The MLS Money Shot: top half of this week’s PST rankings

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The Top Ten teams in ProSoccerTalk’s weekly MLS quality rearrangement countdown:

(Teams ranked Nos. 11-19 are here)

10. Seattle Sounders – By the time you read this, the Sounders may have gotten some relief from the troubling seven-game MLS winless streak. They meet San Jose in the U.S. Open Cup, a tournament that has always brought the best from the Sounders. So, maybe that’s the elixir Sigi Schmid’s men need to shake the funk, which was especially apparent in the first half of Sunday’s loss at Portland. They sure need something.

9. Los Angeles Galaxy – Don’t look now, but who has a three-game winning streak, punctuated by an emphatic 3-0 win over Vancouver? Landon Donovan had a big week, and a goal by Robbie Keane could go far in re-establishing the Irish striker’s confidence. And don’t underestimate Josh Saunders and what his return in goal has meant to Bruce Arena’s side.

8. Chicago Fire – The transfer rumor heat map is all red in Chicago, where Dutch striker Sherjill MacDonald has surfaced as a potential Fire signee. They need more “umph” up front, so this would surely help move Frank Klopas’ side north. Meanwhile, who knows what might become of Sebastian Grazzini?

7. Houston Dynamo – If Geoff Cameron is going to Stoke City or Everton or wherever, he’d better get it done quickly, so the Dynamo defense can get back to business. Because right now, things look pretty shaky back there. Seven goals allowed in two matches (including four at expansion Montreal) say it all.

6. Vancouver Whitecaps – Barry Robson will be available for selection by the weekend, which gives the fans something else to talk about. Because they darn sure don’t want to spend much time revisiting the Home Depot Center massacre, when defense took a holiday and the Whitecaps went down by three before intermission Saturday against the Galaxy.

5. Sporting Kansas City – Sporting Kansas City manager Peter Vermes after his team was run out of PPL Park, on the wrong side of a 4-0 result: “We weren’t good. We just weren’t good tonight. We were sluggish. That was the biggest thing. We just weren’t ready for the game. That’s my fault, and I’ll make sure it doesn’t happen again.” So there you go.

4. New York Red Bulls – The team remains at less than full strength, but Hans Backe’s team has been magnificent this year at finding ways to achieve results. It’s not always pretty – and it certainly wasn’t in the waning moments Sunday against a relentless D.C. United – but big performances from Heath Pearce, Dax McCarty, Joel Lindpere and others are keeping New York in the thick of the Supporters Shield chase.

3. Real Salt Lake – One loss at home? You could write that off as something quirky, perhaps. But RSL fell twice last week in Utah. On their own, there’s no shame in losing to a Los Angeles team that’s found its feet, nor to a good side from San Jose. But coming four days apart? And both at home? Plus the recent, shocking Open Cup loss at Rio Tinto? Questions need to be asked now.

2. D.C. United – Chris Pontius keeps scoring, and Branko Boskovic (pictured) keeps coming off the bench to demonstrate his value. Looks like it’s time to re-introduce Boskovic to the starting lineup – and perhaps time to get the guy signed to a new deal. It’s a tough choice, but that’s what they pay front office guys to do (make the tough calls, that is.) A 3-2 loss to New York is only a small setback considering the productive spell of good results in the run-up to Sunday’s loss.

1. San Jose Earthquakes – This weekend, do yourself a favor and turn on the San Jose Earthquakes match with about 15 minutes remaining. (Or do it tonight in the Open Cup contest against Seattle, if you can find it on-line.) Because these guys keep getting it done late. Last week, Frank Yallop’s cardiac kids scooped up six points on the road in bossing Round 16. They unlocked Colorado late and then shocked Real Salt Lake with goals in the 75th and 84th minutes to take all the points out of Utah.

Report: Newcastle’s Clark knocked out on Spanish dance floor

Scott Heavey/PA via AP
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A wild story out of Spain says an Englishman knocked Newcastle United defender Ciaran Clark unconscious at a night club.

[ MORE: Sampaoli defends Messi ]

Clark was on vacation in Spain, where he was spending time at Crystal’s Bar in Punta Ballena, Magaluf very early Sunday morning.

Clark and a man “in his 30s” got into an argument that saw the Irish defender knocked out, according to the BBC.

Clark was left unconscious and taken to hospital after an argument between him and the suspect broke out on the dance floor.

The 28-year-old suffered cuts and bruises to his face.

Clark, 28, scored twice in 20 Premier League appearances this season, his second at St. James’ Park.

WATCH: World Cup, Day 9 — Iceland’s next step, Brazilian bounce back?

Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images
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Brazil is one of the favorites of the 2018 World Cup, while Iceland is the smallest nation to qualify for the world’s biggest tournament.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

On Friday, both enter their second match days feeling quite different after 1-1 draws.

They won’t face each other, of course, but the contrast is striking nevertheless.

Brazil opens the day’s action when it squares off with Costa Rica, who fell to Serbia in the opener. For Serbia, a dark horse of the tournament, it will be a meeting with Switzerland.

Then there’s Iceland’s bid to climb into the Group D driver’s seat by knocking off Nigeria. A win from Iceland would make Lionel Messi and Argentina’s task of qualifying for the knockout rounds extremely unlikely.

Below is Friday’s schedule in full.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.


2018 World Cup schedule – Wednesday, June 20

Group D
Nigeria vs. Iceland: Volgograd, 11 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group E
Brazil vs. Costa Rica: Saint Petersburg, 8 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Serbia vs. Switzerland: Kaliningrad, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Sampaoli defends Messi, blasts Argentina

Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images
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Jorge Sampaoli is lambasting his team after a 3-0 loss put Argentina on the edge of failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup’s knockout rounds.

“The reality of the Argentina squad clouds Lionel Messi’s brilliance,” Sampaoli said. “The team doesn’t gel as well as it should.”

[ MORE: Modric urges humility ]

Sampaoli said his players could not find a way to get the ball to Messi, and that the introduction of Boca Juniors youngster Cristian Pavón was aimed at opening up the field a little bit.

And Sampaoli is not shying away from the long-discussed comparison between Messi and Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo. From the BBC:

“Cristiano is a great player and he has achieved a lot with club and country. Right now it is hard to compare these two players because of the ability in the Argentinian squad clouds the judgment. Leo is in a difficult position because the squad doesn’t gel with him. As coach I have to accept that. I don’t feel shame but I definitely feel pain. It has been a long time since I have gone through this experience as a coach and obviously it is more painful when I’m wearing the colours of my country.

“We have no alternative but to give it our all in the final match. We have not performed at the level the country expects. We were ambitious ahead of the game but now it is harder for us as a group. We did think this would be the match we can take off as a team, but it wasn’t in the end. I think this is an excellent squad but we didn’t gel or come together. We need to take advantage of the next match, when the pressure will be on, and hope to progress.”

Now, of course Sampaoli is going to defend Messi, but Argentina’s team is not chopped liver. The side certainly isn’t as deep or solid as Croatia, but 1-1 with Iceland preceded this one.

That said, Argentina’s performance once Croatia essentially decided to surround Messi was unacceptable. If favored Nigeria doesn’t handle its business against Iceland, the World Cup finalists won’t have a prayer of going back.

Modric urges humility after big win, stunning goal (video)

AP Photo / Ricardo Mazalan
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There are few teams who’ve looked as strong as Croatia at the World Cup in Russia.

[ RECAP: Argentina 0-3 Croatia ]

Zlatko Dalic’s men now have a pair of shutout wins against decent competition, topping Nigeria 2-0 over the weekend before hammering Argentina 3-0 on Thursday.

The nature of those performances will have many, us included, debating just how far Croatia can run in this tournament. Veteran midfielder Luka Modric is hoping his team doesn’t do the same.

Let’s not be euphoric or get ahead of ourselves,” Modric said. “Of course this win will boost our confidence for the next game, and we have shown we can create opportunities, but let’s keep our feet firmly on the ground.”

Modric noted that Willy Caballero‘s howler “was a shot in the arm,” but added that they had played a “perfect game.”

That’s true. And while so much focus will be on Messi’s struggles, don’t sleep on the terrific performance of Vatreni. 

Modric also seemed to bristle when asked about shutting down Messi.

“I don’t want to talk about other players. We are happy with our own performance. We wanted to cut out Messi receiving the ball because he is the most dangerous player.”