Omar Gonzalez-Oct

PST’s Major League Soccer Power Rankings — Long Time, No See Edition

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The last time we brought you MLS Power Rankings, the biggest issue was accounting for World Cup absences. Our solution: Take a break from the rankings. Now, well into MLS’s post-World Cup season, it’s time to bring them back. As teams start diving into more conference-centric schedules, some perspective that transcends the standings becomes more relevant.

Unfortunately, that presents a continuity problem, one that can’t be handled with just our “Up/Down” column. So for each team, we’ve given you a small snippet of how we saw them on May 27. For most, the view has barely changed. For others, it’s a brave new world.

But before we get to that new frontier, a little reminder about the “methodology.” From Week 1’s rankings:

If two teams played tomorrow, given their current injury concerns, form, and other considerations, who is likely to win on a neutral field? This list is designed to tell you who we feel is most likely to win that matchup. All things being equal, who is the best team going forward, based on what we know now?

Right now, the answer lies in Los Angeles. Here’s PST’s new MLS Power Rankings – the long time, no see edition:

MORE: May 27th’s Power Rankings | Methodology

RANKING
Up/Down
LR: 5/27

source:

1 UP 4 LA Galaxy: “Two convincing wins help in the standings, but what’s fueled LA’s Power Rankings surge is the goals.” Since, goals have been less of a problem. Only Seattle’s scoring at a higher rate than the Galaxy, who’ve lost once in MLS since May 18. (9-4-7)

2 Real Salt Lake: “Saturday showed there’s a difference between bad and impotent,” we said after a 0-0 draw against visiting Dallas. It was the start of a five-match winless run. Since, Jeff Cassar’s team is 4-1-2, with its only loss a 1-0 at top-ranked LA. (10-4-9)
source:  3 UP 1 Sporting Kansas City: “They’re not playing like the fourth-best team in the league, but we’re giving them the benefit of the doubt.” Turned out the long view was the right one. Though they’re coming off a 3-0 loss at Vancouver, Sporting’s not the first Eastern Conference team to look out of their element on BC Place’s pool table. KC’s still in its conference. (11-6-6)
source:  4 DOWN 1 Seattle Sounders: “Where the Cascadia Cup is concerned, Saturday’s point may prove a valuable one,” we said after a draw in Vancouver. With the team’s recent struggles, Cascadia Cup’s a secondary concern. Though the two-game losing streak the Sounders carried into Sunday’s match is over, the team still has yet to regain its form. (13-6-2)
source:  5 UP 8 FC Dallas: “Dallas got a point from two tough road games, but the team’s winless run is now seven.” After losing its next game (to San Jose, Jun. 1), FCD has gone on an eight-match unbeaten run. It’d be too much to call them title contenders, but returning to healthy, Dallas is the best of the next group. (10-7-6)
source:  6 Vancouver Whitecaps: “For as well as they played on Saturday, the Whitecaps should have taken full points.” It’s a refrain that’s been repeated over the last month, with Vancouver drawing four of its last five. Sunday’s win, however, should restore some confidence. (7-4-11)
source:  7 D.C. United: “Ben Olsen’s team is clearly not one of the league’s best, but they’ve shown an ability to compete with them.” Can we say the same now? The record says one thing, but losses at Houston and Real Salt Lake say another. Just went we convinced ourselves D.C. wouldn’t come back to earth, they decide to defy expectations once more. (11-7-4)
source:  8 Toronto FC: “With 10 men, the Reds came back to claim a point on the road against the defending champs,” with similar resiliency guiding them to three points on Saturday in Columbus. Though it has the talent to be higher, this is a team that’s never made the playoffs. First things first. (9-7-5)
source:  9 San Jose Earthquakes: “Mark Watson made the tough decision to try a midfield without Sam Cronin – a choice that’s paying off.” Since, Cronin has moved back into the team, with mixed results. What hasn’t been mixed is the play of players like Yannick Djaló, Shea Salinas, Matías Perez Garcia, and Chris Wondolowski. The new-look attack is allowing San Jose to live off the counter. (6-8-6)
source:  10 UP 6 Portland Timbers: “A much-needed win for the Timbers gave Portland hope its luck is starting to change.” Thanks to a more dependable defense, the Timbers haven’t needed luck. The only blemish in the team’s last four games came in Los Angeles against the Galaxy. (7-7-9)
source:  11 UP 7 Philadelphia Union: “Five goals to New England. Four to the Galaxy. Looks like that win in Kansas City was a pure fluke.” Since then, Jim Curtin has replaced John Hackworth, with a defense built around Ethan White and Maurice Edu addressing the team’s biggest flaw. With Carlos Valdés’s return this weekend, Union fans have reason to believe the team can hold its playoff spot. (6-8-9)
source:  12 DOWN 2 New York Red Bulls: “Ultimately, against one of the more mistaken-prone defenses in the league (Portland), they couldn’t muster an open play goal.” The problem has resurfaced over the last five games, where the team’s only win (and, only multi-goal performance) came against New England. (6-7-10)
source:  13 DOWN 2 Columbus Crew: “Despite snapping an eight-game winless run, there was still a “par for the course” quality about Federico Higuaín picking apart Chicago.” Unfortunately, Columbus has failed to develop a second trick. If it wasn’t for a hand ball and a misjudged cross, Saturday’s 3-2 loss would have been much worse. (6-8-9)

source:

14 Colorado Rapids: “Four goals (against Montréal), however, gives us reason to think the attack may come around.” To a certain extent, that happened this summer, but when Deshorn Brown and Vicente Sánchez missed time, the team seemed to lose its rhythm. Three losses in a row have dropped the Rapids out of the West’s top five. (8-9-6)
source:  15 Chicago Fire: “Does Frank Yallop expect to compete for the playoffs with this back line?” Apparently not, though we’ll need to see more of the Jeff Larentowicz experiment before passing judgment. On Saturday, it was two key plays from Bakary Soumaré that helped get the team back into the win column. (4-5-13)
source:  16 DOWN 15 New England Revolution: “Five wins in a row and a seven-game unbeaten run have put the Revs in a position where one loss might not take them out of the top spot.” How about 10 losses? That’s how many times New England has fallen since the our last ranking. (8-12-2)
source:  16 UP 1 Chivas USA: “An off week for the Goats allows Wilmer Cabrera’s team to take advantage of the Union’s struggles.” Shortly there after, Chivas started a climb up the standings, one that would have moved them into the top 10 on this chart. On Saturday in Portland, however, the Goats were their May selves. (6-11-5)
source:  18 DOWN 6 Houston Dynamo: “Two poor performances would justify a bigger drop if somebody below this mark impressed.” Over the last two months, almost every team in the league was more impressive than the Dynamo. With DaMarcus Beasley and Luis Garrido in the team, we know there are better things to come. We just need to see those things on the field. (6-12-4)
source:  19 Montréal Impact: “The Impact’s establishing the type of profile you see with truly hopeless teams.” Turns out, some things weren’t that difficult to figure out. (3-14-5)

State of the League: Garber addresses expansion, Beckham Miami and more

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 09:  Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber talks during day four of the Soccerex - Manchester Convention at Manchester Central on September 9, 2015 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Daniel Smith/Getty Images)
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As Major League Soccer gears up for Saturday night’s massive final in Toronto, league commissioner Don Garber addressed the media in the buildup with his annual State of the League address on Friday.

[ MORE: 3 key battles to watch in Saturday’s MLS Cup final ]

Among the topics discussed were expansion, the demise of NASL and what MLS is doing to attract younger players to United States.

[ MORE: Copa America trip helped convince Lodeiro to make MLS move ]

As it has been in the past, expansion was the biggest discussion on the docket, with Garber stating that next week will likely determine a timeline for the league’s next entries.

“As you probably know it is strategic expansion,” Garber said during Friday’s MLS State of the League address. “Following our board meeting on Thursday in New York, we will announce a process and a timeline for our next round of expansion, which will add clubs 25, 26, 27 and 28 to Major League Soccer.”

David Beckham’s Miami franchise is currently tabbed as the league’s 24th entry, following Minnesota and Atlanta in 2017 and Los Angeles FC in 2018, however, the future of Beckham’s project remains very much up in the air.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

In the event that Miami is passed over, there are plenty of teams waiting in the wings to claim its spot. Sacramento, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Detroit and San Diego are among the many destinations currently vying for entry into MLS, however, Sacramento and Cincinnati remain very high on the list after seeing recent success and growth in USL.

“There is a deadline on the Miami deal. I am not going to share that deadline, it is an agreement we have with David and (his business partner) Simon Fuller,” Garber said in regards to the Miami plans.

“But … we need to resolve the Miami situation so that we can go forward with our expansion plans for (expansion) teams 25-28 because they are team 24 and if they are not going to be 24 there are going to be a lot of things that need to move around and it is something we will discuss at our board meeting.”

When Garber was asked about the decline of NASL and particularly the status of the New York Cosmos and whether MLS would ever consider allowing the franchise to join, he stated that the league has no intentions of adding a third New York/New Jersey team.

“As it relates to the Cosmos, it’s a great brand,” said Garber. “We have two teams in MLS in New York. We are not going to have a third team.”

Additionally, Garber also noted that the league has no intentions of changing the MLS playoff format or adding an additional Designated Player spot for each club’s disposal. However, the commissioner did confirm that teams will see an increase of $400,000 each in target allocation money (TAM) in 2017, bringing the total per club up to $1.2 million.

Former Real midfielder Ze Roberto signs new contract at 42

SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 12:  Ze Roberto (R) of Palmeiras fights for the ball with Giovanni Augusto (L) of Corinthians during the match between Palmeiras and Corinthians for the Brazilian Series A 2016 at Allianz Parque on June 12, 2016 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.  (Photo by Friedemann Vogel/Getty Images)
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Apparently 42 is the new 22. At least that is one Brazilian’s point of view.

[ MORE: Man City without Aguero, Fernandinho vs. Leicester ]

Former Real Madrid and Bayern Munich midfielder Ze Roberto has signed a new contract with Brazilian club Palmeiras at the age of 42.

[ MORE: Everton, Watford meet with both clubs struggling of late ]

In his time in Europe, Ze Roberto won a UEFA Champions League title with Real Madrid, while also capturing various championships with Bayern, including four Bundesliga titles in his time in Germany.

Ze Roberto played a key role in Palmeiras’ Campeonato Brasileiro title in 2016 and has appeared in 53 matches for the club since joining in 2015.

“My biggest motivation has always been the project. The goals have been achieved – winning the Copa do Brasil title last year and now the Brasileirao,” Ze Roberto said in a statement.

“When I arrived, I said that I would not be coming to pass the time, but to become part of the history of this club, to see my picture in the dressing room. This has been accomplished and I am very happy.

The 42-year-old had a successful 12-year international career with his native Brazil from 1995 to 2006, which included six goals in 84 caps for the five-time World Cup champions. With the national team, Ze Roberto hoisted two Copa America titles for Brazil in 1997 and 2005.

Report: Atlanta United to sign Jamaican attacker Romario Williams

MONTREAL, QC - MARCH 28:  Romario Williams #17 of the Montreal Impact walks towards the play during the MLS game against the Orlando City SC at the Olympic Stadium on March 28, 2015 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  The game between Orlando City SC and the Montreal Impact ended in a 2-2 draw.  (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
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Atlanta has already made some big splashes this offseason as the club prepares to join MLS in 2017, but the Eastern Conference side could be adding another attacker to its already deep bunch.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

According to Metro New York, Atlanta is poised to sign Jamaican international Romario Williams, who was originally drafted to MLS in 2015 by the Montreal Impact.

Williams will reportedly be exchanged for allocation money after having made just two senior appearances for the Impact since joining the club two seasons ago. The 22-year-old has spent two separate loan spells in USL with FC Montreal and more recently with the Charleston Battery.

In 2016, Williams netted 10 goals in 27 appearances for the Battery.

In addition to his club duties, Williams has represented Jamaica at the Under-17 and U-23 teams before reaching senior team in 2016.

3 key battles to watch in MLS Cup final

(Photo credit: Left: Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP | Right: AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Left: Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP | Right: AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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One club will make history on Saturday night north of the border as Toronto FC and the Seattle Sounders vie for their first MLS Cup title.

[ MORE: PST roundtable discusses key topics ahead of MLS Cup ]

While both teams enter the final in fine form, PST takes a look at which players and matchups will influence the game’s outcome the most.

Osvaldo Alonso vs. Michael Bradley

It may not be the sexiest matchup in terms of watching but these two midfielders have a lot in common other than their lack of hair. In addition to his three goals and four assists during the regular season, Alonso has been the heart and soul of the Sounders midfield for several years, particularly in 2016. Meanwhile, Bradley has had a similarly strong season for TFC as he anchors the midfield.

Both teams feature strong backlines and some of the league’s top attackers, but these two players certainly provide stability in the midfield, which will be vital in the frigid conditions at BMO Field on Saturday night.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

Jordan Morris vs. TFC backline

The story of the Sounders in 2016 is that of a fairytale, but the one of Jordan Morris might be even more intriguing if he and his side goes on to win MLS Cup. All in one calendar year, Morris can potentially be an NCAA champion, MLS Rookie of the Year and MLS Cup champion, a feat that seems pretty incredible when considering what the Sounders have endured in 2016.

Morris will likely have his chances against the TFC, which gave away several clear-cut opportunities to the Impact in the East final, but he’ll have to capitalize for the Sounders in order for them to win it all.

Sebastian Giovinco vs. Sounders backline

It’s easier said than done to try and contain the Italian striker but that’s what the Sounders will have to do in order to hoist the title. Although the emergence of Jozy Altidore has greatly helped the TFC attack and Giovinco, in particular, so that opposition can’t solely zone in on him, Giovinco remains the top threat for the hosts. Giovinco notched 17 goals and added 15 assists in 2016, meaning he’s not only a danger in front of goal but also a worry for the Sounders when it comes to playing the role of provider.

With Altidore’s emergence as of late it makes the challenge of stopping Giovinco all the more difficult, but the Sounders will likely have to keep at least two bodies around the Italian at times in order to throw him off of his game. Otherwise it could be a very long night for the Cascadia side, who likely watched as TFC put up five goals at home against the Montreal Impact in their Eastern Conference final second leg.