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

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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.

Mourinho looks to pile title pressure on Chelsea

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A week ago, just before their 2017/18 Premier League season began, Antonio Conte declared Chelsea to be an underdog for the title. It’s right not to put Chelsea to be a favorite,” Conte said.

Jose Mourinho disagrees.

Looking to deflect pressure away from his Manchester United squad, Mourinho declared Chelsea to not only be the favorites to win the Premier League this season and defend their title, but proclaimed it would be a massive disappointment if they didn’t.

[ MORE: Liverpool in an advantageous position regarding Coutinho ]

To Mourinho, the simple fact that Chelsea won last season means they should consider themselves the team to beat going forward. “For me the favorite is the champion,” Mourinho said in his pre-match press conference ahead of Manchester United’s game against Swansea City on Saturday. “Always. Because for some reason [they were] the champion. It doesn’t mean you are going to win it – I think it is the stamp that you have when you are champion, it is that the next season you are the favorite.”

Chelsea seems to have a depth issue at the moment, with injuries plaguing the squad. New signing Tiemoue Bakayoko leaves a big hole in midfield, especially with Nemanja Matic sold to the Red Devils. In addition, Gary Cahill and Pedro will miss time in the near future with suspensions, while superstar Eden Hazard remains out as he recovers from a broken ankle.

Despite all the missing players, Mourinho believes that Chelsea always comes through in the transfer window, and that will solve their problems. “If they have [depth problems], in a couple of weeks the problems are over. They have very good teams, very good players and I don’t see any reason for them not to be fighting for the title.”

Manchester United next meets Chelsea on November 5th in Premier League action at Stamford Bridge.

LA Galaxy offloads Jelle van Damme to native Belgium

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The 2017 season continues to punch LA Galaxy fans right in the gut.

With the club near the basement of the Western Conference standings, the LA Galaxy have officially announced the sale of defensive rock Jelle van Damme to Royal Antwerp of the Belgian top flight. The club confirmed a transfer fee of $235,000.

While van Damme is 33 years old, the sale of fan-favorite van Damme is still a blow both on and off the pitch. With the Galaxy in a period of transition, van Damme was a likeable personality who was known for leaving it all out on the field on gamedays.

The official news release of the transfer made it clear the club did not initiate the transfer with the intention to sell, but instead the player himself requested a return home as his career comes nearer to a close. Van Damme is from Lokeren, Belgium, a town between Antwerp and Ghent.

“Jelle came to us and requested to return home to Belgium to be closer to his children,” LA Galaxy General Manager Pete Vagenas told LAGalaxy.com. “We worked closely with Jelle and Royal Antwerp so that we could make this move possible for Jelle and his family. Our top priority remains the success of the LA Galaxy. We thank him for his time with our club and wish him the best going forward.”

Van Damme joined the Galaxy in early 2016 on a free transfer from Belgian giants Standard Liege. He made 55 total appearances across all competitions, including 46 in league play and another three in the playoffs. The defender’s contract was set to expire in December.

The team has taken a total nosedive in the last two months. Without a league win since June 21st against Colorado, the Galaxy have collected just a single point in league play, and they currently sit just a point off the bottom of the Western Conference standings.

Liverpool holds all the cards in Coutinho saga

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In a time of heightening player control in a rapidly expanding transfer market, one club sticks out as grasping a clear understanding of the shifting business landscape and how to retain its grip on its most valuable assets.

Following the sudden departure of superstar playmaker Neymar, Barcelona is trying desperately to pry Philippe Coutinho from Liverpool. On Friday, numerous reports in England claimed that Barcelona had gone in with a third bid, one even more ridiculous than the previous two. But they’re fighting a losing battle.

For a number of reasons, the Reds hold complete control over Philippe Coutinho’s transfer saga, a saga that will likely end with no transfer having been completed.

First and foremost, Coutinho just recently signed a contract extension in January that runs through 2022. As far as we know, there is no release clause in the deal, meaning at the most basic of levels, Liverpool maintains contractual control. However, as we’ve seen the past few years, that alone hasn’t stopped a number of players forcing their way out.

Yet this time, Liverpool finds itself in an advantageous position outside of just the contract. With the 2018 World Cup right around the corner, the Reds know that should they force Coutinho to stay, he is obligated to play at his best, knowing that any less would see him miss out on a spot in the packed Brazil roster, or at the least a starting position. Thus, Liverpool can be sure that even if their denial of his departure renders him despondent, he will likely remain the quality player he has proven to be.

The money Barcelona is offering – a whopping $151 million according to the most recent reports – is indeed a ludicrous amount for a player who, while quality, does not have nearly the marketability of his countrymate now residing in Paris. On talent alone, Coutinho likely isn’t worth that total, meaning Liverpool should sell. And yet, even with that cash in hand, in this hyper-inflated market where more is less, could it really do justice in replacing his impact in the club? This late in the transfer window, there’s no chance they could replace the 25-year-old, meaning they’d likely be torpedoing their entire season – Champions League included – to feel the warmth of $151 million burning a hole in their pocket until January, or even next summer.

Liverpool has built its entire roster around Coutinho. The arrival of Salah, the use of Firmino, the wide deployment of Mane, the makeup of the midfield. He’s good enough and young enough to be considered a “franchise player.” In two games without Coutinho this season, they’ve scored five goals, but that is a poor metric to describe the 180 wild minutes. The money alone isn’t worth the cost of his departure.

It’s quite possible that Barcelona’s stubbornness, brought on by the sudden loss of a beloved player and the meteoric rise of their rivals to all-time greatness, could see the Catalans come back with an even more preposterous bid. It’s true every player has a value, and at some point, should Barcelona’s blind rage see them flail wildly into the transfer window, the Reds should sell, and will. But with Fenway Sports Group not in dire need of cash and in an advantageous position, in all likelihood they won’t. Barcelona can throw all the Neymar money at Liverpool their heart desires, but nothing will force the Reds to budge.

Top 25 moments in Premier League history: 19-21

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To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Premier League we thought it would be great to count down our top 25 moments from a quarter of a century of action.

[ VIDEO: Top 25 moments in PL history ]

Each week we will release our best moments and you can keep track of the full list here.

Below are numbers 19-21 to as we continue our list.

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