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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)

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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)

10 Premier League teams enter Football League trophy

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 15:  Sesc Fabregas (L) of Chelsea celebrates scoring his team's first goal with his team mates Gary Cahill (C) and Tammy Abraham (R) during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Leicester City at Stamford Bridge on May 15, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
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10 Premier League teams have accepted an invitation to play in a revamped version of the Football League Trophy during the 2016-17 season.

Relaunched as the “EFL Trophy” the competition was previously only open to teams in League One and League Two, the second and third tiers in the English soccer pyramid, but in a one-off trial the Football League has included 16 Category A academy teams from both the Premier League and English Championship to participate.

[ MORE: Guardiola bans pizza

Chelsea, Leicester City, West Ham United, Everton, Southampton, Stoke City, Swansea City, Sunderland, West Bromwich Albion and Middlesbrough are the 10 PL teams who have decided to enter the competition.

A number of other Premier League clubs declined the invite and some purists in England are concerned that essentially “B teams” from the top two tiers will run away with the competition and easily win it. For example, PL side Southampton won the Football League Trophy in 2010 when they were in the third tier but now their U-21 side will be competing in the competition.

Shaun Harvey, chief executive of the Football League, explained the reason to mix things up as member clubs in the Football League voted in favor of the changes this summer.

“When opting to make these innovative changes to the competition, at the very heart of our thinking was to ensure younger players got an opportunity to test themselves in competitive games against experienced professionals. By involving them much earlier at senior level, we have a real chance of developing more and better home grown players.”

A regional group stage draw took place on Wednesday with eight groups in the south and eight in the north. Each team will play three games and the top two teams from each group will then compete in a knockout tournament with the final at Wembley Stadium in April.

The full schedule for the upcoming tournament can be found in the link below.


Zidane suggests Real Madrid in the hunt to sign Paul Pogba

Real Madrid's headcoach Zinedine Zidane follows a Champions League, round of 16, first-leg soccer match between Roma and Real Madrid, at the Rome Olympic stadium, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
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Zinedine Zidane is a mischievous so and so.

With Juventus sealing a $98.7 million move for Gonzalo Higuain on Tuesday, everybody is expecting the Italian champs to sell Paul Pogba to Manchester United in the next few days for a fee in excess of $130 million.

[ MORE: Guardiola bans pizza ]

Well, hold your horses. Real Madrid could be back in for Pogba.

Speaking to the media ahead of Real’s opening 2016 International Champions Cup game against Paris Saint-Germain in Columbus, Ohio on Wednesday, Zidane has

“I do not know if he’ll come. Until August 31 anything can happen,” Zidane said. “Pogba is a great player and when you’re with Madrid you always want the best. But today he is not a Madrid player, he is with Juventus. I cannot say anything else.”

Zinedine, my friend, quickly try and screw the lid back on that can of worms you’ve just opened.

[ MORE: How did Yedlin, CCV do for Spurs? ]

Pogba, 23, is currently on vacation in Florida with his agent Mino Raiola and it has been reported that his potential world-record transfer to Manchester United has hit a snag. Raiola is in line to make over $22 million on the deal but reports suggest Juve and United are at odds over who pays Pogba’s agent that fee.

All of that aside, do Real really need Pogba?

Yes, he’s a fine player but as we’ve already discussed at PST, is he really worth over $130 million? As his up and down form at EURO 2016 proved, he may still not be the complete player but his athletic ability combined with his deft touches and penchant for taking over games with his lung-bursting runs are his biggest assets. The lure of working with Zidane, a French national team legend, could be strong for Pogba and of course Zizou knows all about switching Juve for Real Madrid as he made the same move during his playing days for a then world record fee.

Zidane already has Toni Kroos, Luka Modric, Casemiro and Mateo Kovacic in central midfield but maybe the reigning European champs will look to strengthen further by adding yet another glittering star to their ranks.

If Pogba does head to Real Madrid, then surely the Los Galacticos nickname will be back in full force.

Guardiola responds to banning pizza, overweight Man City players from training

SHENZHEN, CHINA - JULY 27:  Manchester City's manager Pep Guardiola attends a press conference for 2016 International Champions Cup match between Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund at Shenzhen Stadium on July 27, 2016 in Shenzhen, China.  (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)
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Pep Guardiola isn’t too impressed with the fitness levels of Manchester City’s players.

The new manager of City has apparently ordered certain players to train on their own away from the first team.

[ MORE: Winter break for the PL? ]

That’s according to French left back Gael Clichy, who said that “if your weight is too high, you’re not training with the team” and added that “you hear it a lot but, for my part, it’s the first time any manager has really done it. And we have a few players who are not training with the team yet.”

Clichy also revealed that Guardiola has banned “some juice and, of course, pizza and all the heavy food is not allowed” as part of a strict new diet for the Citizens.

Wow.

Speaking in a press conference in China ahead of City’s clash against Borussia Dortmund on Thursday, Guardiola revealed his issues with the current fitness of his squad.

“They are not overweight, but I want my players fit,” Guardiola said. “The weight is so, so important. You need to run, fight, jump, head the ball and then after two days you need to do it again. After three days you have to do it again, then another three days you need to do it again. When you are not fit, danger is coming. You are not fast enough or quick enough in the head. That is why you need to be fit.”

So, Guardiola didn’t deny this is the case but it goes to show just how meticulous and ruthless he is when it comes to getting his players in peak condition.

Now, it’s probably an honest slip of the tongue from Clichy to reveal all of this but will he regret telling the world about Guardiola enforcing a strict diet on the team? Who knows. Probably not.

It’s no secret that Guardiola is a hard taskmaster. Speak to players at Barcelona and Bayern Munich. You’re either with him or against him. There’s no ambiguity.

I’m expecting to see huge cardboard cutouts of pizza slices in the stands at City’s games this season…

Conte not going to sell Matic, enjoys quality midfield headache

VELDEN, AUSTRIA - JULY 20: Nemanja Matic of Chelsea reacts during the friendly match between WAC RZ Pellets and Chelsea F.C. at Worthersee Stadion on July 20, 2016 in Velden, Austria. (Photo by Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images)
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Antonio Conte feels he has a bit of an embarrassment of riches in his midfield, not that it’s a problem outside of deciding who hits the pitch.

The Chelsea boss does not plan on selling Nemanja Matic despite the acquisition of N'Golo Kante — in fact Conte thinks Matic can be one of the best in the world.

[ MORE: New club for Pato ]

That’s not surprising, given that Matic was one of the keys to Chelsea’s 2014-15 PL title run.

Conte says he has some tricky selections to make in the coming days, as Chelsea prepares to open its Premier League season Aug. 15 at West Ham United.

From ChelseaFC.com:

“Kante is a good player and he was a target of our market. I am pleased the club took this player, it’s fantastic,” said the 46-year-old. “The players in a great team like Chelsea must know there are many players that can play. It’s important for me to have a good choice to try the best solution game by game. It’s important for me to see always the right attitude and behaviour from the players.

“When I have players like N’Golo, Nemanja, Cesc, Oscar and Chalobah, and Mikel who is in the Olympics, it is not easy to choose. I want to have this problem.”

For a manager who loves to keep it tight in the midfield, it would be far from shocking to see Matic and Kante behind two attacking mids (Willian and Hazard?) or even three.

Regardless, Chelsea’s match day tactics will be one of the more fascinating subplots of 2016, especially when Conte matches up against the Blues’ former boss Jose Mourinho (Oct. 22 at Stamford Bridge and April 15 at Old Trafford).