MLS News
MLS Player Rankings: Red Bulls' Kljestan, BWP Surge After Drubbing of NYCFC
MLS News
Tuesday, 24 May 2016 08:03

The one thing everyone who watches Major League Soccer was talking about after Week 12 was the New York Red Bulls' blowout win over New York City FC on Saturday. 

The victory by Jesse Marsch's side was an extension of a solid run of form that has taken the club into third place in the Eastern Conference. Sacha Kljestan, who has been the epitome of consistency during the Red Bulls' run of form, has earned a high place on our Bleacher Report MLS Player Rankings due to his individual showing at Yankee Stadium. 

In addition to Kljestan's surge up the list of the top-20 in-form players in the league, two other Red Bulls make their debuts on the chart after Week 12. 

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

Continue reading to find out which stars also landed a spot in our latest MLS Player Rankings.

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MLS Team of the Week: McCarty, BWP, Kaka, Larin Shine During Rivalry Week
MLS News
Monday, 23 May 2016 05:00

Major League Soccer's Rivalry Week may not have lived up to the hype in terms of competition on the pitch, but it certainly produced some interesting results. 

The biggest eye-popper from Week 12 was the New York Red Bulls' 7-0 thrashing of New York City FC at Yankee Stadium. Dax McCarty and Bradley Wright-Phillips bagged a brace each in the victory. The impressive performances from the Red Bulls duo placed them at the forefront of our Bleacher Report MLS Team of the Week.

Outside of the rivalry matches, FC Dallas, Colorado Rapids and Orlando City turned in solid 90-minute showings across North America. Each team has multiple players in Week 12's best XI. 

Continue reading to see who joined the aforementioned players in our latest MLS best XI.

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Ultimate Guide to MLS Weekend: Red Bulls, NYCFC Enter Rivalry Week in Solid Form
MLS News
Friday, 20 May 2016 03:03

The New York Red Bulls and New York City FC are set to renew hostilities for the fourth time in the history of their young rivalry on Saturday at Yankee Stadium. 

Just over a month ago, the match between the teams separated by the Hudson River was set to be a battle of disappointing clubs in search of a needed victory. 

Since April 24, the pair of New York-area clubs have combined for six wins, three draws and one loss in 10 games. Jesse Marsch's Red Bulls are responsible for the lone blemish during the string of recent results. The Red Bulls fell 2-0 to D.C. United a week ago in a rivalry game that carries as much—if not more—importance than the one they will partake in on Saturday afternoon.

The Red Bulls responded to the defeat at RFK Stadium with a 1-0 win over the Chicago Fire on Wednesday, but one has to think they're saving their best performance for their trip to the Bronx. 

One player in particular who may break out for the team based in Harrison, New Jersey is Bradley Wright-Phillips, who scored four goals across three rivalry showdowns in 2015.

The Englishman has scored on just three occasions in 2016, but the opportunity to hit the net is almost always there against a NYCFC defense that has been mired in criticism since the club's inception. 

The scoring prowess of David Villa and the drama surrounding the waste of money that is Frank Lampard have taken the spotlight away from the susceptible back four this season, and rightfully so since the pair of legends are major parts of the squad. 

Villa has found the back of the net 26 times since joining Major League Soccer and on eight occasions in 12 contests so far in 2016.

The 35-year-old has four strikes in his last three starts, and he enters Saturday with fresh legs after starting on the bench against Toronto FC on Wednesday. 

As for Lampard, his saga will continue until he becomes a regular fixture in Patrick Vieira's starting 11.

Everything about the 37-year-old's arrival on American shores has been shrouded in controversy; from his short stint at Manchester City before coming stateside last summer to his current injury problems. Lampard is currently one of the biggest busts in MLS history. 

The Red Bulls know exactly how that player-acquisition strategy works. In the years before Marsch's arrival in Harrison, big names—most notably Rafa Marquez—entered the club and failed to make an impact before leaving. 

Now the Red Bulls are the polar opposite of NYCFC as they have a flourishing academy that most recently sent Matt Miazga into the first team before the defender was sold to Chelsea in January.

Sean Davis, Connor Lade and Alex Muyl are among the homegrown players who could make a mark on the final result at Yankee Stadium. 

There is no doubt MLS wants the Hudson River derby to be the top rivalry in the league. Sides have been drawn across New York City and its surrounding areas, and the matchup will be front and center two more times this season, but there are plenty of fans in the Pacific time zone that will tell you the league's best rivalries come from that side of the continent. 

Those claims will be put to the test on Sunday as the Portland Timbers host the Vancouver Whitecaps in the Cascadia Cup, and the LA Galaxy face off against the San Jose Earthquakes in the California Clasico. 

The other big showdown between hated opponents comes from Children Mercy's Park as Sporting Kansas City and Real Salt Lake renew their always-thrilling series.

Then there's the curious case of Philadelphia versus D.C. United. The two Eastern Conference sides are being forced into a marriage by MLS so that their true rival—the Red Bulls—can join NYCFC on the Rivalry Week marquee. 

Regardless of what rivalry you think is the best, Week 12 is guaranteed to produce fireworks that we'll be talking about well after Sunday.

Below is a look at the players and top game to watch over the next three days. 

 

Week 12 Schedule

D.C. United at Philadelphia Union (Friday, 7 p.m. ET, UniMas) 

New York Red Bulls at New York City FC (Saturday, 3 p.m. ET, Fox) 

Houston Dynamo at Chicago Fire (Saturday, 5 p.m. ET, MLS Live) 

Columbus Crew at Toronto FC (Saturday, 5 p.m. ET, MLS Live) 

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

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

Real Salt Lake at Sporting Kansas City (Saturday, 8:30 p.m. ET, MLS Live) 

Colorado Rapids at Seattle Sounders (Saturday, 10 p.m. ET, MLS Live) 

Vancouver Whitecaps at Portland Timbers (Sunday, 4:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

San Jose Earthquakes at LA Galaxy (Sunday, 7 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1) 

 

Players to Watch

Thomas McNamara, CM, New York City FC

The true X-factor in Saturday's showdown at Yankee Stadium could be NYCFC midfielder Thomas McNamara. 

McNamara has proved to be a better option in midfield than both Kwadwo Poku and Mix Diskerud, and he continues to improve under the tutelage of Vieira. 

Look for the former Chivas USA man to open up gaps between the Red Bulls trio of Felipe, Sacha Kljestan and Dax McCarty in order to create more space in the final third for Villa and the other attackers in the NYCFC lineup. 

 

Ola Kamara, FW, Columbus Crew

Ola Kamara's second audition for the vacated forward role in the Columbus Crew attack comes on Saturday against Toronto. 

The 26-year-old Norway international was ineffective as a target forward in Week 11 as he attempted to replace the traded Kei Kamara. 

If the Columbus striker fails to succeed in his second start of 2016, Crew manager Gregg Berhalter may have to call on veteran Conor Casey to get the job done. 

 

Zarek Valentin, RB, Portland Timbers

Trying to recover from a shocking home loss to NYCFC will not be an easy task for the Timbers as the surging Whitecaps come to Providence Park on Sunday. 

Zarek Valentin will be one of two full-backs charged with keeping Kekuta Manneh and Christian Bolanos under wraps on the wing. Manneh had a breakout performance against Toronto in Week 11, and Bolanos has scored in four of the last five games. 

If the Timbers leave the pitch with three points after 90 minutes, they will most likely have to thank Valentin in some fashion for his contributions. 

 

Game of the Week

Vancouver Whitecaps at Portland Timbers

There are a few matches in Week 12 that are crucial to the Western Conference playoff picture, but none of them are more important than the Cascadia Cup clash in Portland. 

The Whitecaps come into Oregon on the heels of a six-point week in which they dispensed of Chicago and Toronto. The recent performances of Manneh and Bolanos have been able to mask the team's struggles at forward.

Portland could force Blas Perez or Octavio Rivero to create the majority of the scoring chances if its full-backs choke out the influence of the wingers. 

Portland comes into Rivalry Week in ninth place with 12 points and a loss to Vancouver would drop them at least six points below sixth place heading into the final weekend of May. In order to avoid that fate, Caleb Porter's men will have to rely heavily on Fanendo Adi and Darlington Nagbe. 

We could also be treated to a masterful goalkeeping display on Sunday as David Ousted and Jake Gleeson come into Week 12 in good form.

Gleeson, who is filling in for the injured Adam Kwarasey, made 11 saves in the first meeting between the two sides on May 7. 

 

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

All statistics obtained from MLSSoccer.com.

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Kaka, Frank Lampard Among MLS' Highest-Paid Players for 2016-17 Season
MLS News
Thursday, 19 May 2016 11:28

Orlando City's Kaka ($7.167 million) and Toronto FC's Sebastian Giovinco ($7.115 million) are the MLS' highest-paid players in the 2016-17 season, the MLS Players Union (via Steven Goff of the Washington Post) revealed Thursday.

Toronto FC's Michael Bradley ($6.5 million), the Los Angeles Galaxy's Steven Gerrard ($6.132 million) and New York City FC's Frank Lampard ($6 million) round out the top five.

The majority of the remaining top earners in the MLS are either stars on the United States men's national team (Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard) or former stars in Europe (Andrea Pirlo, David Villa, Robbie Keane, Didier Drogba). 

That trend is likely to continue, as stars from Europe continue to trickle into the MLS at the end of their careers to earn big contracts before retiring while the MLS budget continues to grow. The latest European star who is rumored to make the jump to MLS is PSG superstar striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, per Loic Tanzi of Goal.com, and Ibra would surely become the league's highest earner upon his arrival.

According to Tanzi, "It has also been reported that Ibrahimovic has a concrete proposal from MLS worth $580,000 per week—the same figure that he earns in Paris."

While Ibra would likely garner a small fortune if he made the leap to American soil, six teams—FC Dallas, D.C. United, the Houston Dynamo, Sporting Kansas City, the New York Red Bulls and the Philadelphia Union—do not have a single player who is earning $1 million or more this season.

Of that bunch, the Union have been notoriously frugal. Their payroll this season is $5.67 million, according to Jonathan Tannenwald of Philly Sport, which means six MLS players alone are making more this season than the Union are spending on their entire team payroll.

Tannenwald shared more information on team salaries:

Giovinco, meanwhile, has been worth every penny for Toronto FC. The 2015 league MVP led the MLS in both goals (22) and assists (16) last season and has continued his strong play in 2016, scoring eight goals and adding five assists in 11 games this season.

Last year's champions, the Portland Timbers, have just one player in the league's top 20 earners. Liam Ridgewell, the team's captain and star defender, is earning $1.25 million this year, the 19th-highest wage in the league.

 

You can follow Timothy Rapp on Twitter.

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MLS Player Rankings: Giovinco Goes Top, Bolanos and Manneh Debut After Week 11
MLS News
Tuesday, 17 May 2016 07:55

It was going to take a special individual showing in Week 11 to take Giovani dos Santos out of the top spot of our weekly MLS Player Rankings. 

One of the few stars in Major League Soccer capable of producing more skill than the Mexican showed off his tremendous abilities on Saturday in a losing effort. 

Thanks to his performance against the Vancouver Whitecaps, Sebastian Giovinco returned to the spot he called home for most of 2015.

As for the victorious team at BMO Field in Week 11, Vancouver produced two of the five new entrants to the list of the top 20 in-form players in MLS. 

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 which stars earned a spot in the Bleacher Report MLS Player Rankings after Week 11.

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MLS Team of the Week: Manneh, Giovinco Star in Shootout, Nguyen, Beasley Feature
MLS News
Monday, 16 May 2016 05:00

Major League Soccer handed us a few unexpected twists in Week 11 as Vancouver Whitecaps and New York City FC produced a pair of unlikely results on the road. 

The Whitecaps defeated Toronto FC at BMO Field in a wild seven-goal affair three days after they downed the Chicago Fire at home. NYCFC turned plenty of heads on Sunday with their 2-1 win over defending champions Portland Timbers at Providence Park.

The stars of each of those performances are a part of a group of players from nine different teams that make up our Week 11 MLS Team of the Week. 

Because there were five games on Wednesday in addition to the regular weekend slate, some players were judged for our best XI off two performances.

Continue reading to see who was named in the Bleacher Report MLS Team of the Week. 

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MLS Player Rankings: LA Galaxy Stars Dominate Top 2, Morris, Drogba Move Up List
MLS News
Tuesday, 10 May 2016 08:43

The LA Galaxy attack has lived up to its potential in Major League Soccer over the last month as Bruce Arena's side has found the back of the net on 14 occasions since April 15. 

It comes as no surprise that two of the Galaxy's stars find themselves in the top two positions in our weekly Bleacher Report MLS Player Rankings. 

Choosing the correct spot for each player on the list was a difficult task this week as nine of the top 10 and 15 of the top 20 recorded either a goal or an assist in Week 10. 

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 which stars feature on the latest list of the top 20 in-form players in MLS. 

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MLS Team of the Week: Kamara, Higuain, Drogba, Keane Star in Week 10
MLS News
Monday, 09 May 2016 02:35

The stars of Major League Soccer left us with plenty of things to discuss following Week 10's matches. 

The major talking point from the weekend's action came from Columbus, as Kei Kamara caught everyone's attention for his post-match remarks regarding Federico Higuain. The pair shined throughout the first half before everything went awry for the Crew. 

In the same match, Didier Drogba and his Montreal Impact teammates produced a three-goal comeback to earn a point on the road at Mapfre Stadium. 

Out in the Western Conference on Sunday, Robbie Keane produced a two-goal showing in his return to the pitch for the LA Galaxy.

Due to the plethora of impressive attacking performances in Week 10, we shaped our Team of the Week in a 3-4-3 formation.

Continue reading to see who joined Kamara, Higuain, Drogba and Keane in our weekly best XI. 

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LAFC Stadium Gets Final Planning and Environmental Approval from City Council
MLS News
Friday, 06 May 2016 14:22

Los Angeles Football Club announced Friday that the Los Angeles City Council has granted final planning and environmental approvals for a soccer-specific stadium. 

Based in southern Los Angeles, the new stadium will hold 22,000 seats and will be ready for the club's inaugural season in 2018.   

The new club that gained admission into the MLS in 2014 proposed this new stadium in May 2015, which LAFC Fan Club showed the renderings of:

LAFC managing partner and owner Henry Nguyen spoke after the City Council's decision:

LAFC’s promise is to unite the world’s city through the world’s game. Today, through the collaborative vision and efforts of the City Council and the people of Los Angeles, we continue to work towards that promise.  Everyone has invested a tremendous amount of time, hard work, thought and energy and we are now one step closer to making our shared vision a reality.

The new stadium will be on the site of the Los Angeles Sports Arena, which will be demolished this summer. It is right near the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, the iconic stadium that is the home of USC football and now the Los Angeles Rams

It's already been a busy year for the MLS' newest club as it unveiled a new co-owner along with its crest and colors, via Major League Soccer:

With a state-of-the-art stadium now all but confirmed, LAFC can focus on building its brand to compete with soon-to-be city rivals Los Angeles Galaxy and becoming a competitive side in MLS upon arrival in 2018.  

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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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