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Around The Forest: Sporting Kansas City’s Ike Opara wins MLS Defender Of The Year

Portland

Thorns FC Abroad | Eckerstrom picks up clean sheet in Newcastle's win over Sonnett and Sydney | Portland Timbers
After opening W-League action last week, a trio of Thorns FC players returned to action this weekend, suiting up for their Australian club sides. Friday evening, Thorns teammates Britt Eckerstrom and Emily Sonnett met up for at McDonald Jones Stadium for an evening match between Eckerstom's Newcastle Jets and Sonnett's Sydney FC. With both teams fresh off week one wins, each sought a result to jump to the top of the table.

Major League Soccer

New Montreal coach Remi Garde says Patrick Vieira helped sell him on MLS | MLSsoccer.com
Remi Garde was intrigued about what former Arsenal teammate and current New York City FC head coach Patrick Vieira had to say about coaching in MLS before he decided to resume his coaching career with the Montreal Impact. The Impact introduced Garde as Montreal's new head coach and director of player personnel on Wednesday. At this debut presentation, Garde revealed that he had spoken with Vieira some time before accepting an offer from Impact president Joey Saputo.

Sporting Kansas City's Ike Opara wins 2017 MLS Defender of the Year award | MLSsoccer.com
Opara had a breakout year leading a Sporting defense that conceded a league-low 29 goals, the fewest allowed in a single MLS season since 2012. He also helped SKC capture their fourth Lamar Hunt US Open Cup title, tied for the most of any MLS team in the tournament’s history.

Former Fire teammates Justin Mapp, Chris Rolfe officially retire | MLSsoccer.com
Longtime MLS veterans Justin Mapp and Chris Rolfe each officially announced their retirements on Thursday, though neither had played during the 2017 season. The duo, who spent five seasons together early in their careers with the Chicago Fire, depart after a combined 548 league appearances over an aggregate of 25 seasons in the league.

FC Cincinnati president expects finalized stadium plan by end of the week | MLSsoccer.com
MLS expansion candidate Cincinnati is approaching a finalized soccer-specific stadium plan, according to Soccer America. FC Cincinnati president and general manager Jeff Berding told a local radio station that a stadium plan should be finished within the week and won’t include new taxes on local residents.

Armchair Analyst: One big question for each of the 4 teams remaining | MLSsoccer.com
We're still 12 days away from the first leg of the respective Conference Championship series, but that's ok. Film study and tactical prep has already started in Ohio and Ontario, Texas and Washington. Without work, there's no chance for success.

Crew SC have no plans for chippy series vs. Toronto: "That's not our style" | MLSsoccer.com
Before Columbus Crew SC took the field to complete their own Eastern Conference Semifinal matchup against New York City FC Sunday, the club watched as Toronto FC and the New York Red Bulls fought a war of attrition.

Whitecaps' Tim Parker on possible US national team future: "I got hopes" | MLSsoccer.com
Tim Parker is left with mixed feelings after Vancouver Whitecaps' season came to an end in Seattle a week ago. There's a sense of pride in both his own and the team's performances over the course of the season, but that's mixed with a feeling of a missed opportunity. A nagging sense of what could have been for the 'Caps.

Atlanta's Miguel Almiron has top-selling jersey in MLS for 2017 | MLSsoccer.com
Atlanta United players grabbed two of the top three spots on the list of top-selling jerseys in MLS for the 2017 season, with midfielder Miguel Almiron clocking in as the best-seller and forward Josef Martinez finishing the year with the third-most bought jersey in the league.

United States

Whitecaps' Tim Parker on possible US national team future: "I got hopes" | MLSsoccer.com
Tim Parker is left with mixed feelings after Vancouver Whitecaps' season came to an end in Seattle a week ago. There's a sense of pride in both his own and the team's performances over the course of the season, but that's mixed with a feeling of a missed opportunity. A nagging sense of what could have been for the 'Caps.

United States escapes Canada with 1-1 tie - Stars and Stripes FC
It was a rough start for the United States women’s national team as they took on Canada in Vancouver tonight. They completely lacked any kind of rhythm on what looked like an already rhythmless surface in BC Place, unable to compensate for bad bounces and odd weights on passes with good touches and clear movement.

The Howler survey of candidates for president of the US Soccer Federation - Howler Magazine
Over the past month, as the American soccer public came to grips with the failure of the US men’s national team to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, the upcoming election for the presidency of US soccer has emerged as the first mile marker on the road to recovery.

World

Naby Keita's story: From dodging cars in Guinea to fast lane of Europe's elite
The makeshift ball is magnetised to his bare feet as he turns away from two markers, darting towards stones that serve as the goal. The handed-down kit which drowns his tout petit frame gets tugged from behind, but he shrugs that off and speeds on.

Winter spell crucial to United and Mourinho as City threaten to pull away - ESPN FC
Jose Mourinho admitted after the 1-0 defeat to Chelsea last Sunday he was "worried" about the eight-point gap Manchester City have opened at the top of the table. But not so worried, he said, as he would be if he was managing in Spain, Italy, Germany or France.

Kevin De Bruyne best player in the Premier League at the moment - Eden Hazard - ESPN FC
den Hazard has called Belgium teammate Kevin De Bruyne "the best player" in the Premier League after the Manchester City man's stunning start to the season. With two goals and six assists, De Bruyne has been central to City racing out of the blocks to build an eight-point lead just 11 matches into the league campaign.