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MLS Rewind: Vieira the tinkerer + Team & Player(s) of the Week

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VIEIRA IS THE IDEAL COACH, IN THEORY

If you’re a soccer fan — or a fan of any sport, really — what’s the no. 1 trait you want the head coach of your favorite team to possess? Beyond a genius-level IQ, it’s adaptability. As a fan, there’s nothing more frustrating than a thick-headed, inflexible coach who trots out the same tired gameplan week after week after week, despite a wealth of evidence that screams out, “It doesn’t work, dummy, try something else,” but of course, he’s too stubborn to do so.

[ MORE: Check out previous editions in the MLS Rewind archive ]

Major League Soccer – Week 2

Result Recap & Highlights
Orlando 1-1 Chicago Recap, watch here
NE Revs 0-0 DCU Recap, watch here
Impact 3-0 Red Bulls Recap, watch here
RSL 2-1 Sounders Recap, watch here
Rapids 1-0 Galaxy Recap, watch here
Crew SC 1-2 Union Recap, watch here
Dynamo 5-0 FCD Recap, watch here
SKC 2-1 Whitecaps Recap, watch here
NYCFC 2-2 TFC Recap, watch here
Quakes 2-1 Timbers Recap, watch here

Two games into his first gig as a first-team boss, New York City FC head coach Patrick Vieira is anything but stubborn. In fact, he’s proven to be a fairly resourceful, clever tactical tinkerer. A quick look at NYCFC’s roster indicates a wealth of quality in central midfield (Andrea Pirlo, Tommy McNamara, Federico Bravo, Mix Diskerud, Frank Lampard and Kwadwo Poku), which is great in any league in the world not named Major League Soccer, but given MLS’s strict roster and salary rules, possessing that kind of depth in one area of the field can mean but one thing: you’re going to come up wildly short in another area, and true to form, NYCFC are totally devoid of any kind of quality wide players.

So what did Vieira do during Sunday’s 2-2 draw with Toronto FC to get the most out of what he has? He started two-thirds of the above listed six players (Lampard is currently out injured, while Poku was a healthy scratch) in a four-man central midfield (call it a 3-6-1, or an old-school W-M) on the teeny-tiny, narrow field at Yankee Stadium. Who needs wide players when the field might or might not meet FIFA and MLS’s mandatory minimum width of 70 yards? Dummies, that’s who.

With Bravo playing the role of destroyer next to Pirlo, the Italian maestro had by far his best game since signing for the Bronx outfit last summer (106 touches, 84 passes attempted at an 81 percent completion rate, three key passes and a should-have-been assist on an absolute peach of an over-the-top ball); Diskerud and McNamara were clever in their interplay (they also pressed incredibly well, far up the field) underneath David Villa, who led the line just as you’d expect a World Cup and two-time European Championship winner to do.

In short, it was functional; it was effective; and more than anything, it was a joy to watch. TFC were genuinely caught off guard by such an unexpected tactical wrinkle, and it took them more than an hour to crack the code an produce anything of merit from open play. Sure, Vieira won’t catch anyone by surprise the next time he throws out the four-man central midfield, but Sunday’s tactical deviation served a valuable lesson for all: let us not be afraid of new coaches with new ideas coming to MLS, for it’s those ideas that might just set them apart and on the pathway to success. In theory, Vieira’s everything you want your coach to be — adaptable, idealistic, and far from afraid to buck any trend.

David Villa, New York City FC (Photo credit: New York City FC / Facebook)
(Photo credit: New York City FC / Facebook)

TEAM OF THE WEEK

Goalkeeper: Andre Blake (Philadelphia Union)

MLS Goalkeeper

Defenders: Laurent Ciman (Montreal Impact), Victor Cabrera (Montreal Impact), Jose Goncalves (New England Revolution)

MLS Defenders

Midfielders: Ignacio Piatti (Montreal Impact), Chris Pontius (Philadelphia Union), Marcelo Sarvas (D.C. United), Calum Mallace (Montreal Impact)

MLS Midfielders

Forwards: Dom Dwyer (Sporting Kansas City), Sebastian Giovinco (Toronto FC), Andrew Wenger (Houston Dynamo)

MLS Forwards


(CO-)PLAYER(S) OF THE WEEK

Dom Dwyer and Chris Pontius are my choices for co-Players of the Week, for two very different reasons — their two-goal performances in 2-1 victories for their respective teams aside.

Dwyer bagged 22 goals in league play in 2014 before falling back to earth in 2015, when he scored just 12. This year, Dwyer intends to break the all-time league record by scoring 30 goals. Nos. 1 and 2 came Saturday night as Sporting KC knocked off the Vancouver Whitecaps, last year’s Western Conference regular season runners-up, thanks to Dwyer’s first-half brace. If nothing else, I needed an excuse to post his opening golazo one more time.

Pontius’ last brace in league play was nearly four years ago — June 24, 2012 — thanks in large part to a rash of injuries that limited him to just 51 appearances over his final three seasons with D.C. United (6 goals, 4 assists combined). The season prior, 2012, he bagged 12 goals and four assists en route to his first (and only) MLS Best XI selection. It’s been a long road back to relevance for Pontius, but he looked healthy as ever in Saturday’s 2-1 away win over Columbus Crew SC. Here’s to Pontius’ name appearing in many more MLS Rewind columns this season.

Americans Abroad: Chandler earns start after lengthy absence; McKennie leaves injured

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On a relatively quiet weekend for Americans abroad, Timothy Chandler started for Eintracht Frankfurt for the first time since mid-September.

In England, Christian Pulisic made another start for Chelsea, while Lynden Gooch returned to action with Sunderland after a few months of inactivity.

But while some came back from inactivity, Weston McKennie was stretched off the field on Sunday after landing on his shoulder in Schalke’s 1-0 win over Frankfurt.

Here is a list of several other USMNT affiliates making a name for themselves (or not) abroad this weekend.

Premier League

Christian Pulisic, Chelsea — Pulisic started and played 65 minutes in Chelsea’s 1-0 loss to Bournemouth on Saturday. The attacker failed to record a single shot.

DeAndre Yedlin, Newcastle — The fullback watched the Magpies’ 1-0 loss to Burnley from the bench on Saturday.

EFL Championship

Antonee Robinson, Wigan Athletic — Robinson continues to rack up the minutes at Wigan. The young left back started and played the full 90 minutes as Wigan picked up a point against struggling Huddersfield Town on Saturday.

Matt Miazga, Reading (loan from Chelsea) — The 24-year-old didn’t dress in Reading’s 0-0 draw with Stoke City.

Eric Lichaj, Hull City — The Tigers captain started and played the full 90 minutes in Hull City’s 2-2 draw with Charlton Athletic on Friday.

Geoff Cameron, QPR — The 34-year-old defender started at centerback and played 67 minutes in QPR’s 5-3 loss to Barnsley.

Tim Ream, Fulham — Ream started and played 90 minutes in Fulham’s 1-1 draw at Sheffield Wednesday.

Cameron Carter-Vickers, Stoke City (loan Tottenham Hotspur) — Like Miazga, Carter-Vickers, too, was absent during Saturday’s bout.

Duane Holmes, Derby County — Holmes started and played 88 minutes in Derby’s 1-0 loss to Millwall.

EFL League One

Lynden Gooch, Sunderland – Gooch came off the bench and played 18 minutes in Sunderland’s 1-1 draw with Blackpool – the first minutes for the Californian since mid-October.

Bundesliga

Weston McKennie, Schalke —  13 minutes into the game on Sunday, McKennie was stretched off the field after he suffered an apparent shoulder injury.

Zack Steffen and Alfredo Morales, Fortuna Dusseldorf Despite making four saves, Steffen allowed three goals in Fortuna Dusseldorf’s 3-0 loss to RB Leipzig on Saturday. Morales did not dress.

Josh Sargent, Werder Bremen  Sargent is out with an injury for the remainder of the calendar year.

Tyler Adams, RB Leipzig — Adams didn’t dress for RB Leipzig.

Fabian Johnson, Borussia Mönchengladbach — Johnson didn’t dress for Borussia Monchengladbach.

Timmy Chandler, Eintracht Frankfurt — The veteran defender started and played 90 minutes for the first time since mid-September.

2. Bundesliga

Julian Green, Greuther Furth – The 24-year-old midfielder is out with an injury.

Bobby Wood, Hamburg – Wood dressed but didn’t play in Hamburg’s 1-1 draw on Sunday.

Eredivisie

Sergino Dest, Ajax — Dest didn’t dress for Ajax on Sunday.

Haji Wright, VVV-Venlo — The 21-year-old striker started and played 45 minutes in VVV Venlo’s 2-1 loss to PEC Zwolle.

Desevio Payne, FC Emmen — The U-23 MNT fullback didn’t dress for FC Emmen on Sunday.

Ligue 1

Timothy Weah, Lille — Weah didn’t dress for Lille on Friday.

Theoson Jordan-Siebatcheu, Rennes — Siebatcheu didn’t dress for Rennes on Sunday.

Honorable mentions:

Giovanni Reyna, Borussia Dortmund U-19 —  Reyna’s praiseworthy campaign in Germany continues, scoring a goal in Borussia Dortmund’s 6-1 win over Alemannia Aachen on Sunday.

Georgetown wins NCAA title by beating Virginia on penalty kick

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CARY, N.C. — Georgetown goalkeeper Tomas Romero stopped Virginia’s Axel Gunnarsson in the seventh round of penalty kicks to give the Hoyas their first NCAA men’s soccer championship Sunday night.

The teams fought through two scoreless 10-minute overtime periods after finishing regulation tied at 3, leaving penalty kicks to decide the game. Both teams made their first six penalty kicks, and Aidan Rocha made the seventh for Georgetown, forcing Gunnarsson to attempt to match it.

Romero moved to his right to thwart the shot and give the Hoyas (20-1-3) the victory.

Derek Dodson, Paul Rothrock and Daniel Wu scored in regulation for the Hoyas.

Virginia (21-2-1) countered with goals by Joe Bell, Daniel Steedman and Daryl Dike.

Georgetown appeared on the verge of winning regulation when Dodson broke a 2-2 tie with 9:37 left in the second half. But Dike forced overtime when he booted a rebound of his own miss into the top of the net with 4:58 remaining in regulation.

Virginia was bidding for its eighth national championship and third since 2009. Georgetown was playing in its second NCAA final.It lost 1-0 to Indiana in the 2012 championship game.

Mexicans Abroad: Jimenez registers assist in Wolves loss, praised by Liverpool’s Klopp

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In an underwhelming slow weekend for Mexicans abroad, only Raul Jimenez (and Omar Govea) managed to make the headlines, but not necessarily for his assist to Adama Traore in Wolverhampton Wanderers’ 2-1 loss to Tottenham on Sunday.

The 28-year-old forward, who has been on a serious scoring run this season with Wolves, was praised by Liverpool manager, Jurgen Klopp, who was asked about Mexican soccer ahead of the Reds’ match against Monterrey in the semifinal of the FIFA World Cup of Clubs.

“There are several players from Mexico,” he says “but Raul Jimenez is an impressive Mexican soccer ambassador, really good. I’m sure they (Mexico) have a strong league, but it’s not easy to see it here, so I don’t know much.”

Here is a list of several other Mexico national team affiliates making a name for themselves (or not) outside of Mexico this weekend.


Premier League

Raul Jimenez, Wolverhampton Wanderers —  Despite Tottenham snapping Wolves’ 12-game unbeaten streak in league play, Jimenez continued his fine run of generating goals. In the 67th minute, the forward assisted Traore for the home side’s first and only goal of the night.

La Liga

Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, Sevilla — Chicharito came on for Luuk De Jong in the 59th minute in Sevilla’s 2-1 loss to Villarreal on Sunday. The forward completed all of his passes (four) and had a shot blocked.

Hector Herrera, Atletico Madrid — Herrera played the final 27 minutes of Atletico’s 2-0 win over Osasuna on Saturday.

Andres Guardado, Real Betis —  Due to a suspension, Guardado was not called up to feature in Betis’ 18.

Diego Lainez, Real Betis — The 19-year-old took the field in the 52nd minute in Betis’ 2-2 draw against Espanyol.

Nestor Araujo, Celta Vigo — Araujo started and played every minute in Celta’s 2-2 with Mallorca. The defender recorded three clearances, one blocked shot and three interceptions. Celta remain as possible relegation candidates.

Serie A

Hirving “Chucky” Lozano, Napoli —  Lozano’s time at Napoli under Gennaro Gattuso didn’t have the firework start many were hoping for. Instead, the frenetic winger started on the bench and played only 11 minutes in Napoli’s last-minute 2-1 loss to Parma on Saturday.

Eredivisie

Erick Gutierrez, PSV Eindhoven — Gutierrez started and played all 90 minutes in PSV’s 3-1 loss to Feyenoord on Sunday. The midfielder completed 89 percent of his passes, recorded one key pass and one shot on target.

Edson Alvarez, Ajax —  It’s been an up-and-down experience for Alvarez at Ajax thus far. Completing 93 percent of his passes and winning 80 percent of his ground duels, his performance on Sunday was a high for the midfielder, despite his team’s 1-0 loss to AZ.

Primeira Liga

Jesus “Tecatito” Corona, FC Porto — Tecatito and Porto host Tondela on Monday.

Jupiler Pro League

Omar Govea, Zulte Waregem — Govea shined on Sunday in Belgium, bagging a brace in Zulte’s 5-1 thumping of Sint Truidense VV.

Elsewhere around the globe:

Pedro Arce, Panionios – Arce played 70 minutes in Panionios’ 2-1 loss to Volos on Sunday.

Gerardo Ramirez Alonso, Roda JC – Ramirez Alonso dressed but didn’t take the field in Roda’s draw on Friday.

Serie A roundup: Ronaldo sets record with brace, Juventus top Serie A (video)

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Juventus’ routine win, which puts them level with leaders Inter Milan, highlights Sunday’s Serie A action.

 [ MORE: Serie A scores, schedule ]

Juventus 3-1 Udinese

Cristiano Ronaldo scored a brace as Juventus picked up its first win after dropping points in two consecutive Serie A outings.

With two goals – which easily could have been four if he had not struck the bar – the Portuguese made history in front of the home crowd, becoming the first player to record double digit goals in 15 consecutive seasons within Europe’s top-five leagues.

The storied attacker opened the floodgates in the ninth minute, when a softly deflected ball landed in front of the same right foot that belted the ball past Udinese’s man between the sticks.

It wouldn’t take long for Ronaldo to record his second of the night.

In the 37th minute, one of the 34-year-old’s best techniques made scoring a possibility: positioning. Keeping track of the defender marking him and Udinese’s backline, Ronaldo made a run forward, meeting a perfectly-placed ball from Gonzalo Higuain and striking it home. 

Before the first half came to an end, Leonardo Bonucci headed home the home side’s third of the night, putting the game out of reach. In consolation time, however, Udinese spoiled Gianluigi Buffon’s clean sheet as Ignacio Pussetto tap in inside the box found its way into the goal.

It’s a quick turnaround for Juventus as they travels to Sampdoria midweek, while Udinese host Cagliari over the weekend.

Elsewhere

Verona 3-3 Torino

AC Milan 0-0 Sassuolo

Bologna 2-1 Atalanta

Roma 3-1 SPAL

Fiorentina 1-1 Inter Milan