MLS Power Rankings Week 21: LA Galaxy surge to the top
After a strong season so far, the Seattle Sounders lost both of their matches last week, knocking them off the top spot in Major League Soccer’s Supporters’ Shield standings. With a draw against the Philadelphia Union, Sporting Kansas City took over by one point.
Seattle still has two games in hand against Kansas City but just one on D.C. United, also breathing down its neck after a perfect four-game stretch in July. Real Salt Lake rounds out the quartet at the top of the overall MLS table, but the LA Galaxy are closing fast after two emphatic wins last week.
Bruce Arena’s team handed Seattle an embarrassing 3-0 result on Monday before brushing off the Portland Timbers back at home on Friday — and LA has a game in hand on Seattle after a light schedule to start the season, although it is still five points adrift of the Sounders and six behind Sporting.
So for now, the Supporters’ Shield is a five-horse race. Here’s how the league stands heading into Wednesday’s All-Star Game against Bayern Munich in Portland:
MLS Power Rankings — Week 21
1. L.A. Galaxy (9-4-6)
Last ranking: 4
Last week’s results: 3-0 at Seattle, 3-1 vs. Portland
It’s about time for LA to start its annual surge up the table, and its performances in a 2-for-2 week against Cascadian clubs showed that process is well underway. Behind two good matches from Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane, the Galaxy’s attack unleashed a barrage of goals against Seattle and Portland.
2. D.C. United (11-6-4)
Last ranking: 3
Results: 3-0 vs. Toronto, 0-1 at Houston
D.C. finished July with a perfect 4-0 record but stumbled in its first August match, away to Houston. Missing Nick DeLeon and Fabián Espíndola, United would likely have settled for a draw and nearly got it, but rookie Steve Birnbaum’s last-second gaffe gifted the Dynamo a stoppage-time goal and the match.
3. Sporting Kansas City (11-5-6)
Last ranking: 2
Results: 1-1 vs. Philadelphia
Sporting has lost just once in its last 11 games, regaining the Supporters’ Shield lead with a draw against the Union, although Seattle has three games in hand. If the two draws in that streak, against inferior teams in Chicago and now Philadelphia, had been wins, the lead would be a bit more secure.
4. Seattle Sounders (12-6-2)
Last ranking: 1
Results: 0-3 vs. L.A., 0-1 at San Jose
The biggest missing piece in Seattle’s two consecutive losses was center back Chad Marshall, recovering from the effects of a minor car accident. Without him anchoring the back line, the Sounders had trouble keeping the Galaxy and Earthquakes out, as LA’s high pressure in particular troubled the defenders.
5. Real Salt Lake (9-4-9)
Last ranking: 6
Results: 1-1 vs. New York, 1-0 at Colorado
After going up a goal against New York and failing to maintain the lead, RSL did the same against Colorado but held on for all three points. In the match against the Rapids, Nick Rimando tied Kevin Hartman’s career MLS shutout record with 112, and RSL held strong defensively despite Aaron Maund’s straight red card less than a minute into the second half.
6. New York Red Bulls (6-6-10)
Last ranking: 7
Results: 1-1 at Salt Lake, 2-1 vs. New England
The Red Bulls conceded first against both RSL and New England but managed to secure four points regardless. They completed the comeback the second time through Bradley Wright-Phillips’ league-leading 18th goal. An astoundingly bad tackle by Matt Miazga drew a straight red card in first-half stoppage time when the Revs were up 1-0, but New York scored twice in the second half while down a man to win.
7. Toronto FC (8-7-5)
Last ranking: 8
Results: 0-3 at D.C., 2-0 at Montreal
Toronto flipped the switch for its second match of the week, dominating Montreal after a lackluster performance against D.C. The Reds nearly won by an identical score on Saturday as it lost on Wednesday, but Troy Perkins did well to keep out Nick Hagglund’s header on a corner kick in the 82nd minute.
8. Vancouver Whitecaps (6-4-11)
Last ranking: 5
Results: 0-0 at Chicago
The Whitecaps haven’t won since their 1-0 Cascadia Cup triumph against Seattle, and that’s their only win in the last nine games. Another unspirited game against Chicago on Wednesday pulled them within one draw of the Fire for the league lead, having tied the last four matches.
9. Colorado Rapids (8-8-6)
Last ranking: 9
Results: 0-3 at New England, 0-1 vs. Salt Lake
Two losses brought the Rapids back to .500, its attack failing to score against New England and Salt Lake. Colorado conceded early in both games and couldn’t get back into the match, even being up a man for most of the second half at home against RSL.
10. FC Dallas (9-7-6)
Last ranking: 11
Results: 1-0 at Chivas
Canadian-born striker Tesho Akindele, the SuperDraft pick out of NCAA Division II college Colorado School of Mines, scored the fourth goal of his rookie season to lift FC Dallas over Chivas USA in the final game of the week. Suddenly, Dallas is unbeaten in seven matches, one away from matching the winless run that directly preceded it.
11. Portland Timbers (6-7-9)
Last ranking: 10
Results: 1-3 at L.A.
Another poor defensive performance sank Portland against the Galaxy. The only bright spot was a long-distance strike by Diego Valeri, which gave the Timbers the lead, but Diego Chará’s poor tackle on Juninho to earn a penalty at the end personified Portland’s self-inflicted woes in the back third all season.
12. Philadelphia Union (5-8-9)
Last ranking: 13
Results: 1-1 at Kansas City
Despite the apparent lack of faith from his organization, Zac MacMath had a decent game against Kansas City, making a couple important saves to earn a point on the road. He has had and will continue to have his growing pains as a young goalkeeper, but the players in front of him haven’t helped, such as on Ray Gaddis’ awful clearance effort that led to Graham Zusi’s goal on Friday. Carlos Valdes' return should boost the Union defense.
13. Chivas USA (6-10-5)
Last ranking: 12
Results: 0-1 vs. Dallas
After winning four games in a row, Chivas USA has now lost three straight. It’s no coincidence that All-Star striker Erick Torres’ only goal in that stretch came on a consolation penalty after his team went down 3-0 against D.C. United to kick off that losing streak. Without his production, the team looks lost.
14. San Jose Earthquakes (6-8-5)
Last ranking: 15
Results: 1-0 vs. Seattle
Jon Busch made eight saves in a one-goal game against the Sounders, as Seattle controlled most of the inaugural event at Levi's Stadium. Chris Wondolowski and Yannick Djaló combined well as the top two again, scoring once just before halftime and nearly creating a second goal on a similar play on the hour mark.
15. Columbus Crew (6-7-9)
Last ranking: 14
Results: 1-1 at Chicago
Federico Higuaín came to his team’s rescue again, finishing neatly off the second-half kickoff in Chicago. That was the spark the Crew needed to dominate the second half, but they couldn’t find a second goal to take three points on the road.
16. Houston Dynamo (6-11-4)
Last ranking: 17
Results: 1-0 vs. D.C.
Perhaps the recent signings have inspired the Dynamo, who came out strong in DaMarcus Beasley and Luis Garrido’s first match. Will Bruin missed several early opportunities, and Houston had trouble beating Bill Hamid, but Bruin persisted to score with essentially the last touch of the game.
17. New England Revolution (8-12-2)
Last ranking: 16
Results: 3-0 vs. Colorado, 1-2 at New York
New England scored early and often to bury Colorado, then continued that momentum with an early goal against the Red Bulls on Saturday. Despite Charlie Davies’ first goal (and first “stanky leg” celebration) in a Revs shirt, the team couldn’t hold onto a one-goal lead after going up a man for 45 minutes.
18. Chicago Fire (3-5-13)
Last ranking: 18
Results: 0-0 vs. Vancouver, 1-1 vs. Columbus
Two more home draws won’t make it any easier for Chicago to climb into the playoff places. The Fire could threaten their own joint record for the most regular-season draws in an MLS season, fast approaching the 16 they and New York both achieved in 2011.
19. Montreal Impact (3-13-5)
Last ranking: 19
Results: 0-2 vs. Toronto
The hammer finally came down last week, but on sporting director Nick de Santis, not manager Frank Klopas. It didn’t help the Impact much on the field yet, as they lost another match in another poor performance for their sixth in a row.