ProSoccerTalk’s weekly MLS rankings

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Our weekly re-ordering of Major League Soccer teams, following 20 rounds of play:

19. D.C. United – What is in the water around Washington, D.C.? United is at 744 minutes and counting without an MLS goal in the run of play. But the women’s team there, the Washington Spirit, has gone even longer without such a goal. So for United, there is that, I suppose.

18. Toronto FC – One day Darren O’Dea is your captain and defensive leader. The next day he’s gone with very little notice but more than a few questions, sold to a club in the Ukraine. Yes, it frees up cap space, but it’s fair to ask about the plan around BMO Field. Specifically, is there one?

17. Chivas USA – After three games on the road, the Goats are finally back at home. In fact, this is one that a recently re-organized side, now showing a little more structure and soon to benefit from Carlos Bocanegra’s leadership could certainly win. Toronto FC is the opposition.

16. Columbus – New England travels to Colorado for a Wednesday match and then finds itself in Ohio for a contest three nights later. That is what you call a “prime opportunity,” and any team with real playoff ambitions must be able to take advantage.

15. San Jose Earthquakes – As inconsistent as the Earthquakes have been, with as many things as have gone wrong around little Buck Shaw Stadium this year, the side is just six points out of a playoff spot. The ‘Quakes have played at least one more match than most clubs, but there are some thin rays of hope.

14. Chicago Fire – Mike Magee has gone so far towards solving the Fire’s attacking issues – but Frank Klopas’ team isn’t going anywhere until the defense gets better. Latest evidence: Sunday’s 3-1 loss at Vancouver.

13. New England Revolution – Monday’s terrific news, that Kevin Alston has rejoined the team and is traveling for a mid-week match at Colorado, helped wash away the bad taste of a home loss to Houston.

12. Colorado Rapids – Anyone else get the feeling the Rapids’ season could go either way? They could climb steadily into a playoff spot or they could tumble down to the wrong side of Seattle and San Jose. If a climb is in the cards, they have to win the home games against mid-level teams, and a match like that is up Wednesday as New England visits.

11. Houston Dynamo – It took a holding midfielder to score two goals – OK, he was only officially credited with one, but he was directly responsible for one recorded as an own goal – to get the Dynamo a huge road win. Still, no Dynamo forward has scored since early May. Yikes!

10. FC Dallas – The team has tumbled from first to fourth lately in the Western Conference standings, unable to score and not nearly as secure in the back. (And that is unlikely to change until center back George John gets healthy enough to join the starting lineup again.)

9. Seattle Sounders – Osvaldo Alonso was back in the starting lineup last week, but the Sounders still fell, this time at Buck Shaw Stadium to San Jose. Now, they’ll be without Alonso again following his late, weekend ejection.

8. LA Galaxy – The Galaxy has allowed eight goals in stoppage time and 15 after the 75th minute. You read it here: there will be no three-peat if center backs Omar Gonzalez and A.J. DeLaGarza and goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini cannot sort out things back there.

7. New York Red Bulls – The weekend’s 4-0 win over Montreal was one of the best yet under young manager Mike Petke. For those wondering whether Thierry Henry could still manage the job (and the significant weight of expectation) at age 35, he leads the team in goals (7) and assists (4).

6. Philadelphia Union – Even Union fans seemed to feel a little badly about the way their team won over Chivas USA. But by season’s end that will be just another three points in the standings, and the Union is looking pretty good for a playoff spot.

5. Montreal Impact – The team is headed the wrong way, now having conceded 12 goals in the last three matches. The latest loss, 4-0 at New York, was a defensive fiasco.

4. Vancouver Whitecaps – No doubt about it now: Brazilian attacker Camilo (pictured above) has displaced Chicago’s Mike Magee as Major League Soccer’s hottest player. With two more strikes Sunday, he has 10 goals in the team’s last nine matches and a league-leading 12 strikes overall.

3. Sporting Kansas City – Looking for a swell game to watch this weekend? Sporting KC’s visit to Utah to meet Real Salt Lake looks like a real crackerjack. RSL is unbeaten in 11 matches across all competitions, while SKC is unbeaten in five MLS matches, now scoring with a forceful regularity.

2. Real Salt Lake – They got a bit fortunate early as FC Dallas misfired in Texas, but Javier Morales’ wonderful goal helped turn the night. A team missing four important leaders won for the first time in Texas, 3-0, at FC Dallas Stadium.

1. Portland Timbers – What a night at typically rocking Jeld-Wen Field, a stoppage time win over the two-time defending champion Galaxy that was easily the top match of Round 20 in Major League Soccer.

Report: Wesley Sneijder close to LAFC move

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Dutch legend Wesley Sneijder is close to signing for Los Angeles FC.

[ MORE: Latest transfer news

A report from ESPN states that Sneijder, 33, will sign a two-year deal with LAFC and become a Designated Player for the team who will enter Major League Soccer in 2018.

Per the report, Sneijder has been offered a deal worth $3.5 million a year to join LAFC and he would link up with the squad in January 2018 ahead of their debut season in MLS.

Having a star of Sneijder’s size will certainly attracted plenty more interest in LAFC, plus he’s still a mainstay for the Dutch national team as he has 131 caps with 31 goals for the Oranje and his quality as a deep-lying playmaker is undisputed.

The former UEFA Champions League winner has enjoyed an illustrious career in Europe, winning trophies at Ajax, Real Madrid, Inter and Galatasaray. He won the UCL with Inter in 2010 as he was a pivotal part of Jose Mourinho’s treble-winning team. Sneijder has spent the past five seasons playing in Turkey for giants Galatasaray.

Sneijder would become LAFC’s first DP signing and although the newly-formed club do not yet have a head coach, who wouldn’t want to work with Sneijder in MLS?

With the Banc of California Stadium set to be ready for the start of the 2018 MLS season, excitement is building in LA.

Sneijder’s arrival would help that grow further as one of the premier playmakers of the past decade will get to strut his stuff in MLS. Whether he turns out to be as influential a DP as the likes of David Villa or Kaka remains to be seen, but LAFC are clearly willing to back up their grand plans with grand signings.

Six charged over Hillsborough disaster

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Six individuals, including four former members of the South Yorkshire Police (SYP), have been charged over the Hillsborough disaster in 1989 which left 96 Liverpool fans dead.

Former SYP Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield, who was the match commander of the FA Cup semifinal which saw 96 fans crushed to death, will face charges of manslaughter by gross negligence of 95 of the victims. For legal reasons Duckenfield has not been charged over the death of the 96th victim, Tony Bland, who died four years after the tragedy.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) must apply to the High Court to lift an order imposed on Duckenfield after he was prosecuted privately in 1999. That must be removed before he can be charged with 95 cases of manslaughter.

Families of the victims gathered in Warrington, England on Wednesday and were told about the charges by the CPS, who later released the following statement.

Other individuals who will be prosecuted include the former Chief Constable of Merseyside and West Yorkshire police, Sir Norman Bettison, who is facing four charges misconduct in office following the disaster, while former SYP Chief Superintendent Donald Denton and SYP Detective Chief Inspector Alan Foster have both been charged with perverting the course of justice.

Former Sheffield Wednesday chief executive and designated safety officer Graham Mackrell has been charged with breaching the terms of the stadium’s safety certificate and failing to take reasonable care under the the Health and Safety at Work act, plus SYP solicitor, Peter Metcalf, has also been charged.

The families of those who perished at the Leppings Lane end of Hillsborough over 28 years ago have fought for justice ever since with Liverpool Football Club and the wider soccer community supporting the families in their battle.

From 1991 until 2014 they struggled to cope with the cost of a lengthy legal battle, but that all changed as the UK government have funded the legal costs for all the victims families with the total investigation now spanning four-and-a-half years and costing over $128.2 million.

Last April a verdict of “unlawful killing” was reached for the 96 victims after a new inquest was launched into the deaths following the original verdict from 1991 being quashed by the High Court in 2012 after a report from the Hillsborough Independent Panel.

The new inquest then prompted a new police criminal investigation as Operation Resolve was set up to determine what led up to the deadly crush, and the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) then investigated what happened after the tragedy and allegations that SYP had perverted the court of justice and tried to cover up their own responsibility.

The defendants, apart from Duckenfield, will appear in Warrington Magistrates Court on Aug. 9.

Giovinco strikes twice to lift Toronto FC to Canadian Championship (video)

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Sebastian Giovinco scored twice including in stoppage time as Toronto FC overcame Ballou Jean-Yves Tabla’s fantastic strike to win 2-1 in the second leg of the Canadian Championship at BMO Field on Tuesday.

TFC held the advantage after a 1-1 first leg in Montreal. The Reds advance to the CONCACAF Champions League.

Tabla, who just turned 18 in March, is an Ivorian-born Canadian youth international who now has four senior goals for the Impact.

Montreal veteran Patrice Bernier saw red in the 89th minute, putting the Impact’s chances behind the 8-ball.

[ MORE: USMNT Gold Cup questions ]

Toronto FC entered the match with a road goal advantage, which was undone in the quick flash of a left-foot, as Tabla dug a ball from underneath him and past a flying Clint Irwin to make it 2-1 on aggregate.

The goal was a double whammy for Toronto, which went to the break knowing it would need to score twice (or win in penalty kicks) to advance to the CONCACAF Champions League.

Yet TFC came back after a horrendous pass from Montreal, as Michael Bradley pinged a gorgeous diagonal ball to Sebastian Giovinco. The Atomic Ant recovered from a tough opening touch to bury his chance. 1-1.

And, oh yeah, watch this man work for his second…

Who is Kenny Saief, and other USMNT Gold Cup personnel questions

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Kenny Saief is an 23-year-old American left-sided player with UEFA Champions League experience.

So why do we know so little about the Miami-born man?

The answer is pretty straight-forward: Saief’s entire career has been under-the-radar. After coming up through a series of Israeli teams, he moved to KAA Gent in Belgium. None of those matches, even adding in his representing the full Israel national team twice, got a ton of play on American soil.

[ MORE: Saul scores stunner for Spain U-21s ]

So when Saief filed his one-time switch to represent the United States, paving the way for a USMNT call-up for this summer’s Gold Cup, even those of us who’d followed his career from afar had put a limited amount of actual observation on match footage.

So here’s the long-and-short:

  • Saief turns 24 in December.
  • He moved to Gent from Israeli second tier side Ramat haSharon in 2014.
  • Played a total of 35 minutes in friendlies versus Serbia and Croatia.
  • Saief has 20 total appearances between the Europa and Champions Leagues.
  • Posted a UCL assist versus Wolfsburg in the 2015-16 Round of 16.
  • Had goal, 2 assists in UEL this season, played 180 mins vs. Spurs.
  • Has 15 goals, 9 assists in 107 apps for Gent.

Saief should get an opportunity to make an impact for Bruce Arena’s USMNT, perhaps as soon as Saturday’s friendly against Ghana in East Hartford.

Who else stands a chance to gain the most from this tournament?

Joe Corona — The 26-year-old made his thirst-inducing name in American soccer circles by scoring a pair of goals in the 2013 Gold Cup, but has just 17 caps to his name. His call-up over veterans like Benny Feilhaber and Sacha Kljestan either shows how high he’s risen or how far those veterans have fallen.

Cristian Roldan — Seattle’s hard-nosed midfielder was playing college ball at Washington just three years ago, and it’s not crazy to think strong performances could boost him onto the radar of bigger clubs abroad (let alone make him a mainstay along Kellyn Acosta with the USMNT).

Dom Dwyer — If Roldan’s rise is surprising, Dwyer’s really is astounding. It’s easy to forget that the Sporting KC star forward was playing junior college soccer in 2010 before spending one season of Division I soccer with South Florida. Now he has 57 MLS goals and a look at becoming the clinical finisher the American side has wanted for some time.

Justin Morrow and Eric Lichaj — The 29- and 28-year-old fullbacks would love to prove their mettle is as good if not better than Jorge Villafana, the current front-runner to start at left back should the Yanks complete their revitalized run to the World Cup. Lichaj, a Nottingham Forest veteran, is also adept at right back.

This isn’t to say that Juan Agudelo and Kelyn Rowe won’t benefit from strong tournaments, but the names above have either been rescued from soccer’s scrap heap or at least Jurgen Klinsmann’s prison.