Mike Magee-Chicago

ProSoccerTalk’s weekly MLS rankings

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Once again, the top teams are struggling to get through the summer; our weekly re-ordering of Major League Soccer teams, following 23 rounds of play:

19. D.C. United – Win No. 3 on the year! Conor Doyle, on loan from England’s Derby County, came off the bench for score a swell goal in the 3-1 result over Montreal.

18. Chivas USA – The Goats could generate precious little offense in a 2-0 loss at San Jose. Carlos Bocanegra’s red card stuck more of a bummer on the night.

17. Toronto FC – A 1-0 win at New England represents a nice result, but the Reds remain long, long way from turning this thing around. A resolution to the ongoing pursuit of Maximiliano Urruti would be a great start.

16. Columbus – Robert Warzycha’s team needs an August super-boost of the kind Federico Higuain gave the Crew one year ago. Unfortunately, those lightning-in-a-bottle moments are few and far between, as we know. The Crew has lost six of seven.

15. FC Dallas – The bottom has fallen out spectacularly as Schellas Hyndman’s team has not won since . How did this team get so bad, so fast? (One answer is the continued reliance on David Ferreira, who is a shell of his former playmaking self.)

14. New England Revolution – All the good feeling of two consecutive road wins evaporated in losing to Toronto FC at home.

13. San Jose Earthquakes – In echoes of 2012, Chris Wondolowski scored twice as San Jose won comfortably at home over Chivas USA. The ‘Quakes sit just three points out of playoff position.

12. Houston Dynamo – Two Houston forwards found goal, so perhaps things are pointed in the right direction at BBVA, although things were in doubt until the very end during a 3-1 victory over Columbus. Meanwhile, early reports that Clint Dempsey may have included Houston on his MLS wish list appeared to be false.

11. Chicago Fire – Mike Magee (pictured above) supplied his league-leading 14th goal, this one a game-winner as the Fire picked up a valuable three points on the road (at Philadelphia).

(MORE: Major League Soccer’s Round 23 in review)

10. LA Galaxy – Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan are back on the field following Gold Cup and injury absence. The champs have attempted to address their goalkeeping issues.  Now, if they can just get past this cash grab of an international tournament and re-focus on MLS matters, things might be OK.

9. Seattle Sounders – Clint Dempsey. ‘Nuff said. (Well, there’s this: looks like he’ll play this week against Toronto. Find Univision on your channel lineup if you have not already.)

8. Philadelphia Union – After a loss at home in Round 23, this week’s contest at PPL Park against a potentially drained D.C. United (which plays mid-week while the Union is idle) is an absolute must-have three points.

7. Montreal Impact – The Impact’s season of high highs and curious lows continues: Marco Schallibaum’s club fell to D.C. United, 3-1.

6. Colorado Rapids – A 2-2 draw against Real Salt Lake was enough to get the Rocky Mountain Cup into Rapids hands for the first time in seven years. That’s a big day around DSG Park.

5. New York Red Bulls – When peripheral figures like Loyd Sam and Jonny Steele can contribute goals and assists, the team will be a good shape. Last week’s 3-2 win at Sporting Kansas City, a lesson in counter-attacking soccer, helped soften the blow of losing Tim Cahill to injury for a few weeks.

4. Vancouver Whitecaps – Yet another rugged, foul-filled Cascadia Cup contest resulted in a 1-1 draw in Portland, a good result for Martin Rennie’s team.

3. Sporting Kansas City – Peter Vermes changed the team’s style this year to be less reliant on high-pressure tactics. The results aren’t encouraging, however. After last week’s loss in the heartland to New York, SKC is just 5-4-3 at home, which is mediocre at best.

2. Portland Timbers – Caleb Porter’s club is not handling the summer disruptions well, with just one win in its last five home matches. The big blow for the Timbers, however, was seeing bitter rival Seattle gather up attention and a roster boost in Clint Dempsey’s acquisition.

1. Real Salt Lake – Generally speaking, a draw on the road is fine, especially against a team in playoff position. But a 2-2 draw in Denver meant RSL handed off the Rocky Mountain Cup.

WATCH: West Ham star Dimitri Payet juggles chewing gum in warmups

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Dimitri Payet has dazzled many Premier League fans with his amazing skill since joining West Ham.

The Frenchman has produced feats of ball control, touch, and sheer power both to score goals from outrageous positions, or to create chances for his teammates out of nothing.

None may be better than this.

In the prematch warmups before West Ham’s 1-0 win over Sunderland on Saturday, Payet was caught on camera juggling his chewing gum. For a moment, his gum transformed into a tiny, bite-sized football and the 29-year-old smirked after keeping it off the ground before depositing it back into his mouth. Hygene issues aside, this is a stunning bit of skill.

Take. A. Bow.

Carlo Ancelotti admits he would consider England job

MADRID, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 28:  Carlo Ancelotti, Manager of Bayern Muenchen looks on before the UEFA Champions League group D match between Club Atletico de Madrid and FC Bayern Muenchen at the Vicente Calderon Stadium on September 28, 2016 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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Bayern Munich manager Carlo Ancelotti has admitted he would absolutely be up for taking the England job, but only after spending “a bit longer” in his current situation.

When asked during a profile by the Daily Mail if he would take the job, he said that both the England job and the position in his native Italy would be attractive positions to him.

“They ask me in Italy to come back for the national team,” Ancelotti said. “Usually I stay in one club for two years, like at Chelsea; in Paris, one year and a half; two years in Madrid. I would like to stay here a little bit more, a bit longer and then after that I have to choose England or Italy.”

“But Southgate…Why not? But later. You ask me now. And before there is Italian national team.”

Clearly the Italy job is his top choice, and who can blame him for wanting to coach the national team in his home country? But Ancelotti has proven himself in both attractive setups and project positions, and would be a fantastic long-term choice for England.

Also interesting is Ancelotti’s admission of two years at a club. He’s often been given a raw deal at many of his stops, either at Chelsea just a year after claiming a double, or at Real Madrid a year after winning the Champions League. However, Ancelotti’s comments suggest that it’s been his choice to stay at clubs for such short periods of time.

Watch Live: Manchester City vs. Southampton (Lineups & Live Stream)

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 03:  Sergio Aguero of Manchester City kisses the ball to celebrate a goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Newcastle United at Etihad Stadium on October 3, 2015 in Manchester, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
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Pep Guardiola faces his first serious bout of adversity as head of Manchester City as they host Southampton at the Etihad live at 8:30am E.T. on NBCSN, or live online at NBCSports.com. The hosts will look to buck a streak of four winless matches across all competitions, two in the Premier League and two in the Champions League.

Who does the storied Spaniard turn back to? The man he benched the last two times out, Sergio Aguero. With rumors suddenly swirling that the Argentinian ace isn’t part of the long-term future of the club – rumors which Guardiola shrugged off – Aguero is suddenly the man Guardiola needs the most.

WATCH LIVE: Manchester City vs. Southampton live on NBCSports.com

Also in the lineup is Vincent Kompany, making his first Premier League start since April and just his sixth Premier League start of the calendar year back from yet another injury problem. Kompany’s return will be welcome, as the club is without a clean sheet since September 17th when they blanked Bournemouth.

In the absence of the injured Bacary Sagna and Pablo Zabaleta, Guardiola has selected to play with a back three, but a more attacking variety with no full-backs to track back and support. He could have started Aleksandar Kolarov on the right and Gael Clichy on the left, but instead chooses to include Kolarov as one of the three, and keep Clichy on the bench.

On the other side, Southampton is unbeaten in league play since early September, a run of five matches, but they fell midweek in the Europa League to Inter Milan, failing to score in the process. They lost Shane Long to a hamstring injury in the process, and Charlie Austin remains the starter up front with Jay Rodriguez on the bench to back him up. Ryan Bertrand also misses out with an injury, as 21-year-old Sam McQueen comes in for the first Premier League start of his career.

Southampton have slumped to six straight defeats at the Etihad Stadium, last winning at City in April of 2004.


Manchester City: Bravo, Stones, Kompany, Kolarov, Fernandinho, Gundogan, Silva, De Bruyne, Sterling, Sane, Aguero.
Caballero, Fernando, Nolito, Navas, Clichy, Otamendi, Iheanacho.

Southampton: Forster; Martina, Van Dijk, Fonte, McQueen; Clasie, Romeu; Davis, Tadić, Redmond; Austin.
Subs: McCarthy, Yoshida, Rodriguez, Ward-Prowse, Boufal, Hojbjerg, Stephens.

Conte: My Chelsea will never play for a draw, home or away

HULL, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 01:  Antonio Conte, Manager of Chelsea reacts to his team scoring during the Premier League match between Hull City and Chelsea at KCOM Stadium on October 1, 2016 in Hull, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
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Antonio Conte knows what he’s doing — he’s playing the game made popular the world over by his predecessor and Sunday opponent, Jose Mourinho, and so many others who went before him.

[ MORE: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Where other managers shy away from the controversy and the spotlight brought upon themselves by the psychological warfare waged by so many of the giants of the managerial profession, Conte has embraced the added attention he’ll now face when Chelsea host Manchester United on Sunday (Watch live, 11 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

While Mourinho hasn’t been quiet in the build-up to his return to Stamford Bridge — how could he, given the considerable demand for comment? — he has mostly kept the cheap shots to himself and attempted to treat the affair like any other. Of course, it’s not that for him; for the Chelsea fans; for Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, who made the decision to fire Mourinho 10 months ago; and now, for Conte, who’s suddenly thrust onto the other side of the battlefield ahead of Mourinho’s grudge match — quotes from Goal.com:

“No, I think it is always right to play for a win. I try to transfer these thoughts to my players always. If you play at home or away, it must be the same.

“You must start the game with only one target: to win. Not to play for a draw. I don’t like this. It is not football. I don’t like this.”

“I think it is important to win, but for me also, it is important to win in the right way. Because, sometimes, it happened to me. I won in the past with other clubs, but I wasn’t satisfied with the performance.

“When you win is important, but it is important to also play good football, to play with a good intensity, to show always the will to win, the passion. For me, that’s important.”

The obvious inference here is that Mourinho’s teams have always been set out to play in a defensive manner — often times aiming for, or, at the very least, achieving 0-0 draws — something the Portuguese did earlier this week, away to Liverpool.

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup: Liverpool, Arsenal go joint-top ]

Conte didn’t ask to be the anti-Mourinho when he was named Chelsea’s new boss — not directly so, at least — but it comes as part of the territory when taking over from a mountain of a manager like Mourinho. Cool as ever, Conte is relishing his new role.