With Nine Games Still Remaining in the Round, the MLS Goal of the Week Competition Is Over

Red Bulls striker Thierry Henry shut down the balloting for the week (and maybe the year) with this stunner:

The 88th-minute golazo put New York up 2-0 on Montreal, but of course, these being the Red Bulls, they gave up a goal to Marco Di Vaio in stoppage time, and then nearly blew Henry’s masterpiece a minute later, when Di Vaio hit both posts with a shot inside the box.

The former Serie A goal poacher was ruled offside, dubiously, and the ball just stayed out, enabling the Red Bulls (6-4-2) to hold on for a 2-1 win that lifted them into a tie with Houston atop the Eastern Conference standings.

These Are Actual Professional Players Messi Is Making Look Like Practice Cones Here

The incomparable Lionel Messi was at it again this past weekend, making Atletico Bilbao defenders look like Washington General–style accomplices in his showmanship en route to Barcelona’s first goal in a 2-2 draw on Saturday.

Take a look:

As Prison Mike said, he makes stuff like this look too easy.

Sidenote: There’s a clip of this floating around with beIN Sports’ Ray Hudson doing the commentary, and we gotta say, the former Miami Fusion and D.C. United coach may have jumped the shark when it comes to broadcasting Messi brilliance.

His way over-the-top response—with phrases like “he emasculates them individually, collectively!” and “he disperses his atoms to one side of his body…!”—actually detracts from the sensational action on display.

Tamp it down a bit, Ray. You’re getting in the way.

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.

There’s Catching the Keeper Out, and Then There’s This

Wait for the third replay of this astounding long-range goal from Mor Diouf, a Senegalese defender who plays for South African Premier League side Supersport United.

That’s the one that gives the best angle of him collecting the ball deep in his own end with two minutes to play in a scoreless game. He looks up, sees the Mamelodi Sundowns keeper off his line, and … has a go from about, oh, 80 yards:

Click-click bang, indeed.

MLS Goal of the Week Nominees: Kicking off the Season In Style

The first week of the 2013 MLS season is in the books, and it was a lively round indeed.

There was a shocker in Seattle, a wild one in Portland, and a slow-motion trainwreck the emerging saga of Chivas USA in Southern California.

The nine games yielded 24 goals, many of which were terrific, including the following five:

The week was filthy rich with great goals; there were also fine strikes from Mike Magee and Sebastien Le Toux. But of the five nominees, we have to go with Davy Arnaud’s excellent finish, teed up by Felipe’s superb scoop over the top. Finishing a close second for us was Diego Valeri‘s slick slalom and finish against New York, followed, again, very closely, by Vancouver’s beautiful team goal.

Keep an eye on Whitecaps midfielder Daigo Kobayashi, the man who laid that ball off for Gershon Khoffie to finish. Kobayashi’s teammate Jun Marques Davidson said the Japanese import (who’s only 30) would be the most technical player in the league when he joined in preseason. After seeing him for one game, we see what Davidson means: Kobayashi is superclean on the ball. He—and Vancouver—are going to be fun to watch.

Honduras 2, U.S. 1: Highlights, Gnashing of Teeth, Rending of Garments*

This was always going to be a tough game for the U.S.

A draw would’ve been a solid and perfectly acceptable result.

So it wasn’t the loss, necessarily, that will irk the U.S. fan, but the way that loss came about:

• With three defensive-minded midfielders in the lineup, and no true wingers.

• With very little pressure on the ball, despite those three ball hawks in midfield.

• After taking a 1-0 lead.

• Following an odd burst of substitutions around the 60th minute, which included putting Sacha Kljestan out wide on the left instead of in the middle where he’s more suited to succeed.

• And finally, and most surprisingly, after completely fading down the stretch, despite Coach Klinsi’s incessant harping on fitness and doing more than the other guy in training.

Anyway, on to the highlights:

Mr. Juan Carlos Garcia, author of that astounding bicycle-kick equalizer, is 24 years old and plays for Olimpia in the Honduran top flight. Don’t be surprised if he, like several of his countrymen (Roger Espinoza and Maynor Figueroa at Wigan; Emilio Izaguirre at Celtic), makes a jump to a bigger league some time soon.

Honduras is a quality team, full of skillful, athletic, and increasingly accomplished players. The stadium in San Pedro Sula is a cauldron, and the field, on Wednesday at least, was a cow pasture. The long grass slowed the game down and made the U.S.’s counter-attacking tactics more difficult to pull off.

But all that said, this was not a new-model U.S. team, as Klinsmann has been tasked with creating. This was the same old stuff—except maybe worse.

There’s no question that this team misses Landon Donovan. They could also use a 2010-era Stuart Holden, or, while we’re at it, a 2009 version of Charlie Davies.

But they don’t know when LD is coming back (or what his mindset will be), they can’t put too much stock in Holden, who’s been hurt for close to two years, and as for Davies, well, it’s looking like he may never regain his admittedly lofty pre-car-crash form.

So the players we saw on Wednesday are essentially the hand Klinsmann has been dealt. If he can get the best out of them, they should qualify. But so far, in 18 months on the job, he has yet to coax anything like their best, and his tactics seem ill-suited to doing so.

*We’re not really at that point yet, but anything less than three points against Costa Rica on March 22, and that point will be in sight.

In Case You Missed ’Em: Three Great Goals from the Past Week

We’re a little late on two of these, but all three are worthy of multiple looks.

First up, Philippe Mexes, French center back for AC Milan, getting all Rivaldo-like* on Anderlecht in the Champions League last Wednesday:

Then there was Lukas Podolski’s stinging volley for Arsenal against Montpelier, also in the Champions League:

Sweet chip from Olivier Giroud to set him up, and what a finish.

Finally, a terrific team goal from Borussia Dortmund against Dusseldorf in the Bundesliga yesterday—a sweeping move from left to right, finished off by a one-touch exchange in the box and a clinical volley by Jakub “Kuba” Błaszczykowski**:

That one might’ve been the best of the bunch. Watch out for Dortmund in the Champions League, people.

*If you clicked the link and watched that Rivaldo goal, you may well have just witnessed the greatest goal in the history of the game. It was his third of the night, and it won the match 3-2. No, really.

**Kuba also scored what was, for our money, the best goal of Euro 2012. Here it is again, Poland vs Russia:

Ladies and Gentlemen, Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Soccer on ESPN’s SportsCenter is analogous to an American player in Europe: he has to be extra special to get his due.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s bicycle-kick goal against England yesterday—his fourth goal of the night—was extra special. Extra-special enough to win the No. 1 spot in ESPN’s Top 10 Plays yesterday. Chances are you’ve seen it already, but it’s definitely worth multiple looks. And if you haven’t, well, enjoy:

Afterward, Ibrahimovic said it wasn’t the best goal he’s ever scored.

Of course he did.

Then again, he may have a point. Check out this one:

You know what? Except for the fact that it came at the end of a 5-1 rout in the Dutch league, and not an international friendly against England, that one actually might’ve been even better. He beat eight players before tucking that away.

Another Week, Another Jozy Altidore Golazo

The U.S. striker and former Red Bull scored his league-leading eighth goal of the season in a 3-3 tie against RKC Waalwijk on Sunday, and this one was his best yet.

Take a look:

The control, the balance, speed and agility—that might have been the best goal of Altidore’s career.

He also had the assist on AZ’s third goal.

Can he bring his goal-scoring touch to the U.S. in this month’s World Cup qualifiers? He’s due for the Yanks, having scored just one goal in his past 13 U.S. appearances.