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)

Mkhitaryan holds key in United’s deal for Sanchez

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This is getting very, very interesting. The late bid from Chelsea and Man City’s exit from the deal aside, there’s been another twist in this saga.

Manchester United’s move for Alexis Sanchez appeared to be getting closer to completion but the agent of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, the suggested makeweight in the $48 million deal between United and Arsenal, has thrown a spanner in the works.

Mino Raiola has told The Times that United’s deal for Sanchez won’t go through unless his client agrees to join Arsenal.

“Manchester United is not going to sign Sanchez unless Mkhi agrees to join Arsenal.”Raiola said. “Sanchez is part of the Mkhi deal, not the other way around.”

Wow. Okay. He’s really doing this. Now, Mkhitaryan is a good player. You aren’t named the best player in the Bundesliga and signed by Man United if you’re not. But we all know the Armenian playmaker has struggled this season and for the opening half of the 2016-17 campaign after arriving from Borussia Dortmund.

His agent suggesting that Mkhitaryan is the main prize in this deal is obvious from his point of view as he protects the interest of his client, but the rest of the world knows Alexis is the man everyone wants in January.

It is said that Mkhitaryan (who was left out of United’s squad for the 3-0 win against Stoke on Monday due to the uncertainty around his future) would prefer a return to Dortmund but the Bundesliga giants aren’t said to be willing to pay his wages.

Arsenal were interested in Mkhitaryan in the summer of 2016 but he decided to join United instead, but it would appear that getting $48 million and Mkhitaryan for Sanchez, a player who has less than six months to run on his current contract, is a good deal for the Gunners.

Mkhitaryan holds the key to United’s Sanchez deal and it doesn’t seem like he’s in any rush to sort out his future. Could his delay hand Chelsea some time to try and sew up their own deal for Sanchez?

The transfer window shuts in just over two weeks. Tick-tock indeed.

Donovan joins Leon, ready to “win championships” in Mexico

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MEXICO CITY (AP) Landon Donovan, the most accomplished player in American soccer history, is talking about winning championships with his new team in Mexico.

Donovan is returning from retirement for the second time in three years, this time with Club Leon. He was cheered loudly by hundreds of fans during a brief ceremony Monday, an unusual site not seen for Leon since Mexican great Rafael Marquez signed with Leon in 2014.

“I’m very excited, I did not expect that, it was amazing, now I just want to play and be on the field,” Donovan said in Spanish at a news conference. “It is Monday and very late and people are here. Now I need to talk to the coach to set a plan because it’s been over a year since my last professional game and I will need time, but I’m motivated, I want to win championships.”

The 35-year-old Donovan arrived in Mexico last week while rumors swirled about a possible comeback. He announced Friday night he was coming out of retirement to play in Mexico for the first time in his career.

“I don’t believe in walls, I always wanted to play in Mexico because I grew up in California playing with Mexicans since I was like 8 or 9 years old,” said Donovan, who’s the career scoring leader for the U.S. team and in the MLS.

Former U.S. players Marcelo Balboa and Eric Wynalda have played for Leon. Currently, William Yarbrough is the starting goalkeeper for a Leon team that has won seven league titles.

“I spoke with Marcelo Balboa about the city and also with Omar Gonzales (who plays for Pachuca) to know more about the country,” Donovan said. “I also spoke a lot with (former Puebla player) DaMarcus Beasley because I wanted to know as much as possible. I know that the league is different to the U.S. and to England, I think the style of play suits me, I used to play with Mexicans so my style is more Latino and I think I can be successful. That’s important for me”.

Leon reached the quarterfinals last season and will be a stronger side for the Clausura tournament after signing Giles Barnes (Orlando City), Emanuel Cecchini (Malaga) and now Donovan.

Despite not playing for nearly two years, Donovan has created a lot of expectation. The main sports networks in Mexico devoted plenty of air time to the move, and Donovan’s jersey sold out at the stadium before a game against Toluca on Saturday.

“I think it’s a good move, he’s a very skilled player, just remember how he used to made life difficult for us when he played for the U.S. team against Mexico,” said Tigres coach Ricardo Ferretti, who briefly managed the Mexican team before the arrival of Juan Carlos Osorio.

Donovan returned to the LA Galaxy of MLS in September of 2016 following a 21-month retirement and appeared in nine games. He hasn’t played professionally since Nov. 6, 2016.

Donovan played in three World Cups: South Korea and Japan 2002, Germany 2006 and South Africa 2010. He also played in six Gold Cups and won four titles. He scored 57 goals playing for the U.S. team and 145 in the MLS.

Donovan has done broadcast work since retiring and was rumored to be considering a run for U.S. Soccer Federation president. Donovan announced in November that he would not seek the position.

Landon Donovan unveiled by Club Leon

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Landon Donovan was unveiled to Club Leon fans at Estadio Leon on Monday night.

The former USMNT star and longtime LA Galaxy forward came out of retirement for the second time to sign with the Liga MX side this past weekend. Leon finished 7th in the Apertura table, losing to Tigres in the first round of the playoffs. They currently have a perfect six points through the first two Clausura matches, sitting second in the table with a +3 goal differential.

Fans were allowed into the stadium for free, and they packed the lower stand on one end, waving USA flags and holding large “L” and “D” cutouts, and the fans faced a massive board on the field that read “I DON’T BELIEVE IN WALLS.” Chants of “U-S-A” rang out through the stadium before the unveiling.

ESPN reporter Tom Marshall pointed out that the last time the club had such a large event to welcome a player, it was in January of 2013 when the club brought Mexico captain Rafa Marquez in from the New York Red Bulls.

Donovan will don the number 20 for Club Leon.

Report: Rimando to return to RSL

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USMNT veteran and current MLS free agent Nick Rimando will reportedly return to Real Salt Lake for a 12th season with the club, according to a report by Goal.com’s Ives Galarcep.

The report states he received interest on the free agent market from both Los Angeles clubs, but the 38-year-old will return to the club he has made 350 appearances for.

Rimando came to Real Salt Lake from D.C. United in 2006, and has made at least 24 league appearances in every single season since. He has also made 22 playoff appearances for the club across eight playoff campaigns.

He last received a USMNT cap in January of 2017 in a friendly against Serbia, but was part of the 2018 World Cup qualification squad throughout 2017 backing up Tim Howard. Overall, Rimando has played 22 times for the US national team, with 14 goals conceded and nine clean sheets.

The report also states that Kyle Beckerman will return to Rio Tinto Stadium, with the veteran also testing the free agent waters but deciding to re-sign. The pair will be two of just four players left on the roster from the 2009 MLS Cup winning team.