PST’s Major League Soccer Power Rankings – Week 6

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Before getting to our ranking — one where only six teams move more than one spot — this seems like a good time to offer a reminder of what we’re trying to do, because at this point, this Power Ranking might look a lot different than others. But there’s a reason for that. There’s an underlying goal, one that tries to go beyond merely tweaking the standings or using new results to justify movement to last week’s list.

Last week’s list? The standings? They’re irrelevant. We never look at them coming up with Tuesday’s list. All we do is go through each team and ask: Based on what we’ve seen, which one is better?

From our first ranking of the year:

The test is this: If two teams played tomorrow, given their current injury concerns, form, and other considerations, who is likely to win on a neutral field? … All things being equal, who is the best team going forward, based on what we know now?

Toronto’s loss to Colorado? It told us something about the Rapids, but given who Ryan Nelsen chose (or, was able to choose) on Saturday, we didn’t learn much about the Reds. Why toss them down the rankings when we don’t honestly believe TFC’s any worse than it was on Friday? Even after Saturday’s 1-0 loss, Toronto remains third on our list.

The teams that did make major moves? We got information that challenged last week’s assumptions. After its 2-0 loss in New England, we now know the depths Houston’s capable of reaching. We also know the Revolution’s win in San Jose was no fluke. After Erick Torres’s late goal in Portland, we know you don’t need Seattle’s arsenal to fight back against the Timbers. And after Saturday’s game at RFK, we also know how far New York has fallen.

With that in mind, here’s our look at Major League Soccer after Week 6’s results:

(MORE: Player of the Week | Team of the Week | Week 5 Power Rankings)

RANKING
Up/Down
source:  1 Sporting Kansas City: Real Salt Lake could have taken this spot with a dominant performance in Philadelphia, but with last year’s Western Conference champions held to a draw at PPL Park, the MLS Cup holders retain their grip on our top spot. (2-1-2)

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Real Salt Lake: For the second time this season, RSL gave up a late lead on the road, but given the quality of the team’s competition, the result was still a good one. A tough opening schedule eases up slightly this weekend when the struggling Timbers visit Rio Tinto Stadium, giving Jeff Cassar’s team a good chance to jump back into the win column. (2-0-4)
source:  3 Toronto FC: When Sporting Kansas City started the season with lineups hampered by injuries and the need to rest players, we gave them a pass on some uncharacteristic results. Given Toronto was missing five starters on Saturday, we extend the same courtesy to the Reds. Despite Saturday’s 1-0 loss, we don’t suddenly think they’re worse than the Crew, who Toronto beat the 11 days ago. (3-2-0)
source:  4 Columbus Crew: Rebounding from its first loss of the season, Columbus got a point from one of the most difficult venues in the league, with Federico Higuaín’s fourth goal of the season vaulting the team first in the Eastern Conference. If any team but Toronto was above them, we’d probably move to Crew up, but given what we saw two weeks ago in Columbus, it’s hard to say Gregg Berhalter’s team is more likely to win a neutral site meeting tomorrow. (3-1-1)
source:  5 UP 2 Seattle Sounders: Saturday’s comeback win feels like it deserves more than a two-spot jump, but Sigi Schmid’s team is getting into some rarified air, here – a place where two teams that have bear Seattle (at CenturyLink) sits directly above it on the list. Still, the Sounders pass the Galaxy after a weekend when Bruce Arena’s team won. That speaks to how highly we think of Seattle’s performance. (3-2-1)

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6 DOWN 1 LA Galaxy: This drop is less about the Galaxy; more about the Sounders. Though the team is still waiting for Landon Donovan to get on the scoresheet, the performances of Stefan Ishizaki, Baggio Husidic, and Dan Gargan have allowed Arena to address his team’s early problems. If the four-time champions can extend their winning streak to three this weekend in Vancouver, it will be difficult to keep them out of the top five. (2-1-1)
source:  7 DOWN 1 FC Dallas: Throughout Saturday’s first half, Dallas looked set to disprove all of my doubts. Then the teams switched sides, Dallas had to play into the win, and the team lost its first game of the season. Along the way, however, they gave one of the most talented teams in the league all it could handle. If it wasn’t for Seattle being so impressive, Dallas wouldn’t have fallen at all.  (4-1-1)

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8 UP 2 Colorado Rapids: Toronto was missing half its starters, but Colorado still applied a formula that could work going forward. The team’s not taking a lot of chances in attack, with the team’s new midfield diamond providing a solidity will keep it in games. With players like Dillon Powers, Deshorn Brown, Vicente Sánchez, and Gabi Torres in the squad, Pablo Mastroeni has a number of talents who can turn games. On Saturday, it was Dillon Serna, Powers, and Edson Buddle combining for the game’s only goal. (3-1-1)
source:  9 Philadelphia Union: The Union proved its disappointing performance in Chicago was a fluke, going toe-to-toe with Real Salt Lake in Saturday’s 2-2 draw. With Sheanon Williams healthy and Andrew Wenger providing a forward that will do more than lurk for 70 minutes, the Union may be patching some holes. The next big item on the list: Stop the mistakes at the back. (1-1-4)
source:  10 UP 1 Vancouver Whitecaps: Despite two losses in a row, Vancouver moves up, having given LA a good game in Carson, Calif. Though it was strange to see such a talented group of attackers sit back and try to play on the counter, the plan nearly worked. By taking the transition game way from the Galaxy, Carl Robinson nearly got a point at StubHub. (2-2-2)
source:  11 UP 5 New England Revolution: I clearly have no idea what to do with the Revs, with the last three weeks seeing them jump at last four spots, one way or the other. This rise, however, is about more than holding Houston without a shot on target. It’s also about validating what New England showed three weeks ago in San Jose. It also doesn’t hurt that D.C. won again this week, providing a new context to the loss at RFK. (2-3-1)
source:  12 DOWN 4 Houston Dynamo: Sunday’s terrible performance in New England gives Houston the week’s biggest drop, but in the context of the team’s entire 2014 season, the result looks aberrational. Though Houston lost 4-1 the week before, three of those goals came playing with 10 men. Saturday was by far the team’s worst performance, one that should prove out-of-character as the season goes on. (2-3-0)
source:  13 San Jose Earthquakes: Another decent performance without a win, though given the quality of Sunday’s opposition, the draw was understandable. After New England played so well against Houston on Saturday, the Earthquakes’ only loss of the season doesn’t look so disastrous anymore, either. Unfortunately for Mark Watson’s team, they’ll be in Colorado this weekend, opening up the possibility the Earthquakes could give another decent performance and still leave winless. This team is better than its record. (0-3-1)
source:  14 Chicago Fire: After five straight draws, it’s tempting to ask what else the team should do, but there’s no mystery here. As is the case with Philadelphia and Portland, the central defense just needs to stop making mistakes. There’s no need for a major overhaul, right now. (0-1-5)
source:  15 Chivas USA: Wilmer Cabrera called Saturday’s performance his team’s best of the season. After the Goats out-possessed the ball-hogging Timbers, he may be right. But given how poorly the Timbers’ defense has played this season, the result isn’t a big shock. If you have a player like Erick Torres, you have a chance against Portland. (1-2-3)
source:  16 DOWN 4 Portland Timbers: At some point, the defense will come together, and Portland will surge back up this chart. But if the Timbers had to win a neutral field game tomorrow, they’d be in trouble against most of the league. Portland needs to prove they can play 90 minutes without a defensive breakdown before we reconsider its chances against the league’s better clubs. (0-2-4)
source:  17 UP 2 D.C. United: For the first time this season, a “19” doesn’t precede D.C.’s entry on this list, and while neither win has been particularly convincing, the results have been informative. Even if Ben Olsen’s team doesn’t seem much better than last year’s, 2013 is going to be very difficult to duplicate, especially with teams like New York willing to come down to the bottom of the table. (2-2-1)
source:  18 DOWN 1 Montréal Impact: There are points you look at Montréal and see the potential for a respectable team, but until those moments become more frequent, the Impact aren’t going to make a dent in their depressing start. The team has drawn all three games since Marco Di Vaio’s return, a stretch that includes positive results against Philadelphia and Chicago. The switch to a 4-4-2 formation this weekend, however, could prove a step backwards if Jack McInerney can’t recapture his early 2013 form. (0-3-3)
source:  19 DOWN 1 New York Red Bulls: The nightmare scenario skeptics envisioned before the start of the season is playing out. The team looks older, slower, less resourceful – like a team that played over its head for 34 games last season. Six games isn’t enough to write anybody off, but New York has gone from Supporters’ Shield winners to the worst team in Major League Soccer. The return of Tim Cahill might turn everything around, but it’s time to start considering backup plans at Red Bull Arena. (0-2-4)

World Cup referees miss yet another physical penalty in box

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Let’s get this out of the way first: VAR (Video-Assistant Refereeing) has been a fabulous addition to the game of soccer. In the 2018 World Cup, the availability of replay has done nothing but improve the ability of referees to correctly officiate the game, providing an outlet for mistakes to be corrected. Earlier on Friday, a referee gave a penalty to Brazil for a foul on Neymar, but with VAR applied correctly, the penalty was wiped off after it was determined Neymar went down easily. The game continued as it should, and a clear and obvious error was erased.

Unfortunately, despite the clear improvement to the game VAR provides, there’s still some work to be done in one very specific area of the game.

[ MORE: Recap of Serbia 1-2 Switzerland ]

On multiple occasions this World Cup, referees have missed wrestling matches in the penalty area, allowing defenders to essentially get away with murder instead of awarding attackers a deserved penalty. The worst example of this yet took place in the 66th minute of the 1-1 draw between Serbia and Switzerland in Kaliningrad.

Aleksandar Mitrovic, already with a goal to his name early in the match, went up to meet a set-piece delivery with his head. He was fully bear-hugged by Switzerland captain Steven Lichtsteiner, and while being wrapped up, was then rugby tackled by Swiss central defender Fabian Schar.

Yet somehow, Mitrovic was called for the foul, as the referee whistled him for ending up over the back of his defender on a genuine attempt to play the ball.

With every replay shown, it became more and more evident that not only should a penalty have been awarded, but the referee missed a clear and obvious call. Yet the match referee, German Felix Brych, was given no assistance from the VAR booth, left on an island after blowing the call.

There have been so many instances of this throughout the tournament, despite a public directive reportedly given by FIFA to referees asking them to crack down on physical play in the box, according to Fox rules analyst Dr. Joe Machnik. England striker Harry Kane was wrestled to the ground numerous times against Tunisia with no call, while many Egypt fans felt hard done by after Mohamed Salah was bullied in the box repeatedly against Russia.

The more defenders can get away with while defending set pieces in front of net, the more the game will be muddied by controversy, clouding an otherwise glittering debut for VAR on the international stage. That’s frustrating.

Serbia 1-2 Switzerland: Late Shaqiri break shatters Serbian hearts

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One of the most exciting games of the 2018 World Cup proved entertaining from start to finish, ended by a stunning breakaway goal by Xherdan Shaqiri that capped a 2-1 Switzerland comeback victory over Serbia.

The start of the game was all Serbia, with Newcastle striker Aleksandar Mitrovic the most dangerous option up front, and he delivered on that promise just five minutes in. After a pair of chances just kept out by Yann Sommer, Mitrovic powered in a header off a Dusan Tadic cross to put Serbia in front early on.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

The goal confirmed yet another game without a 0-0 draw, 26 in a row to start the tournament, marking the World Cup record set back in 1954 when every single game in the Switzerland event featured a goal.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.

After the goal, the game exploded, with Serbia looking to double its lead and Switzerland hoping to gain a grip on the match. Without a second coming, Switzlerland began to build promisingly, and had its first chance right on the half-hour mark as Steven Zuber through-ball sprung Blerim Dzemaili, but his sliding effort was saved brilliantly by Vladimir Stojkovic at the last second. They had a second chance minutes later, but for some reason Xherdan Shaqiri decided for one too many crosses rather than taking the open shot himself.

Serbia didn’t just look to see out the first half, though, as the star of the first half Dusan Tadic nearly gave his team another lift. First, he delivered a fabulous corner that stunningly skipped through the box untouched. Then, just before the break, Tadic came agonizingly close to what would have been a fabulous half-volley strike that flew viciously wide.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ]

After the break, the back-and-forth action continued, and Granit Xhaka struck an absolute stunner on the counter to level the match seven minutes into the second half. Shaquiri’s initial attempt from the right edge of the box was blocked and the rebound fell to the Arsenal midfielder outside the penalty area. His follow-up was a laser, curling through the defense and past a wrong-footed Stojkovic.

The chaos continued, with Serbia swinging back into the initiative. Mitrovic had a penalty shout turned down after being bear-hugged and wrestled to the ground by a pair of defenders, and minutes later Aleksandr Kolarov delivered a luscious cross into the box but nobody was there to tap it home.

Serbia began to tire as the game inched towards the final minutes, and Switzerland had most of the late pressure. One moment of brilliance caught the Serbians sleeping, and it proved the difference. Mario Gavranovic fed Shaqiri on the break from his own half, and free on goal the Stoke City winger made no mistake as the last ticks of regulation came off.

The win for Switzerland moves them to four points through the first two matches, leaving them level atop Group E with Brazil on points but in second thanks to an inferior goal differential. Serbia, meanwhile, sits third with three points. Switzerland would advance to the knockout stage with a win or draw in their final match against Costa Rica, while the winner of Brazil vs. Serbia will advance as well, with Brazil advancing in the event of a draw.

Southgate asks media to “help the team” after lineup leak

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England management is unhappy with the media after a coach was snapped with the proposed lineup for Saturday’s match against Panama.

Assistant manager Steve Holland was photographed holding a teamsheet that appeared to show a pair of changes in the England attack, with Ruben Loftus-Cheek replacing Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford partnering with Harry Kane up front. While Southgate attempted to play down the leak, stating the piece of paper was “just a squad list” and “the next sheet has different players in different positions,” he was also clearly frustrated with the media’s decision to run the photos.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

“Obviously any time, if we were to give the opposition the opportunity of having our team it’s a disadvantage to us,” Southgate said in his pre-match press conference. “So of course our media has to decide whether they want to help the team or not.

The teamsheet showed no changes to the defense, with the team playing a three-center-back system as Kyle Walker continues his role along that back line. Kieran Trippier stays in at wing-back opposite Ashley Young, with Jordan Henderson sitting in the midfield between them. Jesse Lingard retains his place in the attack centrally with help from the addition of Loftus-Cheek, and the pair of strikers ahead of them.

Walker was also asked about the leak, and he said Holland apologized to the team, even if they felt it was unnecessary. “He’s apologised to us all in training, which we had a bit of banter with him about, and that was it.”

“I think if you guys try to keep it to yourself and don’t bring it out to the world,” Walker added, “because it’s not going to help us come the later stages of the tournament, please God we get there. All the rest of the world’s seen our team now, if that is the team or if not. As I say, you guys have to do your little bit, so if you could just please help us with that it would be polite.”

Liverpool to lose $82m Alisson to Real; Klopp turns to Lazio GK?

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Brazilian national team starter and Liverpool transfer target Alisson looks increasingly likely to only see Anfield as a visitor.

Italian outlet Corriere dello Sport says Real Madrid is going to tempt Roma with an $82 million bid that could rise with add-ons.

[ MORE: Lozano to Barcelona? ]

And Real would also offer a near $6 million annual salary to the Brazilian backstop.

It’s coincidence that this news comes on the day that both Alisson and current Real Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas were at opposite ends of the pitch.

Alisson had little to do, while Costa Rican backstop Navas was outstanding until Philippe Coutinho and Neymar scored during stoppage time.

Meanwhile, TalkSport says the Reds are in on a different Serie A goalkeeper: Lazio’s Albanian backstop Thomas Strakosha.

The 23-year-old old played all 38 league games for the Roman club this season.