Week 1: Premier League Power Rankings – Don’t doubt the Champions

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Well folks, it’s that time of year again.

The Premier League season has begun and there have already been a few upsets here and there on the opening weekend (ahem, Villa) but plenty of results went as expected.

This time of year also means we will be rolling out plenty of new series’ at ProSoccerTalk, and here is the latest.

Premier League Power Rankings.

In case you’re new to our Power Rankings and don’t know how they work, here’s a quick refresher. Basically, each Tuesday we will put our neck on the line each by ranking each Premier League team by how good they really are. Forget about the official league standings. That doesn’t mean squat.

The Power Rankings take into account the strength of schedule, injuries, suspensions, great displays but still losing and plenty of other variables that the black and white of an PL standings table do not.

So please feel free to debate the Week 1 Power Rankings… that’s what they’re here for.

Ranking
source:  1 Chelsea: A comfortable win at a canter against newly promoted Hull City won’t have impressed José Mourinho too much, but positive signs were there as Oscar and Hazard linked up well. (1-0-0)

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2 Manchester United: Everyone has written David Moyes’ men off… then they go and hammer Swansea and the doubters disappear. Great start for United. (1-0-0)
 source:  3 Manchester City: A resounding home win over 10-man Newcastle was to be expected. Manuel Pellegrini’s side will grow into themselves this year. great defense plus added offensive weapons equals success. (1-0-0)
 source:  4 Tottenham: Not the most inspiring display against a poor Palace side. But Andre Villas-Boas side have a new midfield solidity I really like. Just above Arsenal and Liverpool early on. (1-0-0)

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5 Liverpool: Created chances galore against Stoke, but they nearly paid the price for their wastefulness in the 1-0 win. If Suárez does stay a concerted push for Champions League is on the cards. (1-0-0)
 source:  6 Arsenal: They need new signings, and they need them now. Poor performance against Villa where everything went wrong. Two penalties conceded and a red card. But hardly vintage Arsenal before that. (0-1-0)
 source:  7 Everton: An exciting start to the season. Not many teams go to Norwich and get something but they had to work for this. Great going forward, suspect at the back. Roberto Martinez’ tactics used at Wigan are certainly surfacing again. (0-0-1)
 source:  8 Swansea: A hiding from the reigning Champions on opening day isn’t a true reflection of the Swans. But they do need some extra cover in defense before the end of the window. New striker Wilfried Bony is a fine player. (0-1-0)
 source:  9 Southampton: A great opening day win at West Brom for the perennial slow starters. With Italian international striker Pablo Osvaldo joining for a club record $22 million on Monday, the Saints are marching up the rankings. (1-0-0)
 source:  10 West Ham: An routine win for the Hammers against a Cardiff side devoid of ideas going forward. Sam Allardyce’s men were direct and their wingers gave the Bluebirds plenty of issues. Solid start. (1-0-0)
 source:  11 Fulham: Bit of a smash and grab win for Fulham at the Stadium of Light on opening day. But they’ll take it. Martin Jol’s men have quietly added some good players, Scott Parker will be a good buy. (1-0-0)
 source:  12 Aston Villa: The Villans played really well at the Emirates. They rode their luck at times and Brad Guzan was in tremendous form to thwart Arsenal, but a confidence boosting win to start the season always helps. (1-0-0)
 source:  13 Norwich: They had a real go against Everton but looked a bit short in midfield and were over run by Fellaini and Barkley. Chris Hughton may need to strengthen there. (0-0-1)
 source:  14 Newcastle: Poor display from Alan Pardew’s men against City. But what can you do when your 2-0 down and down to 10 men at the Etihad at half time? Regroup and go again for the Magpies. (0-1-0)
 source:  15 West Brom: Bit of a blah performance from Steve Clarke’s side. The Baggies were out-possessed by Saints and were definitely second best. Another top striker is needed at the Hawthorns. (0-1-0)

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16 Stoke: They could have snatched a late point at Anfield but Walters fluffed his lines. The Potters will be solid as always, but I struggle to see where the goals will come from. (0-1-0)
source:  17 Sunderland: It will take time for Paolo Di Canio’s 10 new signings to gel. They looked great in spells vs. Fulham but gave up a sloppy goal and paid the price. Another team who will struggle to score. (0-1-0)
 source:  18 Hull: Despite going 2-0 behind in the first half, acquitted themselves well and stuck to the task. Hull won’t be anything special, but with two solid banks of four they can grind out 1-0 wins at home and pick up draws on the road. (0-1-0)
 source:  19 Cardiff: I worry for Cardiff. They’ve spent big money this summer but I’m not sure if it’s on the right players. Against West Ham there was no cutting edge. Another forward is needed. (0-1-0)
 source:  20 Crystal Palace: Ian Holloway’s men battled hard at Selhurst Park against Spurs, but apart from a few flurries near the end they didn’t look like threatening. The Eagles need a top striker. (0-1-0)

MLS Week 4 Preview: Portland flying, RSL depleted

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We’re just starting to see things take shape in Major League Soccer. The dangerous teams are clear, the middle of the pack is forming, and the struggling teams know it’s not too late to get a things going.

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Week 4 is stretched out over this weekend and next thanks to the international break, so there are only three matches to get to on Saturday. Here’s the outlook:

New England Revolution vs. Minnesota United – 2:00 p.m. ET

There is just one point combined for these two teams through the first three match weeks. They are both bottom of their conference. A basement spot awaits the loser, and a revival awaits the winner. If there is one.

A lot is on the line with these two clubs as they meet in Foxboro. It’s early enough in the season where three points can vault a team halfway up the table, completely alleviating any fears of impending doom. However, it’s at the point where should a team lose this match, the alarm bells begin to go off for fans.

Minnesota, already struggling to begin the season, has been ravaged by the international break and will be without Rasmus Schuller, Kevin Molino, Johan Venegas, and Francisco Calvo. That said, if there’s any time to have a number of players missing, it is nice to have it come against a struggling team like New England who has yet to score a goal from open play yet through two matches. Will New England strike against the lack of opposition depth to spark their goalscoring efforts?

New York Red Bulls vs. Real Salt Lake – 4:00 p.m. ET

RSL has to get things going, and they need to do it fast. Unfortunately, they visit an Eastern Conference might as New York welcomes the cross-country travelers with six points already in hand to Salt Lake’s one. To make matters worse for the visiting side, they’re ravaged up and down the roster. Nick Rimando and Albert Rusnák are on international duty, Kyle Beckerman is suspended for his silly red card, and Joao Plata is injured along with Jordan Allen. Tack on the questionable tags for Justen Glad, Aaron Maund, and David Horst, and the outlook is bleak for RSL. Oh, and they just fired their coach too.

That leaves interim coach Daryl Shore little to work with, and they’ll take on a strong New York team that presses hard. Sacha Kljestan struggled in last week’s loss to Seattle, but this team is known for its ability to bounce back. Bradley Wright-Phillips could have a field day if he gets the service, or even if he doesn’t.

Columbus Crew vs. Portland Timbers – 7:30 p.m. ET

For me, this is the best game of the three. Portland is considered by some to own the best attack in the league, and they’ve shown it through three games, scoring 10 goals against a relatively soft opening schedule. Columbus, meanwhile, picked up three points from a two-game road trip and is back home looking to prove that last year’s struggles are a thing of the past. We still don’t know exactly what to expect from the Crew, but we sure do know what’s coming to town, and that’s the Timbers’ red-hot attack duo of Diego Valeri and Fanendo Adi.

22-year-old rookie Alex Crognale made his debut for Columbus last week and contributed heavily to the Crew’s clean sheet. He will be tested heavily should he earn himself a second start. Jonathan Mensah is back from his red card suspension and will add to the defensive abilities. Still, it will be a tough test for Columbus, one which would provide an enormous boost should earn all three points.

MLS Power Rankings — Week 3: Gap developing at the top

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We’re just three weeks in, and while there’s still obviously gobs of time for teams to right the ship, we are also seeing who’s for real at the top of the table, and while the table doesn’t always show it, we’re starting to learn more and more about each team that picks up the points.

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Atlanta continues to win, still yet to lose in MLS play three matches into its inaugural season, and Portland bounced back to prove they’re still in control. At about the 7-8 mark there looks to be a clear gap developing. Can anyone buck the trend moving forward? Your updated power rankings:


TEAM RANKING (Last Wk)

 

22 (19)

21 (22)

20 (21)

DC United: Six goals conceded, none scored in their last two. Not much else needs to be said.

Minnesota United: Their very first MLS point was an important one, holding on down a man. Still a very long way to go.

New England Revolution: More of the same for New England who admittedly had a tall task against FC Dallas but couldn’t hold on.

19 (20) Columbus Crew: Could this week be the one that starts the climb? Six shots on target out of seven total, that’s efficient. Still need a result against a better team to back it up.
18 (18) Real Salt Lake: No Glad, No Plata, down a man, still almost pulled it out. Still, the defending was poor at times a man down and Beckerman knows better. Need to start picking up points.
17 (16) Philadelphia Union: 14 shots, just two on target. That’s the type of day it was in Orlando. Just 2 points from three is worrying, but they have a shot for their first win against DC before taking on Portland and NYCFC.
16 (12) Chicago Fire: Ouch. It’s hard to take much of anything from a big loss to a smoking hot team playing 79 minutes with 10 men. Still…that one will hurt.
15 (17) Montreal Impact: They held firm against a good NYCFC attack, and actually did the coming back for once.
14 (14) Vancouver Whitecaps: In a vacuum, no shame in losing to Tigres or Toronto, but now they’ve got a bit of poor form with the Galaxy coming to town and then the CCL second leg. Will want to avoid a string of bad results.
13 (15) LA Galaxy: All road wins are good wins. That said, beating a weakened RSL by a goal after playing a man down the entire second half is not exactly convincing. They were second best until Beckerman went off and managed just 4 shots on target.
12 (13)
Sporting Kansas City: Have conceded just one goal. They have a plan, and it’s working so far. Just need to figure it out on the other end.
11 (5) Colorado Rapids: Give the Loons credit, but a draw against 10-man Minnesota is not a good look. The defending has been poor.
10 (7) San Jose Earthquakes: Bit tough to figure out this San Jose team early on, but with Godoy held in check, they were outshot 15-5 by KC.
9 (6) Houston Dynamo: Caught Portland at a bad time. This is still a good team, but maybe with some soul-searching to do after a big loss.
8 (10)
Orlando City: An extra week of rest helped Orlando and Cyle Larin did Cyle Larin things. Six possible points, six taken. Still need to prove themselves on the road after last season.
7 (9) Seattle Sounders: Just like Portland, Seattle got back to what it does best, and that involved Dempsey and Morris scoring. The attack looked dangerous
6 (4) New York City FC: Montreal hacked NYCFC to death and it worked. They’re still a good team, but will have to figure out how to win ugly too.
5 (8) Toronto FC: A very solid bounce-back win without Giovinco, who will be back after the break. The rough start appears to be more of a blip.
4 (3) New York Red Bulls: The ugly wins finally came back to haunt them. Hard to take much from a cross-country road trip, but they fell short in a tough test.
3 (11) Atlanta United: You betcha. This team’s for real. Well, they certainly appear to be with Josef Martinez on fire, but he’s just been injured. Now what?
2 (2) FC Dallas: A win over New England continued FC Dallas’s hot start. It’s mind-boggling how little attention Max Urruti gets.
1 (1) Portland Timbers: That’s more like it. The scary Portland attack bounced back by putting four goals past 2-0-0 Houston.

Atlanta United’s Josef Martinez injured on international duty

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Atlanta United is sitting atop the Eastern Conference standings three weeks into its inaugural Major League Soccer season, and the bite appears to be every bit as fearsome as the bark for the newcomers.

Now, the club must contend with its first bit of truly scary news.

In-form striker Josef Martinez was injured on international duty with Venezuela and is heading back to the United States for evaluation. The report says he tweaked his left thigh, and after the match head coach Rafael Dudamel said he would release Martinez back to Atlanta, saying, “I do not think it’s good for Josef to travel. This muscle tightness can take 10 days of recovery.”

Martinez was subbed off of Venezuela’s match with Peru in the 59th minute, replaced by Yangel Herrera and walking off under his own power. Venezuela drew the match 2-2, blowing a 2-goal halftime lead and leaving them bottom of the table, 14 points back of the intercontinental playoff spot.

Obviously that 10-day recovery is more ideal than any other long-term prognosis, but it would still see him miss a road visit to Seattle next Friday. The 23-year-old has a whopping five goals in his first three MLS games with Atlanta and has been a force. Brandon Vazquez and Bryan Rochez are the two options currently on Atlanta’s roster to replace the Venezuelan in the lineup.

Martinez was signed on loan from Serie A side Torino, but the move was made permanent last week.

Kevin de Bruyne questionable for injury-laden Belgium

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Belgium, already without superstar Eden Hazard for the upcoming World Cup qualifier against Greece, will now be without playmaker Kevin De Bruyne, who picked up an injury in training on Friday and will miss both the match against Greece and the subsequent friendly against Russia three days later…maybe.

The Belgian National Team official Twitter account sent out a quote from manager Roberto Martinez that confirmed De Bruyne would miss the pair of matches, but the tweet was quickly deleted.

Instead, this one was pushed out in its place, correcting his availability and also updating the type of injury:

Should De Bruyne miss out, it means Belgium would likely rely heavily on Dries Mertens and Kevin Mirallas for the playmaking duties, with midfielder Radja Nainggolan potentially taking on a more attacking role as well.

Belgium and Martinez also confirmed that right-back Thomas Meunier will miss out after failing to recover from an ankle injury, while Marouane Fellaini‘s status is unknown after he was held out of Thursday’s training session.

The injury also leaves De Bruyne’s status for Manchester City up in the air, with a pair of massive games in London in quick succession after the injury break. City visits Arsenal next Sunday, followed by a hop over to Stanford Bridge on Wednesday.