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.

Russia has reasons for optimism despite Confed Cup exit

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MOSCOW (AP) When the anger subsides after another group stage exit and another goalkeeping blunder, Russian fans might find they can be proud of their team at the Confederations Cup.

Russia failed to reach the knockout rounds of a fourth major tournament in a row, but there’s no shame in losing by one goal to European champion Portugal and North American champion Mexico.

“We will move on,” coach Stanislav Cherchesov said after Saturday’s 2-1 loss to Mexico. “We have won (the fans’) hearts and minds to a certain extent in this month that we have been together … I think that we have given some reasons to feel optimistic about us.”

If Russia’s fans agreed with Cherchesov that Russia had done well to limit Portugal to a single Cristiano Ronaldo goal, there was frustration that Russia hadn’t done better against a poor Mexican side.

Russia wasted chances to exploit Mexico’s ragged defending and add to Alexander Samedov’s opener, while goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev performed an inexplicable lunge which allowed Hirving Lozano to head in the winner. Akinfeev was lucky not to be red-carded, too, after his foot caught Lozano in the chest.

Akinfeev was the immediate scapegoat for Russia’s exit, with fans and newspapers calling for his removal.

The most-capped player in the squad – the Mexico game was his 101st international appearance – Akinfeev’s bulletproof consistency in the Russian Premier League has kept him the undisputed national-team No. 1 for years.

When the world is watching, though, he gets flustered and makes mistakes.

Against South Korea at the 2014 World Cup, an innocuous long shot slipped from his grasp and went in, paving the way for another early Russian exit from the tournament. There have been more than a few blunders in the 43 games since Akinfeev last kept a clean sheet for CSKA in the Champions League, too.

But it’s hard to see who could replace him. The naturalized Brazilian reserve keeper Guilheme is agile but injury prone, while Vladimir Gabulov is a solid but unspectacular veteran. Zenit St. Petersburg’s Yuri Lodygin challenged Akinfeev for a while, but was brought low by his own tendency for embarrassing errors.

On the positive side for Russia, defender Georgy Dzhikiya was solid in all three group games after having only made his debut on June 5, and Cherchesov’s three-man back line was mostly reliable.

Less successful was Cherchesov’s attempt to bolster the midfield by starting Roman Shishkin – usually a defender – in a defensive midfield role against Portugal and Mexico, while 33-year-old ex-Chelsea winger Yuri Zhirkov did his World Cup hopes no favors with a red card Saturday.

Russia’s run of injuries before the tournament weakened the midfield in particular, with Alan Dzagoev and the promising Roman Zobnin both missing out. Forward Artyom Dzyuba’s absence left Cherchesov relying heavily on Fyodor Smolov, who showed touches of class but missed a good chance against Portugal.

Perhaps the biggest damage from Russia’s Confederations Cup exit will be to Russian pride.

Officials have often bragged that the home advantage for next year’s World Cup could drive Russia to new heights, perhaps a repeat of South Korea’s charge to the semifinals in 2002. Those expectations are now being reviewed.

Just one World Cup host in history – South Africa in 2010 – has failed to get out of the group stage. Avoiding a repeat may be the most Russia can hope for.

FOLLOW LIVE: Timbers host Sounders in PNW showdown

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They don’t get much bigger, or more heated, than this one in MLS — it’s Portland versus Seattle, the Timbers versus the Sounders, tonight at Providence Park (10 p.m. ET).

[ FOLLOW LIVE: Timbers vs. Sounders ]

To keep up-to-the-second informed on proceedings in Portland this evening, hit the above link, or click right here.

Seattle won the first meeting between these sides, 1-0 back on May 27, on their home turf at CenturyLink Field. Cristian Roldan, who’ll depart for U.S. national team camp following Sunday’s game, scored the only goal that afternoon in Seattle, a 4th-minute header from three yards out.

Mustafi: Arsenal players powerless, hope “brilliant” Sanchez will stay

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Shkodran Mustafi admits that he, along with his Arsenal teammates, feels helpless with over the ongoing transfer saga of Alexis Sanchez.

[ MORE: Sunday’s transfer rumor roundup | Saturday | Friday ]

The Chilean superstar is linked with a move away from Arsenal this summer, as the Gunners fell out of the Premier League’s top-four and the 28-year-old’s contract is set to expire next summer. Perhaps most importantly, Sanchez hasn’t so much as publicly stated a desire to remain at the club, which, from the outside, appears to have left his future in even greater doubt.

Mustafi admits he hasn’t a clue how things will shake out in the coming weeks, but he’s quick with a pleading sales pitch for Sanchez to stay — quotes from Goal.com:

“I have no idea. Obviously the other players cannot make that decision, he has to make that decision.

“I’m not too much involved. I hope he stays because he is a really brilliant football player but there’s nothing in my hands that I can do.”

[ MORE: De Boer set to be named new Crystal Palace boss ]

Arsenal would likely have to double (if not more) Sanchez’s current $180,000 weekly wages in order to convince him to forego a season in the UEFA Champions League and commit his long-term future to a club presently trending in the wrong direction.

Report: Frank De Boer accepts Crystal Palace job

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Frank de Boer is widely expected to be named new Crystal Palace manager this week, as he has reportedly accepted the job after having been offered the position this week.

[ MORE: Sunday’s transfer rumor roundup | Saturday | Friday ]

The 47-year-old Dutchman has been out of work since he was fired by Inter Milan in November. He lasted just 84 days at the San Siro, where he managed to win just five of 14 games. Inter Milan is Inter Milan, though, and that’s something worth remembering when critiquing Palace’s impending appointment of De Boer.

Palace are also widely expected to back De Boer in the transfer market this summer, in a big way. Kelechi Iheanacho is the biggest name linked with a move to Selhurst Park, as the 20-year-old Nigerian striker is reportedly unwanted by Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola.