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PST’s Major League Soccer Power Rankings – Week 5

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Two matchups at the top of the rankings meant last week’s stability was destined to fall by the wayside, but for the most part, the changes to the fifth edition of our Power Rankings are mild ones. Of the 19 teams on the list, 13 of them move less than one spot, though two teams (Philadelphia and New England) took dramatic falls.

The list’s big enigma remains FC Dallas, whose 4-0-1 record leaves the team on top of the Western Conference. But where a soft schedule hasn’t obscured the team’s true, still unknown quality, strange games have. Two weeks ago, it was the first half double-red cards against Portland. This week, it was David Horst’s 60th minute dismissal. In both games. Dallas was relatively even with its opponent while playing 11-on-11. After cards started flying, FCD won.

For now, we’re taking a cautious approach, part of the reason Dallas remains outside the top five. One team breaking into the group, however, is the LA Galaxy. After this week’s result in the Clásico Angelino, we finally have more context on the team’s first two results. That context: The team can be pretty impressive when it’s not playing Real Salt Lake.

(MORE: Player of the Week | Team of the Week | Week 4 Power Rankings)

Here’s our view on Major League Soccer five weeks into the season:

RANKING
Up/Down
source:  1 UP 1 Sporting Kansas City: They may not have won on Saturday, but a performance where they generated five or six good chances while giving up none informs the “next week, neutral field” standard. Granted, up until an hour ago, I was prepared to have co-number ones (convinced nobody can really tell which of Sporting and RSL is better). Ultimately, given how the teams played, I think Sporting wins Saturday’s game more times than not. (2-1-2)

2 DOWN 1
Real Salt Lake: Of course, that conclusion (above) becomes problematic when you remember Nick Rimando, Chris Wingert, Tony Beltran and João Plata were all missing from Saturday’s team. Still, there’s a difference between good performance and good result. If you’re RSL, you take your point from Sporting Park. You also look at Saturday’s performance and say “that’s not how it was supposed to go.” (2-0-3)
source:  3 UP 1 Toronto FC: Proving their poor performance at RSL was a bit of a fluke, the Reds handed the Crew their first blemish of the season, doing so without four of its starters. Missing Jermain Defoe, TFC matched its highest goal output of the season. Despite the absences of Steven Caldwell and Doneil Henry, a Reds central pairing of Bradley Orr and Nick Hagglund buttressed the team’s best defensive performance of the season. (3-1-0)
source:  4 DOWN 1 Columbus Crew: While the crowd of Federico Higuaín, Bernardo Añor, Tony Tchani and Hector Jimenez in Columbus’s middle should have dictated Saturday’s game, their control was mostly a passive one. Michael Bradley and a surprisingly stalwart Kyle Bekker were able to disrupt the Crew’s connections and force play wide, where the Crew attempted 47 crosses. The season’s previous high: 28, against the packed-in, 10-man Sounders. Columbus just needs to play better. (3-1-0)

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5 UP 4 LA Galaxy: It’s amazing how good a team looks when it doesn’t have to play RSL. Though Chivas USA looked a little too much like their 2013 selves, Sunday’s result still provided a point of comparison. LA had an easier time against the Goats than Dallas did three weeks ago, with a revamped, diamond midfield giving the team a new option going forward. (1-1-1)
source:  6 UP 2 FC Dallas: Another week, and we’re still not sure what to make of FC Dallas. For 60 minutes, they looked Houston’s equals on Saturday. After David Horst earned a suspect red card, however, Dallas poured it on. While it’s 4-1 win was impressive, the 11-on-11 game was different. There’s only so high Dallas can climb after playing 30 minutes on the power play. (4-0-1)
source:  7 Seattle Sounders: For 84 minutes, Portland was very good on Saturday, yet Seattle still found a way to earn a point. Whereas at one point this season the Sounders were having trouble creating quality chances, Saturday’s game saw a ruthless team capitalize on Portland’s inevitable mistakes. With Clint Dempsey back to his opportunistic self, it’s a trait Seattle should maintain going forward.  (2-2-1)
source:  8 DOWN 2 Houston Dynamo: The collapse after Horst’s sending off was disturbing; hence, the drop. A lot of that, though, was Gilles Barnes just having a bad night. Between his poor defense on Je-Vaughn Watson and his inability to convert a couple of very good chances, Barnes had one of his worst games since his arrival. Despite that, Houston looked fine 11-on-11. (2-2-0)
source:  9 DOWN 4 Philadelphia Union: This is a big drop for a team coming off a road draw, but within the context of Philadelphia’s other recent results, Saturday’s performance opened our eyes. The team has question marks in attack (specifically, at forward) and in defense, while the midfield that looked like a strength underperformed against a Fire team it could have controlled. Add that to the late capitulation against Montréal the week before, and it looks like the honeymoon is over. Their previous mistakes are more than aberrations, now. (1-1-3)

source:

10 UP 1 Colorado Rapids: Vancouver was the better team until Matías Laba’s sending off, but at BC Place, you’d expect that. Colorado managed to stay close enough to take advantage of the 10-man team, and with Clint Irwin back in goal, the Rapids are closer to having their first choice XI in place. They still need to figure out how best to use Gabi Torres, and Chris Klute has yet to return to the lineup, but having knocked the Whitecaps from the ranks of the unbeatens, things are trending in the right direction for the Rapids. They’ve finally scored an open play goal. (2-1-1)
source:  11 DOWN 1 Vancouver Whitecaps: Given the team was up 1-0 while playing 11-on-11 (and the red card to Laba was a weird one), there’s only so much we can justify dinging the Whitecaps. Consider this the Rapids passing them rather than the Whitecaps falling. Vancouver should be better when Nigel Reo-Coker returns, when the team can go back to their 4-2-3-1. (2-1-2)
source:  12 UP 1 Portland Timbers: Three games at home, three draws, but things are moving in the right direction for the Timbers, even if the team’s not getting results. On Saturday, they came up against a talented opponent capable of taking advantage of their mistakes. While Caleb Porter seems to finally be losing his tolerance for those individual errors, Portland won’t be facing Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins every week. (0-2-3)
source:  13 UP 1 San Jose Earthquakes: San Jose was off this weekend, so consider this regression to the mean. While this week’s results made its home loss to New England look even worse, the Revs’ loss at RFK also make the upset look more like a fluke. Given that was San Jose’s only poor performance of the season, 13 seems about right. (0-2-1)
source:  14 UP 3 Chicago Fire: Frank Yallop was right to be slightly flabbergasted while being interviewed during Saturday’s game. His team was playing good. They were taking the game to Philadelphia. Yet thanks to two weird goals conceded in eight first half minutes, Chicago couldn’t get its first win. While that’s on the defense, the back line has been mostly good since week one, but as evidenced on Maurice Edu’s goal, players are just turning off at the wrong times.  (0-1-4)
source:  15 Chivas USA: Sunday was the Goats’ worst performance of the season – the first game Wilmer Cabrera’s team hasn’t mounted a challenge. Normally, that means a drop in the rankings, but at this point, there’s only so far they can go. Right below them is a team that lost to D.C. United. Chivas’s performance was disappointing, but because it came against a good team, it’s hard to drop them any farther.  (1-2-2)
source:  16 DOWN 4 New England Revolution: Over two weeks, New England has been the ultimate streak buster. Two weeks ago, they ended San Jose’s 21-game home unbeaten run. On Saturday, they fell at RFK, handing D.C. United its first win since August. That inconsistency is why the Revolution, having vaulted four spots last week, are among the biggest fallers this week. With only one goal  off their own boots this season, this is where the Revs will stay until they can get more out of Teal Bunbury and Diego Fagundez. (1-3-1)
source:  17 DOWN 1 Montréal Impact: Marco Di Vaio’s terrible pass across the defense to Jonny Steele may have cost Montréal a win; then again, Péguy Luyindula could have converted his early second half penalty kick. Ultimately, the Impact had a half an hour after Felipe’s equalizer to find a winner against a poor New York. That they couldn’t is why they remain this low. (0-3-2)
source:  18 New York Red Bulls: Like Chicago, New York has drawn four in a row, but whereas the Fire look to be improving, the Red Bulls are searching for answers. Without Thierry Henry, Tim Cahill, and Jámison Olave this weekend, Mike Petke’s overhauled his side gave up chance after chance to Montréal. Though the Red Bulls earned a point, there was still a “back to the drawing board” feeling about the result. (0-1-4)
source:  19 D.C. United: Ben Olsen got strong performances from Davy Arnaud, Perry Kitchen, and Fabian Espindola on Saturday, but this is still a very limited side, so much so that it needed a fluke Jose Gonçalves own goal to pave the way to its first victory in eight months. Three points, at this stage, is three points, and while this weekend’s performance would ave earned a win from few (if any) other teams in MLS, it can still serve as a platform going forward. (1-2-1)

MLS Cup: Toronto FC all about the team

Toronto FC defender Nick Hagglund, center, celebrates his goal against the Montreal Impact with teammates Michael Bradley, right, and Steven Beitashour (33) during the second half of the second leg of MLS Eastern Conference championship series, in Toronto on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)
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Toronto, Ontario (AP) Team has been the theme for Toronto FC in the buildup to the MLS Cup final.

From boisterous practices to team-first media interviews, the All for One club motto has been plain to see ahead of the championship game Saturday against the visiting Seattle Sounders.

“You don’t get to this point by mistake or by accident. You get here because a group of special guys who have all bought into a philosophy, an identity,” said Toronto midfielder Will Johnson, an MLS Cup winner with Real Salt Lake and Portland.

“I say the same about Seattle. They’re bought into what they’re good at. We’re bought in, very motivated and want to sacrifice and put aside egos to get to a point as a team to compete for the big trophy.”

[ MORE: Designing the best UCL Round of 16 ]

Star striker Jozy Altidore, no fan of chatting with the media, was downright prickly when a reporter asked him if he had taken time to reflect on his personal journey to the championship game.

“No,” he said definitively. “This isn’t personal, this is a team game. We’re here to try to help Toronto to be a winning team. This has nothing to do with individuals. So it has nothing to do with what I’ve been through. This is what the city’s been through, what the fans have been through, what this club has been through. That’s far more important.”

Fullback Justin Morrow, a seven-year MLS veteran, has never played this deep into the season before.

“Each week we build on top of each other and we get closer as the year goes on. It really feels like it’s a culmination this week,” he said.

[ UCL: Who can Arsenal, Man City, Leicester draw? ]

Coach Greg Vanney has made a point of praising the entire squad, including reserves who function as the scout team in practice. While he has done soccer’s equivalent of shortening his bench for the playoffs, the squad has stayed on point. If anyone has beefs, they have been kept to themselves.

That’s no small feat considering the salaries on the squad range from $7.12 million for star striker Sebastian Giovinco to $51,500 for youngsters Mo Babouli and Tsubasa Endoh.

For Morrow, being part of a tight-knit group allows you to forget that it is your job.

“When teams aren’t doing well, players tend to focus on that – their job and not about the other people on the team,” Morrow said. “And I think when teams are doing well, it becomes about the relationships between the players.”

Report: Atlanta United to acquire Parkhurst; Guardado hopes fading

COLUMBUS, OH - MARCH 12:  Michael Parkhurst #4 of the Columbus Crew SC controls the ball against against the Philadelphia Union on March 12, 2016 at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
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Atlanta United is adding MLS experience to its high-flying international acquisitions.

The expansion side is set to acquire Michael Parkhurst from the Columbus Crew, according to a report from The Sporting News.

[ MORE: Mourinho worried about Zorya pitch ]

Parkhurst, 32, has been a fixture for the Crew since returning to MLS after stints with Nordsjælland and FC Augsburg. The 25-times capped American defender would join a relatively loaded expansion unit that reportedly will also add veteran Chicago goalkeeper Sean Johnson.

Unfortunately for Atlanta, it seems the first-year club’s hopes of landing Mexican star Andres Guardado are fading.

From Ives Galarcep for The Sporting News:

The club has one remaining designated player slot it is expected to fill ahead of its inaugural 2017 season, but transfer target Andres Guardado appears less likely to be the player to fill that slot, sources have told Goal USA.

The Crew was a massive disappointment last season, failing to make the playoffs one season after making a run to the MLS Cup Final. Is Parkhurst a good gamble for Atlanta?

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Men in Blazers podcast: Conte v. Pep, Cherries comeback, Spurs-Swans

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Rog and Davo relive the tactical battle between Antonio Conte and Pep Guardiola, marvel at tiny Bournemouth’s comeback win over high-flying Liverpool and duck-and-cover while recapping Spurs 5-0 Swansea.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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Mourinho accepts Zorya compliment, but says best coach “doesn’t exist”

Manchester United's coach Jose Mourinho, centre, attends a training session with his team at Chernomorets stadium in Odessa, Ukraine, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, ahead of Thursday's Europa League group A soccer match against FC Zorya Luhansk. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
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On the eve of his side playing Manchester United in the UEFA Europa League, Zorya Luhansk boss Yuriy Vernydub called counterpart Jose Mourinho the best manager in the world.

And Mourinho disagreed.

Well, in principle.

[ MORE: Designing the best UCL Round of 16 ]

The Portuguese was flattered by Vernydub’s compliments and isn’t one to turn down praise. Yet at the same time, Mourinho thinks a coach’s success is year-to-year. There’s no clear best in the sport, according to Mou.

From ManUtd.com:

“He was nice by saying that but I don’t think he is right. I don’t think there is a best coach in the world. It doesn’t exist in my opinion. Every season one has to win the FIFA Gold Ball but I don’t think there is the best. You can say the best of the year and that I agree. Every year there is one with the most important result. So he is just being nice, no more than that.”

That’s almost meta, Mou.

Conceptually we understand, and Mourinho would feel he was the best in the world three seasons ago but not last year or this year (yet). Yet it’s difficult to say that the bodies of work from Pep Guardiola, Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti, Unai Emery, Antonio Conte, Luis Enrique, and Jurgen Klopp couldn’t be measured against each other, right?

[ MORE: United, Saints advancement scenarios ]

Onto the little picture Mourinho is worried about a potentially rock hard pitch at Zorya affecting the game. This, from the BBC:

“The pitch is very hard, the pitch is very icy,” said United boss Mourinho.

“They are putting warmth on the top of it, but the pitch is very difficult and people cannot make miracles. Let’s hope everything goes well.”

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