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PST’s Major League Soccer Power Rankings – Mid-week adjustment

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Three mid-week games in Major League Soccer have made our Tuesday Power Rankings obsolete, but one day before Los Angeles kicks off the weekend’s slate against Colorado, we have a chance to make some adjustment before the league returns to the field. Here are our PR adjustments, with teams listed in alphabetical:

MORE: Tuesday’s Power Rankings | Methodology

Chivas USA
Tuesday ranking: 19
Wednesday result: 4-2 loss to visiting Seattle

If we were doing North American Power Rankings, Chivas USA would be below Minnesota United and the San Antonio Scorpions, at least. There are at least two NASL teams capable of beating the Goats right now. USL Pro’s Orlando City would merit some consideration, too.

Alas, these are MLS Power Rankings, which makes 19 our boring, lenient floor. Though giving up four goals in Wednesday’s first half to Seattle felt like a new low, there’s nowhere else for this Chivas team to go.

New ranking: 19

New England Revolution
Tuesday ranking: 11
Wednesday result: 3-1 win over visiting Sporting Kansas City

Turn your back for a couple of weeks, and New England’s suddenly good again. The Revs are now four games unbeaten, with their last two results one-sided affairs against playoff clubs.

Unfortunately, “playoff clubs” is the rosiest description you can afford Toronto and Kansas City right now. For different reasons, both teams have fallen apart, and while it’s encouraging to see the Revs back in the win column, flat-pinging opponents can’t be ignored.

New England deserves credit for taking care of business. After all, it’s not like they’re squeaking out wins against these wounded foes. Still, the greater context around these games recommends caution. While the Revolution deserves a bump up the chart, a big move should wait until they catch a team in form.

New ranking: 9

source: AP
Philadelphia Union’s Conor Casey, left, and Toronto FC’s Doneil Henry, right, leap for the header during the second half Wednesday in Chester, Pa. The Union won 1-0. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

Philadelphia Union
Tuesday ranking: 7
Wednesday result: 1-0 win over visiting Toronto

Toronto’s form mad a home win obligatory result. That Philadelphia met that obligation wouldn’t normally recommend them for a rise, particularly given the 1-0 final. When you’re near the top third of the rankings, it takes more than holding serve to make up ground.

Philadelphia was coming off a bye week, though, with Tuesday’s ranking reflecting a bit of wait-and-see uncertainty. Now, uncertainty has given way to reference, making it easier to justify a bigger rise.

Thanks in part to Columbus’s loss at Montréal, Philadelphia’s in our top six.

New Ranking: 6

Seattle Sounders
Tuesday ranking: 5
Wednesday result: 4-2 win at Chivas USA

As impressive as Wednesday’s first half was, it told us little about Seattle’s prospects vis-à-vis teams above them in the rankings: Real Salt Lake, D.C. United, FC Dallas, LA Galaxy. As obligatory as Philadelphia’s 1-0 over Toronto may have been, a two-goal victory over Chivas USA may be more so. Chivas just aren’t played at an MLS level, right now.

The result does put Seattle in position to gain ground this weekend. RSL hosting Dallas will make it difficult for the Sounders to pass either, but if DC slips at Vancouver, there may be a chance to move up. Granted, we’ll likely lean on the “Eastern Conference teams on BC Place’s rug” trope, but if United performs worse than the usual fish out of water, Seattle could end the weekend in the top four.

New ranking: 5

Sporting Kansas City
Tuesday ranking: 9
Wednesday result: 3-1 loss at New England

Unfortunately, yesterday’s disappointment was nothing new. We’d seen the problems Sporting was having at the back. We suspected New England, energized by the insertions of Charlie Davies and Kelyn Rowe, would take advantage. Though Sporting has now given up nine goals in their last three games, that form was already cooked into their ninth place ranking. A loss at New England doesn’t change that much.

The new information Wednesday gave us: a measure relative to New England, who Sporting can’t be ranked above, right now. We also saw the champions may be farther from a recovery than previously thought, the hole they’re digging requiring a bigger adjustment. Maybe D.C. United really did “find them out 10 days ago?

If that bears out, even this new, season-low ranking will be too high. After this weekend, Sporting may drop below our mid-table mark.

New ranking: 10

Toronto FC
Tuesday ranking: 17
Wednesday result: 1-0 loss at Philadelphia

One point in four games leave Toronto on the verge of becoming the East’s Colorado – a former Western Conference playoff hopeful who’ve now lost six in a row. Like the Reds, Colorado’s most recent result is a 1-0 loss on the road, but whereas TFC’s defeat came at playoff-contending Philadelphia, the Rapids were playing the Shield-leading Sounders.

That seems to recommend TFC for a place above the Rapids, but too often a pair of games proves inadequate when trying to answer our question: Which team would win in a neutral site game, tomorrow? Between two slumping teams, it may be impossible to tell, but I keep going back to one, fabricated test.

Looking back at Toronto’s four-game slide, I see two games where the team could have prevented its slump (vs. Chicago, vs. New England), while Colorado was an underdog in each of its six losses. While that might tell us much, it does present a possibility: that the Rapids’ slide is about schedule in addition to quality.

New ranking: 18

PST’s Major League Soccer Power Rankings (post-mid-week results):

1. LA Galaxy
2. FC Dallas
3. D.C. United
4. Real Salt Lake
5. Seattle Sounders
6. Philadelphia Union (+1)
7. Columbus Crew (-1)
8. Portland Timbers
9. New England Revolution (+2)
10. Sporting Kansas City (-1)
11. New York Red Bulls (-1)
12. Houston Dynamo
13. San Jose Earthquakes
14. Vancouver Whitecaps
15. Chicago Fire
16. Montréal Impact
17. Colorado Rapids (+1)
18. Toronto FC (-1)
19. Chivas USA

Copa America 2016 preview, Group B: Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, Haiti

Brazil's Willian, left, and United States’ Alejandro Bedoya contend for the ball during the first half of an international friendly soccer match Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2015, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)
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Brazil

They’ve won five Copa America titles with the last in 2007, but in their previous two Copa campaigns Brazil hasn’t made it past the quarterfinal stage. Despite not having captain and talisman Neymar around they’ll be one of the favorites this summer.

Star player: Douglas Costa – The winger was in fine form for Bayern Munich this season and along with Willian he will be a real threat in support of Hulk.

They will sweep all before them because… They have a huge number of talented attacking midfielders who can rip teams apart on their own. Together it could get rather silly. Expect them to be in the final four.

Really, though, Dunga will be on the hot seat in July: The one thing that stands out about this team is the lack of goals. Only one player in the entire squad has double figures (Hulk, with 12) and anything less than winning a major title is always treated with despair by the Brazilian population. If they don’t win either Copa America Centenario or the gold medal at Rio 2016, Dunga will be under big pressure.


Ecuador

LOS ANGELES, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA - MARCH 28:  Miguel Layun of Mexico (L) fights for the ball with Antonio Valencia of Ecuador (R) during a friendly match between Mexico and Ecuador at Memorial Coliseum Stadium on March 28, 2015 in Los Angeles, United States. (Photo by Omar Vega/LatinContent/Getty Images)
(Photo by Omar Vega/LatinContent/Getty Images)

Man, Ecuador is due a good Copa America performance. They haven’t made it out of the group stage since 1997 and have finished in fourth place twice.

Star player: Enner Valencia – After returning from injury in the final 13weeks of the season we saw just how important he is for Manchester United. That was from right back. Valencia will play in a more advanced role for Ecuador and provides bags of experience.

La Tricolor will go far because of forwards: Goals. Goals. Goals. Ecuador has a ton of talented attackers in its squad. Enner Valencia and Jefferson Montero will be dangerous and through the first five 2018 World Cup qualifying games they’ve scored 12 times and sit second in the table.

Likely heartbreak warning: With top scorer from World Cup qualifying, Felipe Caceido, out injured, Ecuador has been dealt a huge blow. They seem to always be the nearly men.


Peru

Paolo Guerrero, Peru

They’ve won the tournament twice in their history and last summer they were the surprise semifinalists who finished in third place. Anchored by a strong defense, they’ll be hoping to cause another upset.

Star player: Paolo Guerrero – He is their main man up top with 26 goals in 67 appearances. If Peru has a chance in the box, they want it to fall to him.

They will be the darlings of the tournament: If they get off to a flying start against Haiti in Seattle then we can expect big things. Confidence will be key ahead of the final game against Brazil.

Goals will be the big problem: They scored just twice in three games during the group stage last summer and somehow made it through. They will have to do more than that this time out and if they don’t beat Haiti, it is curtains for their knockout stage hopes.


Haiti

Gyasi Zardes, Frantz Bertin
AP

This will be their first-ever appearance in the Copa America and after their successful Gold Cup campaign in 2015, who knows what’s possible? They will fancy their chances of advancing despite all the odds stacked against them.

Star player: Johnny Placide – He shone for Haiti during the Gold Cup last summer and their goalkeeper will be another busy man. A beast.

Beware of the underdogs, they’ll get you: As we saw last summer, we shouldn’t underestimate Haiti. They only lost to the USA 1-0 and beat Honduras on their way to a quarterfinal exit to eventual runners up Jamaica. They will keep it tight and try to grind out wins.

Tight isn’t good enough: As they’ve found out in World Cup qualifying, you have to do more than hang in there. They haven’t scored a goal through four games of 2018 World Cup qualifying in CONCACAF Group B and sit bottom of the table. Placide will have to come up big this summer if they’re going to produce something special.


Game schedule – Full schedule for Group B, here

Who’s going through, who’s going home: Brazil, Ecuador going through; Peru and Haiti going home

Marquee match: I’m going with Brazil vs. Ecuador on June 4 at the Rose Bowl. This two will go at it to try and take control of Group B. Should be a fun one. 

Top players to watch

1) Douglas Costa
2) Willian
3) Antonio Valencia
4) Paolo Guerrero
5) Johnny Placide

French security chief: Strikes won’t threaten sports events

MARSEILLE, FRANCE - OCTOBER 28:Tens of thousands of the French workers protest as the Unions in France launch new strikes against the pension reform plan on October 28, 2010 in Marseille, France. This is the seventh day of protest for French workers angry at the Government's proposed pension reforms. Nicolas Sarkozy, however, has not wavered in his plans to increase the state pension age from 60 to 62 and last night the National Assembly passed the bill.  (Photo by Patrick Aventurier/Getty Images)
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PARIS (AP) France’s interior minister says violent labor protests and strikes causing gas shortages won’t jeopardize the upcoming European Championship or other sporting events.

[ MORE: 5 things for Mourinho at United ]

About 1,500 people have been detained in recent weeks and hundreds of police officers have been injured in breaking up protests and dislodging protesters from fuel depots.

The tensions have added to concern about security for Euro 2016, already facing what Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve called the “double threat” of violent Islamic extremism and hooliganism.

[ MORE: What is USMNT’s best XI?

Cazeneuve told reporters Wednesday that the government respects the right to strike and does not see the labor movement as a “threat.”

He said it won’t disrupt protection of the June 10-July 10 championship, involving an unprecedented 90,000 people ensuring security.

Copa America 2016 preview, Group A: USA, Colombia, Costa Rica, Paraguay

USA v Colombia - International Friendly
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USA

This will be the USA’s fourth Copa America appearance and they’ve struggled in this competition in the past with their best finish coming in 1995 when they finished fourth. Can the hosts finish in the top four this time?

Star player: Bobby Wood – I would’ve gone for Clint Dempsey but I think Wood will carry this team after a stunning season in Germany. He’s so sharp right now and is clinical.

Why USA will flop and pile more pressure on Klinsmann: The U.S. head coach has already stated their target as reaching the semifinals. That’s attainable but they’re in a very tough group to get out of. It is hard to see them getting out of this group, which will then pile more pressure on JK.

[ MORE: Full Copa America 2016 coverage ]

But this is how they’ll really battle through and make the semifinals: However, how many times have we written this U.S. team off? Plenty. And they always seem to have a surprise in them. They got out of the Group of Death in Brazil two years ago and it is all about getting a positive result in the opener against Colombia. Win that and the team, fans and the nation will believe. As the host nation, that’s a powerful thing.


Colombia 

James Rodriguez, Colombia
AP

They burst onto the scene as a reborn team at the 2014 World Cup but they’ve struggled to regain that form since. Colombia has won the Copa America once in its history, back in 2001 when Victor Aristizabal  ran the show for the host nation.

Star player: James Rodriguez – Real Madrid attacker will lead Colombia and thrives on being the main man. That’s what he will be this summer. Watch him go.

How Colombia can regain 2014 World Cup form: They’ve lost a spark in the last 12-18 months since the World Cup but there’s no doubt that Jose Pekerman’s men have the talent to succeed. The shackles will be off this summer and their fans travel well. Los Cafeteros will play in front of a sea of yellow wherever they go.

More than likely they’ll bow out in quarterfinals: Despite all of their attacking prowess, they’ll probably bow out at the quarterfinal stage just like they did at the last three major tournaments. That’s because defensively they’ve struggled to replace veterans such as Mario Yepes and some of their more experienced players in Radamel Falcao and Jackson Martinez won’t be in action this summer.


Costa Rica

Costa Rica and Mexico clash.
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This will be just the fifth time Costa Rica has participated in this tournament as a guest nation. They reached the quarterfinals in both 2001 and 2005.

Star player: Joel Campbell – He’s had an up and down season with Arsenal but his pace, power and clinical finishing mean he will be a real handful.

Los Ticos could surprise everyone and make a deep run: They did it in 2014, why not now? With Bryan Ruiz, Campbell , Keylor Navas and Celso Borges around, they have a real solid core of players who came within penalty kicks of a World Cup semifinal. They’ll surprise again.

However, they will likely just come up short due to defensive weakness: In defense they look a little week and you get the sense that if the balance of this team isn’t right, Navas will be a busy man.


Paraguay

Paraguay's forward Derlis Gonzalez celebrates after scoring against Brazil during their 2015 Copa America football championship quarter-final match, in Concepcion, Chile, on June 27, 2015. AFP PHOTO / NELSON ALMEIDA (Photo credit should read NELSON ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images)
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Ranked 7th out of the 10 CONMEBOL teams, it is always easy to underestimate Paraguay but they usually perform very well in this tournament. They reached the semifinals last summer in Chile and were runners up in Argentina in 2011.

Star player: Derlis Gonzalez – The Dynamo Kiev forward looked sharp last summer but without Roque Santa Cruz, there are no obvious stars on this team.

Why they will do better than anybody expects: It’s just what they always do. In the Copa America last summer they drew with Uruguay and Argentina in group play and knocked out Brazil on penalties in the quarterfinal. They will fight until the end.

Close, but no cigar: This time around you get the sense that this is a team in transition. Without Santa Cruz they will struggle for goals and fairytale is not in the stars this time.


Game schedule – Full schedule for Group A, here

Who’s going through, who’s going home: Colombia, Costa Rica going through; USA and Paraguay going home

Marquee match: I’m going with USA vs. Colombia in the opener in Santa Clara at Levi Stadium on June 3. Amid much fanfare, expect a tense, exciting game. 

Top players to watch

1) James Rodriguez
2) Juan Cuadrado
3) Joel Campbell
4) Bobby Wood
5) Bryan Ruiz

Lionel Messi sets sights on Copa America glory in USA

Argentina's Lionel Messi celebrates after his teammate Gabriel Mercado scored his side's second goal against Chile during a 2018 Russia World Cup qualifying soccer match at the National Stadium in Santiago, Chile, Thursday, March 24, 2016. (AP Photo/ Luis Hidalgo)
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Lionel Messi is fired up and ready to roll this summer.

The Barcelona and Argentina superstar, 28, will captain La Albiceleste at the 2016 Copa America Centenario being held across the United States of America this summer.

[ MORE: Mourinho to hold United talks

Argentina is in Group D alongside Chile, Panama and Bolivia and they are the favorites to win the competition this summer.

Messi has been named FIFA’s World Player of the Year five times. He’s won every major trophy with Barcelona.

Yet one thing eludes him: glory with Argentina.

He was part of the Argentine Olympic squad which won Gold at Beijing in 2008 but the mercurial playmaker has never won a major trophy such as a World Cup or Copa America with Argentina.

[ MORE: What is USMNT’s best XI? ]

Speaking to Sports Illustrated in first person ahead of this summer, Messi spoke of his fondness for the U.S. after multiple trips to play friendlies with club and country in recent years nd how he aims to end Argentina’s 23-year trophy drought this summer, especially after losing in both the 2014 World Cup and the 2015 Copa America finals.

“Of course, outside of my family nothing would make me happier than to win my first World Cup with Argentina in 2018. The Copa America this summer is an important step along the way, a chance to show that we can raise a senior trophy for the first time in 23 years. And if we can do that, it will also mean spending nearly a month in the U.S. and learning more about this special country. If you Americans are looking forward to seeing me in person, trust me: The feeling is mutual.”

See you this summer, Lionel.

Argentina has not won the World Cup since 1986 and the Copa America since 1993. They’re long overdue a trophy and Messi seems hellbent on delivering it during his time as skipper. Gerardo Martino’s side are among the 10 teams from CONMEBOL who will link with six nations from CONCACAF in an expanded format of Copa America to celebrate the competitions 100-year anniversary.

ProSoccerTalk will have full coverage of the entire 16-team Copa America Centenario tournament, which you can find here.