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PST’s Major League Soccer Power Rankings – Week 4

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One month into the season, we’re finally starting to see some stability in the Power Rankings. Of the teams that occupied last week’s top 10 spots, six return to the identical slots this week. Only one team moves into that group, while only two teams make more than a three-spot move in either direction.

Perhaps that’s bias coming through, but in theory, that’s how these rankings should work. Colorado loses late to a much higher-ranking Sporting? That’s no reason to move them down. And Chicago getting a result against No. 19-ranked D.C. United? That’s also consistent with where the teams were on last week’s list. The Fire have moved down this week, but it’s only because other teams have passed it.

There were also the aberrations – the games that tell us little about how the teams will perform going forward. Should we give Columbus credit for getting the benefit of a Djimi Traoré red card? Perhaps if they prove particularly adept at drawing those fouls. For now, however, the win in Seattle doesn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know about the Crew. Same for Dallas’s 10-on-10 win over Portland.

Then there are the cases where we’ve obviously wrong. Toronto was overrated at No. 1. After losing in Salt Lake, they take one of the week’s biggest falls. Likewise, San Jose’s winless start gets a whole new context after losing to New England. Likewise, it looks like the Revolution’s improvement from its opening night 4-0 loss at Houston is starting to take hold.

Here are the rest of the rankings after Week 4 of the Major League Soccer season:

(MORE: Player of the Week | Team of the Week | Last week’s Power Rankings)

RANKING
Up/Down

1 UP 1
Real Salt Lake: After exposing Toronto FC this weekend, RSL reclaims the top spot, even if their record has two blemishes. But remember our underlying mission: neutral field, game tomorrow, who do we see as more likely to win? After seeing RSL on Saturday, it’s not very close. (2-0-2)
source:  2 UP 2 Sporting Kansas City: The only worry all season has been chance creation. On Saturday, that wasn’t a problem. Sal Zizzo has fit so perfectly on the right, C.J. Sapong may be out of a starting job. Though Kansas City allowed two goals in Colorado, both came on penalty kicks. Benny Feilhaber’s not going to take somebody down in the box every week. (2-1-1)
source:  3 Columbus Crew: Major League Soccer’s only perfect team, but Columbus is one that had the benefit of Djimi Traoré’s red card. While they still looked good in the 60 minutes before Federico Higuaín’s conversion, they also looked more vulnerable than at any point this season. Columbus still needs to improve to be considered at the same level as last year’s MLS Cup finalists.  (3-0-0)
source:  4 DOWN 3 Toronto FC: Saturday snowballed on them. Their lack of maturity showed in how they resorted to physicality in the face of adversity, but they were also played at the best team in the league. Let’s give Ryan Nelsen’s side time to grow without being too hard on it. (2-1-0)
source:  5 Philadelphia Union: Drawing the Impact at home was certainly a slip, but Montréal was perhaps a little underrated after its Marco Di Vaio-less start. That the Impact were able to come back with 10 men makes it difficult to justify this spot, but the teams below Philadelphia didn’t do enough to earn the bump. The core of this Union team is the same one we saw at Portland, at home against New England, and at Columbus. Its inability to grab that crucial second goal (which it’s yet to do all season) is why it’s ranked five, not three.  (1-1-2)
source:  6 Houston Dynamo: We’ve harped on the difficulties Eastern Conference teams have when going to Vancouver, which is why we’re not dropping the Dynamo. With only one goal separating them from the Whitecaps, there isn’t enough credit or blame to go around. We decided to give Carl Robinson’s team credit and spare Houston the blame. (2-1-0)
source:  7 Seattle Sounders: If Djimi Traoré continues to give up penalties or earn game-changing red cards (and Sigi Schmid doesn’t bench him), we’ll drop Seattle. Until then, Saturday’s game looks like an aberration, one which doesn’t inform us about their ability to win this weekend in Portland. (2-2-0)
source:  8 FC Dallas: Eleven-on-11, there was nothing that separated Dallas from Portland. If anything, the Timbers looked a little better. Ten-on-10, however, FC Dallas won, 2-1. The result’s enough to influence the standings, but we’re keeping them steady in the Power Rankings. Winning at home against a struggling Portland doesn’t tell us much, particularly when both teams saw an early red card. (3-0-1)

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9 LA Galaxy: Off this week. Still have yet to face a non-RSL team this season. (0-1-1)
source:  10 UP 2 Vancouver Whitecaps: At home, Vancouver is 2-0-0 with a +4 goal difference. On the road, the Whitecaps at 0-0-2, failing to score in New England after being held to a draw by 10-man Chivas USA. I have no idea how good this team is, mostly because it appears to be such a different team at home. Hopefully time will sort that out. (2-0-2)

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11 Colorado Rapids: The Rapids have still yet to score from open play this season, with all five of their goals coming from the penalty spot. Losing at home, you’d expect them to drop in the Rankings, but with no teams below them stepping up, Colorado’s left to tread water in the middle. (1-1-1)
source:  12 UP 5 New England Revolution: The week’s biggest mover gave a telling performance in Santa Clara, not only using Lee Nguyen’s late goal to end San Jose’s 21-game home unbeaten run but also outplaying the Earthquakes in the first half. Teal Bunbury looked better up top, while Jose Gonçalves is close to his Defender of the Year self. Needing a Víctor Hernández own goal to go in front, scoring remains a question, but Jay Heaps’ team is starting to put its slow start behind it. (1-2-1)
source:  13 Portland Timbers: The last two results have been freaky, with Portland earning a red card in each, but converting chances continues to be a major concern. Ryan Johnson, bemoaned for his inability to convert last season, has been surprisingly missed, with Will Johnson looking like a shell of his 2013 self. Thankfully for Caleb Porter, Diego Valeri had his best game of the season, a sign things may be improving. (0-2-2)
source:  14 DOWN 4 San Jose Earthquakes: For weeks I’ve harped on the difficulty of San Jose’s schedule, with the team opening the season with Real Salt Lake, Sporting Kansas City, and two CONCACAF Champions League dates against Toluca. But all of that context gets blown up when you not only lose at home to New England but, for noticeable swathes of Saturday’s match, let the Revs have the better of play. Sam Cronin and Jean-Baptiste Pierazzi remain redundant in midfield. (0-2-1)
source:  15 DOWN 1 Chivas USA: Wilmer Cabrera’s team looked the same as they have throughout the month, but with New England’s improvement, Chivas USA still drops one spot. Between Erick Torres and Mauro Rosales, the Goats have a way to steal games, with a defense built around Dan Kennedy, Carlos Bocanegra, Bobby Burling (when healthy) and Agustín Pelletieri giving them a way to keep from being overrun. (1-1-2)
source:  16 UP 2 Montréal Impact: This rise is as much about Marco Di Vaio stealing a point from Philadelphia as it is the teams below the Impact. The returning striker showed Montréal will be more dangerous in weeks to come, giving them a weapon that could have turned games in Dallas and Houston. Below this mark, some teams have better records, but those results don’t speak to this slightly improved Montréal. (0-3-1)
source:  17 DOWN 2 Chicago Fire: The Fire has three straight draws, but look at the opposition. Portland, New York, and D.C. United have combined for zero wins this season, the same number Chicago will take into this weekend’s game with Philadelphia. (0-1-3)
source:  18 DOWN 2 New York Red Bulls: It’s early, but this team looks a year older, not a year better. Being draw at home by Chivas USA wouldn’t be such a bit deal if the result didn’t fit perfectly into a larger, slightly worrisome picture. Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill have combined for one goal and no assists. (0-1-3)
source:  19 D.C. United: The team continues to make progress after its disastrous opening day, but a draw at home against the No. 17 team on this list isn’t enough to climb out of the cellar. With players like Eddie Johnson, Fabian Espindola, and Perry Kitchen giving their best performances of the season, there’s reason to think United’s improvement can continue this weekend against the Revolution. (0-2-1)

Burnley’s Andre Gray charged by FA over Twitter posts from 2012

BURNLEY, ENGLAND - AUGUST 13: Andre Gray of Burnley during the Premier League match between Burnley and Cardiff City at Turf Moor on  August 13, 2016 in Burnley, England. (Photo by Lynne Cameron/Getty Images)
Photo by Lynne Cameron/Getty Images
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A Premier League player is set to be punished by English football authorities for discriminatory comments he made on social media more than four years ago.

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The comments made by Burnley striker Andre Gray between Jan. 9 and March 11, 2012 appeared anti-gay. They came to light on Saturday, when they were retweeted by other people after he scored his first Premier League goal for Burnley in the team’s 2-0 win over Liverpool. Gray released a public apology after the match.

Gray was charged with misconduct on Tuesday by the Football Association, which said the alleged comments “were abusive and/or insulting and/or improper and/or brought the game into disrepute.”

Gray said in his apology “the tweets were posted four years ago when I was a completely different person to the man I am now.”

“I have experienced a lot over the past four years and have had to take responsibility for a number of things in my life which has enabled me to mature and grow as a person since that time,” the 25-year-old Gray said.

“I have a lot of regrets regarding a number of things I’ve done in the past and realize I have made some big mistakes, none more so than these tweets, but I would like to stress that I’ve worked incredibly hard to completely transform my life since that time.”

[ MORE: Champions League roundup — Roma self-destruct; Celtic sneak in ]

Gray said he wanted to clarify that he was “absolutely not homophobic” and to “ask for forgiveness to anyone I offended.”

The FA said Gray had until Aug. 31 to respond to the charge.

“He has moved a long way in life,” Burnley manager Sean Dyche said Tuesday. “He’s made that clear with an apology and also to remind the club, `It’s four years ago, I’m a different person.’

“A lot has gone on in his life to get him where he’s got to, I think he made that clear. It was authentic what he said (in the apology).”

Gray was the top scorer in the second-tier League Championship last season, helping Burnley achieve an immediate return to the Premier League.

Arsenal, Stoke target Jones part of Mourinho’s plans, will stay at Man United

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 19: Wes Hoolahan of Norwich City and Phil Jones of Manchester United compete for the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Norwich City at Old Trafford on December 19, 2015 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
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Other Premier League clubs might be interested in Phil Jones, but Jose Mourinho has no intentions of letting the 24-year-old future England captain Manchester United center back leave anytime soon.

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Mourinho and Man United have received multiple approaches for Jones this summer, but never entertained the idea of selling, according to the Guardian. Arsenal were said to have been interested earlier in the summer, while Stoke City are presently trying to pry the Blackburn Rovers academy product away from Old Trafford, as confirmed by Mark Hughes’ assistant, Mark Bowen, earlier this week.

Jones moved to Man United in the summer of 2011 for a fee believed to be north of $20 million. While he’s endured his share of hard times in his five seasons at the club, Jones would easily be a 30-$35 million player giving fees paid for comparable center backs in recent transfer windows.

[ MORE: Champions League roundup — Roma self-destruct; Celtic sneak in ]

While Jones is yet to see the field early in the 2016-17 season, he remains a viable option, along with Chris Smalling, behind $40-million summer signing Eric Bailly and midfielder-turned-defender Daley Blind. Over the course of a 38-game PL season, the UEFA Champions League Europa League, FA Cup and EFL Cup, a busy schedule and injuries will provide plenty of chances to impress the new manager and reclaim a regular place in the first team.

MLS preview: Galaxy, Sounders, Toronto FC hit the road midweek

Toronto FC's Sebastian Giovinco celebrates after scoring his team's second goal against Colorado Rapids during the first half of the MLS soccer game in Toronto on Saturday, Sept. 19, 2015. (Chris Young/The Associated Press via AP)
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Previewing the biggest games across Major League Soccer on Wednesday…

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Orlando City SC vs. Toronto FC — 7:30 p.m. ET (MLS Live)

Quick quiz: Which is the hottest team in MLS right now? Answer: It’s TFC, who are unbeaten in their last six games, a stretch which includes five wins and an aggregate score of 16-4. OK, so how are they doing it? Don’t ask silly questions. In those six games, Sebastian Giovinco, who’s again running away in the MVP race and will become the first back-to-back winner in league history (only Preki has ever been a two-time winner), has scored eight goals and notched four assists. He’s been even better this year than he was in 2015. His 2016 season tally currently stands at 16 and 11. He’ll likely be the first player in MLS history to notch multiple 20-goal seasons, if Bradley Wright-Phillips, who has 15 this season, doesn’t get there first.

It’s not only Giovinco, though, but the return Jozy Altidore which has allowed the Italian superstar the freedom, the space, and the hold-up play to thrive as he’s done. Giovinco has been given a free role by head coach Greg Vanney, and Altidore’s ability to occupy two center backs at once, along with his ability to hold the ball up and draw the opposing defense toward him, has resulted in Giovinco scoring a number of easy chances no player of his quality should ever be allowed to see. It’s amazing what happens when you build a team and system around your best player, rather than try to make that player fit into something predetermined. Three points on Wednesday would vault the Reds into first place in the Eastern Conference having finally pulled level on games played with New York City FC.

[ MORE: NYCFC’s Jack Harrison on meteoric rise — “It can only get better” ]

Chicago Fire vs. LA Galaxy — 8:30 p.m. ET (MLS Live)

After rattling off four straight wins over the majority of July, the Galaxy are suddenly winless winless in their last four, though they’ve managed to salvage three points during that period. During the current four-game stretch, the attacking trio of Robbie Keane, Giovani dos Santos and Gyasi Zardes have combined to contribute just one goal and three assists, all but one assist of which have come from GdS.

No team in the Western Conference has won more points away from home (14) than the Galaxy this season, while no team in MLS has won fewer home points (17 — or points, period, 22) than the Fire. All signs point toward a Galaxy victory, but this is a Fire side that has steadily improved bit by bit in recent weeks, culminating in their first road victory in 25 months last weekend. The Vancouver Whitecaps await the Galaxy on the weekend — can you say, “trap game?”

[ MORE: U.S. teen skipping college, heading to La Liga ]

Houston Dynamo vs. Seattle Sounders — 9 p.m. ET (MLS Live)

If TFC are the hottest team in MLS, the Sounders are the second-hottest and without a doubt the hottest team in the West. Since firing Sigi Schmid four weeks ago, the bunch in Rave Green are unbeaten in four games, now having won three straight. The signing of Nicolas Lodeiro has been the spark that breathed life into a dying season, but one could reasonably argue that Cristian Roldan’s emergence deep in midfield has meant just as much to a Sounders side that, for the first time all season, has found a strong base between the attack and defense.

Osvaldo Alonso is no longer being ask to play the box-to-box role in which he thrived for a half-decade, instead acting as the organizer and director in front of the backline, with Roldan, the 21-year-old with many miles left in his legs, covering large swaths of space in midfield. The biggest difference between Roldan and your typical defensive midfield in MLS? He can see a pass in the final third, and he can hit it when it’s on. Lodeiro creates plenty of space for Jordan Morris and Clint Dempsey with his unbelievable range of passing, and that’s been a huge part of the eight goals the Sounders have scored in those three wins, but Roldan’s presence alongside Alonso has been just as important in allowing just four goals in four games.

EFL Cup roundup: Chelsea, Liverpool advance; Watford, WBA lose to League 1 sides

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 23:  Michy Batshuayi of Chelsea celebrates scoring the opening goal during the EFL Cup second round match between Chelsea and Bristol Rovers at Stamford Bridge on August 23, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images )
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Watford and West Bromwich Albion were beaten by third-tier opposition in the English League Cup on Tuesday, while fellow Premier League sides Liverpool and Everton enjoyed big wins in the second round.

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Chelsea was pushed hard by third-tier Bristol Rovers before also advancing to the third round with a 3-2 win at Stamford Bridge.

Watford lost 2-1 to Gillingham after extra time and West Brom was beaten 4-3 on penalties by Northampton after they finished 2-2 after 120 minutes.

Northampton famously ousted Liverpool in the 2010-11 competition, but the Reds easily avoided a so-called “giant-killing” this time round by thrashing Burton Albion 5-0. Daniel Sturridge came off the bench to score two goals and wrap up victory over the second-tier side managed by former Liverpool forward Nigel Clough.

Divock Origi and Roberto Firmino also scored for a full-strength Liverpool team, and there was an own goal.

“Very serious, very professional performance by my side,” said Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp, who added that second-half injuries to Emre Can and Origi were not serious.

Everton also had a substitute striker scoring a late double, with Arouna Kone’s goals sealing a 4-0 home win over fourth-tier Yeovil.

[ MORE: Champions League roundup — Roma self-destruct; Celtic sneak in ]

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte‘s decision to field a team largely made up of reserve players nearly backfired. Belgium striker BatshuayiMichy Batshuayi scored two first-half goals as Chelsea took a 3-1 lead into halftime, before Rovers scored a 48th-minute penalty and struck the crossbar as they went in search of an equalizer.

Devoid of European football this season, Liverpool and Chelsea will likely take the League Cup seriously. They are two of the most successful clubs in the competition’s history, having won it 13 times between them.

Stoke, Swansea, Hull and Crystal Palace were the other Premier League teams to progress to the third round, when clubs involved in Europe enter the draw that takes place Wednesday.

Peter Crouch scored a hat trick – including one goal from a scissor kick – in Stoke’s 4-0 win at Stevenage, Oliver McBurnie scored twice on his debut for Swansea in a 3-1 win at Peterborough, Hull beat Exeter 3-1 away and Palace was a 2-0 winner at home to Blackpool.

Palace gave a debut to new record-signing Christian Benteke, who played the first half before being substituted.

Derby beat Carlisle 14-13 on penalties to equal the most goals scored in a shootout in the competition’s history.