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

RANKING
Up/Down

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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)

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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)

Championship Focus: Bluebirds flying, Villa second-last

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The wild 46-game slate that is the Football League Championship is already howling, with all 24 teams three matches deep into their campaigns toward Premier League promotion (or avoiding relegation to League One).

The three clubs relegated from the Premier League last season all sit within the Top 8 after three match days. Sunderland is unbeaten with a win and two draws, while Hull City is 1-1-1.

[ MORE: Barcelona falls to Real… again ]

Middlesbrough has two wins from three matches, three points behind three sides who’ve started a perfect 3-0.

Wolves and Ipswich Town are two of the three, and Cardiff City leads the way. Owner Vincent Tan has seen his club score six goals without conceding once in defeats of Burton Albion, Aston Villa, and Sheffield United.

Burton is 0-3, while Steve Bruce‘s Villa is just one point better and sits 23rd.

As for individual superlatives, Bristol City’s Bobby Reid has four goals to lead the league while familiar names Lewis Grabban (Sunderland) and Abel Hernandez (Hull City) are among a quartet of players to score thrice.

Meanwhile, PL transfer target Jota of Brentford continues to impress with three assists through three matches. Will he remain in the second tier by the close of the transfer window?

MLS Snapshot: Montreal Impact 3-0 Chicago Fire

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The game in 100 words (or less)Ignacio Piatti is very good at soccer, and Chicago backstop Matt Lampson is going to see him deep into his dreams. Piatti beat Lampson up close on a turnover and then, with Montreal ahead 2-0 off a PK, the Argentine curled a surprise shot from distance around the keeper. Game, set, match, and it wasn’t even halftime. The loss keeps Chicago from using its match-in-hand to catch second place New York City FC, while the three points move Montreal to within two points of the East’s final playoff position.

Three moments that mattered

6′ — Piatti starts the party — Gifted a chance with the keeper by a sloppy missed clearing attempt, the Argentine deftly pops the ball over Fire keeper Matt Lampson.

36′ — Lampson hurts his cause — Chicago’s backstop wasn’t at fault on the opening goal, but he was for the second. After chopping down Matteo Mancosu in the box, Lampson guessed wrong on the striker’s penalty kick and the Fire went down 2-0.

38′ — It’s not your night, Lamps — Pretty sure you can anyone named Lampson, Lamps. Anyway, this time it was one of MLS’ top newcomers who set up Piatti for a goal. “Nacho” has his 12th of the season thanks to Blerim Dzemaili, and my goodness did Piatti do well here.

Man of the Match: Piatti.

Forbes ranks the top supporters in Major League Soccer

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Forbes claims the shared honor will give two Cascadia Cup rivals one less thing to argue about, but we completely disagree.

The celebrated magazine says their metrics show the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders tied for the honor of who has the best fans in Major League Soccer.

The post says the determination was made through four factors: attendance, local TV ratings, merchandise sales, and social media followers on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Attendance was weighted heaviest, which certainly gives Atlanta United hope to go charging up the rankings in the future. For now, the “Five Stripes” are not included in the list.

The Galaxy finish third in the rankings, while the sixth-place New York Red Bulls edge New York City FC by one spot.

For the report and full explanation, head here.

Europa League preview: Everton, Milan, Marseille take next steps

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The UEFA Europa League playoff round takes full flight Thursday, a day after Utrecht struck a blow for the Eredivisie with a 1-0 win over Zenit Saint-Petersburg in a Wednesday first leg.

Premier League participants Everton will be seeking a result at home against Hajduk Split, the third-place team from Croatia’s top flight.

Gylfi Sigurdsson passed his medical at Goodison Park but will not be available for Everton on Thursday.

[ MORE: Barcelona falls to Real… again ]

As for the match, manager Ronald Koeman knows the Thursday matchdays for the UEL will try his club’s endurance and depth. From EvertonFC.com:

“We know English teams have some problems. I think it is more mental than physical because if you play in the Champions League – so Wednesday and Saturday – you have the same amount of days to recover. I try to put out the strongest team to start the game. That will take into account the tactical aspects of each game. That will mean different players start and different options in terms of substitutions.”

Captained by Zoran Nizic and managed by Joan Carrillo, Hajduk has a young star in the making in the form of 19-year-old attacking midfielder Nikola Vlasic, but Everton is heavily favored at home with Hajduk given 12:1 odds by bookmakers.

[ MORE: Barca GM says Coutinho, Dembele “close” ]

Those numbers are a relative sure thing compared to AC Milan’s visitors. Macedonia club Shkendija are a 33:1 underdog for its trip to Italy.

Elsewhere, Slovenian side Domzale is a longshot at home to visiting Marseille.

Speaking of bookmakers, Arsenal won’t enter the competition until the group stage but is considered the favorite to win the UEL by a hair over Milan. Everton, Villarreal, and Athletic Bilbao are level with third-best odds.

UEFA Europa League playoff first legs
Utrecht 1-0 Zenit — Weds.
BATE Borisov vs. Oleksandriya — 1 p.m. ET Thursday
Apollon Limassol vs. Midtjylland — 1 p.m.
Krasnodar vs. Red Star Belgrade — 1 p.m.
Dinamo Zagreb vs. Skenderbeu — 1 p.m.
FH vs. Braga — 1:45 p.m. ET Thursday
PAOK vs. Ostersund — 2 p.m. ET Thursday
Vardar vs. Fenerbahce — 2 p.m.
Plzen vs. AEK Lamaca — 2:15 p.m. ET Thursday
Altach vs. Maccabi Tel-Aviv — 2:30 p.m. ET Thursday
Ludogorets Razgrad vs. Suduva — 2:30 p.m.
Panathinaikos vs. Athletic Bilbao — 2:30 p.m.
Domzale vs. Marseille — 2:45 p.m. ET Thursday
Osijek vs. Austria Wien — 2:45 p.m.
Viitorul vs. Red Bull Salzburg — 2:45 p.m.
Ajax vs. Rosenborg — 2:45 p.m.
Legia Warsaw vs. Sheriff — 2:45 p.m.
AC Milan vs. Shkendija — 2:45 p.m.
Club Brugge vs. AEK — 2:45 p.m.
Partizan vs. Videoton — 3 p.m. ET Thursday
Everton vs. Hajduk Split — 3:05 p.m. ET Thursday
Maritimo vs. Dynamo Kyiv — 3:30 p.m. ET Thursday