ProSoccerTalk’s weekly MLS rankings – Part II of III

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12. Chicago Fire – A bit of an odd game, last weekend’s 2-1 loss to Seattle, one rife with lots of juicy little sidebars. Bottom line, however, is that Chicago failed to take all the points for a second time in three Toyota Park contests this year. The verdict remains out on recently signed German center back Arne Freidrich, who has been prone to un-vet-like boo-boos. Now the Fire must cope without its other center back, Jalil Anibaba, whose bad tackle and subsequent part in a melee left him ejected and unavailable for this week’s visit to Chivas USA.

11. FC Dallas – Schellas Hyndman’s team scooped up its first road point in a 1-1 draw with Los Angeles, but it seemed like a loss in its unfolding. The Texans probably needed only to clear one more ball in the waning seconds, but Jair Benitez decided to take a tough (to the inside!) inside his own penalty area, and the result was two dropped points. Jackson, back from Brazil, went the full 90, while backup goalkeeper Chris Seitz continues to perform well for the injured Kevin Hartman.

10. Los Angeles Galaxy – Robbie Keane’s missed penalty kick is the big talking point from L.A.’s side of the 1-1 draw. David Beckham’s upswing continued; His distribution is clicking again, and one of his signature set-ups helped arrange the Galaxy’s spot shot. Still, they needed a stoppage time goal by  … Pat Noonan? … to salvage the point. Let’s just move on, because an important few days lie ahead. First up is a mid-week visit to CenturyLink Field followed by what should have been a marquee meeting with New York (but one now muted by suspension and injuries to the Red Bulls’ big boys.)

9. Colorado Rapids – The 4-3-3 may be Oscar Pareja’s long-range plan but it’s been a 4-4-2 review lately. The Rapids snapped a three-game losing streak but had to sweat a result against road warriors Chivas USA. The DSG night was tense, a one-goal tussle until the final 10 minutes; Saturday’s final fell somewhat misleadingly at 4-0. Other center back pairings get more attention, but Marvell Wynne and Drew Moor (when he plays center back) are as effective as pretty much any other around MLS.

8. New York Red Bulls – Well that was something else. All the injuries, all the suspensions, all the valiant second-half defending coming together as the home team did enough to hang on in a 1-0 win over re-building New England. Yes, it’s come to “hanging on” against re-building New England for Hans Backe’s men, whose latest roster depletion in a season lousy with them is Thierry Henry’s absence for about a month. By the way, is there a more candid, transparent manager than Backe, who said of Henry’s injury: “Yeah, of course this is a disaster for us.” Great stuff.

7. Vancouver Whitecaps – The defense keeps inspiring while the attack keeps sputtering. Heck, now the defenders are even scoring the goals as Young-Pyo Lee somehow steered a free kicks through the maze of arms and legs for the only score in a 1-0 win at Columbus. A win on the road by any means is an achievement in the end. On the other hand, the goals simply have to come at a greater clip (just seven in eight matches). Eric Hassli was back in the starting lineup (for the injured Camilo) as manager Martin Rennie tries to find the right mix. Rookie Darren Mattocks is available again for selection, as well.

After slow start, Belgium takes care of business against feisty Panama

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All it took was one goal to bring Belgium to life.

Following a frustrating first 45 minutes, in which Belgium put a pair of shots into the side netting and forced saves from Panama goalkeeper Jaime Penedo, Dries Mertens 47th minute goal opened the floodgates, as Belgium went on to defeat Panama, 3-0, Monday afternoon in Sochi.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

But Panama never made it easy for the Belgians. From the opening whistle the CONCACAF nation showed its incredible spirit, chasing down Belgium all across the field and making life incredibly difficult for Belgium attackers Romelu Lukaku, Mertens and Eden Hazard. Hazard was hacked down all over the field, and while he did earn fouls and a few yellow cards were issued to Panamanian players, it was enough to get in Hazard’s head.

Two minutes into the second half, everything changed. A wonderstrike from Mertens opened the game, and forced Panama to attack and try and tie the match, which gave Hazard, de Bruyne and Lukaku more space to operate.

In the heat and humidity of the Sochi summer, Panama’s veteran defense began to tire, allowing de Bruyne the space to deliver a terrific assist to Lukaku in the box, putting Belgium up 2-0 in the 69th minute.

 

Six minutes later, Lukaku was put through on the break, chipping over Penedo to confirm the victory.

With the win, Belgium moves to the top of Group G. Up next for Belgium is Tunisia on Saturday, while Panama takes on England on Sunday.

VIDEO: de Bruyne delivers gorgeous assist on Lukaku goal

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It took a little bit of patience, but Romelu Lukaku finally got on the scoresheet at the 2018 World Cup, thanks to a delicious assist from crosstown club rival Kevin De Bruyne.

The Manchester City playmaker delivered a spectacular outside-of-the-boot cross into the box, where Lukaku’s head met it and guided it towards the far post for Belgium’s second goal of the day.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news

Transfer Rumor Roundup: Arsenal close in on Leno; Man City near Jorginho signing, and more

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Arsenal looks like it will have a new man between the pipes for next season.

According to a report from German publication SportBild, Bayer Leverkusen goalkeeper Bernd Leno will be introduced as an Arsenal player on Tuesday, after a reported $23-29 million transfer fee. The 26-year-old was on Germany’s 35-man pre-World Cup squad, but was one of the last cuts as Joachim Low went with Manuel Neuer, Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Kevin Trapp in Russia.

Leno became the full-time starter for Leverkusen as a 20-year-old, and has held the position of the No. 1 for the last six seasons, earning plenty of Bundesliga and UEFA Champions League experience along the way.

It’s unclear what will happen to current Arsenal No. 1 Petr Cech. The 36-year-old Premier League legend experienced one of his worst seasons in net for Arsenal and he could begin the season as a backup, unless he moves to a new club. He reportedly has a contract through 2019.

Here’s some more transfer rumors from around the Premier League and Europe.

(more…)

VIDEO: Mertens scores wonderstrike for Belgium

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After a frustrating 45 minutes, it took only two minutes for Belgium to finally get on the board, even if it was a goal sprinkled with magic dust.

Off a partially cleared ball on the right side of the box, Belgium attacker Dries Mertens whalloped a shot that arced over Panama (and former LA Galaxy) goalkeeper Jaime Penedo, giving Belgium a 1-0 lead.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ]