PST’s Major League Soccer Power Rankings – The Benefit of Mid-Week Edition

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I could get used to this: Waiting until after the mid-week games to do Power Rankings. Not only does it help with our weekend previews (we love noting where the teams are in our rankings) but it gives us more information. Instead of cramming in the weekend results, trying to turn that around as quickly as possible, we get some time to reflect, hear some explanations, and get some more perspective. Ah, room to think.

Not that it necessarily helps. An exercise like this is always a bit frivolous, but at least we had Wednesday’s result in Colorado to keep us from over thinking LA’s weekend aberration. At least we had San Jose’s showing in Seattle to reenforce what we saw in Salt Lake from the Sounders. Is more information ever a bad thing?

In the wrong hands, perhaps. We’ll let you judge how ably we used our few nuggets. Here’s this week’s version of our “MLS PRs”:

MORE: Last Week’s Power Rankings | Methodology

RANKING
Up/Down

1 UP 1 Real Salt Lake: Saturday’s 2-1 win over visiting Seattle ended closer than it played. Though the Sounders are going through their own (strangely familiar) set of troubles, the degree to which RSL controlled a very talented team was eye-opening. Only a momentary meltdown in defense kept the scoreline from matching the underlying performance. (11-4-9)
source:  2 UP 1 Sporting Kansas City: The other team that has a case for number one, Sporting Kansas City shook off their Vancouver worries with an impressive win over visiting Toronto. Though the 4-1 final may have flattered to deceive, it was still a statement, one that would have vaulted the champs to number one had they not lost 2-0 the week before. (12-6-6)
source:  3 UP 2 FC Dallas: A team with this version of Fabián Castillo can beat anybody. You don’t have to be better. You don’t even necessarily have to be good. All you need is for Castillo to find some open space. The fact that Dallas is, in fact, good beyond Castillo leads to results like last Saturday’s, a 5-0 landslide in Santa Clara. (11-7-6)

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4 DOWN 3 LA Galaxy: After reaching number one in our rankings last week, Los Angeles proceeded to lose 4-1 at Columbus and fall behind 3-1 in Colorado. In Wednesday’s second half, the real Galaxy came through with three goals, saving Bruce Arena’s team from a steep fall on this week’s chart. (10-5-7)
source:  5 DOWN 1 Seattle Sounders: With one point in two games, Seattle could justify a bigger drop, particularly given their point came in a home draw to San Jose. Still, there’s a deference you give to a team with this much talent, one you suspect can put it together if they had to win a game tomorrow. Given their recent form (as well as past playoff experiences), that may be too deferential. (13-7-3)
source:  6 UP 1 D.C. United: After a four-goal performance against Colorado, D.C. has a claim to take Seattle’s spot. The only problem: It was against Colorado; at home, nonetheless. At this point, that’s an obligatory win. (12-7-4)
source:  7 DOWN 1 Vancouver Whitecaps: Carl Robinson’s team probably deserved a bigger fall after failing to pick up full points at Chivas USA, but nobody directly behind them stepped up. Unbeaten in six, Vancouver has some claim to staying above teams that can’t avoid bigger stumbles. Eight points in six games isn’t enough, though – not if they plan on staying ahead of Portland. (7-4-12)
source:  8 Toronto and Columbus: On form alone, Columbus should be above Toronto. Columbus beat the ranking’s No. 1 team, 4-1, while Toronto lost by the same score at Kansas City. But we’ve seen these teams head-to-head too often (and with the same, repeated result), we know which one is better. At least, it’s going to take more the one week’s results to convince me Columbus can take Toronto on a neutral field. (TFC: 9-8-5; Crew: 7-8-9)
source:  9 UP 4
source:  10 Portland Timbers: A road draw at New England wasn’t the worst outcome, though it would have been more impressive had the struggling Revolution not looked genuinely capable during parts of the match. Though it’s a better result than Colorado got during a recent visit to Gillette, it still felt like points dropped, particularly for a team needing to scrounge every result to return to the playoffs. (7-7-10)
source:  11 UP 1 New York Red Bulls: A much-needed bye week for set of worn wheels. As with most teams given the week off, New York regressed to the mean. Slightly. (6-7-10)
source:  12 DOWN 1 Philadelphia Union: Jim Curtin’s team managed to make the Dynamo look good, a rarity partially explained by the team’s quick turnaround. After 120 minutes last Tuesday in Dallas, the Union could be forgiven an off night in Houston. (6-9-9)
source:  13 DOWN 4 San Jose Earthquakes: Wednesday’s result was a good one, but Seattle left that game close enough to steal. The more telling result was the weekend’s 5-0 loss to Dallas. In hindsight, it seems like a terrible matchup, but not all terrible matchups end 5-0. San Jose saw that mismatch and raised it a horrible performance. (6-9-7)
source:  14 UP 4 Houston Dynamo: Sure, Philadelphia wasn’t at its best, but Houston showed signs of putting things together. The midfield looked strong, the attack clicked, and the defense kept a rare clean sheet. Progress, for now, is all Dynamo fans can ask for, and on Friday, that’s what they got. (7-12-4)
source:  15 UP 1 Chivas USA: Wilmer Cabrera’s team isn’t quite the pushover we’ve made them out to be, but having dealt Mauro Rosales to Vancouver, the team may have to rely on more 0-0s to collect their points. How is Chivas going to get Erick Torres the ball? (6-11-6)
source:  16 New England Revolution: Just like Portland, New England should see last Saturday’s game as a missed opportunity. At home, against a team outside the West’s top five — one with one of the worst defenses, statistically, in the league — the Revs should have expected full points. They should have expected a turnaround – another home win against a visitor from the west coast. Instead, the team stumbled, albeit in a more muted fashion than it did earlier this summer. (8-12-3)

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17 DOWN 3 Colorado Rapids: Two games, eight more goals conceded, and the Rapids are free-falling, with a defensive record that suddenly rivals the Timbers’. Without Drew Moor, and with Shane O’Neill’s return uncertain, the offseason loss of Óscar Pareja looms large. Pablo Mastroeni has gone a good job, but we’re starting to get reminders that this is his first year on the job.  (8-11-6)
source:  18 UP 1 Montréal Impact: I’m not sure there’s much more to say about Saturday’s win. The Impact didn’t necessarily improved. They just happened to be playing a team that was on their level. Thanks to a one errant clearance and the finishing of Marco Di Vaio, that was enough to get them back into the win column, but Chicago was the only team Montréal could have beaten with Saturday’s performance.   (4-14-5)
source:  19 DOWN 4 Chicago Fire: Just when you think things can’t get more depressing in Chicago: a 6-0 loss in a cup semifinal; a 1-0 loss to (what was) the league’s worst team; and this continued courtship of Jermaine Jones that’s starting to look a little desperate. The best thing that’s happened to this team all season was Mike Magee’s movie spoof. (4-6-13)

VIDEO: Portugal lead Iran at HT; Spain 1-1 Morocco

Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images
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We’re through the first 45 minutes of Monday’s Group B finales at the 2018 World Cup, and things are happening. A quick rundown…

[ SCENARIOS: Who needs what, to finish where, in final round of group games ]

Andres Iniesta and Sergio Ramos combined to commit a disastrous gaffe at midfield, resulting in a goal for Khalid Boutaib in the 14th minute. At this point, Spain would have finished second, behind Portugal, and headed to the far more difficult side of the knockout bracket.

Five minutes later, it was Iniesta who, with a little help from some slightly lesser geniuses, unlocked the Moroccan defense to set up Isco for an emphatic finish. La Furia Roja moved back to the top of the group, on goals scored.

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

In the afternoon’s other game, Portugal and Iran appeared destined for a 0-0 scoreline at halftime, until Ricardo Quaresma unleashed a stunning, outside-of-the-foot curler from outside the box to beat the goalkeeper and put Portugal ahead — both on the day, and in the table. As things currently stand, Portugal would win the group and Spain would finish second.

Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show: Episode 4

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In the fourth episode of Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show, England players have been preparing for their next match in an unusual way, Argentina has a huge meltdown, and more.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ] 

Click play on the video above to watch the fourth episode in full.

Atlanta leads way with six All-Star Fan XI selections

Atlanta United on Twitter/@ATLUTD
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It may be hard to believe with all the World Cup festivities going on, but the Major League Soccer season is nearly halfway over.

[ MORE: Toronto FC’s 2018 has been far from their cup-winning 2017 ]

And that means it’s almost All-Star time.

The MLS All-Stars will continue their recent tradition of facing a European superpower in August, with Juventus being welcomed to the United States in early August.

But, which players from MLS will we see in action?

Last season’s expansion sweetheart Atlanta United leads the way in the fan voting with six players from the Eastern Conference side voted into the Fan XI, including attackers Miguel Almiron, Ezequiel Barco, Darlington Nagbe and Josef Martinez.

Goalkeeper Brad Guzan and defender/captain Michael Parkhurst also made the team from Atlanta.

In all, only five clubs were represented based on the Fan XI, with the LA Galaxy’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Los Angeles FC’s Carlos Vela and Laurent Ciman, Sporting KC’s Graham Zusi and Portland Timbers star Diego Valeri each rounding out the squad.


Goalkeeper: Brad Guzan (Atlanta United)

Defenders: Michael Parkhurst (Atlanta United), Laurent Ciman (Los Angeles Football Club), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)

Midfielders: Miguel Almirón (Atlanta United), Ezequiel Barco (Atlanta United), Darlington Nagbe (Atlanta United), Diego Valeri (Portland Timbers)

Forwards: Josef Martínez (Atlanta United), Zlatan Ibrahimović (LA Galaxy), Carlos Vela (Los Angeles Football Club – EA SPORTS™ “More Than a Vote” Challenge)

Saudi Arabia steals late win over Egypt in Group A finale

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Saudi Arabia pulled off a late 2-1 win against Egypt on Monday in their Group A finale, as the two nations ended their 2018 World Cup run in the group stage.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ]

Salem Al Sawsari scored in the fifth minute of second half stoppage time to give the Saudis a late winner in the match, as the attacker struck the post in the dying moments before the ball crossed the line.

The Pharaohs took the lead in the 22nd minute, after a tremendous run from Mohamed Salah and lob over the Saudi Arabia goalkeeper.

Salah has two goals at the World Cup for Egypt, who were already eliminated heading into Monday’s match.

Saudi Arabia was granted a chance to equalize prior to halftime, however, goalkeeper Essam El Hadary brilliantly stopped Hattan Bahebri’s penalty kick in the 41st minute to preserve the Egypt advantage.

El Hadary became the oldest player in World Cup history to appear in a match at the age of 45.

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

The Egypt keeper wasn’t as lucky the second time around though, with Salmon Al Faraj converting a penalty kick in the 51st minute.

Saudi Arabia finishes group play in third place on three points, while Egypt goes winless in its three matches.