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.

French league terminates goal-line technology contract

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PARIS (AP) The French football league has terminated the contract with its goal-line technology provider after a series of glitches.

The LFP had already suspended the use of GoalControl, the German system that was deployed at the 2014 World Cup.

According to L’Equipe newspaper, the league will launch a tender in February to find a new provider of the technology that determines whether the ball crossed the line.

[ MORE: Bristol City 2-3 (3-5 agg.) Man City ]

In recent months, the French league had repeatedly expressed its discontent with GoalControl.

Goal-line technology entered soccer after a goal was wrongly disallowed at the 2010 World Cup.

FIFA is already focused on fast-tracking the next phase of technology – video assistant referees – for the World Cup in June.

Goal-line technology and VAR were provided by Hawk-Eye at the Confederations Cup last year.

Bristol City’s Johnson: “They certainly have heard of us now”

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The Premier League world may see Bristol City next season, but it seems its manager has the personality to arrive on the top flight whether or not his Robins earn promotion this season.

Johnson, 36, earned plenty of plaudits after leading his Championship club to the League Cup semifinals, famously defeated Manchester United in the quarters.

[ MORE: Bristol City 2-3 (3-5 agg.) Man City ]

Before that, Bristol beat Premier League sides Crystal Palace, Stoke City, and Watford. The Robins beat third tier Plymouth Argyle 5-0 in the first round.

Johnson was beaming after the Robins took Man City to the edge, closing to within a goal of extra time before Kevin De Bruyne‘s stoppage time number ended the tie 5-3 on aggregate.

“Absolutely I’m proud. It’s not just tonight but over the course of the season, particularly the cup run. It was a fantastic occasion, I’m sorry we couldn’t get the win but we played against the best side that I have ever seen live. They have so many good individuals.

“We kept going and it’s taken two injury-time goals to beat us. They certainly have [heard of us] now…everybody knows what we’re about. It’s been great.”

Bristol City is in the Championship’s fifth place, bidding for its first top flight campaign since 1980. Johnson should be a hot prospect to earn a shot in the Premier League should the Robins not make the jump.

League Cup semifinal preview: Arsenal vs. Chelsea

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  • Chelsea has won 4-of-7 League Cup matches vs. Arsenal
  • Arsenal leads all-time series 74W-58D-62L
  • Clubs have drawn four times this season

Hardware hopes are on the line when Chelsea hits the Emirates Stadium for a League Cup semifinal second leg with Arsenal on Wednesday.

The sides drew 0-0 at Stamford Bridge, giving Chelsea the advantage of knowing a scoring draw would do the trick and set up a date with Manchester City at Wembley on Feb. 25, though Arsenal has home field advantage in pursuit of a win.

[ MORE: Bristol City 2-3 (3-5 agg.) Man City ]

Henrikh Mkhitaryan may debut for Arsenal, though the club released an interesting note on Tuesday: He’ll wear No. 7 in most competitions, but will have to use a different number in the Europa League because Alexis Sanchez wore it to start the tournament.

Chelsea’s Antonio Conte won’t have Alvaro Morata (back) and Cesc Fabregas for the match, though Andreas Christensen will be available for selection.

The clubs are no strangers to each other in big non-PL spots, squaring off in this season’s Community Shield (Arsenal won in penalty kicks) and last season’s FA Cup Final (Arsenal won).

Nothing has separated the sides on the field aside from those penalty kicks at Wembley Stadium, as Arsenal and Chelsea have drawn 1-1, 0-0, 2-2, and 0-0 since August.

What they’re saying

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger on Henrikh Mkhitaryan“He can play in different positions, but personally I see him first in a wide position, but I’m thinking about him a possibility to play through the middle. You are certain in our job of nothing, that’s absolutely sure. But you believe and I believe he has the qualities to do well, is a team player and our game is based on team attitude and movement and I think he can absorb the quantity of movement in our team.”

Chelsea’s Conte on the lineup: “Every game is different, you change the quality of your opponent and you must be intelligent enough to understand if you should continue with the same players or make some changes.”

Javier Mascherano leaving Barcelona after 8 seasons

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona says defender Javier Mascherano is leaving the club after eight seasons.

Barcelona says there will be a farewell ceremony on Wednesday with Mascherano, club president Josep Bartomeu and the rest of the squad.

[ MORE: Man City to buy $86m CB ]

The 33-year-old Argentina international will say goodbye to the fans before Thursday’s game against Espanyol at Camp Nou in the Copa del Rey. He is reportedly going to play in China.

Mascherano, who also played as a defensive midfielder, arrived in Barcelona in 2010 from Liverpool and helped the Catalan club win 18 titles. He has made 334 appearances with Barcelona, but recently hadn’t been playing much.

The club earlier this month signed Colombia international Yerry Mina to boost its defense.

More AP Spanish soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/LaLiga