ProSoccerTalk’s weekly MLS rankings (in two parts)

Leave a comment

Here are Nos. 11-19 of ProSoccerTalk’s weekly countdown following five rounds of regular season play.

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

19. Chicago Fire – An off-week friendly against a lower tier club gave the beleaguered Fire a chance to scoop up some needed confidence. Ouch. They lost. And it was mostly a first-choice lineup that fell to Minnesota United. New York visits this week, and the sand in this hour glass surely must be running out.

18. Colorado Rapids – As battered as Oscar Pareja’s team is now, missing five important starters, teams simply cannot throw away a two-goal lead at home. That’s what happened last week against Portland, a 2-2 draw at DSG Park. (By the way, tip of the cap to the grounds crew there, doing big work to make sure the field remained ship shape following the historical SnowClasico.

17. Seattle Sounders – Seriously, guys. You know the season has started, right? One point from four matches from a team of such promise? Yuk. Meanwhile, it’s hard to like the team’s chances in a CONCACAF Champions League semifinal series that begins tonight.

16. Toronto FC – Ryan Nelsen did the “Keep Calm, Carry On” thing after watching his young team concede a late equalizer against the LA Galaxy. It seems like a reasonable approach. ’s team made it tough on Montreal, pressing the home side at the end in a 2-1 loss. Terry Dunfield is far from the most graceful man in MLS, and he’s certainly an unheralded sort, but the guy tends to get the job done.

15. New England Revolution – The defense still looks OK, but it’s time for Joan Toja (pictured, on the right) and Lee Nguyen to get productive. Scoring just one goal in four games will not get it done. Last weekend’s setback was a 1-0 loss at home to FC Dallas, which makes the Revolution 0-2 at Gillette Stadium this year.

14. Portland Timbers – The lack of wins at home is concerning – but these rallies for draws on the road do offer an encouraging counterbalance for Caleb Porter’s team. Veteran midfielder Will Johnson is clearly doing his part. This week’s test against Houston at Jeld-Wen won’t be easy.

13. Philadelphia Union – John Hackworth’s young team, thanks to some good work by Jeff Parke along the back line, nearly pulled a point out of Red Bull Arena. From the File of Encouragement, we pull this: Conor Casey scored almost immediately upon his introduction, and that certainly should excite the PPL faithful.

12. New York Red Bulls – A home win over Philadelphia finally popped the top on a win for rookie head coach Mike Petke, and good on the Red Bulls for that. But it did take something special at the end from Thierry Henry – otherwise we’d be talking about a team being winless in five matches. This week’s trip into highly vulnerable Chicago gives Petke’s men a chance at three points on the road.

11. Vancouver Whitecaps – Getting harder to nail down what this team is all about. Two wins at home? Thumbs up! But then following up with consecutive losses on the road? Thumbs down. Last weekend’s loss was to Chivas USA, which further muddies the mystery. Chivas USA is clearly better than most of us thought … but how much better remains up in the air.

New York Red Bulls introduce space at RBA for autistic families

Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images for New York Red Bulls
Leave a comment

HARRISON, N.J. (AP) The Red Bulls have announced plans for a permanent sensory-friendly space at their stadium for families impacted by autism.

Formerly executive offices, the space overlooking midfield is a calm area that is free from the crowds and the noise of Red Bull Arena during matches. Families can use it for free.

The team announced the new space on Saturday before the Red Bulls were set to host the Chicago Fire. It was Autism Awareness Night at the stadium.

“Families deserve to feel welcome and comfortable each time they step foot into Red Bull Arena, not just one night a year,” Red Bulls GM Marc de Grandpre said in a statement released by the club. “We hope all sports teams and entertainment venues are inspired to take similar action to provide comfort for families with loved ones on the autism spectrum.”

League Two game restarted in empty stadium after fans storm field

Photo credit: BBC Sport / Twitter: @BBCSport
Leave a comment

LONDON (AP) An English soccer game restarted in an empty stadium after a pitch invasion led to the crowd being told the fixture had been abandoned.

There were five minutes remaining in Leyton Orient’s fourth-tier game against Colchester on Saturday when a sit-down protest was staged on the pitch by Orient fans against Italian owner Francesco Becchetti.

It forced the referee to take the players off the field. The protests lasted for more than an hour before the crowd was told the game had been abandoned and the stadium eventually cleared. The teams came out and finished the game.

Leyton Orient lost 3-1 a week after its relegation from the English Football League was confirmed after 112 years.

“A decision was taken with the police to announce that the game had been abandoned as it was felt this would help clear the pitch, which proved correct,” the EFL said in a statement. “However, it was deemed appropriate that the game needed to be played to a conclusion in order to maintain the integrity of the competition.”

La Liga: Barcelona, Real Madrid hold serve in tight title race

AP Photo/Manu Fernandez
Leave a comment

A roundup of Saturday’s action in Spain’s top flight…

[ MORE: Super-duper Sunday preview — North London derby, plus 6 of top 7 ]

Espanyol 0-3 Barcelona

Barcelona are doing all they can do — win — in their bid to usurp Real Madrid in the race for the title. While they entered the weekend — and still are — ahead of their El Clasico rivals based on head-to-head results this season, Los Blancos still have a game in hand which will surely decide whether Madrid claim their 33rd top-division title, or a 25th for Barca.

On Saturday, Luis Enrique’s side had more than just the title at stake — also at stake: the Derbi Barceloni, against fellow Catalan side Espanyol.

For 45 minutes, the home side held firm and refused to break, but once Luis Suarez put the Blaugrana ahead in the 50th minute, that was all she wrote. Ivan Rakitic doubled the advantage in the 76th minute, and Suarez completed the scoring 11 minutes later.

Real Madrid 2-1 Valencia

By the time the derby kicked off, Madrid had already applied the pressure and gone three points clear with a 2-1 victory that was a whole lot closer than the final score indicates.

Cristiano Ronaldo opened the scoring just before the half-hour mark, and Zinedine Zidane’s side was well on its way to victory. Ronaldo followed up his opening goal with a missed penalty kick 10 minutes into the second half, and Daniel Parejo pulled the visitors level with a sensational free kick just eight minutes before the end of regular time. Points looked sure to be dropped, and the door opened wider for Barca, but Marcelo was prepared to play the part of hero on the day, and the Brazilian left back bagged one of the season’s more improbable goals, a right-footed strike from the top of the box, in the 86th minute.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Las Palmas 0-5 Atletico Madrid
Real Sociedad 2-1 Granada

Sunday’s La Liga schedule

Osasuna vs. Deportivo La Coruña — 6 a.m. ET
Real Betis vs. Alaves — 10:15 a.m. ET
Eibar vs. Leganes — 12:30 p.m. ET
Celta Vigo vs. Athletic Bilbao — 2:45 p.m. ET

Monday’s La Liga schedule

Malaga vs. Sevilla — 3 p.m. ET

Championship Focus: It’s all about the playoff places now

Photo by Ben Hoskins/Getty Images
Leave a comment

With Brighton & Hove Albion and Newcastle United having already clinched the Championship’s two automatic promotion places, all eyes turn to the four teams behind them still jockeying for playoff positioning…

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s coverage of the Championship ]

3rd — Reading — 82 points, +2 GD
4th — Sheffield Wednesday — 81 points, +16 GD
5th — Huddersfield Town — 81 points, +1 GD
6th — Fulham — 77 points, +27 GD

First of all, the Championship remains the least sensible league in the world. Disagree? Just try to explain the above wildly varying points totals and the corresponding goal differentials. Go ahead, I’ll wait

As for the weekend’s results, Reading and Wednesday did themselves major favors in the race for third with victories over Wigan Athletic (1-0) and Ipswich Town (1-0), respectively, while Huddersfield, who entered the weekend in that top playoff place, played 67 minutes with a man advantage against Birmingham City, and lost 2-0. All three of Reading, Wednesday and Huddersfield have clinched their place in the promotion playoffs, which begin two weeks from Saturday, on May 13.

[ MORE: PL Sunday preview — North London derby, plus 6 of the top 7 play ]

Given Leeds United’s 3-3 draw with Norwich City, a win would have clinched the fourth and final playoff place for Fulham, but the Cottagers dropped a pair of points themselves in a 1-1 draw with Brentford at Craven Cottage. Still, Fulham are all but into the playoffs with a three-point lead on Leeds, and a goal differential that’s 13 goals better.