DC United v New York Red Bulls

ProSoccerTalk’s weekly MLS rankings

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Our weekly re-ordering of Major League Soccer teams, following 18 rounds of play:

19. D.C. United – In league games, Ben Olsen’s team has not scored in the run of play since Kyle Porter knocked one in back on May 19. That’s six games without a goal that didn’t come from the penalty spot. Oh, my.

18. Chivas USA – Carlos Bocanegra’s first game could be July 12 at Philadelphia. (The former U.S. captain was signed Monday.) And Erick “Cubo” Torres may be en route, too. Are there signs of life here?

17. Toronto FC – The only good news from 1-0 loss at home to Real Salt Lake: Danny Koevermans got back into the starting lineup for the first time in almost 12 months.

16. San Jose Earthquakes – Are the Goonies back? A spirited three-goal rally in Saturday’s win over the Galaxy (3-2) before a packed Stanford Stadium has the look of one to build on.

15. Columbus – After an initial win, the Crew is now 0-2 since glue-man midfielder Eddie Gaven and center back Glauber fell to season-ending injuries.

14. Chicago Fire – Frank Klopas’ team had the weekend off and now prepare to face San Jose. Anyone remember the beauty Chris Rolfe scored against the Earthquakes last year?

13. LA Galaxy – Bruce Arena was understandably unhappy after his team blew a 2-0 lead. “I’m absolutely embarrassed at that performance,” he said. “It’s disgraceful”

12. Colorado Rapids – A comeback 4-3 win at Montreal is surely one of the best “Ws” in two years under manager Oscar Pareja. Dillon Powers and Deshorn Brown keep building their Rookie of the Year cases.

11. Houston Dynamo – Another match, another day of bankrupt offense in the latest blanking, a 2-0 loss in New York. Perhaps Will Bruin’s departure for Gold Cup duty is a blessing in disguise, as a lineup adjustment can perhaps shake something loose.

10. New England Revolution – A 1-1 draw at Chivas USA puts the Revolution record at 3-1-3 since early May. Diego Fagundez got another assist in his ongoing, outstanding season.

9. New York Red Bulls – Finally, Fabian Espindola (pictured, above) got another goal! The former RSL man hit his first in more than two months in a 2-0 win over Houston.

8. Vancouver Whitecaps – After such a long run with very little success away from B.C. Place, Martin Rennie’s team has picked up points on four of its last five road matches. They team is 2-1-2 in that time – which is pretty darned good.

7. Philadelphia Union – Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath howled, feeling he was fouled on the sequence that led to Blas Perez’s late equalizer. But, uh … what in the world was he doing trying to catch that ball rather than aggressively punch it into next week?

6. Seattle Sounders – A big opportunity awaits Wednesday: With the weekend off to rest up, Sigi Schmid and his Sounders get a reeling D.C. United in town.

5. Sporting Kansas City – Kei Kamara made his case for Player of the Week with two very well-taken goals in a 3-2 win over Columbus. Makes you wonder why it took so long for him to get back into SKC’s starting 11 after returning from England.

4. Montreal Impact – A month after giving up three goals at home to Philadelphia, the Impact concedes four at home to Colorado (in a 4-3 loss). Those are sure warning signs that something isn’t quite right in the back.

3. FC Dallas – Another week, another white knuckle comeback. Blas Perez scored one in stoppage time that didn’t count. No matter … he scored another one, this one even deeper into injury time, and it counted as the equalizer in a 2-2 draw in Philadelphia.

2. Real Salt Lake – Tough personnel times are ahead as Kyle Beckerman, Nick Rimando and Alvaro Saborio will miss significant time while on Gold Cup duty.

1. Portland Timbers – The Timbers next chance to extend that showy unbeaten streak (now at 18 games in all competitions, 15 in league play) happens in Columbus this weekend.

Antonio Conte on Chelsea’s struggles: “We haven’t got a magic wand”

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 24:  Antonio Conte, Manager of Chelsea looks on during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Chelsea at the Emirates Stadium on September 24, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
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Antonio Conte knows turning things around at Chelsea will not be easy.

[ MORE: Wenger to coach England?

Especially since, well, waving a magic wand around will do absolutely nothing to solve their defensive frailties.

Chelsea’s Italian manager was seething following their 3-0 drubbing at Arsenal last weekend as his team looked all over the place defensively and they’ve now conceded nine times in their last four games.

For a manager of Conte’s ilk who prides himself on setting up his teams to be tough to beat and stingy at the back, it hurt him. Big time.

Speaking to the press ahead of Chelsea’s game at Hull City on Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET online via NBC Sports) Conte knows the size of the task facing him.

“It is never good when you lose, but I think also in these two games we saw and learnt a lot of important things. We must work very hard to recover,” Conte said. “We finished 10th last season – when you finish 10th it means you have problems. Now we are trying to solve this situation, but we haven’t got a magic wand.

“We faced two teams who were very strong (Liverpool and Arsenal) and for me, these two teams are now at the top. We have a lot to improve, but this is the hope we must have. I see the present and the opportunity to improve, it’s not easy. But we know this.”

The Italian also revealed that captain John Terry will not return for this game so he may well have to continue with the likes of Gary Cahill and Branislav Ivanovic in defense, despite both of those long-time Chelsea defenders going through a tough time in terms of their form.

It will be intriguing to see if Conte switches to a 3-5-2 formation this week at Hull. The Tigers usually only play with one man up front, Abel Hernandez, so it would seem unlikely Conte will add an extra man in the center of his defense.

That said, such has been the shocking nature of Chelsea’s defending in recent weeks, the Italian will try anything — expect from magic — to turn this slump around and get back on track after three-straight wins to start the PL campaign had many people touting them as title contenders.

What is Arsenal’s best XI from Arsene Wenger’s 20 years in charge?

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Wow. This was tough.

With Arsene Wenger celebrating 20 years in charge at Arsenal on October 1, tomorrow, now seems like a good time to look back at all the players he’s managed and pick the best XI during his two decades at the helm of the Gunners.

[ MORE: Wenger to England? ]

Of course his early teams dominated the Premier League, winning three PL titles in his first eight seasons in charge which included the “Invincibles” and going 49 games unbeaten in the Premier League. Arsenal fans won’t need reminding that they haven’t won a title for 12 years but that doesn’t mean plenty more fine players haven’t played for the Gunners in that time period.

Below is my selection of the best XI to play for Arsenal under Wenger, and I urge you to tell us yours in the comments section below.

Remember: At 12:30 p.m. ET, this Saturday, Oct. 1, NBCSN presents a new Premier League Download: Inside the Mind of Arsene Wenger, hosted by The Men in Blazers’ Roger Bennett to celebrate 20 years at Arsenal. Promo video is above.


JPW’s best Arsenal XI under Arsene Wenger

—– Seaman —–

— Dixon — Adams — Campbell — Cole —

—- Pires — Vieira — Fabregas — Sanchez —-

—– Henry — Bergkamp —– 

Iniesta in, Fabregas out as Spain seeks to avenge loss to Italy

TOULOUSE, FRANCE - JUNE 13: Andres Iniesta of Spain shoots at goal during the UEFA EURO 2016 Group D match between Spain and Czech Republic at Stadium Municipal on June 13, 2016 in Toulouse, France.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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MADRID (AP) Andres Iniesta will lead Spain in its World Cup qualifying matches against Italy and Albania after returning from injury.

[ MORE: Wenger to coach England?

Spain will be seeking to avenge a loss to Italy at the European Championship that ended the team’s bid for a third consecutive continental title.

Spain coach Julen Lopetegui named Iniesta to his squad on Friday for the upcoming away qualifiers Oct. 6 and 9.

“The return of Andres is very good news for us,” Lopetegui said. “He has played consistently for the past month. We are happy he is here, above all given the rivals we have to face.”

Chelsea’s Cesc Fabregas was not included in Lopetegui’s squad after losing his place in Antonio Conte‘s starting lineup for most of this season.

The most notable inclusion was Napoli forward Jose Callejon in place of new Barcelona striker Paco Alcacer, who was dropped. He will join an attack consisting of Diego Costa, Alvaro Morata, Manuel “Nolito” Agudo and Victor “Vitolo” Machin.

Midfielder Francisco “Isco” Alarcon returned to the squad in detriment of Real Madrid teammate Marco Asensio. Madrid defender Nacho Fernandez and Sevilla goalkeeper Sergio Rico were also back after missing Lopetegui’s first list.

The 2-0 loss to Italy in the round-of-16 of Euro 2016 marked the end of Vicente del Bosque’s long and successful stint as Spain’s manager. Lopetegui has since been tasked with rejuvenating a team that won the 2010 World Cup and 2008 and 2012 European Championships.

Under Lopetegui, Spain beat Lichtenstein 8-0 its first qualifier for the 2018 World Cup after beating Belgium in a friendly in his debut. Iniesta missed those two matches with a knee injury.

Both Italy and Albania won their opening qualifiers in Group G.

While Italy is clearly Spain’s main rival for the group, Albania is riding high after winning its first match at a major tournament at Euro 2016.

“These are two important matches, but they are not definitive,” Lopetegui said. “We know how tough they will be and we are motivated to meet the challenge. We will not settle for draws.”

Spain:

Goalkeepers: David De Gea (Manchester United), Pepe Reina (Napoli), Sergio Rico (Sevilla).

Defenders: Nacho Fernandez (Real Madrid), Jordi Alba (Barcelona), Dani Carvajal (Real Madrid), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid), Gerard Pique (Barcelona), Javi Martinez (Bayern Munich).

Midfielders: Jorge “Koke” Resurreccion (Atletico Madrid), Sergi Roberto (Barcelona), Saul Niguez (Atletico Madrid), Sergio Busquets (Barcelona), David Silva (Manchester City), Lucas Vazquez (Real Madrid), Thiago Alcantara (Bayern Munich), Andres Iniesta (Barcelona), Francisco “Isco” Alarcon (Real Madrid).

Forwards: Jose Callejon (Napoli), Victor “Vitolo” Machin (Sevilla), Alvaro Morata (Real Madrid), Diego Costa (Chelsea), Manuel “Nolito” Agudo (Manchester City).

Why is Jose Mourinho upset with his Man United coaching staff?

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 29:  Jose Mourinho, Manager of Manchester United looks on prior to kickoff during the UEFA Europa League group A match between Manchester United FC and FC Zorya Luhansk at Old Trafford on September 29, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
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Jose Mourinho was visibly upset during Manchester United’s 1-0 Europa League win against Zorya Luhansk on Thursday.

Why, I hear you ask?

[ MORE: Wenger to coach England? ]

Well, it all centers around his coaching staff as Zorya’s lineup surprised Mourinho and his players, most notably Paul Pogba, were incredible confused.

At the beginning of the game Mourinho yelled towards his coaches and looked bemused alongside Pogba. After the game, which Zlatan Ibrahimovic‘s lone goal decided, Mourinho explained what the problem was all about.

“It was set pieces, organisation, they changed their team before the game,” Mourinho said. “Paul Pogba was a bit confused with the changes and obviously I want my assistants to take care of all the details.”

Mourinho was in discussions with assistant manager Rui Faria and Pogba but he was seen staring moodily at analyst Giovanni Cerra and then he took his frustration out on the bench.

The former FC Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid manager is a stickler for details and after spending many years as an assistant manager himself, he expects every meticulous detail to be spot on from his assistants.

Turns out there is a small margin for error when Mourinho is your boss.

With United winning three games on the spin after losing three in a row, Mourinho isn’t getting ahead of himself but anything other than a convincing win over Stoke City this Sunday (Watch live, 7 a.m ET online via NBC Sports) will not be greeted warmly.

One final note: it’s worth remembering that Mourinho has turned on his staff at other clubs before when things weren’t going so well…