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.

Off to slow start, Morris, Seattle know “things can change quickly”

Leave a comment

Both Jordan Morris and the Seattle Sounders are off to a rough start in defense of their MLS Cup title last Fall, and the USMNT’s star striker admits to recalling last season’s wild turnaround as an inspiration.

“After the game last week we mentioned that we have a lot of the nucleus from last year and we all know that things can change quickly,” Morris said to ProSoccerTalk this week.

Seattle won just seven games before Matchday 22 last season, rebounding with a burst after coach Sigi Schmid was replaced by assistant Brian Schmetzer. The Sounders went 8-2-2 down the stretch en route to an MLS Cup win over Toronto FC.

While he hasn’t scored in five matches and only has two markers in 12 games, he feels success is coming for the 3W-5L-4T Sounders. Morris said the club knows the results aren’t there, but also that they are producing chances.

[ MORE: Monaco star’s Man City medical ]

“It’s been okay,” Morris said. “Definitely not the start I would’ve wanted. It’s not an excuse but we’ve hit a lot of posts and had other near misses.”

Seattle has a huge opportunity to flip the script on its season when Cascadia Cup rivals Portland visit on Saturday. The free-scoring Timbers are dangerous in attack, but have been opened up 20 times this season. Only two teams have conceded more goals than Portland (which has played the most matches in the league, it must be said).

And it may or may not surprise fans that Morris’ focus has been one of his strengths: the final product.

“I’m working on the final third, whether it’s shooting or finding the open guy,” Morris said. “It’s a big deal for us to finish our chances. Scoring or the final pass in that final third.”

Despite his relatively cold start, it would be surprising if Bruce Arena didn’t tab Morris in his crop for next month’s World Cup qualifiers. The 22-year-old also seems relatively certain to be a part of the Gold Cup plans.

“I’m excited and hopefully I get called up,” he said. “These World Cup qualifiers are obviously a very big deal and Bruce has done a really good job of getting us on the same page.”

Morris is also participating in a unique promotional activity with Delta Air Lines for Sounders fans, as he and Cristian Roldan are among Seattle teams picking fans for “positions” in a Fan XI. Once assembled, they’ll travel to L.A. for a Sounders road match and even sign one-day contracts. Morris was happy to get on board with it.

“It’s for our fans, who are amazing,” he said. “Delta’s idea to make a Fan XI gives the fansa chance to have the behind the scenes experience of being part of a team put together by having different skills. We love rewarding our fans.”

Day Seven: All the action from the U20 World Cup (video)

Kim In-chul/Yonhap via AP
Leave a comment

Mexico has automatically qualified for the knockout rounds of the U-20 World Cup despite falling to Venezuela.

[ MORE: U-20 World Cup latest

Germany dropped below Mexico in goal differential after allowing a 3-0 lead to sink to one, though El Tri still likely would’ve advanced to the next phase despite Germany’s result.

Mexico 0-1 Venezuela

Caracas 19-year-old striker Sergio Cordova scored for the third-straight match in what is sure to make him a hot summer commodity as Venezuela clinched Group B with a perfect 3-0 record.

Germany 3-2 Vanuatu

Vanuatu’s potential name of the tournament Bong Kalo scored twice in the second half to sink Germany below Mexico on goal difference.

Guinea 0-5 Argentina

A brace from Lautaro Martínez gives Argentina hope of the knockout rounds with a third-place finish.

England 1-0 South Korea

Everton’s Kieran Dowell scored the lone goal of the match to give England the Group A crown.

Zabaleta staying in Premier League with West Ham move

@WHUFC
Leave a comment

A week after bidding Manchester City an emotional goodbye, Pablo Zabaleta has announced he’ll be staying in England.

The 32-year-old right back is moving to London, where he’ll join West Ham United on a two-year deal beginning July 1.

[ MORE: Three key battles in FA Cup Final ]

The San Lorenzo youth product went to Espanyol in 2005 to begin his European adventure, joining Man City in 2008. He won two PL titles, two League Cups, and an FA Cup, and was named the club’s player of the season in 2012-13.

From WHUFC.com:

“Manchester City gave me the opportunity to come to this wonderful league, the Premier League, something I’ve been enjoying a lot as a player and of course for me it was probably the right time to move on.

“Also, as a player, I thought I wanted to keep playing in the Premier League. For me, after being in this country for so long, this is a new challenge for me in the Premier League and I’m ready for it and looking forward to it.”

Maybe he just wanted 3G.

Young Sam Byram can learn plenty from Zabaleta, and the signing means that star right-sided man Michail Antonio likely won’t have to be wasted at right back in emergency situations. Good risk by the Hammers.

Valencia extends Man Utd deal to great Mourinho praise

Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Jose Mourinho has made no secret of his Antonio Valencia appreciation, and the Manchester United manager has rewarded his fullback with a new deal.

Valencia is nine appearances away from 300 in a Manchester United kit, with 22 goals and 61 assists as a Red Devil.

[ MORE: Monaco star’s Man City medical ]

Valencia said United has “been my life” since arriving from Wigan Athletic in 2009, while Mourinho heaped praise on the Ecuadorian captain’s character with glowing praise.

“It is no secret that I had been an admirer of Antonio’s long before I joined the club. I knew what a fantastic player he was and he has not disappointed me on that front. However, what I could never have imagined was what a great person he is. I know I have said this before but I truly believe it is a real privilege for us to have such a good player and such a good man. I am delighted he has extended his contract.”

Only Ander Herrera and Eric Bailly recorded better tackle rates at Old Trafford last season, and Valencia was credited with a team-best 1.5 crosses per game.