The Top Ten in ProSoccerTalk’s weekly MLS rankings

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Following Round 7 of league play, here are Nos. 1-10 in ProSoccerTalk’s weekly MLS quality rearrangement.

(Nos. 11-19 are here)

10. Columbus – A draw in Montreal is a good result for Robert Warzycha’s team. They get another on the road this week as Columbus pushes through its away-heavy March and April schedule. (Psst: All the pressure will be on Chicago on this Week 8 kickoff; the Fire is desperate to win at home.)

9. Vancouver Whitecaps – Interesting that Darren Mattocks seems to have lost his spot to Corey Hertzog. At least Mattocks made the field this week, appearing for about 30 minutes (unlike last week when manager Martin Rennie left his talented young striker on the bench, apparently sending a message.) The Whitecaps drew with RSL in Vancouver, 1-1.

8. New York Red Bulls – A big move up the chart as Week 7 saw the best result yet in Mike Petke’s young coaching career, a 2-0 win at rival D.C. United that was no fluke. The Red Bulls played well – and so did Tim Cahill, who still cannot crack the goal code but did have one of his better matches of 2013. MSG’s Steve Cangialosi and Shep Messing talk about the big win here.

7. Real Salt Lake – Nick Rimando was quite sharp in a 1-1 draw in Vancouver with at least three game-changing saves. He needed as many, in part, because team leader and stalwart defensive midfielder Kyle Beckerman went off injured in the first half, a concerning injury for Jason Kreis’ team, for sure.

6. Montreal Impact – Marco Di Vaio (pictured above) can hit some wonderful goals, can’t he? The Italian veteran struck No. 3 on the year Sunday, blowing one past Crew goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum in the Impact’s 1-1 draw at Stade Saputo. (It’s up for MLS Goal of the Week.) Italian center back Alessandro Nesta stood tall along the Impact’s back line.

5. Chivas USA – Will things get a little harder now for Chivas USA, now that the Home Depot Center’s second tenant can no longer sneak up on anyone? Saturday’s 1-0 loss to Colorado in Southern California suggests so.

4. LA Galaxy – It was a tough assignment, traveling north to Texas from Monterrey following last week’s CONCACAF Champions League disappointment. Tactically sound (for 80 minutes, at least) the Galaxy nearly pulled a point out of Dallas, but fell 1-0 to George John’s late goal in Texas. This week the tables get turned; LA should be rested as Sporting KC travels across country following a mid-week match in New Jersey.

3. Houston Dynamo – Dominic Kinnear’s team is perfect in four at home this year, having just established the league record with 35 consecutive unbeaten matches at home. It’s really quite an accomplishment, now beyond Real Salt Lake’s 34-game streak that ended back in 2011, the previous MLS best across all competitions.

2. Sporting Kansas City – Peter Vermes’ team plays a mid-week match in New York on Wednesday, and it should be a humdinger. The Red Bulls come in confidently off a huge road win (at D.C. United) and Sporting is unbeaten in its last four, having not allowed a goal in that time. Graham Zusi, Claudio Bieler, Matt Besler and the rest of SKC’s well-drilled bunch should be well rested after an idle weekend in Round 7.

1. FC Dallas – FC Dallas has figured out its midfield. Andrew Jacobson and first-year Brazilian Michel have provided the skill and balance in Dallas’ 4-2-3-1 behind playmaker David Ferreira. And those three strikers (Blas Perez, Kenny Cooper and Eric Hassli) are being worked into the rotation, which puts tremendous pressure on opposition defenses. The club used a late goal to get past the LA Galaxy, 1-0, on Saturday to extend its first-place lead in the West.

Timbers sign Peruvian winger Andy Polo from Liga MX’s Morelia

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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) The Portland Timbers have acquired winger Andy Polo on loan from Liga MX club Monarcas Morelia for the upcoming season.

The 23-year-old native of Peru played in 25 matches last year for Morelia and made six starts with two goals.

He’s also World Cup-bound, having appeared in Peru’s two-legged playoff against New Zealand in November. Peru won 2-0 on aggregate. Overall, he’s appeared with the Peruvian national team 15 times since his senior debut in 2016.

“Andy is a versatile, young player who will add another element to our attack, and we believe that he has further upside to his development,” Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese said in a statement.

The Timbers used targeted allocation money and have a purchase option. Polo’s arrival is pending a physical and receipt of a visa.

He will occupy an international roster spot.

Can Man United still sign Sanchez without Mkhitaryan swap?

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The answer to the (first) titled question is, undoubtedly, yes.

[ MORE: Wednesday’s transfer rumor roundup | Tuesday | Friday ]

The latter question — the “will they?” — remains a relative unknown at this point, but if reports out of the UK are to be believed, Manchester United are just as likely to send $40 million (or so) Arsenal’s way in exchange for Alexis Sanchez, should Henrikh Mkhitaryan refuse the move by declining any contract offers from the Gunners.

[ MORE: Conte bewildered VAR not used in Chelsea PK controversies ]

The thinking, at least for the last few days since Man United somewhat unexpectedly entered the Sanchez sweepstakes, was that swapping the Armenian for the Chilean was the obvious — and, perhaps only — way forward. Call it special circumstances or an obvious audible, but that’s not necessarily the case — from the Guardian:

“It is understood that if Mkhitaryan does not leave Mourinho believes that, given the club’s robust finances, [Man United executive vice-chairman] Ed Woodward could still sanction a move for a player who would potentially vastly improve United.”

By the time Sanchez is signed, sealed and delivered, United will have also paid Sanchez and his agent, Fernando Felicevich, massive signing-on fees that could total another $30 million. No matter the order in which the Sanchez-Mkhitaryan saga plays out, United will come out ahead with a superior player at a massively discounted price — should Sanchez ultimately move to Old Trafford, of course.

Conte bewildered VAR not used in Chelsea PK controversies

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If the FA, English football’s governing body, is insistent upon testing video-assistant refereeing (VAR) as they have done in recent FA Cup and League Cup fixtures, Antonio Conte believes they should darn well use it.

[ MORE: Wednesday’s transfer rumor roundup | Tuesday | Friday ]

Following his Chelsea side’s penalty-shootout victory over Norwich City in an FA Cup third-round replay on Wednesday, Conte was equal parts frustrated and confused by the fact that video-referee Mike Jones failed to prompt referee Graham Scott to consult the on-trial system on multiple occasions.

Most notably, Chelsea’s 92nd-minute (extra-time) penalty shout following Timm Klose‘s tackle on Willian. Scott, instead, booked the Brazilian for diving — one of three cards, all shown to Chelsea players, for simulation on the night — and that was that.

“If you watch the replay you see very clearly it is a penalty,” said Conte after the game — quotes from the BBC:

“I think that there was a penalty but not on [Alvaro] Morata — on Willian.

“With Willian, the referee heard what the other referee watched and decided to continue to play. If we want to try to use this new system, it is important for the referee to wait, especially in this incident that is not so clear.

“And then when the referee that is watching had a doubt, he has to call the referee to watch and he can make a decision. The referee on the pitch has to make the decision, not one off the pitch.

“We can improve it for sure but we need to try to take the best solution. The final decision is for the ref on the pitch. Otherwise, why is there this ref?

“The mistake wasn’t of the ref on the pitch but the person watching. When you see this, you have to call the referee.”

VAR was used in another third-round replay, on Tuesday, and helped to correctly rule Leicester City striker Kelechi Iheanacho as being in an onside position when he scored his side’s second goal. While offside/onside calls are much clearer, cut-and-dry decisions to make — and with the aid of a natural stoppage in play — clearly much work lies ahead with regard to the process of determining whether the referee has made a “clear and obvious error,” which remains the threshold for using VAR, in instances of fouls/diving.

Copa QF: Messi misses PK, Barca’s 29-game unbeaten run ends

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MADRID (AP) — Lionel Messi missed a penalty and Barcelona conceded late as its 29-match unbeaten streak ended in a 1-0 loss to city rival Espanyol in the first leg of their Copa del Rey quarterfinal on Wednesday.

Messi failed from the spot in the 62nd minute, his shot brilliantly saved by goalkeeper Diego Lopez.

Youngster Oscar Melendo netted the winner for the hosts in the 88th with his first goal as a professional.

“I have no words, I was looking forward to this first goal,” said the 20-year-old Melendo, who had come on as a substitute in the second half.

It was Espanyol’s first win against Barcelona at its RCDE Stadium.

The second leg of the Catalan derby is next week at Camp Nou.

Barcelona hadn’t lost since a 2-0 defeat by Real Madrid in the second leg of the Spanish Super Cup on Aug. 16. It had won 23 of its last 29 matches in all competitions.

“We knew we would lose one day,” Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets said. “The positive thing is that in a week we have a chance to rebound and advance.”

Messi had his chance from the spot after Sergi Roberto was fouled by Esteban Granero, but his low shot into the right corner was stopped as Diego Lopez dived to his left to tip the ball away.

It was a rare miss for Messi, who is having a stellar season and is the Spanish league’s top scorer with 17 goals.

“The penalty save gave us the boost that we needed,” Melendo said. “We were playing too defensively.”

Melendo netted the winner with a low shot from the middle of the area after a well-timed pass by Marc Navarro.

Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde did not use all of the team’s regular starters, leaving players such as Luis Suarez on the bench.

The match was interrupted for a few minutes in the 76th after Barcelona goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen was hit by an object thrown by fans behind his goal.

Barcelona midfielder Paulinho was replaced in the second half because of a foot injury.