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.

Report: Man United ready to pay $217 million for Neymar

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The thought of Neymar leaving Barcelona seems outlandish and so are these figures, but stranger things have happened…

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Spanish outlet Sport claims that Manchester United are willing to pay Neymar’s eye-watering $217 million release clause and also offer him over $27 million per season net.

Per the report, Mourinho and United have reached out directly to Neymar’s representatives on multiple occasions to let them know a move will be lined up this summer if the Brazil superstar wants to make the switch from La Liga to the Premier League. Neymar has scored 235 goals in 401 appearances for Barca since arriving from Santos in 2013, winning two La Liga titles, two Copa del Rey’s, a UEFA Champions League and Club World Cup.

That reported wage offer would mean United are willing to pay Neymar almost double what he currently earns at the Nou Camp and the Brazilian national team captain may see it as an offer too good to turn down.

That said, he is now 25 years old and will soon be handed the key to Barca’s offense with Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez perhaps having a maximum of four to five years each left at the top. Can Neymar wait for another few seasons before he becomes the main man at Barca? Or should he move to United this summer and become the king of Old Trafford?

With Wayne Rooney‘s power waning and veteran Zlatan Ibrahimovic clinical but yet to agree a new deal for next season, Mourinho’s options up front for next season are primarily youngsters Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford. With talk of Antoine Griezmann joining United this summer dying down, a massive move for Neymar would certainly give their forward line a new star.

The world-record transfer fee of $217 million is quite outrageous but they paid over $106 million for Paul Pogba last summer and United aren’t scared to spend.

Securing Neymar, or any other elite forward, will hinge on qualifying for the UEFA Champions League next season by either finishing in the Premier League’s top four or winning the UEFA Europa League this season.

The latter seems the most likely option right now and if United do squeak through then huge riches will follow as the third richest club on the planet (according to Forbes’ latest rich list anyway) will get richer through clauses in commercial deals being triggered, money from UEFA and beyond.

Neymar’s shirt sales would surely cover his transfer fee in a few seasons but the thought of Barcelona letting him go seems outlandish, even if they Brazilian star has been under investigation for alleged tax fraud and is yet to be the main man at Barca.

Defoe reveals vegan diet key to comeback

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If you want to score goals, be a vegan.

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That’s pretty much the message from Jermain Defoe as the 34-year-old striker rolled back the years on Sunday and scored in England’s 2-0 win over Lithuania in a 2018 World Cup qualifier at Wembley.

The Sunderland striker was recalled to the England squad for the first time since 2013 by Gareth Southgate and Defoe, like he has done all season, looked sharp and in the zone. Despite playing for struggling Sunderland who sit bottom of the Premier League table, Defoe has scored 14 goals in the league.

The only Englishman who has scored more times in the PL this season is Harry Kane.

Via the Guardian, Defoe has revealed the lengths he has gone to, off the pitch, in order to sustain his goalscoring prowess.

“Everyone wants to feel fresh in the game – there’s no better feeling – so I just make sure I’m doing the right things and trying to tick every box: cryotherapy, massage, eating the right things … I’m trying to turn vegan,” Defoe said. “That’s a funny one because, when I go to my mum’s, she’s got every kind of meat you can imagine out on the table.

“I think I’ve managed [to adopt veganism] successfully. My girlfriend suggested I gave it a go. Well, she said to me: ‘You’ve got to do it’ and she’s always showing me documentaries on it. It’s always nice to have someone around you who helps you and drives you on and wants you to do well. I don’t find anything hard to give up, as such, because I know the feeling scoring goals gives me. So, while getting in an ice bath isn’t nice, I just think: ‘You know what? I’m going to do this and be rewarded.’ It’s hard but in another way it’s easy because all I want to do is play well and score goals.”

Defoe is definitely doing the latter as he scored his 20th goal for England to join an elite list and is making the most of his opportunity back in the Three Lions’ setup.

As well as turning vegan, Defoe cut out alcohol many years ago and has also got rid of chocolate as well as limiting caffeine. All of this is obviously working. Defoe has scored 33 goals in 78 PL appearances for Sunderland since arriving in 2015 after many believed his England career was over following his move to Toronto FC for the 2014 Major League Soccer season.

How wrong they were. Southgate has said Defoe could play a part in Russia in two years time of England qualify and he’s still scoring goals in the PL. The chances of that seem pretty decent given Defoe’s incredible dedication to prolonging his career.

His body is a temple and one which keeps scoring goals.

CONMEBOL WCQ: Venezuela, Bolivia teetering on elimination

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CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying is always a challenge, and this World Cup cycle is no different.

With six teams currently separated by a mere five points under leaders Brazil, everything is left to play for as Round 14 hits South America.

[ MORE: Messi could face suspension from CONMEBOL ]

Here’s a look at what’s on the docket for Tuesday:

Bolivia vs. Argentina — 4 p.m. EDT

It wasn’t pretty at all, but La Albiceleste picked up a crucial three points against Chile, which could produce a morale lift for Argentina given their past struggles against the reigning Copa America holders.

Lionel Messi’s actions from the match could harm the Albiceleste though, with the Barcelona man reportedly facing sanctions from CONMEBOL for verbally abusing a linesman.

Meanwhile, Bolivia is in desperate need of a win in La Paz, and anything but three points could potentially end La Verde’s hopes of reaching Russia 2018.

Ecuador vs. Colombia — 5 p.m. EDT

It took a long time for Colombia to crack the Bolivia backline on Thursday but a late run from Juan Cuadrado helped set up the eventual winner from James Rodriguez, and kept Los Cafeteros in the top four.

Ecuador didn’t have the same fortunes though four days ago after falling to a very game Paraguay side. La Tricolor have gone winless in three of its last four World Cup qualifiers, leaving Gustavo Quinteros side with little margin of error against the Colombians.

Chile vs. Venezuela — 6 p.m. EDT

Chile’s qualifying struggles continued on Thursday after falling to La Albiceleste in a closely-contested match. Arturo Vidal’s six goals leave the Bayern Munich midfielder third in all of CONMEBOL this campaign, but the Chileans still sit on the outside looking in at the moment and in sixth place.

Venezuela is teetering on the edge of elimination, and a loss against Chile would all but seal their fate of missing out the World Cup. After reaching the quarterfinals at last summer’s Copa America Centenario, La Vinotinto have failed to replicate that form this qualifying campaign with just one win to show.

Top scorer Josef Martinez is no longer with Venezuela after suffering an injury in Thursday’s 2-2 draw against Peru, creating a major void in the side’s attack.

Brazil vs. Paraguay — 8:45 p.m. EDT

The Selecao continue to score at a lightning pace this qualifying campaign with 32 goals in the first 13 rounds of play. Despite conceding early to Uruguay on Thursday, Brazil responded emphatically with four goals, and most notably Paulinho‘s hat-trick.

Elsewhere, Paraguay kept itself within striking distance of the top five after its 2-1 win over Ecuador. The side is just two points behind fifth place Ecuador.

Peru vs. Uruguay — 10:15 p.m. EDT

Los Incas have not reached a World Cup since 1982, and although the team is just five points behind fifth, they need to pick up victories. Ricardo Gareca will be pleased with his side’s resiliency against Venezuela on Thursday, but more draws simply won’t do with only four rounds remaining after Tuesday.

Uruguay still sits in a solid second position after Thursday’s slip up against Brazil but another defeat could be potentially disastrous for La Celeste, who are just three points above sixth place Chile. However, Edinson Cavani’s nine goals leads all of CONMEBOL and Peru has allowed the third-most goals this campaign (22).

Ugly scene forces Ivory Coast-Senegal match to be abandoned

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Monday’s international friendly between Ivory Coast and Senegal turned out to be anything but that when the match was interrupted towards the tail end.

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The fixture was abandoned with two minutes remaining in regulation after pitch invaders disrupted the the match by getting past security guards and began chasing after players from both sides.

The score was level at 1-1 in the 88th minute when the disruptions occurred, causing the referee to halt play at the Stade Sebastien Charlety in Paris.

One of the intruders even managed to tackle Senegalese defender Lamine Gassama (as shown in the picture to the right).

Liverpool’s Sadio Mane gave Senegal the lead minutes into the second stanza after he converted from the penalty spot, while Cyriac Gohi Bi leveled the score at one apiece just minutes later.