ProSoccerTalk’s Major League Soccer rankings: Week 1

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1. Los Angeles – One defeat does not a rankings-changer make. But you’re on warning, Galaxy! Consider this a good “talking to,” and don’t make us have to re-think things with a second consecutive MLS loss. Meanwhile, important CONCACAF Champions League matters await this week.

2. Real Salt Lake – Are the Galaxy really best in the West? Kyle Beckerman, RSL’s cop on the beat in the Rio Tinto midfield, has a little something to say about that. Delicious! When your side goes into Los Angeles for a smash-and-grab like we saw last weekend (3-1), you get to say these things.

3. Seattle – They’ve got one foot in the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals, with only this week’s return leg at Santos still in the way. The Sigi Sounders need a tie down in Mexico. It  won’t be easy, but the MLS side should be well rested after being idle in Week 1.

4. Sporting Kansas City – Remember all that stuff about Sporting Kansas City being the class of the East, with too many offensive weapons to contain for very long? Rinse. Repeat. Peter Vermes’ side was in control in the 1-0 win at D.C. United.

5. Colorado – All the talk of new formations (4-3-3), bright coaching debuts (Oscar Pareja) and this concerning head injury to captain Pablo Mastroeni has partially obscured this: right back Kosuke Kimura looked like a world-beater out there, with both assists in the 2-0 season-opening win over Columbus.

6. FC Dallas – The Red Stripes can feel good about downing New York at home, but things are already looking perilously thin, with Brek Shea (Olympic team) out and Fabian Castillo (ankle) perhaps questionable for this week. That’s going to mean Blas Perez will have even more to do in making the Dallas offense go.

7. Houston – The Dynamo finally gets its goal inside the Home Depot Center – just a few months too late. Inside the same stadium where Dominic Kinnear’s men fell last November to the Galaxy in the MLS Cup final, Andrew Hainault’s late game-winner got the Houston season off to a good start against stadium second-citizen Chivas USA.

8. Portland – First half: Meh. Second half: “Hell, yeah!” Three strikes at Jeld-Wen after the break, including one by scoring hope Kris Boyd help take down Philadelphia (3-1) in the league’s Monday night special.

9. Vancouver – Tough to say what to make of the 2-0 win over Montreal. At home. Against an expansion team in its very first MLS contest. It’s a win, for sure, and the Whitecaps’ shape and passing looked good at times. But let’s just consider this “taking care of business” and hold off on bigger pronouncements.

10. San Jose – It wasn’t the prettiest win, and you can debate the true worth of downing a side in high transition. Still, the opening-day triumph over New England will look like just another three points by season’s end, and that’s the most important thing for a management unit that simply must get it right this year.

11. Chicago – Who can possibly enjoy being idle on MLS FirstKick weekend?  It just leaves you hungry.  Probably for Polish deli greatness or Chicago-style hot dogs when we’re talking about matters of Toyota Park. Anyway, the Fire’s season opens this week at Montreal.

12. New York – It’s come to this around the Eastern Conference’s highest profile side: they clearly miss the linking play of Rafa Marquez, who perhaps can keep Thierry Henry from dropping so far back into midfield to collect possession. Up next, a trip into Utah to face Real Salt Lake.

13. Toronto FC – Aron Winter’s men have a big advantage over Los Angeles going into tomorrow’s CONCACAF Champions League second-leg: they had the weekend off, able to rest and recuperate while nine of 11 Galaxy starters from last week’s first leg had to deal with an MLS contest.

14. Philadelphia – Last year started with a 1-0 win at Houston, immediately pushing things in the right direction for Peter Nowak’s men. This year’s reconfigured (and young) squad didn’t get anything close to the same start in a 3-1 loss at Portland. Freddy Adu was awfully quiet for the Union.

15. D.C. United – D.C. United officials are pedaling hard on the “Give us time, we’ll get better” campaign. And that’s fair enough, I guess. But just one, lonely little shot on target in your home opener? And being out-shot overall, 17-7, by Sporting Kanas City in a 1-0 loss? That’s not a great place to start.

16. Columbus – Some nifty work from replacement goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum kept his Crew in the game, but his inability to handle one routine cross was the genesis of an opening goal in the 2-0 loss at Colorado. And the hamstring injury to young midfielder Dilly Duka put another black mark on the season opener.

17. New England – There was some good (Benny Feilhaber, Lee Nguyen off the bench) and some bad (an off night from Shalrie Joseph, a quiet debut from promising rookie Kelyn Rowe) in the road loss to San Jose.

18. Chivas USA – Forced into a makeshift lineup due to a pair of key absences – winger Michael Lahoud (hamstring strain) and center back John Alexander Valencia (quadriceps strain) – the Goats nonetheless offered a touch of promise. But when you can’t score so much as a lone goal at home, you become vulnerable – which is exactly what happened in the 1-0 loss to Houston.

19. Montréal – Using a lineup with too many men better suited as role players or backups, the Impact fell at Vancouver. Things will get better. It takes a while to truly sort out which players can hack it going forward.

Serie A: Juve keep winning to remain 1 point back of Napoli

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TURIN, Italy (AP) Juventus closed the gap on Serie A leader Napoli back to just one point as the six-time defending champion eased past Genoa 1-0 on Monday.

Douglas Costa scored in the 16th minute, the first conceded by Genoa in five league matches. It was a less than convincing performance from Juventus but it was never really troubled, as goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny – standing in for the still-injured Gianluigi Buffon – was little more than a spectator.

“What was important was to win,” Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri said. “At the end there was a bit of nervousness because we were lacking in energy a bit.

“We could have finished off the match in the first half, and again with a couple of occasions after the break. We didn’t manage to so compliments to Genoa.”

The battle for the Serie A title is shaping into a two-horse race. Juventus moved 10 points clear of third-placed Lazio, although the capital side has a match in hand.

“The season is still long and all those who are behind us can still get back into the race,” Allegri said. “It was important to stay in Napoli’s slipstream.”

Juventus needed to win after Napoli beat Atalanta 1-0 on Sunday.

Allegri’s side started brightly and had an early chance to take the lead but Genoa goalkeeper Mattia Perin did well to keep out a free kick from specialist Miralem Panic.

However, it did not take much longer to strike. Douglas Costa passed out left to Mario Mandzukic, who played a delightful return ball for the Brazil midfielder to slot into the bottom left corner.

League Cup semi: Man City take 2-1 lead into 2nd leg vs. Bristol

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Manchester City can move one step closer on Tuesday to claiming their first of four potential trophies this season, when Pep Guardiola‘s men take on Bristol City in the second leg of the League Cup semifinal.

[ MORE: Monday’s transfer rumor roundup | Sunday | Friday ]

After coming back to beat the Robins in the first leg at home, Man City must now go on the road and take care of business to reach the Feb. 25 final at Wembley Stadium. As he has done so many times — and so famously — in the sky blue of City, Sergio Aguero grabbed the late winner (91st minute — WATCH HERE) 14 days ago.

For a few not-so-insignificant periods of the game, Bristol were very much the aggressors and appeared more likely to make the score 2-0 than for City to get back to 1-1. Bobby Reid converted from the penalty spot in the 44th minute after her was brought down under John Stones‘ wild, sliding tackle. Kevin De Bruyne leveled things up 10 minutes into the second half, setting the stage for Aguero’s late heroics.

[ MORE: Alexis-for-Mkhi swap complete | De Bruyne’s new contract ]

Since the first leg on Jan. 9, City have failed in their bid to finish the PL season with an unbeaten record before bouncing back to beat Newcastle United on the weekend, courtesy of a hat trick from Aguero — Guardiola quotes, from Sport24:

“I said many times it was going to happen, we can lose, so (it is) important the reaction we have. Still we have 42 points to play (for). It is 14 games. It is a lot of games to play and difficult games like Saturday and like Liverpool. It is important to show the team is still there but I don’t have the feeling we give up.

“We want to go through to the final in the (League) Cup and the FA Cup, so (we have) a lot of games but I think the people have the desire to keep going, to keep going, to keep going.”

[ MORE: One dream January signing for each top-six side ]

Bristol, meanwhile, have fallen on hard times: it’s been nearly a month (Boxing Day, to be specific — five losses, one draw) since Lee Johnson’s side last won a game in any competition, and they’ve fallen from second to fifth in the Championship table — Johnson quotes, from the Guardian:

“We don’t want to be brave losers, we want to compete to win. It’s up to the players to be focused and tactically aware, and who knows what will happen if we can show the same quality as we have shown in the previous rounds?

“We have to make sure we’re really bold. If you’re going to deliver a corner, do it like you mean it. I’d rather fail bold than fail timid. We know we have to score. I hope Pep picks his absolute best team and we can give them a right go. I’m not sure you could go and play an under-23 side against us at the moment and I think he’ll know that.”

The winner of Arsenal versus Chelsea (0-0 after the first leg) awaits in the final.

The 2 Robbies: Alexis-Mkhitaryan Swap Becomes Reality

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Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe react to the Alexis Sanchez-Henrikh Mkhitaryan swap deal between Arsenal and Manchester United finally becoming reality (0:20), Swansea’s stunning 1-0 victory over Liverpool (9:20), Southampton’s much-needed draw with Spurs (22:30) and Watford’s decision to part ways with Marco Silva (36:20). The gents end the show sharing their memories of the late English striker, Cyrille Regis (39:45).

Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.

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Inter Milan sign Barcelona midfielder Rafinha on loan

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MILAN (AP) Inter Milan completed the signing of Barcelona midfielder Rafinha on loan until the end of the season, with a view to a permanent move.

Inter can sign the Brazil international permanently for $43 million plus $3.7 million in bonuses, and said on Monday that option “must be taken up before the end of the season.”

Rafinha, who was born in Sao Paulo, had been at Barcelona since 2006, when he joined its youth team. He spent the 2013-14 season on loan at Celta Vigo.

After nine months out after surgery on his right knee, he made his first appearance of the season last week as a late substitute in Barcelona’s Copa del Rey defeat at Espanyol.

“It’s an important stage in my life,” he said, “and I had a lot of desire to approach this new phase in my career.”

Inter has slipped to fourth in Serie A, 11 points behind leader Napoli.

It could slip out of the Champions League places if Roma wins its match in hand on Wednesday.

“I hope to play in as many matches as possible and help the team to reach our objective which is Champions League qualification,” Rafinha said.