Chicago Fire v Toronto FC

The Top Ten in ProSoccerTalk’s weekly MLS rankings

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(Nos. 11-19 in the rankings countdown are here)

10. D.C. United – It took some heroic goalkeeping from Bill Hamid in the end, but United withstood its first test after Dwayne De Rosario’s season-ending knee injury. Rising American star Chris Pontius did his part in the 2-1 win over New England. The schedule breakdown is tricky from here: On one hand three of the next four are on the road; on the other hand, none of the visits are to clubs that will make the playoffs.

(MORE: Bill Hamid, PST’s Player of the Week)

9. Columbus Crew – Team officials say Federico Higuain will play in the Crew’s midweek meeting in Ohio with Chivas USA. He had better; it’s really now or never. If Robert Warzycha’s men cannot pull all three points in a home match against the league’s worst team, then they probably do not deserve to be a playoff side. Andy Gruenebaum’s chances of playing looking promising, which would improve the Crew’s chances of success.

8. Real Salt Lake – Tough call for coach Jason Kreis, whether to add emphasis in personnel decisions to positioning in the MLS playoff race, or whether to put more eggs into the CONCACAF Champions League basket? We’ll know a little more tonight as RSL meets Panama’s Tauro in regional tournament play. Kreis’ team then hosts Portland four nights later.

7. Houston Dynamo – Perhaps a 1-1 draw at Sporting Kansas City helped stanch the downward flow, as Houston has slipped all the way to fourth in the East. Dominic Kinnear’s team surely wants to make up the gap on New York or Chicago, hoping to avoid that fourth-vs.-fifth playoff white knuckler. But this is where the timing CONCACAF Champions League action does a disservice to the teams involved. Because Houston (like others in MLS) has to pay attention to those matches, as well.

6. Chicago Fire – Chris Rolfe (pictured above) for MLS Newcomer of the Year? (Or perhaps Comeback Player of the Year?) I know Victor Bernardez and Federico Higuain and some others will make a big claim for Newcomer, but the Fire’s do-all attacker is having a fantastic season since recovering from spring injury. And the Fire? They haven’t done much … except rise from rather anonymous status in 2012 to Eastern Conference challenger, suddenly pushing Sporting Kansas City for top spot.

5. New York Red Bulls – “Dear Rafa Marquez: If you keep playing as sharply you did in Saturday’s 3-1 win over Columbus, pinging those balls into Thierry Henry and effectively linking the play through midfield, even making a couple of big runs forward, we will consider taking back every derogatory thing we ever said about you. No promises! But it does begin with continued performance on both ends of the field. Best.”

4. Angeles Galaxy – How about that Marcelo Sarvas! European veteran Christian Wilhelmsson made his debut, and Landon Donovan got back on the field – and what was everyone buzzing on about? About Sarvas and the impact he had on a 2-0 win over Colorado. The Galaxy travels into Puerto Rico this week for a match with the Islanders and a chance to more or less cinch off Champions League group stage matters.

(MORE: Sarvas makes ProSoccerTalk’s MLS Team of the Week)

3. Seattle Sounders – Fredy Montero has 12 goals and 6 assists. And his goals always seem to have that certain panache.  (Did you see that out-of-nowhere shot and goal in Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Portland?) If the feisty Colombian attacker can boost that assist rate just a tad and add, say, two or three more goals over the Sounders’ final six matches, can’t we make a compelling argument for league MVP?

source: Getty Images

2. Sporting Kansas City – Peter Vermes’ team did enough to own the night against Houston, but the inability to generate maximize points in more of these matches at home must be concerning. (Not to mention the concern over not being able to get over on Houston at home; Friday’s 1-1 draw makes SKC winless in its last three against Houston at Livestrong Sporting Park.) C.J. Sapong (right) may be coming on, which would provide a huge boost.

1. San Jose Earthquakes – A little PK controversy shouldn’t subtract from another businesslike win for the league’s top team. Western Conference clubs may not publicly acknowledge it, but it’s time to start jostling for second place, third place, etc. – because they aren’t going to reel in San Jose. Another win or two (a golden opportunity is up Wednesday as Portland comes to town, surely vulnerable after such an emotional afternoon against Seattle) and San Jose will be out of reach for New York, Chicago and Sporting Kansas City, the only Eastern Conference clubs that can realistically chase down San Jose for Supporters Shield spoils.

Europa League: Mourinho says targeted Man Utd must win; Saints shorthanded

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 24:  Jose Mourinho, Manager of Manchester United makes his way to the tunnel after the final whistle  during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Leicester City at Old Trafford on September 24, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
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Europa League goes into its second day of group play with the onus on the biggest club in the tournament to pick up a win.

Don’t believe us? Ask Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho.

“To be honest, I think we have to win,” Mourinho said at his pre-match press conference. “If we don’t win, I would say we’d have to win all the last four matches, which is difficult, so I think it is very important that we win this game.”

[ MORE: Wenger excited at Arsenal’s chances ]

United fell 1-0 at Feyenoord to open the group stage, and now hosts Ukrainian side Zorya Luhansk at 3:05 p.m. ET Thursday. He knows its the equivalent of a massive Cup match for the visitors.

“The Europa League is a competition Man United isn’t normally in, so when these teams have a giant like Man United in front of them, it’s a huge moment for them and they come to the game with incredible motivation.”

Zlatan Ibrahimovic will start for United, as there’s a chance that Anthony Martial will rejoin the side. Henrikh Mkhitaryan is out, and Wayne Rooney (back) and Luke Shaw (illness) may not play.

The other Premier League side in play is Southampton, as the Saints take a long flight to Israel for a 3:05 p.m. ET kickoff against Hapoel Be’er Sheva.

[ MORE: Why is Walcott on fire? | Wenger on MiB pod ]

Saints handled Sparta Prague at home, and now face the Camels, who went to Inter Milan and won. Southampton is without Charlie Austin, Jose Fonte, Ryan Bertrand, and Steven Davis.

Should be a very decent match from Turner Stadium in Be’er Sheva.

Elsewhere

all times ET

Mainz at Gabala — 11 a.m.
Young Boys at Astana — 11 a.m.
Osmanlispor at Zurich — 1 p.m.
Red Bull Salzburg at Schalke — 1 p.m.
PAOK at Liberec — 1 p.m.
Qarabag at Fiorentina — 1 p.m.
Villarreal at Steaua Bucuresti — 1 p.m.
Nice at Krasnodar — 1 p.m.
Standard Liege at Ajax — 1 p.m.
Braga at Shakhtar Donetsk — 1 p.m.
Panathinaikos at Celta Vigo — 1 p.m.
Inter Milan at Sparta Prague — 1 p.m.
Konyaspor at Gent — 1 p.m.
Sassuolo at Genk — 3:05 p.m.
Zorya at Manchester United — 3:05 p.m.
Anderlecht at Saint-Etienne — 3:05 p.m.
Apoel Nicosia at Olympiacos — 3:05 p.m.
Maccabi Tel-Aviv at Dundalk — 3:05 p.m.
Feyenoord at Fenerbahce — 3:05 p.m.
Rapid Wien at Athletic Bilbao — 3:05 p.m.
Viktoria Plzen at Austria Wien — 3:05 p.m.
AZ Alkmaar at Zenit Saint-Petersburg — 3:05 p.m.
Astra Giurgiu at AS Roma — 3:05 p.m.

Wenger after UCL win: This year’s Arsenal has “interesting potential”

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 28:  Arsene Wenger, Manager of Arsenal looks on during the UEFA Champions League group A match between Arsenal FC and FC Basel 1893 at the Emirates Stadium on September 28, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
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Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger is growing in confidence when it comes to his Gunners’ chances in England and Europe, and it’s not hard to see why.

Four days after Arsenal battered Chelsea 3-0 in Premier League action, the Gunners went out and handled FC Basel in the UEFA Champions League.

[ MORE: Why is Walcott on fire? | Wenger on MiB pod ]

Theo Walcott scored both goals in the 2-0 win, and there could’ve been so many more. Arsenal was fast, deliberate, creative, and dangerous. The finishing was not ideal, but the promise was massive.

Perhaps more important, the Gunners posted a third-straight clean sheet and have allowed just four goals in eight matches since the 4-3 loss to Liverpool that opened the PL season.

And Wenger acknowledges that his side can do big things, provided it doesn’t get too full of itself after solid performances. From Arsenal.com:

“It looks like the team has interesting potential. We have to be ambitious and, as you know, keep our feet on the ground to continue to develop. We know exactly how we want to play football and we have to continue to stick to that and get better at it. That demands big focus and some leadership inside the squad. It also requires humility.”

Arsenal has a very winnable run in the Premier League, and could be right there with Manchester City by the end of October. And with a winnable UCL group, who knows what the Gunners could do with a decent knockout round draw?

Bayern can’t break down Simeone’s Atleti: “We played too slowly”

MADRID, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 28:  Carlo Ancelotti, Manager of Bayern Muenchen looks on before the UEFA Champions League group D match between Club Atletico de Madrid and FC Bayern Muenchen at the Vicente Calderon Stadium on September 28, 2016 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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Bayern Munich sits second in Group D of this season’s UEFA Champions League after losing its toughest match of the bunch: a trip to the Vicente Calderon.

Atletico Madrid won 1-0 when Antoine Griezmann linked up with Yannick Carrasco for a first half goal and Diego Simeone’s stubborn defense lived up to its reputation in blanking the Bavarians.

[ MORE: Champions League roundup ]

Manager Carlo Ancelotti has been frustrated by Simeone in the past, perhaps most notably in his brief stint at Real Madrid. But the Bayern boss says the loss was down to speed.

“We tried to get back into the game but we played too slowly, which is why we did not have many chances to equalize,” Ancelotti said. “It’s never nice to lose.”

Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer also acknowledged a lack of speed in a way, pointing at urgency when he said, “Atlético showed a killer instinct tonight and we didn’t.”

Bayern hosts PSV Eindhoven in its next UCL match on Oct. 19.

Guardiola, Rodgers left to unpack thrilling Celtic-Man City draw

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - SEPTEMBER 28:  Brendan Rodgers, Manager of Celtic issues instructions to his players next to Josep Guardiola, Manager of Manchester City during the UEFA Champions League group C match between Celtic FC and Manchester City FC at Celtic Park on September 28, 2016 in Glasgow, Scotland.  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
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What a match in Glasgow.

The UEFA Champions League group stage returned to Celtic Park on Wednesday, where the hosts thrilled their crowd by taking a trio of leads before settling for a 3-3 draw with mighty Manchester City.

[ MORE: JPW on Walcott’s Arsenal heroics ]

The draw is the first competitive game City hasn’t won under Pep Guardiola, but the manager didn’t feel much like complaining after his team rallied.

From the BBC:

Guardiola: “It was difficult for us. I’m happy with the reaction from the players, it’s not easy to score three goals away.

“I don’t know how many the chances they had after the third goal. We should have won it.”

As for Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers, he was tickled. After all, Celtic had fallen 7-0 to Barcelona at the Camp Nou during their first outing.

From the BBC:

Rodgers: “We were brilliant, the pressing and the energy. Every time we went forward we looked like we could score.

“Apart from the Barcelona game these players have been operating at a high level this season. Now, to do it against that team, it was a magnificent performance.”

Celtic Park was loud on Wednesday, and both sides gave the crowd plenty of oohs and aahs. It’s hard to imagine Celtic could do the same again, and City did give away a pair of goals (one own goal from Raheem Sterling, one gaffe from Aleksandar Kolarov).

But for one afternoon, who cares about anything other than an entertaining 90 minutes?