MLS All-Stars Eddie Johnson celebrates h

The Top Ten in ProSoccerTalk’s weekly MLS rankings

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

10. Columbus Crew – Make that two nice wins in a row for the Crew, which suddenly has a potent strike duo. Jairo Arrieta looks like a real find, especially after hitting two in a Player of the Week performance against Sporting Kansas City. Now Argentine striker Federico Higuain is en route as a new Crew DP. Meanwhile, goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum certainly reminded everyone why he should have been an All-Star, doing his part to hold off Sporting Kansas City in Columbus’ big victory at Livestrong Sporting Park.

9. Seattle Sounders – Eddie Johnson’s massive week started with the game-winning goal in All-Star proceedings at PPL Park. And it ended with his team-leading ninth goal in a nice road win at Colorado. This hot patch for Johnson (pictured) comes just as things are about to get awfully busy, with a U.S. Open Cup final just around the corner and CONCACAF Champions League not far behind.

8. Sporting Kansas City – Peter Vermes’ team is moving the wrong way again. Yes, they were dominant most of the night against Columbus, but the bottom line says “loss.” And that came after a scoreless draw against New England in SKC’s previous league match at home. The frustration factor is obviously rising.

7. Chicago Fire – Goalkeeper Sean Johnson was nothing short of sensational as the visiting Fire made the most of Chris Rolfe’s early goal, straining to hold off San Jose along the West Coast. A goal deep, deep, deep into stoppage time meant Chicago had to split the points – but they can still feel good about taking a point from the West’s top club. Austin Berry’s Rookie of the Year campaign still looks strong.

6. D.C. United – Things were awfully busy for a team that was idle in league play last week. Dwayne De Rosario and Chris Pontius hooked up for a big All-Stag Game goal. Then on Saturday, the Black and Red welcomed Europe’s newest power club, Paris St. Germaine in a friendly. A resurgent Columbus Crew visits the nation’s capital this week as D.C. rejoins league play.

5. Houston Dynamo – Geoff Cameron may be missed at some point, but the Orange hasn’t put a foot out of place yet, marching steadily up the Eastern Conference table. Last week’s win over Toronto was the Dynamo’s fourth in a row. Brad Davis is right where Brad Davis usually can be found, at the top of the MLS assist leadership. Meanwhile, Bobby Boswell has assumed tight control along the back line.

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4. Los Angeles Galaxy – The Galaxy kept piling up the points (now 13 of a possible 15 lately) in a 1-0 win at FC Dallas. Robbie Keane didn’t get the game-winner (that was Mike Magee), but the Irish striker conducted the offense with a veteran’s verve. In the back, Omar Gonzalez (pictured with Keane) was back in the starting lineup and looking quite capable; we’ll see how the repaired knee responds this time.

3. New York Red Bulls – Tim Cahill should get his first Red Bulls run-out tonight in a high-profile friendly against Tottenham. The more important match comes three nights later as Hans Backe’s stacked roster travels down to Houston. Wonder how Cahill feels about heat and humidity like he never got close to in all those years in Everton?

(More: has there been a more talented roster in MLS? Ever?)

2. Real Salt Lake – Jason Kreis’ team is first into the CONCACAF Champions League pool, playing tonight in Costa Rica. They move into the regional tourney off a nice win against Vancouver, thanks to a pair of Alvaro Saborio strikes.  Kwame Watson-Siriboe will move back to the bench when Jamison Olave is healthy; perhaps when Chris Schuler is back, too. But the young man has been up for the job at center back so far.

1. San Jose Earthquakes – The calls for Justin Morrow to get a national team call-up just won’t stop rising, and the man’s big week in Round 21 certainly won’t hurt. It started with Morrow drawing praise for his work up and down the left side in the All-Star game and ended with his helpful role in the 1-1 draw at Buck Shaw. A late draw, that is, as Steven Lenhart scored in the 8th minute of added time.

Klinsmann praises Nagbe: “He knows he has to push the envelope”

FRISCO, TX - MAY 25:  Pedro Larrea #15 of Ecuador reacts as Nagbe Darlington #10 of the United States celebrates with Christian Pulisic #17 of the United States after scoring against Ecuador during an International Friendly match at Toyota Stadium on May 25, 2016 in Frisco, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images
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Breaking into a Jurgen Klinsmann side isn’t easy, especially for an attacker.

With the United States men’s national team boss quite happy to trot out Jermaine Jones, Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey and — when healthy — Jozy Altidore, becoming a regular isn’t easy.

So making the most of your opportunity is key, and Darlington Nagbe has done that most times he’s hit the pitch for the USMNT.

[ USMNT-ECUADOR: Match recap | Player ratings | 3 things ]

And scoring a 90th minute winner against Ecuador, even in a 1-0 friendly win, is going to help his odds of sticking in the coach’s mind. Klinsmann said Nagbe “knows he has to push the envelope”, and lauded him for doing so while cautioning that he’s never questioned the offensive acumen of Portland Timbers’ man.

From MLSSoccer.com:

“Now you also want to tell him ‘Listen, you’ve got to make an impression. You’ve got to learn to play both ways and grind it out defensively, go into 1v1s and win balls as well,’” Klinsmann said.

“And that’s just going forward. He has tremendous talent with the ball at his feet going forward. That’s what we enjoy in MLS every weekend. But the international side is both ways, and that’s what we’re working on. And he’s getting better and better at doing that.”

Nagbe was among a handful of U.S. players to shine during a dominant second half that saw the Timbers midfielder snare the decisive goal, and it’s not a stretch to say he was the brightest. Let’s hope to see him get a chance to start on Saturday against Bolivia.

Lukaku will listen to Everton but “I have my own ideas in mind

SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND - MAY 11: Romelu Lukaku of Everton arrives for the Barclays Premier League match between Sunderland and Everton at the Stadium of Light on May 11, 2016 in Sunderland, England.  (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
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Romelu Lukaku‘s future looks to be away from Goodison Park.

The big Belgian striker authored 25 goals across all competitions this season, including 18 in the Premier League.

[ MORE: Zlatan has “taken a decision” ]

But as he prepares for the Euro 2016 tournament, Lukaku’s comments make it seem likely that even new investments from up high aren’t going to keep him on Merseyside.

From Sky Sports:

“We have a new investor at Everton and out of courtesy I will listen to what he has to say. But I have my own ideas in mind. I want to win titles.

“I have had a very good season, but it is time for me to write myself a CV. That is why I play football. I got that trophy-winning mindset from Chelsea.”

Lukaku would be a big ticket item on the transfer market, and should go for more than the $41 million price tag Everton paid to get him from Chelsea.

Ibrahimovic says he has received offers from England, Italy

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - APRIL 11:  Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Paris Saint-Germain walks out for a training session ahead of the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final Second Leg match against Manchester City at Etihad Stadium on April 11, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
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STOCKHOLM (AP) Still looking for a team for next season, Zlatan Ibrahimovic says he has “concrete offers” from England, Italy and other countries.

The 34-year-old Sweden striker, who has said he is leaving Paris Saint-Germain, has yet to announce where he is headed after the European Championship.

[ USMNT-ECUADOR: Match recap | Player ratings | 3 things ]

Ibrahimovic says “I have taken my decision,” but he didn’t elaborate.

At Euro 2016, Sweden will play in Group E with Belgium, Italy and Ireland.

Benitez stay is huge, but Newcastle cannot be content with players

NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, UNITED KINGDOM - APRIL 30:  Rafael Benitez (R) manager of Newcastle United congratulates Andros Townsend (L) after their 1-0 win in the Barclays Premier League match between Newcastle United and Crystal Palace at St James' Park on April 30, 2016 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
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As posted yesterday, Rafa Benitez met with the media after Newcastle United confirmed that the trophy-winning manager has decided to stay with the club despite relegation, and said this is his ship now.

This is huge news for the Magpies.

The 56-year-old Spaniard couldn’t rescue the sinking ship he inherited from Steve McClaren, and is tasked with lifting Newcastle back to the Premier League at the first time of asking.

[ USMNT-ECUADOR: Match recap | Player ratings | 3 things ]

For years, Newcastle’s managers have been subject to the approval of chief scouts, managing directors and owner Mike Ashley. What Benitez has now is assurances that no player is being sold without his permission, and none being bought without his approval. Which means no midseason sales of Yohan Cabaye because the iron is hot, or unrequested purchases like Xisco.

Of course that could mean we’re headed for a huge August or January bust-up when Ashley or Lee Charnley pulls the rug out from some big acquisition that could firm up Newcastle’s standing in the top flight, but we’ll stay on the sunny side for now and assume Benitez’s people made that part of his contact air tight.

It means Newcastle could line up, basically, the same as last season. There are plusses and minuses to that, of course, as the club was relegated thanks to woeful form and players who were perhaps rightfully accused of only showing up for primetime matches.

Consider:

— Newcastle took as many points from Manchester United (2) as Aston Villa.

— The Magpies went 2-0 against Tottenham Hotspur, grabbed four points from Liverpool, beat West Ham and drew both Manchester City and Chelsea.

— They also lost to relegation rivals Norwich, drew Sunderland twice and were swept by Watford.

So while Benitez holds sway to keep Moussa Sissoko, Georginio Wijnaldum and Daryl Janmaat despite the big money they could command on the open market, he has to be 100 percent sure they won’t mail it in.

NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 11: Kevin Nolan of Newcastle United celebrates scoring the opening goal with team mate Andy Carroll (L) during the Barclays Premier League match between Newcastle United and Liverpool at St James' Park on December 11, 2010 in Newcastle, England. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
Carroll and Nolan (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

There’s no certainty there, and one of the main things that helped Newcastle bounce right back up to the PL in 2009-10 was a crew that got its footing in the Championship by Week 13 and never looked back: the Magpies lost just once in the league from Oct. 24 onward thanks in large part to heart-and-soul players who stuck around after the drop (Kevin Nolan, Jonas Gutierrez, Fabricio Coloccini, Andy Carroll and others).

Among those who fit the bill for understanding the task at hand are Andros Townsend, Jonjo Shelvey, Jack Colback, Chancel Mbemba and Coloccini. Others, like Sissoko and Siem De Jong, risk poisoning the well. That’s not to say they shouldn’t be kept around, but Benitez will need to know transfer rumor and agent hijinks aren’t in the offing.

Make no mistake about it, Benitez in control is better than anything the Magpies have had in ages and Newcastle is far more likely to replicate the instant promotions of West Ham and itself than the divisional drops of Leeds United and Portsmouth.