ProSoccerTalk’s weekly MLS rankings

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Nine rounds remain, and the races for playoff spots just keep tightening; Here is our weekly re-ordering of Major League Soccer teams, following 25 rounds of play:

19. D.C. United – Ben Olsen’s team fell to Montreal. Olsen got tossed out. The team remains on track for some dubious records. Ooof.

18. Toronto FC – Wasn’t Danny Koevermans supposed to be back by now? Every little bit will help for this bunch, which fell in Columbus on Saturday.

17. Chivas USA – Let’s see if the Goats can keep 11 players on the field for a mid-week meeting with FC Dallas. It hasn’t been that easy lately for Chivas USA.

16. FC Dallas – On the one hand, Mauro Diaz looks like a pretty good mid-season addition in the midfield. On the other hand we have that unsightly 11-game winless skid, which dates to May 25.

15. Columbus – Federico Higuain has that September look about him, as a another goal from the Crew’s top man helped give the men in yellow back-to-back wins for the first time this year.

14. Chicago Fire – A summer that had seemed to turn in the Fire’s favor took a downward dip in a 2-0 loss at New England. The team looked suddenly short of midfield ideas. Manager Frank Klopas and center back Bakary Soumare were ejected post-final whistle for their part in a sideline kerfuffle.

13. New England Revolution – Mayhem erupted at the end of New England’s 2-0 win over Chicago. Mayhem aside, it’s a big three points for the sixth-place Revs, considering they are neck and neck with seventh-place Chicago.

12. San Jose Earthquakes – Chris Wondolowski hit his eighth goal of 2013 as the Earthquakes upset Sporting Kansas City, 1-0, at Buck Shaw. “Wondo” and Co. have won five in a row at home, and that success in the Bay area has helped keep the ‘Quakes relevant in the playoff chase.

11. Houston Dynamo – Clint Dempsey was the name to know at BBVA Compass Stadium, but the Dynamo’s Giles Barnes stole the show with two goals, including one blistering right-footer from 35 yards in a 3-1 win over Seattle. Watch Barnes’ fantastic strike here.

(MORE: MLS Round 25 week in review)

10. Montreal Impact – A win over hapless D.C. United is not the achievement to hang your hat on in 2013; on the other hand, the Impact haven’t won a lot lately, so the late-game winner from  Marco Di Vaio was big stuff around Stade Saputo. He had both goals in the 2-1 win, his first strikes in MLS since July 3.

9. Philadelphia Union – It is rarely pretty with John Hackworth’s team, but the Union sure knows how to grind out results. Latest example, a highly useful scoreless draw at the New York Red Bulls. And, of course, if you’re going to play a 0-0 contest, may as well have a streaker after the final whistle to liven up the joint, eh?

8. Seattle Sounders – Stop everything this Sunday evening and watch a Cascadia Cup match for the ages against Portland. It. Will. Rock. … They’ve sold every seat in the building, Clint Dempsey will make his home debut and, of course, it’s Portland! Game time is 10 p.m. ET on ESPN2.

7. New York Red Bulls – The good work in goal of Luis Robles (pictured) was the high point from New York’s side of a scoreless draw against Philadelphia. But should the goalkeeper’s good work be a “high point” for a team blessed with Thierry Henry and other swell attacking threats? Meanwhile, Jamison Olave’s injury is concerning.

6. LA Galaxy – Robbie Keane is the newest hat trick hero around the StubHub Center, doing his three-goal thing in a commanding 4-2 win over Real Salt Lake. This comes after Landon Donovan’s hat trick of a week ago; this is an MLS club’s first back-to-back hat trick since San Jose’s in 2005 (Dwayne De Rosario and Donovan).

5. Vancouver Whitecaps – The Whitecaps suffered just their fourth loss 15 matches, falling 2-0 to in-form Colorado. Martin Rennie’s team resorted to hit-and-hope long balls to get over the Rapids’ busy midfield. They’ll presumably get that sorted out this week around BC Place.

4. Colorado Rapids – Raise your hand if you picked Colorado as a Supporters Shield contender. Hmmmm. … Not seeing many hands. … A 2-0 win over Vancouver is the latest good result for Oscar Pareja’s team, now unbeaten for nine in a row. New DP attacker Gabriel Torres (the club’s first Designated Player) debuted in a Rapids’ shirt.

3. Sporting Kansas City – Paying without Kei Kamara and Graham Zusi proved too much for the visitors in a 1-0 loss at San Jose. Peter Vermes’ team played well enough but did lack that last bit of playmaking and finishing quality that their talented pair provides.

2. Real Salt Lake – Manager Jason Kreis said the Galaxy was simply better, and it was hard to argue the point after a 4-2 thumping at the StubHub Center. (One of RSL goals came at the final whistle.) Not many bright spots, although Ned Grabavoy’s renaissance season remains rolling along.

1. Portland Timbers – Ryan Johnson and Darlington Nagbe had the goals in a 2-1 win over FC Dallas, but Diego Valeri pulled the strings in a midfield master class at Jeld-Wen Field. Portland was without Will Johnson and Jack Jewsbury, which takes a lot of “heart and soul” off the field, so that made the “W” even more worthwhile.

MLS Snapshots: Opara scores a bike, SKC win; SJ thump RSL

Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
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The game in 100 words (or less): I’m going to start by quoting myself (re: Sporting Kansas City), via Twitter: “This team is better in June than it was in March, and will be better in October than it is in June. Just steadily progressing.” Saturday’s 2-1 victory away to LA Galaxy (just their second road win of the season, and the team’s fourth and fifth away goals in 10 games) is the latest sign of progress for Peter Vermes’ side, as they extend their lead on the rest of the Western Conference to five points. Roger Espinoza and Ike Opara scored the visitors’ goals — the latter coming in spectacular, most unexpected fashion — before the hosts pulled back to 2-1 through Dave Romney late in the second half. LA, meanwhile, sit sixth in the West, one point clear of the wrong side of the playoff cut line.

[ MORE: Transfer rumor roundup ]

Three moments that mattered

22′ — Diop’s howler puts SKC up 1-0 — Sometimes — and this is one of those moments for Clement Diop — you just want the ground to open up and swallow you into the middle of the Earth.

35′ — Opara rides his bike to 2-0 — Ike Opara, a center back, scored a bicycle kick from a long ball played to him by Matt Besler, Sporting KC’s other center back. It’s a sequence of events you won’t see again for a long, long time.

59′ — Smith goes through Feilhaber, who is subbed off — Baldomero Toledo allowed Nathan Smith to stay on the field after this “tackle” on Benny Feilhaber.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Ike Opara

Goalscorers: Espinoza (22′), Opara (35′)


San Jose Earthquakes 2-1 Real Salt Lake

Three Two moments that mattered

13′ — Hoesen blasts a loose ball past Rimando for 1-0 — If you fail to clear the ball anywhere inside 12 yards, you’re probably going to get scored on. Danny Hoesen got all of this one.

68′ — Hoesen sets up Ureña for 2-0 — Hoesen’s speculative through ball found its way into space, and Marco Ureñat took it from there, putting the game away and handing RSL their eighth loss in 11 games.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Danny Hoesen

Goalscorers: Hoesen (13′), Ureña (68′), Hernandez (90+4′)

MLS Snapshots: Hat trick for Accam; MNUFC come back from 2-0

Photo credit: Chicago Fire / Twitter: @ChicagoFire
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The game in 100 words (or less): All hail King David Accam, the newest superstar of MLS — except, well, you know, he’s been doing this for a couple years now. It’s not his fault you hadn’t already taken notice. For too long, it was Accam and not much else for the Chicago Fire, who finished bottom of the league two straight seasons, in 2015 and 2016. Now, with the likes of Dax McCarty, Nemanja Nikolic and Bastian Schweinsteiger joining him in Bridgeview, Accam has ascended to his rightful throne as an MVP candidate. The 26-year-old Ghanaian international strengthened his case on Saturday, bagging three goals and an assist, playing a key part in all four goals, in Chicago’s 4-0 drubbing of Orlando City SC. Accam’s season stats now sit at 10 goals and six assists, for the Eastern Conference’s second-place team. If these kind of performances persist, don’t be surprised when Accam follows in Fabian Castillo’s footsteps, right off to Europe.

[ MORE: Transfer rumor roundup ]

Three moments that mattered

8′ — Accam rounds Bendik for 2-0 — The long-ball distribution from Bastian Schweinsteiger is perfect, but Accam still has a ton to do from there. He corrals the ball with his first touch, quickly goes around Joe Bendik, gets his wits about him and fires through an opening to make it David Accam 2-0 Orlando City SC. This one came just six minutes after his brilliant backheel finish for the opening goal.

52′ — Accam sets up Nikolic for 3-0 — The time and space afforded Accam is inexcusable from Orlando’s midfield remaining players in their defensive half of the field, but the through ball still required inch-perfect precision to find Nikolic.

63′ — Accam converts from the spot — No doubt about this one, as Accam slams home from the penalty spot to complete his much deserved hat trick.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: David Accam

Goalscorers: Accam (3′, 8′, 63′ – PK), Nikolic (52′)


Minnesota United 2-2 Vancouver Whitecaps

Three moments that mattered

45+2′ — Tchani heads a rocket past Shuttleworth — You’re not going to find many headers with more power behind them than this one from Tony Tchani, anywhere in the world, anytime.

50′ — Calvo heads down and past Ousted — Take, for example, Francisco Calvo’s goal five minutes into the second half… not quite as much behind it.

63′ — Thiesson hits it low, through traffic, for 2-0 — Jerome Thiesson’s equalizer needed eyes to make its way through a penalty area full of bodies.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Kevin Molino

Goalscorers: Techera (17′ – PK), Tchani (45+2′), Calvo (50′), Thiesson (63′)

MLS Snapshots: Manneh inspires Crew SC; Philly, Atlanta win at home

AP Photo/Jay LaPrete
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Columbus Crew SC 4-1 Montreal Impact

Three moments that mattered

17′ — Higuain’s free kick beats Bush — Aided by a slight deflection off the top of the wall, Higuain put a free kick past Evan Bush to give the home side an early lead.

70′ — Manneh makes an immediate impact — The initial ball from Higuain is what you came here for, but the elementary defending by three Montreal defenders is what’ll keep you glued until the very end.

72′ — Manneh sets up Kamara for 3-1 — Kekuta Manneh had been on the field for all of three minutes, and he put a goal and an assist to his name. Most importantly, three points to that of Crew SC.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Federico Higuain

Goalscorers: Higuain (17′, 88′), Jackson-Hamel (19′), Manneh (70′), Kamara (72′)


 

Philadelphia Union 1-0 D.C. United

Three moments that mattered

28′ — Blake gets down to deny Harkes from distance — Ian Harkes had picked out a spot just inside the far post, but Andre Blake was well up to the task of denying DCU’s homegrown rookie.

31′ — Picault slams Bedoya’s cross — Alejandro Bedoya’s cross has some serious loft on it, which it makes it so tough to keep the ensuing shot low and to hit it with such power. Fantastic finish from Picault.

70′ — Blake stone-walls Neagle from the spot — It’s a pretty poor penalty from Lamar Neagle, but it’s a massive moment so badly needed by Andre Blake who’s been well off his own standard this season. Don’t be surprised if it’s a season-turning save for the talented Jamaican.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Andre Blake

Goalscorers: Picault (31′)


 

Atlanta United 1-0 Colorado Rapids

Three One moment that mattered

67′ — Martinez turns and beats Howard for the game’s only goal — You can’t give Josef Martinez this kind of space, and this kind of time, around the six-yard box. He’s shown us seven times already this season (in just seven games) how deadly he is from there.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Josef Martinez

Goalscorers: Martinez (67′)

VIDEO: Accam’s slick backheel puts Chicago ahead

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For the last two years, David Accam has been, in my estimation, the best player in MLS that no one talked about.

[ MORE: NYCFC run rampant on Red Bulls, win NY derby 2-0 ]

Understandably so, of course, given the 26-year-old Ghanaian international and the Chicago Fire been rooted to the bottom of the league table for two years running. All of that has changed in 2017, though, as Accam finally has a forward (Nemanja Nikolic) who can not only put chances away, but create space and chances for his teammates, and a solid midfield base which allows him to cherry-pick counter-attacks just that little bit more.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

Entering Saturday’s game against Orlando City SC, Chicago sat second in the Eastern Conference, just four points back of Toronto FC, and Accam’s 7 goals and 5 assists (in 15 games) were a huge part of the why and the how. It didn’t take Accam long — two minutes, in fact, to put Chicago ahead of Orlando with a ridiculous backheel finish to Matt Polster’s cross.