ProSoccerTalk’s weekly MLS rankings

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Our weekly re-ordering of Major League Soccer teams, following 19 rounds of play:

19. D.C. United – Ben Olsen’s team was dominated in Colorado, but coming away with a 0-0 draw, especially without some important starters, was surely a moral victory for United.

18. Toronto FC – Diego Forlan is coming! … Oh, wait … No, he isn’t.  Either way, goal scoring wasn’t the issue in last week’s 3-3 draw with Montreal at BMO Field.

17. Chivas USA – Two draws on the road (at FC Dallas and Montreal, both among their conference’s leaders) made for a highly respectable week around Goat Valley.

16. San Jose Earthquakes – A win over Colorado in Mark Watson’s first match as interim head coach provided some hope – but they’ve lost three of four since. With three straight matches at home, we’ll know by early August whether this club has gone from Supporters Shield winner to non-playoff team, because they’ll need at least six points from this set to even think about post-season chances.

15. Columbus – Playing at home, with a lead, a man up for almost 80 minutes, the Crew still made fairly hard work of a 1-0 win over Portland. Federico Higuain did not help by missing his second penalty kick this year.

14. Chicago Fire – “Magic Mike” is up to 11 goals (tied for league lead) with another strike Sunday at Toyota Park. If the Fire climbs into the playoffs, is Magee the league’s MVP?

13. Houston Dynamo – Things are a little better around BBVA thanks to a 1-0 win over Philadelphia, but Dominic Kinnear’s team knows he cannot count on Ricardo Clark to score the goals going forward. The strikers and outside attackers simply must start producing.

12. Colorado Rapids – Any other team have two legitimate Rookie of the Year candidates? The Rapids do in Dillon Powers and Deshorn Brown, who had a goal in a 2-0 win over New York.  (They followed up three nights later with a 0-0 draw at home against D.C. United, a bit of a bummer.)

11. New York Red Bulls – Mike Petke’s team is a relatively modest 8-7-4. They play two of the next three at home in Harrison, with the one road trip into bottom-of-conference Toronto. That sounds like “Time to make a move” to us.

10. New England Revolution – The team just keeps improving, slowly but surely. The weekend’s fairly comfortable 2-0 win over San Jose makes Jay Heaps’ team 5-1-2 since mid-May. A spot in the playoffs is a within reach. Oh, and  Saer Sene sure nailed a beauty of a goal, didn’t he?

9. Philadelphia Union – A tough week on the road finishes with a draw at Real Salt Lake and a close (1-0) loss at Houston. It gets a little easier now, with Chivas USA and Portland en route to PPL Park over the next two weeks.

8. FC Dallas – Why is the team winless in six matches in all competitions now, after looking so powerful through March, April and May? It’s mostly about depth … and a serious lack of it in certain places.

7. Seattle Sounders – Weirdest stat about the Sounders: they have played just five matches since May. All the better, thought, given Osvaldo Alonso’s injury, and how diminished the team looks without him.

6. LA Galaxy – Robbie Rogers (pictured above, on the right) had his best outing yet in a Galaxy shirt, helping guide a good performance in a 2-0 win – And a controversy-free win at that! – over FC Dallas. FYI, goal scorer Robbie Keane now leads the league with eight assists.

5. Vancouver Whitecaps – So now we know: the Whitecaps can beat Seattle after all. Only took 13 tries! Martin Rennie’s team is 5-1-1 lately as Kenny Miller and Camilo are producing goals consistently.

4. Sporting Kansas City – A win at Chicago was huge for Peter Vermes’ team, which marched into Toyota Park over the weekend with just single win in league play since mid-May.

3. Montreal Impact – Marco Schallibaum’s team is winless in three matches, including two at home. And the Impact needed a late penalty kick Sunday just to split the points with Chivas USA. Time to wake up, Les Bleus.

2. Real Salt Lake – First run-out without all those important pieces? Meh. A 2-2 draw (against Philadelphia) without the likes of Nick Rimando, Kyle Beckerman and others is holding serve, at least.

1. Portland Timbers – The Timbers’ 15-game unbeaten streak, which was approaching league records, is over after a 1-0 loss at Columbus. Considering that Caleb Porter’s team was a man down for almost 80 minutes on the road, there was still enough to feel good about. They are, however, going to miss their captain.

Willian proves he’s Chelsea’s x-factor against Brighton

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There’s a considerable difference when watching a Chelsea team that plays with and without one of its Brazilian influences in the attacking part of the field.

Willian — who first debuted for the Blues back in 2013 — hasn’t always managed to be a regular starter for Chelsea, whether it was Jose Mourinho, Guus Hiddink or current manager Antonio Conte at the helm, though.

[ SOURCES: Jack Harrison expected to join Stoke City this winter ]

The 29-year-old plays with considerable flair, something that certainly isn’t uncommon amongst many players that have grown up in Brazil.

At times Willian’s overconfidence is a significant blessing, and at others it can be considered a curse, however, the former Corinthians player’s presence is something that Chelsea needs now more than ever.

That was on display on Saturday during the side’s 4-0 win at Brighton, a match in which Chelsea dominated from start to finish with Willian on the pitch. While the performance cannot solely be attributed to the attacking midfielder’s showing, it’s easy to argue that the Blues midfielder is becoming the club’s biggest x factor — one that can determine the outcome of a match.

Just look six minutes into the match, when the Blues put together one of the best team goals you’ll see in a match this year (or any year for that matter), which of course, was started and finished by none other than Willian.

What stands out about the play isn’t the brilliant slicing shot into the near post corner by the veteran playmaker, but instead the confidence that Willian exudes and brings to a Chelsea lineup that has plenty of talent to be considered one of the best teams in England and all of Europe.

After all, Conte’s group is just a season removed from winning the Premier League and still sits inside the top three in the world’s top league.

Then, there’s the Blues’ third goal against Brighton, which was set up by a smart, and instinctive, through ball played into the path of Eden Hazard by Willian (below).

Even though Hazard ends up with a ton of time on the ball to make his next decision, which was ultimately to cut inside on his preferred right foot, the run by Willian towards the end line dragged a defender away from the Belgian international — allowing the sequence to progress.

Arguing Willian’s importance isn’t a knock on Hazard — a world-class player in his own right — or Alvaro Morata, who has had the intolerable task of replacing a key player like Diego Costa.

Instead, it simply shows that Chelsea has a plethora of talent, and that some of the club’s attacking struggles throughout the 2017/18 season can be chalked up to Willian being left out of the starting XI on a regular basis.

[ MORE: Sergio Aguero continues to display brilliance for Man City ]

The Brazilian international has scored eight goals and added seven assists this season in all competitions for the Blues, despite only starting 19 matches.

The mind of manager Conte is an ever-changing one, so maybe Willian still doesn’t get the starting nod on an every week basis, but just by watching the team’s performance at the Amex Stadium it’s quite hard to argue against the player being on the field as much as possible.

Premier League Preview: Southampton vs. Tottenham

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Southampton will host Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday (Watch live, 11 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) with both sides hoping to pick up three points for very different reasons.

The Saints are currently in the midst of a fierce relegation battle through 23 matches, and sit in 18th place in the Premier League, while Spurs are hoping challenge for a top-four position.

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Mauricio Pellegrino‘s Southampton could get defender Maya Yoshida back in time for Sunday’s match, however, the side will be without Charlie Austin once more, who is currently nursing a hamstring injury.

Meanwhile, a number of key figures will miss the match for Tottenham, including goalkeeper Hugo Lloris and Harry Winks. Also, Danny Rose and Toby Alderweireld remain sidelined with injuries, although the latter is expected to be back soon.

What they’re saying

Mauricio Pellegrino on state of the Saints: “We are not happy with our position but in three or four weeks’ time everything can change. It’s part of our competition. I feel in our team the spirit is really good and everybody is conscious about what we need. I receive these messages from players every day, and we have to convert these feelings into stats.”

Mauricio Pochettino on potential January moves: “To be honest it will be difficult. At some point you always dream but not too much exciting [is happening]. If it happens, it happens. If not, then it doesn’t happen. We are happy with the squad.”

Prediction

Harry Kane is firing at an absurd rate recently, and Southampton’s current form is worrisome to say the least. With just four wins all season, it’s hard to imagine the Saints coming out in front in their clash. Southampton 0-3 Tottenham

La Liga: Las Palmas stuns nine-man Valencia, Atleti settles for draw

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A roundup of Saturday’s action in Spain’s top flight…

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s La Liga coverage ]

Las Palmas 2-1 Valencia

It’s never ideal when you finish a match with nine men, and that was the case on the day for third-place Valencia. Things were going according to plan for the visitors early on at the Gran Canaria when Santi Mina scored five minutes into the match.

However, goals from Jonathan Viera (22nd minute) and Jonathan Calleri (53rd minute) brought Las Palmas in front, and they wouldn’t relinquish the advantage.

Gabriel Paulista‘s second yellow card, which set up Las Palmas’ penalty kick in the second half was the first sending off for Valencia, while Ruben Vezo joined his teammate in the locker room with three minutes remaining in regulation.

The victory moves Las Palmas into 19th place in La Liga.

Atletico Madrid 1-1 Girona

Barcelona’s lead at the top of La Liga will likely grow courtesy of Atletico’s inability to apply pressure on the Blaugrana. Antoine Griezmann’s first-half strike wasn’t enough to cushion the Atleti lead, and in turn, Girona equalized with 17 minutes left in regulation when Portu scored off of a great take out of the air.

Espanyol 0-3 Sevilla

Franco Vasquez got things started for the visiting side after just 15 minutes, and before halftime Sevilla managed to double their lead through Pablo Sarabia. For good measure, the sixth-place side added a third goal in the 90th minute as Luis Muriel finished off a pass from Sarabia.


Elsewhere in La Liga

Villareal 2-1 Levante


Sunday’s La Liga matches

Alaves vs. Leganes — 6 a.m. ET
Real Madrid vs. Deportivo La Coruna — 10:15 a.m. ET
Real Sociedad vs. Celta Vigo — 12:30 p.m. ET
Real Betis vs. Barcelona — 2:45 p.m. ET

Blockbuster trade sends Kamara to Galaxy, Zardes to Columbus

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The MLS offseason has been in full force for some time now, and the blockbuster moves continue to take shape.

On Saturday, the Columbus Crew finalized a deal with the LA Galaxy to send striker Ola Kamara to the Western Conference side.

[ MORE: All of the picks from Friday’s MLS SuperDraft first & second rounds ]

In exchange for Kamara, the Galaxy have sent U.S. Men’s National Team attacker Gyasi Zardes and $400,000 in Targeted Allocation Money to the Crew. The amount of TAM could increase to $500,000 if Kamara scores 12 or more goals in 2018.

Since arriving on the MLS scene in 2016, the Norwegian had scored 34 regular season goals for the Crew, while adding five assists.

Meanwhile, Zardes has spent his entire professional career with the Galaxy up until this point, after having signed a Homegrown contract with the club over five years ago.

The USMNT winger has scored 34 goals in 131 regular season appearances since making his senior team debut for the Galaxy.