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Cruel double-post PK helps Cosmos to third NASL crown (video)

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Penalty kicks decided the NASL Championship Final on Sunday, and the Indy Eleven will rue some cruel twists of fate and risks in strategy.

Scoreless after 120 minutes against the New York Cosmos, Eleven star Eamon Zayed hit both posts with his PK before goalkeeper Jon Busch sent his surprising attempt high and wide of the frame.

[ MORE: Griezmann injury update ]

In the end, the Cosmos won their second-straight NASL crown when Ryan Richter converted his attempt to leave the PK score line 4-2.

The Cosmos now have three of six NASL titles, with the composition of the league and unfortunate but key discussion point after a championship match. Minnesota is headed to MLS next season, with Ottawa and Tampa en route to third-tier (for now) partner USL.

That leaves the second-tier with Carolina, Edmonton, Fort Lauderdale, Indy, Jacksonville, Miami, the Cosmos, Puerto Rico, Rayo OKC, and the expansion San Francisco Deltas. The league has said it’s in expansion discussions with six other markets.

MLS Season Preview: Ranking the top 10 goalkeepers

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The countdown to the 2014 Major League Soccer season is ticking away and very shortly MLS will be back with a bang, as a spectacular season awaits.

We’ve been rolling out season previews of every team at PST and now it’s time to focus on each position and share who we think are the top 10 players.

LATEST 2014 MLS PREVIEWS, RIGHT HERE

Let’s take a look at the best men between the sticks as our season preview continues with the Top Ten goalkeepers in MLS.

source: Getty Images
Rimando

1. Nick Rimando – Real Salt Lake

It was difficult to separate the top half of this list, but it’s difficult to make a list of the league’s best keepers without putting Rimando at No. 1. When it comes to finishing a game strong and being where he needs to be, Rimando passes the smell test. His advanced stats also show a pretty telling figure, as he’s considered the top keeper for an attack according to Squawka. If I’m starting a team for this season only and need a no-doubt keeper, it’s Rimando.

2. Julio Cesar – Toronto FC

Yes, he’ll have to adapt to a new league and no, it’s not like goalkeeping was a problem for TFC last year, but Cesar’s resume speaks for itself. The Brazil goalkeeper may have fought for playing time this year behind former English international Robert Green, but how many keepers in this league have finished Top 25 in Ballon d’Or voting in their career? Now that’s loaded — I realize MLS players aren’t going to get votes there — but Cesar has five Serie A title, two Confederation Cups and a UEFA Champions League title this is okay.

3. Donovan Ricketts – Portland

Ricketts has a knack for the outlandish “How did he do that?” save, and I’m not sure a week has gone by where he wasn’t at least in the discussion for the Save of the Week award. The numbers say he’s very, very good.

4. Troy Perkins – Montreal

This will require a lengthy diatribe, because I continue to read lists of top MLS goalkeepers that don’t include the 32-year-old Ohio native, which is baffling. Montreal hemorrhaged shots on net in 2014, and advanced stats say Perkins was very good on a team that didn’t defend well. In fact, Perkins posted the highest Squawka score in MLS last season, with only one negative performance in the bunch to drag him down.

He had the top defensive score and best possession score of all MLS keepers in 2013. Advanced stats aren’t everything, so he’ll sit fourth… but perhaps it’s his location in Quebec that’s keeping him out of the discussion.

source:
http://www.squawka.com

5. Clint Irwin – Colorado

Ten clean sheets last season, and will be counted on to provide stability as Colorado transitions from Oscar Pareja following the coach’s departure for Dallas.

6. Tally Hall – Houston

Athletic and strong in defense, Hall is just that little bit away from being atop this list. The knock on Hall is consistency, as he’ll post just as many negative performances as positive… though the highs aren’t so high and lows aren’t howlers.

7. Luis Robles – New York

Robles probably deserves more consideration for a higher spot on this list considering his resurgence from real woes early in his season. He’s a shot-stopper who sees the field well and can benefit the attack.

8. Jaime Penedo – Los Angeles

source: Getty Images
Penedo

Impossible to ignore how he put the Galaxy on his back at times last season, but one season does not a career make and I’m wary to put him high on the list.

9. Raul Fernandez – Dallas

The Peruvian has plenty left to prove, but should benefit from the arrival of Pareja as his head coach. Plenty to like about Fernandez.

10. Jon Busch – San Jose

He’s a feast or famine keeper who is capable of the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, but gets the nod over Chivas’ Dan Kennedy, Philadelphia’s Zac MacMath, New England’s Bobby Shuttleworth and others.

More: The Top Ten rookies in Major League Soccer

Top Save in MLS of Round 34? Some great choices (video)

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If I’m being honest, I get a little tired of watching some goalkeeper hesitate intentionally and then spring valiantly, as if all humanity depended on it, to dramatically push a shot aside – when all the moment really required was taking one step over to catch the darn thing. (I’m looking at you, Donovan Ricketts. I mean, you do make some swell stops. But some of those … c’mon, man!)

Well, Round 34 in MLS truly was blessed with some jaw-droppers and show-stoppers from the men behind the gloves.

Let’s take a look:

First up is the latest gem from the Galaxy’s Jaime Penedo, who sprawled and stretched to turn away Steven Lenhart’s goal-bound header. These are the very saves that Carlo Cudicini could not make previously – so good on the Galaxy officials for copping to their error and replacing their high-profile off-season grab. Here’s Penedo’s latest good work:

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In the same match, how about this outstanding stuff from San Jose ‘keeper Jon Busch, who kept his team in the playoff hunt just a little longer with heroic bit of reaction and athleticism, turning aside a good look at goal from the Galaxy’s Marcelo Sarvas:

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You have to watch this one a couple of times to see Nick Rimando’s quick hands at work for Real Salt Lake, as the U.S. international makes one of the four saves that helps to preserve his team’s scoreless draw at Portland during Saturday’s meeting of the two Western Conference leaders:

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On this one, the highlight deciders at MLSSoccer.com have let you down some. You have to work through to the moment (because it isn’t one of the individual highlights on the menu … inexplicably so.) Got to the 4:40 mark of the complete Chicago Fire-Toronto FC highlight pack to see Sean Johnson’s fantastic, late stop that helps preserve a win that just might be enough to get his team into the 2013 playoffs.

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But the best of the bunch may be from New York’s Luis Robles, who has overcome some early season wobbles, now one of the reasons his Red Bulls are riding a seven-game unbeaten streak at money time in MLS. Watch here as he stretches into the corner to tip away Boniek Garcia’s well-targeted effort:

 

Wondo’s wonderful goal, and time to ask questions in Seattle

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In Houston, the Dynamo were able to overcome a great goal from that match’s most dangerous man. In Santa Clara, Seattle couldn’t say the same, with an almost even battle between two of the West’s assumed best decided by this:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cZ79Ajy5FIA]

Eighty yards and two Chris Wondolowski touches later, and Michael Gspurning is watching the shot go in off his left post. Not only was that unstoppable, it was the match winner, with the 1-0 win giving San Jose their second victory of the season.

How “Wondo” saw it:

“I was lucky enough to get the touch and control the ball. I saw Seattle’s goalkeeper [Michael Gspurning] shading toward the ball. He probably wasn’t expecting me to shoot from outside the box. I got a good foot on it and was able to score far post..”

And despite three close games, the Sounders are still winless, with losses to Montréal and San Jose sandwiching last week’s draw against Portland. Counting CONCACAF Champions League matches, Seattle 1-1-3 and have already been shutout three times this season.

Looking at the final numbers, you could argue Seattle was hard done by Wondolowski’s momentary brilliance. Shot totals were similar (16-13, Seattle), as were the shots on goal (5-4, San Jose). Seattle had the possession advantage, but part of that is explained by their chasing the match. Though Seattle caused a couple bits of Jon Busch panic, San Jose was just as threatening towards Gspurning.

“We had three very good chances to score and I feel that we deserved the win tonight,” San Jose head coach Frank Yallop said.

The only thing that separated the sides is the same thing that decides so most matches: Finishing.

“[A] little bit of quality at the right moments, better service at the right moments would’ve made a difference,” Sigi Schmid told the assembled media after the match.

“I don’t know if we deserved to win,” Schmid said, “but I think we deserved to get out of here with a tie.”

It’s an easy argument to make, but it’s not very convincing (and I can’t imagine Schmid being to vociferous while making his case). The balance of play hints Seattle deserved something, but scoring goals matters. A lot. People who can finish matter, which is why all things being equal, a team that starts Chris Wondolowski is more likely to win than a team that starts Sammy Ochoa and David Estrada.

“I thought Estrada and Ochoa were a handful today up front,” Schmid said. “Could that quality be a little better? That’s what Wondo displayed.”

That’s not to say Seattle was particularly hard done by the international break. They were missing two of their starters, both forwards (Eddie Johnson and Obafemi Martins), while San Jose were missing two of theirs (Justin Morrow and Victor Bernardez), both defenders. San Jose was also without their starters at right back (Steven Beitashour), right wing (Martin Chavez), and No. 9 (Steven Lenhart, Alan Gordon, Mike Fucito). There’s no point complaining about the absences of Johnson and Martins.

The bigger problem for Seattle is in midfield. They’re getting nothing going forward. Christian Tiffert hasn’t been replaced. Fredy Montero’s ability to fill that space was ultimately underrated. The injury to Brad Evans has hurt, while Shalrie Joseph still isn’t ready to start. Osvaldo Alonso is doing his typical dominating best defensively, but for a team that’s scored only once in 180 MLS minutes, something more is needed in the middle.

It’s still early, but unable to solve that problem, Seattle find themselves in last place in the West. At the same time, a San Jose team that’s faced their own series of obstacles is 2-1-1.

It’s time for Seattle to start finding answers, and if they can’t, it’s time to start worrying. With Obafemi Martins, they may have two of the best forwards in the league, but as of now, how are they going to get them the ball?

Sigi Schmid quotes used in this piece came from the Twitter account of The Seattle Times’ Joshua Mayers: @joshuamayers.

DeRo robbed: From Goal of the Week to Save of the Year?

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Dwayne De Rosario was having himself a night at Buck Shaw Stadium on Wednesday. Although his team struggled on the defensive end, D.C. United’s Go-Go-Gadget goalscorer netted the game opener with a beautiful curling strike in the 8th minute. (More on that later this afternoon.)

Less than half an hour (and three ‘Quakes goals) later, DeRo looked destined for the double after making solid contact on a flying bicycle kick — Is there any other kind? — near the penalty spot. The ball travled toward the gapping maw of the net, aiming for the back left corner.

Enter Jon Busch.

The Earthquakes acrobat goalkeeper pounced to his right, deflecting the ball with his outstretched, gloved right hand. Awesomeness ensued.

Seriously though, is there anything better than when one player’s miraculous effort tops another’s sublime piece of skill. Yeah, I didn’t think so either.

(No offense to Chris Pontius, but I’m glad he missed the difficult follow up. Only a pre-strike double salchow would have topped DeRo and Busch. And yes, I’m aware that Fredy Montero’s ridiculous strike will win Goal of the Week regardless.)