Luis Robles

Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

An infuriating attempt at the 2018 MLS Best XI

Leave a comment

It occurs to me that projecting an MLS Best XI for this year is tougher than its been in some time.

In truth, it’s probably been growing in that manner on an annual basis. Shoot, look at last year’s post on the topic.

It’s especially difficult to narrow down your attackers if you want an XI to be representative of anything close to a unit you’d place on field.

[ MORE: Champions League Weds. wrap ]

Consider that the league has three 20-goal scorers, none who could be considered anything close to a midfielder, and six players with double digits goals and assists.

Let’s start with the necessities.

Forwards: The XI could not look remotely rational without Josef Martinez’s 30-goal record season, and there’s on debate that Zlatan Ibrahimovic‘s 22 goals in 26 matches rates.

So there’s two forwards, which means you need to exclude all but one of the following players:

  • Wayne Rooney — 12 goals, six assists, 19 matches
  • Bradley Wright-Phillips — 20 goals, 7 assists, 31 matches
  • Carlos Vela — 13 goals, 10 assists, 27 matches

And, by the way, Adama Diomande has 12 goals in 17 matches and David Villa 13 in 22. Not bad.

Midfielders: Miguel Almiron, Ignacio Piatti, and Nicolas Lodeiro have had out of this world campaigns, as has Alphonso Davies. Both Davies and Piatti are unlikely to make the playoffs, and should that matter? Orlando’s Yoshi Yotun and Mohamed El-Munir (a defender) have been amongst the best at their spots, but their team was terrible.

Borek Dockal, Luciano Acosta, Lodeiro, and NYCFC’s Maxi Moralez have 15 assists or more. Sebastian Giovinco and Darwin Quintero are just off the pace despite playing 27 and 26 games on bad teams.

Dockal is averaging an assist in two of three matches this season, and Piatti.

Piatti!

Defenders: This one’s difficult because you need at least three and this league is like the Dutch Eredivisie on steroids (Even that league only had one 20-goal scorer last season).

There’s a bit of cheating in including Sporting KC’s Graham Zusi, the influential right back who also plays advanced at times and also guarantees us an SKC man on the roster. And Matt Besler is a better positional fit, but Zusi feels more necessary.

It feels like either Aaron Long or Tim Parker should represent the Red Bulls, and Walker Zimmerman has reclaimed his elite form with LAFC.

Goalkeepers: Tim Melia and Luis Robles both pace the league in clean sheets with 13, while Andre Blake of Philadelphia and Evan Bush have thrived on… less impressive units. Bush has faced 181 shots, more than all but one goalkeeper, and has made a league-high 130 saves in keeping Montreal alive.

Conclusion: Look, we’re going to have to try and outscore the other team now, aren’t we? And we’re going to lose. But it’s going to be fun.

I’ve got it down to 10 players, only repeating two teams (Red Bulls and Atlanta).

There’s no one from Dallas, who deserves a man, nor NYCFC. Plus  we’ve got two players who could miss the playoffs in Zlatan and Piatti, but it’s crazy not to include them. It just is.

So who gets our 11th slot? A stable center mid? Vela to make it a 3-4-3 and a third team with two slots?

Robles (RBNY)

Zusi (SKC) — Zimmerman (LAFC) — Long (RBNY)

Almiron (ATL) — Piatti (MTL) — Dockal (PHI) — Lodeiro (SEA)

Vela (LAFC) —  Ibrahimovic (LAG) — Martinez (ATL)

NY Red Bulls top Toronto FC 1-0 after Giovinco penalty miss

Associated Press
Leave a comment

Toronto FC hasn’t seen many breaks go their way this season. So, when trailing the NY Red Bulls 1-0 at home with 12 minutes to go, a VAR review awarded Toronto a questionable penalty, it looked like their luck might finally be turning.

Sebastian Giovinco stepped up to the spot in the 78th minute with a chance to draw level, and watched helplessly as his decent effort was acrobatically saved by Luis Robles.

Despite 13 shots on goal, including eight on target, Toronto slumped to its second straight defeat thanks to Alex Bono’s early mistake, with Giovinco unable to rescue a result late. A speculative effort in the 4th minute from Kemar Lawrence squirted past Bono after fumbling the save, and that was all the NY Red Bulls needed to pick up all three points.

New York didn’t look terribly comfortable for much of the second half, and Toronto threatened on numerous occasions. Jordon Hamilton tried to chip Robles just a few minutes after the break, and Giovinco nearly played Jonathan Osorio in on the hour mark, but neither chance came off. Finally, with 12 minutes remaining, their chance came. On a scramble in the box, Red Bulls defender Tim Parker fell next to the ball, and replay showed he pushed the ball away with his right hand. It wasn’t initially given, but VAR spotted the slight touch, and a penalty was awarded, which Giovinco hit to his left and Robles guessed right, diving and parrying the effort away.

For all the Italian has done with Toronto, Giovinco has struggled from the spot his entire MLS career, and yet Greg Vanney keeps shuffling him out there. Giovinco has missed three of his five penalties this season alone, and last year he missed two of three.

The loss drops Toronto all the way to 10th in the East on just 15 points after 16 matches, eight points behind a playoff spot. RBNY, meanwhile, jumps to second in the Eastern Conference with 32 points, five points back of Atlanta United with two fewer games played.

Luis Robles’ consecutive starts streak will end on Sunday

Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Major League Soccer’s “Ironman” has started every league match for the better part of nearly six years, but for Luis Robles, that unprecedented streak could finally come to a halt on Sunday.

[ MORE: USMNT defender Tim Ream talks to PST ]

Robles and the New York Red Bulls will head south to take on MLS and Eastern Conference leaders Atlanta United this weekend, however, a minor knee injury will leave the shot-stopper out of the match at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Robles has started 183 consecutive MLS matches, a league record that dates back to September 2012.

With the 34-year-old ruled out for a potential 184th straight start, manager Jesse Marsch will turn to Ryan Meara, the long-time Red Bulls backup.

Meara has made just one league start since losing his starting role to Robles in 2012, however, that appearance came in 2015 when the Fordham University product was on loan at New York City FC.

Robles positive, and has reason to be, after Red Bulls loss

AP Photo/Bruno Gonzalez
Leave a comment

The New York Red Bulls are far from cooked in their CONCACAF Champions League semifinal with Chivas Guadalajara, but were one mistake and one awful referee’s decision from bringing an away goal win back to New Jersey.

Instead, RBNY is behind 1-0 after 90 minutes in Mexico.

[ LFC-MAN CITY: Pep peeved | Klopp raves ]

There was a rough giveaway that led to Chivas’ goal and Bradley Wright-Phillips saw his late break saved, but plenty of focus will be on an ungiven penalty for Carlos Cisneros’ handball, which, uh, wow:

Goalkeeper and captain Luis Robles didn’t have much chance of stopping Chivas’ goal on a night the hosts didn’t have many chances. From MLSSoccer.com:

“We’ll continue to play the way we’ve been playing,” he said. “Outside of the goal, I felt like they didn’t have much. And I know that when they come to play us at our place, it’s going to be even more difficult for them to create. So for us, we’ve got to create chances, we’ve got to get some goals, but obviously continue to limit their opportunities.”

The second leg is Tuesday at Red Bull Arena, and the Red Bulls have the weekend off while Chivas hosts Veracruz late Saturday evening before skipping time zones to face New York.

There’s reason to be positive for Red Bull supporters.

MLS Weekend Preview: 401 Derby and Petke’s reunion

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Major League Soccer has reached Week 3 of its 2018 season, though much of the focus has been on the CONCACAF Champions League.

That changes temporarily for Toronto FC and New York Red Bulls, the heroes of the tournament and two sides facing decent sub plots in league play at the weekend.

[ MORE: USMNT to host Bolivia ]

For FC Dallas, who fell flat against a Tauro side which was rocked by Club America, and injury-ravaged Seattle, it’s a chance to meet each other on Sunday for commiserations and clattering tackles.

Montreal Impact vs. Toronto FC — 3 p.m. ET Saturday

The 401 Derby has had plenty of “throw out the records” moments, including Montreal’s surprising win at BMO Field last September, and this could be another beauty given the dislike for each other and TFC’s midweek trip to Mexico.

Toronto has claimed five of nine matches, with the Impact winning three, and five of the last six between the rivals have seen four or more combined goals. Get your poutine ready.

Sporting KC vs. San Jose Earthquakes — 8:30 p.m. ET Saturday

The hosts are coming off a thrilling 4-3 win against Chicago, while San Jose played an enticing 3-2 encounter on Opening Day before finding a week off on the docket. That’s not to say we should expect fireworks, but coaches Mikael Stahre and Peter Vermes play forward-thinking and there’s reason to look forward to the later kickoff.

Real Salt Lake vs. New York Red Bulls — 9 p.m. ET Saturday

Influential Red Bulls coach Mike Petke was hired to take over RSL four days after the last time these two met and this match will be fun despite it not taking place in Harrison.

Petke led RBNY captain Luis Robles and company to the club’s first Supporters’ Shield, and it should be an interesting night for the few players who remain with the club from Petke’s tenure.

“As a player, he had a ferocity to him that fans loved,” Robles told MLSSoccer.com. “He had a competitiveness that was huge, but then he also brings it as a coach. I think that’s why we were successful in 2013, because the same type of competitive streak he had.”

While RBNY will be flying high from a convincing CONCACAF Champions League win, RSL has been anything but strong in an 0-1-1 start complete with a 5-1 home beatdown from expansion LAFC.

Elsewhere

DC United vs. Houston Dynamo — 1:30 p.m. ET Saturday
Philadelphia Union vs. Columbus Crew — 2 p.m. ET Saturday
Minnesota United vs. Chicago Fire — 2 p.m. ET Saturday
NYCFC vs. Orlando City — 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday
Atlanta United vs. Vancouver Whitecaps — 7:30 p.m. ET Saturday
FC Dallas vs. Seattle Sounders — 5 p.m. ET Sunday