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.

Mourinho looks to pile title pressure on Chelsea

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A week ago, just before their 2017/18 Premier League season began, Antonio Conte declared Chelsea to be an underdog for the title. It’s right not to put Chelsea to be a favorite,” Conte said.

Jose Mourinho disagrees.

Looking to deflect pressure away from his Manchester United squad, Mourinho declared Chelsea to not only be the favorites to win the Premier League this season and defend their title, but proclaimed it would be a massive disappointment if they didn’t.

[ MORE: Liverpool in an advantageous position regarding Coutinho ]

To Mourinho, the simple fact that Chelsea won last season means they should consider themselves the team to beat going forward. “For me the favorite is the champion,” Mourinho said in his pre-match press conference ahead of Manchester United’s game against Swansea City on Saturday. “Always. Because for some reason [they were] the champion. It doesn’t mean you are going to win it – I think it is the stamp that you have when you are champion, it is that the next season you are the favorite.”

Chelsea seems to have a depth issue at the moment, with injuries plaguing the squad. New signing Tiemoue Bakayoko leaves a big hole in midfield, especially with Nemanja Matic sold to the Red Devils. In addition, Gary Cahill and Pedro will miss time in the near future with suspensions, while superstar Eden Hazard remains out as he recovers from a broken ankle.

Despite all the missing players, Mourinho believes that Chelsea always comes through in the transfer window, and that will solve their problems. “If they have [depth problems], in a couple of weeks the problems are over. They have very good teams, very good players and I don’t see any reason for them not to be fighting for the title.”

Manchester United next meets Chelsea on November 5th in Premier League action at Stamford Bridge.

LA Galaxy offloads Jelle van Damme to native Belgium

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The 2017 season continues to punch LA Galaxy fans right in the gut.

With the club near the basement of the Western Conference standings, the LA Galaxy have officially announced the sale of defensive rock Jelle van Damme to Royal Antwerp of the Belgian top flight. The club confirmed a transfer fee of $235,000.

While van Damme is 33 years old, the sale of fan-favorite van Damme is still a blow both on and off the pitch. With the Galaxy in a period of transition, van Damme was a likeable personality who was known for leaving it all out on the field on gamedays.

The official news release of the transfer made it clear the club did not initiate the transfer with the intention to sell, but instead the player himself requested a return home as his career comes nearer to a close. Van Damme is from Lokeren, Belgium, a town between Antwerp and Ghent.

“Jelle came to us and requested to return home to Belgium to be closer to his children,” LA Galaxy General Manager Pete Vagenas told LAGalaxy.com. “We worked closely with Jelle and Royal Antwerp so that we could make this move possible for Jelle and his family. Our top priority remains the success of the LA Galaxy. We thank him for his time with our club and wish him the best going forward.”

Van Damme joined the Galaxy in early 2016 on a free transfer from Belgian giants Standard Liege. He made 55 total appearances across all competitions, including 46 in league play and another three in the playoffs. The defender’s contract was set to expire in December.

The team has taken a total nosedive in the last two months. Without a league win since June 21st against Colorado, the Galaxy have collected just a single point in league play, and they currently sit just a point off the bottom of the Western Conference standings.

Liverpool holds all the cards in Coutinho saga

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In a time of heightening player control in a rapidly expanding transfer market, one club sticks out as grasping a clear understanding of the shifting business landscape and how to retain its grip on its most valuable assets.

Following the sudden departure of superstar playmaker Neymar, Barcelona is trying desperately to pry Philippe Coutinho from Liverpool. On Friday, numerous reports in England claimed that Barcelona had gone in with a third bid, one even more ridiculous than the previous two. But they’re fighting a losing battle.

For a number of reasons, the Reds hold complete control over Philippe Coutinho’s transfer saga, a saga that will likely end with no transfer having been completed.

First and foremost, Coutinho just recently signed a contract extension in January that runs through 2022. As far as we know, there is no release clause in the deal, meaning at the most basic of levels, Liverpool maintains contractual control. However, as we’ve seen the past few years, that alone hasn’t stopped a number of players forcing their way out.

Yet this time, Liverpool finds itself in an advantageous position outside of just the contract. With the 2018 World Cup right around the corner, the Reds know that should they force Coutinho to stay, he is obligated to play at his best, knowing that any less would see him miss out on a spot in the packed Brazil roster, or at the least a starting position. Thus, Liverpool can be sure that even if their denial of his departure renders him despondent, he will likely remain the quality player he has proven to be.

The money Barcelona is offering – a whopping $151 million according to the most recent reports – is indeed a ludicrous amount for a player who, while quality, does not have nearly the marketability of his countrymate now residing in Paris. On talent alone, Coutinho likely isn’t worth that total, meaning Liverpool should sell. And yet, even with that cash in hand, in this hyper-inflated market where more is less, could it really do justice in replacing his impact in the club? This late in the transfer window, there’s no chance they could replace the 25-year-old, meaning they’d likely be torpedoing their entire season – Champions League included – to feel the warmth of $151 million burning a hole in their pocket until January, or even next summer.

Liverpool has built its entire roster around Coutinho. The arrival of Salah, the use of Firmino, the wide deployment of Mane, the makeup of the midfield. He’s good enough and young enough to be considered a “franchise player.” In two games without Coutinho this season, they’ve scored five goals, but that is a poor metric to describe the 180 wild minutes. The money alone isn’t worth the cost of his departure.

It’s quite possible that Barcelona’s stubbornness, brought on by the sudden loss of a beloved player and the meteoric rise of their rivals to all-time greatness, could see the Catalans come back with an even more preposterous bid. It’s true every player has a value, and at some point, should Barcelona’s blind rage see them flail wildly into the transfer window, the Reds should sell, and will. But with Fenway Sports Group not in dire need of cash and in an advantageous position, in all likelihood they won’t. Barcelona can throw all the Neymar money at Liverpool their heart desires, but nothing will force the Reds to budge.

Top 25 moments in Premier League history: 19-21

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To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Premier League we thought it would be great to count down our top 25 moments from a quarter of a century of action.

[ VIDEO: Top 25 moments in PL history ]

Each week we will release our best moments and you can keep track of the full list here.

Below are numbers 19-21 to as we continue our list.

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