over an evening at BBVA Compass Stadium. That’s what we always say.

More on Johnson later. Hint, hint.

Forwards:

  • Chivas USA’s Eric Avila
  • New York Red Bulls’ Thierry Henry

Why we like them: Avila operated as a wide attacker (not really as a forward) in the Goats’ 3-5-2. But details, details. His work in possession was and in pushing the Chivas USA attack was stellar, not to mention that game-winning goal in the latest forward surge under “El Chelis.”

Yes, Henry’s minutes were limited off the bench. And, yes, he scored just one goal. (We like our forwards to have a couple of them, or at least a goal plus an assist) to land on our team. But you saw that freakin’ goal, right? It was the game-winner, a late one … and absolutely essential for a club so desperate to break the seal on the win column for the year.

Gressel ties it in Atlanta United’s 1-1 draw with Timbers

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ATLANTA (AP) Julian Gressel tied it in the 56th minute and Atlanta United held on for a 1-1 draw with the Portland Timbers on Sunday.

A loose ball deflection off defender Larrys Mabiala bounced into Gressel’s path and he pounced on it with a right-footed volley. Atlanta (10-3-4) stayed atop the MLS standings and extended its unbeaten streak to five games.

Mabiala opened the scoring in the 32nd minute. Samuel Armenteros was the first to get a touch with a left-footed stab on Diego Valeri’s free kick. Goalkeeper Brad Guzan blocked it out, but Mabiala headed home the rebound and Portland took the early lead.

The Timbers (6-3-5) extended their unbeaten run to nine.

MLS: NYCFC beat TFC in new coach Torrent’s debut

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NEW YORK (AP) — Jo Inge Berget scored twice and coach Domenec Torrent celebrated his New York City FC debut with a 2-1 victory over Toronto FC on Sunday.

Berget made it 2-1 in the 68th minute, following Maximiliano Moralez’s direct pass up the right channel and slotting it home.

NYCFC (9-3-4) tied it at 1 in the 51st minute on Berget’s back heel from the top of the 6-yard box.

Víctor Vazquez opened the scoring for Toronto (4-8-3) in the 37th minute. Vasquez outran his defender on Auro’s long ball up the right side and sent a chip shot over the onrushing goalkeeper.

NYCFC’s David Villa left the game in the 28th minute with a non-contact injury.

Torrent replaced Patrick Vieira in New York shortly after Vieira’s departure for OGC Nice was officially confirmed. Torrent had been the right-hand man to Pep Guardiola for the last 11 years, most recently at Manchester City.

WATCH: World Cup, Day 12 — Time to settle Groups A & B

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Day 12 of the 2018 World Cup is up next, on Monday, and with it begins the final round of group games to decide the 16 teams headed to the knockout rounds. For the next four days, we’ll be treated to four games each day.

Also, the end of 8 a.m. ET kickoffs. Hooray for sleeping in.

[ SCENARIOS: Who needs what, to finish where, in final round of group games ]

First up, the conclusion of Group A, where both the hosts, Russia, and Uruguay have already advanced with wins in their first two games. Now, the two meet in the southwestern city of Samara to determine who’ll go through to the round of 16 as the group winners, and who’ll be the runners-up. Most likely awaiting either of them will be Spain and Portugal, pending the order in which they finish in Group B.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ]

Speaking of Group B, Spain will finish group play against fourth-place and points-less Morocco, while Portugal have a tricky meeting with third-place Iran, who sit just a point behind the reigning European champions. The winner of Group B will face the runners-up of Group A, and vice versa.

Below is Monday’s schedule in full.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.


2018 World Cup schedule – Monday, June 25

Group A
Uruguay vs. Russia: Samara, 10 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Saudi Arabia vs. Egypt: Volgograd, 10 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group B
Spain vs. Morocco: Kaliningrad, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Iran vs. Portugal: Saransk, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Transfer rumor roundup: Emery raiding Sevilla; Wilshere’s suitor(s)

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Unai Emery has reportedly been in contact with at least one former player, Ever Banega, in an attempt to convince the Argentine midfielder to join him at Arsenal.

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Banega, who’ll turn 30 on Friday, played two seasons under Emery at Sevilla — where they won back-to-back Europa League titles (Banega was only at the club for the second and third of three straight from 2013-2016).

With Banega reportedly on the fence about whether or not to leave Sevilla again — he only just returned last summer after one season at Inter Milan — Emery is said to have made a personal call after Arsenal’s bid of roughly $23 million triggered the release clause in Banega’s contract. Sevilla will join Arsenal in the Europa League next season after finishing seventh in La Liga.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Jack Wilshere announced last week that he will leave Arsenal this summer — thus opening up the handful of games for which he was healthy and fit to play each season, perhaps for Banega — which leads us nicely to the final bit of transfer talk for Sunday: West Ham are interested in the 26-year-old, but are reportedly only willing to offer him a one-year contract.

The Hammers’ hesitancy is, of course, a response to his years-long battle with injuries — he’s made just 66 appearances over the last four PL seasons (three with Arsenal, one on loan to Bournemouth).

Two other clubs to keep an eye on, as they’ve reportedly indicated interest in Wilshere and/or been in contact already: Everton and Juventus.