Jun Marques Davidson, Keon Daniel, Baldomero Toledo

ProSoccerTalk’s weekly MLS rankings


The top four teams all lost; our weekly re-ordering of Major League Soccer teams, following 22 rounds of play:

19. D.C. United – A 2-1 loss at home combined with Toronto’s win cements United’s spot at the bottom for a while. But! … They did get a stadium deal done last week, and in the big picture that will be among the most meaningful bits of MLS news for 2013.

18. Toronto FC – A dramatic, late win over Columbus – the Reds still trailed in the 87th minute but rallied to take all three points – won’t help in a fruitless playoff bid, but was something to remember for 2013, at least. In fact, it was the first time TFC had won a league match inside its home ground in more than a year. Ain’t that something?

17. Chivas USA – The good feeling from last week’s streak-snapping win disappeared in a loss at Seattle, although the Goats didn’t look too bad in the 2-1 setback at CenturyLink Field.

16. Columbus – Having lost five of six, and considering the emotional blow of coming so close to a road win and then emerging without a single point in Toronto, you really have to wonder if the Crew can rally past all this and still make a playoff push?

15. San Jose Earthquakes – There was a wee bit of controversy with one of the goals, but a 2-1 win over Portland helped the Earthquakes creep up a little further in the table. They are just five points out of a playoff position at this point.

14. Houston Dynamo – A goal from a forward! The first since early May as Cam Weaver struck in a 1-1 draw at home with Chicago. Then again, draws at home won’t get it done for the two-time MLS runner-up; Dominic Kinnear’s team would not make the playoffs today.

13. Chicago Fire – Mike Magee’s 13th goal kept him tied for the league lead in scoring, and provided the important second-half equalizer in a 1-1 draw in Houston.

12. FC Dallas – Now that 22-year-old playmaker Mauro Diaz is in place, you have to wonder how long David Ferreira, struggling mightily now, will hold his place?

11. New England Revolution – We hear so much about the young Galaxy attackers, but what about 18-year-old Diego Fagundez, who has seven goals and four assists in 2013? That’s exceptional.

(MORE: MLS Round 22 week in review)

10. LA Galaxy – How badly does this team need Landon Donovan, Omar Gonzalez and Robbie Keane back in the lineup? The champs are just 4-5-1 since May, including last week’s 2-0 loss at Colorado.

9. Seattle Sounders – Is there some life left in Mauro Rosales, who had a big part in the team’s 2-1 win over Chivas USA? Eddie Johnson returns from Gold Cup duty this week.

8. Colorado Rapids – If you see any MLS rookie review that does not prominently include Clint Irwin, Dillon Powers and Deshorn Brown, dismiss it quickly and move on. Because those three young Rapids keep getting it done. They did again in a big 2-0 win over the LA Galaxy, which had dominated the teams’ series recently.

7. New York Red Bulls – The last 10 minutes of Saturday’s 4-3 win over Real Salt Lake must have been the most eventful this year throughout the league.

6. Philadelphia Union – Aided by a man-advantage for much of the match, Philly emerged with a 1-0 win at Vancouver. The Union is a highly respectable 4-4-3 on the road … and that is how teams make the playoffs.

5. Vancouver Whitecaps – What was Jun Marques Davidson thinking when he head-butted Philly’s Keon Daniel just 8 minutes into Saturday’s contest? Yes, Daniel was a bit naughty himself, but Davidson’s decision to pull a “Zidane” (pictured above) left his team a man down for more than 80 minutes.

4. Montreal Impact – The team’s home contest with Kansas City was as physical as you would expect. Blake Smith’s dramatic 96th minute goal sealed the deal for the Impact.

3. Real Salt Lake – Alvaro Saborio’s hat trick, just the fourth in MLS this year, will get a bit lost amid the disappointment of losing a late lead in the 4-3 setback at Red Bull Arena.

2. Sporting Kansas City – Sporting Park is the site of all things All-Star related this week as AS Roma comes calling for Wednesday’s big event. Only thing that would have made the week better around KC: if they had not conceded that 96th minute goal at Montreal last weekend (in a 1-0 loss).

1. Portland Timbers – Good for the Timbers, who refused to use a dodgy penalty decision as an excuse in a 2-1 loss at San Jose. Clearly, it wasn’t the best we’ve seen this year from Caleb Porter’s team, which seemed to miss midfield glue man Diego Chara.

FOLLOW LIVE: 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs knockout round

Sporting Kansas City forward Dom Dwyer, center, is congratulated by teammates, including midfielder Roger Espinoza (27), following his goal during the first half of an MLS soccer match against the Houston Dynamo in Kansas City, Kan., Saturday, Aug. 1, 2015. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
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The knockout round of the 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs concludes on Thursday, as four teams vie for the final two places — one in the Eastern Conference, one in the Western Conference — in the conference semifinals, which begin on Sunday.

[ FOLLOW LIVE: MLS Cup Playoffs knockout round ]

Up first, the East’s fourth-seeded D.C. United welcome the five-seed Montreal Impact to RFK Stadium for the two sides’ third meeting of the 2016 season. Each of the year’s first two clashes finished a 1-1 draw, in July and August. Didier Drogba is expected to be unavailable for the win-or-go-home tie. United finished the regular season with four wins in the last five games, while the Impact won just two of their last eight.

[ MORE: Preivewing Thursday night’s knockout-round games ]

In the nightcap, the West’s fourth-seeded Seattle Sounders will take on the five-side, Sporting Kansas City, at CenturyLink Field. Sporting were victorious in both regular-season meetings this year — 1-0 on opening day, and 3-0 in late-July, the day the Sounders essentially quit on Sigi Schmid. Since that blistering hot day in KC, the Soudners have lost just twice in 14 games (eight wins, four draws).

Thursday’s MLS Cup Playoffs schedule

D.C. United vs. Montreal Impact — 7:30 p.m. ET
Seattle Sounders vs. Sporting KC — 10 p.m. ET

Cristiano Ronaldo says Ashley Cole is the toughest player he faced

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Cristiano Ronaldo has faced the best defenders in the world during his time with Manchester United, Real Madrid and the Portuguese national team.

He has also caused fits for most of those defenders with goal after goal for club and country. But, there have been some players who have at least made it difficult for the all-time leading goal scorer in Real Madrid and Champions League history.

According to Ronaldo, former Chelsea and Arsenal defender Ashley Cole was the toughest player he has faced in his career.

[ MORE: VIDEO: Incredible Pelle goal in China ]

“Over the years I had some great battles with Ashley Cole, he does not give you a second to breathe,” Ronaldo told Coach Mag. “He was such a tenacious player when he was at his peak, quick, tough in the tackle. You knew it would never be an easy game.”

During his time with Manchester United, Ronaldo faced Cole on numerous occasions while Cole was with Arsenal and Chelsea. The two have also faced off in international competition between Ronaldo’s Portugal and Cole’s England.

It’s certainly high praise for Cole, who now plays in MLS for the LA Galaxy. At the age of 35, Cole has started 25 matches for the Galaxy this season, scoring one goal.

Phil Neville praises Juan Mata’s play to Manchester United

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Juan Mata has appeared in 116 matches for Manchester United since moving to Old Trafford in 2014. In that time, Mata has scored 29 goals and recorded 18 assists.

Despite his performance for the team, some thought Mata would be moved when Jose Mourinho came to town, including former United player and assistant coach Phil Neville.

Neville told Sky Sports, “I actually thought he would be the first out of the door when Jose came, but he’s actually becoming one of the most important players.”

Neville praised Mata’s contributions and versatility for United. “He is never injured, he provides a lot of assists, he plays in two or three different positions, and he scores important goals.”

Manchester United has lacked an identity under Mourinho and recently faltered in the Premier League as the team is winless in its last three matches.

[ MORE: Mourinho gets FA charge ]

Could Mata be the answer to some of United’s problems?

The Spaniard is a classic No. 10 with the ability to dictate his team’s attack and create scoring opportunities for his teammates. Mata can also put the ball in the back of the net as evidenced by his winner against Manchester City in the EFL Cup.

Mourinho has options in the center midfield with the likes of Paul Pogba, Ander Herrera and Michael Carrick in addition to Mata on the roster.

However, given the team’s Premier League struggles, it could be worth giving Mata a chance as the team’s No. 10.

David Moyes faces FA charges after being sent off during EFL Cup

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David Moyes and Sunderland have gotten off to one of the worst starts in Premier League history.

If they fail to earn a point against Arsenal this weekend, they will tie the 1995-96 Manchester City team for the worst start ever through 10 matches with two points.

It appears those frustrations carried over to the EFL Cup for Moyes. On Wednesday, the manager was forced to leave the dugout toward the end of Sunderland’s 1-0 loss to Southampton after he protested a no-call from referee Chris Kavanagh.

Moyes was charged by the FA for his protests, saying the manager “used abusive and/or insulting words towards a match official”.

It’s just another thing to add to Moyes’ plate as he looks to keep Sunderland’s hopes of safety alive in the Premier League.