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.

Pique finds solidarity with criticized NBA players

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There have been a number f outstanding pieces in The Players’ Tribune since its launch, but few as colorful and entertaining as Thursday’s entry from Gerard Pique.

The Barcelona star center back spilled the beans on any number of funny stories in his post, from Roy Keane’s cell phone anger and Sir Alex Ferguson‘s guiding hand to Lionel Messi’s greatness and more.

[ MORE: Zlatan in MLS an auto success ]

But perhaps most interesting was his take on the grief he’s received for supporting the vote for Catalan independence. Pique points out that he’s been proud to represent the Spanish national team, but won’t veer from his democratic beliefs.

And guess what? Even in Spain, athletes rightly bristle at the “Stick to Sports” crowd.

It’s funny, I noticed some people in America have started telling the NBA players to “just shut up and dribble” when they express their opinions on real problems in society.

It’s ridiculous, no?

It’s the same here in Spain. They say, “Just shut up and play football. It’s all you know.”

Sorry, but I will not just shut up and play. It’s not all I know. There’s a lot more depth to footballers than most people realize, and I think it’s important that we express ourselves and our views.

Given relative health, Zlatan’s success MLS is close to automatic

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The only question is his knee at his age.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is coming to Major League Soccer. Having confirmed his departure from Manchester United, the announcement that the living Swedish legend is joining the LA Galaxy is expecting next week.

[ MORE: MLS Weekend Preview ]

Some have asked whether he’ll cut muster in the league, to which we point to the lead: Few players have arrived to MLS with as dominant a career as Ibrahimovic, and the Swede would need his knee to fall apart in order to fail in California.

The man’s game isn’t based on speed, but it does require his abnormal power and grace. He scored just once for United in very limited time this season, but don’t forget how dangerous he was against Premier League and Europa League defenses last season.

He scored 28 goals with 10 assists last season, with 17 and 5 coming in league play. He was suspended for three matches and injured for seven, meaning this is a 20-goal Premier League scorer arriving in MLS within a calendar year of doing so.

Try putting his resume in perspective: Didier Drogba was extremely good for Montreal but a half-decade removed from his last double-digit goal PL season (Don’t forget that Drogba bagged 11 in 11 to start life on our shores). Robbie Keane was about the same time removed from his run of 10-plus goal seasons in the Premier League. He was good for LA.

The only risk here is that Ibrahimovic never gets healthy and LA takes a bit of a loss on his salary (one which is at least partially negated by the sheer number of Ibrahimovic Galaxy jerseys sold).

Entering this season, Ibrahimovic had failed to score 15 goals once since 2006. He’a also had a fairly religious assist output (10+ most years). With names like Alessandrini, Kamara, and dos Dos Santos, this should be a stand-up double if not a homer for LA and for MLS.

Plus the vicious looks after teammates miss him badly with a pass, let alone the press conferences and paparazzi hits: This should be a lot of fun.

MLS Weekend Preview: Friedel’s Revs get NYCFC test

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It’s an international break, and Major League Soccer is only sorta observing it.

More than half of the league’s clubs will participate on Saturday match days, with several shorthanded by national team duty.

[ MORE: Southgate on racism in football]

Columbus won’t have Zack Steffen and Wil Trapp for a visit from DC United — who is missing Zoltan Steiber, Bruno Miranda, and Oniel Fisher — while the Red Bulls will be without Tyler Adams, Kemar Lawrence, and Michael Murillo for Minnesota United’s visit.

NYCFC won’t have Alexander Ring, Ronald Matarrita, and Rodney Wallace, Portland’s without David Guzman and Andy Polo, and Sporting KC loses Daniel Salloi.

The Whitecaps won’t have center back Kendall Waston, while opponents LA Galaxt are without Ola Kamara.

New England Revolution vs. New York City FC — 1:30 p.m. ET Saturday

Brad Friedel‘s New England revolution, purposely lower case, is making believers out of its players. It would take a giant step if it could slow the NYCFC juggernaut. The visitors have allowed just one goal in their 3-0 start.

As for the hosts, Friedel has made his mark in a way that mostly makes you wonder what in the world Jay Heaps was doing:.

(Bunbury) pointed to a fine system in the locker room, increased accountability, how Friedel posts the starting XI on game day, and occasional two-a-day training sessions, which never occurred in the forward’s four years under Heaps.

“I think it unifies the team,” Bunbury said. “The broad sense of professionalism, it’s about having respect for each other and making sure you are held accountable in every part of this club.”

Never occurred under Heaps? Woof.

FC Dallas vs. Portland Timbers — 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday

FCD had an uninspiring ending to their CONCACAF Champions League dreams, but that’s little compared to the Timbers’ 0-2 start under Gio Savarese. A trip down South isn’t a surefire way to right the ship.

Vancouver Whitecaps vs. LA Galaxy — 10 p.m. ET Saturday

A long trip up North is only made worse by a laundry list of injuries for Sigi Schmid’s Galaxy. We’re only listing it amongst our Top Three because an LA win would be wildly impressive given the ‘Caps strong start.


Columbus Crew vs. DC United — 6 p.m. ET Saturday
New York Red Bulls vs. Minnesota United — 7 p.m. ET Saturday
Colorado Rapids vs. Sporting KC — 9 p.m. ET Saturday

Mourinho: “People with brains” understand Man Utd in transition

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Jose Mourinho’s been having a little fun on his international break, “managing” a team of superstars including Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt in a charity match.

[ MORE: Southgate talks racism in football ]

Speaking CNN as part of a publicity run, Mourinho was asked about Manchester United’s second place campaign and disappointment after dropping out of the UEFA Champions League.

Mourinho reiterated his position that United is a team in transition, and that the season is going along at an acceptable clip.

“I understand the frustration, I understand the sadness of being knocked out in the Champions League, but I don’t understand anything more than that,” Mourinho said to CNN’s Amanda Davies.

United has scored the third-most goals in the Premier League, and allowed the fourth-fewest. It’s drastically reduced its propensity to draw matches, which hurt its table position last season, and has already surpassed last season’s goal total.

Two more wins, 10 goals better differential, and the list goes on but unfortunately also includes crosstown rivals running away with the league and still alive in the UCL.

“Of course in the future we want to have 19 clubs behind us but this is the reality,” said Mourinho. “And the reality is for people with brain, with sense, with common sense, with knowledge of what sports is, we are in a moment of transition. Being in a moment of transition and still manage to do what he did last season and win trophies and to do what we are trying to do this season, which is still trying to win a trophy, and try to be second, because in this moment it’s the only top position that is possible for us to get. I think we are in a good position.”