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.

Money from Wembley replay will ‘support Rochdale for two or three years’

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Worst-case scenario for Tottenham Hotspur: drawing League One side Rochdale in Sunday’s FA Cup fifth-round clash; best-case scenario for the Dale: drawing the Premier League giants and forcing a replay at Wembley Stadium.

[ MORE: Man Utd draw Brighton in FA Cup QF; Chelsea get Leicester ]

For a club the size of Rochdale — 10,200-seat stadium, and never been above the third tier of English soccer — the financial impact of raking in half of the game’s gate receipts “will support the club for the next two or three years,” according to manager Keith Hill — quotes from the Guardian:

“I don’t know how much it is worth but a lot of money has gone into the new pitch. That was a heavy investment for us. Hopefully the money we make will support the club for the next two or three years. We will cut our cloth accordingly and we won’t be in debt.”

As for Steve Davies’ 93rd-minute equalizer, Hill was adamant that it was nothing short of what they “deserved”:

“It was a feeling of reward, not relief, because the performance deserved at least the opportunity for us to go to Wembley for a replay. I’ve always wanted to do that against a Premier League team and manager. Why not take them on and try to win? It could have been football suicide but I thought we gained their respect and to score the goal we did was tremendous. The players were magnificent.”

Tottenham Hotspur, soccer philanthropists.

Try, try again: Messi seeks 1st goal vs. Chelsea in 9th attempt

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LONDON (AP) As unlikely as it sounds, Lionel Messi is still waiting to score his first goal against Chelsea after drawing a blank in eight previous Champions League matches.

The five-time World Player of the Year is likely to get another chance to break his duck this week and Chelsea manager Antonio Conte believes the past will count for little when Barcelona visits Stamford Bridge on Tuesday.

“I hope we maintain this tradition but we are speaking about a fantastic player,” Conte said ahead of the last-16, first-leg Champions League game. “The most important thing is the present.

“We must have great respect but at the same time we must be excited to play this type of game and take on this type of challenge. It won’t be easy because we know very well this player, we are talking about one of the best in the world.”

The teams have produced some epic games in the past although they have not met in the Champions League since Chelsea pulled off a remarkable backs-to-the-wall semifinal victory over Barcelona on the way to winning the trophy in 2012.

Messi missed a penalty in the second leg at the Nou Camp as the London club overcame the first-half dismissal of captain John Terry, and a 2-0 deficit, to draw the game 2-2 and secure an unforgettable 3-2 aggregate win.

Bayern Munich hosts Besiktas in Tuesday’s other game while the following day sees Manchester United traveling to Sevilla, and Shakhtar Donetsk playing host to Roma.

Two weeks ago, the prospect of a Chelsea win over Barca would have been unthinkable after Conte’s men had slumped to successive defeats by two of the Premier League’s lesser lights.

The London club was still smarting from a 3-0 home loss against Bournemouth when it traveled to Watford and succumbed to an embarrassing 4-1 reverse.

Chelsea has got back on track since then, though, easing past West Bromwich Albion 3-0 in the league last Monday before swatting aside second-tier Hull 4-0 in the FA Cup four days later.

Conte has several selection dilemmas. He must choose between captain Gary Cahill and Antonio Rudiger for a place at the back, and between Alvaro Morata and Olivier Giroud up front.

Cesc Fabregas will also be desperate to play against his former team but may have to settle for a spot on the bench.

Barca has lost only once in 38 matches this season since falling in the Spanish Super Cup to Real Madrid in August. It has a seven-point lead at the top of La Liga and has reached the final of the Copa del Rey.

Messi is having another stellar campaign, scoring 27 times in all competitions, and he helped set up two goals in Saturday’s 2-0 win at Eibar.

Philippe Coutinho is ineligible for Barca following his move from Liverpool.

Mourinho claiming injury crisis ahead of CL showdown

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The next three weeks will go a long way toward defining Jose Mourinho’s second season at Manchester United, with the Red Devils facing not only fellow top-four aspirers Chelsea and Liverpool, but also contesting their Champions League round-of-16 tie with Sevilla.

[ MORE: VAR provider admits incorrect graphic displayed on TV ]

Thus, it’s not exactly the most convenient time for the words “injury crisis” to rear their ugly heads yet again, but that’s the challenge Mourinho claims he faces ahead of Wednesday’s CL clash.

Paul Pogba missed Saturday’s FA Cup victory with a last-minute illness; Marcus Rashford is dealing with a leg injury and remains questionable, as are Ander Herrera and Antonio Valencia; Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Marcos Rojo, Phil Jones and Marouane Fellaini are all but officially out, according to Mourinho — quotes from ESPN.co.uk:

“I didn’t rest one single player so we had today every player available here. I didn’t rest anyone. I brought two kids that played on Friday 90 minutes [for the under-23s] because I don’t have another player, so we arrive at this crucial moment with some problems.”

“Can we recover some of them to Wednesday? I believe so. I think Rashford, Herrera, Valencia — I think they have a chance.

“Paul, I don’t know. Marcos Rojo, Phil Jones, Marouane, Zlatan — I don’t think they have any chance.”

Mourinho dealt with a similar rash of injuries very late on last season, as his side barreled its way into, and eventually won, the Europa League final, securing a place in the CL this season. With a top-four finish all but out of reach at the time, Mourinho opted to rest his bare-bones group of first-team regulars in Premier League action and prioritize Europe’s “other” competition.

[ MORE: Man Utd draw Brighton in FA Cup QF; Chelsea get Leicester ]

This time around, United sit second in the PL table, just four points clear of fifth-place Tottenham Hotspur, and the path to winning the CL will prove far more difficult than taking on the likes of Saint-Etienne, Rostov, Anderlecht, Celta Vigo and Ajax.

Serie A: Napoli, Juve hold serve in 1-point title race

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A roundup of all of Sunday’s action in Italy’s top flight…

[ MORE: Barcelona now 31 games unbeaten | Real Madrid 17 points behind ]

Napoli 1-0 SPAL 2013

The battle for Serie A supremacy isn’t ending anytime soon, as Napoli and Juventus continue to match one another (nine straight wins for each side) in Europe’s only remaining major title race.

On Sunday, they even traded 1-0 victories — Napoli at home to SPAL 2013, with Juve triumphing over Torino in the Turin derby.

Brazilian midfielder Allan bagged the only goal for Napoli after just six minutes, finishing off a mesmerizing, free-flowing move that’s become synonymous with Napoli this season. The video-assisting referee came into play just after the hour mark, when Marek Hamsik headed home to make it 2-0 before the VAR wiped it away for offside.

Napoli’s current nine-game winning streak is the longest in club history.

Torino 0-1 Juventus

Juve’s victory came at something of a cost, though, as star striker Gonzalo Higuain was lost to an ankle injury after just a quarter-hour (the injury occurred after just three minutes), followed by a potentially serious knee injury for Federico Bernardeschi, who replaced Higuain, in second-half stoppage time. Higuain isn’t expected to miss significant time, with the club calling it a twisted ankle.

In between the injuries came Alex Sandro‘s 33rd-minute winner, a tap-in from close range masterfully set up by Bernardeschi. One additional positive for Juve: Sunday also saw Paulo Dybala return after missing five weeks with a hamstring injury. The Argentine star entered as a second-half substitute.

“Paulo played 30 minutes at a good level,” Juve manager Massimiliano Allegri said. “I’m pleased with his and everyone else’s performance. This is a good result against a well-organized Torino side.”

Elsewhere in Serie A

AC Milan 1-0 Sampdoria
Atalanta 1-1 Fiorentina
Bologna 2-1 Sassuolo
Benevento 3-2 Crotone