Montreal Impact v Seattle Sounders

The Top Ten in ProSoccerTalk’s weekly MLS rankings


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.

LIVE: Man City, Stoke, Everton face second-tier teams in League Cup quarters

Kevin De Bruyne, Manchester City FC
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Three of the four Capital One Cup quarterfinals take place on Tuesday with three Premier League teams facing second-tier opposition.

“What’s that, did somebody say banana skin?”

[ MORE: Follow League Cup scores live

Manchester City host Hull City at the Etihad Stadium with Manuel Pellegrini‘s side hoping to have David Silva back in the starting lineup but Joe Hart is still out injured so Willy Caballero will continue in goal. Steve Bruce‘s side drew 1-1 at the Etihad last season when they visited City before being relegated from the Premier League. The Tigers are fighting for instant promotion back to the big-time and knocked out Leicester City on penalty kicks in the last round.

Everton face a tricky trip to the Riverside Stadium as Roberto Martinez and the Toffees play Middlesbrough. Aitor Karanka’s side lost in the play-off final to Norwich last season but are looking good for promotion this term as they sit second in the second-tier and knocked out Manchester United on penalty kicks in the last round. Can Everton sort out their defensive frailties?

A third PL club has a tricky test coming up on Tuesday as Stoke City’s reward for beating Chelsea on PKs in the last round is a home game against Sheffield Wednesday. This will be no stroll in the park for Mark Hughes‘ side as the second-tier Owls comfortably knocked off Arsenal in the last round and this game has “cupset” written all over it.

Below are the fixtures for Tuesday as you can click on the link above to follow all the games live.

League Cup quarterfinals


Manchester City vs. Hull City – 2:45 p.m. ET
Middlesbrough vs. Everton – 2:45 p.m. ET
Stoke City vs. Sheffield Wednesday – 2:45 p.m. ET

FIFA sponsors demand “independent oversight” of reforms
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LONDON (AP) Five of FIFA’s sponsors have written to the executive committee of soccer’s scandal-battered governing body demanding “independent oversight” of the reform process.

[ MORE: Chelsea’s new stadium plans ]

Sponsors were originally promised places on the FIFA reform committee. But instead of being invited into meetings discussing the overhaul of the organization, they have only been offered seats on an advisory board which is yet to be appointed.

The sponsors’ letter was sent from Adidas, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Visa and Budweiser brewer Anheuser-Busch to FIFA’s ruling body ahead of meetings this week.

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The letter, which was obtained by The Associated Press, says it is “clear to us that such independent oversight needs to run long-term through the implementation and evolution of the reform process.”

The reform committee was established following the indictment of soccer officials by American authorities.

VIDEO: Gerrard returns to Liverpool for training in MLS offseason

Liverpool v Sunderland - Premier League
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Steven Gerrard is back at Liverpool.

[ MORE: Chelsea’s new stadium plans ]

The legendary midfielder, 35, has returned to the Reds just six months after leaving his hometown club for a new adventure in Major League Soccer with the LA Galaxy.

Gerrard spent a glittering 17-years at Anfield, guiding Liverpool to the UEFA Champions League title and winning every other major title except for the elusive Premier League crown.

[ MORE: Chelsea, United battle for Muller

After suffering an early exit from the 2015 MLS Cup playoffs with the Galaxy, Gerrard is now back in England and he’s using his time at home to train with Liverpool’s first-team and help out in any way he can as Jurgen Klopp has allowed him to come back into the dressing room he called home for nearly two decades.

“It’s a good situation,” Klopp said. “Everybody had a smile on their face when they saw Stevie. It’s good to have him here and we hope we can help him, and he can help us for sure with being in the dressing room. It’s cool.”

Below are photos and videos from Gerrard’s return as Klopp once again quashed any rumors regarding a loan move for the former Liverpool skipper who will enter his first full MLS season in 2016 with the Galaxy.

French PM says Benzema has no place on national team

Karim Benzema, France
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PARIS (AP) The French prime minister joined in the criticism of Karim Benzema on Tuesday, saying the Real Madrid striker “has no place” on the France team at the European Championship in the wake of a blackmail scandal.

[ MORE: Chelsea’s new stadium plans ]

Benzema is one of France’s key players as it gets ready to host the Euro 2016 tournament, but the forward faces charges of conspiracy to blackmail relating to an extortion scam over a sex tape. He is suspected of having played an active role in pressuring France teammate Mathieu Valbuena, a case that has badly damaged his reputation.

“A great athlete should be exemplary,” Prime Minister Manuel Valls told French radio Europe 1. “If he is not, he has no place within the France team.”

The investigation, centering on wiretap evidence, started when Valbuena took legal action after being contacted by a man claiming to possess an incriminating sex tape.

In a case that could drag on for months, Benzema’s involvement has not yet been fully determined. But investigators who charged him in October believe he was approached by a childhood friend to act as an intermediary and convince Valbuena to deal directly with the blackmailers.

“If a minister was handed preliminary charges, he would no longer be part of the government,” Valls said.

Benzema denies any wrongdoing but his arguments were undermined last week when Valbuena spoke directly about his attempts to pressure him in an interview with Le Monde newspaper.

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The French football federation has also joined the case as plaintiff.

“There are so many kids, so many youngsters in our suburbs that relate to great athletes,” Valls said. “They wear the blue jersey, the colors of France, which are so important in these moments.”

Preliminary charges under French law mean magistrates have strong reason to believe a crime was committed, and allow time for further investigation. The charges may later be dropped. In 2010, Benzema was handed preliminary charges for soliciting an underage prostitute but was acquitted in a case that lasted more than three years and tarnished his reputation.

Benzema’s image was further dented last month when he spat on the pitch after the national anthem was played at Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu stadium in a tribute to the 130 fatalities of the Paris attacks ahead of a match against Barcelona.

Benzema’s action ignited a wave of criticism on social media, prompting his lawyers to issue a statement in which they condemned “the scandalous interpretation” of the incident. Benzema, who has 27 international goals, had posted several messages in support of the victims in the days that followed the attacks.