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.

Report: Earnie Stewart in negotiations for U.S. Soccer GM job

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Philadelphia Union sporting director and USMNT centurion Earnie Stewart is reportedly in negotiations to become the United States men’s national team general manager.

[ MORE: Napoli hires Ancelotti ]

The report, from Metro NY reporter Kristian Dyer, says the Netherlands-born executive has the proverbial ball in his court.

Stewart, 49, racked up 103 caps and 18 goals for the Yanks and had a glittering playing career spent between Willem II, NAC Breda, and DC United.

He later had high-ranking positions with NAC Breda and AZ Alkmaar.

Here’s Dyer, quoting a source:

The source, speaking to Metro on the condition of anonymity, said that Stewart is believed to be the frontrunner and is in negotiations for the position following an impressive showing during the interview process.

The club, when asked for a comment, told Metro that “Since Earnie’s first interview with U.S. Soccer, we have respected their process, and as such, we will decline further comment until a final decision has been made.”

Stewart scored against Colombia in the 1994 World Cup and added markers in qualifying for the 1998 and 2002 tournaments.

His familiarity with both MLS and European leagues would be a boon for the U.S., and Stewart’s Union has brought along a number of promising young players including Auston Trusty and Keegan Rosenberry (the latter drafted out of Georgetown).

Carrick: Haven’t entertained possibility of Pogba leaving Man Utd

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Michael Carrick is hammering the idea of a Paul Pogba exit from Manchester United.

Pogba’s had his problems with manager Jose Mourinho, but recently praised the boss for the season’s education.

[ MORE: Napoli hires Ancelotti ]

But is an exit is just not going to happen, says Carrick as he heads toward a coaching role at Old Trafford.

From Sky Sports:

“Of course he’s got a future, he’s a big player for us, he’s a great age, he’s got his peak years ahead of him. It’s not even something I’d give a second thought to, to be honest.”

The retired midfielder also said he’s looking forward to working under Jose Mourinho, whom he calls “the best man to learn from.”

He also said United’s trophy-less season wasn’t ideal, but it’s more about them their competition.

“We’re not looking at City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham, anyone. We’re looking at ourselves to improve, we believe we’re capable of improving a lot and we’ll see where that takes us.”

Three key battles for Champions League Final

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Saturday brings Real Madrid’s journey toward a third-straight UEFA Champions League title to a close, with just Liverpool standing in the way.

[ MORE: Napoli hires Ancelotti ]

The Reds attack promises danger and entertainment, while Zinedine Zidane’s personnel choice may be just as important as his tactical decisions in Kiev.

Van Dijk, Lovren against… Ronaldo and whoever Zidane decides

It’s difficult to highlight the match-up problems for Liverpool’s center backs because Zinedine Zidane has used three different set-ups atop his line-up.

At times, it’s been Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema. Sometimes, Gareth Bale takes Benzema’s spot, and occasionally Ronaldo has been played up top as a center forward.

Believe it or not, that may be the best case scenario for Liverpool, though Ronaldo will undoubtedly roam across the top of the formation. While many think of Ronaldo and visualize his laser shots from distance, he’s quite dangerous in 1v1 aerial battles as well as tight spaces inside the box.

Quite frankly, matches like this highlight why the Reds signed Virgil Van Dijk. And, opinion alert, human bowling ball Benzema and his Juggernaut-esque approach to attacking may be a unique challenge Liverpool has not seen outside of Romelu Lukaku.

Marcelo vs. Mohamed Salah

Marcelo is an unbelievably silky, savvy left back who uses an elite attacking skill set to keep the opposition’s entire right side off kilter.

In some ways he can be partially neutralized by the danger presented by Reds right wing Mo Salah, but Zidane isn’t going to tell Marcelo to camp out in his own end when left center back Sergio Ramos is the next man up to defend, one of the finest players of his generation.

So it’s on Salah to assert himself on the game, something that shouldn’t be a problem after a couple weeks away from match action.

Can Real defend Liverpool on the counter?

We’ve seen Liverpool expose a number of teams on the counter attack, and Real certainly has a handle on how to do the same.

But building on our second key, there’s danger for both sides when Marcelo or Dani Carvajal get up the pitch. When Liverpool regains the ball and attacks at pace, there are big choices to be made.

Say Marcelo is up the pitch. Now Ramos may have to take Salah and leave Roberto Firmino to Raphael Varane. Now Carvajal may be alone with Sadio Mane. It’s not that Carvajal or Marcelo cannot defend, but these are not situations anyone wants in a one-off.

And that’s the key for Liverpool, really. This is a one-off. Over two legs, it’s hard to imagine the Reds as constructed pulling off another heavily-outchanced two-leg win like it did against Manchester City. The answer to this counter question may be what tells the story in Kiev.

Ancelotti hired to end Napoli’s scudetto drought

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Is Carlo Ancelotti the right man to end Juventus’ seemingly ages-old hold on the scudetto?

Napoli hopes so, and has inked the former Real Madrid, Chelsea, and Bayern Munich boss to a three-year deal.

Ancelotti’s resume speaks for itself, and the hiring promises more Serie A drama after the Neapolitan club nearly got the job done this season under Maurizio Sarri.

[ MORE: Top takeaways from Emery’s Arsenal unveiling ] 

Ancelotti won scudetti as a player with Roma (1) and AC Milan (2), once more as a manager for the latter. He also led Milan to two Champions League crowns, winning the tournament with Real Madrid as well, while bringing league titles to Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain, and Bayern Munich.

Napoli has finished Top 3 in six of eight seasons, finishing four points behind Juve this season. Juventus has won the last seven scudetti, and Napoli’s only title came in 1987.

The club announced the move after owner Aurelio De Laurentiis let go of Sarri, thanking the previous manager for three seasons of work which included a Serie A Coach of the Year Award and wins in 97 of 147 matches.

“I’d like to thank Maurizio Sarri for his valuable contribution to the Napoli cause. He brought joy and prestige to Naples and Napoli fans all over the world with an entertaining brand of football that drew praise from all quarters. Well done, Maurizio.”