The Top Ten in ProSoccerTalk’s weekly MLS rankings

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(Nos. 11-19 are here)

10. D.C. United – The pressure is clearly mounting for a team last seen in the playoffs in 2007. On everyone, from the top of the organization to the last man on the roster. Question the performance of referee Mark Geiger in Sunday’s 1-1 draw at home if you like, but the tactics weren’t right from the start, the roles of key players remain an exercise in instability and the players’ ability to keep their cool needs a lot of work, clearly. Club leaders and coaches who pin too much blame the referees aren’t helping matters.

9. Real Salt Lake – The choice to rest two key starters (Alvaro Saborio and Kyle Beckerman) will be seen differently if RSL prevails in tonight’s must-win CONCACAF Champions League match. As it is, the decision did some damage as FC Dallas came into Utah and left with all the points. The club is 3-7-1 in league play since a win over Chivas USA in early June and has now lost four in a row in all competitions.

8. Columbus Crew – Supporters around Crew Stadium have every reason to be excited after seeing just a little bit of Federico Higuaín, who was a bundle of ideas and energy in the Crew’s 2-2 draw at Houston. Chad Marshall doesn’t get the recognition he once did, but he’s still a big cop on the beat for Columbus’ defense. And Eddie Gaven is quietly have a fantastic season.

7. Seattle Sounders – The Sounders responded to a bummer week with a professionally managed win over Cascadia Cup rival Vancouver. Fredy Montero’s role is an increasingly interesting topic. He clearly has starters’ talent, but the man is so doggone effective as a game-changing sub. Five of his eight goals have come off the bench this year, including last week’s second-half strike in the 2-0 win.

6. Angeles Galaxy – Say this for Robbie Keane: he tends to rise in matches when the two big Galaxy men, Landon Donovan and David Beckham, aren’t around. Keane’s goal and his overall play were instrumental as the Galaxy managed a 1-1 draw last week in Columbus, where hearts were heavy and emotions were understandably in a tough place for all. Meanwhile, whispers keep growing that this team is better without injured striker Edson Buddle.

5. Chicago Fire – Chris Rolfe and Sherjill MacDonald look like quite the central, attacking tandem. (Rolfe plays behind recently acquired striker MacDonald.) In fact, that looks like a major upgrade over the previous, primary tandem of Patrick Nyarko and Dominic Oduro. Rolfe’s five goals in 2012, all coming recently, helps explains Chicago’s recent strong form; including last week’s win over New England, Frank Klopas’ side has won three in a row.

4. New York Red Bulls – Tim Cahill’s goal was a point of contention, but probably shouldn’t have been. (C’mon, ref! Call the penalty kick there. Chances are, the home team scores and nobody cares about the decision.) Bottom line here was a dramatic 3-2 win at home over Portland. Heath Pearce (pictured above), looking like quite a mid-season pick-up, provided the late game-winner. In fact, all three scorers Sunday (Pearce, Cahill and Kenny Cooper) were 2012 acquisitions.

3. Houston Dynamo – The sample is still quite small, but historically speaking, no MLS stadium has been as tough for opposition to pull points from. The Dynamo is 8-0-4 at BBVA Compass Stadium following last week’s 2-2 draw with Columbus. Some of the good results have come late; Adam Moffat hit the last week’s equalizer in the 82nd minute.

2. San Jose Earthquakes – Chris Wondolowski’s chances of reaching the MLS single-season record of 27 goals looked pretty good at one point. Now? Not so much. He did score Saturday against Montreal, although he would have preferred a win (or even a draw) over hitting No. 18 on the year. Colorado, struggling mightily, visits this week. The Earthquakes may have fallen out of the top spot here but a relatively soft schedule ahead provides every opportunity to zoom away with the Supporters Shield.

1. Sporting Kansas City – Peter Vermes’ team is wonderfully managing a difficult August slate. The latest positive result came Saturday in Toronto, where Kei Kamara’s sneaky little shot finally served to break down the home team’s stingy defense. Sporting is involved in a big one this week, hosting the New York Red Bulls in an ESPN2 contest on Sunday. That’s No. 1 (SKC) against No. 2 in the East, so it could say a lot about who eventually claims the conference title.

Actors Reynolds, McElhenney bid to invest in Wrexham AFC

Wrexham AFC
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“The Gang Buys a Football Team?”

“It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia” actor Rob McElhenney and “Deadpool” star Ryan Reynolds are said to be in talks to buy National League side Wrexham AFC, reports The Guardian.

[ MORE: ProSoccerTalk unfiltered, Week 2 ]

The Welsh club, nicknamed the Red Dragons, was founded in 1855 and made it to the European Cup Winners’ Cup eight times between 1972-96.

They’ve since been relegated out of the Football League, dipping out of League Two in 2008.

McElhenney and Reynolds have bid to take over the club, and the Wrexham Supporters Trust says 97.5 percent of their members voted to allow the actors to propose their vision for the club before a second vote.

From wst.org.uk:

As a result, talks with the proposed bidders will now continue and we are in a position to confirm the two people interested in investing in Wrexham AFC.

Rob McElhenney is an American actor, director, producer and screenwriter, best known as the creator of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

Ryan Reynolds is an award-winning Canadian actor, writer, producer and business entrepreneur whose credits include Marvel’s Deadpool.

It’s gotta get McElhenney’s goat that Reynolds gets the “award-winning” adjective added to his name.

Either way, this is definitely an intriguing club for investment and the potential addition of Reynolds and McElhenney to the fray would only increase the interest in Wrexham AFC.

Deadpool and Mac would be quite a combo in the transfer market.

Arteta drawn into Ozil discussion, reacts to Liverpool doubleheader

Arteta on Ozil
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Mikel Arteta did his best not to give a soundbite that included Mesut Ozil’s name following Arsenal’s 2-0 win over Leicester City in League Cup action on Wednesday.

Ozil, 31, has not played since assisting the lone goal in a March 7 win over West Ham and has since only twice even made the bench (June 20 and 25).

[ MORE: ProSoccerTalk unfiltered, Week 2 ]

Asked six times about the German, Arteta painted in broad strokes before mentioning Ozil in the second set of questions.

Arteta said that Ozil simply hasn’t warranted a place in an 18. This is how he responded when asked if he understood why there are so many questions about a player who has 44 goals and 77 assists in 254 appearances for the Gunners.

From Football.London:

“Of course I understand and I respect your questions but I have to try to do my job as fair as possible. I try to select the players that are, in my opinion, in better condition.”

Okay then.

As for Wednesday’s win, the Gunners broke through on a Christian Fuchs own goal before sealing the deal on Eddie Nketiah’s marker just before the final whistle.

Arsenal was outshot 15-10 but both teams were decidedly second-string. Now the Gunners get consecutive affairs at Anfield, as Liverpool is the hosts for a Monday meeting in the Premier League and a League Cup fourth round tie days later.

Arteta was asked how big of a test that will be for the Gunners.

“You can imagine, probably the toughest place to go in Europe or the world. That’s the fixtures, we have to go there. Let’s go first on Monday, let’s prepare well and see how it goes.”

Arsenal beat Liverpool 2-1 at the Emirates Stadium in July to deny the Reds a 100-point season, weeks after the Reds clinched the Premier League title. The Gunners again topped Liverpool in the Community Shield one month later.

The atmosphere and stakes will be high again next week. Surely Arteta can’t go 4-0 against Jurgen Klopp, right? Right?

Leicester City’s Rodgers: Gruesome Ndidi injury could cost him 12 weeks

Ndidi injury
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For every team, there’s an indispensible player and it’s difficult to argue against Leicester City’s player being Wilfred Ndidi.

The groin injury that kept the Nigerian out of Leicester’s 2-0 home loss to Arsenal in the League Cup could require surgery, said Foxes boss Brendan Rodgers after the game.

[ MORE: ProSoccerTalk unfiltered, Week 2 ]

One of the game’s top destroyers, Ndidi had played two matches at center back as Leicester opened the season 2-0.

Rodgers could hardly have made the injury sound more painful.

From The Leicester Mercury:

“We’re just waiting to hear more on that but it could be anything between six and 12 weeks,” Rodgers said. “It’s a groin abductor which may have come off the bone, which is quite a nasty one. We’re waiting to see if he needs an operation or not. If he does, it will be at least 12 weeks.”

Leicester missed Ndidi for five-of-six games in early 2020 and went 2D-3L, starting a skid that ended up costing them Champions League football.

The 23-year-old already has 34 caps for Nigeria.

The Foxes have Nampalys Mendy, Hamza Choudhury, and Daniel Amartey amongst their defensive midfield options.

They next face Man City, West Ham, Aston Villa, and Arsenal in Premier League play. Leicester will learn its Europa League group on Oct. 2 before beginning its UEL run the week of Oct. 22.

Champions League: Six-goal thriller in Norway; Marsch’s Salzburg lead

Champions League qualifying
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The UEFA Champions League qualifying playoff round is delivering entertainment, with six first legs dotting the European landscape over the past 27 hours.

[ MORE: ProSoccerTalk unfiltered, Week 2 ]

American coach Jesse Marsch saw his Red Bull Salzburg take a first leg advantage home from Israel, while U.S. right back Henry Wingo and Molde played the game of the round so far against Hungary’s Ferencvaros.


Maccabi Tel-Aviv 1-2 Red Bull Salzburg

The Austrian visitors were heavy favorites, especially with the hosts dealing with positive COVID-19 tests, but Maccabi took a ninth-minute lead through Dan Biton.

But young Dominik Szoboszlai’s Man of the Match showing began with a goal in the 49th minute and Masaya Okugawan gave Salzburg the lead eight minutes later ahead of next week’s second leg in Austria.

Molde 3-3 Ferencvaros

A thriller in Norway saw the hosts erase a 2-0 deficit only to hand a big away goals advantage to the Hungarian visitors with minutes to play.

Ferencvaros scored early in each half through Franck Boli and Myrto Uzuni. Both goals were set up by Endre Botka and Ferencvaros looked set to cruise through the first leg.

Molde snapped awake through former Manchester United, Cardiff City, and Seattle Sounders man Magnus Wolff Eikrem, who set up Leke James in the 55th minute before scoring a classy goal that was started on the right flank by fellow ex-Sounder and American export Henry Wingo.

Martin Ellingsen gave Molde its first lead in the 83rd, but Ihor Kharatin made it 3-3 four minutes later to send Ferencvaros back to Hungary with three away goals. A draw any less insane would be enough for them to head to the group stage.

Elsewhere

Gent 1-2 Dynamo Kiev
Olympiakos 2-0 Omonia Nicosia
Krasnodar 2-1 PAOK
Slavia Prague 0-0 Midtjylland

Second legs

Sept. 29
Ferencvaros v Molde
Dynamo Kiev v Gent
Omonia v Olympiakos

Sept. 30 
Midtjylland v Slavia Prague
PAOK v Krasnodar
Red Bull Salzburg v Maccabi Tel-Aviv