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2015 Major League Soccer power rankings, Volume VI: The West is best… and second best… and third best

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It’s been a month since we last met the MLS power rankings, a month of Gold Cup absences, injuries, winning streaks and losing streaks.

How do we decide where to place teams during these tumultuous months when the international window wreaks havoc with unorthodox MLS calendar (or vice versa!)?

[ USMNT/Jamaica: Match recap | Player ratings ]

By the way, not doing these things weekly really has made them more fun. When you think about it, having a bunch of big moves is a lot more fun than saying, “Well, so-and-so bounced a shot off a defender’s side and in, so this team is up 1.”

Here’s the new batch, different from the old batch. Check out the previous PR’s here.

source:  1 UP 1 Sporting KC: April 18. Sporting KC has lost one game since that date, and it was to Real Salt Lake after a two-week layoff. Now with the addition of Amobi Okugo? Look out.
source:  2 UP 6 Los Angeles Galaxy: Winners of four of five, L.A. scored four or more goals in those wins. They’ve added Steven Gerrard and Giovani Dos Santos, and get Gyasi Zardes and Jaime Penedo back from the Gold Cup. You betting against them?
source:  3 UP 6 FC Dallas: Oscar Pareja’s streaky bunch is hotter than their city’s summer weather. Okay, not that hot. DC, New England, Houston and Orlando aren’t exactly lighting the league on fire, but four in-a-row is what it is.
4 DOWN 1 Toronto FC: Greg Vanney has to sort out his defense and keep Jozy Altidore happy. Seba Giovinco simply has to be the league’s Most Valuable Player for what he’s doing to it this year. But is that good for the league? (Yes)
source:  5 DOWN 4 Vancouver Whitecaps: Winless in three, Carl Robinson’s bunch need to assert themselves in a three-match run of San Jose, Seattle and Real Salt Lake.
source:  6 UP 5 Columbus Crew: Massive Trillium Cup litmus test coming up. Win it, and we’ll feel better about saying that Columbus is starting to live up to expectations.
source:  7 UP 5 New York Red Bulls: Aside from Bradley Wright-Phillips’ PK skills, RBNY has gotten its house in order. Winnable stretch continues with Philly, Montreal, NYC.
source:  8 Portland Timbers: Cooled off by Philadelphia before a draw with Vancouver. Will Lucas Melano be the answer?
source:  9 DOWN 5 DC United: Ben Olsen’s club hasn’t beaten an opponent from the current Top Four of either conference since May 2.
source:  10 DOWN 5 San Jose Earthquakes: A three-game losing streak by the combined score of 8-2 just after I called myself a believer in their squadron? Woof.
source:  11 UP 3 New York City FC: The most recent loss to New England is a real let down after winning at Montreal and staging a 4-4 thriller with TFC. Orlando, Montreal and another NY Derby are next.
source:  12 DOWN 2 Seattle Sounders: Clint Dempsey and Brad Evans are coming back, and not a moment too soon for a team that’s 1-5 in its last six.
source:  13 UP 4 Philadelphia Union: Can’t help but be inspired by the Union’s 10-man Open Cup heroics, and that’s made better upon considering they come on the heels of a good four-game run (even the loss wasn’t miserable).
source:  14 DOWN 7 Orlando City SC: A loss to two in-form sides leave OCSC 1-3-1 in its last five matches. And out of the Open Cup to boot.
source:  15 UP 5 Colorado Rapids: Don’t look now (okay, you can look): The Rapids have won three-straight, with wins over Seattle, Real Salt Lake and Vancouver.

16 DOWN 4 New England Revolution: Two wins since May 2 and still in the East’s fifth spot? This is the East, my friends.
source:  17 UP 1 Real Salt Lake: How are we feeling about the Saborio for Gil trade? Unsure, but RSL could use a fix, sitting six points back of the final playoff spot in the West.
source:  18 DOWN 2 Houston Dynamo: We bet Owen Coyle thought MLS would be a whole lot easier, but finally getting Cubo Torres into the fold gives him a true weapon. And once Giles Barnes triumphantly returns from Jamaica duty? Maybe.
source:  19 DOWN 4 Montreal Impact: The Impact still have their matches-in-hand, and the dreams of Didier Drogba. Massive four-game stretch coming up, including three in 8 days against RBNY, NYC and DCU. Consonants.

20 DOWN 1 Chicago Fire: At least they’re onto the final four of the Open Cup.

MLS Picks: Could be a big weekend for goal-lovers in the United States


Major League Soccer’s second weekend features the debut of three team’s seasons, including the much-publicized contest between Toronto FC and the Sounders in Seattle. Let’s take a look at what else is cooking and who could come out on top.

By the way, Los Angeles gets the weekend off after its CONCACAF Champions League match but San Jose and Sporting KC have to play on? Couldn’t MLS have at least pitted the two sides against each other? The CCL schedule wasn’t a mystery, was it?

New York vs. Colorado, 4p.m. ET Saturday
Despite a 4-1 loss in Vancouver to open the season, Mike Petke got a ray of sunshine this week when his new contract was formally announced. And now he can suit up his full lineup with Thierry Henry and Jamison Olave, away from British Columbia’s turf. Colorado has plenty to look forward to with new boss Pablo Mastroeni, new captain Drew Moor and Marvell Wynne moving back to center back, but it may not have much fun this week, testing its season legs out against a bitter NYRB. The pick: New York 2, Colorado 0.

Philadelphia vs. New England, 4p.m. ET Saturday
New England was on the wrong end of a 4-0 scoreline on opening weekend, while Philadelphia gave away a chance at full points against a strong Portland team. Maurice Edu is talking about making PPL Park a scary place, and the Union can get off to a good start Saturday. Jack McInerney kicked off his season with a goal en route to what could be another hot start for the 21-year-old. How many would he need by mid-April to raise a Klinsmann-brow? It’s early in the season but feels like a win here would be gigantic for new-look Philadelphia, especially after the Timbers tie. New England still looking for its form. Close one? The pick: Philadelphia 2, New England 1.

Seattle vs. Toronto, 4:30p.m. ET Saturday (WATCH LIVE ON NBCSN)
It’s the big one (though one gets the feeling many TFC matches will be treated as such this season, at least early). Reds captain Steven Caldwell told our own Joe Prince-Wright that the “sky’s the limit” for Toronto this year, and I tend to agree, even if boss Ryan Nelsen isn’t feeling the Seattle turf. And while it may take some time for TFC to find its form as a unit, they have the talent to stick it out in nearly any match. Subplots a-plenty here, and I expect Sounders keeper Stefan Frei to have his say in this one. The pick: Seattle 1, Toronto 1.

Sporting KC vs. Dallas, 8:30p.m. ET Saturday
KC held back some regulars in its CCL win over Cruz Azul this week, and that could pay dividends as they face a Dallas squad that barely held off visiting Montreal last weekend. I think it’ll take time for Oscar Pareja’s system to take hold in Texas and, while ultimately it should work out for Dallas, that won’t help against the reigning champs in a home opener, stung by a last-second loss in Seattle last week. Zusi time. The pick: Sporting KC 2, Dallas 0.

Houston vs. Montreal, 8:30 p.m. ET Saturday
The last time these two teams met, things got extremely ugly. We’re talking throat-grabbing, kicking-out ugly. That match also sent Montreal home for the year, and none of the players involved in the fracas will feature this week, either for suspensions or injuries. It’s another week in Texas for the Impact, who will hope to be on the winning end after dropping a 3-2 decision to Dallas last week. Houston looked dominant against New England, and I suspect that’ll be the case again on Saturday. The pick: Houston 3, Montreal 1.

San Jose vs. Real Salt Lake, 10:30 p.m. ET Saturday
If I’m anyone associated with the Quakes, I’m crazy ticked off with MLS for giving my club a huge early season match just days after a pretty big CONCACAF Champions League tie. Come on, right? Now Real Salt Lake walks into Buck Shaw Stadium with a red-hot keeper and the No.1 slot in PST’s Power Rankings. This is a tough spot for San Jose, even at home. The pick: Real Salt Lake 2, San Jose 1.

Portland v. Chicago, 3p.m. ET Sunday
Chicago didn’t exactly impress in an opening loss to Chivas USA, but it was a cross-country trip to face an inspired squad. Portland’s a different animal altogether, especially in the confines of Providence Park. The Timbers opened the season with a tie against Philadelphia, and they’ll find more than a goal as they find the win column for the first time this season. The pick: Portland 2, Chicago 0.

Chivas USA vs. Vancouver, 7p.m. ET Sunday
This one could be a blast in an “under the radar” sort of way. Chivas was entertaining moving forward and, sadly for them, in defense against Chicago last weekend but picked up a huge win for head coach Wilmer Cabrera and company. On the other side, Kenny Miller and the Whitecaps played a smart match against New York that propelled them to a 4-1 win despite not having a ton of possession. This match has endless possibilities and I’m looking forward to one of those “Coaches’ fright, fans’ delight” matches. The pick: Vancouver 3, Chivas USA 2.

Options for Juan: If Stoke City wants to stay in the Agudelo business, there are ways


Well, well, well. All of a sudden New England looks a lot less foolish, though the idea that they were somehow wrong to hold onto Juan Agudelo after the young striker agreed to a contact with Stoke City flew out the window once the Revolution made the playoffs. ‘Why didn’t they just sell him for what they could get,’ turned into ‘Well, he is their best chance for goals in the playoffs.’ Even though those goals didn’t happen, the bewilderment at New England’s choice dissipated the second the team qualified in the Eastern Conference.

Now the Revolution, who retained the in-league rights to the United States hopeful by not selling him, seem like the most logical landing spot for the 20-year-old, whose England dream is on hold until he gets more time with the senior national team. That’s not to say that MLS is his only option.

[MORE: Shock as Juan Agudelo’s work permit appeal rejected, Stoke City move in ruins]

Occasionally player who fails to meet the high standard of United Kingdom work permits to go out on loan. This happened when Costa Rican international Joel Campbell initially moved to Arsenal (he has spent season in Spain and Greece while still being on the Gunners’ books). At one time, Manchester United have a relationship with Belgian lower division side Royal Antwerp, who at times house players who couldn’t play in England. After a period of time, those players can get European Union passports, which would then allow them to play in England without a work permit. It’s uncommon but not unheard of.

The other option would see Agudelo to sign elsewhere, if the Stoke deal really does fall through. Instead of re-upping in Major League Soccer, a player who has long set his eyes toward Europe could take the road well-traveled. Does Agudelo’s future lie in Scandinavia? Or maybe the Jupiler League? Maybe even Eredivisie? At his age, with his ability, Agudelo presents a good opportunity for a club willing to take two years, cultivate his talent, and sell him for a profit.

With some players having made the jump to Mexico, that’s always an option, too. The point: Agudelo’s European dreams aren’t over. His hopes of making a little more cash than he would in MLS aren’t squelched. Perhaps he can even improve his standing in the U.S. Men’s National Team, should he land in the right league, with the right club.

And that would increase his chances of making his way back to England. After all, we’ve yet to hear Stoke City say they want out of the Juan Agudelo game. Only 20 years old, it’s unlikely he was signed for the short-term gain. The Potters may want to see this out.

Major League Soccer announces finalists for 2013 awards

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The three men who dominated Major League Soccer’s Most Valuable Player debate through the season’s last week have been named finalists for this year’s award, MLS announced today, also revealing the finalists the league’s other 11 postseason awards. One of Montréal’s Marco Di Vaio, LA Galaxy’s Robbie Keane, or Chicago’s Mike Magee will win their first MVP honor when the honor is announced on Dec. 5, with awards season set to begin on Nov. 25.

MLS will announce one major honor per day until the Thursday before MLS Cup (which takes place on Dec. 7). Among those awards, 2012 Defender of the Year Matt Besler is in the running to retain that honor, Colorado Rapids Dillon Power and Deshorn Brown are among Rookie of the Year’s final three, while Real Salt Lake veteran Nick Rimando (pictured) is the favorite to win his first Goalkeeper of the Year award.

Here’s the full slate of nominees:

Most Valuable Player
Marco Di Vaio (Montreal Impact)
Robbie Keane (LA Galaxy)
Mike Magee (Chicago Fire)

Defender of the Year
Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City)
Jose Goncalves (New England Revolution)
Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy)

Goalkeeper of the Year
Jimmy Nielsen (Sporting Kansas City)
Donovan Ricketts (Portland Timbers)
Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

Coach of the Year
Jason Kreis (Real Salt Lake)
Mike Petke (New York Red Bulls)
Caleb Porter (Portland Timbers)

Rookie of the Year
Deshorn Brown (Colorado Rapids)
Dillon Powers (Colorado Rapids)
DeAndre Yedlin (Seattle Sounders FC)

Newcomer of the Year: Jose Goncalves (New England Revolution), Nigel Reo-Coker (Vancouver Whitecaps FC), Diego Valeri (Portland Timbers)
Comeback Player of the Year: Kevin Alston (New England Revolution), Conor Casey (Philadelphia Union), Lamar Neagle (Seattle Sounders FC)
Fair Play: Jalil Anibaba (Chicago Fire), Nat Borchers (Real Salt Lake), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers)
Team Fair Play: Houston Dynamo, LA Galaxy, Vancouver Whitecaps FC
Humanitarian of the Year: Jeb Brovsky (Montreal Impact), Dwayne De Rosario (D.C. United), Matt Reis (New England Revolution)
Referee of the Year: Ismail Elfath, Hilario Grajeda, Baldomero Toledo
Assistant Referee of the Year: Frank Anderson, Bill Dittmar, Kermit Quisenberry

Awards Announcements Schedule:
November 25: Rookie of the Year, Fair Play Individual & Team of the Year
November 26: MLS Defender of the Year, Humanitarian of the Year, and Referee/Assistant Referee of the Year
December 2: Coach of the Year and Comeback Player of the Year
December 3: 2013 MLS Best XI
December 4: Goalkeeper of the Year and Newcomer of the Year
December 5: Goal of the Year, MLS Save of the Year and MLS MVP

Houston-Kansas City Man of the Match: Sporting’s Aurélien Collin


A Man of the Match is often defined by the player who can cease a moment and turn a game in his team’s favor, but in a two-legged tie, teams often decline to create such moments over the first 90 minutes. They those as the first half of a 180-minute game, and as such, they’re unwilling to embrace the risks are entailed with pressing for a result. On Saturday, with both Houston and Sporting Kansas City playing on two days’ rest, there were no legs to pursue glory, leaving few individuals who stood out.

But in a match that became about preserving the status quo, the man who did the most to that end was Aurélien Collin, whose clean up work at the back was crucial to Kansas City’s ability to keep a clean sheet. Whereas the French defender make his mark in attack in the postseason’s first two games (scoring in each leg against New England), today he did so at the back, posting match highs in tackles (five) and clearances (20).

They’re numbers which describe what was at times a commanding performance. With Houston pumping in 15 crosses (to Kansas City’s eight), Collin’s aerial presence helped diffuse any drama before it started, with the Dynamo only able to muster three shots on target. Collin won seven duels and was key to making sure the great service Cam Weaver saw early in the second half never troubled Jimmy Nielsen.

It wasn’t a perfect performance, but even when Collin make mistakes, he made the right decisions to mitigate his errors. In the 53rd minute, Collin was nearly beaten wide down Houston’s left just outside the penalty area, but he elected to take down Omar Cummings rather than let the Dynamo attacker have his choice of targets from the byline. It was Collin’s worst moment of the match, but even then, he made sure it didn’t hurt Sporting.

He wasn’t the only standout of the day, and depending on how you feel about Collin, Oriol Rosell or Matt Besler may have looked better. Collin, now in his third year in Major League Soccer, has a style of play many will never grow to love.

Yet Saturday was a reminder that when you take away the physicality and league-leading number of yellow cards, the 27-year-old is one of the best defenders in Major League Soccer. And after one leg in Houston, he’s one of the main reasons it’s still 0-0 going back to Kansas City.