ProSoccerTalk’s weekly MLS rankings

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ProSoccerTalk’s weekly re-ordering of Major League Soccer teams, following 13 rounds of play:

19. D.C. United – Ben Olsen and Dwayne De Rosario say they’ve made up after all this. Just one of those things, they say. We’ll see.

18. Chivas USA – May has come and gone and here is the ugly truth: four games, four losses and an absolutely dreadful 13-1 goal deficit in the month. Yikes!

17. Toronto FC – Jonathan Osorlo’s second half introduction was a bright spot in a game without many of them for the Reds, a 2-0 loss at New England.

16. Chicago Fire – Mike Magee didn’t get into the 18 as Frank Klopas’ club lost another one, this time at Real Salt Lake. The Fire’s latest acquisition can only help.

15. Vancouver Whitecaps – Kenny Miller? Staying or going? Kind of hard to tell.  Maybe we’ll know more by the time the Whitecaps meet Montreal in Wednesday’s second of the Amway Canadian Championship.

14. San Jose Earthquakes – The season just isn’t going as planned around Buck Shaw. So let’s talk about when the ‘Quakes get out of Buck Shaw! How’s that pretty, green new stadium coming along? It’s LEED certified, you know.

13. Philadelphia Union – Jack McInerney scored again (now up to nine, still sharing the league lead), but the defense went on holiday in a 5-3 loss at Montreal.

12. New England Revolution – What a goal for Diego Fagundez, who is having a sensation May. (By the way, in talking about the kid’s great strike in Saturday’s win over Toronto, perhaps we didn’t give enough credit to Chris Tierney’s good work along the left to arrange his young striker. So, good on ya, too, Chris.)

11. Columbus – Considering the patchwork defense, a 2-2 draw at New York has to be filed under “success.” Federico Higuain was fantastic again.

10. Real Salt Lake – RSL’s home record isn’t bad, but it would be better than 3-1-2 if Jason Kreis’ team had more than seven goals in those six matches. Latest example was the weekend’s 1-1 draw with Chicago.

9. Seattle Sounders – Seriously, guys, we know Osvaldo Alonso is good. Check that – the dude is massive around CenturyLink. But are things going to fall completely apart without him?

8. LA Galaxy – All the talk was about Robbie Rogers, but another Robbie supplied the showy hat trick (Robbie Keane, of course) in a demonstrative 4-0 win over Seattle. It was never close by the way, a real ground and pound for the Galaxy.

(MORE: The dramatically short arc of the Robbie Rogers story)

7. Colorado Rapids – Another week, another win for the league’s most anonymous success story of 2013. Yes, it was over Chivas USA, the league’s top punching bag of the moment. Either way, Oscar Pareja’s club is unbeaten over six in a row.

6. Houston Dynamo – Big question being knocked around MLS last week (and going forward, too): Will it be Houston or Sporting Kansas City moving into the West to accommodate New York City FC? Could be Chicago, too, I suppose. But odds seem to favor SKC or Dominic Kinnear’s bunch from South Texas.

5. New York Red Bulls – Leave it to Thierry Henry to put an exclamation point on his team’s draw at home with Columbus (in fairness, a Columbus side that is quite difficult to beat when traveling): “It wasn’t good enough, especially the way we started, the goal we gave away. … It wasn’t enough, because if it was, we would have won.”

4. Montreal Impact – Marco Schallibaum’s club keeps finding new ways to surprise us, this time leading the way in the highest scoring MLS match this year, a 5-3 win over Philadelphia. Marco Di Vaio (pictured above) supplied the league’s second hat trick this year, matching a league record for goals in a half (three) along the way.

3. Portland Timbers – With all the drama around the D.C. United death spiral, it might be easy to overlook this little gem from the other side of Saturday’s contest: Caleb Porter’s team creeps ever closer to capping off half its 2013 road schedule without a loss, now at 2-0-5 after the 2-0 win at RFK.

2. Sporting Kansas City – Kei Kamara’s second half introduction was huge in an eventful 1-1 draw with Houston. Then again, aren’t games between these two Eastern toughies always eventful?

(MORE: Who says Kei Kamara isn’t fit enough to start?)

1. FC Dallas – George John was back in the lineup, but goalkeeper Raul Fernandez was the big hero in a 1-0 win over San Jose. Fabian Castillo, slowly learning how to properly deploy all that raw speed, had the Red Stripe’s goal.

“This game belongs to the players” Wenger downplays Guardiola success

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Arsene Wenger has stressed that Pep Guardiola has not changed the game of soccer over the last decade or so, maintaining that the players are the ones who make a team truly great.

Asked if Guardiola has “raised the bar” of managing in his time at the top, Wenger said, “No, because you look at Barcelona and they are still the best team in Europe. You have to accept that the modern game has changed with the recruitment of the best players in a short number of clubs.”

[ MORE: EFL Cup final preview ]

“We, as managers, can maybe impart our philosophy but this game belongs to the players because the importance of the players has become bigger than ever before.”

In fact, Wenger showed a twinge of jealousy at all the attention Guardiola is getting with the team blowing out the rest of the Premier League this season, referencing trophies in the recent past Arsenal has hoisted. “We are maybe underdogs but we have to believe in our quality. The history, the fact we have done it before, shows why not do it again?”

“At the end of the day, you have to be cool,” Wenger said, “because Manchester City is dominating the league in the head of everybody and so maybe we are more underdogs than in the FA Cup semi-final [last season when Arsenal beat Man City].”

Deportivo wastes penalty kick, remains winless under Seedorf

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MADRID (AP) — Clarence Seedorf remained winless as Deportivo La Coruna coach after a 0-0 draw with Espanyol in the Spanish league on Friday.

Deportivo squandered chances including a second-half penalty kick taken by Lucas Perez. Its winless streak reached 10 games in all competitions.

It was the third game in a row without a victory since Seedorf took over to try to avoid relegation. Deportivo was 18th in the 20-team standings, in the relegation zone.

In addition to the missed penalty, Deportivo twice hit the posts in front of a supportive crowd at Riazor Stadium. The players left the field applauded by the local fans despite the setback.

Perez’s penalty attempt was saved by Espanyol goalkeeper Diego Lopez in the 65th minute. Lopez, who earlier this season stopped a penalty taken by Lionel Messi, dived to his right to stop Perez’s low shot.

The match marked the Deportivo debut of veteran Ghanaian midfielder Sulley Muntari. He played alongside Seedorf at AC Milan, and was signed this week after a trial period.

Espanyol, 15th in the standings, hasn’t won in seven matches, since it ended Barcelona’s 29-match unbeaten streak in the first leg of the Copa del Rey quarterfinals. Espanyol’s last league win was in January, seven rounds ago.

Barcelona defends its seven-point lead in the standings when it hosts Girona on Saturday. Second-place Atletico Madrid visits Sevilla on Sunday.

Conte says he believes in his selection regarding Willian

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Antonio Conte has lashed out at anyone questioning why Brazilian winger Willian hasn’t played regularly until recently, saying

“Do you think that I am stupid when I put Willy on the bench?” Conte fired back at reporters when he was asked about Willian’s earlier lack of playing time at his pre-match press conference ahead of Chelsea’s match on Sunday against Manchester United.

[ MORE: Heynckes squashes Lewandowski to Premier League rumors ]

“I have to try and make the best decision for the team, no? Maybe last season we won the title, or did I forget something?”

The 29-year-old has made 29 Premier League appearances, but only 13 starts. He started in the midweek Champions League match against Barcelona and not only scored Chelsea’s only goal but also proved their most incisive player, prompting questions about his selection.

“Now he is playing because he deserves to play, not because there is some regret from the past,” Conte said. “For what? If a player deserves to play, and shows me during the training session that he is on top of his form, and wants to work defensively, he plays. If not, [he will] stay on the bench, stay in the stands.”

Instead of saying he wishes Willian had played more earlier in the season, he praised himself for giving the Brazilian the start at the appropriate time.

“He is playing now and I am very happy with my choice. Willian deserved to start in the previous game, and played well. I did a fantastic choice, and I want to take credit for that.”

EFL Cup Final preview: Arsenal, Manchester City fight for different types of glory

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  • These two clubs have never met in a major Cup final
  • With a win, Arsene Wenger would become the 8th PL manager to win all 3 major English trophies
  • Sergio Agüero has scored in all of his last 4 appearances against Arsenal

For Manchester City, it’s the first step of a potentially record-setting season. For Arsenal, it’s the Gunners’ best chance at securing a trophy.

The two teams are fighting for very different levels of glory as the two meet at Wembley Stadium on Sunday at 11:30 a.m. ET. Manchester City, despite losing to Wigan in the FA Cup just a week ago, would still be on track for a Double this season with a win against the Gunners. Meanwhile, Arsenal is outside the Premier League top four, and – as they have done each of the past two seasons in the FA Cup – could salvage an otherwise disappointing league season with a major Cup trophy.

Both teams will be struggling with selection in certain areas. Manchester City is likely missing Raheem Sterling, who could sit out due to an unspecified muscle injury according to Pep Guardiola in his pre-match press conference, while Fabian Delph is suspended after his sending off against Wigan in the FA Cup. That means either Danilo or 21-year-old Oleksandr Zinchencko would start at wing-back. Zinchenko is the likely candidate there, having appeared in four of City’s five EFL Cup games this season so far and playing almost every minute of those four matches. Gabriel Jesus, who missed more than two months with a knee injury, could be ready to make his early return. Claudio Bravo will continue to play in goal for the domestic Cup competitions.

Arsenal, meanwhile, is without new signing Henrikh Mkhitaryan who is cup-tied to his previous club Manchester United, while Alexandre Lacazette is not yet recovered from his knee injury suffered in the North London derby, and Mesut Ozil could miss out with an illness. The Gunners are likely, however, to get Aaron Ramsey back in midfield after recovering from a groin injury, while Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang can return to the lineup after his own cup tied absence in the Europa League midweek.

What they’re saying

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola on playing Arsenal twice in a week: “We will be happy if we win, sad if we don’t but after the game we have another match against Arsenal. We are going to try and maintain our level, but finals are different, it is not what you have done in the past.”

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger on playing Manchester City: “Manchester City have so many players that you think you have to stop that it is better to focus on the team plan than rather than on any individual. It’s true that I always used to use this competition with a youth team. For us it’s an opportunity. We’ll play with all the regular players.” 

Prediction

Arsenal has often come up big in hotly contested Cup matches, despite poor form in the surrounding competitions, so it would not be surprising to once again see Arsene Wenger hoist a trophy on Sunday to temporarily distract the fanbase and media from larger struggles. However, picking against this Manchester City team would be selection suicide, even after their disappointment against Wigan and considering the absence of under the radar star Raheem Sterling. Manchester City wins 3-1 with a pair of late goals to sink the Gunners, with a newly healthy Gabriel Jesus providing an influential injection off the bench in the final 20 minutes. Pep Guardiola raises another trophy at the site where he won the 2011 Champions League.