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PST’s Major League Soccer Power Rankings – Week 1

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Power Rankings have two problems: relevance, and transparency.

To the extent they can ever be relevant, Power Rankings lose their significance when they become nothing more than slight tweaks on the current standings. If a list tells you nothing more than the table and a form column, then we not just look at a table with a form column?

That’s where transparency comes in. Even if a ranking does look like the standings, it would be nice to know what the author’s trying to accomplish. Is the whole exercise nothing more than a reason to write two sentences about each team? Or is it to trying to convey something useful to the reader – information that might augment the league’s standings?

To be honest, it’s a product of what readers want. There’s a reason why almost every major site covering every major sport does Power Rankings. It doesn’t matter if it’s college football, where the sports’ actual standings is a power ranking. You’re still have sites give you their own views because that’s what people want. They want to you what you — person in the byline, entity on the masthead — want to contribute to the dialog.

We want to augment the basics. We want something that can complement the league’s standings to give you a more complete picture of where each team stands. Where the table tells you how a team’s performed in the past, we want these rankings to tell you how a team is likely to perform in the immediate future.

The test is this: If two teams played tomorrow, given their current injury concerns, form, and other considerations, who is likely to win on a neutral field? This list is designed to tell you who we feel is most likely to win that matchup. All things being equal, who is the best team going forward, based on what we know now?

So past results matter, but so does current form. Our goal is to take that information and evaluate how much each reflects a team’s ability to win tomorrow.

Will we always get it right? No. But hopefully, we’ll be consistent about what we’re trying to do.

Here’s our view of the league after Week One:

RANKING
Up/Down

1
Real Salt Lake: Last October, RSL went into Carson and lost 1-0 on its way to a second appearance in MLS Cup. On Saturday, it improved on that performance. Does that mean the team’s better on last year? Not necessarily, but it does mean RSL had the most impressive result of the season’s first round. (1-0-0)
source:  2
Sporting Kansas City: One week, on the road, resting players, against another highly ranked team, and it takes some 94th minute goalmouth chaos to sink you? Consider this me dropping Sporting one spot. I refuse to judge them too harshly. (0-1-0)
source:  3
Portland Timbers: The finishing was off, particularly Diego Valeri’s, but against a strong Union team, they still showed all the qualities that make them one of the Western Conference favorites. The underlying form, better than Saturday’s result, says the Timbers deserve a high spot. (0-0-1)
source:  4
Vancouver Whitecaps: The team’s 4-1 win over visiting New York sent a spectacular message to the rest of the league. That message: We have more firepower than any of you, and Carl Robinson might know how to use it. (1-0-0)

source:

5
LA Galaxy: An opening night loss is disappointing, but they generated a number of chances – chances a mortal goalkeeper’s less likely to stop. If RSL is really the league’s best team after week one, we can’t be too down on LA after playing them so close. (0-1-0)
source:  6
Seattle Sounders: Seattle’s only issue on Saturday was chance creation, something it still overcame in second half stoppage time. Given its opponents were a typically stingy Sporting KC, the lack of good chances was understandable. We’re still in “wait and see” mode on the offense, but the rest of the team looks solid, if not outright good. (1-0-0)
source:  7 Philadelphia Union: It’s about the solidity more than the result. If the Union would have gotten a lucky point in Portland on Saturday, they wouldn’t be ranked this high. But there was nothing lucky about it. Perhaps they’ll regress in the coming weeks, but after game one, the Union deserve this spot. (0-0-1)
source:  8
Houston Dynamo: This feels low for a team that posted the weekend’s most-lopsided result, but there was a momentum to Saturday’s game — one which was 3-0 Dynamo after 23 minutes — that limits how much we can learn from the result. What we know, though: Will Bruin has left 2013 behind him. (1-0-0)
source:  9 New York Red Bulls: Vancouver has the weirdest surface in the league, and New York only plays there once every two years. When they do, players like Thierry Henry and Jámison Olave don’t make the trip. Particularly considering two of the Whitecaps four goals game late, I’m not sure how much we learned about New York, other than Vancouver will always be a bad trip for this team. (0-1-0)
source:  10 Columbus Crew: The Crew places three players in our Team of the Week, so their performance made an impression. Before we start moving them too far up the rankings, however, we need to see them play against somebody other than D.C. United. Still, don’t let that diminish what was a very impressive opener. (1-0-0)
source:  11 Toronto FC: Did not play. (0-0-0)
source:  11 San Jose Earthquakes: Did not play. (0-0-0)

source:

11 Colorado Rapids: Did not play. (0-0-0)
source:  14
Chivas USA: The addition of Mauro Rosales paid immediate dividends, with the former Seattle Sounder producing the league’s only two-assist night. This team is going to be better than most people thought. (1-0-0)
source:  15
FC Dallas: Three points on opening night provided a great start to the Óscar Pareja era, but the absence of Marco Di Vaio, a questionable penalty, and the overall quality of their opponent leaves questions unanswered. (1-0-0)
source:  16
New England Revolution: An embarrassing performance at BBVA Compass Stadium carried an element of the aberrational. Jay Heaps better hope Jose Goncalves isn’t this bad every week; else, it’s back to 2012 with the Revolution. (0-1-0)
source:  17 Chicago Fire: Chivas USA is going to be better than last year, but despite the close score, Chicago were clearly second best to last year’s Western Conference cellar dwellers. Frank Yallop’s revamped defense gave up three goals. (0-1-0)
source:  18
Montréal Impact: In our alternative season preview we alluded to nobody knowing how good this team’s supposed to be. Week 1 didn’t provide any answers. They were without their only goal scorer yet still put up two. Against a Dallas team that’s going to need time under Pareja, however, they were down two by the 47th minute. (0-1-0)
source:  19
DC United: A 3-0 loss at home to a team that didn’t make last year’s playoffs, one that held a two-goal lead for most of Saturday’s match? For one week the nightmare that was 2013 back, with Ben Olsen’s team delivering an unexpected disappointment in game one. (0-1-0)

UEL: Saint-Etienne hope Beric comes to the rescue vs. Man United

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 16:  Paul Pogba of Manchester United and Kevin Monnet-Paquet of Saint-Etienne in action during the UEFA Europa  League Round of 32 first leg match between Manchester United and AS Saint-Etienne at Old Trafford on February 16, 2017 in Manchester, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
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PARIS (AP) While Zlatan Ibrahimovic was scoring a hat trick in Manchester United’s win over Saint-Etienne in the Europa League last week, Robert Beric’s 11-minute substitute appearance at Old Trafford was barely noticed.

Still reeling from a hamstring injury, Beric’s cameo had little impact as Ibrahimovic ended Saint-Etienne’s 10-game unbeaten run in Europe by 3-0.

[ MORE: Man City win in epic comeback vs. Monaco | Atleti blitz Bayer ]

Beric’s condition has improved since the heavy loss, and he featured in a French league game in Montpellier last weekend. The 1976 European Cup runner-up is hoping that’s enough for Beric to help it overturn their deficit against United on Wednesday in the last-32 return leg.

Beric, a versatile center-forward capable of playing with his back to goal and creating, joined Saint-Etienne last season. He’d scored 27 goals in 34 matches in his final season with Rapid Vienna, but was unable to replicate the feat in the French league because his progression was abruptly stopped by a serious right knee injury.

He is expected to start at Geoffroy Guichard Stadium after his teammates managed to force United goalkeeper Sergio Romero into only a single save from 14 shots last week.

“Beric is so skillful and astute in front of goal that we all want to give him a starting nod,” former Saint-Etienne striker Herve Revelli, now a club ambassador, told L’Equipe.

[ MORE: Rooney left out of Man United’s Europa League squad (again) ]

United was carved open at times, but the French club was made to pay for its blatant lack of efficiency. Revelli insisted Beric can make a difference.

“He is likely to put our chances into the back of the net,” Revelli said.

With an estimated budget of close to 70 million euros, Saint-Etienne simply can’t afford the services of a world-class striker. When he joined the 10-time French champion for a reported six million euros, Beric became the third most expensive player signed by the club.

A humble player and a man of few words, Beric is somewhat the opposite of the self-infatuated Ibrahimovic.

Unlike Ibrahimovic, who once said he will be “God of Manchester,” Beric rarely speaks about himself and his rare comments on social networks are limited to praise of his teammates and Saint-Etienne fans.

Beric, who scored the last of his three league goals this season back in September, is not yet fully fit and should not be able to last the whole match. But Revelli is counting on his instinct for goals.

[ MORE: Guardiola “so happy” to see Man City “achieve another step” ]

“With him in a finisher role, I firmly believe in our chances,” said Revelli, Saint-Etienne’s all-time best scorer.

Saint-Etienne needs to find a way to stop Ibrahimovic, but history does not favor the home side.

During his time in France with Paris Saint-Gernain, Ibrahimovic was the scourge of Saint-Etienne, scoring 14 goals in 13 games in all competitions. He now has 17, including three hat tricks.

“It’s difficult to neutralize him. There is a possibility that we will set up an anti-Ibra plan,” Saint-Etienne coach Chirstophe Galtier said. “I don’t know what’s inside Zlatan, but for sure he likes to play against us. It’s not easy to score a hat trick in a European Cup game.”

Champions League Wednesday: Leicester’s last stand; Porto-Juve

SEVILLE, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 21:  Claudio Ranieri, manager of Leicester City looks on during a press conference ahead of the UEFA Champions League round-of-16 first leg against Sevilla FC at Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan on February 21, 2017 in Seville, Spain.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images
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Previewing Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League round-of-16 action…

[ MORE: Man City win in epic comeback vs. Monaco | Atleti blitz Bayer ]

Leicester City vs. Sevilla

There’s no two ways about it: Leicester’s season — and perhaps their status as a Premier League club — is quickly spiraling out of control. The Foxes, just nine months after winning the PL title, sit 17th in the league table, one point clear of relegation, with 13 games still to play. Chances are, they won’t be back in the Champions League anytime soon, making Wednesday’s round-of-16 first-leg clash away to Sevilla all the more a monumental moment in the club’s history.

Where has hasn’t it gone wrong for Claudio Ranieri‘s side this season? If you’re of the mind that one player — N'Golo Kante in Leicester’s case — doesn’t make a team himself, then we’ll have to go one step further in diagnosing the stunning regression seen at the King Power Stadium this season: Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez, who combined to score 41 goals in the PL last season, have managed all of eight together in 2016-17. It’s the loss of Kante, though, that has left the defense forever exposed (43 goals conceded in 25 PL games, after conceding 36 in 38 all of last season), and the goal-getters forever feeding on scraps (24 goals scored, compared to 68 last season).

[ MORE: Rooney left out of Man United’s Europa League squad (again) ]


Porto vs. Juventusfrom the AP

Juventus defender Leonardo Bonucci will be left in the stands for Wednesday’s Champions League match against Porto as punishment for his outburst aimed at coach Massimiliano Allegri.

Allegri announced the move on Tuesday at the pre-match news conference, saying he had agreed it with club officials as “a fair decision, out of respect for the squad, the fans and the club.”

Bonucci became embroiled in a heated argument over substitutions with Allegri after a 4-1 win over Palermo on Friday.

Allegri also will punish himself for his angry reaction to Bonucci, announcing a donation to charity.

U.S. U-20s awaken in 2nd half vs. Haiti, keep WCQ hopes alive

USMNT U-20 team (Photo credit: U.S. Soccer)
Photo credit: U.S. Soccer
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With many thanks to the hat trick scored by Brooks Lennon (Real Salt Lake, on loan from Liverpool), the U.S. U-20 national team’s hopes of qualifying for the 2017 U-20 World Cup remain intact.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USMNT coverage | MLS ]

After dropping all three points in their opening group-stage game against Panama on Saturday, Tab Ramos’ young Yanks faced elimination from CONCACAF’s U-20 Championship in Costa Rica with a defeat to Haiti on Tuesday. After 15 minutes, the Americans found themselves a goal down, the prospect of winning zero points from their first two games a terrifying possibility.

Then, Lennon struck from the penalty spot. A draw wouldn’t be enough, realistically, though, as they’d still trail Haiti by three points ahead of the final group game, against Saint Kitts and Nevis, with the top two sides from each team advancing to the classification stage.

The score remained 1-1 until halftime, after which point the Yanks roared to life with three goals in a seven-minute span. Luca de la Torre (Fulham) scored the first of the bunch, an empty-net finish after a failed punch by the goalkeeper. Lennon quickly followed suit with two more to make it 4-1.

With three points from two games and a goal differential that now sits at +2, the Yanks are second in Group B, just ahead of Haiti on goal differential (+1). Panama sit atop the group with six points and a +5 goal differential. A U.S. victory over Saint Kitts and Nevis, to go with a Haitian upset of Panama, would see the Americans finish top of the group go into Group E in the classification stage, which would see them accompanied by a pair of second-place sides. The first-place side in each classification group qualifies for May’s tournament in South Korea.

Guradiola “so happy” to see Man City “achieve another step” as a club

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 21:  Josep Guardiola manager of Manchester City reacts as Leonardo Jardim head coach of AS Monaco looks on during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg match between Manchester City FC and AS Monaco at Etihad Stadium on February 21, 2017 in Manchester, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images
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In the past, when faced with adversity in the UEFA Champions League, Manchester City could do little more than wilt and crumble as their European dreams when up in smoke year after year, typically in embarrassing and/or heartbreaking fashion.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

On Tuesday, when faced with 2-1 and 3-2 deficits late into the second half of their round-of-16 first leg against Monaco, deja vu was quickly setting in for anyone who’s followed Man City’s rise from middling afterthought to mega-rich conglomerate with aspirations of world domination. Then, something strange (based on years of recent history) happened: Sergio Aguero fired City back to level at 2-2 in the 58th minute. Sure, more shocking defending saw the deficit restored three minutes later, but again, Aguero dissented.

For this reason, and perhaps this reason alone considering the putrid defensively display over the course of 90 minutes, first-year City manager Pep Guardiola should be heartened by Tuesday’s events at the Etihad Stadium. In his mind, it was a massive step forward in the club’s psyche — quotes from the BBC:

“I am so happy for the result, we are still alive. These kind of things help this club to achieve another step. We attacked in small spaces. That’s why they wanted me to come here. Everybody has to be congratulated.

“We are going to fly to Monaco to score as many goals as possible. If we don’t score in Monaco we will be eliminated.”