ProSoccerTalk’s weekly MLS rankings (in two parts)

1 Comment

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

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

19. Seattle Sounders – The hits just keep coming for beleaguered Sounders fans: on the same night they drop points in a scoreless draw at home against New England, supporters discover that popular midfielder Osvaldo Alonso looks quite unlikely to ever suit up for the U.S. national team. Hard times, man. Hard times.

18. Chicago Fire – A loss in Houston wouldn’t be so hard on Frank Klopas’ team – everybody loses in Houston. But when piled onto the rest of the misery that has been Chicago’s 2013 season (just four points in five matches, tied for last in the East) it adds critically to the instability around Toyota Park. At least Chris Rolfe broke the seal, smashing in his first goal of 2013.

17. D.C. United – United needs scoring. United needs a striker. That is all. (Well, and they need to get Dwayne De Rosario healthy and sharp, too.)

16. New England Revolution – They may not have gone into Seattle looking for a scoreless draw, but Jay Heaps’ and Co. are probably happy enough with the result. Once again we say it: the Revs’ defense looks to be in fine shape, but one goal over five matches is not going to work.

15. Toronto FC – Robert Earnshaw (pictured) is king of the breakaway! Through serendipity or  skillful instinct (or, most likely, a combination of both) the Welshman keeps finding himself behind defense. He did once again in a 1-1 draw at Philly; Earnshaw shares the league lead with five goals.

14. Colorado Rapids – Two wins in a row for Oscar Pareja’s team (still quite depleted through injury) have the Rapids in a much better place than when they limped sadly into April. A visit this weekend by reeling Seattle puts the Rapids in a good spot to climb even further in the standings.

13. Philadelphia Union – Jack McInerney scored late to prevent a loss to Toronto at PPL Park, but that may be a bit misleading. Philadelphia was dominant in this one; it took an MLS Player of the Week performance from opposition goalkeeper Joe Bendik to keep “Jack Mac” and his PPL Park teammates off the board for 90-plus minutes.

12. San Jose Earthquakes – Sometimes all the fight and emotion works for San Jose. Sometimes the ‘Quakes just take it all too far – which we saw in the team’s 1-0 loss at Portland. On another day, they could have had a couple of players thrown out rather than just one. Frank Yallop’s side looks frustrated.

11. Portland Timbers – A lively debate broke out at Stumptown Footy over Man of the Match in the Timbers’ exciting, eventful late 1-0 win over San Jose.  Will Johnson (late goal, another big and busy match in Portland’s midfield) had a good case. But so did Mikael Silvestre, who dealt admirably with all that San Jose offensive muscle and might.

Injuries leave host Russia limping ahead of World Cup

AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev
Leave a comment

MOSCOW (AP) With less than three months to go until the World Cup in Russia, the host nation’s players are dropping like flies.

A spate of knee injuries this year has left the Russians hurrying to find cover at the back and trying to replace a key attacking threat.

[ MORE: Zlatan leaves Man Utd ]

First, center back Georgy Dzhikiya tore his knee ligaments during a friendly in January. The same happened to Viktor Vasin a month later. Russia’s defense was already thin, so those injuries prompted calls for the 35-year-old Berezutsky twins, Alexei and Vasily, to return from international retirement. They refused to do so.

Now coach Stanislav Cherchesov must also seek a replacement for Zenit St. Petersburg forward Alexander Kokorin, who tore his knee ligaments in the Europa League last week. That puts more responsibility on the shoulders of Fyodor Smolov, now likely to be Russia’s undisputed first-choice striker for the World Cup.

“We’re not complaining about anything,” Cherchesov said Thursday. “Fate is often testing us in various ways but we always try to be ready.”

The injuries mean Cherchesov will be forced to experiment during Friday’s friendly against Brazil and Tuesday’s game against France, both at home. Short-term medical issues have ruled three more fringe players out of those games.

Here’s a closer look at the issues facing Russia ahead of the World Cup:


If you had to pick one Russian striker for the World Cup, it might as well be Fyodor Smolov.

On track to be the Russian league’s top scorer for the third season in a row, Smolov has been working on his English skills as he eyes a move to the Premier League.

Smolov was linked with West Ham during the January transfer window but opted to stay with FC Krasnodar, saying he didn’t want to abandon his team as it battles for a spot in the Champions League next season.

With Kokorin almost certainly out of the picture for the World Cup, Russia’s backup options include Anton Zabolotny, who is still settling in at Zenit after a recent move from newly promoted FC Tosno. The 22-year-old Alexei Miranchuk can play as a forward, but is better in a deeper role.


Russian players tend to stay in their domestic league, but there’s one big exception in midfield – Denis Cheryshev.

The winger came through the Real Madrid youth system when his father was coaching there and is now at Villarreal, but frequent injuries have dented hopes he can add some spice to the national team.

Now he’s fit again and in the squad to face Brazil and France.

Elsewhere in the midfield, there are the promising and creative youngsters Roman Zobnin and Alexander Golovin, but Russia doesn’t currently have a dominant defensive midfielder.


Cherchesov has a reputation as a difficult coach to get along with, and Russian media have regularly reported fallings-out with various players.

One of those outside the squad is Igor Denisov, who last played for Russia in 2016. He has been playing well in a defensive midfield role this season for Lokomotiv Moscow, the team at the top of the Russian league standings. Denisov and Cherchesov clashed during the latter’s time as Dynamo Moscow coach.

Also absent from the squad is forward Artyom Dzyuba. A talented striker who has scored 11 goals in 22 games for Russia but has a reputation for being hot-headed, Dzyuba was deemed surplus to requirements at Zenit and sent on loan to Arsenal Tula. In three games there, he has scored three goals and set up two more to put himself back in the World Cup contention.


Russia’s soccer team hasn’t escaped the country’s doping scandals.

Defensive midfielder Ruslan Kambolov is under investigation by FIFA for a possible doping case revealed by Moscow laboratory documents, but hasn’t been suspended.

The team’s schedule was disrupted Wednesday by drug-testing, which took more than five hours and delayed training. On Thursday, the team said five more doping control officers turned up to take samples from the team.

Wilshere injured, could play in England’s second friendly

Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images
Leave a comment

I have no idea what tendinopathy means, but Arsenal and England will be hoping it’s only a minor thing for Jack Wilshere.

[ MORE: Zlatan leaves Man Utd ]

The resurgent Gunners midfielder is going to miss at least one of England’s friendlies this international break after suffering a knee injury in training.

“Jack just felt some tendinopathy in his knee but it’s nothing too serious,” Southgate said. “We decided to leave him back at base and see how he responds, and we hope to have him with us on Saturday.”

England is in Netherlands on Friday, and returns to London to host Italy at Wembley on Tuesday.

Arsenal doesn’t play until April 1 when it visits Stoke City.

Zlatan confirms Manchester United departure

Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has confirmed myriad reports he’s leaving Manchester United with a perfectly-Zlatan Instagram message.

Ibrahimovic is expected to join the LA Galaxy next week.

[ MORE: MLS All Stars vs. Juventus ]

The words aren’t too important, but Ibrahimovic posted an old graphic of him in Greek god garb, arm-wrestling a devil. So he’s got that going for him, which is nice.

The living Swedish legend, 36, has been limited to seven appearances, one start, and one goal in returning from a season-ending knee injury, but finishes his Manchester United tenure with an impressive 29 goals and 10 assists in 53 games (deduct the seven and one for peak impressiveness).

Bale breaks Wales scoring record

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Gareth Bale has now unquestionably written his name into Wales history.

The 28-year-old Real Madrid scored a hat-trick for Wales in its 6-0 demolition of China, taking his overall tally to 29 goals, breaking Ian Rush’s record.

“It is right up there, maybe as the best,” Bale told reporters after the game. “I suppose when I was a little boy I never dreamed of being a record-breaker for Wales. It is a massive honor. I was not thinking about it, but now it has come it’s an incredible honor and one of the best things I’ve achieved in my career. On a personal note it’s great to break the record, but I could not have done it without my team-mates.”

Bale was unable to carry Wales to the 2018 World Cup, but he first became a National Team legend by helping take Wales to the Euro 2016 semifinals, scoring three goals along the way.

Here’s a look at Bale’s record-breaking goal.