Five overlooked defensive performances from MLS Week 21

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Chris Rolfe was named MLS Player of the Week for Round 21, and the Chicago Fire man certainly did lead the way at Toyota Park as his club became the latest to heap further woe onto bedraggled D.C. United.

Still, it’s hard to say Chicago would not have won (the final was 4-1) without Rolfe’s two goals. Plus, the tendency to always favor the attacker in these weekly awards is maddening. Not maddening like Toddlers and Tiaras (or anything on TLC for that matter), but maddening in our soccer fondness.

So, here are five defensive performances from the weekend that deserve mention (in alphabetical order):

  • Jose Goncalves

Physically dominant against Crew forwards Aaron Schoenfeld and Dominic Oduro, the Revs’ star center back then sneaked forward to nail the stoppage-time game-winner in Columbus. That’s a huge three points for the Revolution, who keep inching closer to a playoff spot.

  • Andrew Jean-Baptiste

Dealing with Philly striker Conor Casey has always been tough. But he’s been in wonderful form lately, so the Timbers’ center back needed to be tightly focused, confident, tenacious and well-positioned. Jean-Baptiste (pictured, from a previous match) was, and Casey looked clearly frustrated even before the half.

  • Zach Loyd

Sanna Nyassi had an absolute miserable evening at Stade Saputo, never able to round the corner against Dallas’ right back. Time and again Loyd prevailed in the one-on-one battles as FCD held the Impact level in a scoreless draw.

  • Drew Moor

The Rapids’ center back was a ball-winning, ball-clearing beast in the final minutes as his club clung to a 1-1 draw in Seattle. He was on the case all afternoon – just particularly dominant in the end. Plus, Moor broke free to nod in the team’s goal at the other end.

  • Jamison Olave

We cannot be surprised that the Red Bulls’ big Colombian center back would be so dominant (in the teams’ 0-0 draw in Canada), especially with TFC front-line strikers Danny Koevermans and Robert Earnshaw out injured. Still, whenever a Toronto man did break through, Olave almost always there to squash the threat.

Video: Goalkeeping error grants Suarez, Uruguay gift

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Luis Suarez was clearly upset with his lack of finishing in Uruguay’s opener last Friday, but the Barcelona man is finally on the scoresheet at the 2018 World Cup.

[MORE: Ronaldo’s early header gives Portugal win over Morocco ]

The veteran striker gave Uruguay the lead in the 23rd minute after a close-range finish off of a corner kick.

Saudi Arabia goalkeeper Mohammed Al-Owais came out to try and collect the cross, however, he was slow in his reaction, allowing the ball to slip through to Suarez for the easy finish.

The Uruguayans will reach the Round of 16 with one match remaining if they hold on to their 1-0 lead.

NZ women’s coach placed on leave after player complaints

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Wellington, New Zealand (AP) The coach of New Zealand’s women’s football team has been placed on leave pending an investigation of complaints about his conduct from members of the national team.

[ MORE: Senegal holds off late Poland charge for Group H win ]

The complaints centered around tactics Andreas Heraf used in a recent home international against Japan and his comments to media after that match. Players reportedly objected to the defensive nature of Heraf’s tactics in the 3-1 loss.

New Zealand Football chief executive Andy Martin said at a news conference on Wednesday that his organization had received a letter from the New Zealand Professional Footballers Association, containing letters of complaint from 13 national team members.

Defending his approach at a news conference after the match, Heraf said the New Zealand players would never have the “quality” to compete with a team of Japan’s ability and might have lost 8-0 if they had not adopted a defensive style.

Further reports have emerged of player concerns about Heraf’s behavior, including allegations of bullying.

Martin was repeatedly questioned at the news conference about when New Zealand Football first had notice of the players’ concerns about Heraf. He insisted he was not aware of any problems until the letter from the NZPFA containing the players’ complaints was released on Monday.

In a statement, New Zealand Football Chairman Deryck Shaw said player welfare was “of utmost importance.”

“We hold player welfare as a matter of utmost importance and that is why we are conducting a thorough, independent review. We want to ensure we better understand these issues in an objective review. There is no place for inappropriate behavior of any kind with New Zealand Football.”

Ronaldo’s early tally gives Portugal win over Morocco

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It was far from a convincing performance, but manager Fernando Santos and Co. came away with their first win at the World Cup and now sit in the drivers’ seat in Group B.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Portugal earned a narrow 1-0 win over Morocco on Wednesday, after Cristiano Ronaldo’s early header proved to be the difference.

Santos’ group now sits atop Group B with four points, while Morocco is eliminated after losing its first two matches.

It took just four minutes for Portugal to break the deadlock, with Ronaldo once again at the center of the Portuguese attack.

The Real Madrid man brilliantly latched onto a header at the near post off of a corner kick, giving Ronaldo his fourth goal at this World Cup (seventh goal overall).

Morocco did well to insert its presence in the match following the early goal, but various chances from Medhi Benatia and Hakim Ziyech weren’t enough to break past Portugal goalkeeper Rui Patricio.

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The African side also had a legitimate appeal for a penalty kick in the first stanza, however, referee Mark Geiger opted to play on despite the Moroccan protest.

Morocco continued its pressure in the second half, and Patricio was forced to make an incredible save in the 57th minute when Younes Belhanda headed a cross towards the far corner.

Portugal will close out Group B play on June 25 against Iran, while Morocco takes on Spain

Arena says there’s no reason for Pulisic to leave Dortmund

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Christian Pulisic has been the subject of transfer talks for some time now after becoming an instant star at Borussia Dortmund, but one of the U.S. Men’s National Team’s former coaches says it might be wise for him to stay put; at least for now.

MORE: Ronaldo scores fourth goal in World Cup ]

Former USMNT boss Bruce Arena spoke about Pulisic, who has had rumors of moves to Liverpool, Tottenham and Manchester United surrounding him recently.

Arena cited consistent playing time as the main reason why Pulisic may want to consider holding off on a transfer for now.

“I think Christian is in a great place. Dortmund has a very good reputation for developing players.

“In his couple years there with the first team, he’s done very well. Hopefully, he can continue to do that, be consistent at the club level, and if he does that, he’s going to be a real plus for the national team program.

“Any move Christian makes in the future, it’s important he goes to a club where he plays on a regular basis. There’s no point in him leaving Dortmund and going to a club where he doesn’t get the kind of minutes he needs to continue to develop.”

Pulisic has spent three seasons at Dortmund, scoring 12 goals in all competitions during that span.