ProSoccerTalk’s weekly MLS rankings

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There were big wins (so, obviously, also big losses as well) to examine during a busy stretch of MSL contests. Here is the weekly re-ordering following 26 rounds of league play:

19. D.C. United – There was a 40-minute, closed-door, post-game air-the-grievances thing after the latest disappointing result, a 1-1 draw with Toronto. But aren’t we way, way past that stuff around RFK? The team is poor. Period. All the clear-the-air meetings in the world won’t change that.

18. Toronto FC – Ryan Nelsen said his team deserved a win after a 1-1 tie at his old stomping ground, RFK Stadium. Not true. No one ever “deserves” anything; you just win, lose or draw.

17. Chivas USA – Jose Luis Real’s team took three of a possible six points at home in Round 26, a loss vs. Dallas and a big win over New York on Sunday. Apparently, when you lose to Chivas USA these days, you need to apologize to everyone. Ooof.

16. Columbus – Federico Higuain lost his mind and must now sit two matches. It happened at the end of an awful night, a 4-0 loss to Real Salt Lake, one that makes the Crew’s uphill slog toward the playoffs look that much more difficult.

15. FC Dallas – Dallas in the spring looked like a title contender. Dallas in early- to mid-summer looked like anything but a playoff team. With a win at Chivas and a draw at home with San Jose in Week 26, perhaps the club has settled into “average,” which was probably right all along.

14. Houston Dynamo – The worse loss of Dominic Kinnear’s time in charge of Houston (5-0 in Montreal) dimmed a week that began with a useful CONCACAF Champions League result.

13. Chicago Fire – The team helped tamp down the brush fires from last week’s PR kerfuffle with a big 1-0 win over Sporting Kansas City. Mike Magee’s scoring has spigot, once flowing so fluidly, has been shut off lately.

12. New England Revolution – Kelyn Rowe’s sophomore season has been a bit quiet at times, but the man sure rose up with a fury, striking twice from long range in the Revs’ 5-1 dash-away from Philadelphia on Sunday. Rowe (pictured above) now has five goals and six assists in 2013.

11. San Jose Earthquakes – The Earthquakes’ saw a 2-0 lead on the road erased, but were definitely on the wrong end of a bad PK decision in Dallas. The match ended in a 2-2 draw.

(MORE: MLS Round 26 week in review)

10. Philadelphia Union – Conor Casey’s goal put his team up, 2-1, early in the second half. Wait! What? … A bad decision from the man in the middle turned this one, but blame the Union for failing to cope with the disappointment and collapsing in an eventual 5-1 loss.

9. New York Red Bulls – Manage Mike Petke after a loss to last-place Chivas USA: “I apologize for that loss. We lost to one of the worst teams in the league. We had many chances, we didn’t capitalize on them, made some mistakes and had no creativity in the second half.  We looked like we were confused out there.”

8. Montreal Impact – Justin Mapp, Felipe Martins and Marco Di Vaio more or less had their way with the Houston Dynamo defense in a 5-0 statement at Stade Saputo.

source:  7. Vancouver Whitecaps – Martin Rennie’s team desperately missed injured attacker Camilo in the 1-0 loss to Los Angeles. That’s two shutouts (and losses) in a row; Chivas USA coming to town this weekend is a “gotta have” three points.

6. Seattle Sounders – Sigi Schmid’s second half adjustments were critical, as the Timbers had more or less ruled the first 45. Eddie Johnson’s huge goal (pictured right) was the difference in Sunday night’s massive Cascadia win.

5. Sporting Kansas City – No time to feel badly about Friday’s 1-0 loss to Chicago; Sporting Kansas City has a chance to take a big step toward 2013-14 CONCACAF Champions League elimination stage when it faces CD Olimpa of Honduras on Tuesday night.

4. Colorado Rapids – Oscar Pareja’s young team had a week off to steel itself for upcoming road tests at Sporting Kansas City and Los Angeles. We’ll know a lot more in two weeks about upside where the Rapids’ young lineup is concerned.

3. Portland Timbers – The mark of a complete coach is how he handles the bad times. Well, since a high-profile stoppage time win over L.A. back in mid-July, the Timbers are a humble 1-2-3 (a win, two losses and three draws). It’s time for Caleb Porter to get hold of this thing, because it’s going the wrong direction. Will Johnson’s healthy return will help a bunch.

2. LA Galaxy – Landon Donovan has always had a good left foot to go with an outstanding right. But who knew he had this in his “standing leg?” Donovan’s peach of a goal was the difference in a 1-0 win at Vancouver. And it moved the man closer to a huge achievement.

1. Real Salt Lake – Manager Jason Kreis called his team’s 4-0 win over Columbus the team’s most complete match this year. Meanwhile, anyone else think Kyle Beckerman, a defensive midfielder who scored two goals Saturday, deserves some mention, at least, in ongoing MVP conversations?

Cavani ‘will go to Atletico Madrid’ if PSG let him leave

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Edinson Cavani has made up his mind and knows which club he will join this month — if Paris Saint-Germain agree to sell, that is — according to the Uruguayan striker’s father.

[ MORE: Chelsea admit they miss Christian Pulisic ]

Cavani has standing offers to join multiple clubs during the January transfer window, most notably from Atletico Madrid and Chelsea, but the most difficult hurdle appears to be convincing PSG to let him go. According to the player’s father, Luis, Atleti is the 32-year-old’s preferred destination — quotes from Sky Sports:

“He wants to join another club in Europe. That would please me that he plays here (at Atletico), yes. (Diego) Simeone wants him now (in January). The head coach of Paris Saint-Germain has also said he needs him to help compete in the Champions League.

“But PSG do not want him to go to Atletico Madrid if he finds an agreement. I think there is a strong chance he will go to Atletico, the option to join the club (Atletico) always remains in June.

“There are lots of other clubs but when you give your word to a team, you respect it. If tomorrow, if he is available and Atletico still want him, I think he will sign. He is a player who needs time to play, and today he only plays four or six minutes per game. PSG are treating him unfairly.”

Chelsea’s desire to acquire a goalscorer of Cavani’s caliber will have only increased following the ankle injury suffered by Tammy Abraham, the Blues’ only consistent option at the position, during Tuesday’s 2-2 draw with Arsenal. The severity of Abraham’s injury is not yet known.

DC United acquires Julian Gressel from Atlanta

Atlanta United trades for Julian Gressel
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How much is Major League Soccer’s best assist man worth?

About $750,000.

DC United paid Atlanta United that fee in allocation money for the rights to Julian Gressel, who had been at a contract impasse with the club who drafted him in 2017.

That fee could hit $1.1 million in incentives, and even so could be a bargain.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Gressel was due to make around $133,000 this season and wanted an improved deal from Atlanta given his massive production since becoming the eighth overall pick in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft.

That salary is less than hundreds of players, most of them nowhere near Gressel’s impact. Nineteen Atlanta United players made more than him last season, so it’s understandable that the 26-year-old wanted to get paid.

We don’t know what he was asking, or why Atlanta wouldn’t get there. From MLSSoccer.com:

“If we really wanted to, we could have had him play on $130,000 this season, extend him a bona fide offer at the end of the season and (we’d still own his MLS rights),” said Atlanta United vice president Carlos Bocanegra. “We’re also trying to do the right thing for a guy who has given so much to the club and is really just a good kid all around.”

It’s a weird one, given what the club’s been paying others.

Gressel arrived at Providence College from Eintracht Bamberg and immediately started delivering for the Big East side. He finished his four years with 30 goals and 26 assists and All-American status.

There was some adapting to MLS, but he’s gotten better with every season. He scored 10 goals with 13 assists in all competitions last season.

Spurs chairman reportedly met with Real Madrid about Gareth Bale

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As a neutral, the idea of Gareth Bale rejoining Tottenham Hotspur would be a delight to our Premier League matchday viewing.

Obviously this applies to Spurs fans to the nth degree, especially after a dull 0-0 with Watford at the weekend.

In the short-term, Bale would be a terrific stopgap as Spurs struggle to find themselves without Harry Kane in both the PL and Champions League.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

In the long-term, Bale and Heung-Min Son on the wings of Harry Kane would be enough to make any PL power trio blush (unless Liverpool really does add Timo Werner).

A report out of Spain says Real Madrid president Florentino Perez met with Spurs chairman Daniel Levy about several things including the availability of Bale.

The Welsh star has been long admired by Jose Mourinho, and of course knows Spurs well having become a superstar after arriving from Southampton.

Bale is 30 and his wages would easily top Spurs’ pay list. His 21 goals and nine assists in the 2012/13 Premier League season join his 19 and 11 in 2015 La Liga as his top league seasons.

Spurs host Norwich City on Wednesday (Watch live at 2:30 p.m. ET online via NBCSports.com).

Guardiola praises Laporte, “the best left central defender in the world”

Pep Guardiola praises Aymeric Laporte
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Manchester City kept its first clean sheet of 2020 on Tuesday, posting a 1-0 win over Sheffield United at Bramall Lane.

It took the two-time reigning Premier League champions six tries to get there, the previous zero coming against this same Blades side at the Etihad Stadium.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

City manager Pep Guardiola was quick to give credit to a returning hero, as center back Aymeric Laporte returned to the fold for the first time since Aug. 31.

The club was 3W-1D at that point. They went 12W-2D-5L without him.

Here’s Guardiola, from the Manchester Evening News:

“It’s incredible,” Guardola said. “We have missed him a lot, he’s the best left central defender in the world. Imagine the best teams in the world lose their best central defender. We miss him a lot because he’s a specialist left foot where our buildup. He is fast, strong in the air.”

“He has something that we don’t have in the squad. His left foot and many actions to build up to make it quicker and better – we don’t have it, not because the other ones are not good but he has the only left foot as a central defender and for the way we want to play that is so important. His character and mentality and winning, he has all the attributes. For me, when he is fit he is the best left central defender in the world.”

If you read that as a little bit of an explanation for City being 13 points off Liverpool, you’ve similar eyes to us.

Pep is asking how Liverpool would look without Virgil Van Dijk, how Real Madrid appears when Sergio Ramos is out.

It’s not the be-all, end-all, but as I wrote when Laporte went down, this is the key piece to their defending efforts as well as where they begin possession.

We’re also grateful that Guardiola didn’t drop some sort of, “He’s like a January transfer addition,” statement (at least as far as we’ve read.