The Top Ten in ProSoccerTalk’s weekly MLS rankings

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Following Round 9 of league play, here are Nos. 1-10 in ProSoccerTalk’s weekly MLS quality rearrangement.

(Nos. 11-19 are here)

10. San Jose Earthquakes – A 2-2 draw at Chivas USA may not look like “grand achievement” stuff. But consider that young Cordell Cato got his first MLS goal, and also that Marvin Chavez finally got healthy enough to make his first 2013 start. Then we can see where this one provides something for the ‘Quakes to build upon.

9. Vancouver Whitecaps – The ‘Caps looked 100 percent in the Round 9 match against FC Dallas than in the previous week’s match against FC Dallas. (Yes, MLS schedule maker, we are looking at you!) Martin Rennie’s team was unlucky not to get the late game-winner against a suddenly beat up bunch from Texas on Saturday at BC Place.

8. Real Salt Lake – It would be too easy to dismiss a deflated start (in a 2-0 loss to a wildly undermanned LA Galaxy squad) as “what you get with younger clubs.” But Jason Kreis’ team had plenty of veteran know-how in the starting lineup. Such a slow start was a real head-scratcher. For manager Jason Kreis, too.

7. Portland Timbers – Caleb Porter grabbed the baton in the race for Coach of the Year with Saturday’s thrilling 3-2 win at Kansas City. As promised, the Timbers aren’t going to be a team that sits back on the road, and Saturday’s result was proof positive. (Also validation that the Timbers can pull it off.)

6. Houston Dynamo – Brad Davis just has to do better at keeping his cool. Getting thrown out in the 95th minute of Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Colorado didn’t do a thing to affect that result. But it will do something for this weekend’s MLS Cup rematch with the LA Galaxy in Carson. And that’s a shame.

5. Montreal Impact – How we saw the Impact’s spring was teetering, so a 2-0 win over Chicago moves our perception meter back in the right direction.  Alessandro Nesta (pictured above, on the left) was quite strong in doing his part, but the classy Italian veteran just cannot stay healthy. Davy Arnaud did well in a new role, too, filling in for Patrice Bernier as a midfield screener.

4. Sporting Kansas City – Sporting Kansas City loses the right to lament how teams come into Sporting Park and sit back (cries which always rang hollow anyway). Because that is exactly what Portland did Saturday, and the Timbers left with a huge 3-2 win over Peter Vermes’ side. That’s two losses in a row with Chivas USA inbound for a match in the heartland this week.

3. New York Red Bulls – Confidence is clearly growing for Thierry Henry and the heroes of Harrison. Tim Cahill is certainly looking very hero-like after tripling his goal total over those first 20 Red Bulls matches. But at some point, goalkeeper Luis Robles is going to cost precious points unless he can locate the steadiness that has been so elusive this year.

2. LA Galaxy – What a remarkable thing Bruce Arena’s team pulled off Saturday in Utah, taking down RSL with the most piecemeal of piecemeal lineups (one that was without three-quarters of its most important players.) They’ll be favored in one of Round 10’s marquee contests, an MLS Cup rematch against the Dynamo (a team that doesn’t do well on the road, and one now missing its captain for a week.)

1. FC Dallas – Since when did FC Dallas take over from Houston as the league’s most dangerous set piece side? Schellas Hyndman’s team has hit three times off corner kicks or free kicks in the last two weeks (all of those against Vancouver, including both strikes in a 2-2 draw Saturday at BC Place.) The club has this weekend off, which is great news for the effort to get Andrew Jacobson and George John healthy. The club needs both, and in a big way.

Serie A: Juve keep winning to remain 1 point back of Napoli

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TURIN, Italy (AP) Juventus closed the gap on Serie A leader Napoli back to just one point as the six-time defending champion eased past Genoa 1-0 on Monday.

Douglas Costa scored in the 16th minute, the first conceded by Genoa in five league matches. It was a less than convincing performance from Juventus but it was never really troubled, as goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny – standing in for the still-injured Gianluigi Buffon – was little more than a spectator.

“What was important was to win,” Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri said. “At the end there was a bit of nervousness because we were lacking in energy a bit.

“We could have finished off the match in the first half, and again with a couple of occasions after the break. We didn’t manage to so compliments to Genoa.”

The battle for the Serie A title is shaping into a two-horse race. Juventus moved 10 points clear of third-placed Lazio, although the capital side has a match in hand.

“The season is still long and all those who are behind us can still get back into the race,” Allegri said. “It was important to stay in Napoli’s slipstream.”

Juventus needed to win after Napoli beat Atalanta 1-0 on Sunday.

Allegri’s side started brightly and had an early chance to take the lead but Genoa goalkeeper Mattia Perin did well to keep out a free kick from specialist Miralem Panic.

However, it did not take much longer to strike. Douglas Costa passed out left to Mario Mandzukic, who played a delightful return ball for the Brazil midfielder to slot into the bottom left corner.

League Cup semi: Man City take 2-1 lead into 2nd leg vs. Bristol

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Manchester City can move one step closer on Tuesday to claiming their first of four potential trophies this season, when Pep Guardiola‘s men take on Bristol City in the second leg of the League Cup semifinal.

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

After coming back to beat the Robins in the first leg at home, Man City must now go on the road and take care of business to reach the Feb. 25 final at Wembley Stadium. As he has done so many times — and so famously — in the sky blue of City, Sergio Aguero grabbed the late winner (91st minute — WATCH HERE) 14 days ago.

For a few not-so-insignificant periods of the game, Bristol were very much the aggressors and appeared more likely to make the score 2-0 than for City to get back to 1-1. Bobby Reid converted from the penalty spot in the 44th minute after her was brought down under John Stones‘ wild, sliding tackle. Kevin De Bruyne leveled things up 10 minutes into the second half, setting the stage for Aguero’s late heroics.

[ MORE: Alexis-for-Mkhi swap complete | De Bruyne’s new contract ]

Since the first leg on Jan. 9, City have failed in their bid to finish the PL season with an unbeaten record before bouncing back to beat Newcastle United on the weekend, courtesy of a hat trick from Aguero — Guardiola quotes, from Sport24:

“I said many times it was going to happen, we can lose, so (it is) important the reaction we have. Still we have 42 points to play (for). It is 14 games. It is a lot of games to play and difficult games like Saturday and like Liverpool. It is important to show the team is still there but I don’t have the feeling we give up.

“We want to go through to the final in the (League) Cup and the FA Cup, so (we have) a lot of games but I think the people have the desire to keep going, to keep going, to keep going.”

[ MORE: One dream January signing for each top-six side ]

Bristol, meanwhile, have fallen on hard times: it’s been nearly a month (Boxing Day, to be specific — five losses, one draw) since Lee Johnson’s side last won a game in any competition, and they’ve fallen from second to fifth in the Championship table — Johnson quotes, from the Guardian:

“We don’t want to be brave losers, we want to compete to win. It’s up to the players to be focused and tactically aware, and who knows what will happen if we can show the same quality as we have shown in the previous rounds?

“We have to make sure we’re really bold. If you’re going to deliver a corner, do it like you mean it. I’d rather fail bold than fail timid. We know we have to score. I hope Pep picks his absolute best team and we can give them a right go. I’m not sure you could go and play an under-23 side against us at the moment and I think he’ll know that.”

The winner of Arsenal versus Chelsea (0-0 after the first leg) awaits in the final.

The 2 Robbies: Alexis-Mkhitaryan Swap Becomes Reality

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Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe react to the Alexis Sanchez-Henrikh Mkhitaryan swap deal between Arsenal and Manchester United finally becoming reality (0:20), Swansea’s stunning 1-0 victory over Liverpool (9:20), Southampton’s much-needed draw with Spurs (22:30) and Watford’s decision to part ways with Marco Silva (36:20). The gents end the show sharing their memories of the late English striker, Cyrille Regis (39:45).

Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.

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Inter Milan sign Barcelona midfielder Rafinha on loan

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MILAN (AP) Inter Milan completed the signing of Barcelona midfielder Rafinha on loan until the end of the season, with a view to a permanent move.

Inter can sign the Brazil international permanently for $43 million plus $3.7 million in bonuses, and said on Monday that option “must be taken up before the end of the season.”

Rafinha, who was born in Sao Paulo, had been at Barcelona since 2006, when he joined its youth team. He spent the 2013-14 season on loan at Celta Vigo.

After nine months out after surgery on his right knee, he made his first appearance of the season last week as a late substitute in Barcelona’s Copa del Rey defeat at Espanyol.

“It’s an important stage in my life,” he said, “and I had a lot of desire to approach this new phase in my career.”

Inter has slipped to fourth in Serie A, 11 points behind leader Napoli.

It could slip out of the Champions League places if Roma wins its match in hand on Wednesday.

“I hope to play in as many matches as possible and help the team to reach our objective which is Champions League qualification,” Rafinha said.