Sporting Kansas City v Chicago Fire

PST’s Major League Soccer Power Rankings – Week 10

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Leave it to a 12-match week to throw the rankings into chaos. With teams like Columbus and Dallas losing twice and San Jose collecting four points, we not only have a wealth of new information on those teams, but we have new context for the teams’ recent results. As such, every team moves, some dramatically:

  • New England moves up four spots after its win over Seattle, and that might not be enough;
  • San Jose and D.C. United climb five and six spots, respectively, as the middle of the rankings crumble;
  • Dallas, Columbus, and Colorado each fall at least five spots, with weekend results leaving little doubt: Their slumps are probably more than mere blips.

The swings reflect when happened on the field, where we had a nine-goal day, three teams score five goals, and road wins from both Chivas USA and D.C. United. That may not be good for Power Rankings, but it’s more fun for Major League Soccer.

Here’s our view on the league after Week 10:

MORE: Player of the Week | Team of the Week | Week 9 Power Rankings | Methodology

RANKING
Up/Down
source:  1 UP 1 Sporting Kansas City: There wasn’t much to do on Saturday, particularly after Collen Warner was sent off for Montreal. Kansas City put up an impressive result, but good teams are supposed to do that when presented with a man advantage. While the defending champions are deserving number ones, this week’s rise is due to Seattle’s fall. (5-2-2)

2 UP 1 Real Salt Lake: Like Kansas City, Real Salt Lake move up after Seattle’s fall, but with two straight wins, it looks like the reigning Western Conference champions have put their drawing ways behind them. Though their trip to Houston was made easier by Servando Carrasco’s early red card, RSL was already up 2-0 when the Dynamo were reduced to 10. (5-0-5)
source:  3 UP 4 New England Revolution: In the first draft of these rankings, New England was number one. Ultimately, I went back to the list’s golden rule: “Neutral field, tomorrow, who wins?” I still give Kansas City and Salt Lake the slight edge (Sporting was 0-0 in Foxborough while at full strength), but you can’t begrudge the opposite view after Saturday’s rout. (5-3-2)
source:  4 DOWN 3 Seattle Sounders: After two weeks in the top spot, Seattle falls, doing so in a way that may make it difficult to reclaim the top spot. Before being able to say they are the best team in the league, the Sounders have to prove their propensity to collapse is gone. If a change in personnel didn’t solve the problem, what will? (6-3-1)

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5 DOWN 1 LA Galaxy: A strong performance at Portland, even in a draw, isn’t something that causes a team to drop, but thanks to New England’s revolution, the Galaxy slip a spot. (2-2-3)
source:  6 UP 3 Vancouver Whitecaps: The Whitecaps finally solved their home-road duality and did so by sticking with their 4-2-3-1. Claiming its first road win of the year, Vancouver continued to show Carl Robinson’s influence, with a dominant performance at Crew Stadium understated by the 1-0 final. (4-2-4)
source:  7 UP 1 New York Red Bulls: After this weekend’s result, the Red Bulls don’t deserve this rise, but fortune was on their side (in so far as fortunate cares about Power Rankings). Two teams above them (Dallas, Columbus) crashed, while teams like Colorado, who could have otherwise passed them, fell flat. Ultimately, even after this weekend’s loss, I still don’t think they’re likely to lose to anybody below them at a neutral site tomorrow. (3-3-5)
source:  8 UP 5 San Jose Earthquakes: A four-point week, seven points in the last four games, and a series of teams falling have San Jose in the top half of this list. That speaks to the close quarters below the top six, but it also reflects the nature of this exercise. San Jose’s record isn’t good, but their recent form is decent. Slightly above average, even. (2-3-4)
source:  9 UP 6 D.C. United: It’s not so much that D.C.’s win was so impressive (it was against Philadelphia, after all); it was what the result told us about D.C.’s continued recovery. That Ben Olsen’s team was able to put the Portland result in the past and resume its score early, hold tight ways speaks volumes. It says the team’s success may be more than a product of momentum or luck. While strength of schedule is still an issue, that’s why D.C. is nine, not five. (4-3-2)
source:  10 DOWN 5 FC Dallas: With six teams playing twice last week, the swings on this chart are more drastic than usual. Dallas’s fall, however, is primarily due to its weekend result. A one-goal loss at Seattle wouldn’t have spurred a drop, but the team’s inability to get a result at San Jose despite playing up a man highlighted their post-Mauro Diaz problems. (5-5-1)
source:  11 DOWN 5 Columbus Crew: Like Dallas, the Crew lost twice last week, with one loss more telling than the other. Losing Wednesday in Houston off a set piece goal? Hey, it happens. Losing to Vancouver at home in a game that could have ended in a blow out? We’ve been disillusioned about the Crew. (3-4-3)
source:  12 DOWN 1 Toronto FC: More time off for Toronto, who fall as teams like San Jose and D.C. United continue to improve. (3-4-0)
source:  13 UP 1 Houston Dynamo: The Sunday result was ugly, but the team was also playing with 10. That they were down 2-0 by the time Carrasco was sent off tempers the positives from the win over Columbus. This team will desperately miss Brad Davis and Boniek Garcia, leaving the team relying no Gilles Barnes and Andrew Driver to create goals. (4-5-2)
source:  14 UP 2 Chicago Fire: Chicago finally broke through, on the road, against a quality team; hence its rise here. The underlying flaws are still there, though. Up 5-2 in the second half, the Fire allowed New York back into the game. Frank Yallop made it a point to reshape the defense in the offseason, but to this point, it’s been the weak spot. (1-2-6)
source:  15 DOWN 3 Portland Timbers: As much possession (and, shots) as LA had on Sunday, Donovan Ricketts wasn’t tested any more often than Jaime Penedo. The Timbers were decent … except for that one, trademark defensive breakdown that cost them. That they needed a whiff from Penedo to get a point means three Eastern Conference teams pass them. (1-3-6)

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16 DOWN 6 Colorado Rapids: San Jose was the better side in Santa Clara on Wednesday, but this weekend’s result is the real reason for the fall. If you lose by two at home to Chivas USA, you make a strong case to be 19. (4-3-3)
source:  17 UP 1 Chivas USA: A 3-1 road victory? That’s cause for a bigger rise. Ultimately, I don’t think they’d beat Colorado if the teams played again tomorrow. Pablo Mastroeni over-rotated his squad, with the weather conditions making the match a weird one. The win was enough to move Chivas USA to the head of this three-team trough. (2-5-3)
source:  18 DOWN 1 Philadelphia Union: It’s becoming far too easy. The Union can barely generate a decent chance, let alone score. If you score once, no need to take chances. No need to push for a second. Just .. wait. (1-5-5)
source:  19 DOWN 1 Montréal Impact: Warner’s early red decided Saturday’s match early, with Montreal finding another way to drop points. Unlike teams like Chicago and Portland, there are no silver linings. There’s no sense of urgency. The Impact are adrift. (1-5-3)

Klopp, Liverpool still consulting lawyers over in-limbo Matip

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 11: Joel Matip of Liverpool and Andre Ayew of West Ham United compete for the ball during the Premier League match between Liverpool and West Ham United at Anfield on December 11, 2016 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)
Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images
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Few footballing sagas will ever reach heights of absurdity comparable to that of the Joel Matip/Liverpool versus Cameroon/FIFA battle currently raging, as the Reds defender finds himself “ineligible” to play for his club due to an international call-up 18 months after announcing his international retirement.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

PST’s Joe Prince-Wright summed up the situation quite well, in full, right here. An excerpt:

Matip, 25, was called up by the Cameroon national team for the 2017 African Cup of Nations which is currently taking place in Gabon. However, the former Schalke defender has previously stated that he did not want to play for them and he had retired from international duty.

Cameroon called him into their initial 35-man squad for the competition anyway but did not include him in their final 23-man squad once it became clear Matip, along with six other players, had no interest in playing for them at AFCON.

FIFA has confirmed that Liverpool has been in touch regarding Matip’s status and it now appears that he will not be able to play in any other competition while Cameroon is still in AFCON action under Article 5 of FIFA’s rules.

[ MORE: Monday’s transfer rumor roundup | Sunday | Friday | Thursday ]

Fast forward a few days, and Jurgen Klopp and Co. have no further clarity regarding the situation. It’s so unclear, in fact, that Klopp said on Tuesday he may select the 25-year-old during one of two remaining games this week, and hope for the best — quotes from the Guardian:

“As you can imagine, we are in a lot of talks. We’ve done transfers quicker than this. It’s already long term but now it’s getting really tense on our side. We’ve tried everything but at the end I have to make the decision. Of course I have to ask [Liverpool’s lawyers] but the decision is for me to make. I could put him in the lineup. I don’t think the referee is going to say: ‘Stop, stop, you cannot go on the pitch.’ But I will do it when it’s OK from our point of view. Of course I need advice — I’m not a lawyer.”

“Most of the time in life you know if you do this, then you get this. But it’s not 100 percent clear what happens [if Matip plays]. We try everything to win football games. If this can happen — out of the tournament or whatever — then we have to decide about the risk. He’s ready to play for us and that makes it difficult.”

What an utter disaster of a situation Cameroon have intentionally created here.

VIDEO: Jeison Murillo’s incredible bicycle from a corner kick

MILAN, ITALY - JANUARY 17:  (R-L) Jeison Murillo of FC Internazionale celebrates his first goal with Geoffrey Kondogbia during the TIM Cup match between FC Internazionale and Bologna FC at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on January 17, 2017 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images)
Photo by Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images)
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Look away now, Andy Carroll. Take a bow, Jeison Murillo.

[ VIDEOS: All in a week’s work — Messi free kick no. 1 | Messi free kick no. 2 ]

Just three days after Carroll scored the bicycle-kick goal of the year (so we thought), here comes Murillo, Inter Milan’s 24-year-old Colombian striker, to steal his thunder (below video). The fact he did it directly from a corner kick, with the ball traveling roughly 40 yards before flinging his body into the air and striking the ball so cleanly, (somehow) trumps Carroll’s accomplishment from Saturday.

[ MORE: PL Power Rankings — Tight at the top… and bottom ]

Sensational goals come in twos now, apparently, as Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Olivier Giroud scored stunning scorpion-kick goals (WATCH HERE and HERE) just days apart earlier in the season.

FA Cup roundup: Burnley, Crystal Palace advance to 4th round

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 17: Christian Benteke of Crystal Palace (C) celebrates scoring his sides first goal with Andros Townsend of Crystal Palace (L) during the Emirates FA Cup third round replay between Crystal Palace and Bolton Wanderers at Selhurst Park on January 17, 2017 in London, England.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
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A roundup of all of Tuesday’s action in FA Cup third-round replays…

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Burnley 2-0 Sunderland

Sam Vokes and Andre Gray grabbed goals for Burnley, who opted for a largely first-choice lineup in Tuesday’s replay. Sunderland, meanwhile, went with a mix-and-match bunch and slumped to six games without a win (all competitions), meaning they can focus solely on Premier League survival from here on out. Burnley will host Championship side Bristol City in the fourth round next Saturday, Jan. 28.

[ MORE: Monday’s transfer rumor roundup | Sunday | Friday | Thursday ]

Crystal Palace 2-1 Bolton Wanderers

Sam Allardyce picked up his first win as Palace boss, courtesy of a Christian Benteke brace scored nine minutes apart in the second half, as the Eagles came from behind to beat League One side Bolton at Selhurst Park. James Henry put the visitors three minutes into the second half, but Benteke hit back in the 68th and 77th minutes to improve Allardyce’s record to one win, two draws and three losses (all competitions). Palace will host Manchester City in the fourth round next Saturday.

Tuesday’s FA Cup scoreboard

AFC Wimbledon 1-3 Sutton United
Barnsley 1-2 (AET) Blackpool
Fleetwood Town 0-1 Bristol City
Lincoln City 1-0 Ipswich Town

AFCON: Ayew propels Ghana to victory; Egypt struggle vs. Mali

FORTALEZA, BRAZIL - JUNE 21:  Andre Ayew of Ghana celebrates scoring his team's first goal during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group G match between Germany and Ghana at Castelao on June 21, 2014 in Fortaleza, Brazil.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
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A roundup of all of Tuesday’s action in the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations…

Ghana 1-0 Uganda

PORT-GENTIL, Gabon (AP) Andre Ayew scored a penalty as Ghana beat Uganda 1-0 on Tuesday in a lackluster opening to the four-time champions’ bid for a first African Cup of Nations title in 35 years.

Ghana took control of Group D after seven-time champion Egypt struggled in a 0-0 draw with Mali in the other group match.

Ghana has three points, Egypt and Mali one each and Uganda zero.

Ayew, a West Ham winger, netted in the 32nd minute after Asamoah Gyan was held back by Isaac Isinde in the penalty area in Port-Gentil.

Avram Grant, a former Chelsea manager, is looking to lead Ghana to a second successive final but go better than 2015 when his team lost to Ivory Coast.

Uganda has also finished runner-up in the continental championship but the trip to the final in 1978 was the last time it qualified until making the Gabon event.

[ MORE: Monday’s transfer rumor roundup | Sunday | Friday | Thursday ]

Mali 0-0 Egypt

Later, 44-year-old Egypt goalkeeper Essam El Hadary became the oldest player in tournament history when he came on for injured Ahmed El Shenawy midway through the first half.

El Hadary, who celebrated his birthday two days ago, is participating in his seventh African Cup, having picked up winners’ medals in 2006, 2008 and 2010.

Egypt’s standout forward Mohamed Salah struggled and was replaced midway through the second half.

Mali, looking to improve on its third-place finishes in 2012 and 2013, produced many more chances.

Egypt failed to qualify for the last three editions of the tournament.

Wednesday’s AFCON schedule

Gabon vs. Burkina-Faso — 11 a.m. ET
Cameroon vs. Guinea-Bissau — 2 p.m. ET