ProSoccerTalk’s weekly MLS rankings

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Our weekly re-ordering of current quality following 34 rounds of league play. Remember, this is an index that combines where these teams are currently in form, along with considerations of the cumulative season results. (Thus, you might see a team like San Jose, which won’t make the playoffs, ahead of some clubs that probably will be a post-season participant.)

19. D.C. United – It comes to this: beat Houston at RFK Stadium this weekend or United will set a record for fewest wins in a season ever in Major League Soccer.

18. Chivas USA – The Goats can still say a little something about how the playoff race looks; another bad season for the StubHub Center’s second tenant finishes with a visit by Western Conference leading Portland.

17. Toronto FC – Ryan Nelsen’s team got a tough break in a penalty kick decision that was harsh at best, just plain wrong at worst. That was the decider in a 1-0 loss at Chicago.

16. FC Dallas – Good: Schellas Hyndman won his last home game, helping heap misery on the beleaguered Sounders in a 2-0 win in North Texas. Bad: two players nearly came to blows as they left the field at halftime.  Locker room accord? Not around there, apparently.

15. Columbus – The Crew hopes were realistically busted two weeks back, but a close loss at New England officially extinguished the hopes for post-season soccer. Does interim manager Brian Bliss stay around, or will the new ownership look for something more flashy?

14. Philadelphia Union – The Union’s ability to grind out results has not been as fierce over the season’s second half. Prime example: losing a lead at Montreal on Saturday, a result that kept John Hackworth’s team below the playoff red line.

13. Chicago Fire – Mike Magee’s 20th came from the penalty spot, but it was calmly converted by the league MVP candidate (pictured above) and put Chicago closer to the playoffs in a 1-0 win over Toronto FC. Chicago is in (playoff position) at the moment, but the footing is quite dodgy; they may need a result at New York to stay there.

12. Vancouver Whitecaps – Will manager Martin Rennie stay, or does he need to go? And will a season finale at home against the Colorado Rapids have anything to say about it? The Whitecaps, now eliminated, can finish with a winning record, at least. Rennie’s team is 12-12-9 going into the finale.

11. Montreal Impact – Marco Di Vaio’s 20th goal was the equalizer in a comeback win over Philadelphia. Marco Schallibaum’s club can probably sneak into the post-season with a draw Saturday at Canadian rival Toronto, but a win will definitely clinch a berth in the “second season.”

(MORE: MLS Round 34 week in review)

10. Seattle Sounders – The Sounders are in the playoffs, officially clinching late Sunday night. But the moment feels so small because Sigi Schmid and his Sounders backed in (qualifying because San Jose could manage just a draw in Los Angeles.) The Sounders are beat up and reeling, losers of four in a row and winless in six.

9. New England Revolution – Another week, another gutsy result keeps Jay Heaps’ team in the post-season hunt. And whatever we are all saying about 18-year-old Diego Fagundez, whose 12th goal was the huge game-winner Saturday over Columbus, it’s probably not enough.

8. Houston Dynamo – The Dynamo will probably need a victory at D.C. United, or Dominic Kinnear’s team will miss playoff soccer for just the second time in his eight years in Houston. Even a win will not guarantee a spot; Sunday’s 3-0 setback at home (where the Dynamo finished 9-4-4 at their previously impenetrable ground) was a huge blow.

7. San Jose Earthquakes – Alas for the Earthquakes, one of the best teams of MLS over the summer and early fall will not be in the playoffs. Sunday’s 0-0 draw in Los Angeles sealed the bummer deal. Left to sort out now is whether interim manager Mark Watson did enough to retain the position.

6. Colorado Rapids – When the Rapids beat Vancouver on Saturday night (eliminating the Whitecaps from post-season contention), they took a huge step toward securing a playoff spot. When San Jose could do no better than a draw late Sunday in Los Angeles, playoff soccer for the Rapids became a virtual certainty. Deshorn Brown scored again, continuing to solidify his Rookie of the Year case.

5. Real Salt Lake – Jason Kreis’ team has responded fairly admirably to that crushing U.S. Open Cup final loss in Utah. They followed a draw against Dallas (when playing most of the match with 10 men) with Saturday’s scoreless draw at Portland. Interestingly, Kyle Beckerman played along the right, rather than in his usual spot in the middle.

4. LA Galaxy – Bruce Arena had his best team available (at least for the start) of a big match against San Jose. Considering how badly the Earthquakes needed this one, and considering how good San Jose has been in gathering up points over the summer and fall, a 0-0 draw wasn’t bad for the Galaxy. L.A. will miss Juninho (suspended for yellow cards) in this week’s big regular season finales at Seattle, a match that could decide which of those teams finishes third and which finishes in the far less desireable fourth spot.

source: Getty Images3. Sporting Kansas City – Kansas City needs help for a Supporters Shield shot, but Peter Vermes’ team is in the second-best position, at least. If New York hiccups at home against Chicago – not impossible, considering the Fire will feel like post-season elimination is on the line – then SKC can grab the Week 35 Supporters Shield win. It won’t be easy for Vermes (pictured at left) and Co., however; Sporting is at Philadelphia, which will also be desperate for a result.

2. Portland Timbers – A scoreless draw at home means it was “mission accomplished,” for Portland, even if it didn’t feel that way. That single, earned point kept Caleb Porter’s team in the driver’s seat. A win this week at last-place Chivas would give his Timbers a Western Conference title and the conference’s best shot of bringing MLS Cup 2013 to the Rose City.

1. New York Red Bulls – Compared to some other, former Supporters Shield chasers, New York is barreling into the playoffs on a serious upswing. With an impressive 3-0 win (impressive in the result, if not exactly in the method), New York seized the opportunity to grab Supporters Shield with final-day win in New Jersey over Chicago. A draw or even a loss could possibly be enough, but Mike Petke’s team will surely want to keep the momentum going.

Sky Blue’s Sam Kerr named NWSL league MVP for 2017

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CHICAGO (AP) Sky Blue FC forward Sam Kerr has been named the National Women’s Soccer League’s Most Valuable Player for this season.

Kerr, a standout on the Australian national team, had a league-record 17 goals and became the league’s fifth Golden Boot winner to also be named MVP.

[ MORE: MLS Decision Day preview ]

She became the first NWSL player to score four goals in a game on Aug. 19 against the Seattle Reign. Kerr rallied Sky Blue from a 3-goal deficit to beat the Reign 5-4.

Kerr’s award was announced Friday. The league had earlier announced the season’s other award winners: North Carolina’s Abby Dahlkemper was named Defender of the Year, teammate Ashley Hatch was named Rookie of the Year, Portland’s Adrianna Franch was named Goalkeeper of the Year and the Thorns’ Mark Parsons was named Coach of the Year.

The Mendy Effect: Pep praises injured back

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Full back Benjamin Mendy cost Pep Guardiola and Manchester City $68 million, but perhaps he’ll be just as valuable as a very expensive sports psychologist.

The “Shark Team” member was amusing on social media even before his ACL injury sent him to the sidelines until at least April, but he’s become a must-follow Twitter fixture with his in-game messages (See some of his work below).

[ MORE: MLS Decision Day preview ]

City faces Burnley at 10 a.m. ET Saturday (Watch live on CNBC and online via NBCSports.com).

It’s fairly clear his act has translated in private, too, as apparently Mendy is just as good in group messages (Let us in, Pep. We won’t tell anyone). From ManCity.com:

“Usually, players who are out for a long time with injury are sad. They sometimes train apart and feel isolated.

“Mendy decided to be present. He is communicating on social media, WhatsApp and he calls his teammates and messages me. He is going to be so important outside the pitch because people like him make the atmosphere much better.”

It’s not surprising for anyone who’s been following the former Le Havre, Marseille and Monaco man.

Keep in mind, these Tweets below are from the last few days alone!

Ozil to Manchester United?!? Wenger reacts to gossip

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Sometimes, even the biggest Arsene Wenger detractors have to feel for the guy.

Coming off a thrilling late win in Serbia, one that saw Olivier Giroud cap off a team goal straight out of the creative Wenger playbook, the manager should’ve been discussing how to stretch those good vibes into this weekend’s visit to Goodison Park.

[ MORE: MLS Decision Day preview ]

Yet no. Instead of talking about how the Gunners would respect the struggling Toffees, Wenger had to address speculation from several outlets claiming Mesut Ozil would move to Manchester United, perhaps as soon as January.

Feeling it? No, no Wenger was not feeling it. From Arsenal.com:

“We have to deal with all kinds of speculation when the players are at the end of their contracts. On the other hand, to be professional is to give 100 per cent as long as you are somewhere. For the rest, we came out many times and said that’s the situation. It [the media] can come out tomorrow and say that he extends his contract here. It will be exactly the same, it will not change anything. When you play the next game, commit 100 per cent. … When a player plays for Arsenal Football Club, his commitment cannot be linked with the length of his contract, it has just to be linked with the responsibility and the ambition he has to win the football game.”
Of course most big clubs have to deal with such drama on a year-to-year basis and, yes, having Ozil and Alexis Sanchez still in town was completely avoidable. But the idea that Ozil could leave, for free, to Manchester United? We’re sure Gooners the world over will be thrilled with the gossip.

MLS Decision Day preview: Much at stake

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Four teams can claim a Western Conference second round berth, while four more can earn a valuable first-round bye in the East.

Yep, there’s plenty to play for beyond the West’s final playoff spot Sunday during Major League Soccer’s Decision Day, when every team will take the pitch for 4 p.m. ET kickoffs.

[ MORE: Conte feels pressure ]

Here’s what we do know regarding the playoffs:

  1. Supporters’ Shield winning Toronto FC gets a first round bye, while No. 6 seed New York Red Bulls are headed to the road for a first round playoff
  2. New England, Montreal, Philadelphia, Orlando, DC, Minnesota, Colorado, and LA will not make the playoffs
  3. Full stop.

So, yes, this will be fun.

First, let’s look at the Eastern Conference Standings ahead of Sunday’s extravaganza:

Eastern Conference
Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
Toronto FC 33 20 8 5 72 35 37 13-3-1 7-5-4 68
x – New York City FC 33 16 8 9 54 41 13 10-4-2 6-4-7 56
x – Chicago 33 16 7 10 61 44 17 12-3-2 4-4-8 55
x – Atlanta 33 15 9 9 68 38 30 11-2-3 4-7-6 54
x – Columbus 33 16 5 12 51 47 4 12-2-3 4-3-9 53
x – New York 33 13 8 12 51 46 5 9-6-2 4-2-10 47

— New York City FC controls its bye destiny, though Columbus could join them on 56 points and would pass them on tiebreakers (wins).

— If that happens, Chicago could claim the second bye with a win or draw in Houston (The Fire owns the goal differential tiebreaker).

— If New York City and Chicago lose or draw, Atlanta could finish second with a home win over TFC.

— Columbus can finish second with a win and non-wins for Chicago and Atlanta.

Western Conference
Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
x – Vancouver 33 15 7 11 49 47 2 9-5-3 6-2-8 52
x – Portland 33 14 8 11 58 49 9 10-4-2 4-4-9 50
x – Seattle 33 13 11 9 49 39 10 10-5-1 3-6-8 50
x – Sporting KC 33 12 13 8 39 27 12 10-6-1 2-7-7 49
x – Houston 33 12 11 10 54 45 9 11-4-1 1-7-9 47
San Jose 33 12 7 14 36 58 -22 9-5-2 3-2-12 43
FC Dallas 33 10 13 10 43 47 -4 7-7-2 3-6-8 43
Real Salt Lake 33 12 6 15 47 54 -7 8-4-4 4-2-11 42

Byes

— Vancouver finishes first with a win or draw at Portland. The ‘Caps could finish as low as third with a loss to Portland and a Seattle win versus Colorado.

— Portland finishes first — and wins the Cascadia Cup — with a win over visiting Vancouver.

— Seattle can claim a first round bye with a win over visiting Colorado and a Vancouver win over Portland.

— Sporting KC can finish second with a win at Real Salt Lake and non-wins for Portland and Seattle.

Final playoff spot

— San Jose claims the sixth seed with a home win over Minnesota. They can also finish sixth with a draw joined by non-wins for FC Dallas at home to LA and Real Salt Lake at home versus SKC.

— FC Dallas claims the sixth seed with a win over LA and a San Jose draw or loss versus Minnesota. FCD gets sixth with a draw, and a San Jose loss coupled with a RSL loss or draw versus SKC.

—  Real Salt Lake gets sixth with a win over SKC, and non-wins from San Jose and Dallas. RSL could also get sixth with a draw and losses for San Jose and Dallas.

(Photo by Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images)

Schedule
FC Dallas vs. LA Galaxy
DC United vs. New York Red Bulls
San Jose vs. Minnesota United
Real Salt Lake vs. Sporting KC
Houston vs. Chicago
Seattle vs. Colorado
Philadelphia vs. Orlando City
Portland vs. Vancouver
Montreal vs. New England
New York City vs. Columbus
Atlanta vs. Toronto

Predictions

— NYCFC hangs on for a draw against Columbus, earning a bye, leaving Chicago to host New York Red Bulls and Atlanta off to Columbus for the first round of the playoffs (We have Toronto beating Atlanta on Sunday).

— Vancouver and Portland draw, while Seattle beats Colorado. The ‘Caps and Sounders get byes, while Seattle takes back the Cascadia Cup.

— San Jose beats Minnesota, gaining the West’s sixth seed. The Quakes head to Portland for the first round, while SKC hosts Houston.