MLS MVP Watch: Who is in the race for league’s top individual honor?

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It’s not always the big names taking home Major League Soccer’s Most Valuable Player award. For every Landon Donovan, there’s a David Ferreira. For every Preki, a Mike Magee.

And that’s not to slight the less-publicized winners, for we very well may have another slow-burning star bringing home the award this year.

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With the matches winding down and the playoff race heating up, we take a look at the names making waves all year-long after a Twitter comment from a college coach got us thinking… who’s in the MVP driver’s seat as we head into Fall?

There are a few more names to toss into the discussion, of course: Donovan would be more than a sentimental selection, currently leading all players with 15 assists. Erick Torres is doomed by being on Chivas USA, but has been splendid for most of the season.

We’re at the point where Gyasi Zardes also deserves some love, which is what hurts the cases for both Donovan and Keane. L.A. is so, so good and at the right time. And while Keane is hammering shots around the park like no one else, the finely-tuned unit can point to a number of players as integral parts of the team. I still think Keane is the lynchpin, but does this hurt him with the voters?

It’s difficult to nod to World Cup players, though you certainly don’t want to fault them for being good enough to rep their national teams. But if you’re choosing between Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins, how about the latter’s 12 goals and 9 assists keeping Seattle steady while Clint was in Brazil?

[ THE WAY BACK MACHINE: Early season MVP analysis ]

For this reason I don’t think Nick Rimando gets a look at giving the goalkeepers and MVP, at least not over DC’s Bill Hamid (However, if the sensational Rimando doesn’t finally pull in a Goalkeeper of the Year award… man, oh man). Still, no backstop is taking this home in 2014.

source: APSpeaking of DC, here’s a wild card for you: Bobby Boswell. Don’t laugh, the DC United defender has played the most minutes in the league as an anchor on the stingiest defense in the MLS. His teammate Perry Kitchen deserves a nod for similar reasons, albeit in the midfield.

But really the big numbers reign, and Bradley Wright-Phillips and Dom Dwyer are putting up the silliest goal figures going. BWP’s 21 goals on a relatively-weak NYRB side could nudge him ahead in the debate.

Here’s where I come out, though, especially if New England continues its ascension: Lee Nguyen has been incredible this season on a team that has sometimes ached for offense. He’s posted 12 goals and four assists while amassing a tied-for-league-best six match-winners (Zardes).

It has to be between Keane and Nguyen, in my mind. And the eye-popping goals and assist totals from Keane has me thinking he’ll take it home. Fourteen goals and 13 assists with games to spare while shining during a congested part of the schedule? Wow.

Who are we missing? Surely Timbers fans would like to hear Diego Valeri, who has sparked the part of Portland’s team that has thrived: attack. Who else?

Brazilian player Taison banned in Ukraine for response to racism

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KYIV, Ukraine (AP) Brazilian player Taison has been banned for one game for his reaction to racist abuse in a Ukrainian league game.

The Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder showed his middle finger to Dynamo Kyiv fans who had abused him with monkey chants and kicked the ball into the stands during a game Nov. 10. Taison was shown a red card.

[ MORE: Mou says Spurs can win the PL next season ]

The Ukrainian Football Association ordered Taison to serve a one-game ban plus a suspended two-game ban.

Dynamo has been fined 500,000 hryvnyas ($20,000) and ordered to play one game behind closed doors. Another one-game sanction is suspended.

World players’ union FIFPro says “sanctioning a victim of racial abuse is beyond comprehension and it plays into the hands of those who promote this kind of disgraceful behavior.”

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

Top Premier League storylines: Week 13

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Yes, Jose Mourinho is back in the Premier League and, sure, both Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Manuel Pellegrini are in managerial hot seats, but is there any match more intriguing than Man City and Chelsea squaring off with the knowledge that a bad outcome could see them double digits out of first?

[ STREAM: Every PL match live ] 

Below we take a look at the key storylines to keep an eye on across the PL this weekend.


The Jose Mourinho Era begins against a familiar foe

  • West Ham v. Tottenham Hotspur — Saturday, 7:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN

Manuel Pellegrini and Jose Mourinho have matched wits many times, which could help the former in his bid to get ready for a rankled Spurs side to kickstart the Premier League weekend.

Mourinho has only matched up with six managers more than Pellegrini in his career, and boasts a 7W-3D-4L record. Can he quickly get Spurs put together for a visit to a desperate Irons side.


Chelsea, Man City put slim title hopes on the line

  • Manchester City v. Chelsea — Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, on NBC

Both Pep Guardiola‘s City and Frank Lampard‘s Chelsea have lost to Liverpool, meaning their chances to directly affect the Reds’ title hopes are limited. Matches like this one are the ones that get the Reds salivating, in fact, knowing that only one team can snare three points.

City enters the day nine points back of first and a point behind Chelsea and Leicester City. The Top Four race sure looks clear cut right now — the chasing pack is eight points behind fourth — but failure to win on Saturday will likely leave either side double-digit points back of first.


Knock off the Red Devils? Wilder things have happened

  • Sheffield United v. Manchester United — Sunday, 11:30 p.m. ET, on NBCSN

Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder has the newly-promoted side in fifth place on the table, one point better than his celebrated visitors. The Blades will sit no worse than five points back of the Top Four if they can beat Ole Gunnar Solksjaer’s Red Devils, adding another big name to a season of results which already includes a defeat of Arsenal and draws against Chelsea and Spurs. United is still without Paul Pogba and now will also miss Scott McTominay. Another upset brewing?


Reds hope to get back to business as usual in title fight

  • Crystal Palace v. Liverpool — Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

A week removed from a glitzy show against Man City, Jurgen Klopp‘s Reds now visit a Palace side who is probably getting sick of facing the Premier League’s best. Roy Hodgson‘s table rise has been stunted by a four-match winless run that includes 2-0 losses to Man City, Leicester City, and Chelsea to go with a 2-2 draw against Arsenal.

A Liverpool win will boost it clearer of Man City and/or Chelsea, as the Reds seek a double-digit lead on the field (Second-place Leicester City is away to Brighton and Hove Albion).


Arsenal looks to right wobbly league ship versus slumping Saints

  • Arsenal v. Southampton — Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, on NBCSN

Unai Emery‘s Gunners may be doing fine in the Europa League, but they’ve taken just two points from 12 since an Oct. 6 defeat of Bourrnemouth at the Emirates Stadium. Saints only win since mid-September in any competition is a 4-0 demolition of rivals Portsmouth. If Arsenal cannot get right here, well…

The 2 Robbies break down Tottenham’s big switch from Poch to Mou

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Maybe you saw the firing of Mauricio Pochettino coming, and maybe you even though Jose Mourinho could be in the running to take his place, but the whole thing happening in rapid fire fashion calls for something different.

Call it an emergency podcast for The 2 Robbies.

[ MORE: Ederson back in training ]

Robbie Mustoe and Robbie Earle respond to the shocking and divisive news coming from North London earlier this week.

Tottenham Hotspur sacked Pochettino and quickly replaced him with The Special One. This episode also includes some of Jose’s first words as the new Spurs Head Coach.

Follow them on Twitter @The2Robbies

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Pochettino leaves emotional whiteboard message to Spurs

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Mauricio Pochettino and his backroom staff have left Tottenham Hotspur, but not without fond words for the North London set.

Pochettino’s backroom staff was also dismissed, with assistant Jesus Perez and coaches Miguel D’Agostino and Antoni Jimenez leaving to make room for Jose Mourinho’s crew.

[ MORE: Mou says Spurs can win the PL next season ]

And Perez wanted to make sure that the world knew the final words Pochettino left for his players, something that has Tottenham supporters even more emotional.

It also surely plays as a political piece which will increase the villain status of Spurs chairman Daniel Levy, who’s been under fire for not helping Pochettino by selling players who did not want to be in North London.

Even Mourinho heaped praise on his predecessor.

“Mauricio, for the work he did, this club will be always his home,” Mourinho said. “He can come when he wants. When he misses the players, when he misses the people he work with. The door is always open for him. He will find happiness again. He will find a great club again. He will have a great future.”

Get your tissues, Spurs fans.