ProSoccerTalk’s weekly MLS rankings

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Round 15 was abbreviated in Major League Soccer due to the international matches, so movement in this weeks rankings was light:

19. Chivas USA – The Carolina Railhawks eliminated MLS champion Los Angeles last week, so it’s up to the Goats to protect So Cal honor when the teams meet Wednesday night in Cary, N.C.

18. D.C. United – A nice U.S. Open Cup run would help bring something positive to a season gone badly sideways; United hosts Philadelphia tonight in the tournament. Meanwhile, the next three league matches are at RFK Stadium, so it’s now or never in terms of dragging this thing out of a ditch.

17. Toronto FC – The front office has a big decision to make on Robert Earnshaw, who scored a bunch early but hasn’t been as productive lately. The Welshman’s loan spell is just about up.

16. Chicago Fire – Mike Magee (pictured) was the start of the show in a big two-goal rally, guiding the team to a 2-2 draw with Portland. That trade is looking more and more like the deal of the year, isn’t it?

15. San Jose Earthquakes – The timing on Frank Yallop’s dismissal is a head-scratcher. Richard Farley goes a little deeper here to explain the events that conspired ahead of Major League Soccer’s second coaching dismissal this year.

14. Vancouver Whitecaps – The Whitecaps could not capitalize on last week’s huge road win (over New York), and are now winless in 12 Cascadia Cup matches. The Whitecaps fell Saturday in Seattle, 3-2. Further, center back Andy O’Brien fell to injury.

13. Columbus – Any chance of a collecting a point in Philadelphia last week melted away in six of the worst minutes ever seen for the men in yellow, as the Union slotted three past Andy Gruenebaum and rolled on to the win at PPL Park.

12. Philadelphia Union – The strangest thing about last week’s 3-0 win over Columbus was this: MLS leading scorer Jack McInerney didn’t get any of the goals! He had a great chance late, but went wide with only Columbus’ goalkeeper to beat.

11. New England Revolution –  Bobby Shuttleworth and the Revs defense has not conceded a goal in 395 minutes. A 0-0 draw at home with D.C. United isn’t the best result, but it does keep Jay Heaps’ team unbeaten in five straight.

10. Colorado Rapids – Getting healthier every week, Oscar Pareja’s team hosts San Jose this weekend after a week off in MLS action.

9. LA Galaxy – Goalkeeper Carlo Cuducini was benched and Landon Donovan called out his team after another bad loss on the road, this one 3-1 to Real Salt Lake. That followed last week’s humbling by a 5-0 loss in New England.

8. New York Red Bulls – Harvard’s Soldiers Field is the venue as New York faces MLS rival New England in a U.S. Open Cup match on Wednesday. Thierry Henry is back from his Colombian vacation, but the match is on FieldTurf, so who knows if the Red Bull’s star striker will appear?

7. Seattle Sounders – Missing three important starters (Eddie Johnson and Brad Evans for U.S. duty, plus the injured Osvaldo Alonso), the Sounders still rallied for a dramatic 3-2 win over Vancouver. Sigi Schmid’s team is now 5-0 when crowds top 50,000 at CenturyLink.

6. Real Salt Lake – If you haven’t heard of Olmes Garcia, get ahead of the curve. The kid really has something.  Jason Kreis’ team faces Charleston in a U.S. Open Cup match Wednesday, then has the weekend off.

5. Houston Dynamo – Dominic Kinnear’s team has been great on the road lately, 2-0-2 since mid-April. They’ll need more of the same Wednesday in North Texas, facing FC Dallas in a U.S. Open Cup version of the Texas derby.

4. Sporting Kansas City – Orlando City eliminated Colorado in one of the big U.S. Open Cup upsets last week. But that was in Florida, and things will surely look different Wednesday when the USL Pro side reaches Sporting Park on the outskirts of Kansas City.

3. Montreal Impact – The tables are finally turned for L’Impact, who get the benefit of extra rest while this weekend’s opponent, Columbus, plays a mid-week domestic cup match. It was other way around for Marco Schallibaum’s busy team in late May.

2. Portland Timbers – Ben Zemanski nailed a fantastic second-half goal, and the Timbers needed it as Chicago rallied for two in Bridgeview. Still, a 2-2 draw at Toyota Park keeps Caleb Porter’s team unbeaten in 12 matches.

1. FC Dallas – Big decisions are ahead for the league leaders, who face rival Houston in a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup match on Wednesday – in a competition that means a lot to the club as it is named after the grandfather of Dallas soccer and a man loved by manager Schellas Hyndman. Three nights later, the Red Stripes are at Portland in a big Western Conference contest.

Spat in Spanish soccer over playing during daytime heat

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Spanish soccer has another spat on its hands.

The national soccer federation took issue with the Spanish league over its management strategy for the second time this week when it criticized the scheduling of games during what it considered the excessive heat of daytime.

The federation run by Luis Rubiales said it would try to take control of match scheduling if La Liga continues to hold matches in daytime heat.

The federation issued a statement on Sunday to express its “displeasure that matches are still being played each weekend under temperatures that are over 30 degrees (Celsius, 86 Fahrenheit) with the problems that cause athletes and fans.”

Sevilla vs. Levante started at 12:00 local time on Sunday, with Villarreal hosting Valencia at 16:15. Both matches featured water breaks in each half due to the high temperatures.

Villarreal coach Javier Calleja complained about the heat, and the time of the match.

“We have to find a better time (to play),” Calleja said after the 0-0 draw. “It was very hot today and it was not the best time. Today we all suffered, above all the players.”

The league’s heat protocol allows it to push back the time of matches if temperatures are expected to reach 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit).

Sunday’s match between Athletic Bilbao at Real Betis played in the southern city of Sevilla was originally scheduled to start at 18:30, but the league pushed it back to 20:00 earlier this week when forecasts called for temperatures to approach 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit).

Prior to the federation statement, Rubiales wrote on Twitter “If La Liga maintains these crazy playing times, we will recover the power” to schedule matches. His tweet included a photo of woman who appeared to be receiving medical attention at a stadium, apparently for a health problem related to the heat.

League president Javier Tebas responded to Rubiales on Twitter by saying “my friend Luis Rubiales”. “you cannot recover what is not yours.”

The dispute over times is the second run-in between the league and federation this week.

On Friday, the federation responded to the league’s request to play a regular-season match in the United States with a letter listing several problems it finds in the plan.

MADRID EYES KEY WEEK

Expect Gareth Bale to be back in the frontline of Real Madrid’s attack this week when it faces high-profile matches at Sevilla and a capital derby against Atletico Madrid.

Madrid coach Julen Lopetegui, who has the difficult task of following in the footsteps of Zinedine Zidane, took a chance on Saturday when he left Bale and other first-choice players out of his lineup for the visit of Espanyol.

The decision seemed reasonable enough considering that Espanyol hasn’t won at the Santiago Bernabeu since the 1995-96 season, and that his regular starters had played on Wednesday in a 3-0 win over Roma in the Champions League. So Lopetegui took the calculated risk that now was the time to give Bale, Marcelo and Toni Kroos a break.

But instead of trouncing Espanyol with a squad led by Francisco “Isco” Alarcon, Madrid needed a favorable video review to see a first-half strike by Marco Asensio appear on the scoreboard, and Borja Iglesias’ shot to be rejected by the crossbar to eke out a 1-0 victory and avoid consecutive slips after drawing at Athletic Bilbao.

“Players who don’t play as often played well today, we had to give them minutes and they responded,” Lopetegui. “We had circled this match in red. Games that come after a match in the Champions League are always complicated.”

In and out of favor with Zidane, Bale has been the driving force for Madrid going back to the end of the last season, when he scored five goals in the final four appearances in La Liga. That scoring run preceded his outstanding performance in the Champions League final, when he scored twice as a second-half substitute to help beat Liverpool 3-1.

So far this season, the Wales winger has four goals in six appearances, including a goal in a 3-0 win over Roma to start Madrid’s European title defense.

Madrid visits Sevilla on Wednesday before hosting Atletico on Saturday. Three days later, Madrid then has a long trip to Moscow to play CSKA in the Champions League.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/tag/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Mourinho’s mixed messages over Man United progression

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Jose Mourinho believes his Manchester United side will progress this season. Even if the table or points tally doesn’t show it.

Work that one out.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Speaking ahead of United’s 1-1 draw at home to Wolves on Saturday — Paul Pogba has already had his say as he urged United to ‘attack, attack, attack’ at home — Mourinho said he is pleased with the overall development of his side.

“I am not saying we are going to have more points than last season because last season we collect a very acceptable level,” Mourinho said. “I think we are going to be a better team. We are going to play better than we did but I think it’s going to be a very difficult season. Not just for us, also for the others because the others they can say exactly the same as I am saying and they can say: ‘Oh, Manchester United, good team, good squad, City good squad, good team.’”

“I am optimistic, but a difficult season, yes,” Mourinho added. “I don’t change that because we won two matches in the Premier League. You see the level of the teams: you see [the] Liverpool squad, City squad, Chelsea squad, Tottenham squad, Arsenal improving. It’s going to be difficult.”

As Mourinho mentioned, they’ve won two of their last three but just three of their opening six PL games this season and they’re already eight points off league leaders Liverpool in the table.

Surely he can’t be too happy with the development of his team? Mourinho questioned the attitude of his players after the draw with Wolves, which isn’t a sign of him believing they’re moving in the right direction.

The Portuguese coach is sending out mixed messages.

United’s dropped points against Tottenham, Brighton and Wolves were deserved, although the game against Spurs was a strange one as they played well and should have led but they were then punished in the second half. Wolves could’ve easily nicked a win at United on Saturday and United’s defensive deficiencies are the biggest problem for Mourinho to sort out as he chops and changes defensive players.

Do they need to attack more? Well, that is always the objective for any team and United are no different, especially at home, but Mourinho doesn’t seem to know his best attacking lineup aside from Romelu Lukaku. There’s no doubt Alexis Sanchez is in a severe slump, while Marcus Rashford is being played out of position on the wing and the likes of Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial are in and out of the team. To become a better attacking unit you need to have a settled system and personnel who can create and combine effectively. United do not have that. At all. And they haven’t since Mourinho arrived in 2016.

Over the past three seasons, United have scored 131 goals, the fewest amount of the so-called ‘big six’ in the Premier League.

They’ve scored nine goals in their opening six games of this season and they’ve conceded nine. That points to fine-tuning needed in both defense and attack if they’re not only going to finish in the top four but also drag themselves into the title race.

At this point Mourinho needs his players to put points on the board and more trophies in the cabinet at Old Trafford because his team aren’t showing serious signs of progression and aren’t enjoyable to watch on a weekly basis a la Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham and even Arsenal.

Sarri believes Chelsea still far from competing with Liverpool

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Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri checked the Blues fixture list, saw Liverpool twice in one week, and groaned. Probably.

After Chelsea drew 0-0 with London rivals West Ham on Sunday, Sarri looked ahead and told reporters that Liverpool has the continuity he craves.

“They are a step forward of us at this moment,” said Sarri when asked about Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool. “We have to play against a very, very good team who have worked with the same coach for three years. We have started to work together 40 days ago, less 10 days for the international break, so for us it is a bit early. We have to work and then, maybe, in one year we will be at the same level as Liverpool.”

Klopp was hired as Liverpool manager on October 8, 2015 and has slowly built the Reds squad into not just a Premier League title contender, but a formidable Champions League power as well, reaching the tournament final last campaign. Sarri believes the Liverpool attack is one of the most dangerous they’ll face, and while it might be entertaining for fans, it will stress him out.

“It will be a really difficult match,” Sarri said. “Maybe spectacular but for us, difficult. I don’t think there is an easy game against Salah, Firmino and Mane.”

Chelsea first faces Liverpool in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday at Anfield, and Sarri says he could make “five or eleven changes” with one less day to rest. Then, the clubs meet in the Premier League on Saturday at Stamford Bridge at 12:30 p.m. ET.

LA Galaxy handles Seattle Sounders 3-0 to close playoff gap

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There is plenty more work to be done for the LA Galaxy to complete the unlikely push for a playoff spot, but they passed a major hurdle with a 3-0 victory over the Seattle Sounders on Sunday night at the StubHub Center.

Seattle suffered a 60-minute defensive nightmare, and was never able to recover. It all started just nine minutes in when Brad Smith needlessly barged into the back of Ola Kamara who was chasing down a ball on the right side of the box, and the referee pointed to the spot. Zlatan Ibrahimovic sent Stefan Frei the wrong way with the ensuing penalty, and the Galaxy took the early lead.

Los Angeles found a second just before halftime as Ibrahimovic looked off the defense and then unlocked the back line with a burst forward on the left flank, feeding Romain Alessandrini through who burst towards the end line and crossed to Kamara for an easy tap-in just five minutes before the break.

Past halftime, the home side continued to dominate. Seattle held 55% possession, but failed to record a single shot on target until the 66th minute, finishing with just one among the 14 total attempts on net. LA would cash in on Seattle’s wastefulness for a 3-0 lead on a goal by Emmanuel Boateng in the 52nd minute and put the game out of sight.

The win lifts the Galaxy above the Vancouver Whitecaps and into 7th place in the Western Conference, with Vancouver’s loss to FC Dallas. They now sit just three points back of Seattle in the final playoff spot. The Sounders saw a nine-game winning streak and 12-game unbeaten streak snapped last time out against Philadelphia, and now the sudden slide could have devastating consequences should it continue.