MLS preview: Sounders vs. Toronto FC, Crew SC vs. FC Dallas headline Week 27

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Week 27 of the 2015 Major League Soccer season is upon us, which means it’s time to talk about how awesome lame it is that MLS continues to schedule league games during FIFA’s international windows. Furthermore, only half the league has to play this weekend, handing a decided advantage to the league’s other 10 teams who aren’t forced to play a game without some of their best players. Fun times!

Predictions record through Week 26: 40-49

So, if you’re to watch just three MLS games this weekend — who am I to tell you to watch only three games? — might I suggest the following three:

Seattle Sounders vs. Toronto FC (Saturday, 10 pm ET, MLS Live)

It sounds as though Clint Dempsey might actually play in this one, given he’s expected to join US national team camp for Tuesday’s friendly against Brazil, so that’s pretty neat. Dempsey and Michael Bradley each skipped the USMNT’s friendly against Peru on Friday to be available for one of MLS’s highest-priced (salaries, that is) showpiece games.

With Benoit Cheyrou out with injury, Bradley could be forced into a deeper-sitting midfield role against the Sounders, which is a bummer for him, for TFC and for anyone who enjoys watching an American player enjoying a real purple patch of form, but should offer an interesting tactical battle as Dempsey and Obafemi Martins look to combine through Bradley’s part of the field in front of the porous TFC defense.

Prediction: Sounders 2-1 TFC

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Columbus Crew SC vs. FC Dallas (Sunday, 7 pm ET, Fox Sports 1)

Any other week, this is the no. 1 game I’m circling on the calendar and looking forward to for three or four weeks prior. Alas, international call-ups have completely stripped these two super-fun teams of their super-fun parts — Crew SC: Kei Kamara, Wil Trapp, Justin Meram and Waylon Francis (among others); FCD: Fabian Castillo, Blas Perez, Tesho Akindele and Moises Hernandez (among others).

Let’s be real here: this is going to be an awful game, but one man, Crew SC’s Ethan Finlay, is going to have an absolute blinder in this one and, for 90 minutes at least, look like the best player in the world. Without Hernandez, who generally starts at left back (and very capably so) for FCD, Finlay is going to run riot over Ryan Hollingshead, who has deputized in Hernandez’s absence of late. Jack McInerney will squander a number of quality chances created by Finlay, only to tap in a free rebound with about 15 minutes left in the game.

Prediction: Crew SC 1-0 FCD

[ MORE: If you’ve ever questioned Jurgen Klinsmann, you don’t understand soccer ]

San Jose Earthquakes vs. Philadelphia Union (Saturday, 10:30 pm ET, MLS Live)

“Why in the world would this guy tell me to watch San Jose and Philly,” is what I know you’re screaming at your computer/smartphone/tablet. It’s mostly because the Earthquakes have been good for three weeks now. Like, really, really good. They’ve won four straight, and knocked of Sporting Kansas City, D.C. United and LA Galaxy, in that order, by a combine score of 8-0.

That’s all well and good, to play that way against some of the league’s top teams with your season on the line (the ‘Quakes are suddenly level on points with the Sounders for the sixth and final playoff place in the Western Conference, and have a game in hand). Wouldn’t it just be “peak MLS,” though, for one of the league’s hottest teams to lay an egg against the last-place-in-the-league Union, at home, immediately following the above run of results? Don’t get MLS’d this weekend, and I’m ready to consider the Fighting Dom Kinnears real playoff contenders.

Prediction: Quakes 2-2 Union

Report: Toronto to send Giovinco to Tigres for Valencia, cash

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An Mexican site reports that Tigres UANL is ready to send Enner Valencia and cash to Toronto FC to land Sebastian Giovinco.

Normally that’s seem a bit wild for TFC to send their perennial MLS MVP candidate packing, but the club has been hesitant to meet Giovinco’s terms on a new contract.

[ MORE: PL Manager Power Rankings ]

And Valencia is nearly three years younger and a bit bigger than Giovinco.

Valencia scored in bunches for Tigres after arriving from West Ham, scoring nine goals with an assist in 16 Apertura matches including three multi-goal games. He then saw his numbers dip to two goals and three assists in 11 Clausura appearances.

Giovinco, meanwhile, has six goals and six assists in 15 matches between MLS and the CONCACAF Champions League.

It would be a significant risk for TFC, though the idea of pairing up Enner Valencia and Jozy Altidore is a physical nightmare for MLS defenses.

Whoops! Unai Emery puts up Arsenal message on web site

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Arsenal’s next manager is very close to being officially Unai Emery.

That is unless, the Gunners’ brass has its mind changed by his sloppy web savvy.

[ MORE: Brighton nabs World Cup defender ]

Emery — or his people, or hackers — mistakenly put up a graphic featuring the Spanish coach, the Arsenal logo, and the phrase “Proud to be a part of the Arsenal family” before taking it down in short order.

Emery is expected to take over for Arsene Wenger at the Emirates Stadium this summer. Something tells us we’ll have an announcement on Wednesday or even later tonight…

State TV: Ghana president orders arrest of FIFA executive

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ACCRA, Ghana (AP) Ghana President Nana Akufo-Addo on Monday ordered police to arrest football federation head Kwesi Nyantakyi, a member of the powerful FIFA Council, over allegations of fraud.

Akufo-Addo’s order was announced by the state-run Ghana Broadcasting Corporation.

[ MORE: Brighton nabs World Cup defender ]

Abu Jinapor, deputy chief of staff at the president’s office, said the order for Nyantakyi to be arrested and investigated related to an undercover documentary that purports to show the football official asking businessmen for money in return for access to the president and other senior government officials.

“It was a clear case of defrauding by false pretense,” Jinapor said, adding that Akufo-Addo’s order came after he watched excerpts from the documentary, which has not yet been broadcast.

Nyantakyi is president of the Ghana Football Association, a vice president of the Confederation of African Football, and has been a member of the ruling FIFA Council since 2016. He was the FIFA official chosen to oversee the football competition at the 2012 London Olympics.

Ghanaian media reported that Nyantakyi was not in Ghana at the time of the president’s order but was returning home.

Nyantakyi has been accused of improper behavior before when a British media investigation just before the 2014 World Cup claimed he had been willing to allow the Ghana national team to play in games that could be fixed by others. He denied the allegation.

Premier League managerial power rankings

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There’s a new sheriff at West Ham United, and it’s no small-time boss.

Former Premier League champion manager Manuel Pellegrini is taking over the London side, which had us wondering how high he’d move up the acclaim ladder upon hiring (as of post time).

[ MORE: Brighton nabs World Cup defender ]

With the 20th spot still open — will it be Fulham or Aston Villa — the Arsenal and Everton jobs vacant for now, and both Neil Warnock and Nuno Espirito Santo yet to manage their clubs in the top flight, we rank the power status of the 15 other active Premier League bosses.

15. Javi Gracia, Watford — Manager don’t usually last long at Vicarage Road, and Gracia doesn’t have a record for sticking around clubs for too long himself.

14. Mark Hughes, Southampton — Saints stayed in the Premier League, and Hughes deserves credit for pushing the buttons on a talented squad.

13. Claude Puel, Leicester City — A disappointing finish to his season keeps Leicester outside the Europa League, and so he has a bit more to prove after an impressive reclamation job at the King Power Stadium.

12. David Wagner, Huddersfield Town — Keeping Town in the Premier League was impressive, but we’re not sure how much we learned about the long-term prognosis of Jurgen Klopp‘s best pal.

11. Chris Hughton, Brighton and Hove Albion — He’d led several clubs to Premier League promotion, and coaxed fine seasons out of what appeared to be a subpar defense at season’s open.

10. Eddie Howe, Bournemouth — One of the brightest young managerial minds, can he take the next step on the South Coast?

9. Roy Hodgson, Crystal Palace — What he did upon inheriting and then overseeing one of the worst starts in Premier League history was nothing short of brilliant. Clearly he hasn’t stopped learning unlike many other PL “retreads.”

8. Manuel Pellegrini, West Ham — What will a few years outside the Premier League, if anything, have done to the one-time Man City leader. Don’t forget: The season City won the PL season, he coaxed 20-plus goal campaigns in all competitions from Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko, Alvaro Negredo, and Yaya Toure.

7. Antonio Conte, Chelsea — Tactically and experience-wise, he’s so much higher on the list. Regardless of the mess at Chelsea, better was needed this season.

6. Sean Dyche, Burnley — Guiding tiny Burnley to the Europa League is as impressive a feat as any outside of what Guardiola did this year and Claudio Ranieri did at Leicester City.

— BONUS — 6b. Unai Emery, if hired at Arsenal —

5. Rafa Benitez, Newcastle United — Considering his resume, it shouldn’t be as surprising that he kept United up despite his owner refusing to green-light a real answer at center forward. Worked career years out of Mo Diame and Jonjo Shelvey.

4. Jurgen Klopp, Liverpool — The Champions League final says something, especially in a year he sold Philippe Coutinho, but his team still lacks the consistency of the three men in front of him.

3. Mauricio Pochettino, Tottenham Hotspur — Spurs have smartly spent and kept their stars around, but their financial outlay arguably should not have them consistently finishing ahead of Liverpool and Arsenal.

2. Jose Mourinho, Manchester United — Still a defensive marvel, still a genius, still somewhat hilarious… but we all know who No. 1 is…

  1. Pep Guardiola, Manchester City