Colorado Rapids’ Dillon Powers named MLS Rookie of the Year

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Three quick thoughts on this year’s honor, which went to the Colorado Rapids’ midfielder Monday:

Are we getting smarter about this stuff?

A good holding midfielder can stitch his team together in ways many fans and supporters cannot see without the most careful study. Casual observers might see a guy who doesn’t contribute enough to the attack, or does not manhandle enough opposition attackers for their liking. But there is a handsome value on the holding mid who can shape a contest through defensive positioning, by covering ground, by using skill and space wisely in linking possession front to back, etc.

It’s not always glamorous work. But show me a solid team, I can probably show you a steady-eddy holding midfielder.

So we come to Dillon Powers, the first-year Colorado Rapid who was today named MLS Rookie of the Year.

It would have been so easy for voters to choose teammate Deshorn Brown, whose stats made a screaming account. His 10-goals equaled an MLS rookie record – and if there is one thing we American sports fans love, it’s a “scoring record” of any shape or form.

We’ve seen central mids picked as RoY, Maurice Edu most recently, although that was back in 2007. But this one seems different because there was an attractive choice among attackers (Brown).

Young American playing centrally? Impressive

U.S. born-and-bred central midfielders have hardly been non-existent. Claudio Reyna, Tab Ramos, John O’Brien, John Harkes, Chris Armas, Kerry Zavagnin, Ben Olsen … well, the list could go on. They all made contributions from the center of the field.

But if we’re honest, the list of stately U.S. center backs, forwards and, of course, goalkeepers is probably longer. Bottom line, it’s tough for a U.S. man, especially a younger one, to make his mark as a central midfielder, where technical work and a savvy first touch is of highest value.

So, a bonus congrats to young Powers. Well done, young man.

The award was always bound for Colorado

But then, we were saying that three months ago.

What would have been really interesting: had Rapids’ left back Chris Klute, goalkeeper Clint Irwin or center back Shane O’Neill been eligible. All were practically rookies, although not technically so, having signed low-level pro deals before 2013.

Now that would have created a selection pool of RoY candidates from one team the likes none of us have ever seen.

(MORE: ProSoccerTalk’s staff choices for Rookie of the Year)

Zidane praises Ronaldo, says Real, Liverpool UCL experience “irrelevant”

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As Real Madrid prepares its bid to become the first three-peat winner of the European Cup since the mid-1970s, the Spanish giants still carrying the spirit of an outside, almost like an underdog.

[ MORE: Kane named England captain ]

You can hear it in Zinedine Zidane’s comments on himself, as he casually mentions that he’s not a great tactician.

There’s almost a feeling like he’s building up all of Madrid, including his players, to think of beating Liverpool in Saturday’s UEFA Champions League Final in Kiev like an upset.

And it comes off especially true when he discusses any criticism of his serial Ballon d’Or chaser, Cristiano Ronaldo:

“A player can go through some hard times, but when he does not score he does not get wound up. He knows that the next game he could maybe score two or three goals. That is what happened this year. That’s what makes him the best. There are players that do not thrive under pressure but some do thrive. He is one of those that does. The more you criticize him, the more you should beware. I am a quiet person and in the end, it is better to have Cristiano Ronaldo by your side because he shows year in year out that he is top dog. He will be vital, because he is the best there is.”

Zidane also said Real’s status as a two-time reigning champion, and Liverpool’s 11-year break between UCL finals, are “irrelevant.”

“We must prepare for the game, look at our opponent’s flaws and try to hurt them. It is one match and we are both playing away from home. We are ready and experience will not give us any edge at all. It’s a football match and we have to show that we want to win it.”

Transfer Gossip: Pep scouts de Ligt, Lewandowski to Chelsea?

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Just days after winning his first Premier League title, Pep Guardiola is already on the road, scouting for new signings.

One of these players that Manchester City is reportedly scouting – likely along with many European clubs – is Ajax’s young defensive wiz Matthijs de Ligt. Just 18-years old, de Ligt finished his second full season in the Ajax first team, playing 39 games across all competitions and scoring three goals.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

The youngster was even fast-tracked into the Netherlands National Team, starved of quality defenders as they are, but he made some crucial errors that led to the Oranje missing the World Cup and a second-straight tournament.

Guardiola is eying de Ligt as the eventual replacement for Vincent Kompany, but there’s a chance Guardiola could wait to sign him with Nicolas Otamendi, Aymeric Laporte and John Stones ahead of de Ligt in the pecking order. However, considering how well Davinson Sanchez has done in his time in England this season, de Ligt could in theory have a similar performance, assuming he adjusts physically.

Either way, should de Ligt join Man City, they’ll have two of the brightest young defenders in European football.

Here’s a look at some other transfer rumors across the Premier League and Europe:

(more…)

Sources: Patrick Vieira move to Nice finalized

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New York City FC’s fantastic start to 2018 will have to continue without its manager, as Patrick Vieira is set to move overseas.

Multiple sources have told Pro Soccer Talk that Vieira’s move to Ligue 1 side OGC Nice –which was reported by PST over the weekend — has been finalized.

The deal is for a two-year contract with the French club, who finished eighth place in Ligue 1 during the 2017/18 campaign.

French outlet L’Equipe has reported that NYCFC won’t receive a buyout for the remainder of Vieira’s contract, which was set to run through the conclusion of the 2018 MLS season in December.

Vieira was at NYCFC training on Tuesday, and is expected to be once again on Wednesday, per a source familiar with the situation.

Tomorrow’s training session will likely be Vieira’s last though, and he won’t travel to coach NYCFC for the team’s MLS match on Friday night against the Houston Dynamo.

There aren’t any indications to this point as to whether or not NYCFC has an interim manager in mind to replace the outgoing Vieira.

The 41-year-old manager has spent the last two-plus seasons in New York City, guiding NYCFC to back-to-back second-place finishes in the Eastern Conference. He took over at the team in 2016, following the firing of the team’s first-ever manager Jason Kreis (now at Orlando City).

Vieira will be replacing Lucien Favre at Nice, who recently left the club at the conclusion of the Ligue 1 season. Favre has since taken the vacant managerial position at Borussia Dortmund.

Over recent months, Vieira has been linked to several other European jobs, including Saint Etienne (Ligue 1) and Southampton (Premier League), neither of which escalated to a serious level of interest.

FIFA: Insufficient evidence of doping by Russia’s World Cup squad

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ZURICH (AP) FIFA says there is insufficient evidence any players in Russia’s World Cup squad have previously doped.

The governing body has been assessing information from the World Anti-Doping Agency, samples recovered from the Moscow lab, and information from its former director Grigory Rodchenkov.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Russia last week named a provisional 28-man squad, plus seven reserves for the World Cup, which kicks off in Moscow on June 14.

After investigating the players, FIFA says “insufficient evidence was found to assert an anti-doping rule violation. FIFA has informed the World Anti-Doping Agency of its conclusions, and WADA in turn has agreed with FIFA’s decision to close the cases.”

FIFA did not provide information on the status of investigations into players who are not in the World Cup squad.