The Top Ten in ProSoccerTalk’s weekly MLS rankings

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(Nos. 11-19 in the weekly countdown are here.)

10. Seattle Sounders – The painful nine-game winless is history following a victory over Coloardo, where Mauro Rosales shined once again and where Eddie Johnson kept proving the wisdom of his acquisition. The uptick comes just in time for Wednesday’s U.S. Open Cup semifinal, where Sigi Schmid’s team will try to reach a fourth consecutive U.S. Open Cup final (where they’ll try to win a fourth consecutive U.S. Open Cup trophy).

9. Houston Dynamo – All things considered, a scoreless draw in Kansas City was a respectable result, especially with the added distraction of Geoff Cameron’s (seemingly imminent) departure to England’s Stoke City.  Jermaine Taylor has been solid as Cameron’s replacement alongside Bobby Boswell in the back.

8. Chicago Fire – Speculation continues over the Fire futures of Marco Pappa and Sebastien Grazzini – and it might be taking a toll. A visiting L.A, Galaxy team with reason to be tired, and one without its best two men in the starting lineup, needed to be dealt with professionally and without remorse. Instead, the offense went limp in a 2-0 loss Sunday to the Galaxy.

7. Los Angeles Galaxy – A potentially devastating week in Galaxy Valley finished on an upswing when Robbie Keane (pictured above) turned up with a big, beefy Chicago afternoon, creating chances and finishing coolly in a 2-0 win at Toyota Park. It took some of the sting away from the mid-week loss to Philadelphia, where L.A. dominated at home but flubbed away the points with poor defending to close out each half. Omar Gonzalez’s return will do wonders for team morale, not to mention back line performance.

6. Vancouver Whitecaps – Joe Cannon still has it. Maybe not as much of it as in his salad days, but the Whitecaps goalkeeper can still deliver a top-shelf, showman performance at times. His work over two shutouts last week was nothing short of brilliant as the busy Whitecaps won at Colorado and pulled a point from a match at Chivas USA.

5. Sporting Kansas City – The fans certainly noticed Sporting Kansas City’s fast start to 2012 – and apparently yielded some benefit of the doubt to the flagging results more recently. Because fan balloting for the All-Star contest against Chelsea landed three SKC starters: goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen, center back Aurelien Collin and midfielder Graham Zusi. The bunch from Livestrong would probably prefer to talk about their All-Star trio rather than re-visit a hum-drum scoreless draw at home to Houston.

4. New York Red Bulls – The injury bug finally caught up with Hans Backe’s team. Or perhaps it’s just the New England bug; New York couldn’t spell “win” in New England if you spotted them the “W” and the “I.” The visitors were overmatched and overwhelmed in a loss to the Revolution outside Boston. (Last New York win at Gillette: 2002). The Red Bulls were still missing six starters, although players are slowly getting healthy.

source: Getty Images

3. Real Salt Lake – A healthy defense sure makes a ton of difference. So does Alvaro Saborio (pictured right)  finally relocating his scoring shoes and lacing ‘em up tight for a hat trick in a 3-0 win over Portland. The win helped Jason Kreis’ team close the gap on conference leading San Jose. The opportunity to kick that gap in the teeth is up this weekend; keep reading …

2. D.C. United – The long-sought added bulk in the investor department has finally arrived in Erick Thohir, an Indonesian media magnate who is also part-owner of the Philadelphia 76ers. He was introduced to local media Tuesday. Meanwhile, Ben Olsen’s club had the week off as organizations around the league made up ground on United in the “games played” column.

1. San Jose Earthquakes – Huge match alert! Saturday. Buck Shaw Stadium. Real Salt Lake in town. I’m dubbing it “Biggie in the Bay.” © Frank Yallop’s team is in a little dip at the moment. Last week’s tally included a loss at Portland and a scoreless draw in Dallas. Meh. Not horrible, but not what you’d expect from the Big Dog league leaders. So, here ‘tis, a chance to show they deserve to keep Big Dog status. They’ll have to do it without hot-and-cold midfielder Tressor Moreno, who was just released.

MLS Snapshot: Toronto FC hold Crew on the road

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The game in 100 words (or less): Without two of its stars, Toronto FC set out to play compact and hold on for a draw on the road, and that’s exactly what they did. Michael Bradley recorded 17 recoveries and a trio of interceptions as TFC broke up play and covered the passing lanes, frustrating the Columbus Crew all night. The best chance fell to Harrison Afful late, but TFC goalkeeper Alex Bono made a crucial save to keep it at 0-0.

Three moments that mattered

‘ — The starting lineup — In a game with chances few and far between, the tactical set-up by Greg Vanney – in which his side without Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore came out in a 4-1-4-1 formation – proved to be the difference in the game, frustrating the Crew all night.

52′ — Pedro Santos penalty kick no-call — Justin Meram plays a neat pass through the TFC backline that Santos runs on to, and he appears to be taken down in the box by Bono. Referee Robert Sbiga doesn’t blow the whistle and lets play continue, where Ola Kamara takes a shot that’s deflected away. Santos appeals for video review, and receives a yellow card for his efforts.

85′ — Big Save Bono — Gregg Berhalter’s 77th minute substitution to bring on Kekutah Manneh helped to push Afful higher up the field, which led to this late-game chance. Bono, who hadn’t had a whole lot to do, came up with a massive stop to keep the tie level.

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Man of the Match: Alex Bono, Toronto FC

Three things: Being happy with 0-0, and sabotage by Precourt

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On what felt sure to be a seminal night in franchise history, Columbus Crew SC were held by Toronto FC to a 0-0 draw in the first leg of the 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs Eastern Conference finals on Tuesday. Leg 2 will be played next Wednesday, Nov. 29.

We learned (roughly) three things over the course of the 90 minutes…


Who’s happiest with 0-0?

There’s a case to be made that both sides will be quite happy with Tuesday’s result — Crew SC for the fact they conceded no away goals, and TFC facing no deficit whatsoever before their home leg — but it’s quite clear that TFC should be the happier of the two, given 1) they were the best regular-season team in MLS history, this season; and, more importantly, 2) Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore were suspended for leg 1 (they’ll both be back for leg 2) and Crew SC failed to capitalize anywhere meaningful.

TFC lost once at BMO Field all season, while Columbus managed just four victories away from home. Granted, any draw where both sides score would see Crew SC through to MLS Cup, which they would host no matter the opponent (54 points in the regular season; Seattle Sounders and Houston Dynamo finished on 54 and 50, respectively).


TFC’s tactical adjustment pays off

For all of the regular season, TFC head coach Greg Vanney deployed a back-three, with great success — 69 points, an all-time regular-season record. Nov. 21, three games from lifting (or losing) MLS Cup, is hardly the ideal time to deviate from the only path you’ve known.

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Alas, the absences of Giovinco and Altidore, TFC’s permanent strike partnership in the 3-5-2, changed everything. Without Altidore’s hold-up play bringing the best player to ever grace the league into attacking moves, the 3-5-2 would have quickly devolved into a 5-3-2, followed in short order by a 5-4-1. Columbus need no invitation to hold north of 60 percent of possession in a given game, which is exactly what would have happened. Not just meaningless possession, either, but camping-inside-TFC’s-defensive-third possession; 50-crosses-into-the-box possession; get-the-center-backs-forward-too possession.

Vanney was proactive with his starting lineup, putting another body in midfield by sacrificing a striker for another man in the middle, and it paid off. At right, you’ll see Crew SC’s attempted passes into/from TFC’s defensive third. Woof.


Anthony Precourt sinks to a new low

How low is Anthony Precourt willing to go in order to sabotage Crew SC, the club he owns and efforts to move to Austin, Tex., without so much as a phony attempt at a non-relocation resolution, and alienate the fans that have supported the franchise since MLS’s debut season in 1996? Tuesday night saw Precourt and Co. up the ante as they intentionally restricted entry (two gates for the entire stadium, causing thousands to miss the game’s opening minutes) into MAPFRE Stadium with the presumed intent of a half-empty venue when the television broadcast kicked off and panned left to right.

You pay good money for a ticket so you can see your team play, which ultimately results in filling the pockets of the villain whose no. 1 goal it is to steal your team, and this is how you’re treated on gameday.

This is shameful stuff from all parties involved — Crew SC, under the leadership and direction of Precourt, and MLS, who have allowed this entire saga to be played out in a public forum and enabling Precourt every step of the way.

Report: Crystal Palace to build new stadium

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Crystal Palace may have a new home in the next few years.

That’s according to reports out of English, which state that Crystal Palace owner Steve Parish is set to make a major stadium announcement before Christmas.

Crystal Palace’s home stadium, Selhurst Park, is nearly 100 years old, and the club has looked over the last few years at either new locations for a stadium in South London or ways to renovate the current ground.

“When I came into this thing, the aim was to bring something for all of us to be proud of on the pitch and very importantly off the pitch,” Parish told the Croydon Advertiser. “We want to give everybody in Croydon a south London stadium that we can all be proud of and not lose our atmosphere and uniqueness.

“That’s a dream for me, a lifelong dream and one that hopefully everybody will share when they see what we’ve put together. It’s fantastically exciting times for us to look forward to.”

Unlike in America, where many sports owners demand a new stadium every 20-25 years or so, in England, there are many stadiums still in use across the Football League and Premier League that were initially built in the 1800s.

It’s unclear who would pay for a new Crystal Palace stadium, what it would look like and how many seats it would hold, but perhaps a new stadium and facility could help

FOLLOW LIVE – MLS Conference Finals, Leg 1

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There’s never been more on the line in the latest Trilliam Cup matchup.

For the first time, Toronto FC and the Columbus Crew will meet in the MLS Cup playoffs, kicking off at 8:00 p.m., with both teams taking different paths to the Eastern Conference finals.

Toronto FC battled the New York Red Bulls to win on away goals, after a 2-1 win in Red Bull Arena in the first leg, but tempers flared and the Supporters Shield winners will be without both Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore on Tuesday night. The Crew meanwhile survived an incredible 120 minutes at Atlanta United to win in a shootout, and then carried that momentum into a 4-3 aggregate victory over New York City FC.

[FOLLOW: MLS Conference Finals Play-by-Play]

Now, with the Crew’s status in Columbus still up in the air, Crew fans have one chance to pack MAPFRE Stadium to support their team and prove to the league they can support an MLS franchise.

Meanwhile, in the Western Conference, the upstart Houston Dynamo host a sold-out crowd as the defending MLS Cup champions Seattle Sounders visit, with kickoff set for 9:30 p.m.

The Dynamo stunned the injury-riddled Portland Timbers in the last round and the Dynamo has lost just once at home in MLS action this calendar year. On the other side, the Sounders are getting a major boost, with Osvaldo Alonso and Jordan Morris close to returning, either in this game or next week, and Clint Dempsey remains fit and raring to go back in his home state.

Follow all the action from tonight’s MLS Cup playoff matchups.