The Top Ten in ProSoccerTalk’s weekly MLS rankings

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(MORE: Part 1, with Nos. 11-19 in the rankings, is here)

10. Montréal Impact – The Impact has won five in a row and keeps closing the distance between their expansion selves and D.C. United. They have played more games than other teams in the East, so the margin for error is thin as sandwich-cut Canadian bacon. Still, every in-season signing is proving to be a handy one, and there’s a lot of reason to be excited about the late-summer stretch around Stade Saputo.

9. Real Salt Lake – The schedule has granted a tiny reprieve for RSL with a full week between matches. Whew! That makes this Friday’s contest at home with D.C. United (which is dealing with its own taxing stack-up of matches) an absolute, positively “gotta have” for Jason Kreis and Co. The men of Rio Tinto have collected just 1 of a possible 12 points in MLS matches since late July. That will not get it done going forward.

8. Columbus Crew – There can be no doubt that Jairo Arrieta and Federico Higuain can be difference-makers in MLS. So now it’s about finding the best role for dependable veteran Eddie Gaven, getting the rest of the midfield mix just right and squeezing a little more production from dynamic wide man Dilly Duka. And, they’ve got points to make up in the standings – but these are surely exciting times around Crew Stadium. (Oh, goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum looks OK after last week’s injury scare. So, good news there, too.)

7. Chicago Fire – The off-week saw Chicago hold its place at fourth in the East while the teams on either side failed to take full points. So, that part worked out pretty well. This week’s visit by Houston? Yeah, check the box on “big match” for this one.

6. Houston Dynamo – The Dynamo can’t be beaten at home – but these draws lately rather than wins are doing some damage. A week ago it was Columbus holding Houston to a tie. In Round 25, Toronto scored late to split the points out of BBVA Compass Stadium. To be an elite team in MLS, teams cannot be losing late leads at home against the bottom club from the East. (No offense, TFC.)

5. Angeles Galaxy – Minus Landon Donovan and on a lesser afternoon from David Beckham, the Galaxy professionally managed out a 2-0 win over previously hot Dallas. Juninho was big in this one, and Josh Saunders reminded everyone why the Galaxy has a more handsome record when he’s in goal. Another busy week is ahead as Bruce Arena’s men host Puerto Rico in a Champions League encounter and then look to put some distance on fifth-place Vancouver with a weekend contest at the Home Depot Center.

4. Seattle Sounders – Fredy Montero is on one of his runs. Watch him go! Eddie Johnson still has plenty to offer and Mauro Rosales (pictured above) has assumed leadership in MLS assists with 13. The defense and goalkeeping hasn’t quite arrived into the same spiffy place, but everything else looks just so around CenturyLink Field. Christian Tiffert is fitting in nicely in the midfield, looking quite selfless about it all. That’s positive, too. The Sounders are 5-1-2 in MLS since June.

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3. New York Red Bulls – Holy, Frenchman! Did the Red Bulls ever miss their veteran DP striker last week as Thierry Henry sat out while bringing a new, little Frenchman into the world. (Congrats, man!) On one hand, the Red Bulls offense was a complete, rudderless mess. On the other hand, credit for finding a way to grind out a 1-1 draw at Sporting Kansas City. The same teams meet twice more this year; those matches will say a lot about 2012 Eastern Conference supremacy. Heath Pearce  (pictured, right), by the way, has been quite a mid-season pickup.

2. Sporting Kansas City – There’s a lot to fret over this week. Start with the 1-1 draw with New York, where Sporting KC dominated and pressured relentlessly, as always, but failed to stick enough past the Red Bulls defense to gather all three points. Teal Bunbury’s season-ending injury is a huge downer, and Roger Espinoza’s potential departure to Wigan would remove the team’s best midfielder at present. Otherwise, all is well.

1. San Jose Earthquakes – How does it happen that San Jose cracks four and Chris Wondolowski doesn’t get any of them? Same difference, I suppose, as the league leaders quickly got past last week’s loss at Montreal by clobbering southbound Colorado. With a home and road set dead away against struggling Chivas USA and a match at Buck Shaw against the beleaguered Timbers, San Jose could easily have a commanding hold on the Supporters Shield title by mid-September. Only team at this point that might have something to say about it: Sporting Kansas City.

Off to slow start, Morris, Seattle know “things can change quickly”

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Both Jordan Morris and the Seattle Sounders are off to a rough start in defense of their MLS Cup title last Fall, and the USMNT’s star striker admits to recalling last season’s wild turnaround as an inspiration.

“After the game last week we mentioned that we have a lot of the nucleus from last year and we all know that things can change quickly,” Morris said to ProSoccerTalk this week.

Seattle won just seven games before Matchday 22 last season, rebounding with a burst after coach Sigi Schmid was replaced by assistant Brian Schmetzer. The Sounders went 8-2-2 down the stretch en route to an MLS Cup win over Toronto FC.

While he hasn’t scored in five matches and only has two markers in 12 games, he feels success is coming for the 3W-5L-4T Sounders. Morris said the club knows the results aren’t there, but also that they are producing chances.

[ MORE: Monaco star’s Man City medical ]

“It’s been okay,” Morris said. “Definitely not the start I would’ve wanted. It’s not an excuse but we’ve hit a lot of posts and had other near misses.”

Seattle has a huge opportunity to flip the script on its season when Cascadia Cup rivals Portland visit on Saturday. The free-scoring Timbers are dangerous in attack, but have been opened up 20 times this season. Only two teams have conceded more goals than Portland (which has played the most matches in the league, it must be said).

And it may or may not surprise fans that Morris’ focus has been one of his strengths: the final product.

“I’m working on the final third, whether it’s shooting or finding the open guy,” Morris said. “It’s a big deal for us to finish our chances. Scoring or the final pass in that final third.”

Despite his relatively cold start, it would be surprising if Bruce Arena didn’t tab Morris in his crop for next month’s World Cup qualifiers. The 22-year-old also seems relatively certain to be a part of the Gold Cup plans.

“I’m excited and hopefully I get called up,” he said. “These World Cup qualifiers are obviously a very big deal and Bruce has done a really good job of getting us on the same page.”

Morris is also participating in a unique promotional activity with Delta Air Lines for Sounders fans, as he and Cristian Roldan are among Seattle teams picking fans for “positions” in a Fan XI. Once assembled, they’ll travel to L.A. for a Sounders road match and even sign one-day contracts. Morris was happy to get on board with it.

“It’s for our fans, who are amazing,” he said. “Delta’s idea to make a Fan XI gives the fansa chance to have the behind the scenes experience of being part of a team put together by having different skills. We love rewarding our fans.”

Day Seven: All the action from the U20 World Cup (video)

Kim In-chul/Yonhap via AP
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Mexico has automatically qualified for the knockout rounds of the U-20 World Cup despite falling to Venezuela.

[ MORE: U-20 World Cup latest

Germany dropped below Mexico in goal differential after allowing a 3-0 lead to sink to one, though El Tri still likely would’ve advanced to the next phase despite Germany’s result.

Mexico 0-1 Venezuela

Caracas 19-year-old striker Sergio Cordova scored for the third-straight match in what is sure to make him a hot summer commodity as Venezuela clinched Group B with a perfect 3-0 record.

Germany 3-2 Vanuatu

Vanuatu’s potential name of the tournament Bong Kalo scored twice in the second half to sink Germany below Mexico on goal difference.

Guinea 0-5 Argentina

A brace from Lautaro Martínez gives Argentina hope of the knockout rounds with a third-place finish.

England 1-0 South Korea

Everton’s Kieran Dowell scored the lone goal of the match to give England the Group A crown.

Zabaleta staying in Premier League with West Ham move

@WHUFC
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A week after bidding Manchester City an emotional goodbye, Pablo Zabaleta has announced he’ll be staying in England.

The 32-year-old right back is moving to London, where he’ll join West Ham United on a two-year deal beginning July 1.

[ MORE: Three key battles in FA Cup Final ]

The San Lorenzo youth product went to Espanyol in 2005 to begin his European adventure, joining Man City in 2008. He won two PL titles, two League Cups, and an FA Cup, and was named the club’s player of the season in 2012-13.

From WHUFC.com:

“Manchester City gave me the opportunity to come to this wonderful league, the Premier League, something I’ve been enjoying a lot as a player and of course for me it was probably the right time to move on.

“Also, as a player, I thought I wanted to keep playing in the Premier League. For me, after being in this country for so long, this is a new challenge for me in the Premier League and I’m ready for it and looking forward to it.”

Maybe he just wanted 3G.

Young Sam Byram can learn plenty from Zabaleta, and the signing means that star right-sided man Michail Antonio likely won’t have to be wasted at right back in emergency situations. Good risk by the Hammers.

Valencia extends Man Utd deal to great Mourinho praise

Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images
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Jose Mourinho has made no secret of his Antonio Valencia appreciation, and the Manchester United manager has rewarded his fullback with a new deal.

Valencia is nine appearances away from 300 in a Manchester United kit, with 22 goals and 61 assists as a Red Devil.

[ MORE: Monaco star’s Man City medical ]

Valencia said United has “been my life” since arriving from Wigan Athletic in 2009, while Mourinho heaped praise on the Ecuadorian captain’s character with glowing praise.

“It is no secret that I had been an admirer of Antonio’s long before I joined the club. I knew what a fantastic player he was and he has not disappointed me on that front. However, what I could never have imagined was what a great person he is. I know I have said this before but I truly believe it is a real privilege for us to have such a good player and such a good man. I am delighted he has extended his contract.”

Only Ander Herrera and Eric Bailly recorded better tackle rates at Old Trafford last season, and Valencia was credited with a team-best 1.5 crosses per game.