Author: Richard Farley

Omar Gonzalez-Oct

PST’s Major League Soccer Power Rankings — Long Time, No See Edition


The last time we brought you MLS Power Rankings, the biggest issue was accounting for World Cup absences. Our solution: Take a break from the rankings. Now, well into MLS’s post-World Cup season, it’s time to bring them back. As teams start diving into more conference-centric schedules, some perspective that transcends the standings becomes more relevant.

Unfortunately, that presents a continuity problem, one that can’t be handled with just our “Up/Down” column. So for each team, we’ve given you a small snippet of how we saw them on May 27. For most, the view has barely changed. For others, it’s a brave new world.

But before we get to that new frontier, a little reminder about the “methodology.” From Week 1’s rankings:

If two teams played tomorrow, given their current injury concerns, form, and other considerations, who is likely to win on a neutral field? This list is designed to tell you who we feel is most likely to win that matchup. All things being equal, who is the best team going forward, based on what we know now?

Right now, the answer lies in Los Angeles. Here’s PST’s new MLS Power Rankings – the long time, no see edition:

MORE: May 27th’s Power Rankings | Methodology

LR: 5/27


1 UP 4 LA Galaxy: “Two convincing wins help in the standings, but what’s fueled LA’s Power Rankings surge is the goals.” Since, goals have been less of a problem. Only Seattle’s scoring at a higher rate than the Galaxy, who’ve lost once in MLS since May 18. (9-4-7)

2 Real Salt Lake: “Saturday showed there’s a difference between bad and impotent,” we said after a 0-0 draw against visiting Dallas. It was the start of a five-match winless run. Since, Jeff Cassar’s team is 4-1-2, with its only loss a 1-0 at top-ranked LA. (10-4-9)
source:  3 UP 1 Sporting Kansas City: “They’re not playing like the fourth-best team in the league, but we’re giving them the benefit of the doubt.” Turned out the long view was the right one. Though they’re coming off a 3-0 loss at Vancouver, Sporting’s not the first Eastern Conference team to look out of their element on BC Place’s pool table. KC’s still in its conference. (11-6-6)
source:  4 DOWN 1 Seattle Sounders: “Where the Cascadia Cup is concerned, Saturday’s point may prove a valuable one,” we said after a draw in Vancouver. With the team’s recent struggles, Cascadia Cup’s a secondary concern. Though the two-game losing streak the Sounders carried into Sunday’s match is over, the team still has yet to regain its form. (13-6-2)
source:  5 UP 8 FC Dallas: “Dallas got a point from two tough road games, but the team’s winless run is now seven.” After losing its next game (to San Jose, Jun. 1), FCD has gone on an eight-match unbeaten run. It’d be too much to call them title contenders, but returning to healthy, Dallas is the best of the next group. (10-7-6)
source:  6 Vancouver Whitecaps: “For as well as they played on Saturday, the Whitecaps should have taken full points.” It’s a refrain that’s been repeated over the last month, with Vancouver drawing four of its last five. Sunday’s win, however, should restore some confidence. (7-4-11)
source:  7 D.C. United: “Ben Olsen’s team is clearly not one of the league’s best, but they’ve shown an ability to compete with them.” Can we say the same now? The record says one thing, but losses at Houston and Real Salt Lake say another. Just went we convinced ourselves D.C. wouldn’t come back to earth, they decide to defy expectations once more. (11-7-4)
source:  8 Toronto FC: “With 10 men, the Reds came back to claim a point on the road against the defending champs,” with similar resiliency guiding them to three points on Saturday in Columbus. Though it has the talent to be higher, this is a team that’s never made the playoffs. First things first. (9-7-5)
source:  9 San Jose Earthquakes: “Mark Watson made the tough decision to try a midfield without Sam Cronin – a choice that’s paying off.” Since, Cronin has moved back into the team, with mixed results. What hasn’t been mixed is the play of players like Yannick Djaló, Shea Salinas, Matías Perez Garcia, and Chris Wondolowski. The new-look attack is allowing San Jose to live off the counter. (6-8-6)
source:  10 UP 6 Portland Timbers: “A much-needed win for the Timbers gave Portland hope its luck is starting to change.” Thanks to a more dependable defense, the Timbers haven’t needed luck. The only blemish in the team’s last four games came in Los Angeles against the Galaxy. (7-7-9)
source:  11 UP 7 Philadelphia Union: “Five goals to New England. Four to the Galaxy. Looks like that win in Kansas City was a pure fluke.” Since then, Jim Curtin has replaced John Hackworth, with a defense built around Ethan White and Maurice Edu addressing the team’s biggest flaw. With Carlos Valdés’s return this weekend, Union fans have reason to believe the team can hold its playoff spot. (6-8-9)
source:  12 DOWN 2 New York Red Bulls: “Ultimately, against one of the more mistaken-prone defenses in the league (Portland), they couldn’t muster an open play goal.” The problem has resurfaced over the last five games, where the team’s only win (and, only multi-goal performance) came against New England. (6-7-10)
source:  13 DOWN 2 Columbus Crew: “Despite snapping an eight-game winless run, there was still a “par for the course” quality about Federico Higuaín picking apart Chicago.” Unfortunately, Columbus has failed to develop a second trick. If it wasn’t for a hand ball and a misjudged cross, Saturday’s 3-2 loss would have been much worse. (6-8-9)


14 Colorado Rapids: “Four goals (against Montréal), however, gives us reason to think the attack may come around.” To a certain extent, that happened this summer, but when Deshorn Brown and Vicente Sánchez missed time, the team seemed to lose its rhythm. Three losses in a row have dropped the Rapids out of the West’s top five. (8-9-6)
source:  15 Chicago Fire: “Does Frank Yallop expect to compete for the playoffs with this back line?” Apparently not, though we’ll need to see more of the Jeff Larentowicz experiment before passing judgment. On Saturday, it was two key plays from Bakary Soumaré that helped get the team back into the win column. (4-5-13)
source:  16 DOWN 15 New England Revolution: “Five wins in a row and a seven-game unbeaten run have put the Revs in a position where one loss might not take them out of the top spot.” How about 10 losses? That’s how many times New England has fallen since the our last ranking. (8-12-2)
source:  16 UP 1 Chivas USA: “An off week for the Goats allows Wilmer Cabrera’s team to take advantage of the Union’s struggles.” Shortly there after, Chivas started a climb up the standings, one that would have moved them into the top 10 on this chart. On Saturday in Portland, however, the Goats were their May selves. (6-11-5)
source:  18 DOWN 6 Houston Dynamo: “Two poor performances would justify a bigger drop if somebody below this mark impressed.” Over the last two months, almost every team in the league was more impressive than the Dynamo. With DaMarcus Beasley and Luis Garrido in the team, we know there are better things to come. We just need to see those things on the field. (6-12-4)
source:  19 Montréal Impact: “The Impact’s establishing the type of profile you see with truly hopeless teams.” Turns out, some things weren’t that difficult to figure out. (3-14-5)

Shootout win in Dallas gives Philadelphia home field for U.S. Open Cup final

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It’s the first final in the franchise’s short history, but one the team will wage in front of its home crowd. Thanks to a four straight conversions in Tuesday’s penalty kick shutout, the Philadelphia Union is into the final of the U.S. Open Cup, eliminating FC Dallas after a 1-1 draw in Frisco, Tex.

Philadelphia’s goal came in the 47th minute, with an attack led by Sebastien Le Toux culminating in a ball rolled across the Dallas penalty area. Coming forward from midfield, Amobi Okugo beat Raúl Fernández, whose left-to-right path across his goal left the Peruvian unable to stop the game’s opening goal.

Late in the second half, Fabián Castillo’s fourth goal of the competition gave Dallas its equalizer, with the two semifinalists playing out the final 39 minutes at 1-1. Once there, a fifth round save by Zac MacMath on Victor Ulloa sending their hosts out of the competition.

With the win, Philadelphia’s within 90 minutes of the club’s first major honor, with the Union scheduled to host the winner of tomorrow’s semifinal between Seattle and Chicago in Tukwila, Wash. That match will be held at PPL Park on Sept. 16.

An even first half that left the best chance with Philadelphia saw the injury problems that have plagued Dallas throughout the season resurface. In the 37th minute, defender Walter Zimmerman appeared to aggravate a groin injury, forcing head coach Óscar Pareja to call on Je-Vaughn Watson. Coming out of halftime, injuries to Mauro Díaz and Adam Moffat saw Ryan Hollingshead and Stephen Keel brought on in their place, with Pareja out of substitutions by the time Mark Geiger blew the second half’s whistle.

Before those new faces had time to adjust, Vincent Nogueira had found Le Toux down Philadelphia’s right, giving the veteran attacker a chance to tee-up a chance in the middle of Dallas’s penalty area. Trailing the play, Okugo ran onto a one-timed shot, opening his foot onto the game’s first goal.

A short time later, Blas Pérez had a chance to pull his team even, lofting a shot over MacMath, wide of an open net. Near the 70th minute, Dallas starting used Castillo’s speed to beat the Union defense, with two through balls in a minute’s time testing MacMath’s willingness to come off his line. Both times, the Philadelphia keeper was up to the challenge, with the Union regaining some control of the game after the close calls.

In the 81st minute, that control came back to haunt them, with Dallas able to catch their guests on the counter. Again, it was Castillo put in behind the defense, only this time, MacMath was late. Poking the ball past the oncoming keeper, the Colombian attacker was left with an empty net, pull his team even, 1-1.

Castillo had another chance to win the game before full-time, as did Matt Hedges, whose shot through the chaos after a corner kick forced Ethan White to save a potential winner off the line. In extra time, Pérez and Hollingsworth had their chances, while Nogueira became the second Union player to hit the upright (Andrew Wenger did the same in second half).

Penalty kicks, however, couldn’t be avoided, with a depleted Dallas given its reprieve in the 120th minute. After both teams converted their first two kicks, MacMath saved a Pérez chance headed into the left side of goal. Conversions by Cristian Maidana and Maurice Edu meant Dallas’s fifth kick was a must-make, but when MacMath guessed correctly and dove for his left post, Philadelphia had it tiebreaker, one that vaulted the team into its first cup final.

PST Major League Soccer Player of the Week: Matt Hedges

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It’s a rare week when defenders dominate the Player of the Week conversation across Major League Soccer, but with two goals in Saturday’s U.S. Open Cup final rematch in Utah, Chris Schuler set this week’s bar. Helping his team keep a historic clean sheet, the RSL central defender took home the league’s honor, with his team having exacted revenge on D.C. United, 3-0.

Farther south, however, another defender gave a noteworthy performance, with Matt Hedges’s early goal the first step in FC Dallas’s 3-1 win over Colorado. Providing a key goal line clearance early in the second half, the new FCD captain also contributed beyond the scoresheet. The question is whether he did enough to bridge that one-goal gap between himself and Schuler.

Unfortunately for the RSL defender’s case, there wasn’t much for him to do in his own end. D.C. United, down three goals after 24 minutes, only put two shots on target all night. Beyond his two goals, Schuler was only called on to make three clearances, one tackle, and one interception. A lot of his Player of the Week case is tied up in his offensive contributions, with a vanquished D.C. United failing to offer enough chances for Schuler to bolster his Player of the Week credentials.

Hedges, however, provided more than his score and goal line clearance. In a team that only kept 39 percent possession, Hedges led a defense that limited Colorado to five shots on target, with his 12 clearances, four blocked shots, and three interceptions translating his influence into the numbers. Though Colorado launched 24 shots at Raúl Fernández’s goal, the quality of those shots meant the Rapids never scored from open play. Hedges was a big part of that outcome.

As is the case any time somebody’s case rests on goals, the question is whether anybody make up the gap. Thanks to his goal, his crucial clearance, and his series of smaller contributions, that’s exactly what Hedges did.

Schuler may have had a Player of the Week-worthy performance, but this was not that week. While goals may get the headlines, but Matt Hedges gets this honor.

Zenit St. Petersburg set to relieve Manchester City of Javi García

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Javi García has been a useful piece at Manchester City, starting 31 Premier League games over the last two years, but the former Benfica midfielder has never lived up to his price tag. Purchased for $25 million in Aug. 2012, the Spaniard was part of Roberto Mancini’s quest to revamp his title-winning squad. Though he continued to provide valuable depth under Manuel Pellegrini, Yaya Touré and Fernandinho sat above him in the pecking order.

With the summer purchase of Fernando from Porto, there’s no room for García in Manchester, particularly given the $7.3 million per year the Financial Fair Play target’s paying the 27-year-old. Thankfully for City, another big spender is willing to step in and take on the burden, with Zenit St. Petersburg scheduled to announce the Spaniard’s acquisition on Thursday.

From The Guardian:

The Spaniard’s transfer is for a fee of [$20.1 million] plus a further [$1.3 million] in add-ons, with García having fallen even further behind in the thinking of Manuel Pellegrini …

While Andre Villas-Boas, the Zenit coach, views García an automatic choice as one of seven overseas players allowed to start league games under Russian football federation rules, if the 27-year-old does depart that would still leave City with 17 non-homegrown players following the arrival of France international [Eliaquim] Mangala.

With Zenit off to a 2-0-0 start in Russia, outscoring opponents by 11 in the process, it’s unclear how much the team needs García, though playing alongside Belgian international Axel Witsel, the team’s newest addition will help form one of Russia’s best midfields. Whether he’s worth the cost, however, is more debatable.

As it concerns Manchester City, the move provides some relief, allowing City to recoup nearly all of its original transfer fee while moving a $7.3 million salary commitment off its books.

García may not have lived up to Mancini’s hopes, but after two years at Eastlands, his value hadn’t diminished that much.

Two goals from Horan push U.S. past China, into U-20 World Cup quarterfinals

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Rebounding after a slow start to the tournament, the United States is through to the quarterfinals of the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup, with today’s win over China leaving the team in line to face Canada, Ghana, or North Korea in the final eight. Thanks to two goals and an assist from Lindsey Horan, Michelle French’s team claimed second in Group B, a quartet that saw Germany go through as group-winners after a 5-1 throttling of Brazil.

The U.S. came into today’s game with three points through two matches, with an opening game loss to the Germans followed by a 1-0 win over Brazil. Scoring an 82nd minute winner in that match, Horan became the first American to get on the scoresheet in the tournament, her goal foreshadowing what was in store against China.

In today’s 19th minute, Horan met a Makenzy Doniak cross and finished against the bottom of the China crossbar, giving the U.S. a 1-0 lead. Seventeen minutes later, Horan had her third goal of the competition, beat goalkeeper Lu Feifei into right of goal, making it 2-0. Four minutes after halftime, Horan set up Rose Lavelle for the day’s final goal, with a China side that put up five against Germany held scoreless in Moncton.

With Germany’s win over Brazil, the U.S. was relegated to second place in the tournament’s toughest group, a standing that earns a quarterfinal matchup with the winners of Group A. Tomorrow’s games in Montréal (North Korea vs. Canada) and Moncton (Ghana vs. Finland) will determine which team slots into that spot, with the North Koreans (2-0-0) needing ply a draw to claim top spot in their group.

Regardless of whom the U.S. faces, Horan’s performances may determine whether the team can defend its crown. With two years’ experience starting for Paris Saint-Germain, Horan is one of the marquee names in this tournament, but three games into the competition, she’s had to do much on her own. Though it took 172 minutes for her to break through, she factored in four goals over the next 57. Perhaps as telling, the U.S. has yet to score a goal in which the 20-year-old didn’t play a part.

As the tournament goes on, French appears to be leaning even more on her best player, moving the natural forward to attacking midfield for Tuesday’s must-win game. The result was the U.S.’s best showing of the tournament, though one that may put all French’s eggs in one basket.

Set to see more time on the ball, Horan may have the U.S.’s fate at her feet. Continue to score at this rate, and the defending champions could yet defend their crown, perhaps avenging their loss to the Germans in the process. Slow down, and French will need another plan to get the U.S. down what’s sure to be a bumpy road.