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

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)

Altidore earns U.S. Male Player of the Year honors, Pulisic wins Young POY

Toronto FC forward Jozy Altidore (17) reacts after scoring against the Montreal Impact during the first half of the second leg of MLS Eastern Conference championship series, in Toronto on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)
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While Jozy Altidore and his Toronto FC side have the chance to take home MLS Cup on Saturday night, the U.S. Men’s National Team forward earned an award of his own in the build up.

[ MORE: MLS commissioner Garber addresses expansion and more ]

On Friday night, U.S. Soccer named Altidore the federation’s Male Player of the Year for 2016, while Borussia Dortmund attacker Christian Pulisic has won Male Young Player of the Year honors.

Altidore takes home Male POY honors for the second time in his career after first winning the award back in 2013.

Altidore narrowly won POY honors with 32 percent of the vote, beating out Bobby Wood (30 percent) and Geoff Cameron (15 percent).

“This is truly an honor to receive this award. It’s also very humbling when you look at such a talented group of teammates nominated for this accolade along with you,” Altidore said. “At the end of the day, any success I have had on the field this year is in large part due to their success and contributions.”

The 27-year-old Altidore scored 10 goals for TFC during the regular season, before adding five goals and four assists for the MLS side ahead of MLS Cup. In his time with the USMNT, Altidore has netted six goals and two assists in 2016, leading all players.

Pulisic found the net three times this year for the USMNT, while excelling in the Bundesliga with Dortmund. The 18-year-old has made 15 appearances in all competitions this season for the German giants and scored two goals for Thomas Tuchel’s squad.

Russian official Mutko seeks to retain FIFA Council seat

MOSCOW, RUSSIA - OCTOBER 21: Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation Vitaly Mutko attends at 'Vecherniy (Evening) Urgant' TV show on Channel 1 during FIFA 2018 World Cup Russia Official Mascot final choice event at Ostankino on October 21, 2016 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Getty Images/Getty Images)
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NYON, Switzerland (AP) Under fire for his role in Russia’s state doping program, Vitaly Mutko has begun the process of a FIFA integrity check to be an election candidate.

[ MORE: Can Spurs overcome their historic results form at Old Trafford? ]

Mutko, who heads Russian operations to organize the 2018 World Cup, has been elected by European soccer leaders since 2009 to represent them on FIFA’s ruling committee.

[ MORE: Man City visits Leicester with two sides on opposite ends of table ]

His FIFA seat is due for re-election in April, though potential candidates must pass a vetting and eligibility check by a review panel appointed by the world soccer body.

On Friday, Mutko was implicated in widespread evidence detailed by Canadian investigator Richard McLaren that he oversaw a state-backed doping program as sports minister.

Hours later, UEFA said Mutko was among five applicants for four vacant seats on the FIFA Council. The April 5 vote is by 55 European member federations.

Mutko has retained his FIFA positions and presidency of the Russian soccer federation since McLaren’s interim report was published in July.

The World Anti-Doping Agency then called on the FIFA ethics committee to investigate Mutko based on McLaren’s evidence.

The full investigation report release on Friday seemed to confirm that Mutko was asked to cover up a positive doping test by a Russian Premier League player from Uzbekistan.

Mutko was also implicated as sports minister in overseeing widespread doping programs of Russian athletes who competes at the 2012 London Olympics, 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, and the 2013 track and field world championships, held in Moscow.

It is unclear if FIFA’s ethics committee has a mandate to prosecute non-soccer cases.

Asked on Friday if UEFA could launch its own investigation of Mutko, leaders of the European body deferred to FIFA’s ongoing vetting process.

“We have written to FIFA with the five potential candidates and the procedure is FIFA has to go through this eligibility check,” UEFA legal director Alasdair Bell said.

Bell acknowledged that the McLaren report “appears to contain some serious allegations” though noted that “these are contested.”

Three of Mutko’s long-standing colleagues are standing down from their FIFA Council seats from Europe: Michel D’Hooghe of Belgium, Senes Erzik of Turkey, and Marios Lefkaritis of Cyprus.

UEFA said the other election contenders are: Sandor Csanyi, a current UEFA executive committee member from Hungary; Geir Thorsteinsson, president of Iceland’s soccer federation; former AC Milan player Dejan Savicevic of Montenegro; and Costakis Koutsokoumnis, the Cyprus federation president.

Neymar out, Arda Turan has another chance for Barcelona

BARCELONA, SPAIN - DECEMBER 06:  Arda Turan of Barcelona (R) celebrates with Lucas Digne as he scores their second goal during the UEFA Champions League Group C match between FC Barcelona and VfL Borussia Moenchengladbach at Camp Nou on December 6, 2016 in Barcelona, .  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Fresh off scoring a hat trick, Turkey midfielder Arda Turan is hoping for another chance to prove he can play alongside Barcelona’s best.

[ MORE: Man City faces Leicester without Aguero, Fernandinho ]

With Neymar suspended for Saturday’s Spanish league match at Osasuna, Turan is likely to take his spot next to Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez in the defending champion’s vaunted attack.

[ MORE: Arsenal looks to continue unbeaten run against Stoke City ]

Turan filled in superbly for Neymar on Tuesday when he scored his first hat trick for Barcelona to lead the team to a 4-0 victory over Borussia Moenchengladbach in the Champions League.

The treble took Turan’s scoring total for the season to eight goals, making him Barcelona’s third-leading scorer behind Messi (20) and Suarez (12).

Even though nobody doubts Neymar is the more talented of the two, the Brazil striker has managed only six goals despite playing 400 minutes more than Turan this season.

Neymar’s suspensions from both the `Gladbach and Osasuna matches were for accumulation of bookings in both competitions.

“Arda is scoring lots of goals. When he plays on the wing he has many skills he can draw on,” Barcelona coach Luis Enrique said. “He can also play in midfield. I am happy for him.”

Turan, however, has proven to be a tough piece for Luis Enrique to fit into Barcelona’s talent-laden puzzle.

As his coach said, Turan has impressed on the left side of the attack. But that spot has Neymar’s name stamped on it, and Turan has struggled when asked to play further back.

While Turan flourishes when given space and the freedom to break down defenses, he looks uncomfortable in Barcelona’s demanding precision passing approach.

His unease with the defensive tasks that playing in midfield entails was clear in last weekend’s match against Real Madrid when Turan went on as a late substitute to help protect a one-goal lead.

Instead, Turan’s foul on Marcelo conceded a dangerous free kick that Luka Modric didn’t waste, placing a cross for Sergio Ramos to head in a 90th-minute equalizer and snatch a 1-1 draw that kept Madrid six points clear at the top of the Spanish table.

Turan took a lot of heat for that foul in the Barcelona sports media, meaning his three goals against `Gladbach couldn’t have come at a better time.

“We haven’t played well recently and haven’t gotten good results,” Turan said. “We tried to get the best possible result and play at our best (against `Gladbach).”

Now 29, Turan developed into one of the league’s top attacking midfielders through four seasons with Diego Simeone at Atletico Madrid, helping the once second-rate team become one of Europe’s best with league, Copa del Rey and Europa League titles.

But when Barcelona called in 2015, Turan changed clubs despite knowing that he couldn’t play until 2016 because of Barcelona’s FIFA-imposed one-year ban on new players for breaking its transfer rules regarding underage players.

The former Galatasaray standout also joined Barcelona well aware that competition for playing time, never mind a regular starting role, would be fierce with the likes of Messi, Suarez and, above all, Neymar.

After failing to find a spot following his debut midway through last campaign, Turan made a promising start to this season when Neymar was away playing for Brazil.

He scored twice in a Spanish Super Cup victory over Sevilla and notched Barcelona’s first league goal of the season. But once Neymar was back from helping Brazil win the Olympic gold medal, Turan was back on the bench.

[ MORE: Watford, Everton meet with both clubs looking to halt poor form ]

The reserve role clearly didn’t suit him. Only one of his goals this season has come as a substitute, when he sparked a 2-1 comeback at `Gladbach in September.

Unlike this week’s second win over `Gladbach, which came with Barcelona already qualified for the Champions League’s knockout rounds, Barcelona visits Pamplona on Saturday needing to break a run of three straight league draws.

Promoted Osasuna appears to be the optimum rival to end that skid. It is in last place and hasn’t won in seven home matches since its return to the first division.

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.