The Top Ten in ProSoccerTalk’s weekly MLS rankings

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It’s all going right for San Jose, which retains top spot in ProSoccerTalk’s weekly MLS quality rearrangement:

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

10. Vancouver Whitecaps – These are bold moves being made at BC Place, rearranging the offensive personnel as they are. Yes, the goal production needed a boost. But to rejigger a second-year club (so long, Davide Chiumiento and Sebastien Le Toux) that was en route to the playoffs? Looks mighty risky.

9. Seattle Sounders – No sooner did Alvaro Fernandez get forward to hammer home an important goal in the club’s 2-2 draw in New York than stories began to circulate of his potential departure or loan to Colombia’s Deportivo Cali. Fredy Montero came off the bench to net the second-half equalizer. He seems OK coming off the bench. For now.

8. Houston Dynamo – Hard to know what to make of Sunday’s big walloping of D.C. United, which had so much to deal with after going down a man midway through the first half. Will that 5-0 result be Geoff Cameron’s last match? (If so, it sure was a good one for him.)

7. Chicago Fire – The Fire has reason to be upset about defender Arne Freidrich’s ejection (and subsequent suspension). The man in the middle seemed to tag the wrong offender on the play in question. Still, Pavel Pardo’s pinpoint free kick and some good defending late got Chicago back in the win column after last week’s loss to Los Angeles.

6. Los Angeles Galaxy – The national TV ratings were strong for Saturday’s 5-3 win at Portland, and what a crackerjack match they saw. (Defense? Let’s go with “optional.”) David Beckham struck two beauties and Landon Donovan’s 100th assist left the U.S. international in very exclusive company.

5. New York Red Bulls – What you have to ask yourself about this team: Is holding serve acceptable while they get a little healthier? I say that Hans Backe’s boys are doing fine. Others may see a team that’s collected 6 of a possible 15 points lately and want more. One thing is certain: Kenny Cooper is doubly as effective when Thierry Henry is buzzing around. Then again, who wouldn’t be?

4. Real Salt Lake – Consider this troubling scene: You go on the road, facing a quality side, you lose an important player and get stuck behind the 8 ball with just 10 men. Things get away from you and before anyone knows it, you’re just some poor schmoe on the business end of a back alley beating. The Utah club fell hard at San Jose (5-0) and now faces rival Colorado without the suspended Kyle Beckerman.

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3. D.C. United – That thing I just said about RSL, well, there’s a lot of it going around. Ben Olsen was upset that his team didn’t show more fight in a 4-0 loss to Houston. But, honestly, playing 70 minutes a man down in muggy Houston – that’s just never going to end well. United has lost two of three.

2. Sporting Kansas City – The boys of Livestrong are unbeaten in their last three after professionally nursing home a 2-0 win at Columbus. Isn’t this about where Sporting KC started gaining real momentum last year? Their tough week in Round 20 starts Wednesday in Houston.  Roger Espinoza (pictured), playing so well and perhaps SKC’s best midfielder this year, will miss as much as a month while on Olympic duty with Honduras.

1. San Jose Earthquakes – The big showdown with Real Salt Lake was a 1-0 match until the visitors went a man down. Chris Wondolowski (a hat trick gives him 17 for the year) and the rest of the Earthquakes took full advantage, running away with an eye-catching 5-0 result. After a little hiccup two weeks ago in Portland, it’s all going right once again with the boys from Buck Shaw.

Arsenal sends Gabriel Paulista to Valencia

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Arsenal has a thin defense, but that hasn’t stopped Arsene Wenger from thinning the squad even further.

Gabriel Paulista is headed back to the Spanish top flight after the completion of his transfer to Valencia. The Brazilian was sold for a reported $12.8 million, just below the $14 million price tag Arsenal coughed up to Villareal back in January, 2015. He will partner with Manchester City loanee Eliaquim Mangala at Valencia.

The 26-year-old made 64 appearances for the Gunners across all competitions, including 46 in the Premier League. His only goal for the club was Arsenal’s first of a 2-0 win over Bournemouth in December, 2015. His high-water mark with the club was a 120-minute performance against Manchester City in the FA Cup semifinals where Arsenal came back to win 2-1 on an Alexis Sanchez goal in extra time.

“We would like to thank Gabriel for his contribution to the club and to wish him well for his return to La Liga with Valencia,” Arsenal said in its confirmation of the deal.

Paulista was utilized more than expected last season thanks to an injury crisis at the back, and still the Arsenal squad doesn’t seem fat enough to offload defenders, but Gabriel’s over-aggressive nature and tackling inaccuracy led him to an early exit.

With Arsene Wenger now deploying a back-three, the only natural central defenders currently on the roster are Laurent Koscielny, Per Mertesacker, Shkodran Mustafi, and Rob Holding. Koscielny is suspended from a red card at the end of last season, and Mertesacker is battling a head injury. Sead Kolasinac, Nacho Monreal, and Calum Chambers have played CB for the Gunners in the recent past, but it is not their natural position.

Fabian Johnson misses Gladbach training with injury

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With John Brooks already out long-term due to a thigh injury, the United States may have another key injury to work around.

According to Borussia Monchengladbach manager Dieter Hecking, full-back/winger Fabian Johnson missed training on Friday due to an unspecified injury, and is now a question mark for Gladbach’s home match on Sunday against FC Koln. It could be nothing, but even the scare is cause for concern among U.S. fans.

Johnson has battled a few injuries the past couple of seasons, including a hamstring problem last spring that kept him out for nearly two months, including a pair of World Cup qualifiers in March.

Johnson’s absence would leave a hole at right-back for the United States. The 29-year-old has been deployed some at right wing for the USMNT, but he has been relatively poor at that position in the national setup, looking better when pushed further back where he is given more defensive duties, roaming forward with less frequency but more intent.

In place of Johnson, another converted winger in Graham Zusi has been seeing more time at right-back, but he offers less in the attack and lacks Johnson’s recovery speed, meaning mistakes by the Sporting KC veteran are punished more often.

Falcao scores again to extend red hot start

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Monaco is hoping to ride out the final two weeks of the transfer window with 18-year-old wonderkid Kylian Mbappe still in tow.

While they wait, they aren’t missing a beat.

With Mbappe out of the squad, Radamel Falcao has begun the 2017/18 Ligue 1 season as Europe’s hottest goalscorer. He bagged a hat-trick last weekend with Mbappe on the bench to give him four goals in the first two league matches. Then, with Mbappe out of the squad entirely, Falcao netted the winner in a 1-0 road win over FC Metz.

Falcao has scored five goals so far this year, and his club has a +5 goal differential. In a way, Falcao has already been worth six points thus far.

Thanks in part to Ligue 1’s early start, Falcao’s five league goals are by far more than anyone else in the major European leagues. Four players have scored a pair of Premier League goals, nobody in La Liga or the Bundesliga have scored more than one, and the Serie A season has yet to start.

The Colombian did the same thing last season. After eventually coming off the shelf from to hamstring and concussion problems to start the season, Falcao scored 10 goals in 10 Ligue 1 matches leading up to the new calendar year.

At 31 years old, Falcao isn’t a long-term solution and the club will clearly look to retain Mbappe despite Falcao’s hot start, but should they lose the young Frenchman, the club will be in good hands while they search for a replacement over the next year.

Arena should give Ream a look in Brooks’ absence

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With John Brooks out three months thanks to a horribly timed thigh injury, the United States yet again has to scramble to fill a void at the back. It’s not the first time an injury to Brooks has left the USMNT scrambling for cover at a thin position.

In the successful Gold Cup this past summer, with a largely domestic squad in place, Omar Gonzalez saw the bulk of the time at central defender, with Matt Besler his partner through the final two matches. However, with European-based players now in contention for spots with the early September international break, those two are unlikely to continue, at least not together.

[ MORE: Liverpool holds all the cards in Coutinho transfer ]

The most obvious choice to start September 1st against Costa Rica and likely shoo-in should he remain healthy for the next two weeks is Geoff Cameron. The 32-year-old has been back and forth between defense and midfield with club and country, and although he has publicly acknowledged his preference for a spot higher up the pitch, he was used in a back-three in Stoke City’s Premier League opener last weekend and is steadiest at the back.

But with a spot next to Cameron up for grabs in Brooks’ absence, a player who should get serious consideration is United States fill-in extraordinaire Tim Ream.

Ream has had to work hard to earn his place with the U.S., and while he’s seen time of late, he’s not been a first-choice pick. The 29-year-old has four caps so far in 2017, with two of those starts, including one in the impressive 1-1 draw against Mexico at the Azteca with the US still clawing its way back up the Hex standings. Even then, Ream would likely not have earned that spot had Arena not chosen to rotate nearly the entire squad between the pair of qualifiers in that window. His other start this year, the 1-1 draw at Panama, only came after Cameron pulled out of the squad the day of the game with a late injury. The last time Ream started back-to-back matches for the U.S. came back in 2015 when he was somewhat of a regular through the second half of the calendar year.

[ MORE: LA Galaxy send Van Damme back to Belgium ]

But now, with Brooks out, Ream looks like the perfect man to fill in again. The 29-year-old defender finished last season in top form as Fulham narrowly missed out on promotion, earning the official website’s Man of the Match award in a May 2nd draw with Brentford, and won it again in the club’s final match of the season.

Without missing a beat, Ream has picked up where he left off last campaign in the first few matches this month. Last weekend against Reading at the Madjeski Stadium, Ream’s center-back partner Tomas Kalas was sent off 36 seconds into the match, forcing Fulham to play a man down for 89 minutes. Ream and company solidified the back, conceding just once in the 61st minute en route to a 1-1 draw.

The club still likely requires reinforcements at the CB position – Ream was forced to partner with right-back Denis Odoi against Reading with Kalas suspended and Michael Madl injured – meaning Ream could see an influx of competition in the coming weeks. However, as it stands, the American is far and away the best (and most improved) central defender on a club favored for promotion.

Gonzalez performed well in the Gold Cup, and Matt Besler was serviceable, but with few other options in the heart of defense to take Brooks’ place, Bruce Arena could yet again look to Ream for an in-form replacement.