ProSoccerTalk’s weekly MLS rankings

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Ten rounds remain, and the races for playoff spots are deliciously tight; our weekly re-ordering of Major League Soccer teams, following 24 rounds of play:

19. D.C. United – The average of Ben Olsen’s starters in a loss at Philadelphia was just more than 22 years old. On the other hand, the Black and Red did advance into the U.S. Open Cup final with a mid-week win at Chicago.

18. Toronto FC – Ryan Nelsen’s men were huffing and puffing and ready to blow the Seattle Sounders recently fortified house in during the last 45 minutes Saturday in Ontario. But some abysmal defending in the first 45 had left too large a deficit, and the Reds fell at home yet again.

17. Chivas USA – Still not much offense being generated in Goats Valley, but a 1-1 draw with Colorado at the StubHub Center can be considered a little bit of a “win” for the wayward club in 2013 – especially considering Chivas USA finished with nine men on the field. These needless ejections are killing the club.

16. FC Dallas – Blaz Perez scored twice as FC Dallas kept its fading playoff hopes alive in a 3-3 draw with the Galaxy. Set piece strikes are this club’s saving grace. Giving up three goals at home, however, is not a recipe for success. Overall, the club has allowed 11 goals in its last 5 league matches.

15. Columbus – Federico Higuain’s sumptuous chip was the icing on a desperately needed win, a 2-0 result over New York that keeps Columbus, now under new ownership, just close enough to remain a player in the post-season pursuit.

14. New England Revolution – Charlie Davies’ arrival into Gillette Stadium may not help – but it surely cannot hurt, either. The Revs were just blanked for the second consecutive match, falling at Sporting KC, 3-0. Kevin Alston returned to the starting lineup, a nice story on an otherwise forgettable evening.

13. San Jose Earthquakes – It was a bummer of a week for the ‘Quakes, but two matches in two Canadian cities just three nights apart was a tough task. San Jose fell to Montreal in a Champions League contest and then fell to Vancouver on Saturday in MLS action.

12. Houston Dynamo – The slow summer days are over for Dominic Kinnear’s men. Starting with Saturday’s big match in Houston against Clint Dempsey and Seattle, the Orange has a stretch of 7 matches in 23 days (including MLS matches and CONCACAF Champions League contests.)

11. Chicago Fire – A slightly injured Mike Magee did not dress for Saturday’s match in Bridgeview against Montreal – so the 2-1 win without a leading league MVP candidate is a terrific result for Frank Klopas’ team.

(MORE: MLS Round 24 week in review)

10. LA Galaxy – Bruce Arena was hopping mad about some of the Dallas goals in a 3-3 draw – and he was right. Then again, he’s also correct about his team’s need to defend better, especially on set pieces. All three FCD goals came off a corner kick or a free kick.

9. Montreal Impact – The Impact has just one win in its last eight games and has fallen from first to fourth over the last four weeks.

8. Philadelphia Union – Two months ago, it was unthinkable that anyone other than early season scoring sensation Jack McInerney would lead the team in scoring. And yet, today, Conor Casey’s nine goals is just one behind “Jack Mac’s” team-leading 10. Sebastien Le Toux leads MLS with 12 assists.

7. New York Red Bulls – No Tim Cahill and no Thierry Henry meant no offense in the 2-0 loss at Columbus. The club was also missing midfielder Loyd Sam and coach Mike Petke, who served a one-game suspension for previous sideline shenanigans.

6. Seattle Sounders – As we told you late Saturday night, the Sounders just went from too many star strikers to not enough of them. Eddie Johnson will be out for this week’s match in Houston, and possibly Obafemi Martins, too. A win on the road boosted the Sounders into second place in the standings (if you go by points per game).

5. Colorado Rapids – Martín Rivero’s wonderful header was the late equalizer against nine-man Chivas USA, the late, late capper Sunday night to MLS Round 24. Oscar Pareja’s team is unbeaten in its last eight.

4. Portland Timbers – It just has to be a better week in Portland Timbers Valley, doesn’t it? Smack in middle of having to listen to all this Dempsey Delirium, all that attention devoted to Clint Dempsey’s arrival in rival Seattle, the Timbers fell in a U.S. Open Cup semifinal, dropping an opportunity to host the 100-year-old tournament’s championship.

3. Vancouver Whitecaps – The Whitecaps are 8-3-3 since early May, one of the league’s more consistent sides. And in the MLS Weekly Review, we ask the question: are we giving enough credit to one Nigel Reo-Coker? He had two assists in the weekend win over San Jose.

2. Sporting Kansas City – DP striker Claudio Bieler has been a fine addition, but it is Kei Kamara who is driving the summer scoring around Sporting Park. Bieler has 9 goals in 24 matches, but Kamara has 7 in 14 matches since returning in the spring from England. He had two goals in Saturday’s commanding 3-0 win over New England.

1. Real Salt Lake – Two close wins made for a benchmark week around Rio Tinto. Jason Kreis’ useful blend of young and old contributed to a U.S. Open Cup semifinal win over Portland, and then again over the weekend to a 1-0 victory over Houston in league play. Alvaro Saborio (pictured above) has six goals in four games since returning from Costa Rican international duty.

Spurs reportedly have right to match any Bale bid

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What’s Gareth Bale worth these days? And how much higher than that figure is Manchester United willing to go?

Those are the two main questions that arise from the idea that Tottenham Hotspur may have a contractual privilege to match any offer made to Real Madrid for the ex-Spurs star.

[ MORE: McKennie impresses again ]

Bale, 28, was worth $112 million in today’s dollars when Real bought him in 2013. He has 70 goals and 55 assists in 159 matches for the Spanish outfit.

How much is he worth now? Certainly nothing near the same figure, as Romelu Lukaku went for $99 million this summer and Alvaro Morata went for $80 million.

The Express says Real expects $112 million right back for Bale, which seems insane. Bale has three goals and four assists in nine matches for Real this summer, and had nine and five in 27 outings last season.

Bale did, however, scored 19 goals in 23 La Liga matches two seasons ago, but he’s dealt with significant injuries on a near-annual basis.

Spurs transfer record is the $48 million it spent on Davinson Sanchez this summer. Whatever Manchester United, or anything suitor, will bid for Bale will likely be higher than that figure.

At one point would it make sense for Spurs to smash their record and wage structure to line up Bale, Dele Alli, Harry Kane, and Christian Eriksen in the same attack (I mean, holy smoke, just close your eyes and visualize that!).

Real reportedly wants to make the move happen in January, while United wants to do it in the summer.

Moyes: West Ham mentality, confidence is shaky

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David Moyes needed to see his charges in action, and didn’t love the mental side of West Ham’s 2-0 loss to Watford on Sunday at Vicarage Road.

The Irons had plenty of chances on the day, with Cheikhou Kouyate seeing one shot saved before missing another in perhaps the two best of the day.

[ RECAP: Watford 2-0 West Ham ]

And Watford’s first goal was pretty unlucky, as Andre Gray bungled a shot that went right to Will Hughes for his first Premier League goal.

Moyes’ Irons also lost Marko Arnautovic with what he thinks is a broken thumb, but is more worried about the club’s poise. From the BBC:

“I was only ever going to find out what the players were like by working with them and seeing them play today. When the opportunities didn’t go for us, the confidence went away.

“We have to try to find a way of winning. The important thing is to be in the game, and when we lost the second goal, it became difficult.”

Watford spoils Moyes’ West Ham debut

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  • Unhappy debut for Moyes
  • Hart, Gomes make wild saves
  • Hughes scores early
  • Richarlison adds insurance

Will Hughes and Richarlison scored on either side of half time to lift Watford to a 2-0 win over visiting West Ham on Sunday at Vicarage Road.

It’s a debut loss for new Irons boss David Moyes, whose club remains in the Premier League’s 18th position.

Watford rises to eighth, with 18 points.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

West Ham looked bright and industrious in the first 10 minutes, yet Watford had a lead in the 11th.

Andre Gray whiffed on a shot, and the ball bobbled to Hughes for an advantageous finish.

Watford was on the back foot for much of the latter stages in the first half. A slick one-touch endeavor ended with Heurelho Gomes getting a piece of Cheikhou Kouyate‘s low shot.

Gomes then twice denied Marko Arnautovic, the first an incredible leg save.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Kouyate and Abdoulaye Doucoure traded chances early in the second half, with neither on frame.

Andre Gray and Doucoure worked a fine 58th minute chance, with Winston Reid‘s slight deflection stopping Gray from curling inside the far post. Joe Hart made a terrific save as Watford then pressed off the ensuing corner kick.

Richarlison put it away, essentially, with a 64th minute goal. Hughes handled the ball in the run-up, but the Brazilian’s finish was electrifying.

It’s Richarlison’s fifth PL goal of the season, matching his half-season total with Fluminese.

Christian Kabasele blocked a Lanzini rip off the line in the 74th minute as the Irons kept battling for an unlikely comeback.

Italian president’s burning remarks provide path for USMNT

AP Photo/Frank Augstein
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There’s no question whether the Italian national team job is a different class than the United States men’s national team.

Aside from the fact that both sides failed to qualify for the World Cup, have a vacant manager’s chair, and decent recent results at youth level, the disparity is striking (and not all in negative ways for American fans).

[ MORE: McKennie impresses again ]

Italy has won four World Cups and a EURO, and played in four additional title games. Their domestic league is Top Five, and only six pool players who’ve been called up in the last 12 months come from outside Serie A. Three play in the Premier League, two in La Liga, and one in Ligue 1. It’s qualifying slate meant top Spain or face a home-and-home playoff with another top European team.

On the other hand, the U.S. faces the most forgiving qualifying run this side of Oceania. It’s room for improvement on the international stage is much higher, and its current group is so much further from its potential than the Italian side that it’s hard to find an apt comparison (Consider that, playoff loss aside, Italy has beat the following sides in the last 18 months: Belgium, Spain, Netherlands, and Uruguay).

Differences/similarities aside — and yes, it’s a tad ridiculous to get this deep into what separates Italy from the U.S. in terms of soccer — the USSF could do worse than monitoring how the Italians are handling their World Cup disaster.

1) Accepting responsibility without caveats about their previous successes — Here’s federation president Carlo Tavecchio (who it must be noted has said some reprehensible racist things. We would never gloss over something like that, but we’re talking about the soccer side here). After blasting player selection, he then said, ‘Yeah, but I hired the dude”:

“How can you not play [Lorenzo] Insigne? I told the staff, not him. I can’t intervene [with the coach], there are rules. I have to acknowledge it; I chose the coach. It’s been four days that I haven’t slept. I wake up continuously. We have always played crosses against tall defenders, some almost two meters tall. We had to play around them with the little players, who were on the bench.”

2) Waiting a while to make the correct move — By most accounts, this is very much the plan for the United States (especially with a presidential election looming in February). While most new presidents wouldn’t begrudge the hiring of an highly-qualified name, plenty of prospective bosses would want to wait until the new (or current) man in charge cements his place.

Tavecchio dropped plenty of names, and is especially interested in Chelsea’s Antonio Conte. And he said it’ll be worth the wait.

“We’re looking for the best. They already have commitments until June from a contractual point of view. Then when we get to June, who will be free? The ones are Ancelotti, Conte, Allegri, [Claudio] Ranieri and Mancini. This is the truth of those available.”

Granted the U.S. does not have the wealth of elite experience coaches that Italy does, but the Americans are also not limited to hiring an American.

USMNT interim boss Dave Sarachan is a respected soccer name who is not going to light the shop on fire while the right hire is made during this upcoming string of friendlies.

It’s a top-bottom failure. It includes nearly every part of the system, but the man in charge is the most important part considering that the USMNT should qualify for every World Cup and somehow managed to bungle it.

America needs a bungle-free hire.