Seattle’s the hottest team in MLS, so why not more buzz?

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Who’s the hottest team in Major League Soccer? Judging by wins and losses alone, there’s no doubt. It’s the Seattle Sounders.

Twelve points in their last four games is an unmatched haul. Expand the scope to a team’s last five, six games (when Clint Dempsey joined the team), and Sigi Schmid’s team is still the league’s form side. Since July 29, the Sounders have won seven of eight, climbing from near the bottom of the West and into second place.

So why isn’t there more buzz about the Sounders? Big analysis pieces about their rise? Videos comparing them to Real Salt Lake, asking whether the West’s leaders should be scared? Why aren’t we asking whether this is the year Seattle will break through?

People who’ve watched the games know, and if you look beyond mere wins and losses, it’s easy to spot. Seattle’s last five victories have all by one goal, hinting at a fragility that belies their rise.

Portland’s injury issues. Columbus’s inability to capitalize 11-on-10. Game-winning own goals from Doniel Henry and Gonzalo Segares. The mere quality of Chivas USA. These aren’t circumstances that wow, particularly with RSL scoring 11 goals in their last three games.

But for Seattle, it’s all part of a process – a process that makes the current hot streak a welcome bonus. Clint Dempsey is neither in full shape nor fully familiar with his new teammates. Along with Eddie Johnson, he’s been away from the team on international duty. Obafemi Martins has been hurt. Now Brad Evans has gone down. Seattle hasn’t even been able to discern who their best XI is, let alone give them time to gel.

And that was supposed to be the goal all along. When Seattle acquired Dempsey, they were outside the playoff picture, though with a glut of games in hand, they always looked good bets to finish in the top five, provided their improved on the field.

source: AP
With two games in hand, Sigi Schmid and the Seattle Sounders are only two points behind Western Conference leading Real Salt Lake, their 1.77 points per game the best rate in Major League Soccer. (Photo: AP)

That was the only mission. Start playing better, and making the playoffs will take care of itself. And rather than worry about tracking down RSL or finishing at a certain level in the standings, the real value for a team hungry to claim an MLS Cup would be playing the best soccer possible come the postseason. If near-term results had to be sacrificed for long-term form, so be it, even if short-term results where still important.

That’s leads to a scary thought, in light of Seattle’s impressive run: What happens when Schmid’s attack really begins to click? Since Dempsey arrived, they’ve failed to score more than one goal in a match without the help of an opponent’s own goal (averaging exactly one conventional goal per 90 minutes). Certainly that attack will improve, if from increased familiarity alone. Yet while they’re still finding their stride, they’ve gone 5-1-0.

The other factor in this run: Seattle’s only faced one playoff-sitting team since Dempsey arrived. That was a depleted Portland, at home – a game in which Portland were the better side over the first 45 minutes. Starting with Friday’s match against RSL, all that changes. Six of Seattle’s final eight games will be against playoff-sitting teams, including two games against the defending champion Galaxy.

So yeah, there are reasons why we’re not talking about Seattle, yet, but that’s likely to change. They’ve ridden a string of close results against relatively easy competition to second in the West, but as their attack improves, they’ll start to transcend those performances. Against a tougher schedule, that may not lead to improved results, but we should get a better idea as to whether Seattle’s worth title-contender buzz.

A couple of big wins over RSL or LA, and those “is this the year” pieces will come.

2-year doping ban upheld for Finland, CSKA Moscow player

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) The Court of Arbitration for Sport has upheld a two-year ban for CSKA Moscow midfielder Roman Eremenko for a positive test for cocaine.

[ MORE: Morata signs five-year contract at Chelsea ]

CAS says the ban imposed by UEFA was “appropriate” and dismissed the Finland international’s appeal.

[ MORE: Vertonghen says Spurs need to “level up” like rest of PL contenders ]

The ban will expire on Oct. 5, 2018, when Eremenko will be 31.

Eremenko tested positive after playing in a Champions League game for CSKA Moscow against Bayer Leverkusen last September. The 2-2 result was not affected despite Eremenko scoring CSKA’s second goal.

Born in Moscow, Eremenko grew up in Finland and has represented its national team 73 times.

Webb says De Jong would have been sent off with video review

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NEW YORK (AP) Howard Webb says he would have given Dutch midfielder Nigel De Jong a red card in the 2010 World Cup final if a video assistant referee had been in place.

The retired English referee showed De Jong a yellow card in the 28th minute for his karate kick into the chest of Spain’s Xabi Alonso. Hired in March to oversee video technology for professional soccer in the U.S. and Canada, Webb held a media seminar Friday ahead of its Aug. 5 launch in Major League Soccer.

Webb says: “Yes, it was a clear red card. It was a clear and obvious error on my part not to send the player off, and VAR would have been able to recommend a review to me, and I would have been able to make the right call.”

Now 46, Webb was a Premier League referee from 2003-14. He worked the Champions League and World Cup finals in 2010, became director of referees at the Saudi Arabian Football Federation, and started in March as manager of video assistant referee operations for the Professional Referee Organization.

MLS Snapshot: Orlando City 0-1 Atlanta United (video)

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The game in 100 words (or less): Friday night’s effort at Orlando City Stadium wasn’t the prettiest for either side but Atlanta United will gladly take three points from the fixture as the Central Florida venue proved to be a fortress once more. The Lions were far superior in their attacking threats throughout the match, testing USMNT and Atlanta goalkeeper Brad Guzan on multiple occasions. However, it was Hector Villalba that proved to be the difference when he blasted a long-distance effort to beat Joe Bendik in the 86th minute. Atlanta extends its unbeaten streak to four matches with Friday’s decision, keeping Tata Martino’s side in fourth place in the Eastern Conference, while Orlando City moves into fifth.

Three moments that mattered

36′ — Guzan stands tall, denies Rivas — Carlos Rivas thought he scorched this one (and he did…), but Brad Guzan acted like it was nothing as he held his ground to make the stop.

39′ — Spector gets ripped off by Guzan — The U.S. goalkeeper is at it again… What a save!

86′ — Villalba unleashes stunner to propel Atlanta — Sometimes it just takes one good hit as a striker.

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Man of the match: Brad Guzan

Goalscorers: Hector Villalba (86′)

Report: Man City adding Mendy to continue backline restoration

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Fresh off of completing a record deal to help bolster the club’s back line this summer, Manchester City is back at it with the Premier League season looming.

[ MORE: Alvaro Morata signs five-year contract at Chelsea ]

The Citizens are reportedly on the brink of signing Monaco left back Benjamin Mendy to yet another world-record fee — which will total over $67 million.

Confirmation of the deal has yet to be announced by either team, but L’Equipe is reporting that the Citizens are hot on the 23-year-old’s trail in adding to their pricy back four.

Manager Pep Guardiola and Man City have not been shy readjusting their defensive unit over the past year, adding expensive first-team choices John Stones and Kyle Walker.