PST’s Major League Soccer Power Rankings – Week 8

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The first seven weeks of the Major League Soccer season saw three teams take turns at the top of our Power Rankings. Real Salt Lake opened at number one after a win in Carson, Calif., reclaimed the spot from Toronto with a decisive win over the Reds, and eventually gave the crown to Sporting Kansas City. Headed into the last weekend of April, that’s how we stood, with last year’s MLS Cup finalists holding down the top two spots on our list.

After Saturday’s opening game in Seattle, however, change was inevitable. Results in Foxborough, Mass., and Sandy, Utah, only confirmed the shift. Instead of last year’s finalists defending their places at the top of our order, a team that was in disarray at the end of 2013 has risen to the top. Living up to expectations cast upon them after Clint Dempsey’s arrival, Seattle has become the best team in Major League Soccer.

It’s unlikely Dempsey will maintain a pace that’s produced seven goals in four games. It’s also unlikely a periodically shaky defense won’t come back to haunt them, at some point. Right now, however, the Sounders are clearly the best team in Major League Soccer, becoming our fourth different top-ranked team this season.

Here’s how we see Major League Soccer, after eight weeks:

MORE: Player of the Week | Team of the Week | Week 7 Power Rankings | Methodology

RANKING
Up/Down
source:  1 UP 2 Seattle Sounders: After Saturday’s rout of Colorado — a group that had only lost once before its trip to CenturyLink — there’s little doubt which team deserves this spot. The defense is a slight worry, but all concerns pale next to the potency of that attack. Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins are unstoppable, for now. (5-2-1)
source:  2 DOWN 1 Sporting Kansas City: Sporting’s late capitulation in New England isn’t the problem. A defender got a harsh red card, and they gave up a late goal. Rarely, those things happen. The bigger issue was Sporting’s inability to create chances before Aurélien Collin’s sending off. Given this team has, throughout its rise, occasionally had these types of performances, it’s probably not a long-term problem. Right now, however, they’re just not as good as Seattle. (3-2-2)

3 DOWN 1 Real Salt Lake: As Brian Dunseth pointed out to me last night, RSL has only lost once in its last 16 games. And that was on the road, in the playoffs, to the then two-time defending champion LA Galaxy. So there’s only so much we can concern we should muster about this team. On the other hand, when push has come to shove this year, they’ve conceded goals, allowing teams to come-from-behind to draw them four times. From a distance, it seems the mental sharpness — the ability to focus and accomplish one, distinct objective — isn’t quite there. Knowing this group, however, it will come. (3-0-5)

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4 LA Galaxy: Coming off yet another bye week. On pace to play 21 games this season. (2-1-2)
source:  5 FC Dallas: When, earlier this year, FC Dallas took advantage of a 10-man Houston to post a 4-1 win at BBVA Compass, we launch them up this chart. Playing 11-on-10 tells us very little about how the team will perform going forward. On Saturday, Dallas was up 1-0 in Washington, D.C., before Zach Loyd got sent off. The team’s failures playing 10-on-11 are no more telling than its successes playing a man up. (5-2-1)
source:  6 Toronto FC: Coming off yet another bye week. On pace to play 26 games this season. (3-3-0)
source:  7 Columbus Crew: Though the Crew dropped points at home on Saturday, the underlying performance was consistent with what we’ve seen throughout the season. Perhaps we’re not seeing the same team that was so convincing at RFK and CenturyLink, but the underlying elements are still there. (3-1-3)
source:  8 UP 9 New York Red Bulls: A four-goal win over Houston and a strong performance in Ohio spark a huge jump, but this ranking might still be too low. That they performed so well in Columbus gives the Red Bulls an argument to be above the Crew, though given the swift nature of New York’s ascent, we’ll keep the Crew above them for now. Just remember: Three weeks ago, we called New York the worst team in the league. We could again be wrong about the Red Bulls. (2-2-5)
source:  9 Vancouver Whitecaps: The daunting depth of the Whitecaps’ attack paid off on Saturday, with two late goals allowing them to claim a point against RSL. While there was some fortune to the result (get down for that shot, Nick Rimando), the performance still offer more context on some of their previous results. After Saturday’s games, it’s easier to argue that Vancouver doesn’t lose to Colorado at BC Place if Matías Laba isn’t sent off … (2-2-4)

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10 DOWN 2 Colorado Rapids: … which is why we’ve moved the Whitecaps above the Rapids. Granted, Colorado’s three-goal loss to Seattle has something to do with this, but most of that result was about the Sounders, not the Rapids. Still, the changes Pablo Mastroeni’s made to the team has made it a much less dangerous group. At CenturyLink, the Rapids were sitting ducks. (3-2-2)
source:  11 DOWN 1 New England Revolution: A fortunate sending off, a misread from Eric Kronberg, and a late handball from Uri Rosell. New England won on Saturday, but there wasn’t much in the underlying performance that says they’re an above average team. Given how the Revs started the season, that’s still progress, and an awakening from Teal Bunbury (plus getting José Gonçalves and Kelyn Rowe healthy) would make them a stronger side. For now, they lose one spot because of New York’s ascent. (3-3-2)
source:  12 UP 1 San Jose Earthquakes: Getting into the win column is nice, but this rise is because of other team’s failures. A 1-0 win at home over Chivas USA is holding serve. San Jose isn’t as bad as people though it was, but there’s still a lot of room for improvement. (1-2-3)
source:  13 UP 1 Chicago Fire: Took the week off and saw other teams fall behind. If only this method worked in the actual standings. (0-1-6)
source:  14 UP 1 Portland Timbers: Still winless, but much like San Jose and Chicago, they move up because of other teams’ failures. They’re still a little too leaky at the back; still too ineffective going forward. While it’s easy to point to the bottom of the standings and wonder what’s going on, the team’s actually close to breaking through. Ranking them any lower than this would buy into the Timbers’ record over the actual form (and that’s what the standings are for). (0-3-5)
source:  15 UP 1 D.C. United: The unbeaten streak is up to five, but much like Dallas’s hot start, the final results don’t tell the whole story. On Saturday, D.C. got to play over a half up a man. That doesn’t tell us much about how the team will fare going forward, when it’s far more likely to be playing 11-on-11. (3-2-2)
source:  16 DOWN 5 Houston Dynamo: Winless since week two, having trouble converting chances from open play, and susceptible to results like last Wednesday’s in New York, Houston has quickly gone from a team that topped lists like these to one sinking toward the bottom. Brad Davis’s return should help turn things around. (2-4-2)
source:  17 DOWN 5 Philadelphia Union: I’m still a believer in what John Hackworth has in his squad, but a loss at Montréal shines a light on all the Union’s problems. Even after swapping out Jack McInerney, the team can’t convert contributions from Vincent Nogueira and Maurice Edu into goals. At the back, mistakes like Aaron Wheeler letting up, allowing Felipe Martins an uncontested route to a rebound, keep costing the team. They’re a few tweaks away, but right now, they’re capable of losing to anyone. (1-2-5)
source:  18 Chivas USA: As they reminded us in Santa Clara, Chivas USA isn’t a bad team, but one good moment can secure full points against them. Saturday’s moment was Yannick Djaló’s first Major League Soccer goal, swaying a previously even game in San Jose’s favor. This team needs to regain its confidence, but unable to compete until doing so, the Goats are caught in a competitive paradox. (1-4-3)
source:  19 Montréal Impact: Felipe’s early goal held up, giving Montréal its first win of the season. The underlying play, however, was no different from what we’ve seen from the Impact since Marco Di Vaio returned. Zac MacMath helped on Saturday, but without his spill, does Montréal break into the win column? (1-4-3)

Bravo fit again, but will he start Chile’s Confed Cup group finale?

Photo credit should read YURI KADOBNOV/AFP/Getty Images
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MOSCOW (AP) Claudio Bravo is fit again and could start in goal against Australia at the Confederations Cup on Sunday, Chile coach Juan Antonio Pizzi said Saturday.

Bravo – who is Chile’s joint most-capped player with Alexis Sanchez – hasn’t played since April 27, when he injured his calf for Manchester City in a derby game with Manchester United.

“Claudio is fit, he’s managed to train the last couple of days just like his other teammates,” Pizzi said. “He’s ready and available to play.”

Pizzi brushed off concerns about a lack of match fitness, saying that “quite obviously we take into account that factor” but players like Bravo are “are of such good quality that it isn’t that important they haven’t played in the last couple of months.”

Stand-in Johnny Herrera played in Chile’s 2-0 group stage win over Cameroon and Thursday’s 1-1 draw with Germany.

Gary Medel was substituted with a minor injury while playing in defense for Chile against Germany. Teammate Francisco Silva said Saturday that Medel had complained of “a very small muscle contraction issue” but was now fit.

Pizzi said he will aim to tire out Australia with Chile’s trademark all-action style, even though his team struggled for energy in the latter stages against Germany.

“This energy drop we had in the second half didn’t damage us too much because the opposing team couldn’t maintain a high pace because of the demands we’d imposed on them,” Pizzi said of the Germany game.

“We’re going to try to get (the Australians) tired as well and use this to beat our opponent, and we hope this is going to translate into goals.”

USMNT’s Wood extends Hamburg contract through 2021

Photo credit: Hamburg / Twitter: @HSV
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HAMBURG, Germany (AP) American forward Bobby Wood extended his contract with Bundesliga side Hamburger SV on Saturday to 2021.

Wood, who joined Hamburg from second-tier Union Berlin, scored five goals and set up two more in 28 Bundesliga games. He had 17 goals in 31 second-division games for Union the season before.

“Not only his goals count for us, but his readiness to run and challenge,” Hamburg sporting director Jens Todt said. “Bobby is a key player for our offense and a real team player.”

Wood has eight goals in 32 appearances for the United States.

MLS Snapshot: NYCFC run rampant on Red Bulls, win 2-0

Photo credit: NYCFC
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The game in 100 words (or less): The only thing standing in the way of New York City FC avenging their infamous 7-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls with a lopsided demolition job of their own, on Saturday, was an otherworldly goalkeeping performance from Luis Robles. It was the Red Bulls shot-stopper, with his four saves on the afternoon (three of them coming in spectacular fashion), who kept Jesse Marsch’s side within touching distance for more than an hour. Jack Harrison was denied early on by Robles, but got the better of him not long later for the game’s opening goal. Heroics from Robles kept the score at 1-0 for another 32 minutes, before Ben Sweat’s (accidental?) header made it 2-0 in the 65th minute. The Red Bulls, on the other hand, managed their first shot on target in the 80th minute. That’s three wins in a row for NYCFC, who go seven points clear of their Hudson River rivals and keep Toronto FC in sight at the top of the league table, five points ahead.

[ MORE: Transfer rumor roundup ]

Three moments that mattered

18′ — Robles goes full-stretch to deny Harrison — David Villa’s vision and Rodney Wallace‘s hold-play created the chance for Harrison, but Luis Robles’ acrobatics denied the 20-year-old Englishman in spectacular fashion.

33′ — Harrison not to be denied this time — Sweat delivered the ball to Harrison near the top of the box, and the second-year man did everything right with what’s a really, really difficult chance to take — facing away from goal, first-time, ball traveling across the goalkeeper, upper-90 to the far post.

65′ — Sweat loops a header past Robles for 2-0 — Sweat probably didn’t mean it, but the ball hit the back of the net, and that’s all that matters. Not a bad time to score your first MLS goal, either.

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

Man of the match: Luis Robles

Goalscorers: Harrison (33′), Sweat (65′)

Watford signs Will Hughes from Derby County

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Watford has completed the capture of 22-year-old central midfielder Will Hughes, a fantastic transfer for one of England’s younger talents.

Hughes, despite his young age, racked up 189 appearances for Derby County (despite missing significant time in 2015 for an ACL tear) and now gets his first shot at the Premier League, and with it potentially a chance to push his way into the England fold. Hughes has been a staple for the England youth system, making 22 appearances for the country’s U-21 side but is yet to feature for the senior team.

The fee for the transfer was undisclosed but reports have tabbed the amount at around $10 million.

Hughes came close to making the Premier League with Derby County on multiple occasions, reaching the Championship playoffs in both 2014 and 2016. Now, he’ll battle the likes of Valon Behrami, Tom Cleverley, Etienne Capoue, Abdoulaye Doucoure for a spot in Watford’s midfield.

The club release confirmed that Hughes has not yet completed his medical, and will do so when he returns to the U.K. from competing in the U-21 European Championships in Poland.