ProSoccerTalk’s weekly MLS rankings

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ProSoccerTalk’s weekly re-ordering of Major League Soccer teams, following 13 rounds of play:

19. D.C. United – Ben Olsen and Dwayne De Rosario say they’ve made up after all this. Just one of those things, they say. We’ll see.

18. Chivas USA – May has come and gone and here is the ugly truth: four games, four losses and an absolutely dreadful 13-1 goal deficit in the month. Yikes!

17. Toronto FC – Jonathan Osorlo’s second half introduction was a bright spot in a game without many of them for the Reds, a 2-0 loss at New England.

16. Chicago Fire – Mike Magee didn’t get into the 18 as Frank Klopas’ club lost another one, this time at Real Salt Lake. The Fire’s latest acquisition can only help.

15. Vancouver Whitecaps – Kenny Miller? Staying or going? Kind of hard to tell.  Maybe we’ll know more by the time the Whitecaps meet Montreal in Wednesday’s second of the Amway Canadian Championship.

14. San Jose Earthquakes – The season just isn’t going as planned around Buck Shaw. So let’s talk about when the ‘Quakes get out of Buck Shaw! How’s that pretty, green new stadium coming along? It’s LEED certified, you know.

13. Philadelphia Union – Jack McInerney scored again (now up to nine, still sharing the league lead), but the defense went on holiday in a 5-3 loss at Montreal.

12. New England Revolution – What a goal for Diego Fagundez, who is having a sensation May. (By the way, in talking about the kid’s great strike in Saturday’s win over Toronto, perhaps we didn’t give enough credit to Chris Tierney’s good work along the left to arrange his young striker. So, good on ya, too, Chris.)

11. Columbus – Considering the patchwork defense, a 2-2 draw at New York has to be filed under “success.” Federico Higuain was fantastic again.

10. Real Salt Lake – RSL’s home record isn’t bad, but it would be better than 3-1-2 if Jason Kreis’ team had more than seven goals in those six matches. Latest example was the weekend’s 1-1 draw with Chicago.

9. Seattle Sounders – Seriously, guys, we know Osvaldo Alonso is good. Check that – the dude is massive around CenturyLink. But are things going to fall completely apart without him?

8. LA Galaxy – All the talk was about Robbie Rogers, but another Robbie supplied the showy hat trick (Robbie Keane, of course) in a demonstrative 4-0 win over Seattle. It was never close by the way, a real ground and pound for the Galaxy.

(MORE: The dramatically short arc of the Robbie Rogers story)

7. Colorado Rapids – Another week, another win for the league’s most anonymous success story of 2013. Yes, it was over Chivas USA, the league’s top punching bag of the moment. Either way, Oscar Pareja’s club is unbeaten over six in a row.

6. Houston Dynamo – Big question being knocked around MLS last week (and going forward, too): Will it be Houston or Sporting Kansas City moving into the West to accommodate New York City FC? Could be Chicago, too, I suppose. But odds seem to favor SKC or Dominic Kinnear’s bunch from South Texas.

5. New York Red Bulls – Leave it to Thierry Henry to put an exclamation point on his team’s draw at home with Columbus (in fairness, a Columbus side that is quite difficult to beat when traveling): “It wasn’t good enough, especially the way we started, the goal we gave away. … It wasn’t enough, because if it was, we would have won.”

4. Montreal Impact – Marco Schallibaum’s club keeps finding new ways to surprise us, this time leading the way in the highest scoring MLS match this year, a 5-3 win over Philadelphia. Marco Di Vaio (pictured above) supplied the league’s second hat trick this year, matching a league record for goals in a half (three) along the way.

3. Portland Timbers – With all the drama around the D.C. United death spiral, it might be easy to overlook this little gem from the other side of Saturday’s contest: Caleb Porter’s team creeps ever closer to capping off half its 2013 road schedule without a loss, now at 2-0-5 after the 2-0 win at RFK.

2. Sporting Kansas City – Kei Kamara’s second half introduction was huge in an eventful 1-1 draw with Houston. Then again, aren’t games between these two Eastern toughies always eventful?

(MORE: Who says Kei Kamara isn’t fit enough to start?)

1. FC Dallas – George John was back in the lineup, but goalkeeper Raul Fernandez was the big hero in a 1-0 win over San Jose. Fabian Castillo, slowly learning how to properly deploy all that raw speed, had the Red Stripe’s goal.

Ricketts family, owner of the Chicago Cubs, interested in purchasing AC Milan

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The Ricketts family, who purchased a controlling stake in the Chicago Cubs back in 2009, have interest in further pursuing ownership in financially troubled Italian club AC Milan.

According to a family statement, “The Ricketts family brought a championship to the Chicago Cubs through long-term investment and being great stewards of the team … They would bring this same approach to AC Milan.”

First reported by the Chicago Tribune, the news of the Tom Ricketts’ interest in the team comes on the heels of news that current owner Li Yonghong had failed to meet a Friday deadline for a $37 million loan payment. According to reports, the missed payment means that Li will cede control of the club to Elliott Management, who loaned the Chinese businessman the money to complete his initial purchase of the club last April.

The Chicago Sun-Times also reported the family’s interest in the club, and quoted their source as saying, “The Ricketts put together the management team, resources and training facilities [for the Cubs]. [They did] everything you need top to bottom to be successful.”

Ricketts has plenty of history in soccer ownership, having previously been a part of the group that owned English club Derby County before selling back in 2015. This May, Ricketts also announced he was leading an investment group that is looking to bring a USL expansion team to Chicago.

Forbes values AC Milan at $612 million – a massive 26% 1-year decline – and ranks them the 17th most valuable soccer club in the world. That valuation could be further on the decline, as the storied club missed out on Champions League qualification for the fifth straight year, although they qualified for their second straight Europa League appearance with 6th place finish in last year’s Serie A table, eight points behind Lazio in fifth.

AC Milan also faces heavy sanctions from UEFA regarding Financial Fair Play, although those fears could be eased with the financially-troubled Li selling the club.

The Ricketts family’s wealth comes largely from investment banking, with Tom’s father J. Joseph Ricketts having founded Ameritrade back in 1975. Tom is estimated by Forbes to be worth $1 billion, while his father has an estimated net worth of $2.1 billion.

Xhaka, Shaqiri display controversial goal celebrations in win over Serbia

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A seemingly innocuous goal celebration performed by both Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri has thinly veiled, politically charged undertones and could potentially land the pair in FIFA disciplinary proceedings following Switzerland’s 2-1 win over Serbia.

Both displayed a bird hand signal as they celebrated scoring goals, and considering their pre-match comments, post-match social media posts, and ethnic backgrounds, those were clearly meant to represent the double-eagle symbol in the middle of the Albanian flag.

This is a complicated political scenario, but it could be considered by FIFA to be politically provocative. Shaqiri is Albanian, born in Kosovo before moving to Switzerland with his parents and three siblings when he was just a year old. Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia in 2008 and is not recognized as a sovereign nation by Serbia. Xhaka is of Albanian descent, and his father previously participated in a demonstration against the communist Yugoslavian rule in Kosovo that landed him a lengthy jail sentence. Albania and Serbia have a particularly tumultuous relationship, with their leaders meeting for the first time in over 60 years in 2014, which caused tempers to flare.

Following the match, Xhaka posted a picture of his celebration on his Instagram story, with the caption in Albanian roughly translated to, “Here you go Serbia, this is why they call me Granit Kosovo!” He deleted the post, and replaced it with an image of his celebration side-by-side with Shaqiri’s, with the slightly more cryptic caption, “We did it, bro!” in English.

FIFA is wildly against any type of political demonstration or involvement in the world of soccer. The governing body has punished individual nation federations in the past for government involvement, while political demonstrations on the field are fiercely frowned upon.

Switzerland captain and new Arsenal signing Stephan Lichtsteiner came to the defense of his two teammates after the match. When asked about the celebrations, he said to Goal.com, “We had a lot of pressure, it was not an easy game for us. We have a lot of Albanians, so there is a lot of history between Serbia and Albania. It was a very tough game for them mentally.”

“It was good. Why not? This is the history for them,” Lichtsteiner continued. “The war between them was so difficult. I spoke to the father of one of our players who is Albanian, and he told me about this history. This is more than football. This is more than football because they have this period, this war that gave them both big problems. I understand them. I think it’s normal, it’s part of their life. There was also big provocation ahead of the game from them [Serbia], so I think it’s normal.”

Shaqiri could be in especially hot water. The Stoke City midfielder wore boots with the flags of Switzerland and Kosovo. He has made it clear in the past that he values his roots, saying, “I was born in Kosovo, but I grew up in Switzerland. I live both mentalities, it’s not a big difference.”

Switzerland finishes its World Cup group stage round with a match against Costa Rica on Wednesday in which a win would secure a spot in the knockout stage.

World Cup referees miss yet another physical penalty in box

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Let’s get this out of the way first: VAR (Video-Assistant Refereeing) has been a fabulous addition to the game of soccer. In the 2018 World Cup, the availability of replay has done nothing but improve the ability of referees to correctly officiate the game, providing an outlet for mistakes to be corrected. Earlier on Friday, a referee gave a penalty to Brazil for a foul on Neymar, but with VAR applied correctly, the penalty was wiped off after it was determined Neymar went down easily. The game continued as it should, and a clear and obvious error was erased.

Unfortunately, despite the clear improvement to the game VAR provides, there’s still some work to be done in one very specific area of the game.

[ MORE: Recap of Serbia 1-2 Switzerland ]

On multiple occasions this World Cup, referees have missed wrestling matches in the penalty area, allowing defenders to essentially get away with murder instead of awarding attackers a deserved penalty. The worst example of this yet took place in the 66th minute of the 2-1 Switzerland win over Serbia in Kaliningrad.

Aleksandar Mitrovic, already with a goal to his name early in the match, went up to meet a set-piece delivery with his head. He was fully bear-hugged by Switzerland captain Steven Lichtsteiner, and while being wrapped up, was then rugby tackled by Swiss central defender Fabian Schar.

Yet somehow, Mitrovic was called for the foul, as the referee whistled him for ending up over the back of his defender on a genuine attempt to play the ball.

With every replay shown, it became more and more evident that not only should a penalty have been awarded, but the referee missed a clear and obvious call. Yet the match referee, German Felix Brych, was given no assistance from the VAR booth, left on an island after blowing the call.

There have been so many instances of this throughout the tournament, despite a public directive reportedly given by FIFA to referees asking them to crack down on physical play in the box, according to Fox rules analyst Dr. Joe Machnik. England striker Harry Kane was wrestled to the ground numerous times against Tunisia with no call, while many Egypt fans felt hard done by after Mohamed Salah was bullied in the box repeatedly against Russia.

The more defenders can get away with while defending set pieces in front of net, the more the game will be muddied by controversy, clouding an otherwise glittering debut for VAR on the international stage. That’s frustrating.

Serbia 1-2 Switzerland: Late Shaqiri break shatters Serbian hearts

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One of the most exciting games of the 2018 World Cup proved entertaining from start to finish, ended by a stunning breakaway goal by Xherdan Shaqiri that capped a 2-1 Switzerland comeback victory over Serbia.

The start of the game was all Serbia, with Newcastle striker Aleksandar Mitrovic the most dangerous option up front, and he delivered on that promise just five minutes in. After a pair of chances just kept out by Yann Sommer, Mitrovic powered in a header off a Dusan Tadic cross to put Serbia in front early on.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

The goal confirmed yet another game without a 0-0 draw, 26 in a row to start the tournament, marking the World Cup record set back in 1954 when every single game in the Switzerland event featured a goal.

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

After the goal, the game exploded, with Serbia looking to double its lead and Switzerland hoping to gain a grip on the match. Without a second coming, Switzlerland began to build promisingly, and had its first chance right on the half-hour mark as Steven Zuber through-ball sprung Blerim Dzemaili, but his sliding effort was saved brilliantly by Vladimir Stojkovic at the last second. They had a second chance minutes later, but for some reason Xherdan Shaqiri decided for one too many crosses rather than taking the open shot himself.

Serbia didn’t just look to see out the first half, though, as the star of the first half Dusan Tadic nearly gave his team another lift. First, he delivered a fabulous corner that stunningly skipped through the box untouched. Then, just before the break, Tadic came agonizingly close to what would have been a fabulous half-volley strike that flew viciously wide.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ]

After the break, the back-and-forth action continued, and Granit Xhaka struck an absolute stunner on the counter to level the match seven minutes into the second half. Shaquiri’s initial attempt from the right edge of the box was blocked and the rebound fell to the Arsenal midfielder outside the penalty area. His follow-up was a laser, curling through the defense and past a wrong-footed Stojkovic.

The chaos continued, with Serbia swinging back into the initiative. Mitrovic had a penalty shout turned down after being bear-hugged and wrestled to the ground by a pair of defenders, and minutes later Aleksandr Kolarov delivered a luscious cross into the box but nobody was there to tap it home.

Serbia began to tire as the game inched towards the final minutes, and Switzerland had most of the late pressure. One moment of brilliance caught the Serbians sleeping, and it proved the difference. Mario Gavranovic fed Shaqiri on the break from his own half, and free on goal the Stoke City winger made no mistake as the last ticks of regulation came off.

The win for Switzerland moves them to four points through the first two matches, leaving them level atop Group E with Brazil on points but in second thanks to an inferior goal differential. Serbia, meanwhile, sits third with three points. Switzerland would advance to the knockout stage with a win or draw in their final match against Costa Rica, while the winner of Brazil vs. Serbia will advance as well, with Brazil advancing in the event of a draw.