Tag Archive | "MLS Best XI"

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ASN’s MLS Best XI, Week 10: Ruiz was more than just his golazo

Posted on 25 May 2011 by Breton Bonnette

The defense continues to rule the day in Major League Soccer but the little offense seen in Week 10 was memorable to say the least. Carlos Ruiz of Philadelphia and Bobby Convey (San Jose) provided two highlight-reel, Goal of the Year candidates as both of their squads rolled to victory. One of them turned it into a Player of the Week performance. Defenders were at the forefront yet again, however, with seven teams posting shutouts. Is it a product of some of the league’s best attackers being sidelined with injury or simply a testament to the improvement of the collective defensive pool of talent in Major League Soccer?

ASN’s MLS Best XI, Week 10

GK: Matt Pickens, Colorado

Pickens was kept relatively busy as the Rapids and Toronto FC fought to a 0-0 tie. The Reds tested Pickens on several occasions but it was the Rapids netminder who walked away feeling that Colorado left important points on the table. The Rapids haven’t dominated and Pickens has had to earn the five-game unbeaten streak that the Rapids currently are on. This is his first appearance in the Best XI.

DEF: Jeff Parke, Seattle

It was his defensive performance against Sporting Kansas City that turned heads but he was also the deciding factor on the scoresheet as well. An injury time header from the Pennsylvania native gave the Sounders the full three points and kept Sporting’s skid rolling. The biggest part of a defensive performance that kept Kei Kamara, Omar Bravo, AND Teal Bunbury quiet. It was Parke’s first goal since 2004.

DEF: Sheanon Williams, Philadelphia

Williams was all over PPL Park against Chicago and it was his goal line save that allowed the Union to stay at 1-1 before Carlos Ruiz’s golazo put them ahead for good. The Fire’s Puerari muscled behind Michael Farfan and was free on goal. His shot beat Mondragon but right at a backpedaling Williams. Somehow, Williams was able to get enough of a flick on it to send it wide of the post. His night didn’t start or end there. He was also a big part of the Union offense, flying up and down the right wing.

DEF: Richard Eckersley, Toronto FC

The Reds are slowly getting better and a lot of it has to do with the insertion of Eckersley, on loan from Burnley of the English Championship, into the lineup. He was a consistent presence on the right side for Toronto.  This is his first time making the Best XI.

MID: Dane Richards, New York

The Red Bulls will miss Richards dearly as he is set to leave for national team duty in the 2011 Gold Cup. Aside from his screamer in the first 60 seconds of the match against Houston, Richards was a constant problem for the Dynamo defense. He has matured as a player since Thierry Henry came on board and though his crossing is still subpar, Richards is routinely considered now one of the most dangerous players in Major League Soccer.  

MID: Brad Davis, Houston

Davis is having one of his best season’s for Houston this year. He is the point man for pretty much everything on the pitch and he’s reliable in that position. He converted the penalty to erase Dane Richards’ early score and distributed the whole game. His consistency has for the most part gone unmatched this year and as we close in on the one-third mark, he should be a lock for future Best XI honors. This is his third inclusion in the ASN Best XI.

MID: Dominic Oduro, Chicago

There’s a reason he’s called Birdman. The Fire didn’t use him enough against Philadelphia and, in the Union’s defense, Jordan Harvey did well with him when they tried to. Once the rookie Farfan was put back at leftback, however, Oduro scored the equalizer – using his pace to blow by the rookie and tie up the game.

MID: Khalif Alhassan, Portland

Alhassan loves JELD-WEN and understandably so. His best games have been at home, where the Timbers have built a fortress with five straight wins. Alhassan, once again, showed his technical ability and skill keeping the Crew’s generally solid defense on their toes. It’s relatively surprising that this is only the second time he has been selected in the Best XI (once being named Player of the Week).

MID: Mikael Yourassowsky, Toronto FC

He provided a lot of pep for the Reds on both sides of park. The Belgian registered Toronto’s best attempt on net halfway through the second half, clanging a shot off of the crossbar. His work in the midfield kept Colorado from taking control early on or ever really establishing any sort of dominance. This is his first time making the Best XI.

FWD: Tommy Heinemann, Columbus

He reminds me a little bit of Steven Lenhart, now with the San Jose Earthquakes. Heinemann was absolutely everywhere against the Crew as Columbus fell 1-0 to the Portland Timbers at JELD-WEN. It was Heinemann who had the best chances for the Crew and the arguement could be made that he should have put at least one away. His work ethic and determination should get him goals at some point this season.

FWD: Carlos Ruiz, Philadelphia *ASN’s PLAYER OF THE WEEK*El Pescadito was much, much more than the left-footed golazo that doused the visiting Chicago Fire. His first touch and ability to hold up the ball was absolutely vital, especially as the Union’s offense continues to find its legs. He had several combination plays with former Fire player Justin Mapp that almost convinced Union fans that the Philadelphia attack was here to stay.

Bench: Nick Rimando, Real Salt Lake; Landon Donovan, Los Angeles; Chris Tierney, New England; Shalrie Joseph, New England; Brek Shea, FC Dallas; Mikael Yourassowsky, Toronto FC; George John, FC Dallas; Michael Farfan, Philadelphia; Eric Brunner, Portland

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Courtesy of MLSSoccer.com

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ASN’s MLS Best XI, Week 9: A Braun-y win for Chivas USA

Posted on 18 May 2011 by Breton Bonnette

It was a Western Conference dominated week in Major League Soccer. Chivas USA registered the upset of the week and possibly the season over Theirry Henry and the Red Bulls, thanks to their hero of 2010 (as well as this week’s Player of the Week). FC Dallas took six points, showing worrywarts that they’ll be good no matter what. Los Angeles was just a shade behind, grabbing four points but more importantly, the play of Beckham, Donovan, and Angel continues to gel, a welcomed sign for Galaxy fans. Last but not least, Frank Yallop and San Jose unleashed a statement performance against Columbus with 2010’s Golden Boot winner Wondolowski at the center of the action. Will the Eastern Conference bounce back?

ASN’s MLS Best XI, Week 9

GK: Matt Reis, New England

Shalrie Joseph converted the games only goal and Vancouver’s woes continued but that’s not to say they didn’t put up one hell of a fight. Reis made a clutch save on Omar Salgado late in the game to preserve the three points. His performance, in concert with the play of a younger Revs backline featuring Alston, Soares, and Barnes, extended the Whitecaps winless streak to 10 games.

DEF: Mamadou Danso, Portland

It was deja vu for Timbers fans. Danso, the hero against Philadelphia, reprised his role – this time to equalize – in the first Cascadia derby. Portland continues to show a knack for putting away set pieces but more importantly, their defense has shored things up after a shoddy start to the season. Danso is a big part of that, keeping – for the most part – tabs on Nate Jaqua and Fredy Montero and ensuring that the Timbers come just a little bit closer to shedding that “expansion” tag once and for all. This is Danso’s 2nd consecutive selection in the Best XI.

DEF: George John, FC Dallas

After a little hiatus, John is back and he certainly deserves to be. John was a key man in the Hoops double dose of shutouts in Week 9. First, a midweek 1-0 shutout over Toronto FC in which John and the last line of defense, Kevin Hartman, kept Plata and company at bay. The Union then came to town and the 2nd year central defender neutralized the threat of last year’s biggest surprise Sebastien Le Toux.  John has been selected to the Best XI three out of the last four weeks.

DEF: Nat Borchers, Real Salt Lake

Played a big role in the defensive deadlock, helping to shut down Houston’s rookie on fire Will Bruin. Salt Lake is having a bit of a offensive crisis right now but the defense is still incredibly solid. Borchers and Olave are arguably the best central defense pairing in the league and their good play will help Salt Lake weather the shock of losing Javi Morales and the CONCACAF Champions League.

MID: Corben Bone, Chicago

Probably his best game in a Fire shirt, it’s clear that more playing time has done Corben some good. The second year midfielder finds himself selected for the first time after a spirited showing against Toronto FC, pulling the strings in the attack. He had a hand in both goals and if the Fire defense can tighten things up, Chicago should bound out of the Eastern Conference basement.

MID: Ryan Johnson, San Jose

There are very few in the league that can match Johnson’s work ethic and determination, two skills that worked wonders against a previously staunch Crew backline. The Jamaican ruled the left flank and served in several killer crosses, one finding Wondolowski for the first goal of the game. The Quakes then rattled off two more goals making it 3-0 in just over 12 minutes, a scene Frank Yallop would welcome more often.

MID: Chris Wondolowski, San Jose

We’re well past the stage where Wondolowski can be treated as a Major League Soccer reserve player but, to many, people wonder how he continues to score. He brought his total up to five for the season with the gamewinner in a resounding 3-0 win over the Columbus Crew. He’s a true poacher now and as the Quakes hit their stride, it’ll be hard to keep him away from double digits in the scoring department for a second straight season. It’s his second appearance in the Best XI this season.

MID: Landon Donovan, Los Angeles

Once Donovan catches fire, it’s hard to cool him off. The veteran, now linked with a move to AS Roma, hit for two more in a 4-1 romp of Sporting Kansas City. He was everywhere, picking apart a tough working Kansas City midfield and blowing open a game that was 1-1 at the half. Midweek, Donovan scored the opener in a 1-1 tie at PPL Park, a game that Bruce Arena and Donovan’s Galaxy teammates felt hard done not to win. Surprisingly, this is only his second time in ASN’s Best XI in 2011. So far, that is.

Courtesy of MLSSoccer.com

FWD: Justin Braun, Chivas USA *ASN’s PLAYER OF THE WEEK*

Braun made the statement of his young career. After suffering a long scoring drought to start the season, Braun exploded for a hat-trick against the New York Red Bulls to help Chivas USA win 3-2 away from home. Last year’s revelation for the Goats, Braun opened things up early on before answering two equalizers and securing the upset. If Braun is to make this a long-term thing, Chivas USA may make their way up the table.

FWD: Joao Plata, Toronto FC

One of the better players on the field midweek vs. FC Dallas, Plata is quickly making a name for himself in Toronto and beyond. His performance against Chicago, however, continues to accelerate that trend. TFC fans can thank Jon Conway for one of the goals but Plata’s productive performance (a goal and an assist) put him on the Best XI for the second week in a row.

FWD: Fabian Castillo, FC Dallas

There is no way one can fully replace the services that a David Ferreira provides. The young Castillo, and fellow Colombian, is trying his hardest though. A goal and an assist against Philadelphia’s stingy defense is the perfect way to dull a reality that undoubtedly is still sinking in for Hoops fans. FC Dallas themselves, however, haven’t been too worried – racking up four wins in their last five games.

Bench: Kevin Hartman (FC Dallas), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake), Andre Hainault (Houston), Alvaro Fernandez (Seattle), Simon Elliott (San Jose), Shalrie Joseph (New England), Cory Gibbs (Chicago), Chris Pontius (DC United), Perry Kitchen (DC United), Steven Lenhart (San Jose), Chad Barrett (Los Angeles)

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ASN’s MLS Best XI, Week 8: Rookie takes honors after big performance for the Reds

Posted on 11 May 2011 by Breton Bonnette

It was an odd week in Major League Soccer. Defenders continue to snuff out the impact of the league’s attacking all-stars (Marcos Mondaini of Chivas USA took out Javier Morales of RSL this past week) and it feels like the league as a whole was punished. On Saturday, when Morales went down with a broken ankle, five out of seven games that day finished in a tie of the 0-0, 1-1 variety. The best game of the week – a tie between Los Angeles and New York – could only muster two goals between the star-studded casts of each side. Regardless, new attacking talent still made itself known in a 5’3″ rookie, inserted to help a struggling Toronto FC squad find the net and he delivered.

ASN’s MLS Best XI, Week 8

GK: Kevin Hartman, FC Dallas

Hartman delivered when called upon and for Dallas that was the second half. The veteran netminder – remember all that drama between Kansas City seasons ago? – stonewalled Charlie Davies not once, but twice, to keep a clean sheet at RFK Stadium. His shot stopping ability, never disputed, made sure the Hoops could leave the Nation’s Capital with their unbeaten streak intact (2-0-1).

DEF: Josip Mikulic, Chicago

Helped to limit Vancouver’s target man Eric Hassli and the whole Whitecaps attack to only one attempt on goal. In the process, the Fire’s back line secured their first shutout of the season only to watch to their attack squander chance after chance. The Fire settled for a tie but Mikulic is showing signs of being the consistent defensive presence they need to build a long-term solid defense off of.

DEF: Mamadou “Futty” Danso, Portland

Danso, a standout last year in USL Division 2 play, supplied the Timbers only goal late in their tilt against Philadelphia. It proved to be the only goal Portland would need as they won their fourth consecutive regular season home game, 1-0. The big Gambian got on the end of a Jack Jewsbury set piece to make sure the Union left JELD-WEN without a point. This is his first selection on the Best XI.

DEF: Heath Pearce, Chivas USA

His move to centerback has done wonders for a Chivas USA backline that was leaking goals early in the season. Faced with a little less than 60 minutes of 9-man soccer against Real Salt Lake of all teams, Pearce held the Goats’ defense together only conceding with three minutes to go. It’s Pearce’s second selection in the Best XI since his move to centerback.

DEF: Tim Ream, New York

Made key plays in the back against a strong Los Angeles side. His most important, however, was a goal-saving, line clearance on Landon Donovan that kept the Galaxy from winning all three points. Ream’s partnership with Marquez is quickly becoming one of the best in the league and the prospect of Ream allows Marquez to take more chances in the tackle.

MID: Will Johnson, Real Salt Lake

Johnson gets the nod for finally punishing a 9 -man Chivas USA squad that, in losing to Mondaini and Boyens through red cards, thought they could escape with a point. Johnson did much more than just scoring the gamewinner but after watching Javier Morales lose his whole 2011 season to an atrocious Mondaini tackle, the home crowd wanted punishment and Johnson delivered.

MID: Andy Najar, DC United

It was the Josh Wolff/Charlie Davies show midweek against Seattle but they cooled off during the weekend encore vs. FC Dallas. Najar was effective in both games and starting to show signs of a return to 2010 season form. He was more than just two secondary assists against Seattle. Early on, things weren’t working and the youngster adapted. Against Dallas, he was the most dangerous person on the field.

MID: David Beckham, Los Angeles

Go through it all again – pinpoint long balls, great vision, tireless work ethic. Beckham’s move to central midfield has been the best move Bruce Arena has made all season and it showed against the Red Bulls. It was Beckham’s corner kick that found the head of Landon Donovan – of all people – to equalize for the Galaxy. Gave Juan Pablo Angel quite a few chances to put the Galaxy ahead and end his scoring slump but the Colombian wasn’t able to convert. Surprisingly, this is Beckham’s first selection in the Best XI so far this season.

Courtesy of MLSSoccer.com

FWD: Joao Plata, Toronto FC *ASN’s PLAYER OF THE WEEK*

‘Carpe diem’ must be Plata’s mantra as the diminutive forward was given a chance and  hewasted no time in making his mark on Toronto FC’s starting eleven. One start, one goal, one assist. Not bad for a young Major League Soccer career. Plata scored in the 50th minute on a penalty kick and supplied the through ball that iced the win for the Reds. He’s technically gifted, pacy, and creative – a combination that Toronto FC only really had in DeRosario. Can Plata keep it up?

FWD: Thierry Henry, New York

Scored the first goal of the game – his fourth of the season – and was dangerous throughout. Henry didn’t waste any time announcing himself to the Galaxy faithful, scoring a goal in the fourth minute. The Frenchman started slow this season but he has since started chipping away at the expectations that all Red Bull fans have for his time in New York. This is Thierry’s third selection in the Best XI this season.

FWD: Charlie Davies, DC United

A budding partnership is developing between MLS vet Josh Wolff and Charlie Davies as they connected to sink Seattle midweek. Davies, however, could have walked away with more than just one tally – missing on several opportunities to add to the scoreline. He slowed down a bit against FC Dallas but his showing against Seattle was enough to warrant his 2nd appearance on ASN’s Best XI.

Bench: Kasey Keller (Seattle), Juninho (Los Angeles), Landon Donovan (Los Angeles), Bouna Coundoul (RBNY), Nick LaBrocca (Chivas USA), Julian De Guzman (Toronto FC), Servando Carrasco (Seattle), Perry Kitchen (DC United), Josh Wolff (DC United), Ugo Ihemelu (FC Dallas)

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ASN’s MLS Best XI, Week 7: Bruin impresses but Davis fuels Houston statement win

Posted on 04 May 2011 by Breton Bonnette

Our job is to pick the individuals that stood out in the past week of Major League Soccer play and there many that did but ultimately, it was the team that was on display in Week 7. Statement wins from Seattle (coming off Zakuani’s injury), Houston (shaky start to the season), Chivas USA (recent subpar play), and Philadelphia (ten men) were big as both Western Conference powers Los Angeles and Real Salt Lake fell to FC Dallas and Portland respectively. Individuals played their part, though, with a rookie stealing the show. It was his supplier, however, who walked away with Week 7’s ASN Player of the Week honors.  

ASN’s MLS Best XI, Week 7

GK: Jimmy Nielsen (Kansas City)

Nielsen’s name was considered one of the best signings of last season and, despite a 1-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls, he showed why 2011 is no different this past weekend. The Danish keeper kept Kansas City in a match that looked set to blow wide open early on, stopping a Rafa Marquez penalty kick and making several clutch saves before Luke Rodgers dampened an impressive showing.

DEF: Jeremy Hall (Portland)

A force on the right flank when asked to play fullback for the Timbers against Real Salt Lake. The former Terp has come a long way since rookie year and several tumultuous showings at right back for the New York Red Bulls. Hall, however, stood out against Salt Lake, helping them to a big 1-0 win providing further confirmation that winning at JELD-WEN is going to be a very difficult task for visiting teams.

DEF: Carlos Valdes (Philadelphia)

Another stellar defensive outing from Valdes, especially so as he and Califf were given even more responsibility than usual with both wingbacks pushing up high early on.  Then, after Harvey’s ejection, as the Union continued to attack, it was the steady hand of Valdes that insured that no quick counterattack or long ball challenged the Philadelphia goal.  So solid has Carlos’ play been that it seems fruitless to try and point out the myriad positive plays he makes in this space.  Instead, one must try and identify any mistakes.  As has been the case more often than not this season, there were none against San Jose. – Sam Toma, ASN Philly

It’s Valdes’ THIRD appearance in the ASN Best XI to go with one bench appearance.

DEF: George John (FC Dallas)

John’s second consecutive appearance in ASN’s Best XI and once again, well deserved. John and his defensive compatriots held the Galaxy as the Hoops offense found two goals to beat the Western Conference leaders. He was largely responsible for limiting the influence of Juan Pablo Angel and has quickly become one of Schellas Hyndman’s most trusted defensive picks.

MID: Brad Evans (Seattle)

Sigi Schmid often talks about the hidden and underlying influence that Brad Evans has on any particular Sounders game. There was nothing under-the-radar, however, about his game against Toronto FC this past weekend. He took part in all three goals, scoring two and assisting the other. With Zakuani out, the Sounders are not surprisingly playing each game like its their last with a sense of urgency and center midfielders, Osvaldo Alonso and Evans are at the forefront of that.

MID: Brad Davis (Houston) – ASN’s PLAYER OF THE WEEK

Davis played architect yet again in the Dynamo’s 4-1 thrashing of DC United. It’s one thing for a striker to make a nice off-the-ball run but there has to be that person to provide the perfect service for him to hammer home. If it weren’t for Brad Davis, Will Bruin wouldn’t have had the breakout game he did. There’s still a young history in Houston but I must recommend that Davis is starting to take over that “face of the franchise” role from Brian Ching. His second appearance in the Best XI this season.

MID: Dwayne De Rosario (New York)

Hans Backe doesn’t want De Rosario to play for Canada in this summer’s Gold Cup. Could a lot of it have to do with his performance in the Red Bulls 1-0 win over Sporting Kansas City? DeRo looked the part, causing a porous Kansas City defense problems and causing the foul that led to botch Rafa Marquez penalty attempt. The former MVP set Luke Rodgers up with an easy gamewinner as the Red Bulls continue to lead the Eastern Conference. It’s DeRo’s second time in the Best XI this season.

MID: Amobi Okugo (Philadelphia)

Left as the sole defensive midfielder to help anchor the defense, it was trial by fire for the rapidly developing Okugo.   From early on, it was clear that Amobi was up to the task, as he not only stood tall in defense, but was happy to keep the ball and move forward to initiate the attack.   Then, at halftime, when Stefani Miglioranzi came on to take on the lion’s share of the defensive responsibility, Okugo shifted to a hybrid role and found himself pushing forward as the Union’s attack continued to gain momentum, even with the man disadvantage.   First, he trailed the attack in the 70th minute when a failed clearance came to him and he took a strong shot from 25 yards that forced Jon Busch into action.  Then, the payoff came in the 76th minute, when a strong run into the box ended with an attempted cross that struck the hand of Earthquakes defender Jason Hernandez and resulted in the ultimately game-winning penalty kick, converted by Le Toux.  Okugo’s versatility is fast making him invaluable to the Philadelphia side.  It is going to be incredibly difficult to keep him out of the starting XI from this point forward. – Sam Toma, ASN Philly

FWD: Will Bruin (Houston)

Bruin, a rookie, is further cementing the well-known fact that Dominic Kinnear knows how to scout talent. The former

Courtesy of MLSSOCCER.COM

 Hoosier striker connected for his first hat-trick in his professional career (and first hat-trick registered in Major League Soccer this season) as the Dynamo helped DC United continue its descent into the pits of the Eastern Conference. His off the ball movement and strength in the air was further aided by some suspect marking by United’s defense. Regardless, it was a big day for the rookie and one that Houston supporters will hope comes more often.

FWD: Alejandro Moreno (Chivas USA)

Union fans look away. Several games into the season and Moreno already has three goals and two assists. His tireless work ethic and determination fits well with almost any team but it has been sorely needed with a revamped Chivas USA squad now making waves. There’s a winning streak in Los Angeles with this past contest, a 3-0 shellacking of the New England Revolution, and Moreno had a hand in all three goals (one goal, two assists).

FWD: Emilio Renteria (Columbus)

The Crew are without their Designated Player Andres Mendoza but could it be that they gave the wrong player their pay day? Renteria thrived as the lone striker up top for the Crew as provided both tallies in a 2-1 over Vancouver. It seems the Crew are starting to find their identity amidst a six game unbeaten streak and Renteria, with three goals, should continue to be part of the ongoing “discovery process”.

Bench: Keon Daniel (Philadelphia), Tim Ream (New York), Rafa Marquez (New York), Marcos Mondaini (Chivas USA), Heath Pearce (Chivas USA), Kenny Cooper (Portland), Marco Pappa (Chicago), Jimmy Nielsen (Kansas City), Fabian Castillo (FC Dallas), Geoff Cameron (Houston), Corey Ashe (Houston)

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ASN’s MLS Best XI, Week 6: Henry and Donovan awake from slumber

Posted on 27 April 2011 by Breton Bonnette

The season rolls on even after a weekend marred by the loss of two of Major League Soccer’s most exciting attacking talents in Steve Zakuani and David Ferreira. Zakuani suffered a broken fibula and tibia after a rash challenge from Colorado’s Brian Mullan while reigning MLS MVP Ferreira fell victim to a broken ankle after a Jonathan Leathers tackle. The news dampened the announcement of New York and Los Angeles respectively as rejuvenated and dangerous attacking squads. Landon Donovan and Thierry Henry were the catalysts as both sides put up dominant performances over Portland and DC United.

ASN’s MLS Best XI, Week Six

GK: Donovan Ricketts, Los Angeles

The scoreline might have been heavily tilted in the Galaxy’s direction but that does not mean that Ricketts had nothing to do. Quite the opposite actually. Ricketts was tested on several occasions by the Timbers offense and fortunately for the Galaxy’s defense, he was up to the task. Late in the game, especially, it was Ricketts who kept Portland star Kenny Cooper from generating any momentum.

DEF: Heath Pearce, Chivas USA

Pearce won’t be leaving the center of defense anytime soon after his performance in the Goats 2-1 win in San Jose. It was the American international’s dangerous 35 yard free kick that was ever so slightly touched by Alejandro Moreno that equalized after San Jose pressured early. He was the key to neutralizing last year’s Golden Boot winner Wondolowski after he tasted goal in the 16th minute.

DEF: Alain Rochat, Vancouver

We’re not too far into the season and Rochat has already established himself as one of the best defenders in all of Major League Soccer. Both Rochat and Chiumiento have provided a consistency to the Whitecaps, something much coveted for an expansion club. The Swiss defender’s composure and keen positioning will be something the Whitecaps can build around and expand on as the season progresses. It’s Rochat’s second selection in the ASN Best XI.

DEF: Jan Gunnar Solli, New York

Probably the easiest selection on here and along with teammate Thierry Henry, deserves Player of the Week honors. Working from right back, Solli’s forays into the attack yielded a trio of assists, two to Henry and one to wunderkid Juan Agudelo. United’s left flank had absolutely no answer for the Norwegian veteran. It’s Solli’s second selection in the ASN Best XI.

DEF: George John, FC Dallas

Things are coming together for George John in a big way. He has solidified his spot in Schellas Hyndman’s starting XI and made quite the name for himself on the field even as Dallas struggled to start the season. The Hoops, dealt a blow recently with the loss of David Ferreira to injury, are still starting to hit their stride and on defense, it has a lot to do with the second year former Washington Husky. Against Vancouver, John dabbled in the offense as well – powering home the equalizer before a late Avila gamewinner sealed a three point deal.

MID: Julian De Guzman, Toronto FC

An extended glimpse of Designated Player-like play from De Guzman, something Toronto FC fans have been looking for over the past couple seasons. Showed poise in the midfield and creativity that had rarely been seen before as a Red. It was De Guzman that supplied the through ball that found Tony Tchani as Toronto settled for a tie. Aron Winter’s XI, however, looked more like a team this week and De Guzman was the glue that held them together against the Crew.

MID: Eric Avila, FC Dallas

The young Avila replaced 2010’s MVP David Ferreira and supplied the gamewinner. He plays the role of super sub as well as any in Major League Soccer but with Ferreira out recovering from a broken ankle, can Avila develop into the consistent attacking threat that the Hoops need in replacement? He will get his chance to show that he can and Hoops fans are certainly hoping he takes that chance and runs with it.

MID: Landon Donovan, Los Angeles

Two giants awoke this past weekend. Donovan, coming back from a knee injury, looked his old self and brought an expansion team to its knees in the spoiling of Portland’s good run of form. More importantly for the Galaxy, Donovan was consistent in his effect on the game at hand. He asserted himself early – assisting Chad Barrett’s first goal before drawing the penalty (which he then converted) – all in the first 8 minutes. Juan Pablo Angel then delivered an amazing 67th minute cross across the danger area right onto a streaking Donovan’s head. A combination that Galaxy fans would surely pay to see more often.

FWD: Diego Chaves, Chicago

At times, he almost doesn’t fit in with the Fire offense – a step too fast or ahead of the rest of the Fire attack. That hasn’t hindered him in production, however, grabbing four goals already in 2011 including the opener against a revitalized Houston Dynamo squad. His goal vs. Houston wasn’t the product of impressive flair or creativity but instead sheer determination. Chaves is the kind of opportunistic goalscorer the Fire need – if only three points came with it when all was said and done.

FWD: Thierry Henry, New York *ASN’s PLAYER OF THE WEEK*

Henry is starting to put away the chances – one against San Jose, two against DC United away from home. The key is that he has the supporting cast to keep the chances coming for the French striker and it’s pretty apparent – at least in the last couple games – that he does. The Solli/Henry combination is definitely not one that will fizzle out anytime soon. This is Henry’s second selection of the season – two in a row to be exact.

FWD: Kei Kamara, Kansas City

A brace from Kei should normally win it for a team but defensive questions linger for Sporting Kansas City as New England bested them 3-2. Kamara did his part, taking his chances well and putting up what should have been the game winner for Kansas City before New England battled back for the win. Replacing Omar Bravo is tough but Kamara is doing what he can, scoring the last three goals for Sporting.

Bench: Teemu Tainio (New York), Joel Lindpere (New York), Nick LaBrocca (Colorado), Patrick Ianni (Seattle), Benny Feilhaber (New England), Bobby Boswell (Houston), Marco Pappa (Chicago), Fredy Montero (Seattle), Chad Barrett (Los Angeles)

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MLS Best XI, Week 5

MLS Best XI, Week 4

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ASN’s MLS Best XI, Week 5: Alhassan leads an army of Timbers onto Best XI

Posted on 20 April 2011 by Breton Bonnette

Portland stole the show this week with two home games that featured thrills, a rabid fan base, and an atmosphere that garnered worldwide attention. The Timbers delivered for their fanbase, grabbing wins over Chicago and FC Dallas respectively and putting three players on this week’s Best XI. Chad Marshall added another week to make itthree Best XI teams in a row for the big central defender while the Crew found a goal in the second half to sneak by Kansas City. Meanwhile, in New York, a giant may have been awoken as a new striker combination yielded a big result against San Jose.

ASN’s MLS Best XI, Week 5

GK: Dan Kennedy (Chivas USA)

The Goats can’t score and keep Kennedy busy but the one time third stringer is alright with that. He has kept Chivas USA in games and given decent performances week in and week out, even displacing Zach Thornton as the number one in the process. His showing was gamesaving against Vancouver.

DEF: Omar Gonzalez (Los Angeles)

Gonzalez and Todd Dunivant had great games for the Galaxy as they were dealing with the absence of two of their three Designated Players. Chad Barrett gave the Galaxy the lead but Gonzalez took matters into his own hands to solidify the win with a resounding header off a Miguel Lopez restart. Leonardo, a Galaxy mainstay in defense so far this season, is confirmed out for the rest of the year so it looks like Gonzalez and Terp teammate AJ Delagarza will likely be the partnership until reinforcements show themselves. Let’s not forget Gonzalez was also front and center in a midweek shutout of Toronto FC.

DEF: Chad Marshall (Columbus)

Early favorite for MLS Defender of the Year, Marshall continues to deliver impressive, confident performances on a Crew backline that was supposed to look a tad weaker in 2011. It’s Marshall’s THIRD selection in a row and if the Crew continue to put up effective defensive performances, he’ll feature quite a bit in the Best XI throughout the season and Columbus should be playoff-bound (if the offense can cooperate a little).

DEF: Danny Califf (Philadelphia)

The solid, reliable play from Califf continued against Seattle.  In addition, he was able to make a couple of the more “flashy” plays at the back usually reserved for Valdes.  Most notably, he got in behind Steve Zakuani at the last moment when the goal-scoring threat almost found himself in against Mondragon in the 20th minute.  The unofficial MLS leader in blocked shots continued to add to his total, as well, continuing to show uncanny anticipation and feel for the opponents’ shooting lanes.  Obviously, his signature play of this match came in the 78th minute when, as he saw play flowing to the weak side, he filled the area directly in front of the goal.  This paid off when a deflection found Alvaro Fernandez mere feet from a goal mouth no longer occupied by Faryd Mondragon, who had dived to deflect the cross.  Instead of an equalizing goal, the shot blasted off of Califf’s shoulder and, at the time, appeared to be a game-saver.  Of course, Seattle did eventually equalize, but that does not detract from Danny’s overall performance. – Sam Toma, ASN Philly

MID: Khalif Alhassan (Portland) *ASN PLAYER OF THE WEEK*

Featured prominently in both of Portland’s home wins this past week dishing out three assists in two games. He’s crafty, dangerous, and not shy on the ball and he displayed consistency throughout the week of fixtures. His near misses and on-the-ball runs were just as exciting as his plays that yielded results. His curler that hit the crossbar against Chicago, his dance through the FC Dallas defense. It was all impressive but if Portland’s going to flourish in its expansion year, Alhassan and company must be able to repeat these performances on the road as well.

MID: Chris Pontius (DC United)

Two goals will land you on a Best XI with no questions asked but Pontius was actually more than that this week. The revelation of 2009 showed himself again after an injury laden 2010 season and chemistry with Charlie Davies is dangerous for any defense throughout Major League Soccer. Both of his goals were finished cooly but he also had a huge impact in drawing the foul that saw Ty Harden sent off in the 49th minute.

MID: Jack Jewsbury (Portland)

The Timbers made things interesting, almost blowing 3-0 leads vs. Chicago and FC Dallas but Jewsbury, the Timbers newly minted captain, wouldn’t let that happen. He’s one of the hardest working midfielders in the league and a great complement to the likes of Khalif Alhassan. The veteran surpassed 200 games in Major League Soccer, celebrating with a goal and an assist vs. FC Dallas.

MID: Osvaldo Alonso (Seattle)

Alonso was everywhere against Philadelphia. Physical, relentless, and aggressive, Seattle’s Cuban pitbull was vital to stopping a Philadelphia offense that showed some life amidst monsoon-like conditions. Alonso has played every minute of every game so far for the Sounders this season and along with Brad Evans, Seattle tends to follow the lead of their midfield.

FWD: Luke Rodgers (New York)

A poacher that apparently doesn’t miss, Rodgers produced a brace and a beautiful assist to Henry in his second Major

Courtesy of MLSSoccer.com

League Soccer start. The bald-headed forward is now being seen as a lock in the Starting XI possibly relegating teenage prospect Juan Agudelo to the bench. He wasn’t flashy, just downright efficient and that is something that the Red Bulls need.

FWD: Thierry Henry (New York)

Hans Backe came out and said that Henry’s showing vs. San Jose was quite possibly the best performance that he has had in a Red Bulls uniform. That’s saying quite a bit and in truth, it probably was. Many pegged him for listless against Philadelphia and he countered that with a goal and an assist against a good San Jose squad. Will the Rodgers/Henry partnership thrive past one game?

FWD: Jorge Perlaza (Portland)

He didn’t follow up his two goal performance midweek with a particularly good showing against FC Dallas but the Timbers still won and Perlaza was involved. The Colombian striker is now firmly entrenched in Timbers history, scoring the first goal at JELD-WEN Field as well as the first home goal. He’s starting to develop an understanding with Kenny Cooper and if all goes right, it could be one that starts to threaten outside of Portland too.

Bench: Carlos Ruiz (Philadelphia), Jamison Olave (Real Salt Lake), Charlie Davies (DC United), Teemu Tainio (New York), Robbie Rogers (Columbus), Hunter Freeman (Houston), Franco Coria (New England), Miguel Lopez (Los Angeles), Rodney Wallace (Portland)

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ASN’s MLS Best XI, Week 4: Watch out, 2010 Ferreira is back!

Posted on 12 April 2011 by Breton Bonnette

Dimunitive attackers had their way in Week 4. FC Dallas’ David Ferreira, Philadelphia’s Roger Torres, and Houston’s Danny Cruz and Brad Davis (okay, to call Davis diminutive might be a bit of a stretch) all had significant impact on their respective matches this past weekend. Salt Lake displayed their depth, landing a “reserve” on the Best XI after a sound 2-0 defeat of New England. The Union, meanwhile, posted a third 1-0 shutout for the season. This one over the New York Red Bulls and an increasingly familiar figure was a big part of shutting down an attack that boasts Henry, Agudelo, and the speedy Dane Richards. 

ASN’s MLS Best XI, Week 4

GK: Kasey Keller (Seattle)

The old man has still got it in him there’s no disputing that. Thankfully, for Sounders fans, Zakuani and Rosales have spearheaded a reawakening for Seattle’s offense but it was Keller’s performance that secured the win vs. Chicago. The veteran had clutch saves on a particularly active and impressive Chicago offense.

DEF: Carlos Valdes (Philadelphia)

The gatekeeper to the penalty area was stingy with entry against New York, as Valdes played ballhawk in the Union’s final third, refusing to let anything get over his head.  Further, when tested directly, Carlos dispossessed his man straight up several times.  Some may say that Thierry Henry had a down game, but that is downplaying the job Carlos did to make that the case. Valdes was the most important factor in ensuring that the Union’s goal remained untouched for a 3rd time in 4 games. – Sam Toma, ASN Philly

It’s Valdes’ second time making ASN’s Best XI, to go with one Bench appearance.

DEF: Chad Marshall (Columbus)

The Crew have now posted three consecutive shutouts. Unfortunately, for Marshall – the leader of the Columbus defense – the offense is having trouble with consistency. Marshall, in his second consecutive Best XI, kept the Goats silent and organized and kept a defense, that started 2011 on the wrong foot, composed and impenetrable.

DEF: Brek Shea (FC Dallas)

Could the Shea experiment at centerback be over now? Schellas Hyndman moved Brek Shea out to left back in their 3-0 win over Colorado and a lot of good things happened. Sound defensively, Shea also made dangerous overlapping runs that kept Colorado guessing and allowed David Ferreira and Fabian Castillo to roam free. A left flank of Shea and Castillo – even though it’s still early in the season – could be one of the best in league.

MID: Collen Warner (Real Salt Lake)

Real Salt Lake has its’ sights set on winning the CONCACAF Champions League so a team made up mostly of reserves trotted out to take on undefeated New England side at Foxboro. Led by Warner, Salt Lake showed it had depth, handily dispatching Shalrie Joseph and friends 2-0 and giving guys like Morales, Rimando, and Olave some much needed rest. Warner played the architect in the win, assisting on both goals.

MID: Brad Davis (Houston)

The Dynamo grabbed their first three points of the season, blitzing a Vancouver team that were missing key pieces and coming off a midweek game. Davis, providing the service on all three Houston goals, made sure . The traffic flowed through the veteran playmaker and Davis distributed well. Davis wasn’t alone, though, getting help from Danny Cruz on the wings.

MID: Roger Torres (Philadelphia

Came on for Carlos Ruiz in the 67th minute.  Waited all of 30 seconds to change the game (we were actually able to time it at 13 seconds from the time the restart occurred to the time the ball hit the back of the net), barely staying onside on a breakaway with Danny Mwanga off of a turnover, receiving the ball and calmly putting it past Bouna Coundoul into the bottom right hand corner of the goal.  For the rest of his time on the pitch, Torres was an unquestionably positive influence on the match for the Union.  Torres got into space, kept possession and switched fields effectively, all of which wasted precious seconds and served to prevent the Red Bulls from ever mounting a serious challenge to the Philadelphia goal in the waning moments.  Most importantly, he turned the atmosphere from a healthy buzz to simply electric, whipping the supporters into a frenzy with his goal and then keeping them on the edge of their seats every time he touched the ball.  Easily the performance of the year thus far for young Torres.Sam Toma, ASN Philly

MID: Danny Cruz (Houston)

At times it seemed like Vancouver had forgotten Cruz was even on the pitch. The speedster had his way up and down the flanks and if his finishing was any better, he could have thrilled Robertson Stadium even more with multiple tallies. Instead, a great performance from a young player who the Dynamo expect a lot out of this season and in the future.

MID: Steve Zakuani (Seattle)

His gamewinner alone should earn him a spot on the Best XI. The “easy pass” doesn’t come so easy to Zakuani but when given the chance, he has the ability to take over a game. It was White and the former Zip that linked up to get the go-ahead goal and eventual gamewinner in the 25th minute vs. Chicago. He terrorized the Fire defense and had the presence of mind to sense Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson leaving the near post open instead of playing the easy (and probably smart) ball at the penalty spot.

FWD: David Ferreira (FC Dallas) *ASN’s PLAYER OF THE WEEK*

Sure, Ferreira probably would rather drop two goals in last year’s MLS Cup final to lead FC Dallas to victory but  – seeing as that didn’t happen – why not settle for a rematch at the outset of the 2011 season? The diminutive attacker was omnipotent in a 3-0 drubbing of defending champs Colorado, scoring twice and earning Major League Soccer’s Player of the Week award (as well as ours!). Even if he only managed one goal, his goal celebration should have landed him on the Best XI as well. Ferreira pulled a pacifier out of his shorts

FWD: O’Brian White (Seattle)

Just when you think Sigi Schmid may opt to start someone else at striker, White starts showing why he was there in the first place. The UConn product powered home a beautiful header to start the scoring in the 7th minute before the Fire’s Diego Chaves equalized no more than a minute later. Not content to give up the win at home, White supplied Zakuani with the distribution that led to the gamewinner.

Bench: Teemu Tainio (RBNY), Daniel Hernandez (FC Dallas), Bobby Boswell (Houston), Stefan Frei (Toronto FC), Fabian Castillo (FC Dallas), David Beckham (Los Angeles), Chris Korb (DC United), Diego Chaves (Chicago), Chris Schuler (Salt Lake), Davide Chiumiento (Vancouver)

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ASN’s MLS Best XI, Week 3: A Rapid Ascent in Colorado

Posted on 05 April 2011 by Breton Bonnette

It wasn’t the usual suspects in Colorado grabbing Week 3’s Player of the Week honors after a 4-1 win over DC United on Sunday. A new striker is in town, propelling a Colorado that very much looks like defending champions with two beautifully taken goals. The first repeat selection is an unlikely one but incredibly deserved as a young starting keeper allows Houston fans to forget the loss of a legend.  

ASN’s MLS Best XI, Week 3

GK: Tally Hall (Houston)

Dominic Kinnear is looking like a genius so far in 2011 after putting his faith in largely untested netminder Hall. Hall’s performance in his last two matches probably even has Pat Onstead impressed. Against New York, he made several saves that allowed the Dynamo to preserve their second consecutive point on the road. Hall also becomes the first player of the new season to be selected in ASN’s Best XI multiple times (selected in Week 2).

DEF: Omar Gonzalez (Los Angeles)

The Galaxy still don’t look like themselves but between Gonzalez and Leonardo, they were able to tame a Philadelphia offense that was pining for goals. Gonzalez didn’t look like he was returning from injury, harrying Carlos Ruiz from the get-go and keeping the Union’s danger on attack at a minimum. After Chris Birchall’s ejection in the 53rd minute, Gonzalez kept things under control in defense, blocking shots and keeping the trio of Mwanga, Ruiz, and Le Toux without a shot on frame.

DEF: Chad Marshall (Columbus)

Thanks to a two-minute display of stupidity from Jackson, FC Dallas were playing a man down with over an hour left in the game. Anytime you have David Ferreira on the field, even with an undermanned squad around him, you need to have your best defensive game ready. Marshall delivered a solid performance, organizing the backline, containing Ferreira and new Colombian hotshot Fabian Castillo, and even getting in on the attack at times.

DEF: Geoff Cameron (Houston)

He played in the midfield but Cameron put in a defensive effort worthy of selection in this week’s Best XI regardless of actual position. He was influential in the attack as well, showing his importance in the Dynamo as a whole. With Brian Ching out yet again after a collision this past weekend with Red Bulls keeper Bouna Coundoul, it will be up to Cameron and Brad Davis to continue leading this team without him.

MID: Eddie Gaven (Columbus)

It’s a new look team for Columbus this season but Gaven is a familiar face that has been one of the best players for the Crew in the first three games. He led the Crew’s attack, keeping Kevin Hartman honeset throughout and even iced the game with an injury time goal. First win for the Crew this season.  

MID: Dwayne DeRosario (Red Bull New York)

He was second half substitute but credit DeRosario for opening up the game. A lot of turmoil for the 5 time MLS Best XI pick over the recent months but he showed in New York ready to play. Not long after his insertion in the game, DeRosario split the Houston defense with an impressive through ball that played to Dane Richards’ pace. Richards eventually scored but New York couldn’t hang on for the three points.

MID: Mauro Rosales (Seattle)

Rosales faded late in the second half and is admittedly still rounding into shape but his presence throughout the first half garnered praise from Sigi Schmid and San Jose coach Frank Yallop. The former Ajax attacked filled in for an injured Fredy Montero and asserted himself well on San Jose’s defense. His determination, vision, and tenacity should prove well for the Sounders, providing a dangerous force to unleash late in games when Montero returns.

MID: Simon Dawkins (San Jose)

Khari Stephenson’s equalizer and possible goal of the year may have stolen the show but the Tottenham youth product Dawkins had a memorable game of his own. Dawkins became the first player other than 2010 MLS Golden Boot winner Chris Wondolowski to score for the Earthquakes in regular season play since September 2010. The 23-year old scored his first MLS goal after a nice off-the-ball run, perfect feed from Bobby Convey, and finish past Kasey Keller and his performance earned him an ovation as he came off in the 84th minute. He’ll be one to watch in the coming weeks.

Courtesy ColoradoRapids.com

With Conor Casey out, it was Folan’s turn to show that he could be in force in Major League Soccer. A new arrival in the offseason, the former Hull City striker wasted no time putting his talent on display. With two goals, he propelled the Rapids to convincing 4-1 win over DC United. On the first goal, he embarrassed new United defender Rodrigo Brasesco with fleet footwork. On his second, it was a beautiful glancing header that beat Pat Onstad to the far post. The Rapids are rich with offensive firepower with Casey, Cummings, Folan, and the hard-working Amarikwa. If you think you’ve contained one, it probably just means you’re ignoring the other. Folan grabs this week’s ASN Player of the Week honors.  

FWD: Camilo Sanvezzo (Vancouver)

Even before his two last-gasp goals, Camilo probably should have already had a pair vs. Sporting Kansas City. He was dangerous all night and all over the pitch leading many to believe it was only a matter of time. The clock ran out, however, and only injury time remained to work magic. He did so, capping a great run from Davide Chiumiento for his first and nodding home a Khalfan cross for the dramatic equalizer.

FWD: Teal Bunbury (Sporting Kansas City)

Sporting may have left Vancouver with a sour taste in their mouth but there’s little sour to say about young Teal Bunbury. You can already see the improvement between year one and two and two goals vs. Vancouver just confirmed that. He is confident, strong on the ball, and surprisingly nimble. His trap, turn, and shoot on the first goal was impressive.

Bench: Cam Weaver (Houston), Keon Daniel (Philadelphia), Jake Gleason (Portland), Shalrie Joseph (New England), Kalif Alhassan (Portland), Khari Stephenson (San Jose), Leonardo (Los Angeles), Jamie Smith (Colorado), Davide Chiumento (Vancouver) 

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ASN’s MLS Best XI, Week 2: Meet the Javiers

Posted on 29 March 2011 by Breton Bonnette

It might be a curse to have been named a striker on ASN’s Best XI last week. Both Omar Bravo and Vancouver’s Eric Hassli saw red after contributing two goals a piece in their Major League Soccer debuts. Some old heads filled the gap however as the 2010 MLS Golden Boot winner found his form in a big San Jose win.

This week, the Javiers rule the attackers’ roost after playing huge parts in their respective teams dominant wins. Only one Javier, however, could walk away with ASN’s Player of the Week honors and it was pretty clear who deserved it in the end. Real Salt Lake is 2-0 in Player of the Week honors for ASN, something to go nicely with their 2-0-0 record.

ASN’s Best XI, Week 2

GK: Tally Hall (Houston)

Houston’s defense is shaky to say the least but who would have that with the loss of veteran All-Star Pat Onstad, their last line of defense would be their strongest? That’s two solid weeks for so far for Hall but his performance in Friday’s 1-1 tie with Seattle earned him a spot on the Best XI. Six big saves allowed the Dynamo to come away from Qwest Field with at least one point, despite Seattle’s domination.

DEF: Carlos Valdes (Philadelphia)

Two things so far are clear regarding Valdes: (1) He is still not sure of his positioning with his new club; and (2) He is athletic, skilled and aware enough to more than hold his own regardless.  On at least three occasions, it appeared as though Carlos was out of place and sure to be beat, but in each instance he was able to recover, once by craning his neck to just nudge a ball in the air enough to change its path.  Valdes did take a couple of badly judged fouls, but nothing that hurt the team.  Ultimately, the defender made the necessary plays that kept danger away.  Through his first two games with the Union, he has shown that he is willing to make the high-risk, high-reward play that a team needs to win.  Mondragon has gotten the lion’s share of the attention and press, and deservedly so, but Valdes has been every inch as important a signing and, over the run of 90 minutes, has even more of an impact when he plays as he did against the Whitecaps. –  Sam Toma, ASN Philly

DEF: Drew Moor (Colorado)

There were a couple Colorado defenders up for a spot on this Best XI but Drew Moor was close to flawless in the center of defense. Thanks to a clinical defensive performance, the Rapids secured their first ever  2-0-0 start (in a 16-year history). Real Salt Lake was an 8 seed when they won the MLS Cup a couple years ago, they came back as powerhouses. Could Colorado be next?

DEF: Alain Rochat (Vancouver)

The Swiss defender kept Sebastien Le Toux, for the most part, in check. He might not have commanding size but his ability to make the right tackle, positioning, and composure should make him a vital part of the Vancouver backline for seasons to come.

MID: Shalrie Joseph (New England)

A typical hardworking and tireless performance from Joseph. He was the engine for a New England team still trying to find a common footing with each other. His PK conversion (9th in his career) put him into a tie with Steve Ralston, now an assistant coach in Houston, at the top of the New England charts for goals from the spot.

MID: Brian Carroll (Philadelphia)

With Justin Mapp out, the team looked to Carroll to maintain some possession and link the attack.  Unfortunately, Carroll did not answer the call in the 1st half, instead providing sloppy touches, tentative passes backwards and timing that was a beat slow.  In the 2nd half, however, the game changed, and Carroll was a big reason why.   Following the red card, he pressed up and played the point position on what amounted to a prolonged power play for the Union, with the ball in Whitecaps territory for the vast majority of the time.  He initiated several productive forays towards the goal and disrupted any attempt at counterattacks. – Sam Toma, ASN Philly

Javier Morales, Player of the Week, Week 2

MID: Javier Morales (Real Salt Lake) *PLAYER OF THE WEEK*

Winner of Major League Soccer’s player of the week award. Surprisingly, it’s only his fourth time being named it. Morales wore two hats in a 4-1 drubbing of Los Angeles, a contender for the Western Conference crown. He was both architect (1 assist) and artist (2 goals) matching and possibly even exceeding  last year’s early form. There’s no way to argue it really, Morales gets Week 2’s ASN Player of the Week honors. (Go to RSL ASN’s gallery page for more great shots of RSL’s 4-1 win over Los Angeles)

MID: Marco Pappa (Chicago)

Pappa is close solidifying the label of “go-to guy” in Chicago. Had a goal and an assist and seems to be combining well with the new strike pairing of Puerari and Chaves. As Pappa continues to mature, this Chicago team should settle in around him.

FWD: Chris Wondolowski (San Jose)

Wondo more than made up for a shoddy first game of missed sitters. Last year’s Golden Boot winner struck for a brace to right the wrongs of Week 1 and give the Earthquakes their first points of the young season. What makes it more impressive is that fact that he did at Pizza Hut Park and during a game in which Dallas dominated the game in shots produced (19 to San Jose’s 6).

FWD: Javier Martina (Toronto FC)

The former Ajax product scored both goals in a 2-0 win over Portland and was a constant hassle all throughout the match. His second strike was pure beauty. He took on a volley a 70-yard pass from Toronto’s keeper Stefan Frei, beating Portland’s keeper and essentially sealing Toronto’s first win of the season.

FWD: Paulo Jr. (Real Salt Lake)

The young Brazilian assisted Morales in his architect role before capping off a brilliant attacking display with the fourth and final goal of the day. He was all over the field, disrupting any organization the Galaxy’s defense thought they had. Let’s also not forget that he took the foul from Josh Saunders that led a penalty kick and a 2-0 lead early in the match.

Bench: Jon Busch (San Jose), Alex Horwath (RBNY), Danny Califf (Philadelphia), Jeff Larentowicz (Colorado), Gustavo Puerari (Chicago), Chad Marshall (Columbus), Jason Hernandez (San Jose), Jamison Olave (Real Salt Lake)

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ASN’s Best XI, Week 1: Goalkeeper takes first Player of the Week honors

Posted on 22 March 2011 by Breton Bonnette

It was a goal-filled opening weekend to the 2011 Major League Soccer season and numerous impressive debuts. All three forwards named to the ASN Best XI hit for a brace, pushing other worthy candidates out of the XI. In the end, however, it was a veteran goalkeeper, well accustomed to the jitters and excitement of the start of a new season, that took away Player of the Week honors. We’ll be putting these together all season (with as little Union bias as possible) so you can keep track of who to watch out for in MLS.

GK: Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake) – *ASN’s PLAYER OF THE WEEK*

ASN Philly’s Player of the Week for sure and Real Salt Lake fans would definitely agree. In almost every match report, it was Rimando’s play that allowed for RSL to walk away with their first three points of the season in a 1-0 shutout of San Jose. The Earthquakes pressed, unleashing a barrage in the last 15 minutes, but couldn’t beat the veteran keeper (although Chris Wondolowski helped, missing a sitter or two).

DEF: Zach Loyd (FC Dallas)

Loyd was a presence on both the offensive and defensive ends, especially as the Hoops were forced to bunker down after Brek Shea was ejected. Loyd provided a great feed to goalscorer Milton Rodriguez, one of several impressive crosses that the second year player out of UNC dished out on the day. Also had a goal disallowed in the 10th minute. Starting in place of a suspended Jair Benitez, Loyd may have made a case for a permanent starting spot on the left side.

DEF: Danny Califf (Philadelphia)

Last year’s captain showed no signs of indignation or dejection at his “demotion” and Faryd Mondragon’s ascension to the captaincy.  Showing his belief that the team comes first, Califf not  only scored his first goal as a member of the Union in just the season’s 5th minute, but played as solid a game at the back as we’ve seen from any defender since the Philadelphia side’s inception.  The goal itself was a product of chance as well as opportunity, with Califf cleaning up a loose ball at the goal mouth after Sebastien Le Toux’s strike clanged off the crossbar.  More important, however, was Danny’s multiple blocked shots and important clearances.  His performance in the opener went a long way towards showing that there is room for more than one leader on the pitch and in the locker room. – Sam Toma, ASN Philly

DEF: Jan Gunnar Solli (RBNY)

Solli was impressive in his debut – as Red Bulls fans expected him to be – making key runs on the wing. Nursing a hamstring strain, the Norwegian vet had no desire to sit out in the Red Bulls home opener and his play at right back bolstered a decent performance from New York as they handed Seattle their second loss of the week.

MID: Marcos Mondaini (Chivas USA)

Club owner Jorge Vergara was in the crowd and he wasn’t too pleased with the scoreline but the Argentine winger and Boca Juniors youth product certainly showed in his debut that he was going to play a big role in Robin Fraser’s re-tooled 2011 lineup. Mondaini kept the left flank open for traffic most of the game even as Sporting KC had their way with the Goats’ backline, winning 3-2.

MID: Teemu Tainio (RBNY)

Tainio and Lindpere could wind up being a dangerous duo in the midfield for the Red Bulls this season. Tainio, according to OptaStats, completed 88% of his passes and provided the long assist that led to Juan Agudelo’s gamewinner. Agudelo had to finish up the gamewinner but it was Tainio that switched things up (short passing in a cluttered midfield) and had the vision/precision to hit the long ball.

MID: Juninho (Los Angeles)

The Galaxy as a whole didn’t look much like their 2010 counterparts but Brazilian midfielder Juninho at least made sure they came out of their first week of the new season with four points. Two rockets for two goals should give him a couple nominations for Goal of the Week and steady play in the midfield, some key tackles, and a tireless work ethic were an added bonus.

MID: Davide Chiumento (Vancouver)

Possibly the best player on the pitch in the Canadian clash between Vancouver and Toronto FC. Made several pinpoint passes that if consistent throughout games this season, Chiumento should find himself on this list many times. Part of a Swiss duo that also includes defender Alain Rochat. Many are already predicting Chiumento to wind up as one of the top newcomers of the 2011 season.

FWD: Eric Hassli (Vancouver)

His DP status was questioned but the big French striker didn’t take long to cement himself in Whitecaps history. Hassli scored the first goal in ‘Caps Major League Soccer history and added another for good measure to help secure a 4-2 win over Canadian rivals Toronto FC. The question for all ‘Caps fans will surely be – can he keep it going?

FWD: Charlie Davies (DC United)

After 17 months and a brush with death, Davies is back doing the Stanky Leg. In fact, United fans should have had to pay extra – they got to see the Stanky Leg show twice. Dubbed the “best night of his life”, Davies registered a two-goal return to first-tier soccer. His post-match quote says it all: “You couldn’t even write a book about this. I mean, everything I’ve gone through, to come out and score two goals on the debut, after a year and a half of waiting …. It’s overwhelming.”

FWD: Omar Bravo (Sporting KC)

This week’s Major League Soccer “Player of the Week” misses out on the American Soccer News honor of the same name but that doesn’t mean his performance wasn’t less impressive. It’s fitting that it was Bravo that spoiled the home opener of the sister club to his former team, Chivas de Guadalajara, as he netted a crafty brace in what probably was one of the better DP debuts of recent history.

Bench: Greg Sutton (RBNY), Carlos Valdes (PHL), Juan Agudelo (RBNY), Dax McCarty (DCU), Jay DeMerit (VAN), Kei Kamara (KC), Omar Cummings (COL), Faryd Mondragon (PHL), Josip Mikulic (CHI)

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