PST’s Major League Soccer Power Rankings – Mid-week adjustment

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Last week’s new custom carries over into this week, where three mid-week games allow us to reconsider Tuesday’s Major League Soccer Power Rankings. Here’s how PST sees the MLS crowd going into the weekend:

D.C. United
Tuesday ranking: 3
Wednesday result: 1-0 loss at New York Red Bulls

Fabian Espindola’s controversial first half red card meant D.C. had little chance to complete its season sweep of New York. As far as Power Rankings are concerned, though, the game didn’t tell us much.

If D.C. starts making a habit of going down a man, then we can consider that problem. But given the team has only seen two red cards this season, Wednesday looks like an aberration.

New ranking: 3

LA Galaxy
Tuesday ranking: 1
Wednesday result: 2-2 draw at Montreal

Ever since ripping apart Seattle on the road, LA has struggled away from Stub Hub:

  • Aug. 16: 4-1 loss at Columbus
  • Aug. 20: 4-3 win at Colorado
  • Sept. 10: 2-2 draw at Montreal

Of course, struggle is relative. Most teams would be happy with four points on the road. LA’s been so good, we’re  holding them to a different standard.

That standard was evident in people’s reactions to Wednesday’s performance. Ultimately, it was one bad half – one where Robbie Roger’s and James Riley’s lack of fitness forced Bruce Arena to start with a 3-5-2 formation.

That wasn’t the real LA. Even if it was, the result wasn’t that bad. Montreal’s played beyond their record for nearly a month. GivenLA’s mid-week, cross-country trip, a draw wasn’t the most unreasonable result.

New ranking: 1

Montreal Impact
Tuesday ranking: 15
Wednesday result: 2-2 draw with visiting Los Angeles

One of the most disappointing parts of last night’s games was multiple broadcasters acting as if Montreal’s record reflected the team’s current quality. Not everybody can watch every game, but the Impact’s improvement has happened over the course of a month. And it hasn’t been that difficult to track.

It’s one thing to be deferential to the standings. It’s another thing to ignore their limitations. Montreal has the worst record in MLS, but it’s been a while since the Impact were the league’s worst team.

Granted, it’s a big hypocritical for me to say that when the team was only ranked 15th on our list. So let’s fix that now (if only slightly):

New ranking: 13

New York Red Bulls
Tuesday ranking: 10
Wednesday result: 1-0 win over visiting D.C. United

The temptation here is to drop New York, given how impotent they looked for most of the night against a 10-man United. But just was it’s difficult to judge D.C. based on the strange circumstances, it’s hard to come down on New York, especially after a win.

Perhaps, after this weekend’s games New York’s poor showing will hurt. But for now …

New ranking: 10

San Jose Earthquakes
Tuesday ranking: 12
Wednesday result: 2-0 loss at Vancouver

If the Whitecaps weren’t in the midst of slump, this result wouldn’t look that bad, but given what we saw when Portland and D.C. United went to BC Place, last night’s two-goal loss hints we were overrating the Earthquakes. In focusing on recent performances against Real Salt Lake and Seattle, perhaps we were underrating San Jose’s 5-0 loss to Dallas?

Regardless, it’s time to adjust. At a minimum, the Earthquakes need to fall below the Whitecaps. Add in the Impact’s rise, and San Jose takes a big fall.

New ranking: 15

Vancouver Whitecaps
Tuesday ranking: 14
Wednesday result: 2-0 win over visiting San Jose

One of the underlying principles we’ve worked with this year is distributing credit (or, blame). Of course, scores can be the result of both good and bad performances, but that doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. When we’re lucky, both teams play well, and on those nights that drag, both teams are probably playing poorly. It’s not a zero-sum game.

On Wednesday in Vancouver, the Whitecaps made progress, ending their 449-minute scoreless run. The context of that win, however, included a poor showing from the Earthquakes.

If Montreal hadn’t played well, Vancouver would have moved up. With the Impacts’ improvement, Carl Robinson’s side stays steady on our chart.

New ranking: 14

On Seattle …

Excuse this indulgence, but I’d like to backtrack for a moment. I want to go back to Tuesday and talk about a ranking beyond the three- or four-sentence blurbs we allow for each team.

The biggest misgiving I had as I posted Tuesday’s list was Seattle’s spot: Fifth, behind D.C. United and FC Dallas. I was so uneasy about the choice, I hit up a friend over IM, somebody who covers the team daily. I needed to talk it out.

Perhaps I’m spending too much time looking at the standings, talking myself out of the low ranking because of Seattle’s place in the table. Then again, much of that place rests on results that are now outdated. How much does the Sounders’ strong spring really influence how capable they are now? Regardless, five seemed low for a team that’s been playing so well.

But those strong performances, the ones that pulled them out of their August rut, have been against Portland, Colorado, and Chivas – the bottom half of the West.  Before that, unimpressive performances against the Galaxy, Real Salt Lake, and San Jose contributed to the Sounders’ PR fall.

There isn’t much of an argument to put the Sounders ahead of LA or RSL, unless you want to dwell on the standings; in which case, Power Rankings aren’t for you. Given Dallas’s recent performance against similar foes (RSL, San Jose) and the Toros’ record since May (only two losses this summer), there’s a strong case for Oscar Pareja’s team being that high. D.C. United’s only losses over the last month were while depleted at Los Angeles and last night’s aberration.

Perhaps I’m only typing this out to make myself feel better, because it really does seem weird to see Seattle ranked so low. Intuitively, we know the Sounders are capable of beating anybody. But they’re also capable of being blown out by LA and losing at San Jose.

Five may be low, but the teams above the Sounders have strong cases to their spots. If Seattle beats RSL on Friday, the conversation changes.

PST’s Major League Soccer Power Rankings (post-mid-week results):

1. LA Galaxy
2. Real Salt Lake
3. DC United
4. FC Dallas
5. Seattle Sounders
6. New England Revolution
7. Philadelphia Union
8. Columbus Crew
9. Portland Timbers
10. New York Red Bulls
11. Houston Dynamo
12. Sporting Kansas City (+1)
13. Montreal Impact (+2)
14. Vancouver Whitecaps
15. San Jose Earthquakes (-3)
16. Chicago Fire
17. Colorado Rapids
18. Toronto FC
19. Chivas USA

Hazing lawsuit shines the wrong light on Clemson women’s soccer


If you’re surprised hazing happens in collegiate sports, you probably don’t know that collegiate sports are a thing, they’re fertile ground for a sad, athletic bravado, and that attitude too often augurs heartbreaking results. And by too often, I mean more than never.

More than never may have happened in January 2011, according to a lawsuit filed last month in South Carolina. That’s where Haley Ellen Hunt, then a freshman soccer player at Clemson University, alleges she was woken up in the middle of the night, blindfolded, and crammed into a car trunk before being disoriented and told to sprint, blindfold on, until she ran into a brick wall.

The brick wall, presumably, wasn’t in the plan, but it allegedly caused “lacerations and abrasions to both hands, serious lacerations and abrasions to her face, a concussion, and a traumatic brain injury.” Teammates wanted to call an ambulance. The coaching staff said no, saying (as attributed to head coach Eddie Radwanski), “if you care about your job and our [team], then you will not tell anyone about this.”

Did I mention that the hazing was conducted with the full knowledge of Clemson’s coaching staff? According to the lawsuit, the staff knew the players had keys to Riggs Field, where Hunt was led to a dark room next to the field, spun around and yelled at to the point of disorientation, and told to run out of the room unsighted until she hit that wall.

Hunt, unable to attend class or practice after the incident, would eventually need the attention of a neurologist and plastic surgeon, all of which would go down as one of the worst incidents in hazing history if Radwanski hadn’t called Hunt before she enrolled to bully her, saying she’d never play for Clemson. Allegedly, Radwanski, who had taken over as head coach from Hershey Strosberg, told Hunt and other freshmen not to bother showing up, telling Hunt “in two years when I look at you sitting on the bench and you are crying because you are not playing, I’m going to laugh and say, I told you so.”

Heard enough? Because I’m glossing over a lot of other, gruesome details from the complaint, like a pattern of verbal and emotional abuse that continued even after Hunt sustained her injuries. There’s the allegation that hazing has existed in Clemson’s soccer program since the 1990s, with the administration continually failing to pay more than lip service to written measures designed to eradicate the practice from the university’s campus.

Hunt eventually red-shirted her freshman year and would only make 17 appearances (five starts) for the Tigers. She earned the Bill D’Andre Tiger Paw Award in 2013 for “outstanding commitment and selflessness within the team culture”, but she only played 65 minutes last season.

According to the lawsuit, her vision is permanently impaired. She requires neurological treatment, physical therapy, and has to take daily medication. After two years of headaches and difficulties with school following the incident, she sought the help of a specialist who said her soccer career was over. He also questioned why Hunt was ever allowed to resume play without a proper neurological evaluation. As a result of the incident, the specialist said, Hunt has suffered “substantial decreased cognitive function.” Hunt’s only 21 years old.

Ultimately, this story isn’t about hazing, the disturbing use of authority in sport, the ridiculous choices imposed on collegiate athletes, or a grotesque environment that cycles freshman victims into positions to perpetuate abuse (all of Clemson soccer’s 2011 upperclassmen are named as defendants in the suit). It’s about an 18-year-old from South Carolina who, recruited under one, promising set of circumstances, may have had her life irrevocably changed by a person and school that created a system of abuse. They didn’t see her as a woman who still had a full life to live beyond Clemson. They saw her as a commodity.

Even while writing this, I regret the feedback that’s going to come – the sliver of people justifying these customs, as if they’re life affirming experiences. The strong survive this, the strong say, as if that doesn’t pervert what strength can be. The strength can be getting into that trunk. Strength can be putting up with the abuse while thinking the best of those around you. Strength can be sprinting out of a shed into darkness, believing faith in upperclassmen, coaching staff, and administrators will keep you from becoming a headline on some soccer blog. Strength can be misplaced.

If even a small percentage of what Hunt alleges is true, that strength was misplaced; naively, but understandably so. But think about how many 18-year-olds around the country are putting themselves in the same situation, knowing any show of defiance — of common sense — could see their scholarship revoked, their education denied, and their dreams destroyed.

What kind of world have we created where some people choose between a blindfold and a wall on one side, forgoing education and soccer on the other?

Hopefully, that’s not the world we live in, but I wasn’t surprised to hear about this story. Whether we’re talking about the Miami Dolphins, Clemson University, or Vermont High School, hazing and bullying exists at every level or sport, and beyond. And tacit support for it exists in every sport, and beyond. It’s part of the culture. It’s part of the problem.

Whether Haley Ellen Hunt’s allegations prove true, there are more Haley Ellen Hunts out there. This won’t be the last time we’re left asking: How did this happen? How did we get here? And how can we stop it?

MLS Signings: Digging deeper on Pogatetz, Sinima-Pongolle, and Pintos

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A trio of signings brought a set of new names to Major League Soccer on Tuesday, with three teams holding out hopes of a playoff return strengthening their squads before next week’s roster freeze. For one team, that means a former international sliding into a new position of need, while two other clubs look for solutions amid lingering concerns.

We’ll start in Columbus, where the addition of a former Premier League defender could help solidify the team’s playoff spot.

Emanuel Pogatetz signs with Columbus

The 31-year-old Austrian defender has enjoyed a long career in the top flights of Germany and England. Though Pogatetz most recently spent time with Nuremburg and Hannover, he’s best known for his five seasons at Middlesbrough, where he was a mainstay under Gareth Southgate.

The Austrian international has also made 61 appearances for his country, appearing in all three games for the team at the 2008 European Championships.

A big (6’3″) often rough defender, Pogatetz is capable of playing left back, though his primary position is in the middle. Particularly in Columbus’s scheme, he is likely seen as a replacement for Giancarlo Gonzalez, who moved to Italy this summer.

Since that move, Tyson Wahl has filled in ably next to Michael Parkhurst, though Pogatetz could be a significant upgrade. The main question, in addition to whether he can assimilate to his new environment, is whether he can handle the one-on-one situations that arise from Gregg Berhalter throwing his fullbacks forward.

Florent Sinima-Pongolle signs with Chicago

With Mike Magee out, the long-established connection between the Fire and Sinima-Pongolle finally produced a roster spot. In terms of resume, this 29-year-old (seriously, only 29?) has stops that would make most MLS talent blush (Liverpool, Atletico Madrid, Sporting Lisbon). Unfortunately, the one-time France international hasn’t been particularly productive at any of them.

In 12 years of European soccer, the versatile Le Havre product has only produced double-digit goals twice – the two years he spent at former La Liga side Recreativo Huelva. Though he scored 22 times in 38 league matches there (2006-2008), Sinima-Pongolle’s been limited to 21 goals in 192 other appearances in France, England, Spain, Portugal, and Russia.

In a world where Bradley Wright-Phillips is leading MLS in goals, you can only be so suspect of any signing. But for those inclined to read into Sinama-Pongolle’s time at Liverpool, his more recent stop may prove more informative. Over two seasons with Russia’s FC Rostov, Chicago’s new striker scored twice in 18 appearances.

Pablo Pintos signs with San Jose

Pintos is the least recognizable of Tuesday’s signings, though the 6’0″ right back has some impressive clubs on his CV, too. A product of Defensor Sporting in Uruguay, Pintos was sold to Argentina’s San Lorenzo in 2009, six months before Lazio paid close to $2 million to acquire the then-22-year-old. Pintos never touched down in Serie A, instead being loaned out to Getafe (Spain) before making his way to Kasimpasa in Turkey. Coming full circle, Pintos return to Argentina then Uruguay over the last year, making eight appearances for his original club in the last eight months.

During the last two years, however, Pintos has seen relatively little playing time. Between Turkey, Argentina, and Uruguay, he’s made only 17 league appearances (nine starts), and while it’s encouraging he continues to garner interest from teams, those teams are now part of a descending career arc. Instead of building toward a career in Europe, he’s coming back from a short one.

Based on his usage and the limited information available online (which, of course, includes some nice YouTube highlights), Pintos appears to be a right back capable of getting forward, one that’s occasionally filled in at right midfield. With San Jose looking for options at right back (having used Andreas Gorlitz, Brandon Barklage, Ty Harden, and Shaun Francis there this season), Pintos may finally get the time he needs.

It will be the first time since leaving San Lorenzo that Pintos has played consistently. When he gets that time, we’ll see how much is left of the player the once drew big money from Lazio.

Recovery from concussion will keep Eddie Johnson from traveling with D.C. to face Red Bulls

source:MLS Soccer
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A training ground concussion suffered last week is set to cost Eddie Johnson a second game, with the D.C. United forward reportedly ruled out of Wednesday’s trip to Red Bull Arena. According to the league’s web site, Johnson will not travel with the team to Harrison, N.J., with post-concussive symptoms still limiting his involvement with the Eastern Conference’s leaders.

Johnson has not trained with the team since it returned from Vancouver, a game the 30-year-old striker missed after suffering his injury last week. Though United earned a valuable point on the road, the team was also shut out, held to only three shots on target without Johnson and Chris Rolfe (out with a broken arm).

Johnson’s last appearance came 10 days ago against New York, when the former Kansas City and Seattle striker came off the bench to score the final goal in United’s 2-0, Atlantic Cup-sealing win over its rivals.

It was only Johnson’s fifth goal of the season, a total that leaves him fourth on the club, but after a slow start in his first season at RFK, the U.S. international’s started to improve. After going the first eight games of his D.C. career without a goal, Johnson has averaged a goal every 207.8 minutes (though two of his five goals have come from the penalty spot).

While that production still doesn’t match Fabian Espindola’s or Luis Silva’s, it’s scoring that could be missed should Johnson’s concussion symptoms persist. Though his output may not be meeting the hype of his winter arrival, Johnson would still be a useful piece in game like tomorrow’s.

Hip surgery ends Mike Magee’s season, could cost him the start of 2015

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Mike Magee was never going to replicate last year’s breakout season, but his hopes of coming close have been hampered by injuries throughout the 2014 season.  Unable to overcome his latest ailment, Magee’s season is now over, with hip surgery performed yesterday in Colorado ruling the 2013 Major League Soccer Most Valuable Player out for six-to-eight months.

Chicago announced the news today, with Magee having undergone the procedure Monday in Vail, Colo.

“It’s unfortunate that Mike will be out for an extended period,” head coach Frank Yallop said, “but he’s been struggling this season with the injuries. After consulting with our medical staff, we decided that this was the best time for Mike to have the procedure.

Though he’s been limited to 17 games, Magee is still tied for the team lead with seven goals, bringing his total to 15 since he was acquired from the LA Galaxy last summer. Thanks to the injury, though, Magee had not featured since Aug. 16, with Quicky Amarikwa and Sanna Nyassi starting up top for Chicago this weekend in New England.

Yallop has Robert Earnshaw in reserve, and with today’s signing of former Liverpool striker Florent Sinama-Pongolle, the team won’t lack for options. Unfortunately, none of Chicago’s healthy players are likely to replace the production of Magee, who was the Fire’s best per-minute scorer despite his ailments.

Undoubtedly, this was not the followup Magee expected after a 21-goal season, but with Chicago sitting ninth in the Eastern Conference, now was the right time to get this done. If his recovery goes well, Magee could be back by the time players report in February.

Even at the long end of his recovery time, Magee will only miss a sliver of the 2015 campaign, when both he and Chicago will hope to put this season’s struggles behind them.