Mike Magee-Chicago 2

ProSoccerTalk’s weekly MLS rankings

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Round 15 was abbreviated in Major League Soccer due to the international matches, so movement in this weeks rankings was light:

19. Chivas USA – The Carolina Railhawks eliminated MLS champion Los Angeles last week, so it’s up to the Goats to protect So Cal honor when the teams meet Wednesday night in Cary, N.C.

18. D.C. United – A nice U.S. Open Cup run would help bring something positive to a season gone badly sideways; United hosts Philadelphia tonight in the tournament. Meanwhile, the next three league matches are at RFK Stadium, so it’s now or never in terms of dragging this thing out of a ditch.

17. Toronto FC – The front office has a big decision to make on Robert Earnshaw, who scored a bunch early but hasn’t been as productive lately. The Welshman’s loan spell is just about up.

16. Chicago Fire – Mike Magee (pictured) was the start of the show in a big two-goal rally, guiding the team to a 2-2 draw with Portland. That trade is looking more and more like the deal of the year, isn’t it?

15. San Jose Earthquakes – The timing on Frank Yallop’s dismissal is a head-scratcher. Richard Farley goes a little deeper here to explain the events that conspired ahead of Major League Soccer’s second coaching dismissal this year.

14. Vancouver Whitecaps – The Whitecaps could not capitalize on last week’s huge road win (over New York), and are now winless in 12 Cascadia Cup matches. The Whitecaps fell Saturday in Seattle, 3-2. Further, center back Andy O’Brien fell to injury.

13. Columbus – Any chance of a collecting a point in Philadelphia last week melted away in six of the worst minutes ever seen for the men in yellow, as the Union slotted three past Andy Gruenebaum and rolled on to the win at PPL Park.

12. Philadelphia Union – The strangest thing about last week’s 3-0 win over Columbus was this: MLS leading scorer Jack McInerney didn’t get any of the goals! He had a great chance late, but went wide with only Columbus’ goalkeeper to beat.

11. New England Revolution –  Bobby Shuttleworth and the Revs defense has not conceded a goal in 395 minutes. A 0-0 draw at home with D.C. United isn’t the best result, but it does keep Jay Heaps’ team unbeaten in five straight.

10. Colorado Rapids – Getting healthier every week, Oscar Pareja’s team hosts San Jose this weekend after a week off in MLS action.

9. LA Galaxy – Goalkeeper Carlo Cuducini was benched and Landon Donovan called out his team after another bad loss on the road, this one 3-1 to Real Salt Lake. That followed last week’s humbling by a 5-0 loss in New England.

8. New York Red Bulls – Harvard’s Soldiers Field is the venue as New York faces MLS rival New England in a U.S. Open Cup match on Wednesday. Thierry Henry is back from his Colombian vacation, but the match is on FieldTurf, so who knows if the Red Bull’s star striker will appear?

7. Seattle Sounders – Missing three important starters (Eddie Johnson and Brad Evans for U.S. duty, plus the injured Osvaldo Alonso), the Sounders still rallied for a dramatic 3-2 win over Vancouver. Sigi Schmid’s team is now 5-0 when crowds top 50,000 at CenturyLink.

6. Real Salt Lake – If you haven’t heard of Olmes Garcia, get ahead of the curve. The kid really has something.  Jason Kreis’ team faces Charleston in a U.S. Open Cup match Wednesday, then has the weekend off.

5. Houston Dynamo – Dominic Kinnear’s team has been great on the road lately, 2-0-2 since mid-April. They’ll need more of the same Wednesday in North Texas, facing FC Dallas in a U.S. Open Cup version of the Texas derby.

4. Sporting Kansas City – Orlando City eliminated Colorado in one of the big U.S. Open Cup upsets last week. But that was in Florida, and things will surely look different Wednesday when the USL Pro side reaches Sporting Park on the outskirts of Kansas City.

3. Montreal Impact – The tables are finally turned for L’Impact, who get the benefit of extra rest while this weekend’s opponent, Columbus, plays a mid-week domestic cup match. It was other way around for Marco Schallibaum’s busy team in late May.

2. Portland Timbers – Ben Zemanski nailed a fantastic second-half goal, and the Timbers needed it as Chicago rallied for two in Bridgeview. Still, a 2-2 draw at Toyota Park keeps Caleb Porter’s team unbeaten in 12 matches.

1. FC Dallas – Big decisions are ahead for the league leaders, who face rival Houston in a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup match on Wednesday – in a competition that means a lot to the club as it is named after the grandfather of Dallas soccer and a man loved by manager Schellas Hyndman. Three nights later, the Red Stripes are at Portland in a big Western Conference contest.

Europa League qualifying roundup: West Ham falls in Slovenia

NYON, SWITZERLAND - AUGUST 08:  The UEFA Europa League trophy is displayed during the 2014/15 UEFA Europa League Play-off round draw at the UEFA headquarters, The House of European Football on August 8, 2014 in Nyon, Switzerland.  (Photo by Harold Cunningham/Getty Images)
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In what is often described as more of a distraction than anything for English teams, the Europa League third qualification round is under way, and a Premier League club is in danger of crashing out of the competition prior to the group stage for the third straight season.

West Ham fell 2-1 at NK Domzale, the third-placed finishers in the Slovenian league last season. Mark Noble grabbed an 18th-minute penalty, the only takeaway from an otherwise depressing road result. On the other side, 24-year-old Matic Crnic scored twice to put Domzale through.

Last season, the Hammers also dropped out of the competition in the third qualification round, to Romanian club Astra Giurgiu, although they had wins in the first and second rounds after entering the competition via fair play. In addition, Southampton also crashed out of last year’s Europa League in the playoff round to Danish side FC Mitdjylland. Hull City dropped out of the tournament two seasons ago in the playoff round.

West Ham has the opportunity to turn things around at home in a week as they host Domzale at the Olympic Stadium on Thursday, August 4 in what will be West Ham’s first competitive in their new home.

Other notable scores from Europa League qualification include:

  • Lille 1-1 Gabala FC
  • Panathinaikos 1-0 AIK
  • Genk 1-0 Cork
  • Pandurii Targu Jiu 0-3 Maccabi Tel Aviv
  • Videoton 0-1 Midtjylland
  • Hertha BSC 1-0 Bronby
  • AZ Alkmaar 1-0 Giannina

Napoli chief calls Gonzalo Higuain a “traitor,” striker hits back

Argentinian striker Gonzalo Higuain shows the Juventus' jersey as he arrives in the team headquarters in Turin, Italy, Wednesday July 27, 2016. Italian champion Juventus said Tuesday it has signed  Higuain from Serie A rival Napoli for 90 million euros ($99 million). (Alessandro Di Marco/Ansa via Ap)
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Gonzalo Higuain’s summer move to Juventus has not come without bad blood.

When the 28-year-old striker moved from Naples to Turin thanks to Juventus activating his release clause, it left Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis with a sour taste in his mouth. “There are those who say that talk of betrayal is an exaggeration, but I think the opposite,” De Laurentiis told Corierre dello Sport. “Because, in this decision, there is the full sense of betrayal, which also includes ingratitude.”

“We never seriously thought he would leave. Nor that he would have erased in a flash the memories of his three years in Naples.”

That didn’t sit well with Higuain, who fired back that it was de Laurentiis who drove him out of his former club.

“It was my decision to leave, but it was [De Laurentiis] who pushed me into making it,” Higuain told the media at his Juventus unveiling. “I’d like to thank the fans and my teammates, but not De Laurentiis. I no longer had a relationship with him; I couldn’t stand another minute with him.”

Higuain was more celebratory about his time at Stadio San Paulo. “These have been three amazing years,” Higuain said, “and I can only say thanks for all the love I was given, but this was a decision I took for my own reasons. I can understand that they are angry with me and I’ve seen the insults, but it is something I had to do and I’m happy about it.”

Napoli visits Turin in Serie A play on October 30, while Juventus will not travel to Naples for the return fixture until early April of 2017.

Pep Guardiola says he benched Samir Nasri because he’s “a little bit overweight”

BEIJING, CHINA - JULY 24:  Samir Nasri of Manchester City attends the pre-game training ahead of the 2016 International Champions Cup match between Manchester City and Manchester United at Olympic Sports Center Stadium on July 24, 2016 in Beijing, China.  (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)
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Samir Nasri‘s soccer career has taken a nosedive since his seven-goal, nine-assist season in 2012/13, both internationally and domestically.

The 29-year-old winger has retired from the French national team after to being frozen out by Didier Deschamps, and has seen a decline in playing time for Manchester City two seasons in a row. Now with a new manager and a fresh start at the Etihad, things aren’t exactly off with flying colors out of the gates.

Nasri hasn’t featured thus far in Manchester City’s preseason, and manager Pep Guardiola said it’s because of his fitness. “Samir arrived a little bit overweight,” Guardiola said following the team’s win over Borrusia Dortmund in International Champions Cup play from China. “He’s much better now, but still there is a little bit of weight. Last season he was injured and we want to avoid that.”

City took down Dortmund on penalties following a 1-1 draw. The squad fell 1-0 to Bayern Munich last week in the team’s first pre-season match. Nasri did not appear in either, and defender Gael Clichy – without naming names – said that Guardiola has forced those with fitness issues to train on their own.

“We have a few players who are not training with the team yet,” Clichy, a former teammate of Nasri’s at Arsenal, said on Wednesday. “If your weight is too high, you’re not training with the team. You have to know that if your weight is 60 kilos and you are on 70 kilos, then you cannot play football.”

Guardiola backed up his policy on Wednesday following Clichy’s comments. “The weight is so important. When you are not fit, danger is coming. You’re not fast enough or quick enough in the head. That’s why you need to be fit.”

Leicester City inks Ben Chilwell to new contract, warding off Liverpool interest

Chilwell
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Liverpool wanted to get younger at the back, but they’ll have to look elsewhere.

Despite reportedly heavy interest from Anfield, 19-year-old defender Ben Chilwell has signed a new five-year deal with Leicester City, tying him down through the summer of 2021.

The Leicester City defense desperately needs Chilwell’s youth as it ages yet another year following their run to the Premier League title. Robert Huth is 31 years old, Wes Morgan – also on a new deal this summer – is 32, and backup Marcin Wasilewski is 36. On the left edge, where Chilwell is most proficient, first-choice left-back Christian Fuchs is 30, while Jeffrey Schlupp provides the only other true bit of youth at 23. On the right, Danny Simpson is 29 and Richie De Laet is 27.

The youngster was reportedly a high-priority target for Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool, lodging a number of bids with the news that Brad Smith would move to Bournemouth. According to reports in England, the Reds made one last effort to bid for Chilwell prior to his extension, but it did not bear fruit.

“Ever since I arrived in Leicester, Ben has been a young player that has shown a lot of promise,” Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri told the club’s official website. “He has all the attributes you would want in a defender and shows a lot of maturity for a player of just 19. He has come back for pre-season in very good condition and is already showing that he is ready to push for a place in the team.”

Chilwell, a Leicester City academy product, has yet to make a Premier League appearance, but has featured for the England youth teams at multiple levels.