Philadelphia Union v DC United

ProSoccerTalk’s weekly MLS rankings (in two parts)


(Nos. 1-10 are on deck …so check back)

19. Toronto FC – Woe is the team that cannot win over Portland at home. TFC managed only a draw with Portland at BMO Field.  Darren O’Dea looked good  in his TFC debut, but his entrance into the center of the defense wasn’t enough in a 1-0 loss to Sporting Kansas City.

18. Portland Timbers – Owner Merritt Paulson is feeling the heat (yes, even more of it than before) over his ongoing support for manager Gavin Wilkinson, who did have a pretty good week. Unfortunately, a draw and a close loss on the road qualifies as a “good week” these days for the beleaguered Timbers, who are winless in their last eight. At least there’s a rivalry match this week; Vancouver comes to Stumptown.

17. Colorado Rapids – Yes, Chivas goalkeeper Dan Kennedy had a lot to say about this one, with more of his good work helping contain the Rapids in a 1-1 draw outside Denver. If they have a big run in them, this weekend’s match is a pretty hard place to start one; Oscar Pareja takes his team into San Jose to meet the current league leaders.

16. New England Revolution – It’s all about 2013 now around downtrodden bunch from Gillette Stadium. Maybe that’s why Benny Feilheiber started on the bench for last week’s 2-1 loss to Chicago.  A controversial penalty kick called against the Revs highlighted that one.

15. Philadelphia Union – A 1-1 draw at D.C. United has been in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. Philadelphia was quite good in the first 45 and then just barely good enough after the break. Danny Cruz (pictured above) started and had a useful outing before needing to be relieved midway through the second half. He already looks like a nice addition around PPL Park.

14. Chivas USA – Juan Pablo Angel, now coming off the bench, struck at DSG Park as Chivas stole a point out of Colorado. A big mistake from newly arrive Shalrie Joseph put the Goats in a hole. Robin Fraser’s team is 7th in the West now, having been lapped by Dallas last week. Thing to remember about Chivas: they have four or five games in hand over most of the teams it is chasing in the Western Conference playoff race.

13. Vancouver Whitecaps – Barry Robson was pulled off the available list less than 24 hours before kickoff in Seattle. Tsk, tsk, MLS.  Would the Scottish midfielder have made a difference Saturday? We’ll never know; Sounder by 2-0 in that one. Robson didn’t help much in the Whitecaps’ loss at home to Dallas three nights earlier. That’s the same Dallas side that is now five points south of Martin Rennie’s team for the final playoff spot.

12. FC Dallas – What Montreal has done in the East, FC Dallas is doing in the West – even if the side from Texas is behind the curve. Dallas is 5-2-2 lately with David Ferreira in the starting lineup. Imagine if they can ever get Blas Perez back on the field. George John’s big play in the back has been overlooked in all the hubbub over Ferreira’s return and Brek Shea’s enlivened play. The question, of course, is this all too late?

11. Montréal Impact – Jesse Marsch for mayor of Montreal? Of course, it’s really about the players. Patrice Bernier keeps scoring and setting up others and Marco Di Vaio just hit another one as he gets his MLS feet beneath him. Veteran center back Alessandro Nesta had to sit out last week’s big win (3-1) over San Jose with a knee sprain.

MLS Cup Playoffs: Seattle Sounders 1-0 Sporting KC (video)

Seattle Sounders defender Roman Torres, right, exchanges words with Sporting Kansas City's Kevin Ellis, left, and Soni Mustivar, center, after Sounders' midfielder Osvaldo Alonso (not shown) was given a yellow card for a foul against midfielder Roger Espinoza in the first half of an MLS soccer playoff match, Thursday, Oct. 27, 2016, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
AP Photo/Ted S. Warren
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The game in 100 words (or less): There’s a ton to unpack here, so we’ll dive right in. The Seattle Sounders topped Sporting Kansas City in the final knockout-round game of the 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs. Nelson Valdez scored the game’s only goal, an 88th-minute header, but not without supreme controversy. For starters, Valdez was offside as Joevin Jones played the ball into the box, just as Matt Besler was on a free kick for Sporting earlier in the second half. Besler’s goal was ruled out for offside, Valdez’s was allowed to stand. Benny Feilhaber, perhaps in his final game for Sporting, played like a man possessed and so nearly singlehandedly won the game for Sporting at multiple points on the night. Stefan Frei stood on his head and refused to allow such an occurrence. Osvaldo Alonso could have been sent off twice on the night — once on a straight red; once on a second yellow — but finished the game with just a single caution. Up next, the Sounders will take on Supporters’ Shield-winning FC Dallas in the Western Conference semifinals.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS Cup Playoffs preview coverage ]

Three Four moments that mattered

10′ — Zusi hits the post with a strike through traffic — Benny Feilhaber’s through ball to set up this double-chance for Sporting in sumptuous, and fully deserving of a proper finish.

53′ — Besler heads home, but he’s offside — This is about as close an onside/offside decisions get.

79′ — Frei denies Feilhaber after a spectacular run — Feilhaber’s run was mesmerizing, but Stefan Frei’s save was the tiniest bit better.

88′ — Valdez heads home the late winner — If Besler was offside, Valdez was offside. An unfitting end to a thrilling game.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Men of the match: Benny Feilhaber

Goalscorers: Valdez (88′)

MLS Cup Playoffs: D.C. United 2-4 Montreal Impact (video)

CORRECTS DATE - Montreal Impact forward Matteo Mancosu, back, celebrates his goal with Ignacio Piatti (10) during the first half of an MLS playoff soccer match against D.C. United, Thursday, Oct. 27, 2016, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
AP Photo/Nick Wass
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The game in 100 words (or less): There are epic playoff collapses, and there is the MLS Cup Playoffs abomination put forth by D.C. United on Thursday. Playing host to a Montreal Impact side that won just two of its last eight regular-season games and crawled over the finish line, United — winners of four of their last five and one of the hottest teams in the league down the stretch — no-showed Thursday’s knockout-round tie, and their season is deservingly finished. Laurent Ciman put the Impact ahead inside the first five minutes, and United never recovered or seemed the least bit urgent with their season on the line. Matteo Mancosu bagged a brace either side of halftime to make it 3-0, and Ignacio Piatti, who was his usual brilliant self — so good, in fact, he made you forget Didier Drogba was unavailable due to injury/dispute over his role as a substitute — added a fourth not long before full-time. Lamar Neagle grabbed a late consolation goal for United, bringing them back to 4-1 before Taylor Kemp fired a laser past Evan Bush for 4-2 late in stoppage time, but that’s as close as they’d get. Up next for the Impact, it’s the New York Red Bulls in the Eastern Conference semifinals, beginning Sunday.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS Cup Playoffs preview coverage ]

Three moments that mattered

4′ — Ciman slots home from a corner for 1-0 — An absolute dream start for Montreal, as Ciman gets front side of his marker and benefits from a fortunate bounce after he scuffs the shot.

43′ — Mancosu slams home Piatti’s cross for 2-0 — Someone tell DCU that the knockout round is most definitely win-or-go-home. Horrific defending. Ball-watching all over the place. This is not the same team that won four of their last five in order to host this game.

58′ — Mancosu heads home at the near post for 3-0 — Steve Birnbaum has not had the greatest end to the 2016 season. Stay healthy, John Brooks and Geoff Cameron.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Men of the match: Matteo Mancosu

Goalscorers: Ciman (4′), Mancosu (43′, 58′), Piatti (83′), Neagle (90′), Kemp (90+4′)

FOLLOW LIVE: 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs knockout round

Sporting Kansas City forward Dom Dwyer, center, is congratulated by teammates, including midfielder Roger Espinoza (27), following his goal during the first half of an MLS soccer match against the Houston Dynamo in Kansas City, Kan., Saturday, Aug. 1, 2015. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
AP Photo/Orlin Wagner
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The knockout round of the 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs concludes on Thursday, as four teams vie for the final two places — one in the Eastern Conference, one in the Western Conference — in the conference semifinals, which begin on Sunday.

[ FOLLOW LIVE: MLS Cup Playoffs knockout round ]

Up first, the East’s fourth-seeded D.C. United welcome the five-seed Montreal Impact to RFK Stadium for the two sides’ third meeting of the 2016 season. Each of the year’s first two clashes finished a 1-1 draw, in July and August. Didier Drogba is expected to be unavailable for the win-or-go-home tie. United finished the regular season with four wins in the last five games, while the Impact won just two of their last eight.

[ MORE: Preivewing Thursday night’s knockout-round games ]

In the nightcap, the West’s fourth-seeded Seattle Sounders will take on the five-side, Sporting Kansas City, at CenturyLink Field. Sporting were victorious in both regular-season meetings this year — 1-0 on opening day, and 3-0 in late-July, the day the Sounders essentially quit on Sigi Schmid. Since that blistering hot day in KC, the Soudners have lost just twice in 14 games (eight wins, four draws).

Thursday’s MLS Cup Playoffs schedule

D.C. United vs. Montreal Impact — 7:30 p.m. ET
Seattle Sounders vs. Sporting KC — 10 p.m. ET

Cristiano Ronaldo says Ashley Cole is the toughest player he faced

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Cristiano Ronaldo has faced the best defenders in the world during his time with Manchester United, Real Madrid and the Portuguese national team.

He has also caused fits for most of those defenders with goal after goal for club and country. But, there have been some players who have at least made it difficult for the all-time leading goal scorer in Real Madrid and Champions League history.

According to Ronaldo, former Chelsea and Arsenal defender Ashley Cole was the toughest player he has faced in his career.

[ MORE: VIDEO: Incredible Pelle goal in China ]

“Over the years I had some great battles with Ashley Cole, he does not give you a second to breathe,” Ronaldo told Coach Mag. “He was such a tenacious player when he was at his peak, quick, tough in the tackle. You knew it would never be an easy game.”

During his time with Manchester United, Ronaldo faced Cole on numerous occasions while Cole was with Arsenal and Chelsea. The two have also faced off in international competition between Ronaldo’s Portugal and Cole’s England.

It’s certainly high praise for Cole, who now plays in MLS for the LA Galaxy. At the age of 35, Cole has started 25 matches for the Galaxy this season, scoring one goal.