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)

MLS Snapshot: Toronto FC 1-1 Philadelphia Union (video)

Toronto FC's Jozy Altidore, center, shields the ball from Philadelphia Union's Richie Marquez, left, as Ken Tribbett looks on during first half MLS soccer action in Toronto on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP)
Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP
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The game in 100 words (or less): Another week goes by, and the world remains clueless with regard to the top three places in MLS’s Eastern Conference. Toronto FC entered the weekend with a two-point lead on the New York Red Bulls and New York City FC; then, NYCFC won big on Friday to go a point ahead. With RBNY still to face the Montreal Impact on Saturday, all three sides could finish the weekend on 48 points, a three-way tie atop the East, following TFC’s 1-1 draw with the Philadelphia Union at BMO Field. The home side went down a goal in the first half, via Alejandro Bedoya’s firt MLS goal — a chipped beauty (WATCH HERE) — before Justin Morrow played the role of unlikely hero, snatching TFC’s equalizer in the 70th minute. Saturday’s game marked TFC’s third without Sebastian Giovinco (quad/adductor injuries). TFC have won five of a possible nine points without the reigning — soon-to-be-back-to-back? — MLS MVP.

[ MORE: Playoff Picture — 4 teams can clinch playoff berth this weekend ]

Three Four moments that mattered

25′ — Bedoya chips Irwin for 1-0 — It was just about the most difficult route to goal, but Bedoya wasn’t fazed one bit. Poor Clint Irwin, he was hardly even off his line. (WATCH HERE)

43′ — Irwin makes the point-blank save on Herbers — Reaction saves from point-blank range don’t get much better than this one by Irwin. Keeping his side in it.

70′ — Morrow slots home to bring TFC level — Jonathan Osorio did brilliantly to keep his composure with ample opportunity to take a difficult shot toward goal. Instead, he played Morrow through, and the full back finished the chance like a world-class striker.

90+3′ — Altidore hacked down in the box, no PK given — Ismail Elfath had long ago swallowed his whistle, apparently, because Jozy Altidore was hacked down inside the penalty area by C.J. Sapong, and TFC were absolutely bewildered by the no-call.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Alejandro Bedoya

Goalscorers: Bedoya (25′), Morrow (70′)

VIDEO: Alejandro Bedoya’s first MLS goal was a delicious chip

Alejandro Bedoya, Philadelphia Union (Photo credit: Philadelphia Union / Twitter: @PhilaUnion)
Photo credit: Philadelphia Union / Twitter: @PhilaUnion
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Good things come to those who wait.

Alejandro Bedoya has been very patient in waiting for his first MLS goal after making his summer transfer to the Philadelphia Union. 547 minutes — not too terribly long, honestly — is all it took the U.S. national team midfielder to bag the first stateside club goal, and it proved more than worth the wait on Saturday.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

Goalkeeper Clint Irwin was precisely 3.5 yards off his line as Bedoya dribbled into space down the right side of the penalty area, 20 yards from goal and closing. At 18 yards out, Bedoya went for goal.

The obvious choice is to put your right foot through the ball, and hit it low and inside the far post. Bedoya had something else — something much more audacious and delightful — on his mind.

Take. A. Bow.

La Liga & Serie A: Real Madrid falter; Barcelona score 5 (again) without Messi

GIJON, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 24:  Luis Suarez of FC Barcelona celebrates with his teammate Neymar of FC Barcelona after scoring the opening goal during the La Liga match between Real Sporting de Gijon and FC Barcelona at Estadio El Molinon on September 24, 2016 in Gijon, Spain.  (Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images)
Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images
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A roundup of Saturday’s action in Spain and Italy’s top flights…

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s La Liga coverage ]

Las Palmas 2-2 Real Madrid

Real Madrid remain top of La Liga, but their lead was reduce from three points to one on Saturday. Up 2-1 heading into the games final 20 minutes, Zinedine Zidane elected to pull Cristiano Ronaldo off the field in the 72nd minute — much to the Portuguese’s displeasure. Zidane then watched as his side conceded an 85th-minute equalizer and ultimately settled for a draw.

Marco Asensio put Los Blancos ahead in the 33rd minute, but Las Palmas answered through Tana in the 38th minute, making it 1-1 at halftime. Karim Benzema scored what looked to be the winner in the 67th minute, but Sergio Araujo pegged the league leaders back once more with five minutes of regular time remaining.

Sporting Gijon 0-5 Barcelona

No Lionel Messi, no problem for Barcelona, who still have those Luis Suarez and Neymar guys. Without the world’s undisputed best player on Saturday, the dynamic duo combined to score three goals — two more than Barca would need on the day — as the Blaugrana scored five or more goals for the third time in six league games this season.

Rafinha and Arda Turan — decent enough players in their own right — bagged the other goals, and just like that, Barca capitalized on the points dropped by Madrid.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Eibar 2-0 Real Sociedad
Athletic Bilbao 3-1 Sevilla

Sunday’s La Liga schedule

Leganes vs. Valencia — 6 a.m. ET
Atletico Madrid vs Deportivo La Coruña — 10:15 a.m. ET
Villarreal vs. Osasuna — 12:30 p.m. ET
Espanyol vs. Celta Vigo — 2:45 p.m. ET


Palermo 0-1 Juventus

Juve won for the fifth time in six games this season, but needed an own goal from Palermo’s Edoardo Goldaniga to do so. The game was scoreless at halftime, before the 22-year-old center back shanked his clearance of Dani Alves’s cross past Josip Posavec and into his own net for the game’s only goal in the 49th minute. That’s 15 points from six games for Juve, who remain top of Serie A by a point.

Napoli 2-0 Chievo

Marek Hamsik and Manolo Gabbiadini scored goals 15 minutes apart in the first half to propel Napoli to their fourth win of the season — to go with a pair of draws — and retain their place as the last remaining unbeaten side in the league. Napoli sit a point back of Juve for the league lead, and four points clear of everyone else alraedy. It’ll be a two-horse race for the title, then.

 

Sunday’s La Liga schedule

Torino vs. Roma — 6:30 a.m. ET
Genoa vs. Pescara — 9 a.m. ET
Inter Milan vs. Bologna — 9 a.m. ET
Lazio vs. Empoli — 9 a.m. ET
Sassuolo vs. Udinese — 9 a.m. ET
Fiorentina vs. AC Milan — 2:45 p.m. ET

PL Sunday preview: West Ham, desperate to end skid, host Southampton

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 21:  Dimitri Payet of West Ham United celebrates scoring his sides first goal during the  EFL Cup Third Round match between West Ham United and Accrington Stanley at the London Stadium on September 21, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images
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The 2016-17 Premier League season wasn’t supposed to be like for West Ham United. After moving into their new home, the repurposed Olympic Stadium in London, this year was meant to be about building on top of last season’s seventh-place finish, which saw them in the top-four race until the final days of the campaign.

[ MORE: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Fast forward four months, and Slaven Bilic‘s men have just one win from five games this season and find themselves 18th in the league table heading into Sunday’s clash with Southampton (Watch live, 11 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com). Home form (one win, one loss) has only been slightly better for the Hammers’ form away from home, where they’re 0-for-3 thus far. Michail Antonio has five goals this season, joint-top in the PL, all of which have been scored via headers.

Early-season fortunes have been only marginally better for Saints, having won five points from their first five games of the season. Manager Claude Puel got his first PL victory last weekend, though, over Swansea City, as his side notched its first clean sheet of the season.

[ MORE: Saturday roundup — Arsenal thrash Chelsea; City, Liverpool win big ]

Following another summer of key departures in the transfer market (Sadio Mane, Victor Wanyama and Graziano Pelle), one can’t help but wonder how many more times the south coast can reload at the top of its squad without a noticeable falling-off, even if for just one season. Through five games, Saints have scored just four goals, including one own goal — Charlie Austin, Nathan Redmond and Jay Rodriguez the scorers. European qualification looks a long way off from 15th place, where they currently stand, and even farther off from Saints’ early-season performances.

INJURIES: West Ham OUT: Andre Ayew (thigh), Andy Carroll (knee), Diafra Sakho (back), Aaron Cresswell (knee) | Southampton OUT: Sofiane Boufal (knee)