Kelyn Rowe

ProSoccerTalk’s weekly MLS rankings

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There were big wins (so, obviously, also big losses as well) to examine during a busy stretch of MSL contests. Here is the weekly re-ordering following 26 rounds of league play:

19. D.C. United – There was a 40-minute, closed-door, post-game air-the-grievances thing after the latest disappointing result, a 1-1 draw with Toronto. But aren’t we way, way past that stuff around RFK? The team is poor. Period. All the clear-the-air meetings in the world won’t change that.

18. Toronto FC – Ryan Nelsen said his team deserved a win after a 1-1 tie at his old stomping ground, RFK Stadium. Not true. No one ever “deserves” anything; you just win, lose or draw.

17. Chivas USA – Jose Luis Real’s team took three of a possible six points at home in Round 26, a loss vs. Dallas and a big win over New York on Sunday. Apparently, when you lose to Chivas USA these days, you need to apologize to everyone. Ooof.

16. Columbus – Federico Higuain lost his mind and must now sit two matches. It happened at the end of an awful night, a 4-0 loss to Real Salt Lake, one that makes the Crew’s uphill slog toward the playoffs look that much more difficult.

15. FC Dallas – Dallas in the spring looked like a title contender. Dallas in early- to mid-summer looked like anything but a playoff team. With a win at Chivas and a draw at home with San Jose in Week 26, perhaps the club has settled into “average,” which was probably right all along.

14. Houston Dynamo – The worse loss of Dominic Kinnear’s time in charge of Houston (5-0 in Montreal) dimmed a week that began with a useful CONCACAF Champions League result.

13. Chicago Fire – The team helped tamp down the brush fires from last week’s PR kerfuffle with a big 1-0 win over Sporting Kansas City. Mike Magee’s scoring has spigot, once flowing so fluidly, has been shut off lately.

12. New England Revolution – Kelyn Rowe’s sophomore season has been a bit quiet at times, but the man sure rose up with a fury, striking twice from long range in the Revs’ 5-1 dash-away from Philadelphia on Sunday. Rowe (pictured above) now has five goals and six assists in 2013.

11. San Jose Earthquakes – The Earthquakes’ saw a 2-0 lead on the road erased, but were definitely on the wrong end of a bad PK decision in Dallas. The match ended in a 2-2 draw.

(MORE: MLS Round 26 week in review)

10. Philadelphia Union – Conor Casey’s goal put his team up, 2-1, early in the second half. Wait! What? … A bad decision from the man in the middle turned this one, but blame the Union for failing to cope with the disappointment and collapsing in an eventual 5-1 loss.

9. New York Red Bulls – Manage Mike Petke after a loss to last-place Chivas USA: “I apologize for that loss. We lost to one of the worst teams in the league. We had many chances, we didn’t capitalize on them, made some mistakes and had no creativity in the second half.  We looked like we were confused out there.”

8. Montreal Impact – Justin Mapp, Felipe Martins and Marco Di Vaio more or less had their way with the Houston Dynamo defense in a 5-0 statement at Stade Saputo.

source:  7. Vancouver Whitecaps – Martin Rennie’s team desperately missed injured attacker Camilo in the 1-0 loss to Los Angeles. That’s two shutouts (and losses) in a row; Chivas USA coming to town this weekend is a “gotta have” three points.

6. Seattle Sounders – Sigi Schmid’s second half adjustments were critical, as the Timbers had more or less ruled the first 45. Eddie Johnson’s huge goal (pictured right) was the difference in Sunday night’s massive Cascadia win.

5. Sporting Kansas City – No time to feel badly about Friday’s 1-0 loss to Chicago; Sporting Kansas City has a chance to take a big step toward 2013-14 CONCACAF Champions League elimination stage when it faces CD Olimpa of Honduras on Tuesday night.

4. Colorado Rapids – Oscar Pareja’s young team had a week off to steel itself for upcoming road tests at Sporting Kansas City and Los Angeles. We’ll know a lot more in two weeks about upside where the Rapids’ young lineup is concerned.

3. Portland Timbers – The mark of a complete coach is how he handles the bad times. Well, since a high-profile stoppage time win over L.A. back in mid-July, the Timbers are a humble 1-2-3 (a win, two losses and three draws). It’s time for Caleb Porter to get hold of this thing, because it’s going the wrong direction. Will Johnson’s healthy return will help a bunch.

2. LA Galaxy – Landon Donovan has always had a good left foot to go with an outstanding right. But who knew he had this in his “standing leg?” Donovan’s peach of a goal was the difference in a 1-0 win at Vancouver. And it moved the man closer to a huge achievement.

1. Real Salt Lake – Manager Jason Kreis called his team’s 4-0 win over Columbus the team’s most complete match this year. Meanwhile, anyone else think Kyle Beckerman, a defensive midfielder who scored two goals Saturday, deserves some mention, at least, in ongoing MVP conversations?

Blatter says he will accept verdict as CAS appeal begins

SAINT PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - JULY 25:  FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter speaks during the Preliminary Draw of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia at The Konstantin Palace on July 25, 2015 in Saint Petersburg, Russia.  (Photo by Dennis Grombkowski/Getty Images)
Photo by Dennis Grombkowski/Getty Images
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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter arrived for his appeal hearing against a six-year ban from football on Thursday, pledging to accept the verdict of the Court of Arbitration for Sport

“I do hope it will be positive for me,” Blatter, sporting a light gray beard, told reporters at around 8 a.m. (0600 GMT) ahead of a hearing expected to last several hours.

The court’s verdict is expected within several weeks, and could be challenged in a further appeal to Switzerland’s supreme court.

The 80-year-old Blatter denies wrongdoing in authorizing a $2 million payment to former FIFA vice president Michel Platini in 2011. They claimed it was for backdated and uncontracted salary for work Platini did in advising Blatter from 1999 to 2002.

[ MORE: Ranking Champions League groups ]

The so-called “disloyal payment” led Blatter to be put under investigation for criminal mismanagement by Swiss federal prosecutors last September. That investigation is ongoing.

FIFA’s ethics committee judged the $2 million deal was a conflict of interest and initially banned Blatter and Platini for eight years last December. FIFA’s appeal committee cut both bans to six years.

Platini’s appeal to CAS was already judged in May, when Blatter appeared in person as a witness. Platini promised a further appeal to the Swiss Federal Tribunal after his ban was only cut from six to four years.

Platini arrived at the hearing around midday local time to be a witness. Both men have denied any wrongdoing.

Blatter’s comments Thursday suggest he would not pursue a federal case. Federal judges can intervene only if legal process is abused.

“We are football players, we learned to win but also we learned to lose and it will not be the end of the world,” Blatter said outside CAS.

The three-member panel for Blatter’s case is expected to respect the verdict of a separate panel which judged Platini.

A failure to overturn the ban for Blatter would likely end his hope to one day be named FIFA honorary president by its 211 member federations.

[ MORE: Ranking Champions League groups ]

The case already ended Platini’s chance to replace Blatter as FIFA president, and also forced him out of European governing body UEFA.

On Sept. 14, UEFA members will elect a successor to replace Platini who had a mandate through March 2019. By imposing a four-year ban, the CAS panel ensured UEFA had to replace Platini, rather than wait for him to return.

The “disloyal payment” emerged last year when Platini was strongly favored to win the election to replace Blatter, who had announced his departure plans after 17 years as president amid pressure from American and Swiss federal investigations of corruption implicating senior FIFA officials.

[ MORE: Bundesliga season primer ]

Both men were questioned at FIFA headquarters last September by Swiss investigators who were waiting for them outside an executive committee meeting.

During the turmoil in world football, Platini’s right-hand man at UEFA, Gianni Infantino, submitted an election candidacy on the entry deadline day and won the vote in February.

Arriving at the hearing with his Zurich-based lawyer Lorenz Erni, Blatter said he hoped the CAS panel “will understand that the payment made to Platini was really a debt that we had against him.”

“This is a principle, if you have debts you pay them,” Blatter said.

NASL weekend preview: Miami, Minnesota meet playoff fortunes head on

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There are still two full months of soccer to go in the NASL’s Fall Season, but this weekend could be a major day for the title fortunes of one squad in particular.

Miami FC and Minnesota United are level on points with 15 heading into Saturday’s match at FIU Stadium.

[ MORE: MLS Weekend Preview ]

If you’re unfamiliar, the NASL Playoffs involve four teams: the Spring champion (Indy Eleven), the Fall champion, and two other teams with the best combined record between seasons.

Miami’s played one fewer game, and both it and Minnesota — fresh off the news it’s headed to MLS in 2017 — are seven points shy of first-place FC Edmonton.

But Minnesota is on pace to make the playoffs through combined schedule, while Miami had a poor first half and would be better served to win the Fall Season if it wants a shot at the NASL Soccer Bowl Trophy.

Saturday
Carolina Railhawks at New York Cosmos
Rayo OKC at Tampa Bay Rowdies
Minnesota United at Miami FC

Sunday
Indy Eleven at Ottawa Fury
Puerto Rico at FC Edmonton

Arsenal reportedly set for $69 million double Friday buy

MADRID, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 14:  Lucas Perez of RC Deportivo la Coruna reacts during the La Liga match between Rayo Vallecano and RC Deportivo La Coruna at Estadio Teresa Rivero on September 14, 2015 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
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Arsene Wenger‘s much-maligned transfer business is about to take the “much” off the verb.

Lucas Perez of Deportiva de la Coruna is reportedly going to be joining Arsenal on Friday, and the Gunners are also close to finally landing Valencia center back Shkodran Mustafi.

[ MORE: Bundesliga season primer ]

Perez, 27, broke out for a career-best 17 goals last season, and scored on debut last weekend. He’s set to cost $22.5 million, while Mustafi makes up the other $46.5 million.

The 12-times capped German center back stands 6-foot, and would bring stability to a Gunners unit which has (again) been beset by injuries.

From the BBC:

Spaniard Lucas, 27, scored 17 goals in 37 games last season and Arsenal will meet a 20m euro (£17.1m) buyout clause.

Germany international Mustafi, 24, is set to join for a fee in excess of £35m.

Is this, coupled with the Granit Xhaka buy, enough to help Wenger right the ship? Mustafi, especially, would be a key piece. Perez is a bit of a lesser-known quality.

MLS Weekend Preview: Desperation mounts as rivals meet in Oregon

Portland Timbers defender Vytas Andriuskevicius, second from right, trips up Seattle Sounders midfielder Cristian Roldan, right, in the second half of a MLS soccer match, Sunday, Aug. 21, 2016, in Seattle. Andriuskevicius was called for a foul on the play, and the Sounders' Clint Dempsey scored a goal on the resulting penalty kick. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
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Desperation is up-and-down the schedule this weekend in Major League Soccer, as the playoff race really heats up.

The calendar turns to September next week, and teams will end this weekend with a clear view of their runs into the season’s final Sunday: Oct. 23.

[ MORE: Bundesliga season primer ]

The tumult that is an MLS season means only one team is more than two wins out of a playoff spot right now, and that’s Houston (7 points back of Western No. 6 Portland).

Here’s who is feeling the heat of their matches this weekend:

Portland and Seattle: The Cascadia Cup rivals tangle Sunday in Oregon, with the Timbers holding a one-point edge on the Sounders for the West’s final playoff spot. Seattle has played one fewer games than Portland, and a win on Sunday would be a double-whammy for PDX; The Timbers would be level on points with Seattle and Vancouver in the Cascadia Cup standings with just one match to go (compared to their opponents’ two).

Vancouver: The ‘Caps don’t have a Cup game this weekend, but will face an L.A. team which hasn’t lost at home. Vancouver is in real danger of moving more than one win behind in the fight for a playoff spot. If they lose to L.A. and both San Jose and Portland win, the Whitecaps will be five points back of a playoff spot. Of course, this being MLS, a win and help could see Vancouver in sixth when the smoke clears.

Columbus and New England: No one likes to comment on job status, but Revs’ boss Jay Heaps and his Columbus counterpart (Gregg Berhalter) have to be a bit concerned at this point. New England is a total mess, opening up a goalkeeping controversy, and is pinning its hopes on some Open Cup final karma. The Crew was supposed to contend for a title after last year’s final run, but is currently in the East’s cellar with just three home wins from 13 matches.

Schedule

Friday
Colorado at Real Salt Lake — 8 p.m. EDT

Saturday
Chicago at DC United — 7 p.m. EDT
Sporting KC at Philadelphia — 7 p.m. EDT
San Jose at Columbus — 7:30 p.m. EDT
Montreal at Toronto FC — 7:30 p.m. EDT
FC Dallas at Houston — 9 p.m. EDT
Vancouver at LA Galaxy — 10:30 p.m. EDT

Sunday
New England at New York Red Bulls — 2:30 p.m. EDT
Seattle at Portland — 5 p.m. EDT
New York City at Orlando City — 7 p.m. EDT