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

LIVE, UCL – Sevilla vs. Man United, Shakhtar Donetsk vs. Roma

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Jose Mourinho has created a splash this morning by benching Paul Pogba despite utilizing a 3-man central midfield formation as Manchester United heads to Spain to take on Sevilla in their Champions League Round of 16 first leg meeting.

Pogba was left out of Saturday’s win over Huddersfield Town in the FA Cup due to illness, but having made the trip to Sevilla with the matchday squad, it seems his omission is instead due to tactical reasons. 21-year-old academy product Scott McTominay starts in Pogba’s place alongside Nemanja Matic and Ander Herrera, with the Frenchman on the bench among the substitutes.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores

The decision is surprising given Manchester United’s 16-point deficit in the Premier League table as they trail runaway favorites Manchester City, leaving the Champions League as the best competition remaining that the Red Devils have a shot to win.

Up front for Manchester United, Alexis Sanchez carries the creative load along with Juan Mata, with both supporting Romelu Lukaku at the striker position. Meanwhile, Chris Smalling and Victor Lindelof continue to work as the central defensive partnership, while Antonio Valencia captains the side as full-back, mirrored by Ashley Young on the other edge.

In the other matchup, Roma heads to the Ukraine to take on Shakhtar Donetsk, who finished 2nd in Group F three points behind Manchester City. The Ukranian side has only just returned from its winter break, with just a single game played since December 10th.

Roma, meanwhile, has pulled itself out of a rut just in time for the return of Champions League play, with three straight Serie A wins coming on the heels of a five-match winless run. They have scored eight goals over those three wins, with a pair of road clean sheets among the group. 20-year-old Turkish winger Cengiz Under is on fire over the win streak, scoring four goals over that span.


Today’s UEFA Champions League Round of 16 schedule

Sevilla vs. Manchester United – 2:45 p.m. ET
Shakhtar Donetsk vs. Roma – 2:45 p.m. ET

Reports: Mourinho to leave Paul Pogba out of Champions League lineup

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According to multiple reports across England, including the BBC, Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho is ready to leave Paul Pogba out of his starting lineup for Wednesday’s Champions League match against Sevilla despite utilizing a 4-3-3 formation with three central midfielders.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ]

The reports state that Pogba will be left on the bench in favor of youngster Scott McTominay, who will start alongside Ander Herrera and Nemanja Matic. Mourinho has spoken highly of McTominay recently, saying three days ago, “I think Scott deserves more than what he is getting.”

“Maybe it’s because he’s this kind of kid profile: a normal haircut, no tattoos, no big cars, no big watches, humble kid, arrive in the club when he was nine or 10,” Mourinho said in what many perceived to be a thinly veiled slap at Pogba.

Mourinho has held back from publicly criticizing his $125 million midfielder in the media, but his actions on the field suggest otherwise. The 24-year-old has failed to record 90 minutes in three straight Premier League matches, seeing his manager yank him before the full-time whistle in two and failing to make the starting lineup in the other, leaving many to speculate a rift between the two.

The decision is especially surprising given Juan Mata‘s comments earlier Wednesday that suggested Manchester United is prioritizing the Champions League, given their 16-point deficit to Manchester City in the Premier League table.

Pogba missed the 2-0 FA Cup win over Huddersfield on Saturday due to illness, but it’s hard to imagine that four days later that keeps the French superstar on the bench, especially given his ability to make the trip to Sevilla with the matchday squad.

Leicester City settles Financial Fair Play dispute with Football League

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Leicester City will owe the Football League a reduced fine after coming to an agreement with the English lower-league governing body over a dispute regarding the 2013/14 season.

The Foxes, who won the Championship that season and were promoted to the Premier League, were handed an official breach of Financial Fair Play rules after accruing a loss exceeding the allowed $11 million amount. However, Leicester City argued that the deficit was due to “allowable” amounts regarding promotion and academy costs.

After talks between the two parties, the EFL announced Leicester City will owe a reduced amount of $4.33 million. They could have owed up to $18 million, the differential between the allowed amount and their actual posted loss of $20.8 million.

In an official release, the EFL announced, “The EFL acknowledges that [Leicester City] did not make any deliberate attempt to infringe the Rules or to deceive and that the dispute arose out of genuine differences of interpretation of the Rules between the parties.”

After initially receiving word of the notice back in 2014, the Foxes had legally challenged the fine, but that had been put on hold after litigation began in 2015 between the EFL and Queens Park Rangers for a similar dispute. Bournemouth was also fined after incurring a significant loss in their 2014/15 promotion season. Teams that breach rules but are not promoted face transfer bans, such as Fulham, Bolton, and Nottingham Forest received through the 2014/15 season.

Who’s to blame? A closer look at Chelsea’s blunder late vs. Barcelona

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As our very own Joe Prince-Wright explained yesterday in the aftermath of Chelsea’s 1-1 draw with Barcelona in the Champions League Round of 16, Antonio Conte could not have set his team up better for success at Stamford Bridge.

And yet, they walked away from the first leg with a disappointing result, one that could set up Barcelona with the advantage as they head to the Camp Nou in two weeks time.

So where did it all go wrong? That pass from Andreas Christensen, obviously – the one that gifted Lionel Messi a late goal. But is Christensen to blame? Or were there other culprits?

Clearly, the pass was ill-advised. Christensen sends the ball across his own box parallel to the goal mouth, which Andreas Iniesta easily pilfers and sends to Messi for his first goal against Chelsea. It was a pass they teach 7-year-olds not to make, one that even the youngest of dedicated soccer players knows to avoid.

Christensen makes an easy target, given that he is just 21 years old, has only just recently earned his way into the Blues starting lineup, and was the most obvious culprit having made the fateful pass.

However, upon closer inspection, it may not have even been meant to reach the far side of the field.

Christensen’s exasperated reaction suggests the pass was likely intended for Cesc Fabregas who sat at the top of the box under little pressure. Christensen was closed down on the far touchline with little room to operate, and his outlet to Fabregas in the middle of the field was a good option, even if the general idea of a pass in that direction is usually frowned upon. However, Christensen’s pass was just slightly behind Fabregas, and the Spaniard ultimately decided to let the ball go instead of chasing it down, leaving it for a less populated area of the field.

Unfortunately, with his back turned to the eventual destination of the pass, Fabregas was unaware that Iniesta had anticipated its flight path and was already making a run to steal the ball. When the veteran Barcelona midfielder reached the ball, he was challenged by a sliding Cesar Azpilicueta, who completely whiffed. While Christensen and Fabregas were culpable of putting the team in a dangerous situation, Azpilicueta’s tackle was an abomination. Azpilicueta actually reached the ball first, but inexplicably failed to make contact with the ball, allowing Iniesta to easily evade the slide and still take charge of the ball.

Andreas Christensen is the clear perpetrator, but Fabregas and Azpilicueta both contributed negatively to the situation, leaving Chelsea at a slight disadvantage heading into a hostile environment despite Antonio Conte’s best efforts. Sadly, Conte will be the one to shoulder the accountability at the end of the season if Chelsea goes out of the Champions League, even though he received top marks for the match, and his players let him down.