Toronto FC v Chicago Fire

The Top Ten in ProSoccerTalk’s weekly MLS rankings

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

10. Columbus Crew – After a quickly arranged weekend off to attend the funeral of teammate Kirk Urso, the band of Yellow brothers must pull themselves together for Wednesday’s big test against the visiting Galaxy. (That game is on NBC Sports Network.) Danny O’Rourke’s return to the rotation would help, but no one can quite figure out if he’s ready to roll just yet. And that’s not the only mystery around Crew Stadium these days.

9. Seattle Sounders – Man, talk about a beat-down of a week. First, they fall heroically in a PK shootout at Sporting Kansas City in the U.S. Open Cup final. But they picked themselves up, hydrated properly and dusted off any remnants of Midwest regret, marching boldly into Buck Shaw Stadium, home of the Supporters Shield leaders. There, the Sounders fell in the dying seconds to San Jose. Yep. Last week would only have been a bigger bummer if Sigi Schmid’s dog had run away.

8. D.C. United – A loss at Sporting Kansas City may not look awful, but in the context, this thing is starting to get worrisome. That’s three losses in four games for the Black and Red, although all the defeats were on the road. Dwayne De Rosario’s shoulder injury is concerning, too, although it doesn’t appear to be long-term. Maybe the team can rally around the Chris Pontius snub; it darn sure stinks to be the alleged No. 23 on a 22-man national team selection.

7. Angeles Galaxy – David Beckham certainly wasn’t missed as the Galaxy attack chewed up one side of Chivas USA and down the other, once again reminding everyone that the Home Depot Center rivalry really isn’t much of one. Not until Chivas stands up again in the series. Landon Donovan, with four assists, climbed to No. 4 on the all-time league leadership. Meanwhile, do not discount the importance of the Galaxy first-choice back line finally being in place.

6. Chicago Fire – Two goals by Chris Rolfe (pictured) and another by smooth center back Arne Freidrich were the money shots in a massive 3-1 road win over Philadelphia. Some of the air went out of the Fire soccer ball soon after, however, with the finalization of Marco Pappa’s move to Heerenveen in Holland. (He’ll stay through the end of the year and then move in January.) And a little more air escaped the Toyota Park ball with news that Logan Pause will miss 4-6 weeks. There’s enough personnel cover for Frank Klopas, but he’ll probably need to adjust the formation or some of the roles.

5. Real Salt Lake – A loss at Vancouver leaves RSL with a 4-6-1 record in its most recent 11 MLS contests. They’ll host Dallas this weekend, but could potentially be distracted by next week’s must-win CONCACAF Champions League match in Utah. Several starters will be returning from mid-week national team duty for those two, so it’s a busy stretch for the Rio Tinto men.

4. Sporting Kansas City – U.S. Open Cup hangover? Nah, not even close. Peter Vermes’ men punctuated their huge U.S. Open Cup triumph by taking care of weekend business over D.C. United.  It really wasn’t even a fair fight, as a better-rested visitor put up surprisingly little resistance.  A day after that contest, Graham Zusi and Matt Besler, left for Mexico to join the U.S. national team for its Wednesday friendly. It’s Besler’s first look under U.S. boss Jurgen Klinsmann.

3. New York Red Bulls – Tim Cahill is starting to feel it, which will fall as distressing news for the rest of the East. The Red Bulls midfielder began figuring things out in last week’s important 2-0 win over Houston with a major role in both goals. Just imagine what Cahill might accomplish when he gets fit. Meanwhile, Thierry Henry is carping about the team’s unworthy road show, while the rest of the league stares with envy at RBNY’s glistening 8-0-3 home record. It is pretty, isn’t it?

2. Houston Dynamo – The 2-0 setback in New York was the first loss for Dominic Kinnear’s Orange since Montreal’s triumph back on June 23. Ricardo Clark made his first appearance in the loss. Well, Clark’s first on a second swing through H-Town, that is. Some improved finishing from Mac Kandji may the difference in first, second or third place in the East going forward. Columbus, up against all kinds of potentially destabilizing distress, reports to BBVA this weekend.

1. San Jose Earthquakes – Every week, with each stoppage time result earned, the 2012 Supporters Shield scoots a little closer to Buck Shaw Stadium. This time it was Steven Lenhart with the high-drama, late game-winner, beating back a brave Seattle Sounders’ effort. Bonus “win” this week: Three Earthquakes are in Mexico City for the U.S. friendly against El Tri: Chris Wondolowski, Steven Beitashour and … Wait for it! … Alan Gordon. Yes, things are definitely swell in Buck Shaw Valley when Alan Gordon is getting swept into national team duty.

Burnley’s Andre Gray charged by FA over Twitter posts from 2012

BURNLEY, ENGLAND - AUGUST 13: Andre Gray of Burnley during the Premier League match between Burnley and Cardiff City at Turf Moor on  August 13, 2016 in Burnley, England. (Photo by Lynne Cameron/Getty Images)
Photo by Lynne Cameron/Getty Images
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A Premier League player is set to be punished by English football authorities for discriminatory comments he made on social media more than four years ago.

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The comments made by Burnley striker Andre Gray between Jan. 9 and March 11, 2012 appeared anti-gay. They came to light on Saturday, when they were retweeted by other people after he scored his first Premier League goal for Burnley in the team’s 2-0 win over Liverpool. Gray released a public apology after the match.

Gray was charged with misconduct on Tuesday by the Football Association, which said the alleged comments “were abusive and/or insulting and/or improper and/or brought the game into disrepute.”

Gray said in his apology “the tweets were posted four years ago when I was a completely different person to the man I am now.”

“I have experienced a lot over the past four years and have had to take responsibility for a number of things in my life which has enabled me to mature and grow as a person since that time,” the 25-year-old Gray said.

“I have a lot of regrets regarding a number of things I’ve done in the past and realize I have made some big mistakes, none more so than these tweets, but I would like to stress that I’ve worked incredibly hard to completely transform my life since that time.”

[ MORE: Champions League roundup — Roma self-destruct; Celtic sneak in ]

Gray said he wanted to clarify that he was “absolutely not homophobic” and to “ask for forgiveness to anyone I offended.”

The FA said Gray had until Aug. 31 to respond to the charge.

“He has moved a long way in life,” Burnley manager Sean Dyche said Tuesday. “He’s made that clear with an apology and also to remind the club, `It’s four years ago, I’m a different person.’

“A lot has gone on in his life to get him where he’s got to, I think he made that clear. It was authentic what he said (in the apology).”

Gray was the top scorer in the second-tier League Championship last season, helping Burnley achieve an immediate return to the Premier League.

Arsenal, Stoke target Jones part of Mourinho’s plans, will stay at Man United

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 19: Wes Hoolahan of Norwich City and Phil Jones of Manchester United compete for the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Norwich City at Old Trafford on December 19, 2015 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
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Other Premier League clubs might be interested in Phil Jones, but Jose Mourinho has no intentions of letting the 24-year-old future England captain Manchester United center back leave anytime soon.

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Mourinho and Man United have received multiple approaches for Jones this summer, but never entertained the idea of selling, according to the Guardian. Arsenal were said to have been interested earlier in the summer, while Stoke City are presently trying to pry the Blackburn Rovers academy product away from Old Trafford, as confirmed by Mark Hughes’ assistant, Mark Bowen, earlier this week.

Jones moved to Man United in the summer of 2011 for a fee believed to be north of $20 million. While he’s endured his share of hard times in his five seasons at the club, Jones would easily be a 30-$35 million player giving fees paid for comparable center backs in recent transfer windows.

[ MORE: Champions League roundup — Roma self-destruct; Celtic sneak in ]

While Jones is yet to see the field early in the 2016-17 season, he remains a viable option, along with Chris Smalling, behind $40-million summer signing Eric Bailly and midfielder-turned-defender Daley Blind. Over the course of a 38-game PL season, the UEFA Champions League Europa League, FA Cup and EFL Cup, a busy schedule and injuries will provide plenty of chances to impress the new manager and reclaim a regular place in the first team.

MLS preview: Galaxy, Sounders, Toronto FC hit the road midweek

Toronto FC's Sebastian Giovinco celebrates after scoring his team's second goal against Colorado Rapids during the first half of the MLS soccer game in Toronto on Saturday, Sept. 19, 2015. (Chris Young/The Associated Press via AP)
Chris Young/The Associated Press via AP
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Previewing the biggest games across Major League Soccer on Wednesday…

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Orlando City SC vs. Toronto FC — 7:30 p.m. ET (MLS Live)

Quick quiz: Which is the hottest team in MLS right now? Answer: It’s TFC, who are unbeaten in their last six games, a stretch which includes five wins and an aggregate score of 16-4. OK, so how are they doing it? Don’t ask silly questions. In those six games, Sebastian Giovinco, who’s again running away in the MVP race and will become the first back-to-back winner in league history (only Preki has ever been a two-time winner), has scored eight goals and notched four assists. He’s been even better this year than he was in 2015. His 2016 season tally currently stands at 16 and 11. He’ll likely be the first player in MLS history to notch multiple 20-goal seasons, if Bradley Wright-Phillips, who has 15 this season, doesn’t get there first.

It’s not only Giovinco, though, but the return Jozy Altidore which has allowed the Italian superstar the freedom, the space, and the hold-up play to thrive as he’s done. Giovinco has been given a free role by head coach Greg Vanney, and Altidore’s ability to occupy two center backs at once, along with his ability to hold the ball up and draw the opposing defense toward him, has resulted in Giovinco scoring a number of easy chances no player of his quality should ever be allowed to see. It’s amazing what happens when you build a team and system around your best player, rather than try to make that player fit into something predetermined. Three points on Wednesday would vault the Reds into first place in the Eastern Conference having finally pulled level on games played with New York City FC.

[ MORE: NYCFC’s Jack Harrison on meteoric rise — “It can only get better” ]

Chicago Fire vs. LA Galaxy — 8:30 p.m. ET (MLS Live)

After rattling off four straight wins over the majority of July, the Galaxy are suddenly winless winless in their last four, though they’ve managed to salvage three points during that period. During the current four-game stretch, the attacking trio of Robbie Keane, Giovani dos Santos and Gyasi Zardes have combined to contribute just one goal and three assists, all but one assist of which have come from GdS.

No team in the Western Conference has won more points away from home (14) than the Galaxy this season, while no team in MLS has won fewer home points (17 — or points, period, 22) than the Fire. All signs point toward a Galaxy victory, but this is a Fire side that has steadily improved bit by bit in recent weeks, culminating in their first road victory in 25 months last weekend. The Vancouver Whitecaps await the Galaxy on the weekend — can you say, “trap game?”

[ MORE: U.S. teen skipping college, heading to La Liga ]

Houston Dynamo vs. Seattle Sounders — 9 p.m. ET (MLS Live)

If TFC are the hottest team in MLS, the Sounders are the second-hottest and without a doubt the hottest team in the West. Since firing Sigi Schmid four weeks ago, the bunch in Rave Green are unbeaten in four games, now having won three straight. The signing of Nicolas Lodeiro has been the spark that breathed life into a dying season, but one could reasonably argue that Cristian Roldan’s emergence deep in midfield has meant just as much to a Sounders side that, for the first time all season, has found a strong base between the attack and defense.

Osvaldo Alonso is no longer being ask to play the box-to-box role in which he thrived for a half-decade, instead acting as the organizer and director in front of the backline, with Roldan, the 21-year-old with many miles left in his legs, covering large swaths of space in midfield. The biggest difference between Roldan and your typical defensive midfield in MLS? He can see a pass in the final third, and he can hit it when it’s on. Lodeiro creates plenty of space for Jordan Morris and Clint Dempsey with his unbelievable range of passing, and that’s been a huge part of the eight goals the Sounders have scored in those three wins, but Roldan’s presence alongside Alonso has been just as important in allowing just four goals in four games.

EFL Cup roundup: Chelsea, Liverpool advance; Watford, WBA lose to League 1 sides

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 23:  Michy Batshuayi of Chelsea celebrates scoring the opening goal during the EFL Cup second round match between Chelsea and Bristol Rovers at Stamford Bridge on August 23, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images )
Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images
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Watford and West Bromwich Albion were beaten by third-tier opposition in the English League Cup on Tuesday, while fellow Premier League sides Liverpool and Everton enjoyed big wins in the second round.

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Chelsea was pushed hard by third-tier Bristol Rovers before also advancing to the third round with a 3-2 win at Stamford Bridge.

Watford lost 2-1 to Gillingham after extra time and West Brom was beaten 4-3 on penalties by Northampton after they finished 2-2 after 120 minutes.

Northampton famously ousted Liverpool in the 2010-11 competition, but the Reds easily avoided a so-called “giant-killing” this time round by thrashing Burton Albion 5-0. Daniel Sturridge came off the bench to score two goals and wrap up victory over the second-tier side managed by former Liverpool forward Nigel Clough.

Divock Origi and Roberto Firmino also scored for a full-strength Liverpool team, and there was an own goal.

“Very serious, very professional performance by my side,” said Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp, who added that second-half injuries to Emre Can and Origi were not serious.

Everton also had a substitute striker scoring a late double, with Arouna Kone’s goals sealing a 4-0 home win over fourth-tier Yeovil.

[ MORE: Champions League roundup — Roma self-destruct; Celtic sneak in ]

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte‘s decision to field a team largely made up of reserve players nearly backfired. Belgium striker BatshuayiMichy Batshuayi scored two first-half goals as Chelsea took a 3-1 lead into halftime, before Rovers scored a 48th-minute penalty and struck the crossbar as they went in search of an equalizer.

Devoid of European football this season, Liverpool and Chelsea will likely take the League Cup seriously. They are two of the most successful clubs in the competition’s history, having won it 13 times between them.

Stoke, Swansea, Hull and Crystal Palace were the other Premier League teams to progress to the third round, when clubs involved in Europe enter the draw that takes place Wednesday.

Peter Crouch scored a hat trick – including one goal from a scissor kick – in Stoke’s 4-0 win at Stevenage, Oliver McBurnie scored twice on his debut for Swansea in a 3-1 win at Peterborough, Hull beat Exeter 3-1 away and Palace was a 2-0 winner at home to Blackpool.

Palace gave a debut to new record-signing Christian Benteke, who played the first half before being substituted.

Derby beat Carlisle 14-13 on penalties to equal the most goals scored in a shootout in the competition’s history.