Power Rankings: Thanks to Neagle, Sounders are back at the top
The Sounders rose to the top of the standings, hard luck hit the Revolution and Jay DeMerit returned to action in MLS Week 29:
1. Lesser-heralded Neagle sparks Sounders ascension. The Seattle Sounders have completed the ascension from out of the playoff places to top of the Western Conference and Supporters Shield standings, and with the likes of Clint Dempsey, Obafemi Martins, Eddie Johnson, Osvaldo Alonso and Mauro Rosales it can't be completely unexpected, right? The club has been built for success, and after some rough sledding in the early going -- which past juggernauts like LA have shown us is not necessarily an indicator of future fortunes -- Seattle has the look of a winner. One question lingers, though.
Where would the Sounders be without Lamar Neagle?
The Federal Way, Wash., native's role for the Sounders is two-fold. In February 2012, he was part of the trade that enabled Johnson to wind up in the Emerald City. Less than a year later, the Sounders shipped an international roster spot to Montreal to re-acquire him. At the time, it seemed like a fan-friendly move and one that would provide familiar depth for Sigi Schmid in the event of injury or suspension. Now, the Sounders' can't afford to take him off the field.
Amid all of Seattle's attacking royalty, Neagle's play has been a large catalyst for the Sounders' surge, one that has the club as winners of five in a row and eight of their last nine games. Neagle has goals in three straight games, and he has played all but two minutes of the recent nine-game run. When he is on the field, he offers energy, creativity and smarts in his runs and a refined finishing product. His peel-off run to meet DeAndre Yedlin's cross for the second Sounders goal was pure class and evidence of a confident player who has made tremendous strides in the last few seasons.
Given injuries and the international schedule, Schmid has not really had to concern himself with scrolling down a full-strength roster and making his selections, but there will come a time when he has to make the call regarding who to leave out, as there are only so many attacking places available on the field. Reputations and ability mean plenty, but it would be hard to imagine the Sounders going forward without the lesser-heralded Neagle occupying one of them.
2. Luck isn't on the Revs' side. With the playoff races so close, a few calls here and there are bound to determine a team's fate. Unfortunately for the New England Revolution, those calls have recently gone in the favor of the opposition.
In two straight games against Eastern Conference playoff contenders, the Revs have ended up on the wrong end of controversy, and as a result, their playoff chase has become that much more difficult. Two games ago it was goalkeeper Matt Reis questionably being sent off in the opening minutes of what wound up being a 4-2 loss to Montreal. This past week the Revs were robbed of a goal that would have put them up over Chicago 3-1 only to have a phantom offside call wipe that off the board.
Instead, while only nursing a one-goal edge, the Revs conceded an equalizer that was also covered in controversy. Mike Magee's goal, which allowed him to remain two goals behind league-leading scorer Marco Di Vaio (18 goals), was scored after forward Juan Luis Anangono effectively boxed out Revs center back Jose Goncalves from an offside position. That allowed Magee to have a clear look at goal, and the clinical finisher made no mistake to level the match.
Perhaps it is just desserts for the Revolution being the beneficiary of an overturned goal against Philadelphia in late August that turned the direction of that match in New England's favor. No matter, the soccer gods are frowning on Jay Heaps' men at this most vital time in the season, and the club is now two points outside of the playoff places while being left to wonder what could have been in the last two weeks.
3. DeMerit returns for Vancouver: When Jay DeMerit went down in a heap just minutes into the Vancouver Whitecaps' season, plenty wondered whether we had seen the last of the 33-year-old center back. If not for his career, then at the very least this season. Players of that age with that many miles typically face a tougher road back than most. Any doubters probably haven't seen "Rise & Shine: The Jay DeMerit Story" just yet, because if there is one thing DeMerit does not do it is lay down and give up in the face of adversity.
The Whitecaps captain and U.S. national team World Cup veteran returned six months after rupturing his Achilles on opening day as an injury replacement for Brad Rusin Saturday night, completing his comeback on the lower end of the time frame initially given for his recovery. DeMerit, who was fortunate not to have tallied an own goal upon his return, will be looked upon to play a big role with his club in a fight for its postseason life.
Rusin joined Andy O'Brien and Johnny Leveron among the wounded Whitecaps central defenders, leaving manager Martin Rennie with no choice but to insert DeMerit against San Jose's stable of forwards, who are some of the more physical, demanding forwards in the league. DeMerit passed his initial test in helping Vancouver keep a clean sheet in the 0-0 draw -- just the club's second since July 7, both of which came against San Jose -- and after defying some personal odds, No. 6 will be counted on to don the captain's armband and help the Whitecaps overcome hurdles in the standings in order to return to the playoffs.
4. Deja vu for Colorado, Dallas: FC Dallas playmaker David Ferreira scores the opening goal. Colorado finds an equalizer and then snatches victory with an own goal off a Dallas defender. Sound familiar?
The 2010 MLS Cup final script played out once again Saturday night, as the Rapids battled back from a goal down to take another 2-1 result off FC Dallas. Now, the stakes weren't nearly as high, as a championship was not won or lost, and the crosser, in this case Vicente Sanchez, did not tear his ACL a la Macoumba Kandji (fortunately for Colorado fans, because the 33-year-old veteran looks to have plenty of life left in his legs given his showing).
Playoff fates are hanging in the balance, though, as FCD could have crept past Portland and into fifth place with a win but instead remains on the outside of the picture looking in. Colorado, meanwhile, fortified its place in the top five with the three-point haul and had to considering that the teams on its heels, LA and Portland, each have a game in hand. There is plenty of soccer to be played, but after a brief return to form had FC Dallas thinking playoffs again, the last thing the club needed was a harsh reminder of its past failure.
5. Team of the Week:
Goalkeeper: Matt Lampson (Columbus Crew)
Defenders: DeAndre Yedlin (Seattle Sounders), Jamison Olave (New York Red Bulls), Carlos Bocanegra (Chivas USA)
Midfielders: Ricardo Clark (Houston Dynamo), Vicente Sanchez (Colorado Rapids), Chris Pontius (D.C. United), Federico Higuain (Columbus Crew)
Forwards: Lamar Neagle (Seattle Sounders), Obafemi Martins (Seattle Sounders), Robbie Keane (LA Galaxy)
|Week 29 MLS Power Rankings|