We begin to roll out our choices for the league’s top defender, top goalkeeper, top rookie, MVP and more:
Today we look at ProSoccerTalk’s writer’s picks for Major League Soccer’s Defender of the Year:
Jose Goncalves, New England
I had to go to the stats for this one – to one stat, that is: games played. Sporting Kansas City’s Matt Besler is as smooth as they come, tackling and intercepting without fouling (fewer than once per game on averaged), and he reads the game as carefully as a real estate lawyer reads contracts. But he played just 23 times this year for SKC. That’s not his fault … but if we’re talking about biggest impact to a defense, then its Goncalves, who played in all 34 Revolution matches. If not for the unheralded Portuguese arrival – a darn smooth operator in central defense, himself – now way New England makes it to the playoffs for the first time since 2009.
Jose Goncalves, New England
Interesting race this year. Besler missed a lot of time with the national team. The LA Galaxy’s Omar Gonzalez had a prolonged dip. In their wake, I saw this as a race between Goncalves, New York’s Jámison Olave and Kansas City’s Aurélien Collin, and I went with the Portuguese. Olave’s infrequent mistakes were a tiebreaker of sorts, whereas I just felt Goncalves was better than Collin, particularly in one-one-one situations.
Matt Besler, Sporting Kansas City
Another incredible season for Besler as he marches on with his hometown Sporting Kansas City squad. The American defender has also had a breakout season on the international stage and should be a clear starter for the United States when the first game of the World Cup rolls around this summer. From Notre Dame stud to MLS star and now a USMNT veteran in the making, it’s been an incredible rise for the soft spoken center back. His pace, reading of the game and focus has seen him rise to the top in KC. I suspect the best is still to come.
ProSoccerTalk’s choices for MLS awards
- Wednesday: Defender of the Year
- Thursday: Goalkeeper of the Year
- Friday: Rookie of the Year
- Monday, Nov. 25: Coach of the Year
- Tuesday, Nov. 26: MLS Most Valuable Player
- Wednesday, Nov. 27: MLS Best XI
The match is really opening up now, and France has begun to assert itself with an opener just beyond the half-hour mark.
[ MORE: Denmark, Australia draw, leaving Group C wide open ]
Kylian Mbappe has given Les Bleus a 1-0 lead over Peru after a deflected Olivier Giroud cross found the Monaco attacker just in front of goal for a tap-in finish.
The sequence began after Paul Pogba dispossessed Peru deep in their own half, before dishing the ball off to Giroud.
The goal for Mbappe is his first at a World Cup, as the 19-year-old continues to impress for both club and country.
Morocco’s World Cup journey will conclude after the group stage, but the African side isn’t pleased with how their second match transpired on Wednesday against Portugal.
[ MORE: Spain gets win after Iran sees equalizer ruled off ]
The Moroccans have lodged a complaint with FIFA against referee Mark Geiger — an American who has become one of the most well-known officials in Major League Soccer.
Geiger was alleged to have asked Portuguese captain Cristiano Ronaldo for his jersey at halftime of the 1-0 win over Morocco, to which Geiger has categorically denied the claims.
FIFA released the following statement on the matter:
The claims stemmed from Morocco player Nordin Amrabat, who addressed the matter in an interview following the match.
“I don’t know what [Geiger] is used to, but he was very impressed by Cristiano [Ronaldo],” Amrabat said. “I’ve been just told by Pepe that in the [first half], he asked if he could have his shirt. Come on, man. What are we talking about? … We are at the World Cup, not a circus here.”
Geiger returned to action on Thursday as video assistant referee for the Denmark-Australia match, which included an important alteration in a call that led to an Australia penalty kick.
Denmark and Australia settled for a 1-1 draw on Thursday, as this exciting Group C affair had nothing to separate the two nations at the end of 90 minutes.
[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ]
As it stands, the Danes lead the group with four points, while Australia earned its first point of the World Cup.
France will meet Peru later on Thursday, with Les Bleus having won its first match and Peru having suffered defeat to Denmark.
The Danes broke through after seven minutes when Nicolai Jørgensen picked out a perfect back-heel pass to Christian Eriksen at the top of the box, before the Tottenham Hotspur attacker volleyed home for a 1-0 lead.
Jørgensen nearly doubled the Denmark advantage in the 24th minute when the 27-year-old had an open header from close range that skewed just wide of the target.
Australia worked its way into the match following the opener, and were awarded a penalty kick in the 37th minute after VAR Mark Geiger altered an initial decision for a handball inside the box.
Mile Jedinak converted the spot kick to level the match at 1-1, giving the Socceroos life.
A dangerous free kick four minutes later almost gave Denmark the lead once again, however, Eriksen couldn’t get a crucial touch on the ball to knock it over the goal line before Ryan collected.
The second half continued with lightning pace from both sides, and Aaron Mooy‘s 71st minute blast came inches away from giving Australia an improbable lead.
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The two nations will conclude Group C play on June 26, as Denmark faces France and Australia takes on CONMEBOL side Peru.
The Socceroos battled admirably in the latter stages of the first half, and Australia was rewarded for their efforts.
Australia has leveled the match at 1-1 after a Mile Jedinak penalty kick cancelled out Christian Eriksen’s stunning opener in the seventh minute.
After an initial decision to play on by the head referee, VAR Mark Geiger opted to award a penalty kick to the Aussies after Yussuf Poulsen was caught with his hand away from his body on a Mathew Leckie header.
Poulsen was also shown a yellow card for the infraction, which rules him out for Denmark’s group-stage finale against France.