MLS News
Ultimate Guide to MLS Weekend: Colorado Rapids' Hot Start Is No Fluke
MLS News
Friday, 06 May 2016 02:30

Go ahead and take a look at the Western Conference standings in Major League Soccer.

Now take one more glance at the table since you probably didn't believe what you saw the first time around.

After being the laughing stock of the league in 2015, the Colorado Rapids lead the West and the Supporters' Shield standings with 17 points through nine weeks. 

There's no guarantee Pablo Mastroeni's men will stay in first place as the traditional powers in the West get better over the coming months, but the Rapids have made a statement at the start of 2016 that they have improved despite plenty of skepticism. 

The Rapids, who caught a good amount of criticism for acquiring Jermaine Jones in the offseason, are benefiting from the play of a few other new signings in midfield. Colorado brought in Micheal Azira by way of the waiver draft and Shkelzen Gashi on a transfer from FC Basel before the thought of inking Jones to a deal was a possibility. 

The 28-year-old Azira, who played for the Seattle Sounders over the last two seasons, has brought some stability to the central part of midfield after Marcelo Sarvas left for D.C. United. Thanks to Azira's success in the holding role, Mastroeni started Jones in the No. 10 position when he returned from his six-game suspension. 

Gashi's numbers suggest he is just finding his form in his first season in MLS, but he's been an impact player for most of the year on the left wing. The 27-year-old has slowly moved into the spotlight of late with two goals and two assists in his last four contests. 

Jones and Gashi have brought some much-needed support and link-up play to Kevin Doyle and Luis Solignac up top.

For the majority of 2015, the Rapids seemed lost in attack as the players in each third of the field failed to show any type of chemistry. 

When Clint Irwin and Drew Moor left for Toronto FC, the thinking was Colorado's defense would suffer. The opposite has happened as Colorado is tied for the league's second-best defensive record. Irwin, Moor and their new teammates in Toronto have given up one less tally than the Rapids. 

More attention will be drawn to the personnel on the Rapids roster when Tim Howard joins the club from Everton, but the most impressive aspect of their early-season start has been the ability to earn points from matches they wouldn't have in 2015. 

Colorado is tied with Week 10 opponent and Rocky Mountain Cup rival Real Salt Lake for the best home record in MLS at 4-0-0. Those four victories have come against the LA Galaxy, Toronto, New York Red Bulls and Seattle Sounders. 

In addition to the impressive slew of home results, the Rapids have gone on the road and taken down Sporting Kansas City and drawn with D.C. United and Montreal. 

It's clear the turnaround taking place inside the walls at Dick's Sporting Goods Park is not a fluke. Now Colorado has to prove it's a side worthy of qualifying for the postseason. That won't be easy in the difficult West, but the Rapids have the potential to make another statement in their top-of-the-table showdown with RSL on Saturday. 

We'll have a look at that contest and the other eight matches taking place across the United States and Canada below in our weekend preview. 

 

Week 10 Schedule

New York Red Bulls at Orlando City (Friday, 7 p.m. ET, UniMas) 

Portland Timbers at Vancouver Whitecaps (Saturday, 5 p.m. ET, MLS Live) 

FC Dallas at Toronto FC (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, MLS Live) 

Montreal Impact at Columbus Crew (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, MLS Live) 

Sporting Kansas City at Houston Dynamo (Saturday, 8:30 p.m. ET, MLS Live) 

Real Salt Lake at Colorado Rapids (Saturday, 9 p.m. ET, MLS Live) 

San Jose Earthquakes at Seattle Sounders (Saturday, 10 p.m. ET, MLS Live) 

New England Revolution at LA Galaxy (Sunday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN) 

New York City FC at D.C. United (Sunday, 7:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1)

 

Players to Watch 

Aurelien Collin, CB, New York Red Bulls

One week after being traded by Orlando City to the New York Red Bulls, Aurelien Collin returns to the Citrus Bowl with his new teammates on Friday. 

The addition of Collin reinforced the struggling Red Bulls back line that failed to string together consistent performances during the first two months of the season.

In order to keep their current hot streak alive in Week 10, the Red Bulls will need a strong showing—or a solid scouting report at the bare minimum—out of Collin.

If Jesse Marsch's men contain the movement of Cyle Larin in the final third, they could leave central Florida with three points. 

 

Brad Davis, LM, Sporting Kansas City 

Keeping with the theme of players taking on their old sides in Week 10, Brad Davis travels back to BBVA Compass Stadium for the first time since leaving the Houston Dynamo for Sporting KC. 

Davis and his trademark left foot produced the only tally for Peter Vermes' side in Week 9 against LA, and he has a good chance of playing a significant role in Saturday's match. 

The 34-year-old and his teammates will look to have plenty of success against a poor Houston defense that has let in 16 goals in eight matches.

The chances will be there for Sporting KC. It's just a matter of converting them on the road against Owen Coyle's side. 

 

Luciano Acosta, FW, D.C. United

It's becoming clear Luciano Acosta should be one of the first names written on Ben Olsen's teamsheet every week. 

The 21-year-old playmaker dazzled off the bench against Vancouver and New England before earning a spot in the starting XI for the Week 9 draw with Chicago.

Acosta, who has one goal and three assists in 2016, should be able to take advantage of the lackluster New York City FC back four in the final match of the weekend at RFK Stadium.

If he finds gaps in the NYCFC defense early on Sunday night, Acosta could end up on the highlight reels come Monday. 

 

Game of the Week

Real Salt Lake at Colorado Rapids

If we're going to heap praise on the resurgent Rapids, it's only fair we hand RSL some credit for their fast start as well. 

Jeff Cassar's side suffered through an unusually poor 2015, but the Claret and Cobalt are back this season thanks to a ferocious front four led by Juan Manuel Martinez and Yura Movsisyan. Even if Joao Plata misses his third consecutive match, the duo mentioned above, along with Javier Morales, will test the Rapids with their movement and passing ability in the final third. 

Azira's mettle in the middle of the park will be tested as well by the RSL attack, while Kyle Beckerman will be handed the job of stopping Jones if he lines up in an attacking position again. 

Not only will Colorado's attackers have to deal with RSL's improved defense, they must get a few shots past the reliable Nick Rimando. Besting the United States international won't be an easy task, but nothing has stopped the Rapids yet this season. 

 

Joe Tansey covers MLS for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter, @JTansey90. 

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MLS Power Rankings: LA Galaxy Retains the Top Spot
MLS News
Wednesday, 04 May 2016 12:59

It was a dramatic week in Major League Soccer as a few teams staked their claims with some emphatic results.

These performances led to a significant bump up in the latest edition of the power rankings. As always, the following criteria were used to grade each team:

Form over the last five games Injuries/absences Quality of a team's most recent performance Games in hand (if applicable)

Here are the latest MLS power rankings.

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MLS Player Rankings: Dos Santos, Zardes Surge Toward Top, Morris Debuts
MLS News
Tuesday, 03 May 2016 02:45

With two full months of play in the books, we are beginning to see some trends develop in Major League Soccer. 

It is apparent that a few struggling clubs from last season are postseason contenders in 2016, and some of the individual duds from 2015 are starting to blossom into must-watch stars.

Giovani dos Santos fits that mold perfectly at the moment. After showing spurts of his world-class talent in his debut campaign, the highly touted Mexican is torching opposing defenses week after week. 

Dos Santos and his LA Galaxy teammate Gyasi Zardes surged into the top five of our weekly MLS Player Rankings thanks to their incredible form, but they aren't the only ones who have caught our attention.

Three attackers soared into the top 10 after not earning a spot on the list of the league's top 20 in-form players a week ago. 

Our rankings take into account the last four games individuals participated in, with the most recent match holding the most importance. 

Continue reading to see who else secured a position in our MLS Player Rankings following Week 9. 

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MLS Team of the Week: Villa, Drogba, Valeri Shine in Week 9
MLS News
Monday, 02 May 2016 00:55

Week 9 in Major League Soccer saw a wide array of players produce the week's best performances. 

Didier Drogba and David Villa were among the superstars up to their regular tricks as both designated players scored on terrific strikes on Saturday.

Portland's Diego Valeri joined the pair of world-class attackers in the Goal of the Week competition on Sunday in Portland's win over Toronto FC. 

Some of the top defensive showings across the United States and Canada this week came from unlikely players. One even showed off his finishing skills in the attacking end of the pitch. 

Since there were three games on Wednesday, we took those matches into account while choosing our Week 9 Team of the Week.

Continue reading to see which 11 players were named to Bleacher Report's best XI from the week of action in MLS.

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Ultimate Guide to MLS Weekend: Can NYCFC Fix Early-Season Issues?
MLS News
Friday, 29 April 2016 08:15

New York City FC have played 42 Major League Soccer matches in their short existence. In those contests, the second-year side has 11 wins, 20 losses and 11 draws that amount to 41 points. 

In addition to the lack of results, the sister club of Manchester City fired a rising American manager in Jason Kreis and replaced him with Patrick Vieira. NYCFC also signed Frank Lampard and Mix Diskerud to big-name deals. 

If we use the current sample size of production and influence on the pitch, Lampard and Diskerud are two of the most overrated players in MLS. You can also make a good case that Lampard, the former Chelsea legend, is the worst designated-player signing in league history.

The good news when it comes to big names in the NYCFC midfield is Andrea Pirlo has adjusted to the league after a full offseason at the club. He may not be a box-to-box workhorse, but he has delivered a good amount of quality in 2016. 

The issues don't end in midfield, as NYCFC have displayed countless deficiencies in the back four, and they have built a reputation of conceding late and failing to earn three points when ahead during the closing stages of the second half. Unlike the other teams in the Eastern Conference who finished near the bottom in 2015, NYCFC havn't given us many reasons to believe they have grown during their first full offseason as an MLS side. 

Saturday's performance at Talen Energy Stadium against the Philadelphia Union was arguably the worst we've seen all season from any club. David Villa was isolated on an island by himself in the final third, and Kwadwo Poku, who is supposedly the answer to NYCFC's problems, was invisible for the majority of his time on the pitch in Pirlo's absence.

Vieira's men appeared to take a step forward on Wednesday at home against Montreal until the Impact struck for a 91st-minute equalizer by way of Dominic Oduro. 

No quick fix appears to be in sight for NYCFC except for the "play the ball to Villa and hope he does something special on the ball" strategy. The Spaniard has excelled in front of the net on a few occasions in 2016 as he has a pair of braces against Toronto FC and the Columbus Crew, but even the legendary forward has been unreliable at times. 

If NYCFC can find a second playmaker in the final third to partner Villa, the club might be able to bail out the defense in a few more games over the course of the arduous MLS campaign. Eliminating all of the issues in the back four will take time, but holding on to a lead and securing a victory against Vancouver on Saturday would do wonders for the team's confidence. 

What makes the struggles of NYCFC more frustrating to its supporters is the sudden surge of life from the rival New York Red Bulls across the river. The Red Bulls finally broke through for three goals at home on Sunday, and they appear to have a defensive fix coming in the form of Aurelien Collin, who will be sent to the Red Bulls in a trade with Orlando City, per Alicia DelGallo of the Orlando Sentinel.

With just under a month left before the first Hudson River derby of the season, NYCFC must be able to show progression under Vieira before May 21 or the Red Bulls could walk all over the second-year side at Yankee Stadium. 

The spotlight will shine bright on a few other teams and players in Week 9. Below we have a look at the players to watch and our pick for game of the week. 

 

Week 9 Schedule

FC Dallas at New York Red Bulls (Friday, 7 p.m. ET, UniMas)

San Jose Earthquakes at Philadelphia Union (Saturday, 4 p.m. ET, MLS Live) 

Vancouver Whitecaps at New York City FC (Saturday, 4 p.m. ET, MLS Live) 

Colorado Rapids at Montreal Impact (Saturday, 4 p.m. ET, MLS Live) 

Columbus Crew at Seattle Sounders (Saturday, 4 p.m. ET, MLS Live) 

D.C. United at Chicago Fire (Saturday, 5 p.m. ET, MLS Live) 

Orlando City at New England Revolution (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, MLS Live) 

Houston Dynamo at Real Salt Lake (Saturday, 9:30 p.m. ET, MLS Live) 

Toronto FC at Portland Timbers (Sunday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

LA Galaxy at Sporting Kansas City (Sunday, 8 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1) 

 

Players to Watch

Didier Drogba, FW, Montreal Impact

Didier Drogba may not play the whole 90 minutes against Colorado on Saturday due to his midweek start in the 1-1 draw with NYCFC, but he needs to make a mark at Stade Saputo in Week 9.

The Ivorian has played a role in two of the club's three tallies since working his way back to full fitness. If the Impact want to finish off the Rapids early on home soil, Drogba will most likely play a key role in doing so. 

 

Pa Modou Kah, CB, Vancouver Whitecaps

If you glance over Vancouver's defensive predicament for Saturday's trip to Yankee Stadium, you'd assume Villa is set to have a field day in the final third. 

The Whitecaps will be without the suspended Kendall Waston, and they will be coming off a cross-country flight on little rest after a home draw on Wednesday with Sporting Kansas City.

Veteran defender Pa Modou Kah will be tasked with stopping Villa alongside Tim Parker. If the 35-year-old who hasn't started since March 26 thrives against the Spanish forward, it will go down as one of Week 9's top performances.

 

Jonathan Campbell, CB, Chicago Fire

The Chicago Fire are still a work in progress in all aspects of the game under first-year boss Veljko Paunovic, but they have turned in some good showings over the first eight weeks of the season.

The Fire head back to the pitch after a week off to face a D.C. United side that put up seven goals in its last three games. 

Rookie defender Jonathan Campbell will have to limit the opportunities of the D.C. forwards in order to allow the likes of Kennedy Igboananike and Gilberto to pounce against the back four of the Black and Red. If the Fire defense has holes in it on Saturday like it has at some points this season, Ben Olsen's side could easily leave Toyota Park with three points. 

 

Diego Chara, CDM, Portland Timbers

Diego Chara faces his toughest task of the season to date on Sunday, as he has to stop the red-hot Sebastian Giovinco at Providence Park.

The Portland Timbers midfield enforcer has the potential to wreak havoc on opposing forwards with his physical play. 

As long as he doesn't concede set pieces from close range with his tackling, Chara should be able to disrupt Giovinco enough to keep him out of a rhythm. 

 

Game of the Week

LA Galaxy at Sporting Kansas City

Things are already getting tight at the top of the Western Conference, as the top six teams in the standings are separated by four points. 

Both the LA Galaxy and Sporting KC have a chance to distance themselves a bit from the postseason cutoff line in Sunday's showdown at Children's Mercy Park. 

The key matchup to watch in this contest will be Giovani dos Santos versus the Sporting KC back four. The pair of Nuno Coelho and Matt Besler have impressed when together, but an in-form Dos Santos will be tough to deal with. Dos Santos has three goals and two assists in the last two games. In addition to the Mexican attacker, Gyasi Zardes should also be a handful to deal with based off his recent performances. 

On the other end of the pitch, the Galaxy are looking to secure their first clean sheet since April 2. Before settling into a rhythm against Real Salt Lake in Week 8, the L.A. back four had some trouble with RSL's combination play in the final third. Dom Dwyer and Benny Feilhaber will try to do the same thing Juan Manuel Martinez did a week ago in the opening stages of the match. 

The final game of the weekend could either be a shootout with the players mentioned above enjoying plenty of chances or it could turn into a defensive stalemate where one quality chance makes the difference. 

 

Joe Tansey covers MLS for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter, @JTansey90.

Read more MLS news on BleacherReport.com

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MLS Power Rankings: The Colorado Rapids' Surprise Run Continues
MLS News
Wednesday, 27 April 2016 12:07

There were some big surprise victories this week in Major League Soccer this week.  

These victories skyrocketed some teams in the latest power rankings. As always, the following criteria were used to grade every team:

Form over the last five games Injuries/absences Quality of a team's most recent performance Games in hand (if applicable)

Here is where every team stands after the latest round of matches.

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MLS Player Rankings: Giovinco Rises to Top, dos Santos Debuts High on List
MLS News
Tuesday, 26 April 2016 08:57

The big-name players in Major League Soccer are beginning to round into form as the second month of the 2016 campaign winds down. 

Sebastian Giovinco and Giovani dos Santos were the standout stars of Week 8, as they produced impressive attacking performances for Toronto FC and the LA Galaxy, respectively. 

Giovinco's two-goal showing against the Montreal Impact helped him move to the top of our MLS Player Rankings, while dos Santos' terrific two-week spell in the Galaxy attack allowed him to make a high debut on the list of the top in-form players in MLS. 

Our player rankings take into account the last four games individuals participated in, with the most recent match holding the most importance. 

Continue reading to see which players joined Giovinco and dos Santos in our MLS Player Rankings after Week 8.

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MLS Team of the Week: Red Bulls and Galaxy Stars Lead Week 8's Best XI
MLS News
Monday, 25 April 2016 03:10

The marquee clubs in Major League Soccer stole the headlines in Week 8 as the LA Galaxy and New York Red Bulls combined for eight goals on Saturday and Sunday. 

Due to the offensive outbursts on each coast, five players from the two big-name franchises found their way into the latest Bleacher Report MLS Team of the Week. 

In addition to the stars from New York and LA, Toronto FC placed a pair into our weekly best XI that is shaped in a 3-4-3 formation to accommodate a bevy of impressive attacking performances from Week 8.

Continue reading to see which 11 players earned Team of the Week honors after a full weekend of play in MLS.

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MLS Power Rankings: Real Salt Lake and FC Dallas Solidify the Top Spots
MLS News
Wednesday, 20 April 2016 00:00

A jam-packed week in MLS has come to an end, and two teams in particular have reinforced their status in the latest power rankings.

Six clubs played multiple games this week, so a few sides have games in hand on the rest of the league. Therefore, the following criteria will be used to grade every team:

Form over the last five games Injuries/absences Quality of a team's most recent performance Games in hand (if applicable)

Here are the latest MLS power rankings.

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MLS Player Rankings: Adi Moves to Top, Maund, Meram Debut
MLS News
Tuesday, 19 April 2016 09:12

Choosing the top player in our latest Bleacher Report MLS Player Rankings was a difficult task.

Each of the four attackers at the top of the chart has a valid argument to be in the No. 1 position following Week 7, but that doesn't mean just four players are thriving across MLS.

For the third straight week, we had at least six new entrants into the list of the league's 20 best in-form players, including one defender who is surprising many with his early-season performances. 

Our player rankings take into account the last four games individuals participated in, with the most recent match holding the most importance. 

Continue reading to see which 20 players landed in the latest MLS Player Rankings. 

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