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.
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
Toronto FC: More time off for Toronto, who fall as teams like San Jose and D.C. United continue to improve. (3-4-0)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
Controversial coach Marcelo Bielsa will take charge of ambitious Lille for next season, signaling his return to French football after a chaotic end to his spell with Marseille.
Lille said in a statement on Sunday that Bielsa will replace interim coach Franck Passi on July 1 and has been given a two-year deal.
“Marcelo Bielsa is without a doubt one of the most respected and influential coaches in the world and it’s a huge satisfaction for Lille,” said Marc Ingla, a club director. “It also proves the ambition of our club.”
A former Argentina manager, Bielsa is highly rated as an innovative, attack-minded leader who brings the best out of his players.
With Lille hiring Bielsa, Lyon already settled into a new stadium, Marseille recruiting aggressively under new American ownership and Monaco challenging Paris Saint-Germain strongly, next season promises to be an even more competitive one in France.
A more entertaining one, too, now that Bielsa is back and likely to give the French media plenty of headlines.
Bielsa stunned fans and the club’s directors when he quit Marseille last season, after just one game of the new campaign. The 61-year-old Argentine was taking charge of his second season and was a fan favorite when he suddenly quit.
He was out of contract but had struck a verbal agreement with the president to extend his tenure.
Then, just before putting pen to paper on his new deal, he changed his mind, alleging that Marseille officials amended the terms of the agreement at the last minute. He had previously publicly criticized Marseille’s president in a vitriolic outburst during a news conference because he was angry at the club’s transfer policy, saying it had signed players over his head.
Controversy seems to follow Bielsa, who in football circles earned the nickname “El Loco Bielsa” (Crazy Bielsa), due to his driven personality, single-mindedness, tough talking and relentless determination to do things only on his terms.
In the summer of last year, he quit as coach of Italian side Lazio – just two days after the Italian club announced it had signed him.
In football terms, Bielsa made much of his reputation more than a decade ago.
At club level, he won three Argentinian titles with Newell’s Old Boys and Velez Sarsfield – reaching the South American Copa Libertadores final with Newell’s in 2002. Later on, he also guided Athletic Bilbao to the Europa League and Spanish Cup finals in 2012.
With Argentina, he won gold at the 2004 Olympic Games and led Argentina to the Copa America final the same year.
Lille’s new owner Gerard Lopez, the president of the finance group Genii Capital and former president of the Lotus Formula One team, previously spoke about Bielsa in glowing terms.
Lopez recently took over from Michel Seydoux – a French businessman and film producer who was club president since 2002 – and Lopez is keen on rebuilding Lille with talented young players in the same way Monaco has done.
On the final day of the transfer window last month, Lille signed six players aged 23 or under. Dutch forward Anwar El Ghazi, who joined from Ajax, scored his first goal for the club on Saturday.
The club’s scouting network is also likely to be very strong in South America, with Bielsa working closely alongside Luis Campos – who is an advisor to Lopez.
Campos previously worked with Jose Mourinho at Real Madrid and then for three years as a technical director with Monaco.
The well-connected Campos oversaw the arrival of several promising young players at Monaco – including highly rated attacking midfielder Bernardo Silva – and they have blossomed so much that Monaco is top of the league and has scored more than 100 goals overall this season.
Lille is playing catch up.
Although Lille qualified six times for the Champions League during Seydoux’s tenure and clinched the league and cup double in 2011, results have dropped and the northern French club is currently in 14th place.
The club’s youth system – which produced players such as Chelsea star Eden Hazard – has not been so successful in recent years and this will also be an area for Bielsa to improve.
“My friend, I take the decisions, you analyze my decisions. You have to take a decision before [the game], to the best solution. It was what I did. If you don’t agree, you can write it.
“What I hear in the last 10 days, about how people, ex-players, journalists, treat Arsene Wenger is unacceptable.”
This not a particularly kind stretch for Wenger’s Arsenal, and the Gunners do look set for a seventh-straight exit from the UCL at the Round of 16. Still, Guardiola does have a point when accounting for the fact that Jurgen Klopp, Guardiola, and Jose Mourinho have all seen poor stretches this season.
Yes, Wenger has been at Arsenal much longer than his peers in the Premier League, but the cyclical criticism of the French boss is exhausting and exhaustive. Two decades in one location provides enough data to call someone a legend or brand him a disappointment. It’s a downtime right now, and perhaps the right time to change bosses. But people seem particularly happy to burn Wenger.
It’s one of two Tuesday first legs, with big names like Fernando Torres, Javier Hernandez, and Antoine Griezmann all set to feature in the other.
Manchester City vs. Monaco
How they got here: Man City finished second to Barcelona in Group C, winning two of six matches, while Monaco won Group E over Bayer Leverkusen, Tottenham Hotspur, and CSKA Moscow.
History: Tuesday will be the first meeting of Man City and Monaco.
The plot: Pep Guardiola’s tenure at Bayern Munich saw him bounced at the semifinals of three-straight UCL tournaments, and his last final came in 2011.
The subplot: Will Yaya Toure’s City resurgence extend into Europe? How about Radamel Falcao getting some PL revenge? And watch out for Premier League rumor mill men Fabinho, Bernardo Silva, and Joao Moutinho.
Bayer Leverkusen vs. Atletico Madrid
How they got here: Bayer finished second to Monaco in Group E, and Atletico won five of six group stage matches in summiting Group D.
History: The clubs swapped home wins in the 2015 UCL — Atleti progressed after penalties — and drew a pair of UEL matches in 2010.
The plot: Neither side is tempting its usual spot on its domestic table, and both Diego Simeone and Roger Schmidt would be thrilled to progress in Europe.
The subplot: Simeone has won the Europa League, and is chasing his third UCL final in four seasons. … Bayer attacker Chicharito is hot again, with five goals in his last three Bundesliga matches, after waving off MLS rumors.