ProSoccerTalk’s weekly MLS rankings

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19. Chivas USA – The Chelis era is over – and wasn’t that ridiculously fast? The first match upon removal of the increasingly erratic club’s charismatic manager didn’t go well, a 2-0 loss at home to Seattle.

18. D.C. United – Don’t be fooled by D.C. United moving out of last place. It really looks like a head-scratcher considering Ben Olsen’s team lost (again, this time to Chicago) to prolong the club record 11-game winless streak. Thing is, Chivas USA just looks worse now.

17. Toronto FC – Some of the writers around Toronto felt the Reds deserved better than a 1-1 draw at home to Philly. Then again, good teams find a way; poor or average teams don’t. Doneil Henry’s needless sending off didn’t help.

16. Chicago Fire – Mike Magee (pictured above) certainly didn’t leave the scoring magic back in L.A.; the former Galaxy man scored his first for Chicago in a 2-0 win over D.C. United.  Meanwhile, they appear to be moving on, accepting life without defensive brain Arne Friedrich.

15. San Jose Earthquakes – Maybe things will go a little better in Champions League, because they just aren’t falling right in league play. (San Jose fell in Utah over the weekend, 3-0.) The ‘Quakes drew Montreal and a Guatemalan side (TBD) in Champions League group play.

14. Vancouver Whitecaps – Kenny Miller scored! Wait a minute, he’s still with the club? A 2-1 win at New York was impressive enough, but then you consider that key men Darren Mattocks, Gershon Koffie and Nigel Reo-Coker all sat out and it becomes more so. (Even if the Red Bulls were reduced to 10 in the second half.)

13. Columbus – Terrible news for the club as midfielder Eddie Gaven, the real glue around Crew Stadium over the last couple of seasons, suffered a season-ending knee injury last week in a U.S. Open Cup match. Justin Meram looks like the man who needs to step in and step up – but it’s a big ask considering all the little things Gaven did.

12. Philadelphia Union – You know, it’s really just cut-and-paste at this point. So here goes: “Jack McInerney scored again.” He’s up to a league-leading 10. Oh, but this part is new: his name was on the 35-man preliminary U.S. Gold Cup roster list.

11. New England Revolution – Hottest club in MLS? Jay Heaps’ Revs have won four in a row and are unbeaten in five straight in all competitions. And they put a five-spot on the champs last week, the first time the club had hit net that often in a match since 2004.

10. Colorado Rapids – Atiba Harris scored both goals in a 2-2 draw with Dallas, but left back Chris Klute was just as impressive as the Rapids remained unbeaten in six league matches. (Oscar Pareja’s club did crash out of Open Cup play last week in a third-round loss at Orlando City.)

9. Seattle Sounders – Last in the West fairly recently, Sigi Schmid’s Sounders have climbed to sixth, one spot out of the playoff zone. And they have a game or two in hand on all the teams in front of them.

8. LA Galaxy – Goalkeeper Carlo Cuducini was so humbled by a 5-0 loss in New England, he apologized to the fans about it. Robbie Rogers made a second appearance, again off the bench.

7. New York Red Bulls – A loss at home to Vancouver (a club that rarely win on the road) brought down the Red Bulls’ seven-game unbeaten streak.  All in all, we’ve seen a lot better from Mike Petke’s club. Meanwhile, ability to stay on the doggone field was Jamison Olave’s issue at Real Salt Lake – and his second half expulsion will be a sore point.

6. Real Salt Lake – Javier Morales, 33, is reminding all those young midfielders around Rio Rinto that he’s not quite ready to yield his spot just yet. Another big match from the RSL playmaker steered his side to a 3-0 win over San Jose.

5. Houston Dynamo – The “good” was a 1-1 draw at Columbus, but the “bad” is in an injury list that’s getting alarmingly long. Adam Moffat and Eric Brunner went off during the match in Ohio, an unfortunate turn for Dominic Kinnear’s team, which is already shorthanded due to international absences.

source: Getty Images

4. Sporting Kansas City – Hot-headedness was rampant, on the sidelines and on the field, as KC lost at home for the third time this year. Yes, third. We double checked. (Montreal on Saturday joined previous 2013 Sporting Park conquerors Portland and Seattle.)

3. Portland Timbers – The club backed up Caleb Porter’s bold U.S. Open Cup predictions before the Timbers took the weekend off in MLS play. Up this week: a trip into Toyota Park to meet Chicago.

2. Montreal Impact – Not sure what it is about Sporting KC that drives manager Marco Schallibaum so crazy, but he was sent off at halftime. It didn’t bother the club, apparently, as the Impact went on to a big 2-1 win at Sporting Park.

1. FC Dallas – Dallas will now deal with life minus its top striker and starting goalkeeper, Blas Perez (pictured above) and Raul Fernandez, who will be away on international duty. Perez had both goals as Dallas tied Colorado on the road, 2-2. He has a team-leading five strikes this year.

Who’s to blame? A closer look at Chelsea’s blunder late vs. Barcelona

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As our very own Joe Prince-Wright explained yesterday in the aftermath of Chelsea’s 1-1 draw with Barcelona in the Champions League Round of 16, Antonio Conte could not have set his team up better for success at Stamford Bridge.

And yet, they walked away from the first leg with a disappointing result, one that could set up Barcelona with the advantage as they head to the Camp Nou in two weeks time.

So where did it all go wrong? That pass from Andreas Christensen, obviously – the one that gifted Lionel Messi a late goal. But is Christensen to blame? Or were there other culprits?

Clearly, the pass was ill-advised. Christensen sends the ball across his own box parallel to the goal mouth, which Andreas Iniesta easily pilfers and sends to Messi for his first goal against Chelsea. It was a pass they teach 7-year-olds not to make, one that even the youngest of dedicated soccer players knows to avoid.

Christensen makes an easy target, given that he is just 21 years old, has only just recently earned his way into the Blues starting lineup, and was the most obvious culprit having made the fateful pass.

However, upon closer inspection, it may not have even been meant to reach the far side of the field.

Christensen’s exasperated reaction suggests the pass was likely intended for Cesc Fabregas who sat at the top of the box under little pressure. Christensen was closed down on the far touchline with little room to operate, and his outlet to Fabregas in the middle of the field was a good option, even if the general idea of a pass in that direction is usually frowned upon. However, Christensen’s pass was just slightly behind Fabregas, and the Spaniard ultimately decided to let the ball go instead of chasing it down, leaving it for a less populated area of the field.

Unfortunately, with his back turned to the eventual destination of the pass, Fabregas was unaware that Iniesta had anticipated its flight path and was already making a run to steal the ball. When the veteran Barcelona midfielder reached the ball, he was challenged by a sliding Cesar Azpilicueta, who completely whiffed. While Christensen and Fabregas were culpable of putting the team in a dangerous situation, Azpilicueta’s tackle was an abomination. Azpilicueta actually reached the ball first, but inexplicably failed to make contact with the ball, allowing Iniesta to easily evade the slide and still take charge of the ball.

Andreas Christensen is the clear perpetrator, but Fabregas and Azpilicueta both contributed negatively to the situation, leaving Chelsea at a slight disadvantage heading into a hostile environment despite Antonio Conte’s best efforts. Sadly, Conte will be the one to shoulder the accountability at the end of the season if Chelsea goes out of the Champions League, even though he received top marks for the match, and his players let him down.

Mata seems to confirm Champions League is Man United’s priority

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With the Premier League title all but wrapped up, English top flight teams are beginning to put their true focus onto competitions they still have a realistic shot of winning.

Manchester United sits in second place in the Premier League table, but they are a full 18 points back of rivals Manchester City, as so with a Champions League match against Sevilla on Wednesday afternoon, Juan Mata all but confirmed that the Red Devils are putting their main efforts into Europe’s largest competition.

[ MORE: Messi pegs back Chelsea despite winning tactics ]

“If we had less of a gap with respect to the Premier League leaders and we had a chance to fight for it, it wouldn’t be so tough to be eliminated from the Champions League, but now our aim is to progress from every round,” Mata said to Spanish radio station Cadena Ser. “It would be a big blow to be eliminated in the last 16.”

Last season, a similar story played out. Manchester United was out of reach of a top four finish in the league, so manager Jose Mourinho publicly admitted they were putting their main focus on the Europa League due to the automatic berth the competition’s winner received into next year’s Champions League. The gamble paid off, as Manchester United won the competition and earned their spot in the Champions League this season.

Sevilla has not progressed past the Round of 16 since 1958. Manchester United, meanwhile, has not made it past the Champions League quarterfinals since their runners-up finish in 2011, when they lost to Barcelona in the finals at Wembley Stadium.

Wenger confirms Ospina will start pair while Ozil, Ramsey miss out

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Arsene Wenger confirmed in his pre-match press conference that goalkeeper Petr Cech will get an extended rest with a pair of Cup games on the horizon for Arsenal.

In his place, David Ospina will start both Thursday’s Europa League Round of 32 match against Ostersund and Sunday’s EFL Cup Final against Manchester City. Ospina is no stranger to this type of rotation, with the Colombian owning just 30 starts over the last three seasons in national and international Cup competitions compared to just seven Premier League appearances.

In addition, Wenger also confirmed that Mesut Ozil will miss out for Thursday’s match due to illness, but is expected back for Sunday’s EFL Cup final. Arsenal has a 3-0 lead over Swedish club Ostersund after the first leg, with the second leg to be played at the Emirates.

Wenger said Aaron Ramsey is back in training, and while he will not be risked in the Europa League match in his return from a groin injury that saw him miss the North London derby loss, he could be in contention to play against Manchester City. [Ramsey] is not in the squad tomorrow, he had a good training session. We will see how his evolution goes between now and Sunday. I don’t rule him out.”

Ramsey scored a hat-trick in the 5-1 win over Everton in early February, but has played just 181 minutes since picking up a hamstring injury in mid-December.

Finally, Wenger said that Danny Welbeck and Henrikh Mkhitaryan will both receive starting spots against Ostersund, as will some unnamed youth products. Welbeck has been out of Premier League action since mid-January, stuck behind Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, but he received four minutes off the bench in the North London derby and will get another opportunity in the Europa League to prove his worth.

Conte admits job security speculation will always exist at Chelsea

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Antonio Conte admits that he will always face speculation about his tenure as manager while he is employed at Chelsea, but dismissed it as “no problem for me.”

There is a general acceptance that Conte will part ways with Chelsea at the end of the season given the tough times the club has seen this campaign. The Blues are hanging on to a Champions League place by a thread, and struggled through a January that included just two wins across all competitions in six matches.

“I’ve said it very clearly: I’ve got a contract until 2019 and I intend to respect this, but you know anything can happen in football,” Conte told Italian publication Mediaset. “It takes two to be happy and continue a marriage. Our work is unique because we’ve always got our suitcase in our hands.”

Conte did issue somewhat of a warning to Chelsea, however, that if he were to be fired, it could come back to haunt the club, as he would have no shortage of offers. “My intention is to respect my contract, but if something were to happen, it would open up different scenarios.” Big clubs such as Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid could have job openings this summer if their lofty goals aren’t met, and those places would be attractive destinations for Conte, who won the Premier League title with Chelsea just last year.

“It’s a bit the history of Chelsea and inevitable when, in the past, in 14 years, 10 coaches have been changed,” he said. “Clearly when there is this habit, let’s say, the press play on it and as soon as there is a result or two which don’t go your way, they try to put the pressure on.

“But it’s no problem for me. I hope that this pressure doesn’t harm the players, not me, because I go looking for pressure.”