ProSoccerTalk’s weekly MLS rankings (in three parts)

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Oh, Toronto. What are we going to do with you? You got off the bottom of the pile temporarily, but it must be true what they say: “We always come home.” Here are Nos. 13-19 in ProSoccerTalk’s weekly rankings countdown.

(Parts II and III are on deck …so check back)

19. Toronto FC – Four games, no wins, just two goals. Two of the losses were at home. And about that one win that got everyone so excited, taking down the Galaxy out in Southern California: we all see that one a little more clearly now, given the ongoing struggles in L.A. Get it together, guys. (Pssst: center backs. Remember how we keep telling you to go get better center backs?)

18. Montréal Impact – What a nice feeling it must have been to get that first win. And not just any first win – the Impact’s initial “W” in Major League Soccer came against the club destined to be its most natural rival, Toronto. Major League Soccer’s No. 1 draft pick Andrew Wenger (pictured) pocketed the big game-winner.

17. Philadelphia Union – Four games have seen four different starting lineups from Peter Nowak. He had a week off to re-examine things, so Saturday’s reshuffle will be interesting. As this will be home game No. 3, and since the Union remains on the lookout for home win No. 1, and since Columbus is a team that doesn’t exactly scream “contender” at the moment, it seems fair to file this one under “gotta have” for the Union.

16. Portland Timbers – Sports fans may who know nothing of MLS and might not know Timber Joey from Ross and Chandler buddy Joey Tribbiani, but they can still enjoy watching a match from mighty Jeld-Win Field. The place is simply off the chain – no pun intended. So why in the wide world of sports isn’t the Timbers’ home record any better? John Spencer’s men are just 10-7-3 there in two years. It’s not a terrible mark, but it sure seems like it should be better.

15. Chivas USA – Hard to figure Robin Fraser’s Ameri-Goats. We have seen this from time to time, where clubs are somehow better on the road than at home. (Saturday’s win at Portland was Chivas USA’s second surprising victory this year, following an earlier shocker at Real Salt Lake.) Perhaps it simply underscores the need to find a home. As in, an actual place to call its own, rather than one “borrowed” once a week from the L.A. Galaxy.

14. Columbus Crew – Suggested rankings system for Saturday’s disaster in Ohio, a 4-1 stinker to the Red Bulls where the side’s very pride deserves questioning: players get one of three grades – “Poor,” “Outrageously poor” or “Begging to be immediately waived.” Robert Warzycha’s team looked better in the second half, but who could blame the Red Bulls for gliding into the finish line after taking a 3-0 lead at the break?

13. Los Angeles Galaxy – A 1-0 loss at undefeated, untied Sporting Kansas City isn’t the end of the world. But a team with Robbie Keane, Landon Donovan and Edson Buddle couldn’t trouble Kansas City’s goalkeeper to make even one little save? We can talk all day about the Galaxy’s porous defense, but zero shots on goal simply isn’t good enough.

Russia has reasons for optimism despite Confed Cup exit

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MOSCOW (AP) When the anger subsides after another group stage exit and another goalkeeping blunder, Russian fans might find they can be proud of their team at the Confederations Cup.

Russia failed to reach the knockout rounds of a fourth major tournament in a row, but there’s no shame in losing by one goal to European champion Portugal and North American champion Mexico.

“We will move on,” coach Stanislav Cherchesov said after Saturday’s 2-1 loss to Mexico. “We have won (the fans’) hearts and minds to a certain extent in this month that we have been together … I think that we have given some reasons to feel optimistic about us.”

If Russia’s fans agreed with Cherchesov that Russia had done well to limit Portugal to a single Cristiano Ronaldo goal, there was frustration that Russia hadn’t done better against a poor Mexican side.

Russia wasted chances to exploit Mexico’s ragged defending and add to Alexander Samedov’s opener, while goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev performed an inexplicable lunge which allowed Hirving Lozano to head in the winner. Akinfeev was lucky not to be red-carded, too, after his foot caught Lozano in the chest.

Akinfeev was the immediate scapegoat for Russia’s exit, with fans and newspapers calling for his removal.

The most-capped player in the squad – the Mexico game was his 101st international appearance – Akinfeev’s bulletproof consistency in the Russian Premier League has kept him the undisputed national-team No. 1 for years.

When the world is watching, though, he gets flustered and makes mistakes.

Against South Korea at the 2014 World Cup, an innocuous long shot slipped from his grasp and went in, paving the way for another early Russian exit from the tournament. There have been more than a few blunders in the 43 games since Akinfeev last kept a clean sheet for CSKA in the Champions League, too.

But it’s hard to see who could replace him. The naturalized Brazilian reserve keeper Guilheme is agile but injury prone, while Vladimir Gabulov is a solid but unspectacular veteran. Zenit St. Petersburg’s Yuri Lodygin challenged Akinfeev for a while, but was brought low by his own tendency for embarrassing errors.

On the positive side for Russia, defender Georgy Dzhikiya was solid in all three group games after having only made his debut on June 5, and Cherchesov’s three-man back line was mostly reliable.

Less successful was Cherchesov’s attempt to bolster the midfield by starting Roman Shishkin – usually a defender – in a defensive midfield role against Portugal and Mexico, while 33-year-old ex-Chelsea winger Yuri Zhirkov did his World Cup hopes no favors with a red card Saturday.

Russia’s run of injuries before the tournament weakened the midfield in particular, with Alan Dzagoev and the promising Roman Zobnin both missing out. Forward Artyom Dzyuba’s absence left Cherchesov relying heavily on Fyodor Smolov, who showed touches of class but missed a good chance against Portugal.

Perhaps the biggest damage from Russia’s Confederations Cup exit will be to Russian pride.

Officials have often bragged that the home advantage for next year’s World Cup could drive Russia to new heights, perhaps a repeat of South Korea’s charge to the semifinals in 2002. Those expectations are now being reviewed.

Just one World Cup host in history – South Africa in 2010 – has failed to get out of the group stage. Avoiding a repeat may be the most Russia can hope for.

FOLLOW LIVE: Timbers host Sounders in PNW showdown

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They don’t get much bigger, or more heated, than this one in MLS — it’s Portland versus Seattle, the Timbers versus the Sounders, tonight at Providence Park (10 p.m. ET).

[ FOLLOW LIVE: Timbers vs. Sounders ]

To keep up-to-the-second informed on proceedings in Portland this evening, hit the above link, or click right here.

Seattle won the first meeting between these sides, 1-0 back on May 27, on their home turf at CenturyLink Field. Cristian Roldan, who’ll depart for U.S. national team camp following Sunday’s game, scored the only goal that afternoon in Seattle, a 4th-minute header from three yards out.

Mustafi: Arsenal players powerless, hope “brilliant” Sanchez will stay

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Shkodran Mustafi admits that he, along with his Arsenal teammates, feels helpless with over the ongoing transfer saga of Alexis Sanchez.

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

The Chilean superstar is linked with a move away from Arsenal this summer, as the Gunners fell out of the Premier League’s top-four and the 28-year-old’s contract is set to expire next summer. Perhaps most importantly, Sanchez hasn’t so much as publicly stated a desire to remain at the club, which, from the outside, appears to have left his future in even greater doubt.

Mustafi admits he hasn’t a clue how things will shake out in the coming weeks, but he’s quick with a pleading sales pitch for Sanchez to stay — quotes from Goal.com:

“I have no idea. Obviously the other players cannot make that decision, he has to make that decision.

“I’m not too much involved. I hope he stays because he is a really brilliant football player but there’s nothing in my hands that I can do.”

[ MORE: De Boer set to be named new Crystal Palace boss ]

Arsenal would likely have to double (if not more) Sanchez’s current $180,000 weekly wages in order to convince him to forego a season in the UEFA Champions League and commit his long-term future to a club presently trending in the wrong direction.

Report: Frank De Boer accepts Crystal Palace job

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Frank de Boer is widely expected to be named new Crystal Palace manager this week, as he has reportedly accepted the job after having been offered the position this week.

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

The 47-year-old Dutchman has been out of work since he was fired by Inter Milan in November. He lasted just 84 days at the San Siro, where he managed to win just five of 14 games. Inter Milan is Inter Milan, though, and that’s something worth remembering when critiquing Palace’s impending appointment of De Boer.

Palace are also widely expected to back De Boer in the transfer market this summer, in a big way. Kelechi Iheanacho is the biggest name linked with a move to Selhurst Park, as the 20-year-old Nigerian striker is reportedly unwanted by Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola.