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.

Trio of Crew players in Ghana roster to face USMNT, Mexico

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Ghana’s team to face the United States men’s national team on Saturday in East Hartford will look somewhat familiar to fans of Major League Soccer.

Columbus Crew players Harrison Afful, Mohammed Abu and Jonathan Mensah join David Accam of the Chicago Fire, and Gershon Koffie of the New England Revolution on a unit with Kwadwo Poku of the NASL’s Kwadwo Poku.

John Boye, Asamoah Gyan, and Mensah are the only three players from the loss to the USMNT in the 2014 World Cup.

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Like the U.S., this is a less than full-strength squad. Missing are a number of Black Stars standouts, with Andre Ayew, Jordan Ayew, Afriyie Acquah, Daniel Amartey, Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu, Christian Atsu, Jeff Schlupp, and Baba Rahman not with the team.

Saturday’s match is the last USMNT outing before the Gold Cup begins on July 8 in Nashville against Panama.

Goalkeepers: Addo Joseph (Aduana Stars), Richard Ofori (Wa All Stars)

Defenders: Lumor Agbenyenu (Munich 1860), Harrison Afful (Columbus Crew),  Nicholas Opoku (Berekum Chelsea), Jerry Akaminko (Eskiserhispor),  John Boye (Sivasspor), Rashid Sumalia (Al Gharafa), Jonathan Mensah (Columbus Crew), Samuel Sarfo (Liberty)

Midfielders: Mohammed Abu (Columbus Crew, Isaac Sackey (Alanyaspor), Ofori Ebenezer (Stuttgart), Kwadwo Poku (FC Miami), Winful Kwaku Cobbinah (Hearts of Oak), Frank Acheampong (Anderlecht), Thomas Agyepong (NAC Breda), Gershon Koffie (New England Revolution)

Strikers: Asamoah Gyan (Al Alhi), Raphael Dwamena (FC Zurich), Majeed Abdul Waris (Lorient FC), David Accam (Chicago Fire)

Timo Werner abused in Germany but key to World Cup defense

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SOCHI, Russia (AP) The abuse has followed Timo Werner for months, gathering pace as rapidly as the striker has amassed goals.

No German player was more prolific in the Bundesliga last season. No player was as ostracized.

But Werner is now a full-blown Germany international, scoring his first goals at the Confederations Cup on Sunday, and he could hold the key to the World Cup defense next year.

[ MORE: USMNT’s 23-man roster questions ]

That could require Germany supporters to forgive a player they jeered at during his first competitive game for Joachim Loew’s team earlier this month.

“Kobe Bryant has also been booed everywhere and he always been the best,” Werner reflected ahead of Germany’s Confederations Cup semifinal against Mexico on Thursday, seeing a kindred spirit in the basketball great. “I do not want to say that I am the best like him, but (the abuse) is a bit of an incentive.”

If playing for the ascendant but deeply unpopular Leipzig wasn’t bad enough, a dive in December by Werner provided a focal point for the animosity – jealousy, perhaps – toward the Red Bull-funded team.

The insults have even been hurled far from Germany, far from soccer stadiums. The dive won a penalty against Schalke, and provided Werner with one of the 21 goals that helped to propel Leipzig into second place and a Champions League debut next season.

“There was a dive, he made a mistake and he admitted it,” Loew said, “but he is very, very young player.”

And a potentially very important one for Loew at the World Cup in Russia next year. Germany’s striking options are being assessed at the eight-team Confederations Cup as Loew still seeks a long-term successor to Miroslav Klose as target man for the world champions.

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Werner opened his account for Germany on his fourth appearance, scoring twice in a 3-1 victory over Cameroon on Sunday in Sochi.

“Werner put in a lot of legwork,” Loew said. “He showed how dangerous he is and that he’s got a great nose for goal. Both of his efforts were very well taken.”

Werner’s rivals for a place in the squad next year include fellow squad newcomers Lars Stindl and Sandro Wagner. They are both close to 30, while the 21-year-old Werner has youth, strength and speed on his side. Even Wagner said he has “never seen such a good striker at that age.”

That’s a result of Werner fusing his pace with intelligence on the ball, mastering dribbling at high speed first with Stuttgart and then at Leipzig.

“There’s no recipe for it,” Werner said. “The quickest players just know how to do it automatically. I like to knock the ball three or four meters ahead of me when I’m on the counter or have space in front of me, that way I can increase the distance between a defender and myself.”

Such proficiency should help Werner win over fans beyond Leipzig. Time, he hopes, will heal the fractures, and there’s certainly support from his new international teammates.

“I wish him well because of the issues he has had to endure,” captain Julian Draxler told Germany’s ARD television.

Rob Harris is at http://www.twitter.com/RobHarris and http://www.facebook.com/RobHarrisReports

More AP Confederations Cup coverage: http://www.apnews.com/tag/ConfederationsCup

USMNT Gold Cup 23-man roster leaves some questions

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We have Bruce Arena’s 23-man United States men’s national roster for the Gold Cup, and there are more than a few surprises left out of the bunch.

Often a chance to experiment, those who thought this year’s Gold Cup roster would be one aimed at reclaiming glory with authority may be surprised to see the status quo.

Jurgen Klinsmann brought most of his big guns to the 2015 party — which didn’t go well for Brad Guzan and Co. — but Arena will roll into this summer’s tournament without most of his big names. There’s no Geoff Cameron, John Brooks, Michael Bradley, Christian Pulisic, Clint Dempsey, nor Jozy Altidore.

Those aren’t huge surprises, though who Arena neglected from his original 40-man short list is a bit of a shock to the system (Players can be called into the mix after the group stage, which is a fairly simple affair for the USMNT to navigate versus Panama, Martinique, and Nicagarua).

Arena is going with Brad Guzan, Sean Johnson, and Bill Hamid in a trio that fails to impress. Hamid does have a big crowd of fans who’d like to see him get a chance to assert himself as the future, and hopefully either Johnson or Hamid finds time between the sticks against a serious opponent like Panama. No surprise that Tim Howard and Joe Bendik didn’t leap into the trio (EDIT: This post initially questioned the omission of Jesse Gonzalez, but his one-time switch from Mexico to the USMNT has yet to go through).

We’ll ignore the omission of Danny Williams for the most part considering he was absent from the 40-man list, but he must have said something seriously awful to Arena or someone at U.S. soccer.

The group of forwards leaves little to complain about, as Juan Agudelo and Dom Dwyer very much deserve their chances to compete for playing time with Sounders star Jordan Morris, but the midfield provides some head-scratching. Gyasi Zardes may be a longtime Arena favorite, but the Galaxy man has been ice cold in MLS. The 25-year-old has a single assist in almost 1000 minutes of play this season, and that came back on April 8. Tommy McNamara has not lighting the league on fire and Chris Pontius and his six assists are 30 years old, so much of the grief should be directed at the 40-man again, but Zardes has to embrace this opportunity. And maybe it’s a way to help the Galaxy and Zardes get a little mojo.

As an aside, Wil Trapp is among leaders in several MLS passing stats, which leads me to believe Arena is going to play Dax McCarty and Kellyn Acosta a ton and doesn’t see much of a need for Trapp in this tournament, not ever.

Defenders Steve Birnbaum and Jonathan Spector were not rewarded with looks, though Graham Zusi was included in what must be an arm reaching out for USMNT experience. Birnbaum is leading MLS in aerials won per game and Spector is by far Orlando’s top rated player since returning from England. Yes, Spector is 31 but this is about still qualifying for next summer’s World Cup, not the 2022 cycle. Spare a thought for Matt Polster, who has been decent since returning from a knee strain. This is nothing against Zusi, a consummate professional who won’t kill the team by any means and will be an tremendous asset in leadership.

What about you? Any other gripes? Or do you love the bunch?

Report: German publication has full FIFA corruption report

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The unedited 2014 report into World Cup bidding published by Michael Garcia has been ‘leaked’ into the press by German publication Bild.

FIFA had released a 42-page version of the report that claimed to clear corruption allegations against Qatar. This “suppressed” report is over 400 pages.

Garcia quit his job as investigator with the FIFA ethics committee in 2014, saying he believed progress in reforming FIFA had slowed considerably.

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Bild said it will publish more information and the full report on Tuesday, but the BBC notes a couple interesting facets of the initial release:

  • “Three Fifa executive members were flown to a party in Rio in a private jet belonging to the Qatari federation before the vote for 2018 and 2022 hosting rights.”
  • “Bild’s report includes details of a $2m (£1.6m) sum allegedly paid to the 10-year-old daughter of a Fifa official.”

Before you overreact, the 10-year-old is an incredibly gifted footballer.

The reporter who filed the story says the report shows no proof of a bought bid, but that it is like “a puzzle.”