Di Vaio, Gonzalez, and other reactions to Major League Soccer’s awards finalists

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Today’s reveal of Major League Soccer’s postseason awards finalists gives us some insight into how media, players and coaches saw the season, with each triad of ‘nominees’ of resulting from voting that concluded earlier this money. If a player’s in the final three, we know a decent numbers of voters thought that he was among the top two candidates for the award. Each ballot only had room for a first and second choice.

[MORE: Major League Soccer announces finalists for 2013 awards]

So when we see Omar Gonzalez as one of the Defender of the Year nominees, you know a lot of people not only had him among the top two but probably at the top of their ballots. Yet as opposed to 2011, when the latest LA Galaxy Designated Player won the award, this was not the best season for the U.S. international. He wasn’t bad by any means, but a dip in form around the time his new contract was announced was so noticeable Bruce Arena was left trumpeting his defender’s rebound by season’s end. This was not a Defender of the Year season from Omar, which makes you wonder how much reputation trumps performance when it comes to these ballots.

To a lesser extent, Matt Besler probably benefitted from the same effect. Last year’s best defender has also broken through for the U.S. Men’s National Team, future raising his profile. But he only played 23 games for Sporting Kansas City this year, and while he very well might be the best defender in Major League Soccer, he probably didn’t have the best season. It’s hard to made a strong case that 23 games of Besler is worth more than 29 from Aurélien Collin, 29 from Jámison Olave, or 34 from Jose Goncalves (who, in fairness, we the third nominee for the award). Being the best player seems to be the most important quality; not whether that player had the best season.

But amongst the finalists list released by MLS today, those type of curiosities are the exceptions. In fact, most won’t consider them curiosities at all. It’s only when you start digging that questions arise regarding Gonzalez and Besler, and the truth is most voters may not put in that kind of time. When a ballot has two slots for Defender of the Year, players, coach, and media might have reflex responses – responses that lead to Besler getting a nod despite missing almost one-third of the season.

Marco Di Vaio’s case is a bit different. In contention for the Golden Boot until the season’s last day, the Montréal Impact’s candidacy was much discussed throughout the year. As the only real goal scoring option in Marco Schällibaum’s attack, Di Vaio’s importance to the Impact is undeniable. Yet it is curious how much more attention he received than Camilo Sanvezzo, another attack-only guy on a borderline playoff team (Vancouver) whose candidacy’s almost entirely dependent on his goal totals. Sanvezzo finished with 22. Di Vaio finished with 20. Goals per 90 minutes: Sanvezzo 0.82; Di Vaio 0.66. If Sanvezzo had Di Vaio’s history in Serie A – his name recognition – would we be talking about his candidacy instead of Di Vaio’s?

They’re minor qualms, and until we see the final voting, we don’t know how close each player came to winning the award. Jose Goncalves may run away with Defender of the Year, rendering second and third meaningless. And maybe Di Vaio finishes closer to the unlisted Sanvezzo than he does Mike Magee or Robbie Keane. This may all be needless nitpicking.

Still, you can never underestimate the role reputation plays in these types of votes. Whenever there are doubts, it’s natural for voters to default to players with whom they’re most acquainted. Sometimes that manifests in voting for your teammate, player, or the guy you cover on a day-to-day basis. Other times, it means going with the names you hear most.

Fernandes scores first goal, says Ronaldo backed Manchester United move

Bruno Fernandes Ronaldo
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It’s probably not a surprise that a young Portuguese player would fancy Manchester United given the heroics of Cristiano Ronaldo at Old Trafford early his career.

Bruno Fernandes admits that those images danced through his head well before he signed with the Red Devils in January.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

It’s also not a shock that United would turn to their former player for a take on the playmaker before buying him from Sporting Lisbon.

Fernandes says he’s grateful that CR7 endorsed BF18. From Sky Sports:

“I know some people asked Cristiano what he thought of me and what I was like as a player and a person,” Fernandes said. “I know he spoke highly of me and gave me a good reference, so I sent him a message after to thank him for his kind words.”

Fernandes has 19 caps and two goals for Portugal, while Ronaldo has a few more with 164 and 99.

He now has a goal and an assist in four appearances for United. Ronaldo finished with 118 goals and 69 assists in 292 appearances for the Red Devils.

Here’s the finish:

Eden Hazard suffers fracture ahead of Man City in UCL, El Clasico

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Eden Hazard is set to miss the Real Madrid’s UEFA Champions League first leg against Man City with a broken fibula.

Hazard had only returned to the lineup for two matches following a three-month absence with an ankle injury.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

The 29-year-old has made just 15 appearances for Real since arriving in a big-money move from Chelsea, scoring once with five assists.

He has never appeared in less than 30 league matches over the course of his career, five times missing one or zero matches.

Of course, all of his absences show that Real is very comfortable playing and winning without Hazard. Zinedine Zidane’s men lost Sunday to drop behind Barcelona in La Liga, but that was just its second loss of the league season.

Real will be taxed in depth like its rivals, with Wednesday’s visit from Man City followed by an El Clasico at the Bernabeu on March 1. Barcelona hosts Napoli on Tuesday.

Whether you like the playmaker or despise him, there must be some sense of sympathy for his latest ailments (even if Man City and Barca fans will likely offer a Jerry Seinfeld-esque, “That’s a shame”).

Watch Live: Manchester United, Wolves host bottom three battlers

Manchester United Watford live stream link
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A pair of Premier League basement dwellers face stiff tests in their bids to win another season in the top flight.

Manchester United hosts Watford on NBCSN while Wolves welcome Norwich City on CNBC as both home sides aim to improve the health of their top four hopes in 9 a.m. ET kickoffs.

[ WATCH: Man Utd-Watford | Wolves-Norwich ]

Lineups notes from both matches:


Manchester United



Norwich City

Three Serie A matches suspended due to virus deaths in Italy

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ROME (AP) Three Serie A soccer matches scheduled for Sunday in the northern regions of Lombardy and Veneto were suspended late Saturday after the deaths of two people infected with the virus from China.

On orders from the Italian government, the games called off were: Inter Milan vs. Sampdoria, Atalanta vs. Sassuolo and Hellas Verona vs. Cagliari.

Three other matches in Genoa, Turin and Rome on Sunday are going ahead as scheduled.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

A dozen towns in northern Italy effectively went into lockdown on Saturday after the deaths of two people infected with the coronavirus from China, and a growing cluster of cases with no direct links to the origin of the outbreak abroad.

“The government is working on urgent measures to decisively confront and contain the cases of coronavirus contagion,” read a letter from Sports Minister Vincenzo Spadafora to Italian Olympic Committee president Giovanni Malago shortly before midnight local time on Saturday. “Those measures also include the sports world in order to prevent risks and to better take care of the health of those involved in the events and competition.

“Following measures taken by the cabinet for protective reasons and maximum precaution, on orders of the government I’m asking you to suspend all sports events of every level and discipline planned for the Lombardy and Veneto regions on Sunday.”

The secondary contagions prompted local authorities in the Lombardy and Veneto regions to close schools, businesses and restaurants and to cancel sporting events and Masses.

The mayor of Milan, Italy’s business capital and the regional capital of Lombardy, shuttered public offices.

A 78-year-old man infected with the virus died in Veneto. A postmortem on a 77-year-old woman in Lombardy came back positive, though it wasn’t clear if illness from the virus caused her death.

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

Andrew Dampf on Twitter: https://twitter.com/AndrewDampf