ProSoccerTalk’s Major League Soccer rankings: Week 1


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.

Barcelona, Neymar make it formal: Signed into 2021

BARCELONA, SPAIN - OCTOBER 19: Neymar of Barcelona holds off pressure from Raheem Sterling of Manchester City during the UEFA Champions League group C match between FC Barcelona and Manchester City FC at Camp Nou on October 19, 2016 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images
Leave a comment

T’s are crossed and i’s dotted on Neymar’s new contract, keeping him at the club through the 2020-21 season.

Neymar, 24, will make his 100th La Liga appearance with his next step onto the pitch.

Lionel Messi’s deal runs through 2017-18, and Luis Suarez’s goes through 2018-19.

[ MORE: Guardiola on Aguero omission ]

He’s scored 59 goals in league play, and has 91 total when you include all 150 of his matches in a Barca kit.

Neymar is on a similar scoring rate to last season, when he netted 31 times. The Brazilian also has 49 international goals in 73 caps.

Guardiola seethes at reports Aguero unwanted at Man City

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 14: Sergio Aguero of Manchester City is congratulated by Josep Guardiola manager of Manchester City during the UEFA Champions League match between Manchester City FC and VfL Borussia Moenchengladbach at Etihad Stadium on September 14, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Pep Guardiola is seething with reports that claim star striker Sergio Aguero is not in his plans for Manchester City’s future.

Aguero started on the bench for Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League loss at Barcelona, inspiring talk that the Argentine star wasn’t long for the Emirates Stadium.

[ MORE: Conte on Mourinho, Pogba ]

Guardiola says that’s garbage, and that he simply needed more midfielders for his attack. Next time, just ask.

From the BBC:

“It was a tactical decision. I wanted one more midfielder, I tried to keep the ball in the Camp Nou and when you have the ball, Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez don’t.

“I spoke with Sergio and he was understanding, I thought in the last 30 minutes, with the Barcelona centre-halves tiring, he could help a lot from the bench. When Sergio decides to leave it will be his decision. Next time before you (the media) decide he is not in my plans you can call me.”

Still, not using Aguero is risky business.

The striker believes, rightly, that he’s among the most dangerous players in the world. Guardiola has said as much, too.

While few would put him in the class of Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, it’s difficult to imagine either being sat for tactical reasons against one of the best teams in the world.

Chelsea: Conte expects warm reception for Mourinho; Terry is fit

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 26:  A fan wears a Chelsea scarf with the image of the club's former manager, Jose Mourinho before the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Watford at Stamford Bridge on December 26, 2015 in London, England.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The managers are meeting the media ahead of this week’s Premier League matches, and many eyes are trained on one specific match-up.

Chelsea and Manchester United meet on Sunday, the first time Jose Mourinho will manage against his old side since his unceremonious exit last winger.

[ USWNT: Holiday has tumor removed ]

Mourinho, of course, led Chelsea to the 2014-15 title only to see a miserable start to the following campaign. He was hired at Manchester United this summer, but Conte thinks Mourinho’s Chelsea laurels have earned him some love from Stamford Bridge.

“I have great respect for Mourinho. He deserves a good reception. He was an important man for Chelsea and wrote part of the club’s story.”

Conte also touched on Paul Pogba‘s decision to head back to Old Trafford. Pogba is coming off a starring role in United’s 4-1 win over Fenerbahce, and Conte guided the French midfielder during their time at Juventus.

“It was Paul Pogba’s dream was to return to Manchester United. I wish him well, but only after this game.”

Conte said John Terry is available to return for Chelsea, and that could be invaluable against a big, strong forward like United’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic. With the Red Devils having played Thursday, Conte will like his chances a bit more than usual.

Canada vs. U.S. among top-notch CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals

VANCOUVER, CANADA - JUNE 20:  Gershon Koffie #28 of the Vancouver Whitecaps brings the ball up field against Dax McCarty #11 of the New York Red Bulls at B.C. Place on June 20, 2012 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Jessica Haydahl/Getty Images)
Photo by Jessica Haydahl/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The bracket is set for the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals, and ensures that at least one MLS vs. Liga MX semifinal will happen next Spring.

No. 1 seed New York Red Bulls will cross the continent to meet No. 8 Vancouver Whitecaps, with the winner moving on to face the victor of Mexico’s Tigres UANL vs. Pumas UNAM.

[ VIDEO: Previewing all 10 PL matches ]

The possibility of an all-Liga MX or all-MLS final still exists, with Pachuca and FC Dallas on opposite sides of the bracket. Arabe Unido gives Panama hope for its first CCL semifinalist, while Saprissa can be Costa Rica’s first semifinalist since 2011.

Of the remaining teams, only Pachuca has won a title in the CCL era (2008-present). Tigres lost in the 2016 final, the only other team to make it that far.

Full schedule
New York Red Bulls (1) vs. Vancouver Whitecaps (8)
Tigres UANL (4) vs. Pumas UNAM (5)
Arabe Unido (2) vs. FC Dallas (7)
Pachuca (3) vs. Saprissa (4)

The first legs will be played in late February, and the bright side to the intra-league quarters will be one MLS side waiting a round before facing a more in-form club playing a traditional season schedule (though that’s an overblown excuse at this point).

Some fans don’t care much for the tournament, while others — myself included — are extremely keen to see an MLS team win the CCL and represent North America in the Club World Cup, where it can get a high profile litmus test in a serious competition (Real Madrid beat Cruz Azul 4-0 in a 2014 semifinal).