ProSoccerTalk’s MLS Player of the Week: Portland Timbers’ Diego Chara

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Yes, yes, there was a two-goal scorer in Chicago. Atta boy, Maicon Santos!

And there was another one in Portland, where Ryan Johnson’s pair weighed heavily in Caleb Porter’s first “W” as a pro coach. Those were both PST POW-worthy nights.

But if you dig a little deeper into Saturday’s 2-0 Portland win – easily the Timbers’ top performance this year, with lots of contributions from a fairly overwhelming night in Stumptown – mercurial DP midfielder Diego Chara was absolutely The Man.

Consider that Chara attempted 51 passes on the slick Jeld-Wen Field and failed to connect on just two of them. His cross to Johnson to open the scoring was absolutely pinpoint perfect, a bulls-eye left just behind Dynamo defender Bobby Boswell, but oh-so-perfectly perfectly placed for his onrushing teammate.

Past the numbers, it was the way Chara so flawlessly ran the match that stood out. His ability to win balls and interpret passing lanes set a high defensive standard, but the coup was in how expeditiously he switched on the offense, jetting forcefully up the field to help create Timbers danger on the counter.

At Stumptown Footy, the praise via Man of the Match poll was overwhelming (not to mention his landslide voting). Our own Richard Farley did a fair amount of raving on Chara and how much he contributed. Farley also explained how a tactical adjustment was critical, moving Chara into a slightly better spot, one at which he clearly excelled.

And the Guardian’s combined reporting does a great job of explained Chara’s previously miscasting, and why, exactly, he could be such a force on one particular rainy Saturday in Portland. Here’s a two-graph sample from the Guardian piece:

During his first two MLS seasons, Chara was often miscast as a game-defining midfielder. Instead, Portland found their industrious box-to-boxer was a limited player. Lacking decisiveness in the final third and the stature to influence in defense, Chara’s lots-of-little-things talents were stretched. Instead of being allowed to be what he was, Chara was asked to exhibit what he wasn’t, as evidenced by the league-leading 138 fouls he’s committed since arriving in Portland.

Porter’s system is all about the little things. Instead of creating second balls, Chara is winning them. Rather than craft changes, he’s supporting Diego Valeri and Darlington Nagbe. In system that relies on industry and intensity, Chara’s strongest traits can finally be leveraged. And yes, sometimes he can snap a defense.

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