ProSoccerTalk’s weekly MLS rankings

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Ten rounds remain, and the races for playoff spots are deliciously tight; our weekly re-ordering of Major League Soccer teams, following 24 rounds of play:

19. D.C. United – The average of Ben Olsen’s starters in a loss at Philadelphia was just more than 22 years old. On the other hand, the Black and Red did advance into the U.S. Open Cup final with a mid-week win at Chicago.

18. Toronto FC – Ryan Nelsen’s men were huffing and puffing and ready to blow the Seattle Sounders recently fortified house in during the last 45 minutes Saturday in Ontario. But some abysmal defending in the first 45 had left too large a deficit, and the Reds fell at home yet again.

17. Chivas USA – Still not much offense being generated in Goats Valley, but a 1-1 draw with Colorado at the StubHub Center can be considered a little bit of a “win” for the wayward club in 2013 – especially considering Chivas USA finished with nine men on the field. These needless ejections are killing the club.

16. FC Dallas – Blaz Perez scored twice as FC Dallas kept its fading playoff hopes alive in a 3-3 draw with the Galaxy. Set piece strikes are this club’s saving grace. Giving up three goals at home, however, is not a recipe for success. Overall, the club has allowed 11 goals in its last 5 league matches.

15. Columbus – Federico Higuain’s sumptuous chip was the icing on a desperately needed win, a 2-0 result over New York that keeps Columbus, now under new ownership, just close enough to remain a player in the post-season pursuit.

14. New England Revolution – Charlie Davies’ arrival into Gillette Stadium may not help – but it surely cannot hurt, either. The Revs were just blanked for the second consecutive match, falling at Sporting KC, 3-0. Kevin Alston returned to the starting lineup, a nice story on an otherwise forgettable evening.

13. San Jose Earthquakes – It was a bummer of a week for the ‘Quakes, but two matches in two Canadian cities just three nights apart was a tough task. San Jose fell to Montreal in a Champions League contest and then fell to Vancouver on Saturday in MLS action.

12. Houston Dynamo – The slow summer days are over for Dominic Kinnear’s men. Starting with Saturday’s big match in Houston against Clint Dempsey and Seattle, the Orange has a stretch of 7 matches in 23 days (including MLS matches and CONCACAF Champions League contests.)

11. Chicago Fire – A slightly injured Mike Magee did not dress for Saturday’s match in Bridgeview against Montreal – so the 2-1 win without a leading league MVP candidate is a terrific result for Frank Klopas’ team.

(MORE: MLS Round 24 week in review)

10. LA Galaxy – Bruce Arena was hopping mad about some of the Dallas goals in a 3-3 draw – and he was right. Then again, he’s also correct about his team’s need to defend better, especially on set pieces. All three FCD goals came off a corner kick or a free kick.

9. Montreal Impact – The Impact has just one win in its last eight games and has fallen from first to fourth over the last four weeks.

8. Philadelphia Union – Two months ago, it was unthinkable that anyone other than early season scoring sensation Jack McInerney would lead the team in scoring. And yet, today, Conor Casey’s nine goals is just one behind “Jack Mac’s” team-leading 10. Sebastien Le Toux leads MLS with 12 assists.

7. New York Red Bulls – No Tim Cahill and no Thierry Henry meant no offense in the 2-0 loss at Columbus. The club was also missing midfielder Loyd Sam and coach Mike Petke, who served a one-game suspension for previous sideline shenanigans.

6. Seattle Sounders – As we told you late Saturday night, the Sounders just went from too many star strikers to not enough of them. Eddie Johnson will be out for this week’s match in Houston, and possibly Obafemi Martins, too. A win on the road boosted the Sounders into second place in the standings (if you go by points per game).

5. Colorado Rapids – Martín Rivero’s wonderful header was the late equalizer against nine-man Chivas USA, the late, late capper Sunday night to MLS Round 24. Oscar Pareja’s team is unbeaten in its last eight.

4. Portland Timbers – It just has to be a better week in Portland Timbers Valley, doesn’t it? Smack in middle of having to listen to all this Dempsey Delirium, all that attention devoted to Clint Dempsey’s arrival in rival Seattle, the Timbers fell in a U.S. Open Cup semifinal, dropping an opportunity to host the 100-year-old tournament’s championship.

3. Vancouver Whitecaps – The Whitecaps are 8-3-3 since early May, one of the league’s more consistent sides. And in the MLS Weekly Review, we ask the question: are we giving enough credit to one Nigel Reo-Coker? He had two assists in the weekend win over San Jose.

2. Sporting Kansas City – DP striker Claudio Bieler has been a fine addition, but it is Kei Kamara who is driving the summer scoring around Sporting Park. Bieler has 9 goals in 24 matches, but Kamara has 7 in 14 matches since returning in the spring from England. He had two goals in Saturday’s commanding 3-0 win over New England.

1. Real Salt Lake – Two close wins made for a benchmark week around Rio Tinto. Jason Kreis’ useful blend of young and old contributed to a U.S. Open Cup semifinal win over Portland, and then again over the weekend to a 1-0 victory over Houston in league play. Alvaro Saborio (pictured above) has six goals in four games since returning from Costa Rican international duty.

Leeds vs Aston Villa: How to watch live, stream link, TV, team news

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Leeds vs Aston Villa: Two sides in desperate need of a victory to stop their ongoing slides will meet at Elland Road on Sunday (watch live, 11:30 am ET on USA Network and online via NBCSports.com). 

STREAM LIVE LEEDS vs ASTON VILLA

Leeds came flying out of the gates to begin Jesse Marsch’s first full season in charge as they went 2W-1D-0L in their first three games. Since then, two defeats and a draw.

Seven games into their own season, and Aston Villa appear on the verge of stabilizing the ship after an incredibly rocky start which included four defeats from their first five games.

Here’s everything you need to know ahead of Leeds vs Aston Villa

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]


How to watch Leeds vs Aston Villa live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 11:30 am ET, Sunday
TV channel: USA Network
Online: Stream via NBCSports.com


Key storylines & star players

As expected under Marsch, Leeds have taken a high-volume approach to their tactics — lots of pressing and challenges, lots of counter-attacking and lots of scoring chances created. Their 1.57 expected goals (per 90 minutes) ranks 7th in the Premier League. Leeds haven’t played a game (in any competition) since Sept. 3, one day shy of a month come Sunday, due to the death of Queen Elizabeth II and the ensuing fixture postponements. Leading goal-scorer Rodrigo remains out with a shoulder injury, but the Spaniard could be back in the next week or two.

Goal-scoring has been a major issue thus far for Aston Villa, who have scored multiple goals in a game just once this season. Six different players have scored a goal, but no one has scored two. Unsurprisingly, Steven Gerrard’s side sits 19th in the PL for xG (0.76 per 90).


Leeds team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: Rodrigo (shoulder), Stuart Dallas (thigh) | QUESTIONABLE: Adam Forshaw (ankle)

Aston Villa team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: Diego Carlos (achilles), Lucas Digne (ankle), Boubacar Kamara (knee) | QUESTIONABLE: Matty Cash (hamstring), Cameron Archer (adductor)

Follow @AndyEdMLS

West Ham gets breakthrough win, goals for Scamacca and Bowen

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West Ham United won a proper scrap with Wolves on Saturday at London’s Olympic Stadium, using a beautiful goal from Gianluca Scamacca and a clever finish from Jarrod Bowen to post a 2-0 win.

WATCH WEST HAM vs WOLVES FULL MATCH REPLAY STREAM

The Irons win their second match of the year to move clear of the bottom three with seven points.

Wolves now occupy 18th place on the Premier League table with six points, but will feel hope at the performance of Diego Costa off the bench for the final 32 minutes.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]


What we learned from West Ham vs Wolves

Gianluca Scamacca is feeling comfortable: He was spotted visibly angry when a teammate’s sloppy first touch destroyed an early chance, and Scamacca is obviously not sheepish about his role in the team. He also clearly wanted to take a start over Michail Antonio to make his case to start every week. His thunderous goal from the edge of the 18 should’ve adequately made it.

Diego Costa flashes: The big, tempestuous veteran striker still knows where to be on the pitch and was just put off enough on a powerful header that went wide of the goal. Costa was a fine hold-up man, something Wolves have used to thrive when Raul Jimenez is at or near his best. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Costa become the positive difference in 3-4 matches this season… maybe even next Saturday against old pals Chelsea?

Declan Rice: Speaking of the positive difference, Declan Rice is a force from endline-to-endline.

West Ham vs Wolves
fotmob.com

Jarrod Bowen reaction: ‘Just what we needed’

“It’s just what we needed. We haven’t had the start we wanted, and we had an international break to regroup our thoughts and go out on the front foot. We suffered without the ball but what this manager does is we’re a tough team to break down and we can counter. Massive three points for us, and we’ve got a lot of games now.”


Gianluca Scamacca reaction: First Premier League goal ‘amazing’

“It was an amazing feeling, for the fans. We needed to win. Today we worked very hard and made a good victory.”


Tactical focus

Declan Rice, Lucas Paqueta, and Tomas Soucek going up against Joao Moutinho, Ruben Neves, and Matheus Cunha was a grind and we think all deserve ice baths. Not so much a midfield muddle as a melee, Neves and Paqueta were kept from their creative best in order to snap into tackles, though Rice stepped forward to seize the day on several occasions

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]


Stars of the Show

Declan Rice

Jarrod Bowen

Rayan Ait-Nouri


What’s next?

Wolves have a trip to Anderlecht for Thursday action in the Europa Conference League before Fulham visits London’s Olympic Stadium on Sunday, Oct. 9.

Wolves will reunite Diego Costa with Chelsea come 10am ET Saturday.


How to watch West Ham vs Wolves live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 12:30 pm ET, Saturday
TV channel: NBC
Online: Stream via NBCSports.com


Key storylines & star players

For both sides, the goal-scoring woes are a result of not only a failure to convert scoring chances, but also their inability to create them. West Ham and Wolves both rank in the bottom five of the Premier League in expected goals with identical paltry 0.9 xG averages (per 90 minutes). No other side in the Premier League is anywhere close to underperforming their expected numbers by more than 50 percent.

Goals have come much more easily for West Ham in the Europa Conference League, where they have scored three goals in all four games thus far — six in two games against Danish side Viborg, and three apiece against Romanian runners-up FCSB and another Danish side in Silkeborg.

Wolves made the effort to be a better attacking side this season, as they spent $18 million on Sasa Kalajdzic, but the Austrian international striker tore his ACL on his debut for the club. Raul Jimenez, meanwhile, has played just 211 minutes in three Premier League appearances (none since Aug. 31) and has just one goal, in the League Cup. The Mexican international is now in a race against time to be healthy and fit for the 2022 World Cup eight weeks from now.


West Ham team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: Nayef Aguerd (ankle), Benjamin Johnson (hamstring)

Wolves team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: Raul Jimenez (groin), Sasa Kalajdzic (torn ACL), Nathan Collins (suspension), Chiquinho (knee)

Follow @AndyEdMLS

Liverpool vs Brighton goal fest features Trossard hat trick

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Brighton and Hove Albion refused to go away, giving new manager Roberto De Zerbi a memorable debut in a 3-3 draw with Liverpool at Anfield on Saturday.

Leandro Trossard scored twice early to give the Seagulls a 2-0 lead and completed his hat trick after the hosts had rallied behind a Roberto Firmino brace and an Adam Webster own goal to lead 3-2 with 27 minutes left in the 90.

WATCH LIVERPOOL vs BRIGHTON FULL MATCH REPLAY STREAM

Brighton remains fourth and now has 14 points through seven games, good for fourth and no worse than fifth depending on the result of the Manchester derby on Sunday.

Liverpool sits ninth with 10 points through seven games. Both clubs have a match-in-hand on most of the field.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]


What we learned from Liverpool vs Brighton

De Zerbi’s dynamic start: Life after Graham Potter was plenty good going forward for Brighton and Hove Albion, but Roberto De Zerbi’s buzz might wear off when he watches the Seagulls defending. Only a little, though, because every team gives up chances to Liverpool and the Reds were pretty due to bang some home (Mohamed Salah is now very much overdue for a big, big game of finishing… bookmark that one).

Liverpool’s defense messy, messy, messy (Yes, Jurgen, especially Trent): There Is not a level-headed person alive who would deny Trent Alexander-Arnold his status as one of the best right-sided playmakers in the world. There’s an argument that he’s could become his generation’s Andrea Pirlo as a central midfielder. But he’s not playing central midfield, and teams are targeting his side of the pitch and finding joy. As Jordan Henderson ages out and Thiago Alcantara and Fabinho exist as cover, how long before Jurgen Klopp finally says, “Yes, okay, here” to those who see what everyone else sees: a dynamic player who turns 24 on Friday and isn’t improving at the defensive duties of a right back but intercepts passes so well.

That said, his performance is less of a talking point if Virgil van Dijk connects on a clearing attempt of the Brighton cross that became Trossard’s third goal. This game could’ve been 6-5 and while we would’ve loved that entertainment, Klopp has to wonder what’s next. Andy Robertson and Ibrahima Konate were missing but Liverpool’s spent plenty for depth that’s been disappointing (and Joel Matip isn’t exactly paid like a depth piece, is he?).

Trossard top of his game: The Belgian international now has five goals and two assists through seven Premier League games for Brighton this season, which is pretty, pretty good. The 27-year-old is now an every-game player and part-time starter for Belgium, and what a nice place he’s made for himself at the Amex.


Jurgen Klopp reaction: Liverpool problem ‘not in our DNA’

“Directly after the game it is a massive knock,” said Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp. “N, slowly but surely, we feel that is just the situation and we will get through. We got a point and not what we wanted.

“We are a dominant team and want to have the ball so when you give these goals away I know it is a problem. We have to find the solutions. We have to keep going. It is nothing in our DNA. It just happens and now it happens more often. This is a period where we struggle. We have to fight through this situation. We cannot fight anymore today though we just have to admit.”


Tactical focus

Maybe it’s the increased focus on the performances of Trent Alexander-Arnold, but it sure does seem like teams are targeting the right side of Liverpool’s defense.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]


Stars of the show

Leandro Trossard: Away hat tricks at Anfield are pretty rare.

Roberto Firmino: Guess that Darwin Nunez signing really can be for the (near) future, as Firmino has five goals and three assists in his last four Premier League outings.

Thiago Alcantara: 10-of-12 duels won and two key passes while drawing six fouls.


What’s next?

The challenge isn’t going to get any easier for Liverpool, who hosts Arsenal in eight days after a Champions League visit from Rangers on Tuesday. Brighton gets stung Tottenham in another test of top-four mettle.


Liverpool vs Brighton score

Liverpool: 3 (Firmino 33′, 54′, Webster o.g. 63′)

Brighton: 3 (Trossard 4′, 17′, 83′)


Leandro Trossard goal video(s): Belgian gives De Zerbi dream start

Roberto Firmino goal video: Liverpool pulls one back

Leandro Trossard hat trick video: Seagulls overcome blown lead for point


How to watch Liverpool vs Brighton live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 10am ET, Saturday
TV Channel/Online: Stream via Peacock Premium


Key storylines & star players

Is Liverpool ready to turn chances into goals at a more familiar rate? The Reds’ expected goal total for this season is close to leaders Manchester City and Arsenal but its actual goal production is fifth and somewhat-inflated by their nine-goal beatdown of Bournemouth previously this season.

Brighton, meanwhile, has to show that it’s getting a handle on life after Graham Potter, as De Zerbi’s credentials say things might not look too different. The former Sassuolo and Shakhtar Donetsk boss craves possession in his teams and delivers chances as a boss in the manner you’d expect from a former attacking midfielder.


Liverpool team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: Calvin Ramsay (lower back), Curtis Jones (tibia), Ibrahima Konate (knee), Naby Keita (thigh), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (thigh), Andrew Robertson (knee), Caoimhin Kelleher (groin), Ibrahima Konate (knee),

Brighton team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: Jakub Moder (knee), Adam Lallana (lower leg), Enock Mwepu (illness).

Conor Gallagher breaks Crystal Palace hearts with late Chelsea winner

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Crystal Palace vs Chelsea recap: The Blues erased an early deficit and Conor Gallagher scored the late winning goal (his first for the club) as new manager Graham Potter made his Premier League debut at Selhurst Park on Saturday.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]

Odsonne Edouard got on the end of a fantastic cross from Jordan Ayew in the 7th minute as Crystal Palace began brightly and threatened in behind on a number of occasions early on. Chelsea hit back through Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the 38th minute, setting the stage for Gallagher to come off the bench and score the stunning winner. Gallagher, of course, starred on loan to Palace last season before being recalled to Chelsea in the summer.

WATCH FULL MATCH REPLAY


What we learned from Crystal Palace vs Chelsea

Thiago Silva avoids red card, sets up equalizer 5 minutes later

Chelsea’s race was nearly run in the 33rd minute, when Thiago Silva was caught napping and lost the ball in acres of space. As Ayew darted past the Brazilian, who was now lying flat on his stomach, Silva stuck out his left hand and slapped the ball away to prevent the counter-attack (and likely scoring chance). Referee Chris Kavanagh showed Silva a yellow card, deeming that either (or a combination of) the distance from goal (roughly 35 yards out) and at least one recovering defender meant there wasn’t an obvious goal-scoring opportunity to be denied.

Five minutes later, Silva headed the ball down for Aubameyang to rifle it home. From nearly a goal and a man down, to level on both, in 300 seconds.

Christian Pulisic down Potter’s pecking order, too

When Kai Havertz came off in the 76th minute, rather than inserting Pulisic (or any other attacking player for that matter) into the game, Potter instead brought on an extra central midfielder in Gallagher. Potter always thinks outside the box, though — seamlessly shifting team shape more narrow or wider, higher or deeper, extra man in midfield or out wide — always willing to make the first move in the tactical chess match, to play the game on his terms.

So, let’s not read too much into Pulisic sitting on the bench (for 84 minutes), but it’s clear he’ll have to make a whole lot out of very little to impress Potter and regain a regular place in the team. Right on cue, it was Pulisic who made the zig-zagging run past two defenders to set up Gallagher for the winner. No small contribution for a player currently out in the cold.


Reaction from Crystal Palace vs Chelsea

Conor Gallagher, on scoring his first Chelsea goal and doing so against Chelsea…

“It’s a very special moment to come on and get the winner and my first goal for Chelsea.

“It was written in the stars. Unfortunately it came against Palace but I’m just buzzing to get my first goal.

“Everyone knows how much I loved it here, and I thank the whole club and the fans — even today with the reception they gave me.

“Hopefully I can build a bit of confidence with the goal and push on. I want to work as hard as I can for him [manager Graham Potter] and be available wherever he needs me, whether starting or coming off the bench.”

Follow @AndyEdMLS


How to watch Crystal Palace vs Chelsea live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 10am ET, Saturday
TV Channel: USA Network
Online: Stream via NBCSports.com


Key storylines & star players

What will Graham Potter’s first Premier League XI look like come Saturday? Kepa Arrizabalaga could be in goal if Edouard Mendy is not ready, but will Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang remain a starter? Are Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic locks for the midfield? Lots to monitor as Christian Pulisic, Conor Gallagher, Ben Chilwell, and Hakim Ziyech will hope to have made a major impression.

Palace has played well against the “Big Six” this year, leading Man City 2-0 before an Erling Haaland hat trick, drawing Liverpool, and losing on Opening Day vs Arsenal while holding 57% of the ball and matching the Gunners in shots and shots on target. A win over the Blues sure would do the trick.


Crystal Palace team news, injuries, lineup options

QUESTIONABLE: James McArthur (groin) | OUT: James Tomkins (calf), Nathan Ferguson (ankle), Jack Butland (hand)

Chelsea team news, injuries, lineup options

QUESTIONABLE: Edouard Mendy (knee), N’Golo Kante (thigh)