PST’s Major League Soccer Power Rankings – Week 4

1 Comment

One month into the season, we’re finally starting to see some stability in the Power Rankings. Of the teams that occupied last week’s top 10 spots, six return to the identical slots this week. Only one team moves into that group, while only two teams make more than a three-spot move in either direction.

Perhaps that’s bias coming through, but in theory, that’s how these rankings should work. Colorado loses late to a much higher-ranking Sporting? That’s no reason to move them down. And Chicago getting a result against No. 19-ranked D.C. United? That’s also consistent with where the teams were on last week’s list. The Fire have moved down this week, but it’s only because other teams have passed it.

There were also the aberrations – the games that tell us little about how the teams will perform going forward. Should we give Columbus credit for getting the benefit of a Djimi Traoré red card? Perhaps if they prove particularly adept at drawing those fouls. For now, however, the win in Seattle doesn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know about the Crew. Same for Dallas’s 10-on-10 win over Portland.

Then there are the cases where we’ve obviously wrong. Toronto was overrated at No. 1. After losing in Salt Lake, they take one of the week’s biggest falls. Likewise, San Jose’s winless start gets a whole new context after losing to New England. Likewise, it looks like the Revolution’s improvement from its opening night 4-0 loss at Houston is starting to take hold.

Here are the rest of the rankings after Week 4 of the Major League Soccer season:

(MORE: Player of the Week | Team of the Week | Last week’s Power Rankings)

RANKING
Up/Down

1 UP 1
Real Salt Lake: After exposing Toronto FC this weekend, RSL reclaims the top spot, even if their record has two blemishes. But remember our underlying mission: neutral field, game tomorrow, who do we see as more likely to win? After seeing RSL on Saturday, it’s not very close. (2-0-2)
source:  2 UP 2 Sporting Kansas City: The only worry all season has been chance creation. On Saturday, that wasn’t a problem. Sal Zizzo has fit so perfectly on the right, C.J. Sapong may be out of a starting job. Though Kansas City allowed two goals in Colorado, both came on penalty kicks. Benny Feilhaber’s not going to take somebody down in the box every week. (2-1-1)
source:  3 Columbus Crew: Major League Soccer’s only perfect team, but Columbus is one that had the benefit of Djimi Traoré’s red card. While they still looked good in the 60 minutes before Federico Higuaín’s conversion, they also looked more vulnerable than at any point this season. Columbus still needs to improve to be considered at the same level as last year’s MLS Cup finalists.  (3-0-0)
source:  4 DOWN 3 Toronto FC: Saturday snowballed on them. Their lack of maturity showed in how they resorted to physicality in the face of adversity, but they were also played at the best team in the league. Let’s give Ryan Nelsen’s side time to grow without being too hard on it. (2-1-0)
source:  5 Philadelphia Union: Drawing the Impact at home was certainly a slip, but Montréal was perhaps a little underrated after its Marco Di Vaio-less start. That the Impact were able to come back with 10 men makes it difficult to justify this spot, but the teams below Philadelphia didn’t do enough to earn the bump. The core of this Union team is the same one we saw at Portland, at home against New England, and at Columbus. Its inability to grab that crucial second goal (which it’s yet to do all season) is why it’s ranked five, not three.  (1-1-2)
source:  6 Houston Dynamo: We’ve harped on the difficulties Eastern Conference teams have when going to Vancouver, which is why we’re not dropping the Dynamo. With only one goal separating them from the Whitecaps, there isn’t enough credit or blame to go around. We decided to give Carl Robinson’s team credit and spare Houston the blame. (2-1-0)
source:  7 Seattle Sounders: If Djimi Traoré continues to give up penalties or earn game-changing red cards (and Sigi Schmid doesn’t bench him), we’ll drop Seattle. Until then, Saturday’s game looks like an aberration, one which doesn’t inform us about their ability to win this weekend in Portland. (2-2-0)
source:  8 FC Dallas: Eleven-on-11, there was nothing that separated Dallas from Portland. If anything, the Timbers looked a little better. Ten-on-10, however, FC Dallas won, 2-1. The result’s enough to influence the standings, but we’re keeping them steady in the Power Rankings. Winning at home against a struggling Portland doesn’t tell us much, particularly when both teams saw an early red card. (3-0-1)

source:

9 LA Galaxy: Off this week. Still have yet to face a non-RSL team this season. (0-1-1)
source:  10 UP 2 Vancouver Whitecaps: At home, Vancouver is 2-0-0 with a +4 goal difference. On the road, the Whitecaps at 0-0-2, failing to score in New England after being held to a draw by 10-man Chivas USA. I have no idea how good this team is, mostly because it appears to be such a different team at home. Hopefully time will sort that out. (2-0-2)

source:

11 Colorado Rapids: The Rapids have still yet to score from open play this season, with all five of their goals coming from the penalty spot. Losing at home, you’d expect them to drop in the Rankings, but with no teams below them stepping up, Colorado’s left to tread water in the middle. (1-1-1)
source:  12 UP 5 New England Revolution: The week’s biggest mover gave a telling performance in Santa Clara, not only using Lee Nguyen’s late goal to end San Jose’s 21-game home unbeaten run but also outplaying the Earthquakes in the first half. Teal Bunbury looked better up top, while Jose Gonçalves is close to his Defender of the Year self. Needing a Víctor Hernández own goal to go in front, scoring remains a question, but Jay Heaps’ team is starting to put its slow start behind it. (1-2-1)
source:  13 Portland Timbers: The last two results have been freaky, with Portland earning a red card in each, but converting chances continues to be a major concern. Ryan Johnson, bemoaned for his inability to convert last season, has been surprisingly missed, with Will Johnson looking like a shell of his 2013 self. Thankfully for Caleb Porter, Diego Valeri had his best game of the season, a sign things may be improving. (0-2-2)
source:  14 DOWN 4 San Jose Earthquakes: For weeks I’ve harped on the difficulty of San Jose’s schedule, with the team opening the season with Real Salt Lake, Sporting Kansas City, and two CONCACAF Champions League dates against Toluca. But all of that context gets blown up when you not only lose at home to New England but, for noticeable swathes of Saturday’s match, let the Revs have the better of play. Sam Cronin and Jean-Baptiste Pierazzi remain redundant in midfield. (0-2-1)
source:  15 DOWN 1 Chivas USA: Wilmer Cabrera’s team looked the same as they have throughout the month, but with New England’s improvement, Chivas USA still drops one spot. Between Erick Torres and Mauro Rosales, the Goats have a way to steal games, with a defense built around Dan Kennedy, Carlos Bocanegra, Bobby Burling (when healthy) and Agustín Pelletieri giving them a way to keep from being overrun. (1-1-2)
source:  16 UP 2 Montréal Impact: This rise is as much about Marco Di Vaio stealing a point from Philadelphia as it is the teams below the Impact. The returning striker showed Montréal will be more dangerous in weeks to come, giving them a weapon that could have turned games in Dallas and Houston. Below this mark, some teams have better records, but those results don’t speak to this slightly improved Montréal. (0-3-1)
source:  17 DOWN 2 Chicago Fire: The Fire has three straight draws, but look at the opposition. Portland, New York, and D.C. United have combined for zero wins this season, the same number Chicago will take into this weekend’s game with Philadelphia. (0-1-3)
source:  18 DOWN 2 New York Red Bulls: It’s early, but this team looks a year older, not a year better. Being draw at home by Chivas USA wouldn’t be such a bit deal if the result didn’t fit perfectly into a larger, slightly worrisome picture. Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill have combined for one goal and no assists. (0-1-3)
source:  19 D.C. United: The team continues to make progress after its disastrous opening day, but a draw at home against the No. 17 team on this list isn’t enough to climb out of the cellar. With players like Eddie Johnson, Fabian Espindola, and Perry Kitchen giving their best performances of the season, there’s reason to think United’s improvement can continue this weekend against the Revolution. (0-2-1)

Video: Modric, Milner show off in training ahead of UCL final

Laurence Griffiths/Getty Image
Leave a comment

The UEFA Champions League final hasn’t even kicked off yet, and Liverpool and Real Madrid are already trying to show each other up with some gorgeous golazos.

[ MORE: Everything you need to know ahead of Saturday’s UCL final ]

Both sides had their final training sessions on Friday, and there were several unforgettable moment for each club.

We start with Real, who even got manager Zinedine Zidane involved in a crossing and finishing drill with some of his players.

This is where Luka Modric’s stunning volley came into play (below).

Meanwhile, in an inter-squad scrimmage amongst Liverpool’s team, James Milner unleashed this brilliant curling effort into the top corner (below).

LIVE: Aston Villa, Fulham battle for Premier League promotion

Twitter/@ArndTheGrnds
Leave a comment

The task is quite simple for the two sides competing at Wembley Stadium on Saturday; win and you’re back in the Premier League.

Aston Villa and Fulham will battle it out for the third and final promotion spot into the PL (12 p.m. ET) after boasting tremendous 2017/18 campaigns.

LIVE UPDATES FOR THE PLAYOFF FINAL 

For both clubs, there is a significance about restoring their role as a PL club, with Fulham last competing in the top flight four seasons ago and Villa two seasons removed.


Aston Villa: Johnstone; Chester, Snodgrass, Grealish, Hourihane, Jedinak, Hutton, Terry, Elmohamady, Adomah, Grabban. Bench: Whelan, Hogan, Bree, Onomah, Bjarnason, Kodjia, Bunn.

Fulham: Bettenelli; Fredericks, Sessegnon, Odoi, McDonald, Johansen, Cairney, Ream, Targett, Mitrovic, Kamara. Bench: Button, Fonte, Ayite, Norwood, Piazon, Christie, Kalas.

Cream of the crop: Ranking all 23 current MLS managers

Twitter/@MLS
Leave a comment

When it comes to “who’s the best?” arguments, they usually encompass which team or player has earned the right to call themselves king.

[ MORE: Chicharito says Mexican team always feels welcome in U.S. ]

Recently though, conversations over social media had us thinking about Major League Soccer, and more specifically, the managerial side of the game.

Household names like Gerardo Martino and Bob Bradley are surely considered to be among the best of the best, and that got us here at Pro Soccer Talk listing the all the potential candidates.

We’re ranking all 23 current MLS managers, based on past performance (wins/losses), longevity at their club and ability to construct a high-caliber roster.


23. Ben Olsen — D.C. United

Olsen’s value to D.C. as both a player and manager cannot go unstated, but his struggles in the latter department have been mounting for years now. Outside of an Open Cup win in 2013, Olsen has been quite underwhelming given the team’s history.

22. Anthony Hudson — Colorado Rapids

It was a tough situation to come into, but some of the player moves that Hudson made in his first season were just mind-boggling.

21. Remi Garde — Montreal Impact

Wholesale changes could be coming at the Impact sooner rather than later, and Garde’s early difficulties make you wonder how long he’ll be around.

20. Mikael Stahre — San Jose Earthquakes 

The Earthquakes have made a conscious effort to get younger, so Stahre deserves some more time to get acquainted.

19. Adrian Heath — Minnesota United

It’s been a tough go in Minnesota for Heath, particularly in the injury department. However, his struggles seem to carry with him throughout MLS, whether it was previously in Orlando or currently with the Loons.

18. Jim Curtin — Philadelphia Union

The club’s unwillingness to spend has really crippled Curtin, who deserves to be higher on this list, but there are simply too many quality coaches in the league right now.

17. Veljko Paunovic — Chicago Fire

Since arriving in the U.S., Paunovic has gone heavy with high-profile moves, whether that be Nemanja Nikolic or trading for Dax McCarty. He’s had his shares of ups and downs, so we’ll have to monitor if he gets over some of the humps this season.

16. Brad Friedel — New England Revolution

Friedel’s first season in New England is probably going about as well as he would have hoped for. After getting situated with Lee Nguyen, Friedel has seemed to have brought a real presence that has allowed players like Diego Fagundez and Teal Bunbury to thrive.

15. Giovanni Savarese — Portland Timbers

In a small sample size, Savarese has essentially picked up where Caleb Porter left off with a talented Timbers squad. Time will tell how well he can sustain success in MLS.

14. Mike Petke — Real Salt Lake

RSL boasts one of the best, young squads in MLS with its academy continuing to be a driving force, but Petke has had his share of struggles handling some of the team’s well-known players.

13. Jason Kreis — Orlando City

He has an MLS Cup, so yes, there is a legitimate argument to have him higher. However, his time in New York was one of a nightmare, although not entirely unexpected for an expansion side. That carried over in Orlando until this season, so perhaps a sustained run in 2018 could boost his stock once again.

12. Sigi Schmid — LA Galaxy

Schmid has been stuck with a lot of the holdovers from the previous Galaxy regime, but he has to figure things out very soon because there is a clear gap between the top six and the rest of the Western Conference field at the moment.

11. Wilmer Cabrera — Houston Dynamo

Cabrera has erased a lot of the aftertaste from his time at Chivas USA, and 2018 has been even more impressive given the fact that he and his squad lost Erick “Cubo” Torres during the offseason.

10. Oscar Pareja — FC Dallas

Last season’s second half struggles were likely an anomaly for Pareja and Dallas. He continues to develop talented players through the academy pipeline, which is why Dallas will be in contention in the West once again this season.

9. Patrick Vieira — New York City FC

The Frenchman has brought stability to the Bronx since arriving in 2016, and despite the team’s lack of playoff success, NYCFC has built a strong roster that is honestly one of the most entertaining to watch when clicking on all cylinders.

8. Carl Robinson — Vancouver Whitecaps

His record is dead even across the board 70-49-70 since taking over the Whitecaps, but Robinson has helped his side make the playoffs in three of four seasons, while also hoisting a Canadian Championship.

7. Brian Schmetzer — Seattle Sounders

Consecutive trips to MLS Cup, including one title, is no small feat. Schmetzer may very well be the most-underrated coach in MLS.

6. Greg Vanney — Toronto FC

2018 hasn’t been ideal for Vanney and TFC, but he helped construct one of the best teams in league history, and when healthy, they are still capable of living up to that billing.

5. Gregg Berhalter — Columbus Crew

Despite some of the off-field turmoil surrounding the Crew, Berhalter has instilled a winning culture, and this season might be his best job yet as a manager.

4. Peter Vermes — Sporting KC

There’s a reason why Vermes is the longest-tenured manager in MLS. The club has qualified for the postseason in seven straight seasons under Vermes, including an MLS Cup win in 2013.

3. Bob Bradley — Los Angeles FC

Bradley’s journey back to MLS came with criticism based on his time outside the states, but it’s very clear he knows what he’s doing in the U.S.. LA FC is following in the footsteps of Atlanta from a season ago, which is a scary thought.

2. Gerardo “Tata” Martino — Atlanta United

Martino’s already-impressive reputation has only increased since arriving in Atlanta last year. All the credit cannot solely go to Martino, but much of the team’s success in less than two seasons can go to the Argentine.

1. Jesse Marsch — New York Red Bulls

It’s easy to argue for some of the names other than Marsch at number one, but his system with the Red Bulls has become iconic. The club doesn’t overspend on players, and Marsch manages to get the most out of his Homegrowns and other young squad members.

Workers to fix automation issues on Atlanta stadium’s roof

AP Photo/Paul Newberry
Leave a comment

ATLANTA (AP) Workers will begin the final construction phase of Mercedes-Benz Stadium’s tricky retractable roof on Tuesday, nine months after the facility opened.

The $1.5 billion stadium will be open in good weather for the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United games. Automation problems kept the roof closed for most of the stadium’s first year.

Beginning Tuesday, the roof will remain in a locked open position for 10 days, including June 2, when Atlanta United plays the Philadelphia Union.

The management group of Arthur Blank, who owns the Falcons and Atlanta United, says the final commissioning work to complete the automation will last several weeks.

When work is completed, the roof is expected to close or open in as few as 12 minutes.

“The complexity of the design and our heavy events schedule has made it take longer than we had hoped, but great things take time and we’re happy to see the finish line,” Steve Cannon, CEO of Blank’s management group, said in a statement.

The stadium will be host to the 2019 Super Bowl. The NFL prefers for the roof to be open for the Super Bowl, weather permitting.

The roof has been closed for most major events at the new stadium, including the Southeastern Conference championship game, Peach Bowl and College Football Playoff national championship game.

For the Falcons’ first season in their new home, the roof was open only for the first home regular-season game against Green Bay.

Falcons CEO Rich McKay said on Jan. 24 the plan was to have more games played with the roof “fully operational.”

“Fully operational means you will see us go to much more of an open configuration as we designed at the beginning,” McKay said. “When it’s ready to go, we’ll be open depending on weather.”

Ongoing work on the roof delayed the 2017 opening of the stadium by about a month. Atlanta United used Georgia Tech’s Bobby Dodd Stadium as its temporary home for the inaugural season in 2017 before moving to the new stadium.

The stadium will host the men’s NCAA Final Four in 2020.

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL