The Money Shot: top clubs in this week’s MLS rankings

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6. Houston Dynamo – A win and two draws over eight days is commendable for a club with so much going on. The stadium is open, the hard road slog is behind them and Dominic Kinnear’s team even has a little breathing room for a few days. Now, the season can really start.

5. New York Red Bulls – It’s just hard to make sense of these crazy kids. Few teams are as beat up, and yet this is Major League Soccer’s hottest team (statistically speaking) with five wins in a row. We know what they are saying around Red Bull Arena: “Why ask why? Just keep the party going!” Heath Pearce debuted at center back in the latest victory, Saturday over Montreal (while playing a man down for half an hour, no less.)

4. D.C. United – Two home games brought two fairly comfortable wins (over Colorado and Toronto). Dwayne De Rosario is on one of his signature tears with three goals in Round 11. And don’t look now, rest of league, but Andy Najar and previously muted DP striker Hamdi Salihi are starting to feel it.

3. San Jose Earthquakes – Alan Gordon (pictured) to the rescue. Again! For the second consecutive week, the ‘Quakes fell behind at home to a side they probably shouldn’t have (this time to Columbus). And for the second consecutive week, Gordon came off the bench to strike late, helping his side split the points. It’s exciting, but clearly the Buck Shaw bunch would like better on home grass.

2. Seattle Sounders – Everyone gets excited about bicycle kick goals, and I get it. They’re cool and all. But what gets my little soccer shorts going are goals like Fredy Montero’s late equalizer in a 2-2 draw at Vancouver. The ability to make space and then to perfectly, skillfully draw a curling arc with the ball around a stranded, helpless goalkeeper? Yeah, that does it for me. (And it’s the kind of goal that Montero manufactures from time to time, hardly his first artistic maneuver.)

1. Real Salt Lake – Unbeaten in five and well-rested (idle in Round 11) ahead of a home match this weekend? Yeah, the Western Conference leaders will certainly take that. They probably will have to deal with the absence of midfielder Kyle Beckerman and goalkeeper Nick Rimando (although it’s possible Rimando could be released back to the club.)

AT THE HALF: Manchester derby scoreless after 45 minutes

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After 45 minutes, the final Manchester derby of the 2016-17 Premier League season — the one that’ll go a long, long way toward deciding which of the city’s sides will finish in the top-four — is scoreless, but not without incident.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE, HERE

The game’s best chances thus far fell Manchester City’s way, as Sergio Aguero missed a clear-cut chance after 10 minutes — Kevin De Bruyne whipped in the perfect ball to the back post, and Aguero put it wrong side of David De Gea‘s post.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Ander Herrera has, once again, be Manchester United’s danger man, combining well with Marcus Rashford and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, but Claudio Bravo made the one save he was forced into during the first half. One thing to keep an eye on during the final 45 minutes: Rashford picked up a knock very early on, and struggled to move around the field after that.

STREAM LIVE: The Manchester Derby

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The third Manchester Derby of the season is the first away from Old Trafford, as Manchester United visits Manchester City (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) at the Etihad Stadium on Thursday.

There’s much on the line, as the sides sit just two points apart in the race for the Top Four. Man City would leapfrog third-place Liverpool with a win, while United could join the Reds on 66 points with a match-in-hand.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE, HERE

Sergio Aguero starts for Man City, with Gabriel Jesus on the bench.

On the other side, it’ll be a physical middle-third guarded by Ander Herrera, Michael Carrick, and Marouane Fellaini. Wayne Rooney and Jesse Lingard start on the bench.

LINEUPS

Manchester City: Bravo, Zabaleta, Kompany (C), Otamendi, Kolarov, Fernandinho, Yaya Toure, Sterling, De Bruyne, Sane, Aguero. Subs: Caballero, Sagna, Fernando, Navas, Clichy, Gabriel Jesus, A. Garcia

Manchester United: De Gea; Valencia, Bailly, Blind, Darmian; Herrera, Carrick, Fellaini, Mkhitaryan; Rashford, Martial. Subs: Romero, Shaw, Fosu-Mensah, Tuanzebe, Young, Lingard, Rooney.

Ex-Liverpool CEO shares biting story of Suarez transfer

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Ian Ayre’s got jokes.

The former Liverpool CEO lifted the lid on some transfer stories during a Merseyside lecture this week.

Of note, Ayre admitted that the club thought Dele Alli demanded too much given what he had produced when the Reds has the chance to sign him as a 16-year-old, and said that Liverpool could’ve landed Alexis Sanchez but the player wanted to live in London (“We couldn’t move the football club to London, unfortunately,” he quipped).

The best part relayed by Sky Sports had to do with Luis Suarez, and shows the relentless nature of the transfer market. Clearly Barcelona had interest in Suarez before the fiery striker bit Giorgio Chiellini at the World Cup, because, well…

“I remember the sporting director of Barcelona calling me during that game, immediately as Suarez bit the player, and he said to me ‘my friend, he’s bitten somebody, how can this be the price?’ I said ‘he’d already bitten somebody when you first bid!'”

We’re sure there’s a certain amount of storytelling in there, but undoubtedly some truth.

Given Barca paid a reported $84 million for the striker, the asking price couldn’t have started that much higher.

Men in Blazers podcast: Chelsea tops Spurs, Top Four predictions

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Rog and Davo return to discuss Chelsea’s FA Cup semifinal victory over Spurs, update their Top Four predictions (again), and dive into the depths of the relegation zone. Plus, the very important movement to change “Hudson Street” to “Ray Hudson Street.”

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