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MLS roundup: Dallas moves top; Toronto, Columbus stay perfect

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The 2014 Major League Soccer season has barely started, but the desire to connect dots is irresistible. Though each team has only played between five and nine percent of their seasons’ games, we want to see this weekend’s results as part of a bigger story, one which builds on the season’s first two weekends. We want these games to be more significant than they are.

For example, Toronto got its second win in as many games, marking the first time in franchise history the team has started 2-0-0. But does a 1-0 win at home against D.C. United tell us anything about Ryan Nelsen’s team? When the result slides into the bigger story of Toronto’s revival, it becomes more meaningful than it should.

What about Sporting Kansas City’s win over San Jose? With Champions League behind the defending champions, it’s tempting to see their first win of the season as turning a corner. Through three games, however, the team still hasn’t scored an open play goal.

And then there’s the league’s running joke: Chivas USA. Wilmer Cabrera’s team lost 3-1 in Frisco, Tex., on Saturday, a result that fits nicely with the idea that the league-owned club will be the circuit’s obligatory doormat. In reality, Chivas USA looked more like the team that took four points through two rounds than the squad that finished last year at the bottom of the Western Conference.

It’s too early to tell where this weekend’s games fit in the bigger picture. After three weeks, we have no clue what that picture will look like. Right now, all we have are the results.

Here’s what happened on the third Saturday of the 2014 MLS season:

New England 0, Vancouver 0

With Kelyn Rowe and Saer Sene back in Jay Heaps’ starting lineup, the Revolution looked like their 2013 selves for the first time this season. Unfortunately for New England, that produced neither a win nor a goal, leaving the Revolution without either through three games this season.

(MORE: Everything there but the end product for New England against Vancouver)

Real Salt Lake 1, LA Galaxy 1

The Galaxy’s defensive problems persisted, giving up an early goal to Álvaro Saborío after leaving the Costa Rican unmarked on a set piece. Robbie Keane responded by finishing a trademark LA counterattack, sending the teams into halftime at 1-1. A lack of second half chances meant the two teams that opened the season with an RSL win in Carson, Calif., shared points at Rio Tinto.

(MORE: First half goals, lack of second half chances leave Real Salt Lake, LA Galaxy drawn at Rio Tinto (video))

Toronto 1, D.C. United 0

Jermain Defoe’s third goal of the season gave Toronto a lead on the hour, and advantage Ryan Nelsen’s team would ride to their second win in as many games. While D.C. United improved on their opening day loss to Columbus, Ben Olsen’s team remains at the bottom of the Eastern Conference.

(MORE: Bloodied Michael Bradley earning Toronto’s praise after staple-requiring win)

Columbus 2, Philadelphia 1

Bernardo Anor scored twice in the first half as Gregg Berhalter’s team built their second straight two-goal lead. Rather than building on it (as they did week one in D.C.), the Crew saw Leonardo Fernandes pull one back. Columbus eventually steadied the ship and held out for their second win in as many games.

(MORE: Perfect through two: Columbus answers opening day questions with win over Philadelphia)

Colorado 2, Portland 0

Donovan Ricketts’ 68th minute red card broke open the game for Colorado, who saw Vicente Sanchez convert the first of two penalties kicks in three minutes. Deshorn Brown put home the rebound of his 73rd minute attempt to give the Rapids their first win of the season, sending the Timbers to their first loss.

(MORE: Two goalkeepers, two penalties conceded as Portland falls in Colorado)

Sporting Kansas City 1, San Jose 0

A first half sequence that saw Sal Zizzo and Ike Opara hit Jon Busch’s right post left the teams even a halftime, a stalemate that was broken early in the second half. After Steven Lenhart was called for a hand ball in the box, Dom Dwyer converted from the spot for his third MLS goal and Sporting’s first win of the season.

(MORE: Defending champions get first win of the season, but scoring, chances still a question for Sporting Kansas City)

FC Dallas 3, Chivas USA 1

Goals from Fabian Castillo, Je-Vaughn Watson, and Michel turned a match that was even in the 70th minute into a decisive win for Dallas, with only Erick Torres’s third goal of the season providing consolation for Chivas. The win left Óscar Pareja’s team two points clear at the top of the Western Conference.

(MORE: Óscar Pareja’s still defying expectations, but who’s going to play defensive midfield next week for Dallas?)

Premier League Team of the Week — Round 36

NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, UNITED KINGDOM - APRIL 30: Karl Darlow of Newcastle United is congratulated by Jamaal Lascelles of Newcastle United after saving a penalty during the Barclays Premier League match between Newcastle United and Crystal Palace at St James' Park on April 30, 2016 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.  (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images
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It’s incredible that Karl Darlow is Newcastle United’s starting goalkeeper, let alone a member of the PL Team of the Week.

The 25-year-old Northampton-born backstop is the Magpies’ third-choice keeper, having arrived from Nottingham Forest last summer to learn under Tim Krul and Rob Elliot.

[ VIDEO: Leicester fans react to title ]

But injuries to both of his international superiors thrust Darlow into the spotlight, and it took him some time to acclimate to the Premier League.

He looked just fine in Newcastle’s potentially massive 1-0 win over Crystal Palace, stopping a penalty amongst several other stops as the Magpies moved out of the drop zone for the first time since February.

Premier League Team of the Week — Week 36

Goalkeeper: Karl Darlow (Newcastle United)

Defenders: Wes Morgan (Leicester City), Leighton Baines (Everton), Winston Reid (West Ham United)

Midfielders: Mark Noble (West Ham United), Cheikhou Kouyate (West Ham United), Dusan Tadic (Southampton), Andros Townsend (Newcastle United)

Forwards: Troy Deeney (Watford), Sadio Mane (Southampton), Andre Ayew (Swansea City)

VIDEO: Claudio Ranieri’s best moments, quotes this season

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 14:  Claudio Ranieri the manager of Leicester City reacts as Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho looks on during the Barclays Premier League match between Leicester City and Chelsea at the King Power Stadium on December14, 2015 in Leicester, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
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Claudio Ranieri is everyone’s favorite manager.

And not just because “Dilly-ding, dilly-dong” will be added to the English dictionary very soon.

The Italian boss, 64, has guided Leicester City to the 2015-16 Premier League title — the first top-flight trophy in their 132-year history — in just his first season in charge at the King Power Stadium.

[ VIDEO: Leicester players celebrate ]

He has guided the 5000-1 shots at the start of the season to an incredible title win. At the start of the campaign he was the favorite to be the first manager to be fired this season.

After spending four years at Chelsea from 2000-04 where he was ruthlessly sacked by Russian owner Roman Abramovich who didn’t believe he could win trophies, Ranieri has won the biggest one of them all in his first season back in England.  Remarkable.

[ MORE: Latest Leicester news after PL win ]  

The veteran boss has now won his first-ever league title in his long and distinguished managerial career against all the odds. He is, without doubt, the mastermind behind Leicester’s remarkable title win. There are calls for Ranieri to be knighted by the Queen of England and given what his team has achieved, why not?

Despite his obviously skill as a manager, he is also a genuinely nice bloke when it comes to interacting with fans and the media.

The video below looks at some of the most memorable moments this season from the lovable Italian.

Bellissimo.

Premier League Player of the Week — Round 36 (video)

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When Joe Hart looks to his left, he might expect to see a Sadio Mane shot going past him.

That’s how lethal the Southampton attacker was this weekend, recording a hat trick in Saints’ 4-2 win over Manchester City.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Mane becomes the third Southampton player to snare Premier League Player of the Week honors this season, joining Graziano Pelle and Fraser Forster.

Just two more honors to go this PL season.

Premier League Players of the Week – Round 36

Week 1: Riyad Mahrez, Leicester City

Week 2: Romelu Lukaku, Everton

Week 3: Callum Wilson, Bournemouth

Week 4: Bafetimbi Gomis, Swansea City

Week 5: Steven Naismith, Everton

Week 6: Anthony Martial, Manchester United

Week 7: Alexis Sanchez, Arsenal

Week 8: Sergio Aguero, Manchester City

Week 9: Raheem Sterling, Manchester City

Week 10: Harry Kane, Tottenham Hotspur

Week 11: Arouna Kone, Everton

Week 12: Jesse Lingard, Manchester United

Week 15: Riyad Mahrez, Leicester City

Week 16: Ayoze Perez, Newcastle United

Week 17: Odion Ighalo, Watford

Week 19: Xherdan Shaqiri, Stoke City

Week 20: Jermain Defoe, Sunderland

Week 21: Jermain Defoe, Sunderland

Week 22: Sergio Aguero, Manchester City

Week 23: Dele Alli, Tottenham Hotspur

Week 24: Fraser Forster, Southampton

Week 25: Gabriel Agbonlahor, Aston Villa

Week 26: Pedro, Chelsea

Week 27: Marcus Rashford, Manchester United

Week 28: Connor Wickham, Crystal Palace

Week 29: Riyad Mahrez, Leicester City

Week 30: Graziano Pelle, Southampton

Week 31: Harry Kane, Tottenham Hotspur

Week 32: Alex Iwobi, Arsenal

Week 33: Andy Carroll, West Ham United

Week 34: Sergio Aguero, Manchester City

Week 35: Eden Hazard, Chelsea

Week 36: Sadio Mane, Southampton

Pellegrini defends fielding “B” team in loss at Southampton

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - MAY 01:  Kelechi Iheanacho (72), Samir Nasri (C) and Wilfred Bony of Manchester City (R) looks despondent as Sadio Mane of Southampton scores their fourth goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Southampton and Manchester City at St Mary's Stadium on May 1, 2016 in Southampton, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
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Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini does not regret fielding a weakened side at Southampton over the weekend as he prepares for City’s Champions League semifinal at Real Madrid on Wednesday.

Pellegrini chose to rest many of his top players at St. Mary’s, including Sergio Aguero, Kevin De Bruyne, and Vincent Kompany. City were smashed 4-2 in one of their worst performances of the season.

[ RECAP: Saints 4-2 Man City ]

Pellegrini defended his lineup decisions after the match, saying he is willing to risk results in the Premier League to reach the Champions League final.

We knew before the game it was a risk to put so many players without football against a difficult team but we have to take those risks. If we had played on Saturday we could put more players out. I was disappointed with the team. It’s my responsibility for the starting 11.

I would do exactly the same again because we have an important game.

We play for the final in the Champions League. We continue in the Premier League what we are going to do in the next two games to be in the top four so that was a risk but one we had to take.

While you would expect a drop-off when the likes of Aguero and de Bruyne are not on the pitch, City’s poor performance was much more than just a team selection issue. With Raheem Sterling ($75 million) and Wilfried Bony ($45 million) in the starting XI, it was 19-year-old academy product Kelechi Iheanacho who was one of the few players to show any type of effort against Saints.

Pellegrini may be overlooking the end of the Premier League season, but his side still needs points to secure a top-four spot and berth in the Champions League next year. City currently sit four points ahead of Manchester United, but United have a game in-hand.

[ MORE: Burnley become first Championship side to clinch PL promotion ]

City travel to Spain for the second leg of their Champions League semifinal matchup against Real Madrid on Wednesday. After settling for a 0-0 draw in the first leg, City must put the Southampton debacle behind them and turn things around before the one of the biggest matches in club history.