Lee Nguyen, Blake Brettschneider, Chris Tierney

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)

Higuain to seal $98.7 million Juve move; Pogba to Man United closer?

DOHA, QATAR - DECEMBER 22:  Paul Pogba of Juventus is tackled by Gonzalo Higuain of Napoli during the 2014 Italian Super Cup match between Juventus FC v SSC Napoli at the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium on December 22, 2014 in Doha, Qatar.  (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)
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A major domino has reportedly fallen in the summer transfer window pack.

Gonzalo Higuain is set to complete his monster move from Napoli to Juventus in Serie A.

Sky Italia says that the deal for Higuain has been completed with the Argentine ace arriving in Turin for a transfer fee of $98.7 million (his release clause) and on a four-year contract worth over $8.2 million per season.

[ MORE: Spurs lose to Juve in ICC

Higuain, 28, scored 36 goals in 35 games for Napoli last season and has scored 71 goals in 104 Serie A appearances since arriving from Real Madrid in 2013. Obviously he can score goals but is he worth $98.7 million? At his age, maybe not, and especially with Juve making so many impressive signings already this summer as Miralem Pjanic, Mehdi Benatia and Dani Alves all on board, plus Paulo Dyabla looking razor sharp in preseason.

That $98.7 million transfer fee would make Higuain the third-most expensive signing of all-time, although he could be overtaken by one man very soon: Paul Pogba.

Apparently Juve are locked in talks with Manchester United to try and finalize a move for Pogba, 23, and this huge outlay of cash on Higuain could suggest they’ve agreed the reported $130 million transfer of the French international midfielder.

[ MORE: Winter break pros and cons for PL ]

Pogba has been seen laughing and joking on vacation in Miami with his agent, Mino Raiola, but it is believed that deal is being held up due to the teams not agreeing on who should pay the reported agent fee of up to $22 million. No wonder Raiola is laughing.

Seriously, though, let’s see how this plays out but it is highly unlikely Juve would’ve dropped that much cash on Higuain if they didn’t have some major cash coming in from selling a certain player.

We all know who that is…

Premier League winter break talks ongoing: What are pros, cons?

West Bromwich Albion v Manchester City - Premier League
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What if the Premier League had a winter break?

That is a topic of hot discussion in the UK after new England manager Sam Allardyce called for a midseason break during his opening press conference as the new Three Lions manager on Monday.

[ MORE: PL preseason schedule

With the Premier League confirming that discussions between themselves, the English Football Association and the Football League are ongoing, it is obviously something the governing bodies which run English soccer are seriously considering.

It is believed that if a winter break was given the green light, it wouldn’t take place until the 2019-20 season at the earliest.

[ WATCH: Stream every PL game live ] 

On Tuesday the executive chairman of the Premier League, Richard Scudamore, discussed the notion of a winter break and was asked by Sky Sports about the feasibility of Allardyce’s proposal.

“He’s been very consistent. He’s been calling for it for a very long time, as has every England manager. We are not against a winter break,” Scudamore said. “We have gone on record saying that we are in discussions with the people we need to be in discussions with which is the Football Association and the Football League. It is an integrated calendar. Those discussions are taking place. I don’t know how close or far we are because I wouldn’t want to compromise those negotiations or those discussions.

“Even if the three of us, the three [governing] bodies come up with that solution, we then of course have to road test that with the clubs that are involved and the fans and everything else. We are in discussions, there is a willingness to make it happen but I can’t put anything like a timescale on that.”

Intriguing comments from Scuadmore as the PL seems to be in favor of at least giving the winter break a try. The English FA have been pushing that agenda for quite some time as they believe that heading into an international tournament the English national team suffer due to the long, hard slog of a season with a packed schedule through the winter months. At least, that’s what they’re going with after so many disappointing tournaments in recent years…

So, it’s worth asking, how much of a difference, if any, would this make? What are the pros and cons of a winter break?

Straight off the bat, it must not eradicate the traditional Boxing Day or Dec. 28 games. Those dates are sacrosanct in the UK sporting calendar. My proposal would be to keep those two matchdays and then have a break from Dec. 28 until Jan. 12, giving the teams over two weeks off.

In the PL there are obviously 20 teams which means that it isn’t quite as easy as the Bundesliga, for example, having a winter break as Germany’s top-flight teams only has 19 teams, meaning teams only have to play 36 games instead of the 38 games each Premier League side has to play. The FA Cup opening rounds would also have to be slotted back to late January but it could be more beneficial for the English national team and PL teams playing in European competitions as they would also have the same amount of rest as teams in Spain, Germany and Italy who all have winter breaks.

Well, regardless of what you think, here’s a quick list below looking at some of the potential positives and negatives of trying out a break.

Pros

  • Players rested, less injuries
  • PL teams could advance further in European competitions
  • English national team may have better chance in major competitions
  • Higher intensity in games throughout the season
  • Less midweek games during the season, more spread out schedule
  • Midseason breaks to warmer climates, small friendly tournaments could take place in USA or Middle East

Cons

  • Possibility of reduced games around the festive period
  • Confusion around when FA Cup third round would begin
  • Season running longer into May, possibly June, meaning less time before international tournaments

Report: Sakho sent home from Liverpool’s US tour by Jurgen Klopp

International Champions Cup 2014 - Manchester City v Liverpool
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Mamadou Sakho‘s days at Liverpool seem numbered.

According to multiple reports the French international defender has been sent home from Liverpool’s tour of the USA by Jurgen Klopp.

[ MORE: Spurs lose to Juve in ICC ]

Per the reports, Klopp is said to be upset with Sakho’s behavior on the trip to California as he turned up late for the flight to the USA and that was brought up in one of Klopp’s interviews while the team visited Alcatraz.

Sakho’s attitude around team training sessions at Stanford University was also questioned by Klopp but the towering defender isn’t actually training as he continues his recovery from an Achilles injury which will see him miss the start of the upcoming Premier League season.

All of this caps off a turbulent few months for 26-year-old Sakho who was only cleared of a doping violation by UEFA earlier this month. European soccer’s governing body accused Sakho of failing a drugs test following a Europa League Round of 16 win over Manchester United in March.

Sakho hasn’t played since April — which forced him to miss the Europa League final and France’s EURO 2016 campaign — and now his future at Anfield must be in serious doubt.

It is believed Sakho will arrive back in the UK on Tuesday and will continue treatment on his injury at Liverpool’s Melwood training ground.

Klopp’s side face Chelsea at the Pasadena Rose Bowl on Wednesday in their first International Champions Cup game, before then facing AC Milan on Saturday in Santa Clara, Calif. Their U.S. tour concludes with a friendly against AS Roma in St. Louis, Missouri on Aug. 1.

Report: Arsenal’s Per Mertesacker out five months with serious injury

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 27:  Per Mertesacker of Arsenal celebrates at the end of the UEFA Champions League Qualifier 2nd leg match between Arsenal and Besiktas at the Emirates Stadium on August 27, 2014 in London, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
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Numerous reports are claiming that Arsenal will be without their BFG until 2017.

German central defender Per Mertesacker has not traveled with the Gunners on their tour of the USA with the club confirming their vice captain suffered a knee injury during their friendly win over Lens last Friday.

[ MORE: Spurs lose to Juve in ICC ]

Sky Sports in the UK claim that Mertesacker, 31, could be out for five months and they believe the club will announce that news in the next 48 hours.

That leaves Arsene Wenger with a real problem at center back.

Gabriel has also not traveled with Arsenal due to tonsillitis and Laurent Koscielny is also missing after being given extra time off following his part in France’s run to the EURO 2016 final.

That means only Calum Chambers and new signing from Bolton Wanderers, 20-year-old Rob Holding, are around as center back options for Wenger. Nacho Monreal could also slot in for the time being but Arsenal may now look to get another center back in before the end of the transfer window this summer.

The Gunners have arrived in the USA and play the MLS All-Stars in San Jose, Calif. on Wednesday, then Chivas de Guadalajara next Monday at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif.