ProSoccerTalk’s weekly MLS rankings (in two parts)

Leave a comment

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

19. Chivas USA – It’s a dead heat in my mind for last spot here. The Goats (pictured at right) haven’t won since July and have conceded a stunning 22 goals in seven matches, so there’s compelling evidence on that side. Then again …

18. Toronto FC –The Reds are winless in their last nine (in all competitions), without a win since Aug. 1. (Paul Mariner’s team hasn’t won in MLS since mid-July.) The only reason to favor TFC slightly over Chivas USA in the rankings: Toronto is losing closer than the Goats, generally. Yes, it’s down to that.

17. Colorado Rapids – A 3-0 win over Portland to open September was a big breath of fresh Colorado air for Oscar Pareja’s team. But it was right back to business in Round 28 as they had some possession against Los Angeles but couldn’t turn that into enough quality chances and finished on the wrong end of a 2-0 result.

16. Portland Timbers – Sounders coach Sigi Schmid says the Timbers played their “MLS Cup” last week, and it’s difficult to argue the point. So the 1-1 tie with bitter rival Seattle wasn’t the result desired around Jeld-Wen Field. Then again, it wasn’t a disaster either. So … there’s that. A mid-week trip into Buck Shaw to face San Jose this week looks daunting.

15. Philadelphia Union – John Hackworth made offense a priority for Saturday’s visit to downtrodden BMO Field in Toronto. So the inability to put more than one shot on target says a lot about all the work that still lies ahead around PPL. (They finished that one chance, at least, in a 1-1 draw.)

source:

14. New England Revolution – New England has plenty to work out, clearly. Benny Feilhaber was the cornerstone around which this team was ostensibly built – only he’s not starting. They just signed Juan Toja (pictured, right) and have precious few matches to figure out if he’s the guy to build around, and where the enigmatic Colombian fits, if at all. The back line still needs improvement. But this might be the biggest question around Gillette Stadium: Why, in the name of all that’s good, would goalkeeper Matt Reis be the best choice to charge forward and take a late free kick near opposition goal in a 2-1 match? Seriously, guys?

13. Vancouver Whitecaps – Which term do you prefer? “Sweaty palm” time or “squeaky bum” time? Take your pick, but know that Vancouver is knee deep in it. The schedule still favors the Whitecaps’ chances of keeping ahead of Dallas for the West’s fifth and final playoff spot. Still, it would have seriously lifted some pressure off Martin Rennie’s men to have held on for (literally) a few more seconds last week against FCD.

12. Montréal Impact – There may be a way back into the playoff race for Montreal, but it’s tough to see one. A weekend loss at Chicago pretty much sealed the deal for Jesse Marsch’s expansion team, which had a good summer but just lost too many points over the spring. Either way, the Impact has already accomplished enough to count its debut MLS year as a productive one.

11. FC Dallas – Will Julian de Guzman’s dramatic, last-gasp goal be the one that eventually puts FC Dallas in the playoffs? Hard to say – but it’s the surely one that keeps Schellas Hyndman’s team in the chase for now. The trouble for FCD is that three of four remaining are on the road, including tough stopovers in San Jose and Seattle. And the alarming George John injury, too, of course.

MLS Snapshot: NYCFC run rampant on Red Bulls, win 2-0

Photo credit: NYCFC
Leave a comment

The game in 100 words (or less): The only thing standing in the way of New York City FC avenging their infamous 7-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls with a lopsided demolition job of their own, on Saturday, was an otherworldly goalkeeping performance from Luis Robles. It was the Red Bulls shot-stopper, with his four saves on the afternoon (three of them coming in spectacular fashion), who kept Jesse Marsch’s side within touching distance for more than an hour. Jack Harrison was denied early on by Robles, but got the better of him not long later for the game’s opening goal. Heroics from Robles kept the score at 1-0 for another 32 minutes, before Ben Sweat’s (accidental?) header made it 2-0 in the 65th minute. The Red Bulls, on the other hand, managed their first shot on target in the 80th minute. That’s three wins in a row for NYCFC, who go seven points clear of their Hudson River rivals and keep Toronto FC in sight at the top of the league table, five points ahead.

[ MORE: Transfer rumor roundup ]

Three moments that mattered

18′ — Robles goes full-stretch to deny Harrison — David Villa’s vision and Rodney Wallace‘s hold-play created the chance for Harrison, but Luis Robles’ acrobatics denied the 20-year-old Englishman in spectacular fashion.

33′ — Harrison not to be denied this time — Sweat delivered the ball to Harrison near the top of the box, and the second-year man did everything right with what’s a really, really difficult chance to take — facing away from goal, first-time, ball traveling across the goalkeeper, upper-90 to the far post.

65′ — Sweat loops a header past Robles for 2-0 — Sweat probably didn’t mean it, but the ball hit the back of the net, and that’s all that matters. Not a bad time to score your first MLS goal, either.

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

Man of the match: Luis Robles

Goalscorers: Harrison (33′), Sweat (65′)

Watford signs Will Hughes from Derby County

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Watford has completed the capture of 22-year-old central midfielder Will Hughes, a fantastic transfer for one of England’s younger talents.

Hughes, despite his young age, racked up 189 appearances for Derby County (despite missing significant time in 2015 for an ACL tear) and now gets his first shot at the Premier League, and with it potentially a chance to push his way into the England fold. Hughes has been a staple for the England youth system, making 22 appearances for the country’s U-21 side but is yet to feature for the senior team.

The fee for the transfer was undisclosed but reports have tabbed the amount at around $10 million.

Hughes came close to making the Premier League with Derby County on multiple occasions, reaching the Championship playoffs in both 2014 and 2016. Now, he’ll battle the likes of Valon Behrami, Tom Cleverley, Etienne Capoue, Abdoulaye Doucoure for a spot in Watford’s midfield.

The club release confirmed that Hughes has not yet completed his medical, and will do so when he returns to the U.K. from competing in the U-21 European Championships in Poland.

New Zealand 0-4 Portugal: Ronaldo, Portugal win Group A

Leave a comment

New Zealand gave the 2017 Confederations Cup all they had, but they go home empty-handed as Portugal won the Group A finale 3-0 to advance to the knockout round.

Portugal held much of the possession as expected, but they found little at the end early on. The first true chance fell to Cristiano Ronaldo in the 24th minute, who latched onto a Ricardo Quaresma cross from wide right and produced a powerful header, but it was poorly directed straight to New Zealand goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic for the easy save.

[ RECAP: Mexico eliminates Russia with 2-1 comeback ]

Ronaldo had another headed chance minutes later, but he rocketed the attempt back off the post. Portugal would eventually find the opener just past the half-hour mark via the penalty spot. Danilo was clearly shoved by a pair of defenders on a set-piece, and Ronaldo easily dispatched the spot-kick for a 1-0 lead.

The favorites would double their lead just a few minutes later as Eliseu on the overlap came down the left flank and cut horizontally into the box. He fed a charging Bernardo Silva, and the in-demand Monaco attacker jumped to meet it and poked home. Silva was unable to celebrate after turning his ankle heavily on the landing, but he would come back onto the field.

[ MORE: Latest 2017 Confederations Cup news

Portugal finished things off with 10 minutes to go in the game as Andre Silva burst through the midfielder, shucked his defender, and fired past Marinovic to seal the game for good. Nani added a fourth The win means Portugal finishes level on points with Mexico at the top of Group A, winning the group on goal differential thanks to Silva’s final goal.

Mexico 2-1 Russia: Comeback seals semifinal place

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Mexico again produced a poor first half, but were saved in the final 45 minutes as Juan Carlos Osorio led the CONCACAF squad to the semifinals of the 2017 Confederations Cup.

Right off the bat, there was a controversial moment. Just five minutes into the game, Yuri Zhirkov burst into the Mexico box and went to ground under a challenge from Hector Moreno. The referee waved play on, but it appeared on replay that Moreno tripped Zhirkov. Nevertheless, no call was made and no word came from the video assistant referee.

[ RECAP: Portugal eases by New Zealand 4-0 ]

The hosts had another huge penalty shout, but the referee again waved play on as Fedor Smolov was sent flying to ground as Nestor Araujo contacted his leg from behind in the 17th minute. After about a minute of play, the VAR called for a review, but even after a look at the monitor, the referee decided there was not obvious reason to reverse the call.

With Russia applying all the pressure, they would find the breakthrough in the 25th minute. A pair of fantastic saves from Memo Ochoa went for naught as Alexandr Erokhin whiffed, but he was able to find Aleksandr Samedov who struck low past Ochoa for the opener.

[ MORE: Latest 2017 Confederations Cup news

The lead wouldn’t last long. Mexico didn’t exactly seem sparked by the deficit, but they would draw back level against the run of play just past the half-hour mark. It appeared that Nestor Araujo’s looping header was meant to set up a teammate at the far post, but it ended up chipping Igor Akinfeev and tucking inside the woodwork for the equalizer.

After halftime, Mexico scored completely out of nowhere. A bombed clearance out of the back by Hector Herrera seemed an easy collect for Akinfeev, but as the ball bounced high up into the air, Hirving Lozano charged it down and headed the ball under feeble pressure from the Russian goalkeeper. The ball bounced unchallenged into the net, and Mexico took a shock 2-1 lead.

Mexico appeared to have a third to pad the lead, but VAR took 34 seconds to correctly reverse the call as replay spotted goalscorer Hector Moreno in an offside position on the delivery. Russia was doomed to defeat when Zhirkov was given a second yellow card for a clear elbow to the face of Miguel Layun. Somehow, the hosts still had one big chance in the 72nd minute despite the disadvantage, but Igor Smolinkov somehow missed the net on what should have been a tap-in.

The win for Mexico sees them into the knockout stage, but they fail to win the group, finishing level with Portugal on 7 points but coming up short on goal differential by one. Mexico will be without Andres Guardado in the semifinals, as he was shown his second yellow card of the tournament in the first half.