Carlos Vela

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2019 MLS Power Rankings, Vol. I

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We are bringing a bit of science to our Major League Soccer power rankings this year, but only a bit.

While dubious items like momentum and look will still play a role in where the MLS sides arrive in our rankings, we’re going to consider some items rather unique to the league:

  1. Away record – The league is infamous for difficulty to win across the country
  2. Defense – MLS’ goals-per-game rate of 3+ makes it one of the most offense-forward leagues in the world.
  3. Schedule congestion – Are you playing twice when others around you are barely breaking a sweat?

So with all teams providing us six-matches or more for sample size, it’s time we mix it up with our first MLSPRs of 2019.

24. Colorado Rapids — Twenty-three goals allowed in eight matches. 0-2-2 at home, 0-4 away. The clear No. 24.

23. New York Red Bulls — Big changes coming to Red Bull Arena?

22. New England Revolution — There isn’t an impressive enough win to overshadow losses to Cincinnati and Atlanta.

21. Atlanta United — It’s messy, real messy, in the post-Almiron and Tata era.

Frank De Boer (Photo by Azael Rodriguez/Getty Images)

20. Vancouver Whitecaps — Struggles were expected under a new coach with a big roster flip, so patience should be in long supply especially considering the recent defeat of LAFC (which included a blanking of Carlos Vela). Also worth noting the ‘Caps drew Seattle.

19. Portland Timbers — Still yet to play at home, so getting the benefit of the doubt from us despite a 1-5-1 start.

18. San Jose Earthquakes — Two wins in three could signify an early turned corner.

17. NYCFC — With five draws, are you the pessimist who says, “Only one win,” or the optimist who counters, “Only one loss?”

16. FC Cincinnati — Not quite the tire fire expected by those doubting the acumen of FCC’s lineup. The hope has to be that consistency will come with familiarity.

15. Chicago Fire — Unbeaten in four with NYCFC/Montreal litmus tests next.

14. Minnesota United — Three away wins already and have played just once at home.

13. Orlando City SC — Nani putting together some big performances, but no signature win yet.

12. Real Salt Lake — Streaky side ends four-match losing run by beating Orlando and Cincinnati.

11. Columbus Crew — The defensive record is very impressive under new coach Caleb Porter with just eight goals conceded in eight games. They’ve also only scored eight in a firepower-driven league.

Even on the doorstep, goals have been scarce for Columbus (Eric Albrecht/The Columbus Dispatch via AP)

10. Montreal Impact — The 3-0 loss to Philly stings.

9. Philadelphia Union — The only loss in six is courtesy a cross-country trip to face Zlatan and The Galaxy, which is also a good name for a new band. They could tour with Jem.

8. Sporting KC — We’re here to proffer this long, CONCACAF Champions League-congestion considered leash to Peter Vermes. He’s earned it.

7. DC United — Even in MLS, we didn’t think we’d see an early 1W-2L-1T stretch, albeit with Rooney taking a red and sitting one out.

6. FC Dallas — Excited for the first Texas Derby in two weeks time.

5. Houston Dynamo — First loss of the season comes courtesy a trip to the Galaxy. Forgivable.

4. Toronto FC — Pozuelo is the truth.

3. Seattle Sounders — Carlos Vela at home is understandably where their undefeated season went for death.

2. LA Galaxy — Have allowed two goals in their last four matches, and that’s with new signing Giancarlo Gonzalez only making a token appearance.

1. LAFC — Bob Bradley doesn’t relent, having ridden Carlos Vela to wins of 4-1, 5-0, 4-0, and 4-1 (again) already this season.

Vela continues assault of MLS, LAFC trounce Sounders

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The game in 100 words (or less): Let’s get the painfully obvious out of the way right off the top: Carlos Vela shouldn’t be allowed in MLS. It should be considered a violation of league rules — a league with self-imposed parity — for a player to do what Vela is currently doing to MLS. The Mexican superstar bagged another brace on Sunday — his third multi-goal game of the season — to take his season tally to 10 goals (to go with five assists) in LAFC’s first nine games. At this rate, he’ll have enough votes to secure the MVP award by June. His team is benefitting hugely from these performances, by the way. Sunday’s 4-1 demolition of the previously unbeaten Seattle Sounders, the Western Conference’s third-place side, gives Bob Bradley‘s men seven wins to start the season, and a four-point lead on the chasing pack. It should be noted the Sounders were without a number of key starters on Sunday.

[ MORE: Everton pummels Manchester United (video) ]

Three moments that mattered

12′ — Vela finishes Kaye’s jaw-dropping pass — Vela’s finish is stunning and difficult, but Mark-Anthony Kaye’s through ball is, somehow, even better. Kaye had three assists in the game.

55′ — Vela rounds Frei to make it 3-1 — Eduard Atuesta has been a revelation in midfield for LAFC. Let’s take the below pass as just one shining example.

61′ — Ramirez starts, finishes liquid sequence for LAFC’s 4th — The defending is, admittedly, poor and lazy, but let’s not take everything away from Christian Ramirez (backheel and finish) and Kaye (through ball, again).

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Man of the match: Mark-Anthony Kaye

Goalscorers: Vela (12′), Atuesta (39′), Shipp (51′), Vela (55′), Ramirez (61′)

LAFC blitzes DC United for 4-0 win to stay atop MLS table

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Carlos Vela started it off and Diego Rossi bagged a hat-trick as LAFC bulldozed D.C. United for a 3-0 road win at Audi Field to keep the Major League Soccer points leaders in charge.

Vela had a penalty saved in the 12th minute, but made amends almost immediately when he buried a left-footed curler in the 15th minute to open the scoring, willing his shot around his defender Steve Birnbaum and into the top-left corner past a bamboozled Bill Hamid. After his hat-trick against San Jose last time out, the goal is Vela’s seventh of the league season in just six games, leading the league over four players each with four.

Then Rossi was unleashed, and made his mark on the first half. In transition in the 27th minute, Vela on the right flank delivered an inch-perfect low cross to a streaking Rossi who somehow stretched to reach the ball and sneak it past Hamid’s near post, one the goalkeeper will probably want back.

He struck again just past the half-hour mark when Mark-Anthony Kaye snatched the ball in midfield and easily broke the back line with one pass to Rossi, who picked out the back of the net with a right-footed curler. He caught Frederic Brillant far too aggressively up the field and completely unable to get back and cover after the turnover.

The second half went from bad to worse for D.C. United as they lost captain Wayne Rooney after a very bad tackle lunging in studs up on the shins of Rossi near the touchline. The referee initially gave a yellow card, but after a very quick check of VAR – the speed of which told the tale – it was overturned to a straight red card, the fourth of his professional career and first with D.C. United.

D.C. manager Ben Olsen was furious about the call, requiring a lengthy talking to from the referee, but it was quite obviously a red card on replay. The hosts actually had their best opportunity of the match soon after falling a man down as Brilliant had a go with his right foot that required a kick-save off the line by Steven Beitashour on 57 minutes.

LAFC came inches from a fourth as Eduard Atuesta hit the top-left corner of the bar with a 67th minute free-kick, as close as you can get to scoring without finding the back of the net. They finally got the fourth in fitting fashion as Rossi grabbed his hat-trick off yet another giveaway just outside the D.C. box that looked far too easy for the visitors.

The win sees LAFC move to 16 points through six matches, four more points than anyone else in the league at this point. D.C., meanwhile, came into the day on a 15-game unbeaten run and level with Toronto and Columbus at the apex of the Eastern Conference, but their chance to take over the top spot slipped away, with Toronto sliding in front after a draw with Chicago and Columbus still to play New England later tonight.

Rooney, Zlatan underline key role for global stars in MLS

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As much as Major League Soccer pushes towards a model of developing young talent either from North America or South America, the stunning individual displays of ageing superstars this weekend proved there is still a place for them in MLS.

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There is still a place for the wondrous, flying flick of Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s heel, the audacity of Wayne Rooney’s free kick and the beauty of Carlos Vela’s curler.

All three delivered stunning, memorable moments and their moments of brilliance were viewed all over the world. People in pubs in England will have smiled at Rooney’s free kick. There will have been a nod of appreciation in Paris for Zlatan’s flick. And in Mexico Vela’s hat trick, and stunning goal, will have raised eyebrows.

In a league still growing and far from reaching its potential, the role these superstars play is sometimes underrated within American soccer circles.

As much as we like to get behind playing philosophies and building solid, sustainable teams, sport is still an entertainment business. We remember moments and veteran stars know better than most how to provide them.

Look, bringing over stars from Europe doesn’t always work. Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and Andrea Pirlo may be the first to tell you their time in MLS didn’t exactly go to plan.

But from Thierry Henry to David Beckham, and now Zlatan to Rooney, there is still a place for stars who scores goals and create memorable moments which will be shown across the world.

MLS, despite plenty saying otherwise, doesn’t need to lose that ability to attract superstars approaching the end of their careers. It needs to continue to embrace.

If anything, it now has a one-two punch situation. With young, exciting players coming through, MLS is now seen as a breeding ground for young talent as well as a final showground for experienced stars. Attracting Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and others to MLS should be a priority, as well as developing academies and providing minutes to homegrown talent.

As long as that continues to be the case, everyone wins. Especially MLS.

Martino angry at Corona absence from Mexico squad

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New Mexico boss Gerardo “Tata” Martino did not hold back when asked about Jesus “Tecatito” Corona’s absence from the Mexico squad for the upcoming international break.

Corona pulled out of the squad due to an ankle injury he has apparently been playing through at his club side Porto. Still, Martino said he wished for Corona to travel to San Diego to meet up with the squad despite the injury as he is hoping to meet as many of the players in person and get to know them better.

“On Sunday, I spoke with him twice, once early in the morning and the other in the airport,” Martino explained to Azteca Deportes. “In the morning, I manifested the idea that even with impossibility [of playing with] the injury he had, we needed him to be with the group to get to know each other, it being the first meeting we’d have had. He didn’t have to train or play if he couldn’t, but we needed him to be here. At first he said yes and then on midday on Sunday, he called to say he’d thought about it and that his ankle wasn’t right and that he preferred not to travel.”

While Martino said that ultimately the decision was Corona’s to make, he made sure to note that “he’s [Corona’s] done something wrong” and that “he knows there will be repercussions in the future.”

“No one goes gun in hand asking them to come in and when they decide not to come we move on and keep going with the group that does want to be here,” Martino explained.

The Mexico boss also succinctly described his decision to leave LAFC striker Carlos Vela out of the squad, saying simply, “I don’t meet up [with the players] to make pacts. I had to take a decision and name the squad list and in that list I decided that Carlos shouldn’t be in.”

Just two months ago, upon officially receiving the job, Martino had described Vela as a “world class player.”