Eddie Gaven, Freddy Adu

ProSoccerTalk’s weekly MLS rankings (in three parts)

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Toronto and Montreal keeps its place at the bottom, but here comes Columbus. It won’t take much for the bedraggled Crew to threaten one of the Canadian clubs’ places along the back of the pile. These are Nos. 13-19 in ProSoccerTalk’s weekly rankings countdown.

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

19. Toronto FC – Five games, no wins, just two goals. (If that sentence looks familiar, it is. All I did was change out last week’s “four” to “five.” Such is the sullen state of affairs at BMO.) Manager Aron Winter and his players are keeping the faith, focusing on the chances being created around BMO Field and hoping things can soon bounce their way.

18. Montréal Impact – Jesse Marsch’s men tried to kick and foul their way past FC Dallas, and it nearly worked. Donovan Ricketts seems to have found his feet in Montreal goal, at least; his work was big in helping Montreal take the lead Saturday in Texas. Meanwhile, manager Jesse Marsch had some explaining to do about subs that played a part in the result. He’s a young manager; good on him for offering up a “my bad” on this one.

17. Portland Timbers – Sometimes timing just plain stinks. Normally, a visit by the league’s best club would be a grand ol’ time for most clubs. But things aren’t going well for John Spencer’s men, with Saturday’s loss to the Galaxy extending the Timbers’ winless streak to five matches. So, facing SKC is a tough test at an unfortunate time. Meanwhile, young Colombian forward Sebastián Rincón, who has been training with the club since preseason, has been officially added.

16. Columbus Crew – Robert Warzycha’s team is 2-3-0, which doesn’t seem like an awful record. But it’s not sparking water, either, especially when you consider those wins came over Montreal and Toronto, a bungling pair with one lone win between them. Typically trusty midfielder Eddie Gaven is struggling at the moment, and young center back Eric Gehrig is making killer mistakes each week now. Danny O’Rourke and Rich Balchan will help, but their injury return timetable seems hard to pin down.

15. Philadelphia Union – Things just aren’t going to be easy around PPL Park this year, apparently. Peter Nowak’s Union won for the first time in 2012, wearing down a bedraggled Columbus Crew on Saturday. But even in victory, Nowak is having to answer questions about his management. This time, it’s about removing Freddy Adu after 62 minutes, even though the Philly attacker seemed to be having a productive match. (Adu didn’t look happy about it, but he’s saying all the right things in the aftermath.)

14. New England Revolution – A couple of disappointing results have sideswiped the March momentum, but nobody believed the Revs’ remake would be complete by April. Now Jay Heaps’ team has a week off to get ready for a trip to New York to meet the high-scoring Red Bulls. No one can use the break like rookies Kelyn Rowe and Ryan Guy, who appear to be experiencing growing pains.

13. Chicago Fire – Chris Rolfe’s signing (announced Monday) may provide a little more attacking “umph” to the Toyota Park gang. With just three goals in four games, they sure need it. Last week’s 1-1 draw (shortened by weather concerns) to just 65 minutes provided the latest evidence. Sean Johnson reassumed his spot in goal, his first action since returning from the U.S. under-23’s Olympic bid.

MLS Cup: Toronto FC all about the team

Toronto FC defender Nick Hagglund, center, celebrates his goal against the Montreal Impact with teammates Michael Bradley, right, and Steven Beitashour (33) during the second half of the second leg of MLS Eastern Conference championship series, in Toronto on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)
Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP
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Toronto, Ontario (AP) Team has been the theme for Toronto FC in the buildup to the MLS Cup final.

From boisterous practices to team-first media interviews, the All for One club motto has been plain to see ahead of the championship game Saturday against the visiting Seattle Sounders.

“You don’t get to this point by mistake or by accident. You get here because a group of special guys who have all bought into a philosophy, an identity,” said Toronto midfielder Will Johnson, an MLS Cup winner with Real Salt Lake and Portland.

“I say the same about Seattle. They’re bought into what they’re good at. We’re bought in, very motivated and want to sacrifice and put aside egos to get to a point as a team to compete for the big trophy.”

[ MORE: Designing the best UCL Round of 16 ]

Star striker Jozy Altidore, no fan of chatting with the media, was downright prickly when a reporter asked him if he had taken time to reflect on his personal journey to the championship game.

“No,” he said definitively. “This isn’t personal, this is a team game. We’re here to try to help Toronto to be a winning team. This has nothing to do with individuals. So it has nothing to do with what I’ve been through. This is what the city’s been through, what the fans have been through, what this club has been through. That’s far more important.”

Fullback Justin Morrow, a seven-year MLS veteran, has never played this deep into the season before.

“Each week we build on top of each other and we get closer as the year goes on. It really feels like it’s a culmination this week,” he said.

[ UCL: Who can Arsenal, Man City, Leicester draw? ]

Coach Greg Vanney has made a point of praising the entire squad, including reserves who function as the scout team in practice. While he has done soccer’s equivalent of shortening his bench for the playoffs, the squad has stayed on point. If anyone has beefs, they have been kept to themselves.

That’s no small feat considering the salaries on the squad range from $7.12 million for star striker Sebastian Giovinco to $51,500 for youngsters Mo Babouli and Tsubasa Endoh.

For Morrow, being part of a tight-knit group allows you to forget that it is your job.

“When teams aren’t doing well, players tend to focus on that – their job and not about the other people on the team,” Morrow said. “And I think when teams are doing well, it becomes about the relationships between the players.”

Report: Atlanta United to acquire Parkhurst; Guardado hopes fading

COLUMBUS, OH - MARCH 12:  Michael Parkhurst #4 of the Columbus Crew SC controls the ball against against the Philadelphia Union on March 12, 2016 at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images
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Atlanta United is adding MLS experience to its high-flying international acquisitions.

The expansion side is set to acquire Michael Parkhurst from the Columbus Crew, according to a report from The Sporting News.

[ MORE: Mourinho worried about Zorya pitch ]

Parkhurst, 32, has been a fixture for the Crew since returning to MLS after stints with Nordsjælland and FC Augsburg. The 25-times capped American defender would join a relatively loaded expansion unit that reportedly will also add veteran Chicago goalkeeper Sean Johnson.

Unfortunately for Atlanta, it seems the first-year club’s hopes of landing Mexican star Andres Guardado are fading.

From Ives Galarcep for The Sporting News:

The club has one remaining designated player slot it is expected to fill ahead of its inaugural 2017 season, but transfer target Andres Guardado appears less likely to be the player to fill that slot, sources have told Goal USA.

The Crew was a massive disappointment last season, failing to make the playoffs one season after making a run to the MLS Cup Final. Is Parkhurst a good gamble for Atlanta?

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Men in Blazers podcast: Conte v. Pep, Cherries comeback, Spurs-Swans

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Rog and Davo relive the tactical battle between Antonio Conte and Pep Guardiola, marvel at tiny Bournemouth’s comeback win over high-flying Liverpool and duck-and-cover while recapping Spurs 5-0 Swansea.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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Mourinho accepts Zorya compliment, but says best coach “doesn’t exist”

Manchester United's coach Jose Mourinho, centre, attends a training session with his team at Chernomorets stadium in Odessa, Ukraine, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, ahead of Thursday's Europa League group A soccer match against FC Zorya Luhansk. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky
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On the eve of his side playing Manchester United in the UEFA Europa League, Zorya Luhansk boss Yuriy Vernydub called counterpart Jose Mourinho the best manager in the world.

And Mourinho disagreed.

Well, in principle.

[ MORE: Designing the best UCL Round of 16 ]

The Portuguese was flattered by Vernydub’s compliments and isn’t one to turn down praise. Yet at the same time, Mourinho thinks a coach’s success is year-to-year. There’s no clear best in the sport, according to Mou.

From ManUtd.com:

“He was nice by saying that but I don’t think he is right. I don’t think there is a best coach in the world. It doesn’t exist in my opinion. Every season one has to win the FIFA Gold Ball but I don’t think there is the best. You can say the best of the year and that I agree. Every year there is one with the most important result. So he is just being nice, no more than that.”

That’s almost meta, Mou.

Conceptually we understand, and Mourinho would feel he was the best in the world three seasons ago but not last year or this year (yet). Yet it’s difficult to say that the bodies of work from Pep Guardiola, Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti, Unai Emery, Antonio Conte, Luis Enrique, and Jurgen Klopp couldn’t be measured against each other, right?

[ MORE: United, Saints advancement scenarios ]

Onto the little picture Mourinho is worried about a potentially rock hard pitch at Zorya affecting the game. This, from the BBC:

“The pitch is very hard, the pitch is very icy,” said United boss Mourinho.

“They are putting warmth on the top of it, but the pitch is very difficult and people cannot make miracles. Let’s hope everything goes well.”

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