Montreal Impact v D.C. United

ProSoccerTalk’s weekly MLS rankings

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19. D.C. United – The U.S. Open Cup hangover wasn’t necessarily in effect … It just looked like it if you only saw the final score. United represented itself reasonably we’ll three nights after the big Open Cup triumph, but Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson had one of the weekend’s top performances as the hosts went down at RFK, 3-0.

18. Chivas USA – The Goats have been mostly competitive, at very least, through the summer and into the fall, rarely getting onto the wrong side of a major beating. Well, they found themselves on the wrong side of a bad one Sunday as the Galaxy put a 5-0 beats own on the poor Goats.

17. Toronto FC – Toronto nearly split the points at PPL Park outside Philadelphia but fell to Kleberson’s free kick goal in stoppage time.

16. FC Dallas – Schellas Hyndman’s men had ample opportunity to re-insert themselves into the playoff fight with a man-advantage for 70 minutes at Real Salt Lake. Best they could muster was a 1-1 draw on Kenny Cooper’s goal.

15. Columbus – Federico Higuain’s hip injury reduced the Crew offense to bare bones, and a 1-0 loss at home to Sporting KC likely extinguishes the last embers of hope for playoff soccer around Crew Stadium.

14. New England Revolution – A second year without playoff soccer could put young manager Jay Heaps’ job in jeopardy. It would take something spectacular now, with the Revs probably needing to win out, which means prevailing twice on the road and once at home. Tim Cahill’s header deep into stoppage time (in a 2-2 draw with New York) altered so much.

13. Chicago Fire – Sean Johnson’s nine saves helped the Fire ride out a D.C. storm and gather all three points in a win at RFK Stadium. In fact, we are probably only talking about Frank Klopas’ team as a possible post-season participant because of Johnson’s mighty effort.

12. Vancouver Whitecaps – Camilo is right back into the Golden Boot hunt, now just one off Montreal pacesetter Marco Di Vaio. Plus, the Whitecaps’ Brazilian attacker is elevating the league MPV chatter after two goals, including one absolutely sensational overhead strike for the late equalizer, in the ‘Caps 2-2 draw with Portland. Unfortunately, Martin Rennie’s team needs seven points minimum (from three matches remaining) to get into the playoffs .. and even a maximum nine might not be enough.

11. Philadelphia Union – The Union offense still has issues, but Kleberson’s dramatic free kick winner in added time against Toronto did advance the Union back into playoff position for now. Kleberson will need to do a lot more to keep his DP acquisition from being labeled a huge bust, but that’s a heck of a start, at least.

(MORE: MLS Round 30 week in review)

10. Montreal Impact – The darlings of spring and summer in MLS might still back into the 2013 playoffs, but a 1-3-2 record in league matches over the last six weeks make it hard to like the Impact’s post-season chances. They fell in Houston on Friday, 1-0.

9. Houston Dynamo – Ricardo Clark’s sensational curler was the game-winner Friday over Montreal as the Dynamo continues to tick off the results at the right time of year. The Orange is 4-1-0 in all competitions over last month.

8. San Jose Earthquakes – The Earthquakes had a week to rest up before the final, big post-season push. The opportunity is there with three matches ahead, including this week’s contest at home against Colorado, the very team the Quakes must catch (or one of them, at least, and the most vulnerable target) to get back into the ‘second season.’

7. Sporting Kansas City – This may be the most difficult team to accurately assess. Peter Vermes’ side is well positioned for the playoffs thanks to a road win Saturday at Columbus. On the other hand, the only wins lately have come against Columbus (twice), Toronto, Colorado and New England. Of that bunch, only Colorado is likely to make the playoffs.

6. Seattle Sounders – Seattle did play better in the second half … so there’s that. But you have to wonder about a team that finds itself on the business end of this kind of beating (a 5-1 loss at Colorado); is this an aberration or a symptom of something worse? And what is up with Clint Dempsey’s hamstring?

5. Colorado Rapids – Rookies Deshorn Brown and Dillon Powers both elevated their cases for league Rookie of the Year. Brown (who had two goals) even pulled within realistic striking distance of the all-time rookie scoring record in MLS. It was all part of a 5-1 win over Seattle, the best result yet under second-year coach Oscar Pareja, and one that will go far to getting the Rapids into the playoffs.

4. Real Salt Lake – Credit to Jason Kreis’ team for rallying past the massive U.S. Open Cup disappointment to get a credible weekend performance. If a 1-1 draw against FC Dallas (on Alvaro Saborio’s short-handed goal) doesn’t sound like big doings around Rio Tinto, consider that the hosts were a man down for 70 minutes.

3. Portland Timbers – A point earned in Vancouver (a 2-2 draw Sunday in a wonderfully entertaining contest) kept the Timbers in acceptable playoff positioning, still within reach of something truly special for the 2013 regular season. But it did take a great day at the office from goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts (pictured above) to remain unbeaten in three years now at B.C. Place.

2. LA Galaxy – Landon Donovan’s record setting afternoon was the story of Major League Soccer’s 32nd round, but let’s not lose sight of the team’s bigger statement. A 5-0 win may need some context (it was just last-place Chivas USA, after all) but it surely serves notice that Bruce Arena’s team is serious about a three-peat bid, and has the capacity to potentially get there.

1. New York Red Bulls – Tim Cahill got off to a slow start in his New York days in terms of goal scoring. But who can deny his importance to the Red Bulls now, with one big goal after another? The Aussie international’s 97th minute header (yes, 97th minute!) gave New York the point it needed in a wild 2-2 draw with New England to make Cahill’s bunch the first, official playoff qualifier.

LIVE — Sutton United hopes to upend Arsenal in FA Cup

SUTTON, GREATER LONDON - FEBRUARY 20:  A pennant hangs in the Sutton United changing room prior to The Emirates FA Cup Fifth Round match between Sutton United and Arsenal at The Borough Sports Ground on February 20, 2017 in Sutton, Greater London.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images
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Arsenal hopes to snap out of its form funk with a visit to tiny Sutton United in the FA Cup’s fifth round.

Sutton will be hoping to build on the non-league momentum provided by Lincoln City, who marched into Burnley and won 1-0 on Saturday. Speaking of the Imps, they await the winner of Monday’s match.

[ FOLLOW LIVE: Sutton United vs. Arsenal ]

Arsenal, in addition to stopping the rot, wants a win to join Spurs, Manchester United, Chelsea, Middlesbrough, Leicester City, and Lincoln in the fifth round.

Manchester City and Huddersfield Town drew 0-0 on Saturday and face a replay for the right to join the quarterfinal fray.

FA Cup fifth round results

Burnley 0-1 Lincoln City — RECAP | REACTION
Huddersfield 0-0 Manchester City
Millwall 1-0 Leicester City
Middlesbrough 3-0 Oxford United
Wolverhampton Wanderers 0-2 Chelsea
Fulham 0-3 Tottenham HotspurRECAP
Blackburn Rovers 1-2 Manchester UnitedREACTION

Appeals rejected, Neymar will stand trial

MADRID, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 02:  Neymar of FC Barcelona leaves the National Court on February 2, 2016 in Madrid, Spain. Neymar was giving evidence over allegations of corruption and fraud surrounding his transfer to FC Barcelona.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images
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Neymar, his family, Barcelona, and Santos are headed to court.

Not a great Monday for the Brazilian superstar and his clubs. They stand accused of hiding a portion of the transfer fee that helped Neymar head from Santos to the La Liga powerhouse Blaugranas.

[ MORE: Atlanta United from start to now ]

No appeals remain for Neymar, his mother, and their family brand N&N.

From Sky Sports:

The case stems from a complaint by Brazilian investment group DIS, which owned part of Neymar’s transfer rights and alleges that it received less money than it was entitled to when Neymar made the switch.

Barcelona teammate Lionel Messi was found guilty of tax fraud this summer, and is unlikely to serve his 21-month sentence.

Atlanta United: From scratch to the pitch

ATLANTA, GA - JULY 07:  (L-R) MLS Atlanta owner Arthur Blank and former professional soccer player Darren Eales attend the MLS Atlanta Launch Event at SOHO on July 7, 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images for MLS Atlanta)
Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images for MLS Atlanta
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Darren Eales needs to get himself some game time.

Atlanta United’s president hasn’t watched his side play a league match yet, and it’s a solid 17 months since he left Tottenham Hotspur to help Arthur Blank start his MLS expansion team.

Even training Eales a touch emotional.

[ MORE: High praise for Yedlin ]

“Last Thursday in practice, I was welling up to see the guys in Atlanta training tops with Tata coaching them,” Eales told PST earlier this month. “I’ve had over two years without any games. I hadn’t experienced the highs and lows of why we’re all in this game. Come the fifth of March, it’s going to be a quite an emotional time.”

Not just for Eales, but for an Atlanta market which has proven quite rabid for the sport. United has sold almost 30,000 season tickets, a record for an expansion team.

The excitement isn’t simply a matter of a shiny new toy for sports fans in Georgia. Eales, along with technical director Carlos Bocanegra and manager Tata Martino, have constructed what, at least on paper, could be a monster.

There’s the Designated Player trio of Miguel Almiron, Josef Martinez, and Hector Villalba, young guys Miles Robinson and Andrew Carleton, MLS mainstays Michael Parkhurst and Tyrone Mears, and Chilean veteran Carlos Carmona.

ATLANTA, GA - JULY 07:  Darren Eales speaks onstage during MLS Atlanta Launch Event at SOHO on July 7, 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images for MLS Atlanta)
(Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images for MLS Atlanta)

None of those assets were there when Eales, 44, bought into owner Arthur Blank’s vision in September 2014. And that’s what gave the gig its allure.

[ MORE: Wenger treatment “unacceptable,” says Pep ]

“You talk about soccer being a global game, and it’s very rare you get a chance to start a whole new club from scratch,” Eales said. “To do it with an owner like Arthur Blank who is committed to the City of Atlanta, committed to the community, and committed to a winning team just made it an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”

Eales wasn’t a stranger to America, a former Ivy League Player of the Year from his playing days at Brown University. He later went home to England where he became a director at West Bromwich Albion en route to his executive job at White Hart Lane.

So, yes, the acumen is there. And Eales’ admiration for MLS is a lot higher than many American critics suspect.

“I dealt with MLS from the other side of the fence with Robbie Keane to LA, Jermain Defoe to Toronto, and Clint Dempsey to Seattle,” Eales said. “Fresh perspective when you come from the outside, you look at how teams have built their teams and you can look at it with a fresh pair of eyes.

“The one thing I was clear on from the start, was I felt MLS, globally outside of America, it almost gets more respect from other countries than it does in America. I’ve seen that with players like Simon Dawkins. When I was at Tottenham, we loaned him to San Jose, he developed as a player and we were able to sell him off to Derby. It’s a global league, the standard of football is getting better all the time. I really felt the time was right where you could try to get players in their prime and sell it to them as career development, not a dead end.”

Blank contacted Eales, and convinced him that Atlanta United wasn’t a vanity play. The soccer team wasn’t going to be the Atlanta Falcons’ “little brother”, but a major part of the community.

Plus, time was on their side.

[ MORE: UCL Tuesday preview ]

“Building a roster, putting in the academy, building a training ground, an affiliation with the Charleston Battery, all of these things can’t happen overnight,” Eales said. “There’s been a lot of thoughts and strategy that’s gone into building the roster.”

Not to mention time zones, travel, surfaces, calendar, salary cap, the popularity of other leagues… Eales wanted to find a technical director with both positive vision and MLS wisdom. Enter Carlos Bocanegra, the USMNT captain who had started and finished his playing career in MLS before performing well overseas with Fulham, Rangers, and Rennes.

“What I didn’t want to do was come in from the Premier League and say, ‘Everything European is the way we should do it and Americans don’t know anything about soccer.’ Clearly that’s not the case and I knew that.”

NYON, SWITZERLAND - AUGUST 06:  Tottenham Hotspur director of football administration Darren Eales (R) after the UEFA Champions League play-off draw on August 6, 2010 in Nyon, Switzerland. The play-offs are played over two legs on 17/18 and 24/25 August. The ten play-off winners will join the 22 automatic entrants in the UEFA Champions League group stage, the draw for which will be held in Monaco on 26 August 26, 2010. (Photo by Fabrice Coffrini/EuroFootball/Getty Images)
(Photo by Fabrice Coffrini/EuroFootball/Getty Images)

Eales said Bocanegra is a good friend in addition to the perfect man for the job. He added that both men didn’t take long to embrace the city, and that the Falcons’ run to the Super Bowl didn’t hurt sports fever in the Peach State.

Now Georgia will turn its attention to the red and black of Atlanta United, a team brimming with talent and experience. One of the early bets for Eales and Bocanegra was that it wouldn’t be about older big names. When asked about the successes of Sebastian Giovinco at Toronto and Nicolas Lodeiro in Seattle, Eales almost bristles at the thought that the moves inspired him. Young and fast was already entrenched in his model.

[ MORE: Clattenburg’s PL time not over ]

“It’s been a long time planning,” Eales said. “We were already going down this model. Lodeiro has been fantastic in Seattle and Giovinco is by far and away the best player in the league. He was that first one where someone was taken not over 30 and it showed, despite what the Italian national team manager said at the time, you could come here, play your game and get your career back on track.

“We felt we could go even further was to get those younger players. We’ve got Miguel at 22, Hector at 22, and Josef at 23. You’ll see increasingly now it will be a chance for us as a whole league to bring in top players and get bigger and better, year on year.”

While Eales has not had the fun of match day and won’t really have that experience until March 5’s visit from the Red Bulls, he’s had fun keeping an eye on his last two Premier League clubs and their top half success.

“I have to laugh because I still talk to a lot of my colleagues back at Tottenham and when they say ‘We’re doing well since you left’ I tell them it’s all about building the foundation,” Eales said.

“Chelsea have had a great season but Tottenham with the young squad they’ve got and the manager they’ve got in Mauricio Pochettino, they are going to be titlists in the near future. And West Brom, I love West Brom. It’s a great family club and it’s really exciting to see them solid in the top half of the table. It’s a testament to the guys, Tony Pulis and the team, how they built with a plan year on year to become a solid Premier League club. They have a strategy and they stuck to it.”

So, too, does Eales and United. The roster he’s assembled and his legendary manager combine to give the look of an instant playoff contender.

Yet Eales, like MLS, is going to have to see it. The difference is that United’s president already believes it. Bring on the chills.

“Killers in the box” – Guardiola prepares to face Monaco (video)

MONACO - NOVEMBER 22:  Radamel Falcao (L) the captain of Monaco leads his team onto the field during the UEFA Champions League Group E match between AS Monaco FC and Tottenham Hotspur FC  at Louis II Stadium on November 22, 2016 in Monaco, .  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images
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Pep Guardiola has a lot of admiration for the latest obstacle in Manchester City’s path to the UEFA Champions League final.

The club begins its Round of 16 on Tuesday with a visit from Monaco, and Guardiola will match wits with Leonardo Jardim.

[ MORE: UCL Tuesday preview ]

The Premier League boss loves the way Monaco plays, but doesn’t adore the idea of staring them down.

From ManCity.com:

“As a spectator it’s so nice to see them. I’m really impressed how good they are.

“Their fullbacks play like wingers, the wingers play like attacking midfielders. Their strikers are fighters, Falcao, Germain, they are killers in the box. Both holding midfielders are intelligent, physical, strong. They arrive to the box.

“A complete team. The most successful team in Europe in terms of scoring goals. It’s a tough draw.”

Center back Vincent Kompany is out for the home tie vs. Monaco, and Guardiola has not decided who will start between the sticks.

The manager also praised the hiring of Marcelo Bielsa at Lille, calling the veteran manager “the best in the world”.