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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)

Dempsey returns to training after second heart procedure

SAN JOSE, CA - JULY 28:  Clint Dempsey #2 of MLS All-Stars chases after the ball up field against the Arsenal FC during the second half of the AT&T MLS All-Star Game at Avaya Stadium on July 28, 2016 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
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Many were concerned about USMNT and Seattle Sounders attacker Clint Dempsey‘s future when he underwent a pair of heart procedures in 2016.

The 33-year-old Dempsey took another step to allay those fears when he hit the pitch for Seattle’s first day of preseason camp.

[ MORE: How will U.S. line up vs. Serbia? ]

The Sounders won the 2016 MLS Cup despite the absence of Dempsey, and his return would further strengthen the side. General manager Garth Lagerwey said Dempsey won’t be rushed, but could be nearing a return.

EFL Cup second legs preview: Liverpool, Hull City aim for comebacks

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 11:  Divock Origi of Liverpool battles with Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (L) and Ryan Bertrand of Southampton during the EFL Cup semi-final first leg match between Southampton and Liverpool at St Mary's Stadium on January 11, 2017 in Southampton, England.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images
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Manchester United and Southampton are 90 minutes from Wembley Stadium.

Hull City and Liverpool would prefer to change that.

After first legs a fortnight ago, the EFL Cup semifinals play out on Wednesday and Thursday ahead of Feb. 26’s final at Wembley.

[ MORE: How will U.S. line up vs. Serbia? ]

First up is Southampton‘s trip to Liverpool, with the Saints nursing a 1-0 lead from the first leg at St. Mary’s. The Wednesday kickoff sees Saints hoping the Reds’ poor run of form will continue at Anfield. Liverpool has one win 2017, and that was an FA Cup replay victory over Plymouth Argyle.

Southampton boss Claude Puel knows the Reds will be ornery:

“We know Liverpool. They lost against Swansea at home, and I am sure they will want to react against us, but it’s important to keep all of our focus about our play.

“We know they are fantastic, a great team, with great players, but you saw in the first leg we have the ability to produce a strong game against them. It will be important to make a strong game – a perfect game – I think.”

Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United got a terrific result in the first leg at Old Trafford, scoring twice and holding Hull City from scooping up a valuable road goal. Juan Mata and Marouane Fellaini scored the goals in the 2-0 win, but the KC Stadium will be rocking on Thursday as the Tigers look to reverse the result.

United midfielder Michael Carrick says the Red Devils will play as if they are starting from scratch:

“It’s definitely not over, we all know that. We are telling ourselves that. I think we’ll be pretty much full strength and will approach the game like it’s a 0-0 and starting from scratch.

“It’s dangerous when you go in there defending a lead to tell yourself this result will do or that result will do, or we can afford to do this or that.”

Report: China tempting TFC’s Giovinco with big offer

Toronto FC's Sebastian Giovinco celebrates his goal against the Philadelphia Union during the first half of an MLS soccer playoff match in Toronto, Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2016. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)
Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP
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Could Sebastian Giovinco’s chances of another MVP award be diminishing?

It wouldn’t be on account of a lack of production, rather massive money coming his way from the Chinese Soccer League.

[ MORE: How will U.S. line up vs. Serbia? ]

Great, and right when we were daydreaming about how Toronto FC’s Italian attacker could run a revenge tour on the folks who somehow left him out of the MVP finalists last year.

Giovinco turns 30 on Thursday.

From The Toronto Sun’s Kurtis Larsson:

“The Chinese club seems to be very interested, but I don’t think it’ll be easy to take him away from Toronto,” Giovinco’s agent, Andrea D’Amico, told the broadcaster.

“We received an important offer from China and we’ll talk to Toronto to decide, along with Sebastian, what to do.”

Giovinco is with Toronto FC for preseason training camp, and both the club and player have shown no interest in moving on from the diminutive winger and 2015 MVP.

But if China comes calling with crazy money, say a $25-30 million transfer fee, shouldn’t TFC think twice? Any figure above $25 million would be more than the sum of the three biggest incoming transfer fees in MLS history (Miguel Almiron, Michael Bradley, Jermain Defoe).

AFCON wrap: Ivory Coast bounced, DR Congo wins Group C

Congo's soccer players celebrate after scoring a goal against Togo during the African Cup of Nations Group C soccer match between Congo and Togo at the Stade de Port-Gentil, Gabon, Tuesday Jan. 24, 2017. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
AP Photo/Sunday Alamba
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Down went another knockout round mainstay from the Africa Cup of Nations, as the Ivory Coast failed to capture one of the top two spots in Group C.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Morocco 1-0 Ivory Coast

Needing a win to move on, the Ivory Coast fell in its final group match. Rachid Alioui scored a 64th minute goal that meant the Ivory Coast needed two to advance to the quarterfinals. The goals didn’t come, and Morocco will face the Group D winner next.

Togo 1-3 DR Congo

Junior Kabananga, Paul-Jose M’Poku, and Ndombe Mubele scored as the Leopards finished the group stage with an unbeaten record of 2-1. DR Congo will face the runner-up of Group D in the quarterfinals.

Wednesday’s matches

Ghana is through with six points, while Uganda is out. Egypt will go through with a result against Ghana, while Mali needs a win and an Egypt loss to get to tiebreakers.

Egypt vs. Ghana — 2 p.m. ET
Uganda vs. Mali — 2 p.m. ET