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.

Bayern defends Ancelotti for middle-finger gesture to fans

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MUNICH (AP) Bayern Munich has defended coach Carlo Ancelotti for raising his middle finger to Hertha Berlin fans after supposedly being spit at following a dramatic 1-1 draw in the Bundesliga.

[ MORE: Shaw in betting investigation ]

Bayern says “basically we find the human reaction of Carlo Ancelotti with the gesture to be emotionally understandable after the nasty spitting attack.”

Robert Lewandowski’s injury-time equalizer for Bayern on Saturday prompted altercations between Bayern and Hertha players in a heated atmosphere at the Olympic Stadium.

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The German soccer federation ended its investigation into the matter after Ancelotti agreed to pay 5,000 euros ($5,300) to its foundation for social work.

In 2014, Norbert Duewel, then-coach of second-division club Union Berlin, was fined 3,500 euros for raising his middle finger in a 4-1 loss at home against 1860 Munich.

Sacha Kljestan ready to take reigns as Red Bulls captain

HARRISON, NJ - MARCH 6:  Sacha Kljestan #16 of New York Red Bulls dribbles past Steven Beitashour #33 of Toronto FC  during their match at Red Bull Arena on March 6, 2016 in Harrison, New Jersey.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
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When news began to spread of a trade regarding one of Major League Soccer’s most recognizable faces, Sacha Kljestan was with his New York Red Bulls teammate at the U.S. Men’s National Team’s January camp.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

The clarity over Dax McCarty’s move to Eastern Conference foe Chicago Fire is very much uncertain — even a month after the fact — but the veteran midfielder’s absence left an opening for the Red Bulls captaincy.

[ MORE: PST talks with Atlanta president Darren Eales ahead of 2017 ]

And that was an opportunity that Kljestan was honored to be named.

“I was just proud. My first feeling was that I’m thankful for Jesse [Marsch] having that trust in me and my teammates having that trust in me as well, which is very important,” Kljestan said. “But I just feel very proud to represent Jesse and the coaching staff and represent every member of the club that works with the New York Red Bulls. Most importantly I want to represent the fans in a way that they are proud of.”

Fortunately for the Red Bulls, what they have had over the past two seasons in Kljestan is a player that not only provides flash and brilliance on the pitch but also stability off the field and in the locker room.

Since making his return to MLS in 2015, Kljestan has notched an astounding 34 assists — the most of any player during that span — to go along with his 14 goals.

Red Bulls manager Jesse Marsch has been impressed with Kljestan’s work ethic since bringing in the Designated Player, and he says little thought needed to be put into naming the U.S. international his squad’s next captain.

“It almost wasn’t even a choice at all,” Marsch said in regards to naming Kljestan his primary captain. “He had served as basically a vice-captain for two years and it was an natural fit. There were discussions with the staff but I think it was pretty clear that this is a guy that is a top leader. That being said, we’ve said all along that the captain isn’t a one man job.

“It’s about a community of people and certainly the two guys that will support Sacha the most will be Luis [Robles] and Brad [Wright-Phillips]. I think the three of them will take on big leadership roles and there’s room for young guys to blossom into bigger leadership positions as well.”

The Red Bulls have undoubtedly proven their success in the regular season since rebranding to the aforementioned name in 2006 when the Global giant, Red Bull, acquired the franchise.

The last 11 seasons have provided the club with plenty to cheer about, including two Supporters’ Shield crowns and only missing out on the postseason once, but the Red Bulls have struggled to get past one major hurdle.

Winning an MLS Cup is challenging.

It’s only something that 11 teams have accomplished in the league’s history. Of those 11 teams, only five of them have won two or more titles since MLS’ inception in 1996.

Marsch’s approach since day one has been very clear to both his team and the opponents that the Red Bulls face. The goal has been to play an attacking-minded press, similar to that of Barcelona in the club’s hay day.

While that pressing style likely won’t change, the team is prepared to add another dimension to its attack by switching to a two-forward setup starting in 2017.

“With our little tweak in formation that we’re doing now, we’re trying to be less susceptible to opening ourselves up and creating too much space between our lines,” Kljestan said. “We’re working on ways now to become more connected and become harder to break down and really make teams earn their chances against us. We might go through some growing pains with the formation but I think it’ll make us stronger in the long run.”

The Red Bulls begin their 2017 journey on Wednesday when they face the Vancouver Whitecaps in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals. The two sides will meet a second time on March 2 in Vancouver.

“Wenger Out” banner appears at anti-Trump protest

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 26:  Arsene Wenger, manager of Arsenal reacts on the touchline during the Premier League match between Arsenal and West Bromwich Albion at Emirates Stadium on December 26, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
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At an anti-Donald Trump protest in London, England on Monday, somebody else was having his status questioned.

You may guess who it was given the way things have been heading recently…

[ MORE: Shaw resigns after pie stunt

The anti-Arsene Wenger brigade were out in force (one placard is enough, right?) around Parliament Square in London as thousands gathered to protest against the President of the United States of America, Donald Trump, being awarded a state visit to the UK.

All of that aside, let’s focus on the important things here: the future of Arsenal’s manager continues to be called into question.

Among all of the banners, chanting and furor there was a “Wenger Out” placard being held proudly. Does this mean we will now see “Trump Out” banners at the Emirates Stadium?

See below.

Wayne Shaw resigns amid pie-eating scandal

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The legend of Wayne Shaw is no more.

[ MORE: Shaw investigated for stunt

On Tuesday, less than 24 hours after non-league club Sutton United met Arsenal in the fifth round of the FA Cup, Shaw resigned as their goalkeeper and goalkeeping coach.

Shaw, 46, caused headlines around the world when the 280-pound goalkeeper was shown on TV eating a pie during the second half of Sutton’s 2-0 defeat to the Premier League side.

Now, it appears that the incident was something more sinister.

Both the FA and the UK Gambling Commission are investigating the stunt as bookmakers Sun Bets had offered 8-1 odds for Shaw to eat a pie during the game. Shaw had admitted he knew about the bet and thought he would do it for “a bit of banter” adding that “a few of the lads said to me earlier on, ‘What is going on with the 8-1 about eating a pie?’ I said, ‘I don’t know, I’ve eaten nothing all day, so I might give it a go later on.'”

Speaking to Sky Sports on Tuesday a sad and disappointed Sutton manager, Paul Doswell, explained that Shaw offered his resignation and has left the club.

“It’s been very disappointing,” Doswell said. “I woke up this morning to this storm of criticism. It’s something we’ve dealt with quickly at the club. Wayne himself has offered his resignation to the chairman this afternoon and that’s been accepted. It’s a very sad end to what was a good story.”

Doswell and Shaw know each other from their time throughout the non-league scene as they also worked together at Eastleigh in the past and are great friends.

Sutton’s manager continued to explain the situation about Shaw and revealed the man dubbed as “The Roly Poly Goalie” around the world has been inconsolable.

“I’m devastated,” Doswell said. “The chairman is devastated. I’m not going to try and hide the fact that we are all very emotional about it. I’ve spoken to Wayne on the phone this afternoon and the guy is in tears, crying down the phone. It is a very very sad situation. It is hard to talk about the positives today on the back of what has happened because someone has lost their job because of this. The club cannot be seen to accept that situation.

“Ian Baird [team manager] and myself try and run the most professional non-league club we can be, we’ve always said that. To then find out someone has been eating a pie, it may be funny to some people but it shows me in a bad light, Ian in a bad light and the club in bad light. Then to find out it was done with regards to some 8-1 bet, obviously that exacerbated the problem, really. The chairman was very clear with me this morning on how he felt and I back the chairman 100 percent.”

In Sutton’s finest moment which saw the club mentioned around the world as the fifth-tier team knocked out AFC Wimbledon and Leeds United on their way to their last 16, Shaw’s resignation has marked a sad end to their fairytale FA Cup run.