Omar Gonzalez

PST’s Major League Soccer Power Rankings – The faith-destroying edition

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Last week’s list sent a small tremor through our pecking order, with two teams who’ve been overlooked for much of the Power Rankings season claiming the PRs’ top two spots. Rewarding our faith, both Dallas and D.C. United lost their next games, affirming the truism beneath each of these posts: Power Rankings just don’t matter.

They do, however, provide insight into how one person sees the league, making the term “faith” even more meaningful. Last week, my faith went to a Dallas team who had just beaten RSL. This week, FCD lost at four-win Chicago.

Last week, I practically apologized to D.C. United for overlooking them the entire season. Ben Olsen proceeded to rotate his squad for a mid-week visit to StubHub, losing 4-1 to the Galaxy in Carson.

That means, for the second week in a row, there’s a shake up at the top, but with Real Salt Lake, Seattle, and (especially) Sporting Kansas City failing to flash a front runner’s form, the decision at the top was an easy one.

First stop on this week’s rankings, Los Angeles:

MORE: Last Week’s Power Rankings | Methodology



1 UP 2 LA Galaxy: The Galaxy have outscored their opponents 12-1 over their last 315 minutes. Following lopsided wins over D.C. United and Chivas USA, there’s little doubt: LA deserves this spot. With the league’s best attack and defense, Bruce Arena’s team has to be favored to claim a third Cup in four seasons.   (13-5-7)
source:  2 DOWN 1 FC Dallas: Another week, the loss at Chicago would have sent FCD crashing, but with few others in last week’s top six impressing, the bigger picture wins out. Amid Saturday’s slip in Bridgeview, Dallas is still a team that’s lost one of its last 11, and while falling to one of the league’s worst teams hints that form is waning, we’ll wait for more evidence before casting Dallas back to mid-chart. (12-8-6)
source:  3 DOWN 1 D.C. United: The Black and Red’s mid-week loss was bad, but given Ben Olsen’s decision to rotate his squad, the 4-1 defeat deserves a caveat. Besides, there may be no team in MLS better equipped to pick apart D.C.’s defense than Los Angeles. Instead of being too harsh on United, we’ll give the Galaxy credit. D.C. only gets a small rebuke. (14-8-4)

4 Real Salt Lake: Getting a point on the road would normally recommend a team for a rise, but given the level of competition (a decent San Jose) and the nature of the draw (no open play goals, a fortunate first half penalty whistle), there’s actually reason to drop RSL. Ultimately, nobody did enough to pass Jeff Cassar’s squad.(11-5-10)
source:  5 Seattle Sounders:  Seattle took care of business in its 1-0 win over Colorado, but given its opponent has now lost six in a row, the win amounts to holding serve. That may not be the most flattering description of a team’s form, but when that team is at the top of the standings, there are far worse things than meeting expectations. (15-7-3)
source:  6 UP 1 Columbus Crew:  Early feedback from follower @hyptotheticaloutrage asks “how can a team possibly move up when they lost at Montreal?!?!?!” It’s a great if over-punctuated question. Ultimately, these rankings are relative. A team’s absolute result may have been poor, but their form compared to the league may justify the bump. On Saturday, Columbus took what looked like an embarrassing fall in Montréal, but against an Impact team that played beyond its record, it was an understandable result. It certainly did little to sway what we think about the Crew’s chances going forward. (8-9-9)
source:  7 UP 1 Philadelphia Union: With a week on the sidelines, Philadelphia benefits from one of our favorites’ slides. The Union return to the field this week with a home-and-home against Toronto. (7-9-9)
source:  8 UP 4 Portland Timbers:  The Timbers’ big jump is less a result of their impressive 3-0 at Vancouver than the solutions they found on the field. For the first time this year, Portland kept a clean sheet against a team that’s not owned by the league, and with Rodney Wallace conjuring his 2013 impact, Caleb Porter may have a wide option that can balance his attack. If either of those qualities can stick, Portland should return to the postseason. (8-8-10)
source:  9 DOWN 4 Sporting Kansas City:  Kansas City hasn’t kept a clean sheet since June 27, a fact that would be mere trivia if the back five hadn’t been outright terrible over its last 180 minutes. Six goals allowed at home to D.C. and Houston is either an inexplicable phase or a real problem. Even if it’s only a phase, Sporting’s a mid-rankings club until it’s over. (12-8-6)
source:  10 DOWN 1 New York Red Bulls:  A 2-0 loss at D.C. United was par for the course, considering the form the teams carried into the week. The question is whether the Red Bulls have room for improvement. Is last year’s Supporters’ Shield-winning form lurking in there, somewhere, or is this team more of a mid-table, borderline prospect? The talent on the roster says this is where they belong, but last year’s success fosters lingering hope. (7-8-10)
source:  11 UP 2 New England Revolution: Were it not for the debacle that is Toronto, New England would have risen more, but it’s difficult to look at Saturday’s performance and conclude anything but ‘TFC’s really bad, right now.’ In that light, the Revs get the wait-and-see treatment, even amid their improving results. (10-12-3)
source:  12 UP 3 Houston Dynamo: Like New England, Houston would have vaulted higher it is wasn’t for the opposition. Although winning at Sporting can never be taken for granted, KC’s performance against D.C. showed the defending champions are struggling. Credit to the Dynamo: They took advantage of that lull. (8-13-4)
source:  13 UP 1 San Jose Earthquakes:  As has been the case most of the season, San Jose is better than most people acknowledge. And as has been the case most of the season, that performance produced a middling result. One point against Real Salt Lake shows the Earthquakes can compete with anybody at home, but lodged near the bottom of the Western Conference, San Jose needed a better result. (6-10-8)
source:  14 DOWN 4 Vancouver Whitecaps: Let me drag out this dead horse to remind people why Vancouver may be struggling to score goals … Darren Mattocks or Erik Hurtado? Who knows. Sebastian Fernandez or Kekuta Manneh? Again, who knows. Mauro Rosales: Starter or sub? Who. Even. Knows. Twenty-five games into the season, Carl Robinson has only made one concrete decision in attack. At some point, he has to decide who’s going to complement Pedro Morales. (7-6-12)
source:  15 UP 3 Chicago Fire: A deserved win against our ranking’s former number one gave Chicago reason to look beyond Jermaine Jones. With Robert Earnshaw providing goals off the bench, the team may have a way to turn a plague of close games into an occasional victory. This team’s still only four points out. (5-6-14)
source:  16 UP 3 Montréal Impact:  Frank Klopas’s decision to install Andrés Romero, Dilly Duka and Ignacio Piatti in attacking midfield (moving Felipe Martins to a deeper role) has made Montréal into a totally different team. In contrast to most of the season, they’re actually dangerous, capable of creating chances that don’t rely on Marco Di Vaio. If this team continues to improve, it could be a spoiler, going forward. Plus, there’s always CONCACAF Champions League. (5-15-5)
source:  17 DOWN 6 Toronto FC: In the wake of Sunday’s decision to fire Ryan Nelsen, the TFC meltdown has been well documented. Perhaps not discussed enough: Ryan Nelsen was holding the team back. Though it’s risky to replace a coach at this point of the season, Saturday’s result left Tim Bezbatchenko few options. Keeping Nelsen would have hoisted a white flag over what was supposed to be a breakthrough season. (9-9-6)


18 DOWN 1 Colorado Rapids: Pablo Mastroeni touted the positives in Saturday’s performance, but it still wasn’t good. Though a 1-0 loss at Seattle hints the defense was improved, the Sounders could have scored more in the second half. Once the West’s leaders woke up, Colorado looked like the team that’s accumulated six straight losses. (8-12-6)
source:  19 DOWN 3 Chivas USA:  For the last few weeks, we’ve been giving Chivas the benefit of the doubt, with the Goats’ 0-0 draw with Vancouver used us reason to slow their fall. After Vancouver’s collapse to Portland and Chivas’s lopsided loss to the Galaxy, there are no more excuses. Wilmer Cabrera’s is the worst team in Major League Soccer. (6-13-6)

Manchester City defeat a “cruel” reminder for Hull City’s Bruce

BRISTOL, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 21: Hull City Manager Steve Bruce during the Sky Bet Championship match between Bristol City and Hull City at Ashton Gate on November 21, 2015 in Bristol, England.  (Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images)
Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images
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For nearly 90 percent of Hull City’s League Cup quarterfinal against Manchester City, the Tigers hung tough.

A 1-0 deficit made dreams of an Etihad equalizer far from absurd, and Hull had to be thinking about the possibility of another extended Cup run after making it to the 2014 FA Cup Final.

[ MORE: League Cup roundup sees Man City, Stoke, Everton advance ]

Then, the 80th minute hit Hull. Seven minutes later, it was 4-0 Man City. Boom. It finished 4-1.

From the BBC:

“If we needed a reminder how cruel it was to play against the big boys, we just had one.

“After 80 minutes we just had our best spell of the match and after 87 minutes it was 4-0. It was never a 4-1.”

Hull is three points off the lead in the Championship after being relegated from the Premier League last season. Their only loss since Sept. 12 came Saturday against Derby County, so the gifts of Man City were likely a surprise.

With loads of genuine respect to Bruce and complete understanding of what he’s inferring, it did feel more like a 4-1 than the 1-0 his Tigers faced for 68 minutes after Wilfried Bony‘s 12th minute tally.

What would it mean for MLS if Portland wins it all on Sunday?

Fanendo Adi, Portland Timbers
AP Photo/The Oregonian, Randy Rasmussen
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It’s a tricky question, isn’t it? Would there be an underlying thread, a lesson, or a copycat inspiration inside of Portland scoring a minor upset of Columbus at MAPFRE Stadium on Sunday?

Here are some thoughts on the storylines from a post-Timbers title.

1) Stick with the boss

Caleb Porter’s reputation is rather “hate or love”, and people (including this “perhaps still bitter from the Olympics” writer) were expecting his days to be numbered after a rough start to this season.

In his first year in PDX, Porter engineered a 20-point upgrade to the West’s No. 1 slot, but Year Two featured no playoffs and it looked headed that way for much of this year.

[ MORE: USMNT back Alvarado on Club America’s transfer list? ]

But after leaping into control of its playoff destiny with a game to play, Porter now has a Conference Final and an MLS Cup Final (at least) on his resume inside of three seasons.

Where other teams have gone through coaches like candy, Portland keeps going with Porter. Perhaps there’s a lesson there, as in 102 games he’s posted 41 wins and 36 draws to go with just 25 losses (and he was missing Will Johnson and Diego Valeri for the critical moments of his bum season).

2) Spend* at the back, and spread it out

Portland spent the league’s 10th highest total dollars on players when including Designated Players, but that total leaps to sixth if you discount the big money guys (Liam Ridgewell, Lucas Melano, Diego Valeri).

You have to get to 19th on the list of top MLS salaries to find Portland’s first entrant (Ridgewell), and you don’t hit another until No. 33 (Fanendo Adi).

[ MLS: Impact to sign 96-times capped Ivorian defender? ]

But Portland has six players in the Top 100, compared to Columbus’ four. High-end spenders NYC (five players), Toronto (four), and L.A. (four) all don’t hit that figure inside of the Top 100 (and to be specific, Portland does in 98).

They also rank ninth in spending on forwards, 14th on midfielders, and third in defenders. Of the 15 players making more than 100k in base salary, four are defenders and one is goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey.

All numbers come from Spotrac*

3) Get Darlington Nagbe

This will be harder to copycat, seeing as there’s only one Darlington Nagbe, but the Timbers’ midfielder is versatile and helps Porter challenge opposing coaches because of the unpredictable nature of how he can be deployed on the pitch.

In fact, when you run numbers on advanced statistics site Squawka, you’ll see something quite interesting. Among players who hit the pitch in at least 2/3 of their teams’ games this season, Nagbe is fourth in MLS in combined score. More intriguing? Besides Michael Bradley, he’s the most complete contributor (offense, defense, possession) of any top scorer.

[ MORE:  Who is the favorite for MLS Cup 2015? ]

Nagbe stats4) Parity continues to reign

For the same reason people barely celebrate the NHL’s Presidents Trophy, the MLS Supporters Shield is a bit of a fallback party for fan bases who fail to capitalize on a season’s worth of solid play.

In much of world soccer, the season-long title matter more than a tournament, but North America is about the playoffs. The fact of the matter is that only one team in MLS this season finished more than four wins out of a playoff spot (Chicago), and most teams that missed the playoffs by a bunch (New York City, Colorado, Real Salt Lake, Houston), earned their gaps off the playoff pace by losing a lot once they were officially eliminated.

Even Chicago, who was awful, had a shot at the playoffs when August ended, only to lose seven of eight to finish the season. MLS, for better or worse, literally is anyone’s ball game at nearly any time.

League Cup roundup: Man City, Everton, Stoke knock off Championship clubs

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 01: Wilfried Bony of Manchester City celebrates scoring the opening goal during the Capital One Cup Quarter Final match between Manchester City and Hull City at Etihad Stadium on December 1, 2015 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Chris Brunskill/Getty Images)
Photo by Chris Brunskill/Getty Images
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There will be no lower league wonder story in the League Cup semifinals.

Southampton and Liverpool’s marquee matchup in the quarterfinals of the League Cup will hit your screens on Wednesday, but three other Premier League teams booked their spots in the semis with Tuesday wins.

[ REPORT: Club America transfer lists USMNT’s Alvarado ]

Man City last won the League Cup in 2013, while Stoke last won in 1972 and Everton has never hoisted the Football League Cup. As for Wednesday’s quarterfinalists, Southampton’s last League Cup final came in 1979, while Liverpool most recently won in 2012.

MIDDLESBROUGH, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 01: Romelu Lukaku (L) of Everton celebrates scoring during their Capital One Cup Quarter Final at Riverside Stadium on December 1, 2015 in Middlesbrough, England. (Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images)
(Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images)

Middlesbrough 0-2 Everton

The Toffees got two goals in eight first-half minutes, with Gerard Deulofeu scoring a goal off a magnetic dribble and shot in the 20th minute and Romelu Lukaku adding another in the 28th.

Manchester City 4-1 Hull City

Steve Bruce‘s Tigers still have plenty of power from last season’s relegation campaign, and planted men behind the ball in hopes of springing an upset on Manchester City. The defense was broken in the first half by Wilfried Bony after just 12 minutes. Kelechi Iheanacho scored late, before Kevin De Bruyne put home two more. Andrew Robertson provided late consolation for Hull.

Stoke City 2-0 Sheffield Wednesday

The Potters got a wonderful left-footed volley goal from Ibrahim Afellay on the half-hour, and that was about all they’d need against the visiting Owls. Phil Bardsley hammered in a low free kick late to insure and ensure the victory.

Report says Club America transfer lists USMNT back Alvarado

Ventura Alvarado - Club America
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Could Ventura Alvarado be leaving Club America? And where would the young USMNT defender go?, citing a Mexican web report, says Alvarado has been transfer listed by Club America after making just 7 appearances during the Apertura season.

Alvarado, 23, has earned 13 caps for the U.S. (all in 2015), but his performances have been uneven for country since debuting in late March. A dual national, he was cap-tied during the Gold Cup.

[ MORE: Impact to sign 96-times capped Ivorian defender? ]

Given that status, will he be attractive to other Liga MX clubs? Could he fit the plans of an MLS club? At age 23 and without consistent playing time for club, could a European stop be in the mix?

Transfermarkt estimates his value to about $1.6 million, and he comes with valuable international and CONCACAF Champions League experience. It will be interesting to see his destination, should the reports be true, as we continue to weigh what it means to be a U.S. international on the world stage.