Van Persie vs Wolyniec

Manchester United striker Robin van Persie scored three goals yesterday to lift his team to a 3-0 win over Aston Villa (and U.S. keeper Brad Guzan) that clinched the club’s 20th English championship.

His second was a beauty:

The full volley into the far corner, off of a pass from distance, kind of reminded us of MetroBull striker John Wolyniec’s overtime winner against Columbus in 2003:

Which one is better?

The MLS man was closer to goal, but the pass he had to deal with was longer. It was also an overtime winner.

Both players hit the ball absolutely on the screws, but RVP’s degree of difficulty to get it on frame was greater, and he pocketed it right in the corner.

Advantage: RVP, by a nose.

Top Ten Stories We Missed as 2010 turned to 2011

Timbers fans will be ready for their April 14 home opener. Count on it.

A lot went down while we were up North. Here are the top ten items we would have posted about had we not shuttered the BP for the past 12 days:

10. Philadelphia Signs Homegrown Player Zach Pfeffer

The 15-year-old Upper Dublin, Pa., resident became the fourth-youngest signing in league history. Pfeffer is the 23rd player signed as part of MLS’s recent ‘Homegrown Initiative.’

9. Stuart Holden Hurt in Chelsea Match, Misses Liverpool Tilt

The newly minted Best Player in the Premier League picked up a knock in Bolton’s 1-0 loss to the Blues on Dec 29, then missed the next game, versus Liverpool, on New Year’s Day. Not surprisingly, Bolton, which was also without defender Paul Robinson (suspension), lost, 2-1.

8. Brads Friedel and Guzan Enjoy Big Weeks

Friedel stood on his head to preserve a see-saw 3-3 tie for Aston Villa vs Chelsea on Jan 2, while his backup, Guzan, was loaned out to second-tier Hull City on Dec 30. He immediately stepped into the starting lineup and went 1-1 in his first two games with the Tigers.

7. Dwayne De Rosario Goes AWOL to Celtic

Toronto FC’s deadliest attacker hopped a plane to Celtic Park on Boxing Day (Dec 26) for a few kickabouts with the (original) Hoops. When asked about it, TFC first insisted the player had done no such thing, then said he did not have their permission. De Ro swore that he did have his employers’ OK. Upshot: Toronto worked out an arrangement with Celtic after the fact, and this story is developing.

6. Silly Season of (Aging) Foreign-Stars-to-MLS Rumors Kicks In

While rumors of Ronaldinho-to-LA Galaxy cooled (and he was chased by several Brazilian clubs, and Blackburn), they were replaced by reports that Nicolas Anelka, Adrian Mutu, and Guillermo Franco all had designs on eventual Stateside moves, along with Patrick Vieira, Roberto Carlos, and Marco Materazzi. These reports are always fun and to some extent flattering for the league, but, well, let’s just say that they—and the players’ fitness for MLS—should be taken on a case-by-case basis.

5. Portland Timbers Breach 10,000 Mark in Season Tickets Sold

Think they’re fired up for MLS in the Northwest? Hell and yes. The team surpassed 10,000 in 2011 season ticket sales on Jan 3, and says it will cap the sales at 12,000. The club’s newly renovated stadium, PGE Park, seats 20,000. According to this story, the Timbers’ Cascadia Cup rivals the Vancouver Whitecaps have accepted more than 13,000 season-ticket deposits for 2011, but haven’t said how many of those have been turned into season ticket sales.

4. Purported Beckham Loan Deals Verge on Farcical

More than half a dozen Premier League teams, along with several sprinkled across Europe, were linked to loan deals involving MLS’s most famous player in the past couple of weeks. Most of them turned out to be nothing more than rumors, but this past week Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp said he and Spurs were serious about acquiring the 35-year-old winger. Why they would want to disrupt the excellent season they’re having by bringing in a player who is a sideshow in and of himself is an open question—as is why the aging and recently injured (Achilles tendon, last March) Beckham would want to do it, and why Los Angeles or MLS would allow it.

3. Generation adidas, MLS Combine Names Announced

Rising futbol factory the University of Akron provided five of the first nine 2011 Generation adidas players (a 10th player, UCSB defender Michael Tetteh, was added today), and five non-college foreign players were included in the MLS Combine list, a first for the league. Those five, led by Wayne Rooney’s brother John, will be available in the Jan 13 SuperDraft alongside the NCAA candidates. Combine rosters here, Generation adidas players here.

2. Toronto FC Hires Former Dutch International Aron Winter as Coach

The 43-year-old former Ajax midfielder, who will be unveiled tomorrow will also act as Technical Director, with a staff that will include former New England assistant Paul Mariner and Winter’s fellow Dutchman Bob de Klerk, though their roles are as yet unclarified. The trio will try to get an overhauled TFC to the playoffs for the first time in its five-year existence.

1. Robin Fraser Lands Chivas USA Coaching Job

When this announcement was made, some MLS fans tweeted that they’d never heard of Fraser—enhancing our belief that the former rock-solid centerback is one of the most underrated players in MLS and USMNT history. A key assistant coach at Real Salt Lake the past few seasons, Fraser was a five-time Best XI selection and two-time defender of the year as a player in MLS, and always performed well in a U.S. shirt (he had 27 caps). Like TFC, Chivas is in a severe rebuilding mode, so Fraser has his work cut out for him. He will reportedly hire former Galaxy and U.S. teammate Greg Vanney as an assistant.

All right, we are more or less caught up. Next: Clint Dempsey continues to tear it up for Fulham, and MLS Combine news.

Guzan and Lichaj Start for Aston Villa in Hostile Vienna Encounter

U.S. goalkeeper Brad Guzan made several outstanding saves, and 21-year-old U.S. defender Eric Lichaj made his Aston Villa debut in a 1-1 Europa League tie at Rapid Vienna yesterday.

Lichaj, who did a brief, injury-marred stint at the University of North Carolina before enrolling in the U-17 residency program in Bradenton, Fla., turned in a steady performance at right back.

He signed with Villa in 2007 and has been loaned to Lincoln City and Leyton Orient. This year, it appears he has staked a claim to a place in the first team.

Guzan endured relentless taunting and several projectiles from the Vienna fans behind his goal.

Here is his account, as told to the Daily Mail:

“You try to do your best because the referee can’t go into the stands and literally remove people. There were some objects like lighters and coins and stuff. We knew it was going to be hostile, but this is a result we will be happy to take and go back to Villa Park.”

Weekend Wrap: Tigers Thrashed; F.A. Cup

Rooney: "developing" as a goal-scorer.

There was just one game in the Premier League this past weekend and it was not pretty for fans of relegation-battling Hull City. The Tigers traveled to Old Trafford and got trounced by Manchester United 4-0, and now sit third from the bottom of the table, just one point ahead of Bolton, which has two games in hand.

Wayne Rooney scored all four goals for the Red Devils, prompting the following choice postgame quote from United manager Alex Ferguson: “He has been wanting to develop himself as a scorer.” Well, then.

The game was actually tighter than the final scoreline would suggest, as Rooney’s second goal didn’t come until the 82nd minute, and Hull had twice came close to equalizing before then. But Rooney struck again in the 85th and in stoppage time to seal the blowout.

U.S. striker Jozy Altidore did not dress for the Tigers.

The fourth round of the F.A. Cup kicked off this past weekend, with several Yanks involved. Tim Howard and Landon Donovan both started for Everton, which lost 2-1 to Birmingham City. Howard went the distance while LD came off after 76 minutes and a couple of weak headers in the box. Not a great performance by the Toffees in this one.

Brad Guzan backstopped Aston Villa to a 3-2 win over Brighton, just days after guiding the team to the Carling Cup final. Brad Friedel watched from the bench.

Clint Dempsey is out with a knee injury, but his Fulham teammates rolled to a 3-1 win over the accounting firm of League Two side Accrington Stanley to advance to the fifth round of the F.A. Cup. Accrington Stanley’s pitch appeared to have just hosted a demolition derby, or an equestrian competition. Seriously, we played on better fields in junior high school. Sure, League Two is the fourth level in British football, but c’mon….

Wolves manager Mick McCarthy gave Marcus Hahnemann the day off on Saturday; he watched his teammates draw their F.A. Cup fourth-rounder with Crystal Palace, 2-2.

League One side Leeds United scored a stoppage time equalizer to draw Premier Leaguers Tottenahm Hotspur, 2-2, and force a replay of their fourth-round F.A. Cup meeting. American striker Mike Grella, a first-team All-America at Duke in 2008, watched the proceedings from the Leeds bench.

Premier League: Week 22 Wrap, Carling Cup

Villa won the game, but Guzan had reason to shout at his back four, and himself, in the Carling Cup semifinals at Villa Park last night.

There were two Premier League games yesterday—rounding out the 22nd week of competition—along with a wild Carling Cup semifinal between Aston Villa and Blackburn. The league games involved Arsenal and Bolton at the Emirates in a rematch of their game at the Reebok three days earlier, and Liverpool hosting Tottenham in a key matchup of European aspirants.

The winner and margin of victory in Arsenal v Bolton were identical to Sunday’s game (a 2-0 win for the Gunners), but the actual match could hardly have been different. Owen Coyle’s men stormed to a 2-0 lead after 28 minutes, only to see it slip away in an eventual 4-2 defeat.

Arsenal’s 52nd-minute equalizer came with some controversy after William Gallas went studs-up over the ball and crunched Bolton midfielder Mark Davies’s ankle in a 50-50 challenge. There was no call, and with Davies crumpled on the ground, the Gunners played on in a sequence that ended with Cesc Fabregas slipping the ball between Bolton keeper Jussi Jaaskelainen’s legs. 2-2. Arsenal’s Belgian centerback Thomas Vermaelen got the winner 13 minutes later, and Andrey Arshavin sealed it with a nice finish in the 85th.

The Gunners jumped to the top of the table with the win, tied with Chelsea, which has a game in hand, on 48 points.

At Anfield, two Dirk Kuyt goals, the second from the spot in stoppage time, bookended a crucial 2-0 win for Liverpool. The Reds are now within striking distance of the top four, just one point behind Spurs and Manchester City.

In the Carling Cup, Yank Brad Guzan, Brad Friedel’s understudy, got the start, but it may not be one he’ll remember too fondly. Blackburn fired four goals past him, and at least one of those goals—off a corner kick that he waved at—came through an error on his part. Fortunately for him and Aston Villa, though, the Villans put six of their own past Blackburn’s Paul Robinson, and won 7-4 on aggregate.

They will meet the winner of Manchester City-Manchester United in the Carling Cup final on February 28.