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.

Europa League qualifying roundup: West Ham falls in Slovenia

NYON, SWITZERLAND - AUGUST 08:  The UEFA Europa League trophy is displayed during the 2014/15 UEFA Europa League Play-off round draw at the UEFA headquarters, The House of European Football on August 8, 2014 in Nyon, Switzerland.  (Photo by Harold Cunningham/Getty Images)
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In what is often described as more of a distraction than anything for English teams, the Europa League third qualification round is under way, and a Premier League club is in danger of crashing out of the competition prior to the group stage for the third straight season.

West Ham fell 2-1 at NK Domzale, the third-placed finishers in the Slovenian league last season. Mark Noble grabbed an 18th-minute penalty, the only takeaway from an otherwise depressing road result. On the other side, 24-year-old Matic Crnic scored twice to put Domzale through.

Last season, the Hammers also dropped out of the competition in the third qualification round, to Romanian club Astra Giurgiu, although they had wins in the first and second rounds after entering the competition via fair play. In addition, Southampton also crashed out of last year’s Europa League in the playoff round to Danish side FC Mitdjylland. Hull City dropped out of the tournament two seasons ago in the playoff round.

West Ham has the opportunity to turn things around at home in a week as they host Domzale at the Olympic Stadium on Thursday, August 4 in what will be West Ham’s first competitive in their new home.

Other notable scores from Europa League qualification include:

  • Lille 1-1 Gabala FC
  • Panathinaikos 1-0 AIK
  • Genk 1-0 Cork
  • Pandurii Targu Jiu 0-3 Maccabi Tel Aviv
  • Videoton 0-1 Midtjylland
  • Hertha BSC 1-0 Bronby
  • AZ Alkmaar 1-0 Giannina

Napoli chief calls Gonzalo Higuain a “traitor,” striker hits back

Argentinian striker Gonzalo Higuain shows the Juventus' jersey as he arrives in the team headquarters in Turin, Italy, Wednesday July 27, 2016. Italian champion Juventus said Tuesday it has signed  Higuain from Serie A rival Napoli for 90 million euros ($99 million). (Alessandro Di Marco/Ansa via Ap)
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Gonzalo Higuain’s summer move to Juventus has not come without bad blood.

When the 28-year-old striker moved from Naples to Turin thanks to Juventus activating his release clause, it left Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis with a sour taste in his mouth. “There are those who say that talk of betrayal is an exaggeration, but I think the opposite,” De Laurentiis told Corierre dello Sport. “Because, in this decision, there is the full sense of betrayal, which also includes ingratitude.”

“We never seriously thought he would leave. Nor that he would have erased in a flash the memories of his three years in Naples.”

That didn’t sit well with Higuain, who fired back that it was de Laurentiis who drove him out of his former club.

“It was my decision to leave, but it was [De Laurentiis] who pushed me into making it,” Higuain told the media at his Juventus unveiling. “I’d like to thank the fans and my teammates, but not De Laurentiis. I no longer had a relationship with him; I couldn’t stand another minute with him.”

Higuain was more celebratory about his time at Stadio San Paulo. “These have been three amazing years,” Higuain said, “and I can only say thanks for all the love I was given, but this was a decision I took for my own reasons. I can understand that they are angry with me and I’ve seen the insults, but it is something I had to do and I’m happy about it.”

Napoli visits Turin in Serie A play on October 30, while Juventus will not travel to Naples for the return fixture until early April of 2017.

Pep Guardiola says he benched Samir Nasri because he’s “a little bit overweight”

BEIJING, CHINA - JULY 24:  Samir Nasri of Manchester City attends the pre-game training ahead of the 2016 International Champions Cup match between Manchester City and Manchester United at Olympic Sports Center Stadium on July 24, 2016 in Beijing, China.  (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)
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Samir Nasri‘s soccer career has taken a nosedive since his seven-goal, nine-assist season in 2012/13, both internationally and domestically.

The 29-year-old winger has retired from the French national team after to being frozen out by Didier Deschamps, and has seen a decline in playing time for Manchester City two seasons in a row. Now with a new manager and a fresh start at the Etihad, things aren’t exactly off with flying colors out of the gates.

Nasri hasn’t featured thus far in Manchester City’s preseason, and manager Pep Guardiola said it’s because of his fitness. “Samir arrived a little bit overweight,” Guardiola said following the team’s win over Borrusia Dortmund in International Champions Cup play from China. “He’s much better now, but still there is a little bit of weight. Last season he was injured and we want to avoid that.”

City took down Dortmund on penalties following a 1-1 draw. The squad fell 1-0 to Bayern Munich last week in the team’s first pre-season match. Nasri did not appear in either, and defender Gael Clichy – without naming names – said that Guardiola has forced those with fitness issues to train on their own.

“We have a few players who are not training with the team yet,” Clichy, a former teammate of Nasri’s at Arsenal, said on Wednesday. “If your weight is too high, you’re not training with the team. You have to know that if your weight is 60 kilos and you are on 70 kilos, then you cannot play football.”

Guardiola backed up his policy on Wednesday following Clichy’s comments. “The weight is so important. When you are not fit, danger is coming. You’re not fast enough or quick enough in the head. That’s why you need to be fit.”

Leicester City inks Ben Chilwell to new contract, warding off Liverpool interest

Chilwell
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Liverpool wanted to get younger at the back, but they’ll have to look elsewhere.

Despite reportedly heavy interest from Anfield, 19-year-old defender Ben Chilwell has signed a new five-year deal with Leicester City, tying him down through the summer of 2021.

The Leicester City defense desperately needs Chilwell’s youth as it ages yet another year following their run to the Premier League title. Robert Huth is 31 years old, Wes Morgan – also on a new deal this summer – is 32, and backup Marcin Wasilewski is 36. On the left edge, where Chilwell is most proficient, first-choice left-back Christian Fuchs is 30, while Jeffrey Schlupp provides the only other true bit of youth at 23. On the right, Danny Simpson is 29 and Richie De Laet is 27.

The youngster was reportedly a high-priority target for Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool, lodging a number of bids with the news that Brad Smith would move to Bournemouth. According to reports in England, the Reds made one last effort to bid for Chilwell prior to his extension, but it did not bear fruit.

“Ever since I arrived in Leicester, Ben has been a young player that has shown a lot of promise,” Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri told the club’s official website. “He has all the attributes you would want in a defender and shows a lot of maturity for a player of just 19. He has come back for pre-season in very good condition and is already showing that he is ready to push for a place in the team.”

Chilwell, a Leicester City academy product, has yet to make a Premier League appearance, but has featured for the England youth teams at multiple levels.