Mauro Rosales 2

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.

Blatter says he will accept verdict as CAS appeal begins

SAINT PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - JULY 25:  FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter speaks during the Preliminary Draw of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia at The Konstantin Palace on July 25, 2015 in Saint Petersburg, Russia.  (Photo by Dennis Grombkowski/Getty Images)
Photo by Dennis Grombkowski/Getty Images
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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter arrived for his appeal hearing against a six-year ban from football on Thursday, pledging to accept the verdict of the Court of Arbitration for Sport

“I do hope it will be positive for me,” Blatter, sporting a light gray beard, told reporters at around 8 a.m. (0600 GMT) ahead of a hearing expected to last several hours.

The court’s verdict is expected within several weeks, and could be challenged in a further appeal to Switzerland’s supreme court.

The 80-year-old Blatter denies wrongdoing in authorizing a $2 million payment to former FIFA vice president Michel Platini in 2011. They claimed it was for backdated and uncontracted salary for work Platini did in advising Blatter from 1999 to 2002.

[ MORE: Ranking Champions League groups ]

The so-called “disloyal payment” led Blatter to be put under investigation for criminal mismanagement by Swiss federal prosecutors last September. That investigation is ongoing.

FIFA’s ethics committee judged the $2 million deal was a conflict of interest and initially banned Blatter and Platini for eight years last December. FIFA’s appeal committee cut both bans to six years.

Platini’s appeal to CAS was already judged in May, when Blatter appeared in person as a witness. Platini promised a further appeal to the Swiss Federal Tribunal after his ban was only cut from six to four years.

Platini arrived at the hearing around midday local time to be a witness. Both men have denied any wrongdoing.

Blatter’s comments Thursday suggest he would not pursue a federal case. Federal judges can intervene only if legal process is abused.

“We are football players, we learned to win but also we learned to lose and it will not be the end of the world,” Blatter said outside CAS.

The three-member panel for Blatter’s case is expected to respect the verdict of a separate panel which judged Platini.

A failure to overturn the ban for Blatter would likely end his hope to one day be named FIFA honorary president by its 211 member federations.

[ MORE: Ranking Champions League groups ]

The case already ended Platini’s chance to replace Blatter as FIFA president, and also forced him out of European governing body UEFA.

On Sept. 14, UEFA members will elect a successor to replace Platini who had a mandate through March 2019. By imposing a four-year ban, the CAS panel ensured UEFA had to replace Platini, rather than wait for him to return.

The “disloyal payment” emerged last year when Platini was strongly favored to win the election to replace Blatter, who had announced his departure plans after 17 years as president amid pressure from American and Swiss federal investigations of corruption implicating senior FIFA officials.

[ MORE: Bundesliga season primer ]

Both men were questioned at FIFA headquarters last September by Swiss investigators who were waiting for them outside an executive committee meeting.

During the turmoil in world football, Platini’s right-hand man at UEFA, Gianni Infantino, submitted an election candidacy on the entry deadline day and won the vote in February.

Arriving at the hearing with his Zurich-based lawyer Lorenz Erni, Blatter said he hoped the CAS panel “will understand that the payment made to Platini was really a debt that we had against him.”

“This is a principle, if you have debts you pay them,” Blatter said.

NASL weekend preview: Miami, Minnesota meet playoff fortunes head on

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There are still two full months of soccer to go in the NASL’s Fall Season, but this weekend could be a major day for the title fortunes of one squad in particular.

Miami FC and Minnesota United are level on points with 15 heading into Saturday’s match at FIU Stadium.

[ MORE: MLS Weekend Preview ]

If you’re unfamiliar, the NASL Playoffs involve four teams: the Spring champion (Indy Eleven), the Fall champion, and two other teams with the best combined record between seasons.

Miami’s played one fewer game, and both it and Minnesota — fresh off the news it’s headed to MLS in 2017 — are seven points shy of first-place FC Edmonton.

But Minnesota is on pace to make the playoffs through combined schedule, while Miami had a poor first half and would be better served to win the Fall Season if it wants a shot at the NASL Soccer Bowl Trophy.

Saturday
Carolina Railhawks at New York Cosmos
Rayo OKC at Tampa Bay Rowdies
Minnesota United at Miami FC

Sunday
Indy Eleven at Ottawa Fury
Puerto Rico at FC Edmonton

Arsenal reportedly set for $69 million double Friday buy

MADRID, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 14:  Lucas Perez of RC Deportivo la Coruna reacts during the La Liga match between Rayo Vallecano and RC Deportivo La Coruna at Estadio Teresa Rivero on September 14, 2015 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
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Arsene Wenger‘s much-maligned transfer business is about to take the “much” off the verb.

Lucas Perez of Deportiva de la Coruna is reportedly going to be joining Arsenal on Friday, and the Gunners are also close to finally landing Valencia center back Shkodran Mustafi.

[ MORE: Bundesliga season primer ]

Perez, 27, broke out for a career-best 17 goals last season, and scored on debut last weekend. He’s set to cost $22.5 million, while Mustafi makes up the other $46.5 million.

The 12-times capped German center back stands 6-foot, and would bring stability to a Gunners unit which has (again) been beset by injuries.

From the BBC:

Spaniard Lucas, 27, scored 17 goals in 37 games last season and Arsenal will meet a 20m euro (£17.1m) buyout clause.

Germany international Mustafi, 24, is set to join for a fee in excess of £35m.

Is this, coupled with the Granit Xhaka buy, enough to help Wenger right the ship? Mustafi, especially, would be a key piece. Perez is a bit of a lesser-known quality.

MLS Weekend Preview: Desperation mounts as rivals meet in Oregon

Portland Timbers defender Vytas Andriuskevicius, second from right, trips up Seattle Sounders midfielder Cristian Roldan, right, in the second half of a MLS soccer match, Sunday, Aug. 21, 2016, in Seattle. Andriuskevicius was called for a foul on the play, and the Sounders' Clint Dempsey scored a goal on the resulting penalty kick. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
AP Photo/Ted S. Warren
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Desperation is up-and-down the schedule this weekend in Major League Soccer, as the playoff race really heats up.

The calendar turns to September next week, and teams will end this weekend with a clear view of their runs into the season’s final Sunday: Oct. 23.

[ MORE: Bundesliga season primer ]

The tumult that is an MLS season means only one team is more than two wins out of a playoff spot right now, and that’s Houston (7 points back of Western No. 6 Portland).

Here’s who is feeling the heat of their matches this weekend:

Portland and Seattle: The Cascadia Cup rivals tangle Sunday in Oregon, with the Timbers holding a one-point edge on the Sounders for the West’s final playoff spot. Seattle has played one fewer games than Portland, and a win on Sunday would be a double-whammy for PDX; The Timbers would be level on points with Seattle and Vancouver in the Cascadia Cup standings with just one match to go (compared to their opponents’ two).

Vancouver: The ‘Caps don’t have a Cup game this weekend, but will face an L.A. team which hasn’t lost at home. Vancouver is in real danger of moving more than one win behind in the fight for a playoff spot. If they lose to L.A. and both San Jose and Portland win, the Whitecaps will be five points back of a playoff spot. Of course, this being MLS, a win and help could see Vancouver in sixth when the smoke clears.

Columbus and New England: No one likes to comment on job status, but Revs’ boss Jay Heaps and his Columbus counterpart (Gregg Berhalter) have to be a bit concerned at this point. New England is a total mess, opening up a goalkeeping controversy, and is pinning its hopes on some Open Cup final karma. The Crew was supposed to contend for a title after last year’s final run, but is currently in the East’s cellar with just three home wins from 13 matches.

Schedule

Friday
Colorado at Real Salt Lake — 8 p.m. EDT

Saturday
Chicago at DC United — 7 p.m. EDT
Sporting KC at Philadelphia — 7 p.m. EDT
San Jose at Columbus — 7:30 p.m. EDT
Montreal at Toronto FC — 7:30 p.m. EDT
FC Dallas at Houston — 9 p.m. EDT
Vancouver at LA Galaxy — 10:30 p.m. EDT

Sunday
New England at New York Red Bulls — 2:30 p.m. EDT
Seattle at Portland — 5 p.m. EDT
New York City at Orlando City — 7 p.m. EDT