Philadelphia Union v Seattle Sounders

ProSoccerTalk’s weekly MLS rankings (in three parts)

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

19. Toronto FC – Every week I strain to say something fresh or somehow newly revealing while lining up TFC along the wall, at No. 19 in the rankings. Well, I’m fresh out. Besides, Toronto midfielder Eric Avila puts it all in brilliant context: “It really does feel like a nightmare. It’s really hard. … After the game you just want to go and cry and hide.”

18. Portland Timbers – Tough stuff when a 0-0 draw at home represents progress, but things are what they are right now around Jeld-Wen Field. Manager John Spencer, what say you: “We played more like ourselves tonight. The tempo was high, matched the energy in the stadium. I think we looked back to ourselves. It’s a positive step. Obviously not the result we hoped for, but it’s a positive step.” By the way, that was the first scoreless draw at Jeld-Wen since Portland joined MLS.

17. Columbus Crew – After closing April with a loss and a draw at home, grabbing a point from a visit to Portland left the Crew feeling OK about things. “Last two games we haven’t liked the results, so to come into a place like this and get a draw, at least shut [Portland] out is something we can build on,” defender Eric Gehrig said. “Hopefully we can use that for momentum going home next weekend and get some results going our way.”

16. Philadelphia Union – New York visits PPL Park on Sunday in one of two Round 10 marquee matches. Let’s hope they can aim a few more shots at goal. In Saturday’s 1-0 loss to Seattle they failed to bother a rookie goalkeeper making his first MLS start. Union midfielder Freddy Adu: “Today was another game where we didn’t test the goalkeeper enough. He’s a new goalkeeper and we got to test him, shoot the ball more.”

15. New England Revolution – Here’s what New England Soccer Today said about star midfielder Benny Feilhaber, who still hasn’t quite found the right balance in 2012: “Continues to try to do too much with the ball at his feet; had a chance to level it late, but was tripped up inside the box. (Brian) … Extremely active, but passing wasn’t always sharp and end product was lacking. Still tries to force things.”

14. Chivas USA – Goats goalkeeper Dan Kennedy, having another fine season, poured it out following the Rojiblancos’ devastating, late loss to Chicago – yet another defeat at home: “I’m a loss for words, it’s heartbreaking, it’s heartbreaking. I guess maybe we were pushing for the goal in the last five minutes there and maybe we should have just sat our numbers in midfield back a little bit further and made sure we got the draw, but we want to win at home.”

13. Los Angeles Galaxy – Dissecting this downfall isn’t easy because, outside of one position, these are the same Galaxy that so elegantly navigated MLS last year. At the very least, the trio of talented DPs remain in place. And yet … “We had the ball at the feet of our best players. We’ve got to make the plays.” – head coach Bruce Arena.

“Overweight” Costa comes to Mourinho’s defense

Diego Costa, Chelsea FC
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Diego Costa says he and his Chelsea teammates are to blame for Chelsea’s horrid start to the 2015-16 Premier League season.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Speaking Thursday, during a bit of downtime over the current international break (Costa was left out of Vicente del Bosque’s squad for Spain’s final two EURO 2016 qualifiers this week), Costa placed the majority of blame at the feet of the entire team, but went on to most harshly critique himself for coming into the season unfocused and “overweight.”

Costa, on his lack of fitness and form to begin the season — quotes from the Guardian:

“We know we’re not in the form we were supposed to be at the beginning of the season. We need to blame the players because we came back from holiday very confident, thinking we could go back into how it was last season, and then realized the team was already in a bad situation.

“I’m going to be very honest: maybe a few weeks ago, five or six weeks ago, I was not on top of my game. At least physically. We talk within the players and we know that, maybe at the beginning, we were not 100 percent as we were supposed to be when we got here. I got injured at the end of last season and then I went on holiday. Maybe I got out of my diet and, when I came back, I was not the way I was supposed to be. I was a little bit overweight. That affected my game. You can be selfish and blame it on the manager but I’m not going to do that. I’m responsible 100%, and so are the other guys.

Given that Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said on Thursday he doesn’t quite know what’s wrong with the defending Premier League champions, hearing someone — anyone — speak up and explain the club’s worst start to a season in 37 years will surely be a welcome sound to any Blues supporter’s ears.

[ MORE: Liverpool appoint Klopp as manager | Allardyce to Sunderland? ]

Costa, who is eligible to return from suspension next weekend when Aston Villa visit Stamford Bridge, has scored just one goal in league play this season (six appearances) after scoring 20 in 26 games last season.

Sam Allardyce to open talks with Sunderland

Sam Allardyce, West Ham United FC
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Now that Liverpool have selected and named their new manager, it appears Sunderland are finally ready to move forward with their own managerial search. (That’s clearly a joke, because it implies Liverpool and Sunderland ever duke it out for the same managerial candidate.)

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Anyway, the Black Cats will have to hire someone to replace the recently-departed Dick Advocaat at some point. We all knew that, despite the fact he’s probably earned a shot at that level, Bob Bradley was never really going to be considered for the job. With that in mind, if you’re not going to endear yourself to the entire United States of America with this hire, you might as well go for the best unemployed manager who’ll actually consider your approach.

That’s what Sunderland chairman Ellis Short appears to have done, as it was reported Thursday that despite an initial reluctance from Sam Allardyce — let’s be honest, he actually was holding out hope for the Liverpool job — the 60-year-old most recently in charge of West Ham United was willing and ready to enter into negotiations with the northeastern club.

One of the major sticking points during Sunderland’s courting of Allardyce is expected to be his demand for autonomy in the transfer market as well as a sizable transfer budget to sign his own players during the January window.

[ MORE: Advocaat: Sunderland squad too thin, chairman to blame ]

Allardyce seems like the no. 1 guy you’d like to bring in to steady a capsized ship — cough Sunderland cough — in any situation. Not only does he have a successful track record in the Premier League, but he’s the kind of no-nonsense leader a club like Sunderland so desperately needs as they find themselves in yet another relegation battle just eight games into the new season.

Short hopes to have Allardyce signed, sealed and delivered when the Premier League returns to action next weekend. In that event, Allardyce’s first game in charge of Sunderland would be a trip to West Bromwich Albion. His first home fixture? Home to Tyne-Wear derby rivals Newcastle United, a club whose boisterous fanbase still holds a great deal of disdain for Big Sam. Sometimes the football gods really are looking out for us.