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MLS Power Rankings: Western Conference shows strength early

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MLS Power Rankings: Western Conference shows strength early

Entering this Major League Soccer season, the Western Conference was supposed to be the stronger of the two conferences and that's already proving to be true.

In 11 matches that pitted the two conferences against each other, Western Conference clubs have earned six wins and three draws against just two losses. As a result, CSNChicago.com's newest MLS Power Rankings have Western Conference teams in the top four spots.

Most of the league took a week off for the international window this past weekend. Only three matches played on Saturday. MLS is back in action with nine matches on the schedule this upcoming weekend.

[MORE: Fire hope to be fresher after week off]

Previous rankings: March 15

 

Rank

(previous)

Team
Record Comment
1 (2) 3-0 Sporting Kansas City: Three wins against three 2015 playoff teams is a fantastic way to start the season. Brad Davis' game-winner against Toronto shows he could be a difference maker for a Sporting team that consistently contends.
(7) 1-0-2 Real Salt Lake: RSL won its only home match and has two road draws. That's a solid formula. Then add in that those two road draws featured first half red cards and it starts to look more impressive. One concern is that even though RSL was shorthanded, they did blow 2-0 leads late in both away games.
3 (6) 2-1 LA Galaxy: This might be an aggressive ranking for the Galaxy, which continue to look like last year's team. Dominant home wins, outscoring their opponents 7-2 in two home victories, and a lackluster road loss. If the Galaxy figure out how to play on the road, watch out because this team won't drop many points at home.
4 (10) 3-1 FC Dallas: Shutout victories against Montreal and at D.C. restored order for Dallas after that puzzling 5-0 loss at Houston. FCD now has three shutout wins, all by multiple goals. That game at Houston may go down as one of the weirdest results of 2016.
5 (1) 2-1 Montreal Impact: The Impact came back to earth a bit with a 2-0 loss at FC Dallas. Losing in Dallas is nothing to be ashamed of though and Didier Drogba made his season debut off the bench. Getting Drogba reintegrated should make the Impact even stronger.
6 (3) 1-1-1 Toronto FC: TFC suffered a tough 1-0 road loss in Kansas City, but just needs to stay afloat while they endure this season-opening road trip. Four points through three games is good enough. Toronto's home opener doesn't come until May 7, after eight road matches, due to renovations at BMO Field.
7 (11) 2-2 Vancouver Whitecaps: The Whitecaps got back on track with back-to-back wins at Seattle and against Houston. Picking up a shutout against Houston in a 1-0 victory was especially impressive because the Dynamo scored a league-leading 11 goals entering that match.
8 (4) 2-1 San Jose Earthquakes: Losing on the road to the Galaxy is expected, especially when going down a man like the Earthquakes did on March 19. Still, the Quakes look like an improved team from 2015 and Chris Wondolowski has three goals already.
(5) 1-1-1 Portland Timbers: The Timbers rallied from 2-0 down, while playing against 10 men, to get a home draw against Real Salt Lake. That's not the most inspiring result, but the comeback shows something about the team's confidence and spirit.
10 (13) 2-1 Philadelphia Union: The Union have been one of the surprises early in the season with back-to-back shutout victories in Columbus (2-0) and against New England (3-0). Not much was expected of this team, but the decisive results show the Union could be pushing for a playoff spot.
11 (16) 1-2 New York Red Bulls: The Red Bulls' offense exploded in a 4-3 win against Houston, which followed two shutout losses. Meanwhile, the defense is really struggling with eight goals against in three matches, the worst defensive record in the league.
12 (8) 1-2-1 Houston Dynamo: The Dynamo scored an unbelievable 11 goals through three matches. The problem? They only got four points from those three games. Then on Saturday, Vancouver clamped down on the Dynamo with a 1-0 win in Canada.
13 (15) 1-1-1 Colorado Rapids: The big news is the eventual acquisition of Tim Howard, who follows Jermaine Jones as a U.S. National Team player to sign. Defense wasn't an issue for the Rapids last year though and they've only given up two goals so far. Meanwhile, Colorado has just two goals in three matches.
14 (19) 1-0-2 Orlando City: The Lions improved on two home draws with a road win at New York City FC, courtesy of a Josh Saunders mistake in goal. That gave Orlando its first win of the season. Cyle Larin (3 goals) is on fire. Kaka is yet to play so things could get even better.
15 (14) 0-2-1 Columbus Crew: The scoreless draw in Bridgeview was a step in the right direction for the Crew, who dominated the play at Toyota Park. That draw at least got the Crew on the board with a point, but the team was noticeably sloppy. All that talent on offense has scored just one goal in three matches.
16 (12) 0-3 Seattle Sounders: Another one-goal defeat for the Sounders, this time a 2-1 loss to Vancouver at home. Jordan Morris hasn't exactly hit the ground running. Seattle is the only team in the league without a point. Any team with Clint Dempsey has a chance in MLS, but this team may have more problems than most expected.
17 (9) 1-1-2 New York City FC: After winning a thrilling 4-3 game at Toyota Park to open the season, NYCFC got just two points from the three home matches that followed. The 2-2 draw against Toronto showed promise, but NYC has just one goal in its last four hours of soccer.
18 (18) 0-1-2 Chicago Fire: The defense has shown improvement in each of the first three games, but the Fire are last in the league in possession. The offense was non-existent without David Accam against Columbus. The team may be improving, but it's happening slowly.
19 (17) 0-1-3 New England Revolution: The Revolution were a streaky team last season with both a six-match winning streak and a five-match losing streak. With that in mind, the winless start may just be a downturn before a hot streak comes. Or it could mean the Revs aren't that good this year.
20 (20) 0-2-2 D.C. United: D.C. was a bit fortunate to get a home draw against Colorado after a goalkeeper mistake from Zac MacMath allowed United a late equalizer. On Saturday FC Dallas gave no such reprieve and hammered United 3-0 at RFK. Two goals for, eight goals against in four matches. Ouch.

Manchester City brings Premier League trophy to Chicago ahead of preseason game in Soldier Field

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NBC Sports Chicago

Manchester City brings Premier League trophy to Chicago ahead of preseason game in Soldier Field

Manchester City is coming off a season in which it dominated the English Premier League to the tune of a record 100-point season.

City is kicking off the preseason of its title defense in Chicago. City takes on Borussia Dortmund at Soldier Field on Friday night.

The last time the reigning Premier League champions were in Chicago was when rivals Manchester United came to Soldier to take on the Chicago Fire in 2011.

The Citizens won’t have the full arsenal of stacked stars for its U.S. tour, which also includes stops in New York and Miami as part of the International Champions Cup. Many of the team’s best players are getting a break after playing in the World Cup. Belgium’s Kevin De Bruyne, one of the stars of the tournament, is one of six Man City players to reach the semifinals.

Paul Dickov, who played for City for nearly 10 years between 1996 and 2008, is on tour with the team and talked about City’s preparations.

“The reason the clubs want to come to the States and play in International Champions Cup is the facilities are fantastic, the training facilities, the hotels, the treatment they get and just give them the best preparation going into what’s going to be a hard season,” Dickov said. “Nobody has won the Premier League back-to-back titles for nearly 10 years now so it’s going to be tough. Coming here and being able to prepare the way they can in the United States is going to put them on a long way to regain the title again.”

City brought the Premier League trophy to Wrigley Field on Thursday for the Cubs-Cardinals game. Dickov got to throw out the first pitch. The Scotsman threw a strike, much to his relief.

“I was quite calm beforehand, but I must admit when I got out there and I had to walk out there both hands started getting a bit sweaty,” he said. “I managed to make it and I got a fantastic reception off the Chicago Cubs fans so thank you to everybody at Chicago Cubs for having me there. It was great. Something I’ll never forget.”


Dickov compared Cubs fans to City fans in the way both teams struggled for a long time before finding success.

“They stuck by us through thick and thin when things weren’t as great,” Dickov said of Man City fans. “I suppose it’s a little bit like the Chicago Cubs here in Chicago. The fans turn out, they get 30-40 thousand, great atmosphere, back their team.”

While promoting the game, the Premier League trophy made multiple stops in Chicago, including with the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field on an off day.

City also took the trophy and new signing Riyad Mahrez, who just joined Man City from 2016 champions Leicester City, to Haas Park in Logan Square. Haas Park includes a soccer field donated by Manchester City and the American embassy of the United Arab Emirates in 2012.

“The outcome of it has been great,” Dickov said. “Thousands of children and families benefiting, not just from the soccer part of it, but the education program as well. To be down there the other day for the full day and seeing the joy in the kids face seeing soccer here and the other activities that are on is great because, yeah, football is fantastic, soccer is fantastic and when you’re out there and you play you want to win, but it’s important, especially from Manchester City’s point of view, the city and the community. The stuff that they do off the field is second to none and it’s giving something back.”

Chicago Fire permanently sign midfielder Aleksandar Katai

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USA TODAY

Chicago Fire permanently sign midfielder Aleksandar Katai

The Fire have secured the transfer of midfielder Aleksandar Katai from Deportivo Alavés of the Spanish La Liga, the team announced Wednesday afternoon.

This season’s breakout playmaker has been signed with Chicago through 2019, with a 2020 club option. Before the transfer, Katai was on loan from Alavés, which was set to expire after July.

The Serbian player has emerged as one of the most important pieces of the Fire’s offense this season. Since joining the club on Feb. 6, Katai has scored eight goals in 18 league matches, tying forward Nemanja Nikolić for the most on the team. Katai also has three assists in 2018.

The 27-year-old’s biggest game of the year came against New York City FC last month when he scored two goals to lead the Fire to 3-2 victory. His production this season in the MLS has been much more significant than it was in 23 matches with Alavés, where Katai only tallied three goals and four assists.

His transfer fee is unknown but, according to Sam Stejskal of MLSsoccer.com, he will be a “Targeted Allocation Money player” for the rest of this season and will not be a Designated Player until 2019. Whatever the official price was, acquiring Katai for a lengthier amount of time seemed like a must.

Throughout this season, the Fire were rumored to be in talks with legendary Spanish striker Fernando Torres. On Tuesday, he signed with Sagan Tosu, a Japanese club. The Fire signed Katai the next day, showing that the team was possibly waiting for Torres to leave the market.

Chicago will face the Philadelphia Union Wednesday night at Toyota Park, where Katai will look to continue his impressive season.