MLS Power Rankings Week 19: Seattle stays on top, D.C. United keeps pace
Every Major League Soccer team has reached the halfway point of its schedule, although some have played as many as 21 of their 34 regular-season matches. The overwhelming trend once again is the unpredictability and streakiness of every team’s results.
Any team can win on any day in MLS, and teams often rattle off long winning streaks followed by winless runs of equal or greater length. The key remains to just be above the red line in the standings separating the top half of the conference (playoff qualification) from the bottom half.
In a league where anything can happen, here’s how the teams stack up about midway through the 2014 season:
MLS Power Rankings — Week 19
1. Seattle Sounders (12-4-2)
Last ranking (Week 13): 1
Last week’s results: Off
The Sounders won five of their last seven MLS games before taking a week off from league play to face Tottenham Hotspur. With Clint Dempsey’s return, Obafemi Martins has his strike partner back, making Seattle even more dangerous moving forward.
2. D.C. United (10-5-4)
Last ranking: 9
Results: 3-1 vs. Chivas
In the most impressive turnaround from the 2013 season, D.C. United is one point off the top of the Eastern Conference, behind Sporting Kansas City and with a game in hand. A dominant win on Sunday over an improving Chivas USA side was D.C.’s 10th MLS victory of the season — after only six wins in all competitions in 2013, which included lifting the U.S. Open Cup.
3. Sporting Kansas City (10-5-5)
Last ranking: 7
Results: 2-1 at Columbus, 2-1 vs. L.A.
Kansas City is on a six-game unbeaten stretch, surging again to the top of the Eastern Conference. Two struggling conference foes, Toronto and Philadelphia, will be the next two opponents for a team paced by two excellent matches from Benny Feilhaber last week. The biggest news came off the field, with Graham Zusi and Matt Besler pledging their futures to the club by signing DP deals.
4. L.A. Galaxy (7-4-6)
Last ranking: 8
Results: 5-1 vs. New England, 1-2 at Kansas City
Games in hand don’t mean anything unless they turn into positive results, and Bruce Arena’s team is doing well to find some as it catches up to the pack in matches played. A loss at Sporting Park snapped an eight-game unbeaten streak, marking just the third match in 17 this season that L.A. conceded more than one goal.
5. Vancouver Whitecaps (6-4-9)
Last ranking: 2
Results: 1-1 at Toronto, 1-1 at Salt Lake
Carl Robinson has relied on young players to build a foundation in his first season as head coach, giving Kekuta Manneh, Darren Mattocks, Erik Hurtado and Russell Teibert key roles, along with experienced playmaker Pedro Morales. The results have been mixed so far, but the team is on the cusp of the playoff places, making matches against struggling Dallas and Chicago this week vital.
6. Toronto FC (7-5-5)
Last ranking: 6
Results: 1-1 vs. Vancouver, 2-2 at Houston
Toronto went into the World Cup break on a four-match unbeaten run in MLS play, all without Michael Bradley. Since then, the Reds only lost to D.C., but they’ve only beaten Houston, two games prior to a chaotic draw at BBVA Compass Stadium on Saturday, which exemplified the team’s inability to gain control over a match recently.
7. New York Red Bulls (5-6-9)
Last ranking: 10
Results: 1-3 at Philadelphia, 1-1 vs. San Jose
Bradley Wright-Phillips’ goalscoring surge coincided with a similar movement up the table for New York, and he keeps on scoring, whether it’s through the run of play, as on Wednesday, or on penalties, as on Saturday. But despite his two goals, the team couldn’t find a win in either match.
8. Real Salt Lake (7-4-8)
Last ranking: 4
Results: 1-1 vs. Vancouver
After being the only undefeated team in the league through three months, RSL has only won one in the last six since losing its contingent of World Cup players (and one of its last eight games overall). They’re back now, minus the injured Álvaro Saborío, but RSL still couldn’t pull out a home win against the Whitecaps on Saturday, not helped by a harsh penalty call from referee Edvin Jurisevic.
9. Colorado Rapids (7-6-6)
Last ranking: 5
Results: 1-2 at Portland
One win in the last six since just before the World Cup break has been the worst stretch of the season for the Rapids. The next match, against surging Chivas USA, could play an important role in deciding on which side of the red line each team winds up at season’s end.
10. Chivas USA (6-8-5)
Last ranking: 17
Results: 1-3 at D.C.
A loss in the nation’s capital broke Chivas’ four-game winning streak and five-game unbeaten run on Sunday. Cubo Torres scored again on a late penalty despite the negative result, giving him exactly two-thirds of the team’s goals this season (14 of 21).
11. FC Dallas (8-7-5)
Last ranking: 12
Results: 2-0 vs. New England
Dallas is trending upward again, unbeaten in five, after an eight-game winless streak prior. That followed a good opening stretch that saw the team near the top of the Western Conference, but the second half of the season has been Dallas’ trouble spot the last couple years.
12. Portland Timbers (5-6-9)
Last ranking: 11
Results: 2-1 vs. Colorado
Providence Park may have lost some of its aura in 2014, as the Timbers’ home form has been the biggest difference between a mediocre opening 20 games this year and a stellar first half last year. The Timbers are 2-2-7 with an even goal difference at home this year; they were 6-1-2 with a plus-11 difference at this point last season.
13. Philadelphia Union (5-8-8)
Last ranking: 16
Results: 3-1 vs. New York, 1-1 at Chicago
The Union defense was hemorrhaging goals, including five against New England, four against L.A. and three against Vancouver, before John Hackworth was fired as head coach during the World Cup break. Jim Curtin is currently 2-1-2 as interim manager, and Philadelphia has done better under him so far, besides perhaps a six-goal draw against Colorado.
14. New England Revolution (7-10-2)
Last ranking: 3
Results: 1-5 at L.A., 0-2 at Dallas
Seven straight losses plummeted the Revs out of first place in the East and into fifth, ahead of Philadelphia in the final playoff spot on total wins. Losses to Montreal, Philadelphia and Chicago, all still below New England in the Eastern Conference, were probably the most concerning, along with a 5-1 shellacking against the Galaxy on Wednesday.
15. Columbus Crew (5-7-8)
Last ranking: 13
Results: 1-2 vs. Kansas City, 2-1 vs. Montreal
The Crew finally won again on Saturday, snapping a seven-match winless streak and claiming three points for the first time since May 24. That’s just Columbus’ second win in 17 matches, after starting the season with three straight wins, and it wouldn’t have happened without two strikes from distance by Bernardo Añor.
16. Chicago Fire (3-4-11)
Last ranking: 19
Results: 1-1 vs. Philadelphia
It took the Fire nine games to win, which they then did twice in a row before needing seven matches to get another victory. A draw against the Union on Saturday was Chicago’s league-leading 11th tie, two more than Portland, New York and Vancouver in second place in that category — although it could have been a win if not for an unjust late penalty given by Geoff Gamble that Sean Johnson nearly saved.
17. San Jose Earthquakes (4-8-5)
Last ranking: 14
Results: 1-1 at New York
Chris Wondolowski missed a couple big chances against the Red Bulls, but New York did the same on the other end, condemning the teams to a 1-1 draw on Saturday. The Earthquakes haven’t won since the end of May, rattling off four straight defeats that started before the World Cup break.
18. Houston Dynamo (5-11-4)
Last ranking: 15
Results: 2-2 vs. Toronto
The Dynamo are winless in eight matches and have lost seven of their last 10. It’s been a tough season for Dominic Kinnear, whose team usually challenges for the MLS Cup despite any regular-season troubles, but he only has 14 matches to get Houston off the foot of the table, where it currently sits just above Montreal.
19. Montreal Impact (3-10-5)
Last ranking: 18
Results: 1-2 at Columbus
Pressure continues to mount on Impact manager Frank Klopas, and he admitted as much after losing to Columbus despite going up a goal through Marco di Vaio. Owner Joey Saputo has expressed his frustration multiple times this season, seemingly leaving fans just waiting for the announcement that a change has been made.