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 – Aron Winter’s men meet Vancouver on Wednesday in the first leg of the Amway Canadian Championship final. We’re not out of May and yet this looks like TFC’s best chance to take something out of 2012 – a historically pitiful 0-8 start will do that for you. Torsten Fring is injured again, but it looks like DP striker Danny Koevermans will be available, and that’s a major upgrade in the Reds’ destabilizing injury situation.

18. Portland Timbers – The Timbers skipped past Round 10 but get an early start on Round 11 as manager John Spencer takes his club down to Houston for a match tonight at BBVA Compass Stadium. Spencer, of course, was longtime assistant to Dominic Kinnear in South Texas.

17. Philadelphia Union – There will or won’t be an announcement today (or yesterday) of a trade that sends captain Danny Califf to Chivas USA, depending on which report you believe. We’ll see. But as we ponder Juan Pablo Angel’s possible arrival upon Union soil, let’s ask this: Who will partner Carlos Valdes in central defense at PPL Park? Because surely using right back Sheanon Williams is just a stop-gap, right?

16. FC Dallas – Hey, guys: what do ya say you try to finish one of these with 11 men? You know, something different. Shake things up. Dallas players and coaches know they are making things hard on themselves with this inexplicable rush to ejection, just like last Saturday in a 2-1 loss at Columbus. Schellas Hyndman’s team is winless in its last six.

15. Columbus Crew – File this one under: “They’ll take it.” Things weren’t beautiful around Crew Stadium as Robert Warzycha’s men rallied to take all three points from 10-man FC Dallas. But any way you snap a five-game losing streak is the right way. Right? Speaking of “right,” right back Sebastian Miranda continues to be solid, adding a nice header goal Saturday to steady defense.

14. New England Revolution – Other opposition saw flashes of what Lee Nguyen could do along the left side at Gillette – but man, oh, man, did Vancouver feel the full force! Nguyen went ground-and-pound on the team that released him in March, beating on the Whitecaps with two goals and an assist in a 4-1 win. It was a good team performance overall, and the big take-away may be Benny Feilhaber’s embrace of the right midfield role. Or the fact that Saer Sene (pictured) is starting to look like the striking force management hoped he would be.

13. Chivas USA – Robin Fraser’s team was minutes from adding another win to a road record that already looked pretty salty; a late goal at San Jose left Chivas with a 1-1 draw. Hard to say how this week’s Clasico will play out; the Goats have been impotent at the Home Depot Center in 2012. But this week’s opposition, the Galaxy, hasn’t been much to shout about there, either.

MLS (afternoon) roundup: Historically awful MNUFC spanked again

Photo credit: New England Revolution / Twitter: @NERevolution
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The fourth (partial — playing during international breaks should be banned) MLS Saturday of 2017 is two-thirds of the way complete. A quick roundup of the day’s early games…

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New England Revolution 5-2 Minnesota United

What else needs to be said about Minnesota at this point? What else can be said? The number of goals they’ve conceded in their first four MLS games: 5, 6, 2, and 5. While (we think) a bit of luck will eventually go their way, and they’ll curtail the goals they’re conceding (we can’t be sure anymore), Adrian Heath’s side is on pace to conceded 153 goals this season.

Anyway, New England picked up their first win of the season. The quality (and ease) of goals scored will tell you everything you need to know about Minnesota’s defending.

[ MORE: USA 6-0 Honduras | Three things we learned | Player ratings ]

New York Red Bulls 0-0 Real Salt Lake

Five days after firing head coach Jeff Cassar, RSL returned to their inept, toothless ways in a scoreless draw away to New York. Through four games, the Claret and Cobalt have scored all of one goal, and genuinely look the league’s most lifeless side; Minnesota have at least shown signs of quality in the attacking half.

On Saturday, New York created the majority of the game’s best chances — a pair of shots from distance, masterfully saved by deputy goalkeeper Matt VanOekel — but the chance that will live in the memories of RSL fans for a lifetime came and went in agonizing fashion.

Albanian federation denounces “extremist acts” of their fans in Italy

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TIRANA, Albania (AP) Albania’s soccer federation has strongly denounced the incident that halted the World Cup Group G qualifier with Italy for nearly nine minutes on Friday.

During the match, which was won by Italy, 2-0, a group calling itself Illyrian Elite threw flares onto the pitch.

“Such totally extremist actions from the grouping Illyrian Elite have nothing to do with the excellent Albanian fans” who were distinguished in the EURO 2016 finals in France for their friendship and camaraderie in their festivities, the statement added.

The federation said an coach Gianni De Biasi also was “upset by the flares,” adding that during five years he has been in charge “I’ve seen something that’s never happened before.”

USMNT: 4 players, including Brooks, Lletget, released; Arriola added

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Hours after his side’s 6-0 thrashing of Honduras to resuscitate dreams of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, Bruce Arena announced on Saturday five changes to the U.S. national team roster ahead of Tuesday’s qualifier against Panama.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USMNT coverage | MLS ]

John Brooks (sinus infection), Sebastian Lletget (foot), Jordan Morris (knee) and Michael Orozco (knee) were all released back to their club teams, while Club Tijuana midfielder Paul Arriola was added to the squad.

[ MORE: USA 6-0 Honduras | Three things we learned | Player ratings ]

Brooks dealt with the sinus infection throughout USMNT camp this past week, as Morris did his knee injury which he picked up last weekend. Lletget left Friday’s win over Honduras in the 18th minute and will undergo further tests to determine the severity of his injury; he was seen leaving the stadium on crutches and wearing a walking boot.

The USMNT’s roster for Tuesday’s qualifier in Panama City, Panama, now stands at 23 players, and reads as follows:

Goalkeepers: David Bingham (San Jose Earthquakes), Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

Defenders: DaMarcus Beasley (Houston Dynamo), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca), Tim Ream (Fulham), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna), Walker Zimmerman (FC Dallas), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)

Midfielders: Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Paul Arriola (Club Tijuana), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Jermaine Jones (LA Galaxy), Sacha Kljestan (New York Red Bulls), Dax McCarty (Chicago Fire), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund)

Forwards: Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)

Rapinoe won’t back down on social issues despite U.S. Soccer policy

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Megan Rapinoe recently earned her spot back in the U.S. Women’s National Team squad ahead of next month’s friendlies against Russia, but the veteran won’t remain silent when it comes to her stance on the social climate of America.

[ MORE: Looking back on USMNT’s big win over Honduras ]

The 31-year-old was scrutinized for joining NFL player Colin Kaepernick in 2016 when they knelt during their respective sporting events, along with dozens of other athletes across the United States.

While Rapinoe admits that the form of protest is up for discussion, she also states that social inequality issues in the U.S. go far beyond that.

“What has surprised me the most, especially post-election, is that people are still sort of arguing against it. It’s really obvious that we have very serious inequality in this country across many different spectrums,” Rapinoe told the Guardian. “Yes, we can talk about the form of protest, or the way it’s done, or this or that. But it’s still not really the conversation that I think we desperately need to have more of in this country.”

A few weeks back, U.S. Soccer announced that it now requires all players that represent the Stars and Stripes to stand when the national anthem is played, and Rapinoe has agreed to do such.

While her days of kneeling on the pitch are in the past, Rapinoe believes she wouldn’t do anything different because she was simply trying to spark discussion amongst the American people.

“I don’t think there’s any perfect way to protest. I think if there was something else being done, something else would have been said about it. I can’t look back and say that I would have done this different, this different or this different.

“I can sleep at night knowing that I genuinely tried to have a really important conversation, or at least tried to open it up. I think I came to it with an open mind, an open heart and tried to get as many people to talk about it as I could.”