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.

Italian soccer federation signs deal with Chinese government

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ROME (AP) The Italian soccer federation has signed a wide-ranging memorandum with the Chinese government to promote soccer between the two countries.

The deal foresees playing the Italian Super Cup or Italian Cup in China within the next three years.

[ MORE: Upsets in EURO qualifying ]

The Italian Super Cup – which pits the Serie A champion against the Italian Cup champion – has already been played in China four times over the last 10 years.

The meeting with China Media Group head Shen Haixiong also focused on TV content and rights, collaboration over developing young Chinese players in Italy and instruction for using the video assistant referee.

Shen was in Rome for the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Italian federation president Gabriele Gravina says, “Soccer has shown once again to be a bridge between different cultures.”

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

WATCH: Asprilla scores terrific bicycle kick on USL cameo

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Portland Timbers forward Dairon Asprilla has had to spend some time in the USL Championship this season, and the second tier would probably like to see Gio Savarese keep the Colombian in Major League Soccer.

[ REPORT: Liverpool to sell Keita? ]

Asprilla scored twice and added an assists on Saturday night in a defeat of Eric Wynalda’s Las Vegas Lights, and he put up a near picture perfect bicycle kick on the highlight reel.

Watch as he sets himself up, willingly or not, for the endeavor before splashing a shot in the side panel for an amazing aesthetic.

Report: Bayern, BVB ready to buy Keita from Liverpool

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A report claims that Liverpool is ready to admit defeat in the case of Naby Keita.

Keita, 24, was bought from RB Leipzig last season and arrived at Anfield in the summer, but has struggled to find consistent playing time under Jurgen Klopp.

[ VIDEO: USMNT’s Saief shines for FC Cincinnati ]

Viewed as the missing link between the Virgil Van Dijk and Liverpool’s torrential attack, Keita has not come close to replicating the form that saw his price tag reach $69 million.

Indeed, Team Talk says Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich look prepared to pay around $53 million to bring Keita back to the Bundesliga.

Keita has played 27 matches in all competitions for Liverpool, accumulating 1,388 minutes and just one assist. He had nine goals and seven assists in more than double the minutes one season ago.

According to WhoScored.com, he’s passing the ball better and taking almost a foul less than last season, but almost every other measurable has declined since he moved to England.

I’m as guilty as anyone of thinking Keita would be everything the Reds required after an improved 2017-18, but he’s either being used very poorly or having trouble adjusting to the culture.

It’s early to quit on a player so talented, but maybe Klopp and he just don’t mesh well. But if it isn’t a case of clashing with the club, it may be worth waiting out a player who looked a giant just eight months ago.

EURO qualifying: Hungary stings Croatia, Israel hangs 4 on Austria

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It wasn’t just Germany and the Netherlands staging a tight and entertaining match in EURO 2020 qualifying on Sunday.

[ VIDEO: Saief, Manneh lead FC Cincinnati ]

Hungary 2-1 Croatia

Ante Rebic’s early goal made a “business as usual” statement for the World Cup runners-up, but Hungary can be a handful against any opponents and rallied at home.

Hoffenheim striker Adam Szalai brought the hosts level at halftime, and Mate Patkai gave Hungary a deserved 2-1 win in Budapest.

Coming three days after a loss in Slovakia to start qualifying, it was an early almost-must-win for Marco Rossi’s men.

Israel 4-2 Austria

Marko Arnautovic‘s brace in defeat couldn’t have come with different vibes. His eighth minute marker gave the Austrians a leg up, his 75th minute goal meaning very little with the side having conceded four-straight in between.

China-based striker Eran Zahavi scored a hat trick for Israel, and RB Salzburg star Munas Dabbur scored the fourth goal to keep the hosts within sight of first place Poland.

Austria is winless through two qualifiers.

Elsewhere
Wales 1-0 Slovakia
Cyprus 0-2 Belgium
San Marino 0-2 Scotland
Netherlands 2-3 Germany — RECAP, VIDEO
Northern Ireland 2-1 Belarus
Poland 2-0 Latvia
Slovenia 1-1 Macedonia
Kazakhstan 0-4 Russia