PST’s Major League Soccer Power Rankings – Week 6

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Before getting to our ranking — one where only six teams move more than one spot — this seems like a good time to offer a reminder of what we’re trying to do, because at this point, this Power Ranking might look a lot different than others. But there’s a reason for that. There’s an underlying goal, one that tries to go beyond merely tweaking the standings or using new results to justify movement to last week’s list.

Last week’s list? The standings? They’re irrelevant. We never look at them coming up with Tuesday’s list. All we do is go through each team and ask: Based on what we’ve seen, which one is better?

From our first ranking of the year:

The test is this: If two teams played tomorrow, given their current injury concerns, form, and other considerations, who is likely to win on a neutral field? … All things being equal, who is the best team going forward, based on what we know now?

Toronto’s loss to Colorado? It told us something about the Rapids, but given who Ryan Nelsen chose (or, was able to choose) on Saturday, we didn’t learn much about the Reds. Why toss them down the rankings when we don’t honestly believe TFC’s any worse than it was on Friday? Even after Saturday’s 1-0 loss, Toronto remains third on our list.

The teams that did make major moves? We got information that challenged last week’s assumptions. After its 2-0 loss in New England, we now know the depths Houston’s capable of reaching. We also know the Revolution’s win in San Jose was no fluke. After Erick Torres’s late goal in Portland, we know you don’t need Seattle’s arsenal to fight back against the Timbers. And after Saturday’s game at RFK, we also know how far New York has fallen.

With that in mind, here’s our look at Major League Soccer after Week 6’s results:

(MORE: Player of the Week | Team of the Week | Week 5 Power Rankings)

RANKING
Up/Down
source:  1 Sporting Kansas City: Real Salt Lake could have taken this spot with a dominant performance in Philadelphia, but with last year’s Western Conference champions held to a draw at PPL Park, the MLS Cup holders retain their grip on our top spot. (2-1-2)

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Real Salt Lake: For the second time this season, RSL gave up a late lead on the road, but given the quality of the team’s competition, the result was still a good one. A tough opening schedule eases up slightly this weekend when the struggling Timbers visit Rio Tinto Stadium, giving Jeff Cassar’s team a good chance to jump back into the win column. (2-0-4)
source:  3 Toronto FC: When Sporting Kansas City started the season with lineups hampered by injuries and the need to rest players, we gave them a pass on some uncharacteristic results. Given Toronto was missing five starters on Saturday, we extend the same courtesy to the Reds. Despite Saturday’s 1-0 loss, we don’t suddenly think they’re worse than the Crew, who Toronto beat the 11 days ago. (3-2-0)
source:  4 Columbus Crew: Rebounding from its first loss of the season, Columbus got a point from one of the most difficult venues in the league, with Federico Higuaín’s fourth goal of the season vaulting the team first in the Eastern Conference. If any team but Toronto was above them, we’d probably move to Crew up, but given what we saw two weeks ago in Columbus, it’s hard to say Gregg Berhalter’s team is more likely to win a neutral site meeting tomorrow. (3-1-1)
source:  5 UP 2 Seattle Sounders: Saturday’s comeback win feels like it deserves more than a two-spot jump, but Sigi Schmid’s team is getting into some rarified air, here – a place where two teams that have bear Seattle (at CenturyLink) sits directly above it on the list. Still, the Sounders pass the Galaxy after a weekend when Bruce Arena’s team won. That speaks to how highly we think of Seattle’s performance. (3-2-1)

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6 DOWN 1 LA Galaxy: This drop is less about the Galaxy; more about the Sounders. Though the team is still waiting for Landon Donovan to get on the scoresheet, the performances of Stefan Ishizaki, Baggio Husidic, and Dan Gargan have allowed Arena to address his team’s early problems. If the four-time champions can extend their winning streak to three this weekend in Vancouver, it will be difficult to keep them out of the top five. (2-1-1)
source:  7 DOWN 1 FC Dallas: Throughout Saturday’s first half, Dallas looked set to disprove all of my doubts. Then the teams switched sides, Dallas had to play into the win, and the team lost its first game of the season. Along the way, however, they gave one of the most talented teams in the league all it could handle. If it wasn’t for Seattle being so impressive, Dallas wouldn’t have fallen at all.  (4-1-1)

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8 UP 2 Colorado Rapids: Toronto was missing half its starters, but Colorado still applied a formula that could work going forward. The team’s not taking a lot of chances in attack, with the team’s new midfield diamond providing a solidity will keep it in games. With players like Dillon Powers, Deshorn Brown, Vicente Sánchez, and Gabi Torres in the squad, Pablo Mastroeni has a number of talents who can turn games. On Saturday, it was Dillon Serna, Powers, and Edson Buddle combining for the game’s only goal. (3-1-1)
source:  9 Philadelphia Union: The Union proved its disappointing performance in Chicago was a fluke, going toe-to-toe with Real Salt Lake in Saturday’s 2-2 draw. With Sheanon Williams healthy and Andrew Wenger providing a forward that will do more than lurk for 70 minutes, the Union may be patching some holes. The next big item on the list: Stop the mistakes at the back. (1-1-4)
source:  10 UP 1 Vancouver Whitecaps: Despite two losses in a row, Vancouver moves up, having given LA a good game in Carson, Calif. Though it was strange to see such a talented group of attackers sit back and try to play on the counter, the plan nearly worked. By taking the transition game way from the Galaxy, Carl Robinson nearly got a point at StubHub. (2-2-2)
source:  11 UP 5 New England Revolution: I clearly have no idea what to do with the Revs, with the last three weeks seeing them jump at last four spots, one way or the other. This rise, however, is about more than holding Houston without a shot on target. It’s also about validating what New England showed three weeks ago in San Jose. It also doesn’t hurt that D.C. won again this week, providing a new context to the loss at RFK. (2-3-1)
source:  12 DOWN 4 Houston Dynamo: Sunday’s terrible performance in New England gives Houston the week’s biggest drop, but in the context of the team’s entire 2014 season, the result looks aberrational. Though Houston lost 4-1 the week before, three of those goals came playing with 10 men. Saturday was by far the team’s worst performance, one that should prove out-of-character as the season goes on. (2-3-0)
source:  13 San Jose Earthquakes: Another decent performance without a win, though given the quality of Sunday’s opposition, the draw was understandable. After New England played so well against Houston on Saturday, the Earthquakes’ only loss of the season doesn’t look so disastrous anymore, either. Unfortunately for Mark Watson’s team, they’ll be in Colorado this weekend, opening up the possibility the Earthquakes could give another decent performance and still leave winless. This team is better than its record. (0-3-1)
source:  14 Chicago Fire: After five straight draws, it’s tempting to ask what else the team should do, but there’s no mystery here. As is the case with Philadelphia and Portland, the central defense just needs to stop making mistakes. There’s no need for a major overhaul, right now. (0-1-5)
source:  15 Chivas USA: Wilmer Cabrera called Saturday’s performance his team’s best of the season. After the Goats out-possessed the ball-hogging Timbers, he may be right. But given how poorly the Timbers’ defense has played this season, the result isn’t a big shock. If you have a player like Erick Torres, you have a chance against Portland. (1-2-3)
source:  16 DOWN 4 Portland Timbers: At some point, the defense will come together, and Portland will surge back up this chart. But if the Timbers had to win a neutral field game tomorrow, they’d be in trouble against most of the league. Portland needs to prove they can play 90 minutes without a defensive breakdown before we reconsider its chances against the league’s better clubs. (0-2-4)
source:  17 UP 2 D.C. United: For the first time this season, a “19” doesn’t precede D.C.’s entry on this list, and while neither win has been particularly convincing, the results have been informative. Even if Ben Olsen’s team doesn’t seem much better than last year’s, 2013 is going to be very difficult to duplicate, especially with teams like New York willing to come down to the bottom of the table. (2-2-1)
source:  18 DOWN 1 Montréal Impact: There are points you look at Montréal and see the potential for a respectable team, but until those moments become more frequent, the Impact aren’t going to make a dent in their depressing start. The team has drawn all three games since Marco Di Vaio’s return, a stretch that includes positive results against Philadelphia and Chicago. The switch to a 4-4-2 formation this weekend, however, could prove a step backwards if Jack McInerney can’t recapture his early 2013 form. (0-3-3)
source:  19 DOWN 1 New York Red Bulls: The nightmare scenario skeptics envisioned before the start of the season is playing out. The team looks older, slower, less resourceful – like a team that played over its head for 34 games last season. Six games isn’t enough to write anybody off, but New York has gone from Supporters’ Shield winners to the worst team in Major League Soccer. The return of Tim Cahill might turn everything around, but it’s time to start considering backup plans at Red Bull Arena. (0-2-4)

PL title & FA Cup in sight, Conte says Chelsea still rebuilding

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Antonio Conte might be just seven games away from guiding Chelsea to a Premier League and FA Cup double this season, but the Blues’ first-year Italian manager insists his squad is nowhere near being a finished product.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Speaking after Saturday’s FA Cup semifinal triumph over Tottenham Hotspur, Conte insisted that the team he inherited last summer, after a disastrous 10th-place finish in the PL, is “in a period of transition” and that “[they] need time” as the club moves on from an accomplished, foundational generation — quotes from Sky Sports:

“I think that now at Chelsea we are in a period of transition. In this season, we have lost (Branislav) Ivanovic, (John Obi) Mikel and next season we lose John Terry.

“We are talking about players who wrote the history of this club. They won a lot. Now we have to find the right substitutes for these players and then work to put these players at the same level.

“I think that in the period with Carlo (Ancelotti) — and Carlo is the best Italian coach, I have great respect for him — he arrived at Chelsea when they had a really strong squad. Now we are building. We are building something important. We need time.”

[ MORE: Kante takes home PFA Player of the Year | Dele wins Young Player ]

Conte is doing two things with the above comments: 1) he’s tempering expectations for next season, when Chelsea will be back in the UEFA Champions League and automatically expected to repeat as PL champions — not to mention, taking a bit of pressure off in these final two months of the 2016-17 season; and, 2) pointing out just how impressive his work to date has been, the fact he’s potentially seven games away from lifting two trophies in seven days’ time next month.

Ligue 1: Mbappe, Falcao fire Monaco top again

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PARIS (AP) Strikers Radamel Falcao and Kylian Mbappe continued their fine form with a goal each to help Monaco secure a 2-1 win at Lyon and reclaim top spot in the French league on Sunday.

Monaco moves above defending champion Paris Saint-Germain on goal difference, with Monaco having played a game less. PSG has four games left.

“It wasn’t easy and it was a big win for us tonight,” Monaco center half Andrea Raggi said. “We all play for each other and it’s now or never.”

It has been an astonishing season for Monaco, which has now scored 143 goals in all competitions and remains on course for the treble. Monaco faces PSG in the French Cup semifinals next Wednesday.

Falcao and Mbappe scored in midweek when Monaco beat German side Borussia Dortmund 3-1 in the return leg of their Champions League quarterfinal to reach the last four 6-3 on aggregate.

Lyon also did well in Europe, going through on penalty kicks away to Turkish club Besiktas to reach the last four in the Europa League.

Falcao and the 18-year-old Mbappe have combined for 51 goals.

Falcao put Monaco ahead in the 36th minute with a header from close range – his 28th goal of the season – and Mbappe made it 2-0 just before halftime with a trademark surging run and cool finish for his 23rd.

“I just try and give my best whenever I play,” said Mbappe, who has recently been called into the France team. “I wasn’t playing much at the start of the season, so I’m still quite fresh and I hope I can help us win the remaining games.”

PSG beat Montpellier 2-0 at home on Saturday with Edinson Cavani scoring his 31st league goal of the season and 44th overall.

Nice has already guaranteed third place and a spot in the qualifying round for next season’s Champions League.

But with four games remaining, it is six points behind Monaco and Paris Saint-Germain. Nice hosts PSG next Sunday.

Striker Corentin Jean gave mid-table Toulouse the lead in the 57th minute. Midfielder Valentin Eysseric continued his fine form with the equalizer three minutes later.

The game was briefly halted early in the first half after a group of Saint-Etienne supporters forced themselves into the stadium.

The match was supposed to be played behind closed doors as a punishment for unruly supporters during Saint-Etienne’s local derby against Lyon.

After a brief delay for police to remove the fans, Slovakia striker Robert Beric put the home side ahead in the 39th and center half Edson Mexer leveled just before the break.

Saint-Etienne is in seventh place, while Rennes is ninth.

Serie A: Napoli waste chance to go 2nd; Juve win big (again)

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MILAN (AP) Arkadiusz Milik scored his first goal since his lengthy injury layoff but it wasn’t enough to prevent Napoli from drawing 2-2 at Sassuolo on Sunday and missing the chance to move second in Serie A.

Milik scored two minutes after coming off the bench to rescue a point for Napoli and move it to within one point of second-placed Roma, which visits bottom club Pescara on Monday.

Second spot in Serie A secures automatic entry into the Champions League group stage, while the team that finishes third has to go through a playoff.

“The road to second spot has got more difficult, we have to hope our rivals slip up,” Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri said. “We have a point more than last season, even though we played in the Champions League, even though we lost (Gonzalo) Higuain at the beginning of the season and Milik for four months, so I think the team has had an extraordinary season until now.”

After an even first half, Napoli broke the deadlock seven minutes after the break thanks to a rare header from Dries Mertens. It was the diminutive Belgian’s 22nd league goal of the season – as many as he had scored in total in his three previous seasons at Napoli.

However, Napoli gifted Sassuolo the equalizer seven minutes later as Marek Hamsik’s terrible headed backpass to Pepe Reina was intercepted by Domenico Berardi, who fired home from close range.

Mertens almost immediately restored his side’s lead but saw his free kick come off the crossbar, while Lorenzo Insigne’s effort also hit the inside of the post for Napoli.

Sassuolo took the lead 10 minutes from time following a superb save from Reina to deny former Napoli hero Paolo Cannavaro, but Antonino Ragusa hooked the ball back in from the byline for Luca Mazzitelli to drive into the bottom right corner.

Milik was brought on in the 82nd and immediately leveled. Jose Callejon’s corner was knocked down by Raul Albiol and the Poland international spun to fire in from close range for his first goal since he was injured on World Cup duty in October.

AC Milan missed a penalty as the new era at the famous Italian club continued without a win.

Milan drew 2-2 at city rival Inter Milan last weekend in the first match since the $800 million takeover of Milan by Chinese-led Rossoneri Sport Luxembourg ended Silvio Berlusconi’s 31-year reign.

Sunday’s defeat saw Milan remain in the last qualifying spot for the Europa League, two points above Inter.

“If we relate everything to the result, it didn’t go well but I shouldn’t do that,” Milan coach Vincenzo Montella said. “We created 15 chances, it’s difficult to create more in Serie A.”

Empoli took a surprise lead five minutes from halftime when Levan Mchedlidze headed in a corner.

Milan should have leveled shortly before the hour, after Lukasz Skorupski pushed over Mario Pasalic, but the Empoli goalkeeper made up for his error by keeping out Suso’s penalty and then parrying a follow-up effort from Gianluca Lapadula.

Empoli doubled its lead in the 67th when Massimo Maccarone nodded on the ball for Mame Thiam to score his first goal in Italian football.

Lapadula reduced the deficit five minutes later, curling into the bottom corner and Milan had a good chance to level when it was awarded an indirect free kick six yards out from goal after Skorupski got the ball, put it down and picked it back up again.

However, with all the Empoli players on the line, Milan couldn’t equalize.

Milan’s teenage goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma kept his side in the match with a fantastic one-handed save to deny Maccarone and it almost proved decisive as Lucas Ocampos volleyed off the crossbar at the other end.

Keita Balde Diao notched a five-minute hat trick as Lazio crushed Palermo to move back into fourth in Serie A.

Ciro Immobile scored two in as many minutes to put Lazio 2-0 up inside 10 minutes, before Keita’s quickfire treble – including a penalty – ensured the match was all but over with less than half an hour played.

Lazio relaxed and Palermo threatened an unexpected comeback with two goals from Andrea Rispoli in five minutes at the start of the second half.

But Luca Crecco extended Lazio’s lead in the final minute with his first ever senior goal.

Juventus continued its march to an unprecedented sixth successive Serie A title by routing Genoa 4-0 to move 11 points clear of Roma.

Ezequiel Munoz scored an own-goal in the 17th and magnificent strikes from Paulo Dybala and Mario Mandzukic put the hosts 3-0 up at the break. Leonardo Bonucci scored another stunning goal in the 64th after sprinting forward from inside his own half. Juventus also hit the woodwork three times.

Crotone kept its faint hopes of survival alive with a surprise 2-1 win at Sampdoria.

The result left it five points behind 17th-placed Empoli and safety with five matches remaining.

Elsewhere, Torino won 3-1 at Chievo Verona, while Udinese beat Cagliari 2-1.

MLS Snapshot: Sounders cruise, 3-0, as Galaxy struggles continue

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The game in 100 words (or less): The LA Galaxy’s midfield remains… nonexistent, to put it very nicely. It was a problem in 2015; it was a major problem in 2016; and it remains a problem early in 2017. On Sunday, Curt Onalfo’s side (as a quick aside, no, his seat isn’t yet getting hot) sat by and watched — almost literally — as the Seattle Sounders found the back of the net three times in the first half at StubHub Center.

Clint Dempsey and Jordan Morris scored the goals for Seattle, to go with an own goal from Ashley Cole. It’s LA’s fifth loss in seven games, while Seattle have their second win of the season and put to bed a three-game winless skid.

[ MORE: Saturday’s MLS roundup — FCD win battle of unbeatens ]

Three moments that mattered

29′ — Dempsey heads into an open net for 1-0 — Nicolas Lodeiro floated the cross toward the back post, and Dempsey made extremely easy work of it with Brian Rowe scrambling through no man’s land.

35′ — Cole applies the finish into his own net — If it happened at the other end of the field, we’d have said it was a cool, calm, composed finish. Alas…

44′ — Morris fires past Rowe for 3-0 — The counter-attack was quick, what with no one stepping to the ball as Seattle covered two-thirds of the field. The finish wasn’t so simple for Morris.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Clint Dempsey

Goalscorers: Dempsey (29′), Cole (OG – 35′), Morris (44′)