PST’s Major League Soccer Power Rankings – The Benefit of Mid-Week Edition

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I could get used to this: Waiting until after the mid-week games to do Power Rankings. Not only does it help with our weekend previews (we love noting where the teams are in our rankings) but it gives us more information. Instead of cramming in the weekend results, trying to turn that around as quickly as possible, we get some time to reflect, hear some explanations, and get some more perspective. Ah, room to think.

Not that it necessarily helps. An exercise like this is always a bit frivolous, but at least we had Wednesday’s result in Colorado to keep us from over thinking LA’s weekend aberration. At least we had San Jose’s showing in Seattle to reenforce what we saw in Salt Lake from the Sounders. Is more information ever a bad thing?

In the wrong hands, perhaps. We’ll let you judge how ably we used our few nuggets. Here’s this week’s version of our “MLS PRs”:

MORE: Last Week’s Power Rankings | Methodology

RANKING
Up/Down

1 UP 1 Real Salt Lake: Saturday’s 2-1 win over visiting Seattle ended closer than it played. Though the Sounders are going through their own (strangely familiar) set of troubles, the degree to which RSL controlled a very talented team was eye-opening. Only a momentary meltdown in defense kept the scoreline from matching the underlying performance. (11-4-9)
source:  2 UP 1 Sporting Kansas City: The other team that has a case for number one, Sporting Kansas City shook off their Vancouver worries with an impressive win over visiting Toronto. Though the 4-1 final may have flattered to deceive, it was still a statement, one that would have vaulted the champs to number one had they not lost 2-0 the week before. (12-6-6)
source:  3 UP 2 FC Dallas: A team with this version of Fabián Castillo can beat anybody. You don’t have to be better. You don’t even necessarily have to be good. All you need is for Castillo to find some open space. The fact that Dallas is, in fact, good beyond Castillo leads to results like last Saturday’s, a 5-0 landslide in Santa Clara. (11-7-6)

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4 DOWN 3 LA Galaxy: After reaching number one in our rankings last week, Los Angeles proceeded to lose 4-1 at Columbus and fall behind 3-1 in Colorado. In Wednesday’s second half, the real Galaxy came through with three goals, saving Bruce Arena’s team from a steep fall on this week’s chart. (10-5-7)
source:  5 DOWN 1 Seattle Sounders: With one point in two games, Seattle could justify a bigger drop, particularly given their point came in a home draw to San Jose. Still, there’s a deference you give to a team with this much talent, one you suspect can put it together if they had to win a game tomorrow. Given their recent form (as well as past playoff experiences), that may be too deferential. (13-7-3)
source:  6 UP 1 D.C. United: After a four-goal performance against Colorado, D.C. has a claim to take Seattle’s spot. The only problem: It was against Colorado; at home, nonetheless. At this point, that’s an obligatory win. (12-7-4)
source:  7 DOWN 1 Vancouver Whitecaps: Carl Robinson’s team probably deserved a bigger fall after failing to pick up full points at Chivas USA, but nobody directly behind them stepped up. Unbeaten in six, Vancouver has some claim to staying above teams that can’t avoid bigger stumbles. Eight points in six games isn’t enough, though – not if they plan on staying ahead of Portland. (7-4-12)
source:  8 Toronto and Columbus: On form alone, Columbus should be above Toronto. Columbus beat the ranking’s No. 1 team, 4-1, while Toronto lost by the same score at Kansas City. But we’ve seen these teams head-to-head too often (and with the same, repeated result), we know which one is better. At least, it’s going to take more the one week’s results to convince me Columbus can take Toronto on a neutral field. (TFC: 9-8-5; Crew: 7-8-9)
source:  9 UP 4
source:  10 Portland Timbers: A road draw at New England wasn’t the worst outcome, though it would have been more impressive had the struggling Revolution not looked genuinely capable during parts of the match. Though it’s a better result than Colorado got during a recent visit to Gillette, it still felt like points dropped, particularly for a team needing to scrounge every result to return to the playoffs. (7-7-10)
source:  11 UP 1 New York Red Bulls: A much-needed bye week for set of worn wheels. As with most teams given the week off, New York regressed to the mean. Slightly. (6-7-10)
source:  12 DOWN 1 Philadelphia Union: Jim Curtin’s team managed to make the Dynamo look good, a rarity partially explained by the team’s quick turnaround. After 120 minutes last Tuesday in Dallas, the Union could be forgiven an off night in Houston. (6-9-9)
source:  13 DOWN 4 San Jose Earthquakes: Wednesday’s result was a good one, but Seattle left that game close enough to steal. The more telling result was the weekend’s 5-0 loss to Dallas. In hindsight, it seems like a terrible matchup, but not all terrible matchups end 5-0. San Jose saw that mismatch and raised it a horrible performance. (6-9-7)
source:  14 UP 4 Houston Dynamo: Sure, Philadelphia wasn’t at its best, but Houston showed signs of putting things together. The midfield looked strong, the attack clicked, and the defense kept a rare clean sheet. Progress, for now, is all Dynamo fans can ask for, and on Friday, that’s what they got. (7-12-4)
source:  15 UP 1 Chivas USA: Wilmer Cabrera’s team isn’t quite the pushover we’ve made them out to be, but having dealt Mauro Rosales to Vancouver, the team may have to rely on more 0-0s to collect their points. How is Chivas going to get Erick Torres the ball? (6-11-6)
source:  16 New England Revolution: Just like Portland, New England should see last Saturday’s game as a missed opportunity. At home, against a team outside the West’s top five — one with one of the worst defenses, statistically, in the league — the Revs should have expected full points. They should have expected a turnaround – another home win against a visitor from the west coast. Instead, the team stumbled, albeit in a more muted fashion than it did earlier this summer. (8-12-3)

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17 DOWN 3 Colorado Rapids: Two games, eight more goals conceded, and the Rapids are free-falling, with a defensive record that suddenly rivals the Timbers’. Without Drew Moor, and with Shane O’Neill’s return uncertain, the offseason loss of Óscar Pareja looms large. Pablo Mastroeni has gone a good job, but we’re starting to get reminders that this is his first year on the job.  (8-11-6)
source:  18 UP 1 Montréal Impact: I’m not sure there’s much more to say about Saturday’s win. The Impact didn’t necessarily improved. They just happened to be playing a team that was on their level. Thanks to a one errant clearance and the finishing of Marco Di Vaio, that was enough to get them back into the win column, but Chicago was the only team Montréal could have beaten with Saturday’s performance.   (4-14-5)
source:  19 DOWN 4 Chicago Fire: Just when you think things can’t get more depressing in Chicago: a 6-0 loss in a cup semifinal; a 1-0 loss to (what was) the league’s worst team; and this continued courtship of Jermaine Jones that’s starting to look a little desperate. The best thing that’s happened to this team all season was Mike Magee’s movie spoof. (4-6-13)

WATCH: Video Assistant calls back Griezmann goal

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France and Spain used the Video Assistant Referee program on Tuesday in a friendly, and the French likely rue that decision.

Antoine Griezmann had an incorrectly allowed goal reverse for offside, while Gerard Deulofeu saw an initially ruled offside goal allowed upon review in Spain’s 2-0 win over France.

[ MORE: Bolivia stuns Messi-less Argentina ]

Here’s an example, as Griezmann’s barely offside goal was overturned in less than a minute (Both calls took less than a minute to decide):

At the risk of sounding like a caveman, I really don’t like these razor thin offside calls being subject to review.

When you consider the improbability of timing the moment of contact with the ball — how many times have you seen a freeze frame conveniently used to make a case? — it just seems to mess with the spirit of sport.

What do you think?

Bolivia stuns Messi-less Argentina in World Cup qualifying

AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano
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Argentina took steps backward Tuesday in its pursuit of a 2018 World Cup berth, on and off the field.

It started as Lionel Messi was suspended four matches for verbally abusing a referee in Argentina’s Friday win over Chile.

Then La Albiceleste made another move in reverse with a shocking 2-0 loss to Bolivia in La Paz. Argentina started Sergio Aguero, Paulo Dybala, and Ezequiel Lavezzi on the bench in what many presumed to be an easy win.

[ MORE: Three keys for USA v Panama ] 

Juan Carlos Arce and Marcelo Martins scored as ninth-place La Verde picked up its third win of qualifying with a win over powerful Argentina.

The bad news kept coming for Argentina (and Everton), as Ramiro Funes Mori left the match in the 36th minute with injury.

Bolivia will finish the international break at least 10 points back of the playoff spot, while Argentina could finish as low as that fifth-place spot.

STREAM: CONCACAF tripleheader concludes with USMNT

AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell
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CONCACAF’s bottom three sides in the Hex standings look to make the table incredibly tight as World Cup qualifying finds three-straight matches on the docket beginning at 5 p.m. EDT.

Honduras vs. Costa Rica

Los Catrachos were creamed 6-0 by the U.S. on Friday, and return home hoping a wounded Costa Rica remains vulnerable. Honduras is dead last on goal differential, but three points would be huge and put them level with Los Ticos. Costa Rica won its first two matches before falling to Mexico on Friday.

Trinidad and Tobago vs. Mexico

El Tri has two wins and a draw from their first three Hex matches, and will be without Rafa Marquez on Tuesday. A win guarantees Mexico the top spot heading into the next round of matches in June. The Soca Warriors surprised some with their 1-0 win over visiting Panama on Tuesday. Mexico is a different class.

Panama vs. USMNT

Despite its miserable start, the U.S. can find itself as high as second with a win and help from Honduras. The injuries remain plenty for the Yanks, who are without Fabian Johnson, Bobby Wood, Sebastian Lletget, and John Brooks. Panama has allowed just a single goal through three Hex matches, but also has only managed one.

AFC and Oceania wrap: Iran, New Zealand take next steps

Photo by Amin M. Jamali/Getty Images
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With CONMEBOL and CONCACAF serving as the main course later Tuesday, the morning and afternoon saw big World Cup qualifiers on the other side of the world.

[ MORE: Three keys for USA v Panama ] 

Asian qualifying

Iran is on the verge of qualification for Russia 2018 after Persepolis star Mehdi Taremi bagged his ninth international goal in a 1-0 home win over China.

Iran leads Group A by four points, but second-place South Korea and third-place Uzbekistan kept pace with 1-0 home wins of their own. Hong Jeong-ho scored in South Korea’s win over Syria, while Odil Ahmendov’s 65th minute free kick was enough to push Uzbekistan past Qatar.

The goalkeeping was… less than ideal.

Over in Group B, shutouts were the name of the game for high-powered hosts as well.

Japan stayed atop the group with a 4-0 win over Thailand, as a trio of players with Premier League experience — Maya Yoshida, Shinji Kagawa, and Shinji Okazaki — joined Gent’s Yuya Kubo on the scoreboard.

Saudi Arabia is level with Japan on points thanks to Yahya Al-Shehri’s post-halftime goal in a 1-0 win over Iraq, while Australia saw off United Arab Emirates thanks to goals from Burton Albion’s Jackson Irvine and Ingolstadt’s Mathew Leckie.

That leaves Australia three points behind Saudi Arabia and Japan in the race for two of three automatic spots. The Socceroos hosts the Green Falcons in June before an August trip to Saitama in a pair of matches which will decide who goes directly to Russia and who has to win a pair of playoffs: One against the Group A’s third-place team and another against CONCACAF’s fourth place side.

Oceania qualifying

New Zealand took the next step in collecting Oceania’s berth in the intercontinental playoff with a 2-0 win over Fiji in Wellington. PEC Zwolle winger Ryan Thomas bagged a brace for the All Whites.

New Zealand will next face either Tahiti, Solomon Islands, or Papua New Guinea over two legs in late August and early September for the right to battle the fifth place CONMEBOL team for a World Cup berth. That could be Ecuador, Chile, Paraguay, or even Colombia.

Tahiti hosts Papua New Guinea at 1 a.m. EDT Wednesday, and will be the odds-on favorite to face New Zealand with a win.