ProSoccerTalk’s MLS Team of the Week – Week 2

Leave a comment

Forwards

Jermain Defoe, Toronto FC – The Tottenham import put the Reds’ opener on ice early with two goals in his first 23 Major League Soccer minutes, displaying the type of finishing that makes him the league’s highest paid player.

We could be wrong about: Joao Plata, Real Salt Lake; Obafemi Martins, Seattle Sounders; Giles Barnes, Houston Dynamo.

Midfielders

Shea Salinas, San Jose Earthquakes – Particularly after San Jose introduced a third forward early in the second half, everything want through the Earthquakes’ winger in their 3-3 draw with Real Salt Lake. Salinas had a strong case for Player of the Week.

Maurice Edu, Philadelphia Union – A second straight staring performance from the Stoke City refugee. Without Brian Carroll’s help (out, illness), Edu continued to provide the anchor in the middle, accumulating six tackles and four interceptions as Philadelphia dominated New England. If there was a Best XI after two weeks, he’d be in it.

Kyle Beckerman, Real Salt Lake – A strong start to the U.S. international’s 2014 was accentuated with a great, left-footed, 26-yard goal in Santa Clara. His team gave up three goals, but they all had to go over and around RSL’s captain.

Leonardo Fernandes, Philadelphia Union – A number of the honorable mentions have a claim to this spot, but playing his part in Philadelphia’s midfield dominance, Fernandes and his first half assist give him the edge on the field. In his first Major League Soccer start, the Brazilian completed 88 percent of his Saturday passes.

Mauro Rosales, Chivas USA – Rosales was the inspiration behind the Goats’ Sunday showing, one which nearly saw a 10-man team take full points from visiting Vancouver. Though they conceded late, Rosales’s effort, skill on set pieces, and open play creativity kept his team in the game, particularly in the moments after Agustín Pelletieri’s early dismissal.

We might be wrong about: Minda, Chivas USA; Jeff Larentowicz, Chicago Fire; Jonathan Osario, Toronto FC; Michael Bradley, Toronto FC; Luke Mulholland, Real Salt Lake, Boniek Garcia, Houston Dynamo

Defenders

Tony Lochhead, Chivas USA – Other Chivas USA defenders were strong this weekend, but among the league’s left backs, the New Zealand international rose to the top of the list. Like the rest of his teammates, Lochhead’s performance was crucial to overcoming Pelletieri’s 13th minute red card.

Aurélien Collin, Sporting Kansas City – FC Dallas couldn’t get much going on Saturday, partly because their rare forays into their attacking half were often met with Collin and Matt Besler preserving Sporting’s possession. In the 81st minute, Collin distinguished himself from his partner in central defense by heading Kansas City in front.

Víctor Bernárdez, San Jose Earthquakes – Our Player of the Week had an up-and-down performance but delivered when it mattered most, scoring in the 75th and 95th minutes as San Jose salvaged a 3-3 draw.

Kofie Sarkodie, Houston Dynamo – For the second straight week, both Dynamo fullbacks put in noteworthy performances, but just as Collin’s goal distinguished him from Besler, Sarkodie’s second half clearance off the Houston line gave him the edge on Corey Ashe. BBVA Compass is the home to MLS’s best fullback tandem.

We might be wrong about: Corey Ashe, Houston Dynamo; Doniel Henry, Toronto FC; Carlos Bocanegra, Chivas USA; Marvell Wynne, Colorado Rapids; Raymon Gaddis, Philadelphia Union

Goalkeeper

Zac MacMath, Philadelphia Union – Though we went gaga over Nick Rimando’s stop at Buck Shaw, MacMath’s save on Diego Fagundez in Saturday’s first half was equally impressive. Instead of giving up three goals in a draw, though, MacMath had three saves in a shutout win. No doubt, the Revolution made his day an easy one, but MacMath also prevented what was close to a sure-fire goal. He’s the third Union player in our team this week.

We might be wrong about: Tally Hall, Houston Dynamo

West Ham signs club record center back from Toulouse

whufc.com
Leave a comment

West Ham has reportedly set a club record with its latest signing under new manager Manuel Pellegrini.

Issa Diop is the player, the 21-year-old Toulouse captain and center back costing the Irons around $29 million.

[ MORE: Arsenal signs Leno ]

Diop scored three goals with an assist and eight yellow cards in 31 Ligue 1 matches this season, giving the young defender 95 apps, six goals, three assists, and 23 yellows since debuting with the senior team at 18.

Capped by France at every level below the senior team, Diop’s 2.2 interceptions per game ranked sixth in Ligue 1.

Toulose finished 18th in Ligue 1, but won its promotion/relegation playoff to stay in the French top flight.

From WHUFC.com:

“I am very happy to sign for such a historic, English club, and I hope to show my best here. I am a very ambitious player and West Ham is a very ambitious club, as we’ve seen with the appointment of the new coach. I hope to help the team win lots of games and make the fans happy.”

Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show: Episode 3

Leave a comment

In the third episode of Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show, England pulls out a massive win while VAR finds its way into the World Cup spotlight.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ] 

There will be plenty more to come over the next few weeks, with the show coming via the Men In Blazers.

Click play on the video above to watch the first episode in full.

WATCH: World Cup, Day 7 — Spain, Portugal aim for wins

Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Spain and Portugal got through the toughest match on their Group B dockets, against each other, but now need to stack some W’s.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s EURO champs open Wednesday’s World Cup action with a match against Morocco, and manager Fernando Hierro leads Spain against Iran to close out the day.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

In the middle, Uruguay looks to suck the drama out of Group A by joining Russia as 2-0 sides.

Below is Wednesday’s schedule in full.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.


2018 World Cup schedule – Wednesday, June 20

Group A
Uruguay vs. Saudi Arabia: Rostov, 11 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group B
Portugal vs. Morocco: Moscow, 8 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Iran vs. Spain: Kazan, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Fortunes up or down? 32 thoughts after first 17 World Cup games

AP Photo/Martin Meissner
Leave a comment

All it took was one round of games for some favorites to be doubted, others to verify their status, and some underdogs to earn dark horse status.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

While there are valid reasons to make early judgments, it’s important to note that some perceived setbacks don’t change much while others put a serious crimp in tournament hopes.

Group A

Russia (2 games played) — Fortunes way up — Two resounding wins combined with early tumult in Group B could help Russia consider a quarterfinal spot.

Uruguay — Fortunes level — Jose Gimenez’s 89th minute winner may allow the CONMEBOL side to render its group finale moot by hammering Saudi Arabia.

Egypt (2 games played) — Fortunes way down — Could be out of the tournament should Uruguay get a point against lowly Saudi Arabia on Wednesday.

Saudi Arabia — Fortunes down — Unsure anyone figured the Green Falcons as anything other than an obstacle, but their performance against host Russia was miserable.

Group B

Iran — Fortunes up — Carlos Queiroz would’ve circled the Morocco opener as a must-win. Mission accomplished, however it was done.

Portugal — Fortunes level — Needed a PK, goalie error, and wonder free kick to get a point from Spain. Still, got the point.

Spain — Fortunes down — Still look capable of imposing themselves on the tournament, but too many errors in their first outing.

Morocco — Fortunes down — Probably should’ve had a point against Iran, but would’ve wanted three anyway. Very disappointing and now a mountain ahead.

SAINT PETERSBURG, RUSSIA – JUNE 15: Karim Ansarifard of Iran is challenged by Noureddine Amrabat of Morocco (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

Group C

France — Fortunes level — Clearly the better side against Australia, didn’t inspire title confidence but could’ve easily nabbed a three- or four-goal win.

Denmark — Fortunes up — Despite being the second-best side against Peru, now can expect the knockout rounds by beating the Socceroos.

Australia — Fortunes down — France first was always going to be a struggle, but to fight so valiantly and fall to an own goal will be a mental hurdle ahead of Peru.

Peru — Fortunes down — Terrific energy and performance would’ve led to a win with any finishing luck, but getting a result from Denmark was very important. A loss presents a major challenge.

Group D

Croatia — Fortunes up — Its tactical options for the second match against Argentina are wide open after securing three points against Nigeria.

Argentina — Fortunes down — Forget control of the game and Lionel Messi’s 11 shots on target; Not getting full points against Iceland is a significant setback. A group stage without Messi is possible.

Iceland — Fortunes up — It remains hard to picture Iceland getting out of the group, but the UEFA side has now flummoxed Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi in successive tournaments. Can they find a win against Nigeria to set up a wild final day?

Nigeria — Fortunes down — Group D was always going to be tough, but a 2-0 loss to Croatia means the margin of error is almost zero.

Group E

Serbia — Fortunes up — Forget how Serbia won, their fortunes have leapt due to Brazil drawing Switzerland.

Brazil — Fortunes down — Drawing their second-trickiest game could see Neymar and Co. in position to finish second in the group instead of first. The only silver lining is that Germany may also fail to claim its group and make runner-up a good thing for the Round of 16.

Switzerland — Fortunes up — Maybe Swiss supporters were expecting it, but a result against Brazil is a positive step for a team that took Argentina to extra time at the 2014 tournament but underwhelmed at EURO 2016.

Costa Rica — Fortunes down — Now needs to beat Brazil to have much hope of anything going into the final group match vs. Switzerland.

Group F

Sweden  — Fortunes level — Beating South Korea was nice and we understand the chemistry argument, but a certain Zlatan Ibrahimovic would’ve feasted on the spoils offered in the opener.

Mexico  — Fortunes way up — El Tri is a very good tournament team, but if you had them beating Germany 1-0 in the opener you’re a better prognosticator than me.

Germany  — Fortunes down — Still favored to come out of the group and deep enough to repeat as champions, being unable to get a result from Mexico will only raise more questions about leaving Leroy Sane home (fair or not).

South Korea — Fortunes down — Would’ve wanted no less than four points from the Sweden and Mexico encounters, and has zero heading into the second against El Tri.

NIZHNIY NOVGOROD, RUSSIA – JUNE 18: Andreas Granqvist of Sweden. (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)

Group G

Belgium  — Fortunes up — Delivered expected dominance against Panama and could have a spot in the knockout rounds sewn up by the end of Day Two versus Tunisia.

England  — Fortunes up — There will not be Wayne Rooney questions about this tournament’s captain, as Harry Kane scored twice on a day he perhaps wasn’t at his best. Will clinch a berth in the knockout rounds by beating Panama next, you’d have to think.

Tunisia  — Fortunes slightly down — Needed to surprise England or Belgium to get out of the group, and still has a second opportunity after losing late to the Three Lions.

Panama  — Fortunes slightly down — Not sure anyone was expecting a Cinderella story, but even those will feel it more unlikely after a big loss to Belgium.

Group H

Japan  — Fortunes up — Not a bad team at all, but prospects were dim given the talent of the group. After beating Colombia in match one, there’s a house money feel to this one.

Senegal  — Fortunes up — Controversy aside, the Lions of Teranga deserved all three points against Poland and are in pole position to win the group.

Poland  — Fortunes down — Disappointing is an understatement leading into a match versus Colombia which could leave both on the outskirts with a match to go.

Colombia  — Fortunes down — Carlos Sanchez’s third minute red card didn’t ultimately doom them, but the task is tall with equally desperate Poland up next.