Behind the resurgence of young Diego Fagundez, the New England Revolution have won five straight matches. (Cal Sport Media/AP)
With the World Cup so close, multiple MLS teams are shorthanded and focus is shifting toward the international stage — or at least it was, before Landon Donovan made his triumphant return to L.A. on Sunday.
Donovan’s two goals and one assist in a 4-1 win over Philadelphia was a great way to respond to the disappointment of being cut from the United States roster in midweek. Maurice Edu, also on the U.S. standby list, scored the Union’s only goal on a late penalty.
A team record was also tied this week, as Real Salt Lake matched 12-game unbeaten runs by L.A. (1996, 2010) and Kansas City (2000) to start the season. That wasn’t enough to maintain RSL’s spot atop the rankings, though, as New England has racked up five wins in a row to take over No. 1 for the first time this season.
Here’s how the league shapes up after 12 weeks:
MLS Power Rankings — Week 12
1. New England Revolution (7-3-2)
Last week: 3
This week: 2-1 vs. D.C.
Remember when New England needed until the fourth game of the season to score a single goal? Now, the Revs are on a five-game winning streak in which they have scored 16 goals, including five goals two weeks in a row.
2. Real Salt Lake (6-0-6)
Last week: 1
This week: 0-0 vs. Dallas
It’s been a while since Salt Lake hasn’t been at the top of the rankings, but the Revs are just a bit hotter than RSL right now. A scoreless draw for RSL against FC Dallas, despite numerous chances to win, tied the longest unbeaten run to start an MLS season.
3. Seattle Sounders (8-3-2)
Last week: 2
This week: 2-2 at Vancouver
The Sounders’ attack has been promising all year, but a 2-2 draw in Vancouver exposed some issues on the back line. Erik Hurtado’s goal came from a series of defenders diving into poor tackles, while Gershon Koffie’s long-range bomb was only possible after a bizarre clearance from goalkeeper Stefan Frei.
4. Vancouver Whitecaps (4-2-5)
Last week: 4
This week: 2-2 vs. Seattle
If Vancouver could have found a goal from its early onslaught on Seattle, the Whitecaps could have three points in the bag. Instead, they’re left to rue another Jay DeMerit penalty — a very poor call at that — that caused them to drop more points at home.
5. L.A. Galaxy (4-3-3)
Last week: 7
This week: 2-1 vs. Dallas, 4-1 vs. Philadelphia
Landon Donovan stole the headlines again after being unexpectedly cut from the U.S. national team, scoring two goals and adding an assist on Sunday against the Union. Earlier in the week, L.A. also defeated Dallas at home, making its games in hand count and allowing it to climb the table a bit.
WATCH: Donovan claims the MLS goal record for himself
6. Sporting Kansas City (5-4-3)
Last week: 5
This week: 2-2 vs. Toronto
Especially after going up a man while up a goal at Sporting Park, Kansas City should have done better to close out Toronto FC. Instead, Toronto scored two opportunistic goals, on a counterattack and a very late free kick, to claw back a point. The club's defensive personnel crisis continued, with Chance Myers being ruled out for the season after tearing his Achilles.
7. Colorado Rapids (5-4-3)
Last week: 10
This week: 4-1 vs. Montreal
It wasn’t exactly a walk in the park for the Rapids, but Montreal didn’t offer Colorado too much resistance on Saturday. A couple of goals from distance from Kamani Hill and Shane O’Neill broke the Impact’s spirit, and the landslide was on.
8. Toronto FC (4-4-1)
Last week: 9
This week: 2-2 at Kansas City
Toronto earned its first draw of the season on a stoppage-time Bradley Orr goal off a set piece in Kansas City. The Reds came back twice while a man down -- and while playing without U.S. star Michael Bradley -- to take a point in a tough place to play.
9. FC Dallas (5-6-3)
Last week: 6
This week: 1-2 at L.A., 0-0 at Salt Lake
After a listless midweek performance in L.A., Dallas turned in a solid defensive effort against RSL to get a positive road result. It was the team’s first shutout of the season, but that’s little consolation to being winless in seven games after starting the season with five wins in seven.
The Columbus Crew celebrate scoring during a 2-0 win over Chicago that snapped an eight-game winless skid. (Cal Sport Media/AP)
10. New York Red Bulls (3-5-5)
Last week: 8
This week: 1-2 vs. Portland
Despite a series of close calls for the Red Bulls spread over 90 minutes against Portland, they suffered their third straight loss on Saturday. They’ve all been close games, but they have nobody to blame but themselves after so many opportunities to score against the Timbers.
11. D.C. United (5-4-3)
Last week: 12
This week: 2-0 vs. Houston, 1-2 at New England
It’s been a bad couple of weeks for Eddie Johnson, who was harshly shown a straight red card against New England after serving a one-game suspension against Houston in midweek. On the other hand, Fabián Espíndola had a great week, scoring two goals and adding an assist to have a hand in all three D.C. strikes.
12. Columbus Crew (4-4-4)
Last week: 14
This week: 2-0 vs. Chicago
Gregg Berhalter can breathe a sigh of relief after his team snapped an eight-game winless streak with a comfortable victory over the struggling Fire. Federico Higuaín assisted on both goals, continuing to play a vital role for the Crew.
BIRD: Higuain returns to Best XI with Donovan, Keane, more
13. Chivas USA (2-5-4)
Last week: 13
This week: Off
Wilmer Cabrera’s team had the week off after a win and draw in the past two weeks reversed an eight-game winless run. Chivas’ next two opponents, Portland and Philadelphia, offer a good opportunity to take points off a couple other struggling teams.
14. Houston Dynamo (5-7-2)
Last week: 11
This week: 0-2 at D.C., 0-3 at San Jose
Houston has conceded 10 goals in the last four games, half of which came in the past week in road losses to D.C. and San Jose. Goalkeeper Tally Hall made a couple of uncharacteristic mistakes in the Sunday game, leading to the Earthquakes’ rout.
15. Portland Timbers (2-3-7)
Last week: 16
This week: 2-1 at New York
The center back conundrum continued for the Timbers on Saturday, as Rauwshan McKenzie and Pa Modou Kah committed more gaffes to give the Red Bulls scoring opportunities. Credit for the win goes to Maxi Urruti for his two goals; the 23-year-old Argentine continues to be a bright spot when he gets his opportunities.
16. San Jose Earthquakes (3-4-4)
Last week: 18
This week: 3-0 vs. Houston
San Jose took advantage of multiple Houston mistakes to win big on Sunday. Khari Stephenson scored his first two goals of the year to lead the team performance, while Jon Busch made several important early saves when it was still scoreless.
17. Philadelphia Union (2-7-5)
Last week: 15
This week: 1-4 at L.A.
Another flat performance saw Philadelphia get smashed by the Galaxy. The Union fell victim to Donovan’s record-setting mood, but they didn’t do themselves any favors with some atrocious defending as a unit.
18. Chicago Fire (2-3-6)
Last week: 17
This week: 0-2 at Columbus
The Fire didn’t have much of a response to going down 1-0 in the first 10 minutes in Columbus, and Frank Yallop’s team continues to struggle. However, despite the start, Chicago has drawn twice as many matches as it has lost, making a turnaround easily possible with MLS’s large playoff field.
19. Montreal Impact (1-6-4)
Last week: 19
This week: 1-4 at Colorado
It feels like the same story every week for Montreal, regardless of the opponent. At least Andrés Romero managed to spoil the Rapids’ shutout on Saturday with a good individual effort in the last couple minutes.