Liverpool's defensive solidity is key to their success.

Week 3: Premier League Power Rankings – Liverpool on the up, Spurs go marching down

5 Comments

Rivalry games took center stage in Week 3 of the Premier League, as Liverpool and Arsenal both scraped narrow 1-0 wins against arch enemies Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur respectively.

Spurs lost Gareth Bale, Manchester United picked up Marouane Fellaini and Arsenal splashed the cash to bring in Mesut Ozil from Real Madrid.

Transfers like that have had a big say in the Premier League Power Rankings this week.

Every Tuesday we put our neck on the line to analyze the strength of each Premier League team. Forget about the official league standings, that doesn’t mean squat.

(MORE: Premier League Power Rankings archive)

The Power Rankings take into account the strength of schedule, injuries, suspensions, playing well but still losing and plenty of other variables. The W-L-D bracket shows each PL teams current record and you can now see how many spots each team has moved, up or down, from week-to-week.

Please feel free to debate the Week 3 Power Rankings… that’s what they’re here for.

RANKING
source:  1 Chelsea: The Blues weren’t in PL action but narrowly lost on penalties to Bayern Munich in the UEFA Super Cup. Defensively sound, José Mourinho will hope Samuel Eto’o and Willian add an extra dimension going forward. Strongest squad in the PL by far this season. (2-0-1)
source:  2 UP 2 Manchester City: The Citizens struggled against Hull for 64 minutes before sub Alvaro Negredo headed home and Yaya Toure capped off the win. A labored victory but City kept their 52 game home scoring streak going as they bounced back following their shock defeat to Cardiff. (2-1-0)
source:  3 DOWN 1 Manchester United: Not many positives this week for United fans. Only Marouane Fellaini arrived in the transfer window and there was a disappointing 1-0 loss to bitter rivals Liverpool. The Red Devils haven’t scored for two games in a row. Is David Moyes’ approach too defensive? (1-1-1)
 source:  4 UP 1 Liverpool: Brendan Rodgers’ side are just grinding out wins to start the season, there is a real grit and desire about the Reds. Daniel Sturridge grabbed the game-winner again and Luis Suárez is close to returning. Three great signings in Sakho, Moses an Ilori on deadline day, too. (3-0-0)

source:

5 UP 1 Arsenal: The Gunners have responded with four-straight wins in all competitions since losing that opener to Villa and they ground out a 1-0 win in the North London derby against Spurs. The arrival of Mesut Ozil for a club record $60 million shows real ambition and the form of Flamini and Giroud is promising. Arsene Wenger will be a happy man at the moment. (2-1-0)
source:  6 DOWN 3
Tottenham: LAB (Life after Bale) begins at White Hart Lane, and a loss to your biggest rivals just across North London won’t make Spurs fan feel optimistic. However they should, seven terrific new signings are in with Erik Lamela and Christian Eriksen the pick of the bunch. Tottenham will be fine but all these new names will take time to gel. (2-1-0)
source:  7 Everton: Another game, another draw for Roberto Martinez’ Everton side. This time against Cardiff they should have won but spurned chances for their second-straight 0-0. They lost Fellaini in the transfer window but added Romelu Lukaku, James McCarthy and Gareth Barry. Decent business for the Toffees. (0-0-3)
 source:  8 UP 2 Swansea: Finally something to cheer about for those loyal Swansea City fans. A 1-0 win away at West Brom could have been by even more as the Swans turned on the style. Michael Laudrup’s team looked like the team everyone loved to watch last season. After a tough start, the only way is up. (1-2-0)
source:  9 West Ham: Everyone is allowed an off day, and Hammers boss Sam Allardyce described his team’s home defeat to Stoke as “the worst display since they’ve been back in the Premier League.” We will leave it at that. Nothing to worry about, plus Andy Carroll is back fit after the break. (1-1-1)
source:  10 UP 3 Stoke: Again the big movers as Mark Hughes’ team played West Ham off the pitch. It could have been more than the 1-0 win, thanks to Jermaine Pennant’s free kick, but the Potters won’t mind as they won back-to-back games. Can Stoke push into the top 10? (2-1-0)
source:  11 UP 3 Norwich: The Canaries have a star in the making as 19-year-old Nathan Redmond scored his first PL goal to beat Southampton for Norwich’s first-win of the season. They looked strong with Leroy Fer and Bradley Johnson in midfield. Back to their stubborn best in the 1-0 win at Carrow Road. (1-1-1)
source:  12 DOWN 4 Southampton: The Saints are still struggling to score goals under Mauricio Pochettino. Defensively they look much better and only Redmond’s stunner got past them last weekend in the 1-0 loss. They just can’t seem to get things flowing in attack and new signing Daniel Osvaldo must deliver the goods. (1-1-1)
source:  13 DOWN 1 Aston Villa: No game for Villa this weekend after having their game vs. Chelsea rearranged. But they did sign Czech striker Libor Kozak from Lazio for $8 million. He will add another option up top to Christian Benteke and helps Paul Lambert prepare for the crucial stretch of games ahead. (1-2-0)
source:  14 DOWN 3 Fulham: Two defeats in a row for Martin Jol’s men and despite battling against Newcastle away from home, they hardly created any chances of real note. They were battered and almost grabbed a point. I’m wondering if Jol has signed too many ‘experienced’ players this summer as the Cottagers lack a cutting edge. (1-2-0)
source:  15 UP 2
Newcastle: Alan Pardew’s side finally scored their first goal of the season, and it produced a late win against Fulham. The Magpies looked like they were heading for a second-straight 0-0 draw at home but Hatem Ben Arfa curled in a beauty. Respite for the Geordies but still short of options up front. (1-1-1)
source:  16 Cardiff: The Bluebirds held on for a valiant point against Everton. Craig Bellamy had their best chance in the second half but Cardiff didn’t really threaten and goalkeeper David Marshall pulled off some great stops to deny the Toffees. Four points from three games is a great return for the Welsh side. (1-1-1)
source:  17 DOWN 2 West Brom: Only the deadline day signings of Victor Anichebe and Stephane Sessegnon stop the Baggies from sliding further down the rankings. They haven’t scored in three games this season and were torn apart by Swansea at the Hawthorns. Will they be in a relegation scrap this season? (0-2-1)
source:  18 Hull: If only the Tigers could take their chances, they’d have been 2-0 up against Man City. Strikers Sone Aluko and Danny Graham should have done better and despite a spirited display, Steve Bruce’s side were wasteful. Hull will give themselves a chance in most games this season. (1-0-2)
source:  19 UP 1
Crystal Palace: A much deserved first-win of the season against Sunderland at Selhurst Park. Dwight Gayle’s pace caused problems and Ian Holloway jig was a sight to be uphold. New additions give Palace hope of staying up. (1-2-0)
source:  20 DOWN 1 Sunderland: Paolo Di Canio’s men are struggling to get to grips with all the new signings as they lost to Palace on Saturday evening. A tough stretch of games coming up against Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United won’t help matters. Fabio Borini arrived on loan from Liverpool, less minutes for Jozy Altidore? (0-2-1)

Is MLS MVP a three-horse race at the All-Star “break”?

Toronto FC's Sebastian Giovinco laughs after being named Major League Soccer's 2015 Most Valuable Player in Toronto, Wednesday, Dec.  2, 2015. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)
Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP
Leave a comment

With the 2016 MLS All-Star Game set to be played Thursday night (versus Arsenal, at Avaya Stadium in San Jose, Calif.), it got me thinking about the race for this year’s Most Valuable Player award. (If MLS is going to continue holding the All-Star Game every year — and they are — it should include an actual break, as is the case in all other America sports.)

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

While the field is a small one at this point of the campaign, it’s also much closer than it was last year, when Sebastian Giovinco took home the honor in an absolute landslide of a vote.

Sebastian Giovinco, Toronto FC

The reigning MVP is on pace for something of a come-down in his second season in MLS, but when you put up 22 goals and 16 assists in your debut campaign, can you really expect to replicate that kind of production from one year to the next? Still, 11 goals (on the most shots in the league – 124) and 7 assists through 20 games (Giovinco has played in 19) has him on pace for 18 goals and 12 assists. Of course, when you consider he snapped a skid of eight games without a goal with a hat trick Saturday night, and that he’s unlikely to endure such a slump through the final 14 games, 18 and 12 should be considered the proverbial floor.

TFC have scored just 25 goals this season, and Giovinco has scored or assisted 18 of them (72 percent).

As for TFC’s present standing and how that impacts Giovinco’s MVP candidacy, fifth place through 20 games is a disappointment considering this was to be “the year” where they were less of a collection of talent, and more a functional team. Of course, injuries (and national team call-ups) have robbed the Reds of Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore and Will Johnson for lengthy periods already. That TFC find themselves presently a playoff team, and a measly six points back of the Eastern Conference’s top spot with two games in hand, should benefit Giovinco’s case more than hurt it.

David Villa, New York City FC

This one’s pretty simple: NYCFC weren’t supposed to be anywhere near the top spot of the East this season, yet that’s where they find themselves at the break, and Villa has spearheaded their unlikely run by scoring 13 goals (most in MLS – on 117 shots – 46 more than the next-closest player) and one assist through 22 games (Villa has played in 21). The question is this, though: will Patrick Vieira’s side still be there come the end of the season? So much of Villa’s claim to MVP is that he’s been the best player on one of the best (and certainly most surprising) teams in MLS this year.

If they’re to fall back into the pack (they’re just two points clear of the New York Red Bulls following Sunday’s 4-1 derby disaster, and only four points from fourth), Villa will quickly fall from MVP candidate to “the best best player on a subpar team.”

New York City FC forward David Villa, left, and New York City FC defender Chris Wingert celebrate Villa's early goal during the first half of the match between New York City FC and Toronto FC, Sunday, July 12, 2015, at Yankee Stadium in New York. (AP Photo/Kevin Hagen)
(AP Photo/Kevin Hagen)

Ignacio Piatti, Montreal Impact

The Impact have, for my money, the most complete roster in the Eastern Conference. Didier Drogba is arguably the most dominant goal-scoring force MLS has ever seen (8 goals in 12 appearances this season; 11 in 11 last year), and the depth in midfield and defense is unparalleled, yet Piatti has been the unrivaled star through the first 20 games of the season (he has played in 18). His 12 goals and 5 assists are rivaled only by Giovinco’s numbers, and he’s been a far more consistent contributor than the Italian (never more than three games without a goal, while playing as a non-forward, unlike Giovinco).

The knock on Piatti has always been his inability to stay healthy and approach a pace of 30 appearances in a single season. Finally consistently healthy in 2016, he’s taken his short-term production and replicated that same kind of output over 90 percent of his team’s games this season. If he can reach 30 games played this year, Piatti has the best chance of stopping Giovinco from becoming the first back-to-back MVP winner in league history.

Montreal Impact's Ignacio Piatti, left, of Argentina, scores a goal as Vancouver Whitecaps' Kendall Waston, of Costa Rica, defends during first half MLS soccer action, in Vancouver, British Columbia, on Sunday, March 6, 2016. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP)
(Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP)

On the fringe, with a chance to catch the leaders: Sacha Kljestan (New York Red Bulls – 5 goals, 12 assists), Diego Valeri (Portland Timbers – 9 goals, 5 assists)

MLS Snapshot: Sporting KC 3-0 Seattle Sounders (video)

Sporting Kansas City forward Dom Dwyer, center, is congratulated by teammates, including midfielder Roger Espinoza (27), following his goal during the first half of an MLS soccer match against the Houston Dynamo in Kansas City, Kan., Saturday, Aug. 1, 2015. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
AP Photo/Orlin Wagner
Leave a comment

The game in 100 words (or less): It would appear, based on the optics of the Seattle Sounders’ 3-0 defeat at the hands of Sporting Kansas City, a result that sees Sigi Schmid’s side fall 10 points adrift of the Western Conference playoff places, that the legendary coach’s time in the Emerald City has run out. It wasn’t the final score, or the fact that the Sounders were out-shot 18-1 on the afternoon, but the manner in which they arrived at those embarrassing figures — essentially giving up and waving the white flag over the game’s final 30 minutes — that sends a message loudly and clearly to Sounders’ front office: we aren’t playing for this guy anymore. Here’s the problem for Seattle, though: Jason Kreis, the presumptive Sigi replacement with an eye toward reuniting with Garth Lagerwey, was announced as Orlando City SC’s new head coach on Tuesday. Nothing would make the Sounders look more unprepared than firing Schmid five days after the best available MLS coach was plucked off the market.

[ MORE: Catch up on all of Saturday night’s MLS action ]

Three moments that mattered 

21′ — Dwyer heads home from Espinoza’s cross for 1-0 — Defending optional for Seattle, as everyone in and around the penalty area did very little to close down or mark anyone in white.

45+3′ — Peterson goes upper-90 for 2-0 — First-time hit, upper-90. Jacob Peterson makes it 2-0.

79′ — Dwyer makes it 3-0 after Sounders all but quit — Questionable “effort” from the Sounders, to be sure.

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

Man of the match: Dom Dwyer

Goalscorers: Dwyer (21′, 79′), Peterson (45+3′)

NYCFC’s Vieira blames derby loss on RBNY’s Marsch “crying all week”

New York City FC's head coach Patrick Vieira looks on from the sideline during the second half of an MLS soccer game against the Montreal Impact, in Montreal, Sunday, July 17, 2016. (Graham Hughes /The Canadian Press via AP)
Graham Hughes /The Canadian Press via AP
Leave a comment

Patrick Vieira is very mad, and with good reason, but he might want to reconsider where he directs his displeasure following the New York City FC’s latest embarrassment at the hands of the New York Red Bulls, 4-1 on Sunday .

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

In Vieira’s estimation, Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch and referee Mark Geiger were co-men of the match; Marsch for his pre-game comments — “crying,” in Vieira’s words — and Geiger for playing into Marsch’s devious, revolutionary plan.

Adults … they’re just like us!

In the two sides’ three meetings this season, the Red Bulls won twice and lost once, by a combined score of 11-3.

New York is red: BWP, Kljestan torture NYC in (another) blowout

HARRISON, NJ - MARCH 22:  Bradley Wright-Phillips #99 of New York Red Bulls celebrates a goal against the D.C. United during their match at Red Bull Arena on March 22, 2015 in Harrison, New Jersey.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images
Leave a comment

New York Red Bulls rode a wave of first half goals to a heated and entertaining 4-1 win over New York City FC on Sunday at Red Bull Arena in New Jersey.

Sacha Kljestan had two assists and converted a penalty, while Bradley Wright-Phillips netted a brace and Ronald Zubar (!!) also scored for RBNY. If you’re keeping score at home that’s a combined 11-1 score line for RBNY in home Derby games this season.

Tommy McNamara scored a gorgeous goal before halftime to give City life. Aside from McNamara cranking a second-half effort off the crossbar, the rest of the life came in the form of pushing, shoving and fouling. Frank Lampard mixed it up with Kljestan, while Ethan White took two yellows for a late red card.

[ MORE: A Pogba Primer ]

The win gives the Red Bulls bragging rights for at least the regular season, as RBNY won 2 of 3 season matches against its area rivals.

NYC remains atop the East, while the Red Bulls are five points back in fourth.

Here’s the goal that got us started, as Kljestan slipped through BWP for a finish he’ll rarely miss (even when ice-cold).

Zubar then headed in a Kljestan pass to make it 2-0 before a handball allowed Kljestan to collect a goal for himself.

BWP restored the three-goal lead with 20 minutes to play, as he won a 50-50 ball played over the top and had all day to toy with Josh Saunders en route to his 11th of the season.