The Top Ten in ProSoccerTalk’s weekly MLS rankings

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New York takes a big tumble during an unfortunate time. Following 31 rounds, here are Nos. 1-10 in ProSoccerTalk’s weekly MLS quality rearrangement.

(Nos. 11-19 are here)

10. Vancouver Whitecaps – We talk so much about Designated Players in MLS, and that’s fine. But the Ws and Ls usually come down to workadays either getting their jobs done or not. So last week it was Dane Richards and Camilo doing the bulk of damage in a result the Caps desperately needed, a 4-0 confidence builder over Chivas USA.

9. Houston Dynamo – Houston remains a team without a solid formational core, toggling back and forth between a 4-3-3 and a 4-4-2 and still missing more solid connections between the three lines. It bit the Orange over the weekend when they left two points on the table in a 1-1 draw with Montreal. At this point, Dominic Kinnear’s side is probably destined for the wildcard round, so the final two contests are about getting enough points so that Houston is hosting that extra match, not traveling for it. Brad Davis, out last week, should be fit enough to return for Houston’s last pair.

8. New York Red Bulls – The club is suddenly dealing with a lot. Last week’s organizational upheaval was poorly timed. The team lacked urgency (at a time when it is critical, with playoffs approaching) in a weekend loss at home to Chicago. And then this awful news about the murder of a coach in the club’s youth system landed a truly difficult blow.

7. D.C. United – Ben Olsen’s side has earned 13 of a possible 15 points since Dwayne De Rosario’s injury – and the success hasn’t just come at home. Seven (of a possible nine) of those points have come away from RFK. The latest was last week’s 1-0 win over Toronto, fortunate as it was; Hamdi Salihi (pictured) cleaned up a late bobble from TFC’s ‘keeper. The team put playoff tickets on sale yesterday.

6. Chicago Fire – Hard to makes heads or tails of last week’spolar opposite performances. Frank Klopas’ men needed a spanking after a sluggish display in the easier outing of the two, a 3-1 loss at home to Philadelphia. But going into Red Bull Arena and emerging with a professional, tactically solid 2-0 result keeps Chicago out of the far more dangerous 4th-5th zone for now.

(MORE: Sherjill MacDonald is ProSoccerTalk’s Player of the Week)

5. Real Salt Lake – Fabian Espindola has gone grande in form lately, and the men of Utah are benefitting. They were about to be run off the field Saturday in Los Angeles, but tweaked some things tactically, got a nice goal from Espindola and turned the night. As a result Jason Kreis’ team has more or less locked up one of the top three spots in the West – and avoiding that fourth spot is the goal at this point.

4. Angeles Galaxy – At some point this week, I will re-watch the first 20 minutes of L.A. match with Real Salt Lake. If there has been an MLS offense in more perfect synchronization this year, I haven’t seen it. The Galaxy’s off-the-ball movement was nothing short of dazzling. If they can find that (and for longer than 20-minute stretches), they’ll be unstoppable. Of course, that’s the trick, isn’t it?  Landon Donovan’s injury being less serious than expected is the best news anyone in Galaxy Valley will hear this week.

source: Getty Images

3. Seattle Sounders – Who wasn’t left agog over the teeming scene at CenturyLink on Sunday night? What the 66,000 in place Sunday night saw was a midfield at top rev, with Christian Tiffert, Brad Evans and Mauro Rosales giving the visitors, the rivals from Portland, little to grab onto. In fact, all five of Seattle’s primary attackers (including Eddie Johnson and Fredy Montero, pictured) were on top of things.

(MORE: Big night  in Seattle; a glimpse of MLS’ future?)

2. San Jose Earthquakes – Sure, Alan Gordon on the national team’s roster. Why not? Everything else is going so swimmingly around Buck Shaw Stadium, it pretty much figures. Chris Wondolowski creeps ever closer to a league scorer record; Saturday’s hat trick in a dominant 4-1 win at Colorado made the last two weeks even more interesting in the Wondo Watch. They have one hand and a couple of fingers on the Supporters Shield now.  And the Earthquakes have lost just once since mid-July and are unbeaten in their last seven.

1. Sporting Kansas City – The men of Livestrong are at 12 games and counting; they haven’t lost since July. Think about that for a second and just try not to be impressed. Conceding a goal late last weekend at Columbus may have been a slight wobble (a 1-1 draw) but nothing more than that. Chicago remains close enough to be a bother for the Eastern Conference crown, and a trip into New York (Oct. 20) will not be a jog through the park for SKC. Still, they finish at home against Philadelphia, so it’s all still in front of the Peter Vermes’ team.

Matuidi having a medical at Juventus ahead of move from PSG

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TURIN, Italy (AP) Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Blaise Matuidi was having a medical at Juventus on Wednesday ahead of a potential move to the Serie A club.

Juventus said that Matuidi arrived at Turin airport in the afternoon and was undergoing tests.

Juventus will reportedly pay PSG 20 million euros ($23 million) plus bonuses for the 30-year-old Matuidi, who had a year left on his contract with the French club.

[ MORE: Wenger issues updates on Alexis, Ox, Wilshere ]

PSG, which is also trying to balance the books after buying Neymar for 222 million euros, could not afford to lose Matuidi on a free transfer.

Matuidi played nearly 300 games for PSG in all competitions after joining from Saint-Etienne in 2011.

After a difficult first season, he quickly became an integral part of the team for successive managers, Carlo Ancelotti and Laurent Blanc.

He flourished from a largely defensive midfielder to a robust, tireless runner with an eye for goal and an enormous work-rate.

Overcoming some technical deficiencies in his game, Matuidi gradually earned himself a place in the France lineup and became a key player at the 2014 World Cup and last year’s European Championship.

At the beginning of last season, after Blanc was fired and replaced by Unai Emery, he expressed a desire to leave PSG and already wanted to join Juventus. But the club blocked his move, considering him too important to leave, and he stayed for another season.

Altogether, Matuidi has scored 33 goals for PSG in 295 appearances, becoming a well-respected player among fans and teammates alike, often taking a public stance when others would not and when tensions arose within the club.

In all, Matuidi has won four league titles, three French Cups and four League Cups with PSG.

This story has been corrected to show that Neymar’s fee was 222 million euros, not 220 million euros.

Furious Cristiano Ronaldo responds to five-game ban

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Cristiano Ronaldo has hit out at the Spanish soccer federation after his five game ban for pushing a referee in the back was upheld.

Ronaldo, 32, pushed the ref after he was shown a second yellow card in Real Madrid’s 3-1 win in the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup at Barcelona on Sunday.

It capped an eventful El Clasico for Ronaldo who arrived in the second half as a sub, then scored a stunner to put Real 2-1 up.

He received his first yellow for taking off his shirt and holding it up to the Nou Camp crowd to mock Lionel Messi for doing the same in a goal celebration in April at the Santiago Bernabeu. Ronaldo then received a second yellow for going down in the box under a challenge.

In an Instagram post the Real Madrid forward had the following to say about the decision which sees him banned for the second leg ag the Bernabeu on Wednesday as well as Real’s next four games.

“It seems to me exaggerated and ridiculous, this is called persecution.”

 

 

LIVE – Champions League playoff: Napoli, Celtic, Sevilla in action

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Five more UEFA Champions League playoff first leg games take place on Wednesday after Liverpool, CSKA Moscow, APOEL and Qarabag all recorded wins on Tuesday to take them one step closer to the UCL group stage.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ] 

Brendan Rodgers‘ Celtic host Kazakhstan’s Astana at Celtic Park hoping for a big first leg lead with the Scottish champs aiming to make the UCL group stage for the second-straight season under former Liverpool boss Rodgers.

A tasty clash at the Stadio San Paolo sees Napolo host Nice in what is the best tie in the UCL playoff round. Can Lorenzo Insigne down Mario Balotelli and Co.?

Elsewhere Turkish side Istanbul Basaksehir have the likes of Gael Clichy, Gokhan Inler and Emmanuel Adebayor as they try to upset Sevilla, while Greek giants Olympiacos host Croatia’s Rijeka, Israeli champs Hapoel Be’er Sheva do battle with Slovenian champs Maribor.

Below is the full schedule for Wednesday’s games, which kick off at 2:45 p.m. ET, while you can click on the link above to follow live commentary on all five matches.


Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League playoff first legs

Napoli vs. Nice
Cetlic vs. Astana
Olympiacos vs. Rijeka
Istanbul Basaksehir vs. Sevilla
Hapoel Be’er Sheva vs. Maribor

SERIE A 2017-18: 5 key players signed in the off season

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ROME (AP) Here’s a look at five offseason signings to watch in the upcoming Serie A season:

LEONARDO BONUCCI

Considered Italy’s top defender – which is saying a lot for a nation that prides itself on its great defenders – Bonucci’s transfer from Juventus to AC Milan could alter the balance of power in Serie A.

While Bonucci clashed often with Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri last season, his decision to leave the six-time defending champion was still surprising.

The 30-year-old Bonucci brings leadership qualities and will allow Milan coach Vincenzo Montella to employ a three-man defense that promotes the center back’s excellent passing skills.

Bonucci’s transfer fee topped 40 million euros ($45 million), and he signed a five-year contract worth up to 10 million euros ($11 million) per season – making him the highest-paid player in Italy.

Milan won the last of its 18 Serie A titles in 2011 – just before Juventus’ current reign started.

FEDERICO BERNARDESCHI

One of Italy’s top young players, the 23-year-old winger will provide a new attacking dimension for Juventus following a move from Fiorentina.

Also capable as a playmaker, there was pressure for Bernardeschi to take the No. 10 shirt that Michel Platini, Roberto Baggio and Alessandro Del Piero wore at Juventus. Bernardeschi cautiously chose No. 33 instead, saying he needs to show that he “deserves” No. 10 in the future.

Juventus paid a transfer fee of 40 million euros ($45 million) for Bernardeschi and signed him to a five-year contract worth 4 million euros ($4.6 million) per season.

BORJA VALERO

Another Fiorentina export, this Spanish passing wizard could provide Inter Milan with the touch of class that it lacked during a tumultuous campaign last season that included four managerial changes.

At 32, Valero has long been overlooked by Spain’s national team but he was a fan favorite at Fiorentina.

The bald-headed midfielder’s vision on the pitch can be compared to Andrea Pirlo’s skills, although he’s not as precise on free kicks as the former Italy international.

ANDRE SILVA

Cristiano Ronaldo’s wingman with Portugal, the 21-year-old Silva has been compared to a young Fernando Torres, the former Spain striker currently playing for Atletico Madrid.

At AC Milan, the tall forward should be a constant danger on set pieces inside the area.

Silva has already scored eight goals in just 13 matches for his national team.

He also scored 21 times in 44 matches for FC Porto last season, before joining Milan in a transfer that cost 38 million euros ($42.5 million).

MATTIA DE SCIGLIO

Mattia De Sciglio’s transfer from AC Milan was not greeted with too much enthusiasm by Juventus fans.

The fullback was brought in as a replacement for Dani Alves, who departed for Paris Saint-Germain, and supporters believe it’s a downgrade.

But De Sciglio is reliable at either right or left back and is still developing at 24 years old – even though he made his Serie A debut at 18.

It will be interesting to see if De Sciglio can prove the doubters wrong, and if he can fit into Massimiliano Allegri’s preferred three-man defense.

Andrew Dampf on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/asdampf