The MLS Money Shot: top half of this week’s PST rankings

4 Comments

The Top Ten teams in ProSoccerTalk’s weekly MLS quality rearrangement countdown:

(Teams ranked Nos. 11-19 are here)

10. Seattle Sounders – By the time you read this, the Sounders may have gotten some relief from the troubling seven-game MLS winless streak. They meet San Jose in the U.S. Open Cup, a tournament that has always brought the best from the Sounders. So, maybe that’s the elixir Sigi Schmid’s men need to shake the funk, which was especially apparent in the first half of Sunday’s loss at Portland. They sure need something.

9. Los Angeles Galaxy – Don’t look now, but who has a three-game winning streak, punctuated by an emphatic 3-0 win over Vancouver? Landon Donovan had a big week, and a goal by Robbie Keane could go far in re-establishing the Irish striker’s confidence. And don’t underestimate Josh Saunders and what his return in goal has meant to Bruce Arena’s side.

8. Chicago Fire – The transfer rumor heat map is all red in Chicago, where Dutch striker Sherjill MacDonald has surfaced as a potential Fire signee. They need more “umph” up front, so this would surely help move Frank Klopas’ side north. Meanwhile, who knows what might become of Sebastian Grazzini?

7. Houston Dynamo – If Geoff Cameron is going to Stoke City or Everton or wherever, he’d better get it done quickly, so the Dynamo defense can get back to business. Because right now, things look pretty shaky back there. Seven goals allowed in two matches (including four at expansion Montreal) say it all.

6. Vancouver Whitecaps – Barry Robson will be available for selection by the weekend, which gives the fans something else to talk about. Because they darn sure don’t want to spend much time revisiting the Home Depot Center massacre, when defense took a holiday and the Whitecaps went down by three before intermission Saturday against the Galaxy.

5. Sporting Kansas City – Sporting Kansas City manager Peter Vermes after his team was run out of PPL Park, on the wrong side of a 4-0 result: “We weren’t good. We just weren’t good tonight. We were sluggish. That was the biggest thing. We just weren’t ready for the game. That’s my fault, and I’ll make sure it doesn’t happen again.” So there you go.

4. New York Red Bulls – The team remains at less than full strength, but Hans Backe’s team has been magnificent this year at finding ways to achieve results. It’s not always pretty – and it certainly wasn’t in the waning moments Sunday against a relentless D.C. United – but big performances from Heath Pearce, Dax McCarty, Joel Lindpere and others are keeping New York in the thick of the Supporters Shield chase.

3. Real Salt Lake – One loss at home? You could write that off as something quirky, perhaps. But RSL fell twice last week in Utah. On their own, there’s no shame in losing to a Los Angeles team that’s found its feet, nor to a good side from San Jose. But coming four days apart? And both at home? Plus the recent, shocking Open Cup loss at Rio Tinto? Questions need to be asked now.

2. D.C. United – Chris Pontius keeps scoring, and Branko Boskovic (pictured) keeps coming off the bench to demonstrate his value. Looks like it’s time to re-introduce Boskovic to the starting lineup – and perhaps time to get the guy signed to a new deal. It’s a tough choice, but that’s what they pay front office guys to do (make the tough calls, that is.) A 3-2 loss to New York is only a small setback considering the productive spell of good results in the run-up to Sunday’s loss.

1. San Jose Earthquakes – This weekend, do yourself a favor and turn on the San Jose Earthquakes match with about 15 minutes remaining. (Or do it tonight in the Open Cup contest against Seattle, if you can find it on-line.) Because these guys keep getting it done late. Last week, Frank Yallop’s cardiac kids scooped up six points on the road in bossing Round 16. They unlocked Colorado late and then shocked Real Salt Lake with goals in the 75th and 84th minutes to take all the points out of Utah.

Mexico captain Guardado suffers hamstring injury

Getty Images
Leave a comment

With the World Cup still half a year away, there’s plenty of time to heal from injuries and get the body right after tweaking things during the club season.

And yet, there will still be some concern among Mexico fans.

Team captain Andres Guardado suffered a hamstring tear, his club Real Betis confirmed on Monday, and is expected to miss 3-4 weeks. That’s nothing to write home about when it comes to preparing for the big tournament, but with Guardado 31 years old and struggling with injuries in recent years, Mexico fans will be keenly aware that hamstring injuries can return with a vengeance if not given the right time to heal.

Guardado has shown his age in recent times, not necessarily with his play on the field, which has been critical to his country, but with his fitness. Guardado has just four full 90 minute performances for Mexico dating back to October of 2016, missing time with ankle, leg, and now hamstring injuries in that span.

The 31-year-old has had a fine season so far for Real Betis, scoring one goal and assisting six while appearing in all 15 La Liga matches for the club thus far. The club sits 12th in the La Liga table with 18 points.

Guardado will be fine with plenty of time to spare, but if not fully healed properly, there’s always the risk that muscle injuries can flare back up, and Mexico fans will hope that their captain’s club gives him plenty of rest to recover.

Mark Hughes wants Stoke City to “suck it up”

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Mark Hughes is under fire at Stoke City with the Potters firmly entrenched in the relegation battle, and with that he’s charging his players, staff, and himself to gut the rest of the season out.

With Stoke heading to Turf Moor to take on Burnley, they sit just three points above the drop. The players were faced with jeers from angry fans at the train station following this past weekend’s 5-1 disaster against Tottenham. The fiery Hughes is hoping to use this jarring moment to jolt his squad.

[ PREVIEW: Tuesday’s Premier League action ]

“That is still resonating. It’s good we have a game because it is still fresh in their ears probably, and they can use it as a motivating factor,” said Hughes during his pre-match press conference.

“You either suck it up and do ­something about it or you go under, and we can’t accept players like that. I don’t feel we have players like that.”

With managers nowadays often reaching into the excuses barrel as they hope to save their own skins, Hughes refuses to do just that, instead placing the decision firmly on the players shoulders, telling them they are the only ones who can save the club.

“Maybe some hadn’t ­confronted that before – but sometimes you need a reality check, and understand how our results and ­performances affect people,” Hughes said. “When people criticize you, you have to grow a thick skin in this industry. If you don’t, you’re in the wrong place.”

Louis van Gaal calls Mourinho’s United “far more boring”

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Louis Van Gaal has picked just the right time to pipe up.

The former Manchester United manager, who took flak while in charge for his side being hideous to watch, has now taken shots of his own at his successor Jose Mourinho, kicking Manchester United while they’re down after a 2-1 derby defeat at home.

The Dutchman told Fox Sports Netherlands, “If you ask me how did I do at United, I will say it was my best year ever, given the circumstances I was working under. We played football that was quite alright. But it’s not football that is appreciated in England. And yet, right now, looking at United, I have to conclude Mourinho is not being criticized while it’s far more boring football.”

[ PREVIEW: Premier League Tuesday matches, including Chelsea vs. Huddersfield ]

Van Gaal was blasted consistently for playing a boring style, especially in front of the home crowd, and now Mourinho is being criticized for the same concept. Mourinho was denounced for similar reasons while in charge of Chelsea, but with the club winning multiple titles under his leadership, the noise was always less while the team was winning. With Manchester United still unable to crack the top 4, Mourinho is feeling the heat.

“What United produce now is defensive football,” van Gaal said. “I always played attacking football. The proof is that the opposition were always parking the bus. They don’t do that now because Jose Mourinho plays so defensive.”

To van Gaal’s point, Manchester United is seventh in the Premier League in possession, holding 51% possession this season. They were out-possessed by Manchester City 65-35 at Old Trafford over the weekend. Meanwhile, van Gaal’s last full season with Manchester United, the 2015/16 season, saw the Red Devils hold 54%, which ranked third in the Premier League, just a percentage point behind leaders Arsenal. However, van Gaal’s United ranked 15th in the Premier League in total shots, while Mourinho’s United this season ranks sixth at this point.

Van Gaal made sure to point out he prefers their cross-town rivals.

“I would rather watch City play than United. You need quality in a squad and it’s clear City have a better squad.”

Conte blames fatigue for dip in Chelsea form

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Antonio Conte has figured out what is plaguing his Chelsea side as they sit 14 points back of Premier League leaders Manchester City.

“I think when you play every three days, it is impossible to have a training session and to work on the physical aspects,” Conte said in his pre-match press conference as the Blues get set to play Huddersfield Town on Tuesday. “It’s impossible. It’s impossible because you have to prepare with the players for a game every three days.”

Chelsea has yet to find itself eliminated from a single competition, drawn against Barcelona in the Champions League while navigating fixtures across all four competitions.

And yet, this is nothing new for Conte. The Blues boss is more than familiar with fixture congestion, having taken charge of Juventus and regularly competing at a high level on multiple fronts. In 2012/13, he won the Serie A title, won the Supercoppa Italia, and reached the quarterfinals of the Champions League.

However, this is new for Conte at Chelsea. Last season, the Blues did not take part in a European competition thanks to their disastrous season the previous year. While they reached the FA Cup final, they were knocked out of the EFL Cup in the 4th round.

“We have to try to do our best,” Conte said. “For sure, some players can be tired, that’s normal because some players are playing from this summer and our tours in China and Singapore. It’s normal. But I repeat we have to find the best solution. We have to find more rotations. I’m doing this, we will try and do our best with hunger and desire. We will fight.”

As an example, Conte said Alvaro Morata will miss the match on Tuesday against Huddersfield Town due to fatigue, with the Spaniard battling a slight back injury. “Morata is out. He is a bit tired and he has a problem in his back.