2015 Major League Soccer power rankings, Volume III: FC Dallas rides high while expansion sides sink

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Pro Soccer Talk is trying something different for our power rankings this season. Instead of a week-to-week analysis of where teams in the league sit in relation to each other, we’re going to let our rankings breathe for a bit.

It’s been about three weeks since we last sorted the clubs of Major League Soccer, and plenty has changed at the top of the pops.

[ MORE: Klinsmann on 2018 World Cup goals ]

Here’s the new batch, different from the old batch. Check out the previous PR’s here.

source:  1 UP 6 FC Dallas: Guess who’s back? Oscar Pareja’s bunch have won three of four, with the fourth a tie against Colorado (which only ties teams, so what else could one expect?). The four-spot they hung on Houston in the Texas Derby was especially impressive.
source:  2 UP 1 DC United: Ben Olsen is doing a job (again) for the Black-and-Red, who have lost just a single match this season. There’s plenty to hang their hats on, especially back-to-back wins over Columbus and Vancouver.
source:  3 UP 3 New England Revolution: Lost their first two games, and haven’t seen that column since. We’re being reminded of their strength on a weekly basis, although this weekend’s Orlando City tie isn’t on the map in high-five country.
source:  4 DOWN 3 Vancouver Whitecaps: Stumbled against DC United and then suffered through a 0-0 draw against Portland in Cascadia action. Nothing major to worry about for ‘Caps fans, but they aren’t the hottest team right now. No shame in that. Now onto Saturday’s massive tussle.
source:  5 Seattle Sounders: Columbus cooled off their three-game hot streak, but the match was worth the price of admission. Huge Saturday match against Vancouver.
source:  6 DOWN 4 New York Red Bulls: The New York Derby win over NYCFC was nice, but not enough to salvage the Red Bulls’ ranking after a loss to New England and twin 1-1 draws versus the West.
source:  7 DOWN 2 L.A. Galaxy: Winless in four, but the only loss in the bunch came against high-flying FC Dallas. Will the addition of West Ham’s Sebastian Lletget help their midfield?
source:  8 Columbus Crew: Huge win over Seattle for Gregg Berhalter’s boys. Have pulled nine points out of twelve available, with the only loss coming at the hands of DC United.
source:  9 Real Salt Lake: Unbeaten in three after a two-match swoon of sorts. The 2-1 win over Chicago is a step in the right direction.
source:  10 San Jose Earthquakes: The Quakes stay mid-rankings after taking five of nine points. Have a pair of signature wins this season with triumphs over Vancouver and Seattle, and they don’t really have a bad loss in the bunch.
source:  11 Portland Timbers: Beaten Montreal isn’t kazoo-blowing territory, but it’s a start. Throw in the Vancouver tie, and the return of both Diego Valeri and Will Johnson, and the Timbers may be ready to make a move.
source:  12 Houston Dynamo: Giles Barnes ranks among the most overlooked stars in the league, and he made Toronto’s first day in new BMO Field a miserable one. DaMarcus Beasley is playing well and Cubo’s on the way, but their backdoor was exploited often by Jozy Altidore.
source:  13 UP 3 Colorado Rapids: Taking over the mantle of “most likely to draw” from Chicago, who took it from Portland, Colorado has drawn 7 of 10 matches this season. Their only win? A 4-0 thumping of No. 1 FC Dallas. You forgive them out for us. Please.
source:  14 UP 3 Sporting KC: That’s more like it! Unbeaten in three matches, Sporting is starting to make us believe. We know they have the talent, now they need to string together some 3-pointers.
source:  15 DOWN 2 Chicago Fire: Streaks McGeeks! Chicago chased a three-game losing skid to start the season with three wins, and has not lost a pair on the bounce. With New York City, Columbus and Montreal on the horizon, Fire need to swing 7 points here.

16 UP 4 Toronto FC: Snared a pair of necessary road wins over expansion sides New York City and Orlando, but fell apart early against Houston in the Eastern side’s home opener. Every now and then, Michael Bradley has a shocker. The Dynamo reaped the benefits on Sunday.
source:  17 DOWN 3 Orlando City: Back-to-back shutout losses to Columbus and Toronto followed up by a draw against New England. With Kaka, anything is possible, but they need better (than Saturday) from Brek Shea. And Cyle Larin’s progression could help both of the aforementioned players.
source:  18 DOWN 3 Montreal: The Impact’s first Major League Soccer match in a month was a 2-1 loss to Portland. The CONCACAF Champions League final appearance was nice, but now it’s time to get back to MLS-based business.
source:  19 DOWN 1 Philadelphia Union: One win on the season… over the No. 20 team. You can only say “unlucky” so many times. The last four matches were tough, but excuses only get you so far. Get a point somewhere.

20 DOWN 1 New York City FC: Jason Kreis admitted it’s been harder than he thought, and that’s an understatement. Between the tiny home pitch and the two months without a win, the obstacles and frustration are piling up in New York. Heck, a point in the New York Derby could’ve stopped the bleeding.



Champions League, Europa League: How to watch, odds, start time, predictions

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The UEFA Champions League and Europa League action has resumed and I’m going to reveal my predictions for this next round as well as the latest odds for Europe’s top two continental tournaments.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores

With Manchester City still in the Champions League and Manchester United and Wolves among the favorites to win the Europa League, there is a lot on the line for Premier League clubs in the coming weeks.

Just because the Premier League season is over, that doesn’t mean the action is over. Far from it. Both Manchester clubs are the bookmakers favorites to seal their respective European glory.

[ LIVE: Europa League scores ]

In the next few days the Europa League and Champions League quarterfinals will take place as the mini tournaments begin.

Man City beat Real Madrid 4-2 on aggregate, while Chelsea lost Bayern 7-1 on aggregate as they crashed out of the Champions League. Man United and Wolves are both in the quarterfinals and favored to go far.

Lisbon, Portugal will host the Champions League games from the quarterfinal stage onwards, while the Europa League games will be hosted around Germany.

Below is a look at my predictions, the odds for the games this week and how to watch and follow all of the fixtures in the USA.

How to watch, stream Champions League and Europa League

Dates: August 5-23
Location: Quarterfinals onwards in Lisbon/Germany
How to watch: CBS Sports
Live updates: UCL here at NBCSports.com & Europa League here at NBCSports.com

JPW’s Champions League predictions

Quarterfinals (August 12-15)
Wednesday, August 12: Atalanta 2-3 PSG
Thursday, August 13: RB Leipzig 1-2 Atletico Madrid
Friday, August 14: Barcelona 1-3 Bayern Munich
Saturday, August 15: Manchester City 3-1 Lyon

JPW’s Europa League predictions

Quarterfinals (August 10-11)
Monday, August 10: Inter Milan 2-1 Bayer Leverkusen
Monday, August 10: Manchester United 3-1 Copenhagen
Tuesday, August 11: Wolves 1-2 Sevilla
Tuesday, August 11: Shakhtar Donetsk 1-2 Basel

Champions League betting odds

Quarterfinals (August 12-15)

(+210) Atalanta v. PSG (+117). Tie: +275
(+225) RB Leipzig v. Atletico Madrid (+135). Tie: +220
(+235) Barcelona v. Bayern Munich (+115). Tie: +255
(-305) Manchester City v. Lyon (+750). Tie: +450

Outright winner
Manchester City (+220)
Bayern Munich (+325)
Paris Saint-Germain (+500)
Atletico Madrid (+800)
Barcelona (+800)
Atalanta (+1000)
RB Leipzig (+1700)
Lyon (+3500)

Europa League betting odds

Quarterfinals (August 10-11)
(+112) Inter Milan v. Bayer Leverkusen (+240). Tie: +250
(-385) Manchester United v. Copenhagen (+1000). Tie: +480
(+235) Wolves v. Sevilla (+120). Tie: +230
(-106) Shakhtar Donetsk v. Basel (+290). Tie: +255

Outright winner
Manchester United (+180)
Inter Milan (+325)
Sevilla (+500)
Bayer Leverkusen (+650)
Wolves (+700)
Shakhtar Donetsk (+1100)
Basel (+2500)
Copenhagen (+6000)

Barcelona reach 13th straight Champions League quarterfinal

Barcelona - Napoli
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Barcelona – Napoli saw Lionel Messi and Co., book the eighth and final place in the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals, by way of a 3-1 victory on the night (4-2 on aggregate) on Saturday.

[ MORE: Champions League predictions ]

It was, as it so often tends to be, Messi who shone brightest and stole the spotlight en route to Barca’s 13th straight Champions League quarterfinal appearance.

[ LIVE: Champions League schedule ]

Barca entered Saturday with the slimmest of advantages, knowing that a scoreless draw would see them through to the quarterfinals after grabbing a vital away goal in the first goal. Lyon knew that no matter what, they needed to score at least once or they would be out. That threat was reinforced, and strengthened, when Clement Lenglet headed the Blaugrana ahead in the 10th minute.

Messi slipped, Messi got back up, Messi slipped again, Messi got back up again, Messi rifled the ball inside the far post to score a(nother) fantastic solo goal and make it 2-0 (3-1) in the 23rd minute. It was only slightly more complicated than that for him (WATCH HERE). Messi put the ball in the back of the net again just a few minutes later, but the goal was taken off the board by way of a somewhat suspect handball decision upon video review.

Nonethless, that was just about that after Luis Suarez converted from the penalty spot early in first-half stoppage time. Messi won the penalty by sneaking around Kalidou Koulibaly and winning the ball in the blink of an eye, forcing the Senegalese center back to foul him on the edge of the box lest Messi walk in on goal for a virtual tap-in.

Lorenzo Insigne converted a penalty kick of his own a couple minutes later before the interval, but the threat level never peaked higher than a 2-out-of-10 for Barca.

Barca will face Bayern Munichin a sensationally mouth-watering, single-leg quarterfinal matchup next Friday.

3 things learned: Bayern Munich v. Chelsea

Bayern Munich - Chelsea
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Bayern Munich – Chelsea, leg no. 2, looked eerily similar to leg no. 1, played back in late February, with the lone exception being the lack of fans inside the Allianz Arena for Thursday’s dead rubber.

[ MORE: Champions League predictions ]

The eight-time Bundesliga champions were simply too good — and too healthy, by comparison — for Frank Lampard and the Blues to put up a reasonable fight from 3-0 down after the first leg. It was an unceremonious end to Lampard’s first season in charge at Chelsea, but a foregone conclusion before they boarded the plane back in London.

[ LIVE: Champions League schedule ]

With their 4-1 victory on the night (7-1 on aggregate), Bayern will face Barcelona in a sensationally mouth-watering quarterfinal matchup next Friday.

Here’s a look at what we learned from the Allianz Arena, as the I’s were dotted and the T’s were crossed in Bayern Munich – Chelsea.


Credit to Bayern for their ruthless efficiency and disinterest in letting the tie descend into drama and tension. Robert Lewandowski scored early (10th minute) and Ivan Perisic did the same in the 24th, bringing the aggregate score to 5-0 with 65 minutes left to play. With so many key players out injured, Chelsea had virtually zero chance of pulling off the impossible comeback prior to kickoff, and Hans-Dieter Flick’s side made sure to keep it that way from the opening whistle. Corentin Tolisso put the tie further out of reach late in the second half (76th), and Lewandowski duplicated his side’s three-goal advantage from the first leg not much later.


For all of the development of young players that Frank Lampard was able to realize this season — and for all of the big-money signings either already confirmed or heavily reported to be imminent this summer — Chelsea still have serious questions to answer with regard to their defense. The below highlight is but one small example in a season full of defensive blunders at missed assignments (you’ll find another one below in the next section). Cesar Azpilicueta remains solid, but he’ll turn 31 this month and probably only has another year or two left to function at the UCL level. Reece James and Fikayo Tomori still have some way to go in their development to be UCL-caliber players. The likes of Kurt Zouma, Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen have all proven, time and again, they’re simply not at that level and probably never will be. All of that is to say, Chelsea need to execute a full-on rebuild of their defense this summer, or it might not matter how many goals they can score every game next season.


Pop quiz: When was the last time Bayern simply didn’t win a game, let alone lost one? The answer: Feb. 9 (19 games ago). And their last defeat? Dec. 7 (28 games). They won all nine of their Bundesliga games following the season’s restart, plus another two in the DFB-Pokal and now the second leg against Chelsea in the UCL. Of course, things will suddenly become far more tricky when 1) the likes of Barcelona and Man City factor into the equation in the quarterfinals and the semifinals, and 2) each round is decided over a single leg rather than the traditional home-and-away format of the Champions League. And still, Bayern have the look of serious Champions League contenders, if not favorites, based on their scintillating form dating back to the start of the calendar year.

VIDEO: Messi shreds Napoli to score fantastic solo goal

Lionel Messi goal video
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Lionel Messi has done, once again, as Lionel Messi is known to do: he has scored another fantastic Lionel Messi goal (video below) in the UEFA Champions League round of 16.

[ MORE: Andrea Pirlo named Juventus manager | Sarri sacked ]

One, two, three, four, five defenders in his way? So what, says Messi.

One or two decent attempts to tackle the ball away — and perhaps even succeeding on at least one occasion? Again, so what?

He’ll have the ball back, continue on his merry way and tuck the ball just inside the far post, all while falling down, getting back up and falling down again. The goal put Barcelona 2-0 ahead on the night (3-1 on aggregate). Prior to this post being published, he scored again, but the goal was taken away for a perceived handball upon video review.

Surely we’ve discovered a superhuman soccer league we can send him to by now, just to level the playing field a bit more for the actual humans walking planet Earth.

Anyway, here’s the latest head-shaking, smirk-inducing Messi goal video you came to see.