Monday April 13th, 2015

A month and a half into the 2015 Major League Soccer season, it’s still difficult to predict what will happen every week.

Planet Futbol
Man with The Plan: Inside Ali Curtis's task of revamping the Red Bulls

The Vancouver Whitecaps maintained their lead at the top of the Supporters’ Shield standings last week despite a loss, but they have now played two more games than second-placed D.C. United. Only the New York Red Bulls and Real Salt Lake–two teams with multiple questions entering the season–are still without a loss.

At the bottom, just one team remains without a win, but it’s the team that carries the league’s banner into the CONCACAF Champions League final.

The Montreal Impact lost again on Saturday, 3-0 to the Houston Dynamo, to drop to 0-2-2 in league play despite reaching the CCL final against Mexican power Club America.

Here are some thoughts after MLS’s sixth week:

Rapids break out in a big way

Undoubtedly sick of the talk about their scoreless streak, the Colorado Rapids needed just two minutes to go up on the road against FC Dallas on Friday. They scored three more times, including Dillon Serna’s late rocket from outside the penalty area, to stun Dallas 4-0 and end a miserable start to the season.

The final tallies in the Rapids’ ignominious streak aren’t pretty, but they can take confidence from ending them so emphatically: 602 minutes without a goal, 18 matches without winning (which tied but did not break the MLS record) and 16 games since their last away victory on April 12 of last year.

Planet Futbol
Impact fall to Alajuelense, but advance on away goals to CCL final

They also did it against a former head coach, Óscar Pareja, and without current manager Pablo Mastroeni, as he served his one-game suspension for being sent off a week prior. Colorado paid back in full Je-Vaughn Watson’s comments to The Dallas Morning News before the match, with the Jamaican saying, “It’s so bad. They can’t score.”

It certainly seemed that way before Friday, when they put up their first multi-goal game since September 2014.

Orlando City played its most complete 90 minutes

After its defensive lapses undid the work of a promising attack in previous weeks, Orlando City SC put together a solid performance in defeating the Portland Timbers on Sunday. The Lions largely controlled the match despite being on the road, winning on top draft pick Cyle Larin’s first professional goal and a late penalty.

Planet Futbol
Purple Power: Orlando City proving early MLS can succeed in Florida

In a battle of two aesthetically pleasing teams with massive and thus-far unfulfilled potential, the midfield battle became vital for each side. While Orlando combined well in a new look with Kaká playing on the left side, Portland hit on fast counterattacks but lacked a finishing touch.

Perhaps appropriately for two sides that have struggled defensively, the back lines decided the final result.

Portland lapses gave Larin his chance to score and gifted Kaká a successful penalty retake, while Aurélien Collin and Seb Hines remained steady all match for Orlando.

Injuries hampered a rematch of last year’s Supporters’ Shield battle

Planet Futbol
USMNT roster for Mexico friendly offers opportunity for younger players

In the minutes before the LA Galaxy and Seattle Sounders kicked off on Sunday, word trickled down from both teams that they would be missing a star player each: Clint Dempsey and Robbie Keane did not play due to injury. Dempsey’s hamstring will also keep him out of the United States’ midweek friendly against Mexico.

Alan Gordon took Keane’s place in the starting lineup, making his 200th MLS appearance.

He also scored the only goal of the game, after Juninho’s set piece served into the box that Omar González headed across goal.

Several big-time second-half saves from Jaime Penedo, and 10 stops total, kept Seattle out. It was just his third start and first shutout after Brian Rowe began the season as LA’s No. 1.

Dark-horse candidates play to midweek draw

The early leader in the long slog toward the Supporters’ Shield, Vancouver, hosted the Columbus Crew in an intriguing match-up. It was the first midweek game this MLS season, but at an announced 18,083, attendance didn’t decline much from B.C. Place’s average of 20,408 in the 2014 season.

Planet Futbol
MLS's footprint in Brazil provides an option amid domestic league woes

On the field, the teams traded goals in an open and entertaining 90 minutes. After finding much of its success on the counterattack in earlier weeks, Vancouver controlled the majority of possession and the match progression. Were it not for a couple mistakes on the same play from goalkeeper David Ousted, the Whitecaps could have extended their lead in the table.

Columbus got a good performance out of Kei Kamara, who scored his second and third goals as the lone forward without Federico Higuaín underneath him in the playmaker role. Gregg Berhalter’s team remains under the radar as far as favorites to win the Eastern Conference go, but the Crew have shown similar flexibility and potential—despite worse results—as the Whitecaps.

Week 6 Best XI

GOALKEEPER: Jaime Penedo (LA Galaxy)

DEFENDERS: DaMarcus Beasley (Houston Dynamo), Jámison Olave (Real Salt Lake), Aurélien Collin (Orlando City SC), Rafael Ramos (Orlando City SC)

MIDFIELDERS: Matías Laba (Vancouver Whitecaps), Perry Kitchen (D.C. United), Darren Mattocks (Vancouver Whitecaps), Dillon Powers (Colorado Rapids), Gabriel Torres (Colorado Rapids)

FORWARDS: Kei Kamara (Columbus Crew)

MLS Power Rankings, Week 6
  • 1
    1New York Red Bulls
    last week: 3
    record: 2-0-2 | This Week: 2-2 at D.C.
    The Red Bulls remain undefeated against D.C. in the Atlantic Cup, having played United twice this season already. It took a two-goal comeback on the road to force a draw, with Lloyd Sam's heroics salvaging a point.

  • 2
    2Vancouver Whitecaps
    last week: 1
    record: 4-1-2 | This Week: 2-2 vs. Columbus, 0-1 at San Jose
    It was a tougher week than Vancouver is used to early in the season, and playmaker Pedro Morales was sent off late in a 1-0 loss on Saturday.

  • 3
    3D.C. United
    last week: 6
    record: 3-1-1 | This Week: 2-2 vs. Red Bulls
    After going up 2-0 on two Perry Kitchen goals, D.C. gave up two late goals and had to settle for a tie against the Red Bulls, including a 90th-minute equalizer on an increasingly rare mishandled shot by Bill Hamid.

  • 4
    4Los Angeles Galaxy
    last week: 7
    record: 2-2-2 | This Week: 1-0 vs. Seattle
    A first-half goal from Alan Gordon on his 200th MLS appearance, along with Jaime Penedo’s 10-save standout performance in goal, lifted the Galaxy over the Sounders.

  • 5
    5Seattle Sounders
    last week: 2
    record: 2-1-2 | This Week: 1-0 at LA
    Losing Clint Dempsey to another hamstring injury didn’t help Seattle’s cause in a 1-0 loss in LA, although the Sounders did force Jaime Penedo into several excellent saves.

  • 6
    6Real Salt Lake
    last week: 5
    record: 2-0-3 | This Week: 0-0 at Sporting KC
    RSL returned to the site of its 2013 MLS Cup final loss and couldn't muster a shot on target but remained undefeated nonetheless in a goalless draw.

  • 7
    7San Jose Earthquakes
    last week: 8
    record: 3-3-0 | This Week: 1-0 vs. Vancouver
    The Earthquakes are back up to .500 after ending a two-game losing streak on Sanna Nyassi’s 75th-minute goal against the in-form Whitecaps.

  • 8
    8Orlando City SC
    last week: 9
    record: 2-2-2 | This Week: 2-0 at Portland
    Cyle Larin scored his first MLS goal to give the Lions a win in Portland, becoming the fourth different goalscorer (including Tyler Deric’s own goal for Houston) for a team struggling to find a steady striker.

  • 9
    9Columbus Crew
    last week: 10
    record: 1-2-2 | This Week: 2-2 at Vancouver; 0-0 at New England
    Columbus can be happy with a two-point week after flying across the continent to play twice in three days in the craziest MLS road trip of the season.

  • 10
    10FC Dallas
    last week: 4
    record: 3-2-1 | This Week: 0-4 vs. Colorado
    Dallas’ inconsistency of seasons past has returned, with the team losing two in a row after opening the season with three consecutive wins and a draw.

  • 11
    11Sporting Kansas City
    last week: 12
    record: 2-1-3 | This Week: 0-0 vs. Real Salt Lake
    Sporting KC has created 65 goalscoring opportunities, second only to Vancouver in MLS play, but has only scored six goals so far, half of which came two weeks ago against Philadelphia.

  • 12
    12Portland Timbers
    last week: 11
    record: 1-2-3 | This Week: 0-2 vs. Orlando
    Portland surprisingly played most of the game against Orlando on the counterattack despite being at home, losing on more poor defending in its own penalty area.

  • 13
    13Chicago Fire
    last week: 14
    record: 2-3-0 | This Week: Off
    After a week off, the Fire travel north of the border in an attempt to continue their winning streak against Montreal, an opponent in the midst of a tough stretch in league play.

  • 14
    14New York City FC
    last week: 13
    record: 1-2-2 | This Week: 1-2 at Philadelphia
    Manager Jason Kreis lamented MLS teams’ reliance on long throws, especially when they play at NYCFC, but a major part of the problem is the narrow Yankee Stadium field, which invites endless balls into the penalty area in all situations.

  • 15
    15Houston Dynamo
    last week: 16
    record: 2-2-2 | This Week: 3-0 vs. Montreal
    The Dynamo dominated Montreal on the scoreboard despite being heavily out-possessed and narrowly outshot on Saturday. Rob Lovejoy's first career goal was a beauty, with his long-range strike part of the 3-0 rout.

  • 16
    16New England Revolution
    last week: 15
    record: 2-2-2 | This Week: 0-0 vs. Columbus
    Jermaine Jones saw his first action of the season, playing the first half of the Revs’ goalless draw against Columbus.

  • 17
    17Toronto FC
    last week: 17
    record: 1-3-0 | This Week: Off
    The Reds need to regroup quickly after three straight losses and a week off, as they go to Dallas next to play another team wounded by its recent form.

  • 18
    18Colorado Rapids
    last week: 20
    record: 1-1-3 | This Week: 4-0 at FC Dallas
    Multiple negative streaks ended as the Rapids pulled a surprise victory over Dallas, capped by Dillon Serna’s impressive goal from distance.

  • 19
    19Philadelphia Union
    last week: 19
    record: 1-3-2 | This Week: 2-1 vs. NYCFC
    Philadelphia avoided the inglorious label of being the last MLS team to win a game with its scrappy stoppage-time win at NYCFC on Saturday.

  • 20
    20Montreal Impact
    last week: 18
    record: 0-2-2 | This Week: 0-3 at Houston
    The CONCACAF Champions League-finalist Impact showed signs of life in league play with a spirited effort in Houston but lost handily despite controlling much of the play throughout.

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.