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)

Arsenal sends Gabriel Paulista to Valencia

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Arsenal has a thin defense, but that hasn’t stopped Arsene Wenger from thinning the squad even further.

Gabriel Paulista is headed back to the Spanish top flight after the completion of his transfer to Valencia. The Brazilian was sold for a reported $12.8 million, just below the $14 million price tag Arsenal coughed up to Villareal back in January, 2015. He will partner with Manchester City loanee Eliaquim Mangala at Valencia.

The 26-year-old made 64 appearances for the Gunners across all competitions, including 46 in the Premier League. His only goal for the club was Arsenal’s first of a 2-0 win over Bournemouth in December, 2015. His high-water mark with the club was a 120-minute performance against Manchester City in the FA Cup semifinals where Arsenal came back to win 2-1 on an Alexis Sanchez goal in extra time.

“We would like to thank Gabriel for his contribution to the club and to wish him well for his return to La Liga with Valencia,” Arsenal said in its confirmation of the deal.

Paulista was utilized more than expected last season thanks to an injury crisis at the back, and still the Arsenal squad doesn’t seem fat enough to offload defenders, but Gabriel’s over-aggressive nature and tackling inaccuracy led him to an early exit.

With Arsene Wenger now deploying a back-three, the only natural central defenders currently on the roster are Laurent Koscielny, Per Mertesacker, Shkodran Mustafi, and Rob Holding. Koscielny is suspended from a red card at the end of last season, and Mertesacker is battling a head injury. Sead Kolasinac, Nacho Monreal, and Calum Chambers have played CB for the Gunners in the recent past, but it is not their natural position.

Fabian Johnson misses Gladbach training with injury

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With John Brooks already out long-term due to a thigh injury, the United States may have another key injury to work around.

According to Borussia Monchengladbach manager Dieter Hecking, full-back/winger Fabian Johnson missed training on Friday due to an unspecified injury, and is now a question mark for Gladbach’s home match on Sunday against FC Koln. It could be nothing, but even the scare is cause for concern among U.S. fans.

Johnson has battled a few injuries the past couple of seasons, including a hamstring problem last spring that kept him out for nearly two months, including a pair of World Cup qualifiers in March.

Johnson’s absence would leave a hole at right-back for the United States. The 29-year-old has been deployed some at right wing for the USMNT, but he has been relatively poor at that position in the national setup, looking better when pushed further back where he is given more defensive duties, roaming forward with less frequency but more intent.

In place of Johnson, another converted winger in Graham Zusi has been seeing more time at right-back, but he offers less in the attack and lacks Johnson’s recovery speed, meaning mistakes by the Sporting KC veteran are punished more often.

Falcao scores again to extend red hot start

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Monaco is hoping to ride out the final two weeks of the transfer window with 18-year-old wonderkid Kylian Mbappe still in tow.

While they wait, they aren’t missing a beat.

With Mbappe out of the squad, Radamel Falcao has begun the 2017/18 Ligue 1 season as Europe’s hottest goalscorer. He bagged a hat-trick last weekend with Mbappe on the bench to give him four goals in the first two league matches. Then, with Mbappe out of the squad entirely, Falcao netted the winner in a 1-0 road win over FC Metz.

Falcao has scored five goals so far this year, and his club has a +5 goal differential. In a way, Falcao has already been worth six points thus far.

Thanks in part to Ligue 1’s early start, Falcao’s five league goals are by far more than anyone else in the major European leagues. Four players have scored a pair of Premier League goals, nobody in La Liga or the Bundesliga have scored more than one, and the Serie A season has yet to start.

The Colombian did the same thing last season. After eventually coming off the shelf from to hamstring and concussion problems to start the season, Falcao scored 10 goals in 10 Ligue 1 matches leading up to the new calendar year.

At 31 years old, Falcao isn’t a long-term solution and the club will clearly look to retain Mbappe despite Falcao’s hot start, but should they lose the young Frenchman, the club will be in good hands while they search for a replacement over the next year.

Arena should give Ream a look in Brooks’ absence

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With John Brooks out three months thanks to a horribly timed thigh injury, the United States yet again has to scramble to fill a void at the back. It’s not the first time an injury to Brooks has left the USMNT scrambling for cover at a thin position.

In the successful Gold Cup this past summer, with a largely domestic squad in place, Omar Gonzalez saw the bulk of the time at central defender, with Matt Besler his partner through the final two matches. However, with European-based players now in contention for spots with the early September international break, those two are unlikely to continue, at least not together.

[ MORE: Liverpool holds all the cards in Coutinho transfer ]

The most obvious choice to start September 1st against Costa Rica and likely shoo-in should he remain healthy for the next two weeks is Geoff Cameron. The 32-year-old has been back and forth between defense and midfield with club and country, and although he has publicly acknowledged his preference for a spot higher up the pitch, he was used in a back-three in Stoke City’s Premier League opener last weekend and is steadiest at the back.

But with a spot next to Cameron up for grabs in Brooks’ absence, a player who should get serious consideration is United States fill-in extraordinaire Tim Ream.

Ream has had to work hard to earn his place with the U.S., and while he’s seen time of late, he’s not been a first-choice pick. The 29-year-old has four caps so far in 2017, with two of those starts, including one in the impressive 1-1 draw against Mexico at the Azteca with the US still clawing its way back up the Hex standings. Even then, Ream would likely not have earned that spot had Arena not chosen to rotate nearly the entire squad between the pair of qualifiers in that window. His other start this year, the 1-1 draw at Panama, only came after Cameron pulled out of the squad the day of the game with a late injury. The last time Ream started back-to-back matches for the U.S. came back in 2015 when he was somewhat of a regular through the second half of the calendar year.

[ MORE: LA Galaxy send Van Damme back to Belgium ]

But now, with Brooks out, Ream looks like the perfect man to fill in again. The 29-year-old defender finished last season in top form as Fulham narrowly missed out on promotion, earning the official website’s Man of the Match award in a May 2nd draw with Brentford, and won it again in the club’s final match of the season.

Without missing a beat, Ream has picked up where he left off last campaign in the first few matches this month. Last weekend against Reading at the Madjeski Stadium, Ream’s center-back partner Tomas Kalas was sent off 36 seconds into the match, forcing Fulham to play a man down for 89 minutes. Ream and company solidified the back, conceding just once in the 61st minute en route to a 1-1 draw.

The club still likely requires reinforcements at the CB position – Ream was forced to partner with right-back Denis Odoi against Reading with Kalas suspended and Michael Madl injured – meaning Ream could see an influx of competition in the coming weeks. However, as it stands, the American is far and away the best (and most improved) central defender on a club favored for promotion.

Gonzalez performed well in the Gold Cup, and Matt Besler was serviceable, but with few other options in the heart of defense to take Brooks’ place, Bruce Arena could yet again look to Ream for an in-form replacement.