PST’s Major League Soccer Power Rankings – Week 11

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The next six weeks of Major League Soccer will take Power Rankings to whole new, ridiculous level. Trying to provide insight into these teams’ relative strengths? Good luck. Until the 31 players who’ve left for the World Cup return, we’re looking at a Football Manager experiment gone wrong. We’re looking at a number of teams that should have never been allowed to transcend hypotheticals.

The 11 Mark Watson had to pick for this weekend’s game in Seattle? That was a U.S. Open Cup blow-off team, but thanks to absences, injuries, and suspensions, the team was fighting for three points in Seattle. And what about Peter Vermes’ options in Bridgeview? They led a staunchly 4-3-3 Sporting to start in a 5-3-2 formation against Chicago. Anything learned at a team-level from these types of games is too ephemeral to take seriously.

As such, don’t expect a lot of movement over the next six weeks. When two in-tact teams face each other, we’ll be able to make some meaningful assessments, but given the teams whose June games are going to be compromised, the pods that’ve formed through the season’s first 10 weeks may hold up:

  • Don’t expect Kansas City, Real Salt Lake, or Seattle to fall out of the top four. If they collapse this month, it will likely be because of their absences. We’ll keep that in mind.
  • Expect a lot of movement in the middle group, but few teams to jump in or out.  LA will likely stay near the top of the six-through-12 cluster, but without Landon Donovan or Omar Gonzalez around, it will be difficult to justify a fall.
  • Any improvement we see from teams like Colorado, Portland, Philadelphia, Chicago — teams left almost unscathed by World Cup call ups — will be taken with a grain lick of salt, particularly if they come against a depleted squad

So what’s the point? If we’re going to be reluctant to change teams’ rankings, why do the list at all? In fairness, the exercise doesn’t have much relevance  under normal circumstances, but to the extent they matter, the rankings can still reflect one person’s view of the league’s balance of power. Just because that’s unlikely to change over the next month doesn’t mean it won’t. If new faces  prove themselves over the next six weeks, they could change a team’s outlook for July and beyond.

Here’s my look at Major League Soccer after 11 weeks:

MORE: Week 10 Power Rankings | Methodology

RANKING
Up/Down
source:  1 UP 2 New England Revolution: Do I think New England is going to keep this two games, 10 goals pace? No, but that’s not was these rankings are about, either. After consecutive wins against Sporting Kansas City, at Toronto, versus Seattle and at Philadelphia — a team that had just won in Kansas — the Revolution have done enough to take this spot. The way they’re playing right now, I believe they would beat Real Salt Lake more times than not if playing tomorrow, full strength, on a neutral field. (6-3-2)

2 Real Salt Lake: Part of the reason I kept RSL at two: Strength of opposition. What a surging New England is to the top of this list, Colorado has become to the bottom. While Real Salt Lake didn’t show any weaknesses on Saturday in Sandy, the teams’ opposition didn’t allow them to score the same points New England did in Philadelphia. (6-0-5)
source:  3 UP 1 Seattle Sounders: This rise is more about Kansas City than what the Sounders did Saturday against the Earthquakes. A 1-0 home win over a depleted team is the least Seattle could have one. Thanks to Sporting’s midweek slip, however, that win was good enough to climb a spot. (8-3-1)
source:  4 DOWN 3 Sporting Kansas City: Sunday’s loss at Chicago? Who cares. The team was wiped out, forced to go five at the back to compensate for its lack of central defenders. The loss on Wednesday to Philadelphia, though? That’s what this drop is about. With a full strength team, Sporting lost to one of the coldest sides in Major League Soccer. (5-4-2)
source:  5 UP 1 Vancouver Whitecaps: Carl Robinson’s team had the week off but climbed after the Galaxy’s scoring woes continued in Houston. They’ll back on the field Saturday afternoon against Seattle. Given the team’s World Cup absences, the Whitecaps should expect a win over the Sounders. (4-2-4)

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6 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. They remain without a point in games where Robbie Keane does not score. (2-3-3)
source:  7 New York Red Bulls: The Red Bulls deserved to drop after Saturday’s showing in Toronto, but with none of the teams immediately below them giving us reason to move them up, New York holds its ground. (3-4-5)
source:  8 UP 4 Toronto FC: All those teams that failed to pass New York? The San Joses, D.C. Uniteds, and Dallases of the world? They also cleared the way for TFC to make up ground. A close home win wouldn’t normally justify this leap, but Irrelevus, Greek God of Power Rankings, was on the Reds’ side. (4-4-0)
source:  9 UP 4 Houston Dynamo: Like Toronto, Houston takes advantage of mid-chart parody and others’ off weeks to make a big leap, though the Dynamo’s victory over the Galaxy also gives Dom Kinnear’s team three wins in four, further pushing the team’s April struggles into the shadows. (5-5-2)
source:  10 DOWN 2 San Jose Earthquakes: Based on their litany of absences, suspensions, and injuries, I’m willing to give the Earthquakes a pass for their 1-0 loss at Seattle. Toronto and Houston, however, we not as gracious, passing them on the chart. (2-4-4)
source:  10 UP 1 Columbus Crew: Gregg Berhalter’s team offered such a mixed bag in Portland, you could justify almost any move with the Crew. They were up 1-1 while playing 11-on-11 on the road – a positive sign. They also needed a penalty kick and (what should have been) an own goal to stay even with the 10-man Timbers. Ultimately, Saturday’s was an aberrational game that told us little about Columbus or Portland. The Crew finally scored from goals, but their climb is due to others’ falls. (3-4-4)
source:  12 DOWN 3 D.C. United: A draw at home against the league’s worst sidewill cause any team to fall, but D.C.’s performance was more worrisome than a mere 1-1 result. In failing to take advantage of those first 55 scoreless minutes against the Impact, United’s performance hinted the team may be the limited, beatable team many expected after their offseason revamp. The team played like a collection of veterans let go by their previous clubs. While that’s often enough to take an opportunistic win (or four), it’s also enough to leave you within striking distance of Montreal. (4-3-3)
source:  13 UP 1 Chicago Fire: From winless to their first winning streak, the Fire’s consecutive victories have given the team some much-needed momentum. The defense, however, still managed to concede a goal to a depleted, 10-man team. Regardless, Frank Yallop’s group moves up as other fall. (2-2-6)
source:  14 DOWN 4 FC Dallas: FCD’s losing streak is over, but the disappointing results continue. Falling behind and then drawing against Chivas USA only justifies worries this team is lost without Mauro Diaz. Given results with the young Argentine also offered a series of caveats, it’s unclear how good this team is … or can be. (5-5-2)
source:  15 UP 3 Philadelphia Union: Saturday’s loss against the Revolution was troubling, but given what New England did to Seattle the week before, that may be less about the Union than their opponents. The midweek win against a full strength Sporting shouldn’t be forgotten. (2-6-5)
source:  16 DOWN 1 Portland Timbers: Penalty kicks, red cards, own goals, … throw-ins dropping in the six and goalkeepers doing Street Fighter impressions. Portland’s defense continues to find new ways to sink its team, something that’s gone from troublesome to sad. They’re scoring more goals now, but the results are still lagging. (1-3-7)
source:  17 Chivas USA: The Goats got their second straight road result, but they also went without a shot on target before their early second half goal. Saturday’s performance was more a smash-and-grab without the grab than a building block for success going forward. (2-5-4)

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18 DOWN 2 Colorado Rapids: After losing at home to Chivas USA, Ikept the Rapids above the Goats, feeling they would still win a neutral site game against Wilmer Cabrera’s team. After this weekend’s match in Salt Lake and some more thought about the Rapids’ recent form, they fall again. Until the attack starts clicking, this is one of the worst teams in Major League Soccer. (4-4-3)
source:  19 Montréal Impact: D.C. United didn’t offer much, yet the Impact’s performance still gave Frank Klopas reason for hope. Beyond Cristian’s second half mistake, Montreal put six other shots on Bill Hamid. It may be too much to say they were the better side, but the Impact were competitive on the road. That’s progress. (1-5-4)

Galaxy’s Cole admits he enjoys Arsenal struggles

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LA Galaxy left back Ashley Cole left Arsenal for Chelsea more than a decade ago, but that hasn’t erased the bitter memories of the departure from his boyhood club.

Cole was famously involved in a “tapping up” meeting with Chelsea without Arsenal’s permission in 2005, but signed a contract extension with the Gunners. Still, he was gone a year later in messy circumstances.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

As the most capped fullback in England’s history who boasts both Premier League and Champions League titles with Chelsea, Cole easily could rest on his own laurels and move on from the divorce.

But when asked whether he’s enjoying Arsenal’s current struggles, Cole couldn’t help himself.

“If I’m honest, yeah, I still think to this day. I laugh to myself. I had a lot of history there and I think the way I left was maybe a bit dodgy but the lack of respect they showed me as well.”

Cole accepts a share of the blame for his time ended at Arsenal, but says he doesn’t regret it. Still, his response is not a picture of class.

Next time, just laugh and say, “Next question,” Ashley.

“I’m not a bad guy” – Convicted murderer, new club defend signing

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A week ago, we brought you the story of goalkeeper Bruno Fernandes finding a new club despite a conviction for ordering the torture and murder of his mistress, whose body was then fed to dogs. The two were having a disagreement on child support.

Fernandes, 32, was set free from jail on a technicality and has since been signed by Boa Esporte in Brazil. He said he couldn’t “throw in the towel” on his career because he believed in himself.

Fans were outraged with the team, major sponsors pulled their funding, and an activist group even hacked Boa Esporte’s web page.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

And the club is digging in its heels.

Boa Esporte’s president, Rone Moraes da Costa, reacted to protests by saying he’d rather move the team than not give Fernandes a chance to resurrect his career.

As for Fernandes, he clearly is having trouble explaining why he’s getting another chance. From The Guardian:

“What happened, happened. I made a mistake, a serious one, but mistakes happens in life – I’m not a bad guy. People tried to bury my dream because of one mistake, but I asked God for forgiveness, so I’m carrying on with my career, dude. I’m starting over.”

One mistake. Wow. There are few clubs in the world which fit the bill of being the majority of fans’ least favorite team, but Boa Esporte could get there. Surely there must be more to the story?

Nothing new about the challenges facing USMNT

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This next week may define a generation of USMNT players, but only if it goes poorly.

That may sound overly dramatic, but it isn’t. The United States started 0-2 in the final round of World Cup qualifying, earned its coach a firing, and now stares down its status in the confederation.

Honduras is coming on Friday, far from a pushover. Then it’s off to Panama for another tricky tie. In a vacuum, coming up short in one of the two isn’t the end of the world, but the Yanks will be expected to take a minimum four points. Even that would be a disappointment to many.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

The crutches are gone, aside from any being used by injured players back in Germany (Bobby Wood and Fabian Johnson chief amongst them). Fifteen of Honduras’ players play domestically, and Panama isn’t much better in overall quality.

Frankly, and it’s been written before, the United States should outclass both of these foes. If Bruce Arena’s bunch doesn’t, well, it spells woe for the country’s soccer development as a whole.

For now, supporters and players have been able to cling to the thought that Jurgen Klinsmann was responsible for the Yanks’ struggles. In some ways, he most certainly was to blame for setbacks like the CONCACAF Cup loss to Mexico and the pathetic performance against Costa Rica that earned him a firing.

Several of the United States’ current elder statesmen have built legacies that can survive big hits. Tim Howard and Clint Dempsey may go down in history as the two biggest stars in program history (There will be an argument for both as No. 1 along with Landon Donovan and Claudio Reyna). DaMarcus Beasley is an all-timer, too.

Michael Bradley, Geoff Cameron, and Jozy Altidore are on track for that, too, and there’s an argument to be made the trio is already there, especially for Cameron, who’s a mainstay in the Premier League. Each has found success in Europe after getting their starts in Major League Soccer, and have etched their names into the national record books.

There’s still very little reason to believe the USMNT will miss the 2018 World Cup even with the 0-2 start. The class is just too much to consider the Yanks will finish below Panama, Honduras, and Trinidad and Tobago over the course of 10 matches (The fourth place side gets a shot at an Asian side like Saudi Arabia, UAE, or Uzbekistan in a two-legged affair).

But turning it around has to start now. The Yanks have to handle their business in these qualifiers, and make at least the Gold Cup final to build momentum toward Russia. Anything short of that is abject failure.

Again, this absolutely should happen, starting Friday. Even given the poor start, losses or even a pair of draws this week would be legitimately shocking, and set the program back ages. Howard set it up well Tuesday when he pointed out that the U.S. has gotten to points like this before, and they always belly up to the bar and outlast all comers.

A lot of fans have this nagging voice in their heads, asking nefariously, “What if they don’t?”

Podolski after golazo finale: “This is like a great movie”

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Lukas Podolski has won a EURO, a World Cup, and the Bundesliga with two different sides.

Only Lothar Matthaus and Miroslav Klose have been capped more than Germany’s Polish born Podolski, and he received a hero’s send-off from the home crowd at Germany’s 1-0 win over England on Wednesday.

And of course he sent himself off in style with a gorgeous goal.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

Podolski said there were more than 30,000 people from Cologne at the match, where he won one of his two Bundesliga titles.

“That’s when you know where you home is, and that you’ve done a lot of good, also off the pitch,” Podolski said. “That makes me very proud.”

It was a perfect night to say goodbye, and the goal made it almost surreal (Thomas Muller called it “cheesy”).

From Goal.com:

“This is like a great movie,” he told ARD. “We win 1-0 and I score the goal.

“I know I have a left foot that was probably gifted to me by God, or someone up there, and I can always rely on it. I am proud of these last 13 years.”

Feel good hit of the Spring.