Montreal Impact v D.C. United

ProSoccerTalk’s weekly MLS rankings


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.

Agent: “There’s no hatred” between Bale, Ronaldo

Gareth Bale & Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid CF
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Gareth Bale doesn’t at all dislike Cristiano Ronaldo — or vice versa — despite what may seem a lukewarm on-field relationship between the two Real Madrid superstars, insists Jonathan Barnett, agent of Bale.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Instead, Barnett insists that the two men with very different personalities have a healthy relationship, and competition, that pushes each Galactico to be the best player he can be.

Barnett, on Bale’s relationship with Ronaldo — quotes from the Guardian:

“They don’t go out eating every night together, but it’s fine. There’s no hatred there. Gareth is a quiet guy. They’re complete opposites. But I think Gareth can learn a little bit from Ronaldo as well, interacting maybe a little bit. But he wants his own life and he lives it. Gareth is a great footballer, he doesn’t want anything more. He has some very good endorsements but his whole life is to be the best footballer in the world. I don’t think he wants to be the best model in the world or the best underwear seller. That’s not him.”

That’s a hilarious closing quote from Barnett, but he knows exactly how some folks are going to interpret it: “Bale thinks Ronaldo loves himself too much.”

[ MORE: Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott ]

There’s nothing better for the ultimate success of a team than healthy, friendly competition between teammates who are spectacularly talented as Ronaldo and Bale. The former will only be around to perform at his current level for so much longer, but at what point does the latter officially take the torch and supplant Madrid’s biggest star, and how accepting will he be of passing that proverbial torch?

Olivier Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott

Olivier Giroud, France
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Is it just me, or does the press really only ever get noteworthy quotes from players during international breaks?

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

I suppose it’s not surprising, given Premier League players get away from the mean ole British press, go back to their respective homelands and speak with journalists they’ve likely known since their early playing days, thus feel more comfortable opening up about key issues.

Anyway, today we have Olivier Giroud essentially calling himself out for having lost the starting striker’s job at Arsenal because he’s been outplayed of late by Theo Walcott. As discussed before, this is bad news for Giroud because he’s now falling down the depth chart for France with next summer’s European Championship on the horizon.

[ MORE: Aguero admits he wants Guardiola link-up ]

Giroud, on losing his place at Arsenal — quotes from the Guardian:

“At Arsenal, I am in competition with Theo for the striker position. But he is doing well at the moment, so there is no reason to change.

“Whether it was at Tours, Montpellier or Arsenal, I have never experienced a situation like this, I have often played from the start. I need to take positives and to harden myself mentally. It is something new for me.

“I was in [Walcott’s] place in previous seasons at Arsenal. I imagine what he must have been thinking. But I feel that the coach believes in me.”

Giroud goes on to cast into doubt his own confidence, stating in very certain terms he needs “to believe more in [his] abilities.” Giroud’s always come across as a bit of an existentialist, but it’s always strange to hear players publicly call themselves out — particularly their confidence — as if that’s not going to increase the pressure currently weighing down on them.

[ MORE: Rodgers reportedly chosen to take over at Aston Villa ]

The next eight months are going to be monumentally important in Giroud’s career, as the 29-year-old attempts to prove he’s worth keeping around at Arsenal and deserving of a place in the national team squad for next summer’s EUROs, which are to be played in France.