MLS Power Rankings Week 2: NYCFC, Orlando climb; FC Dallas stays perfect
After an opening weekend filled with excitement, Major League Soccer still offered plenty of talking points in Week 2. Another expansion team played its home opener in front of a packed house, both 2015 newcomers won for the first time, a couple refereeing calls drew attention from across the league, and there's only one team with the maximum six points–although a few have, dubiously, yet to play two matches.
The weekend slate featured a considerable surprise as well, as the Seattle Sounders, fresh off a thorough beating of New England in their season opener, lost to an opponent who began the season in the opposite fashion in the San Jose Earthquakes. Ahead of their opening match at the new Avaya Stadium, the Quakes had big-money players Chris Wondolowski and Innocent Emeghara rise to the occasion in taking down the Sounders on the CenturyLink turf.
Here are some more thoughts on the second week of MLS play:
NYCFC opens with dream start in the Bronx
Despite concerns expressed by New York Yankees players, NYCFC's Yankee Stadium field, advertised as 110-by-70 yards, looked a bit narrower than expected but held up fine despite less-than-ideal conditions in New York leading up to the first MLS matchday in the Bronx.
On that field, NYCFC put on a worthwhile home debut, with manager Jason Kreis's side looking dangerous in attack. Having a player with David Villa’s pedigree on the squad helps, and he delivered his first goal for the team in its first home game. He added an assist to seal it late in the match, as expansion draft pick Patrick Mullins put one past his former New England Revolution teammates with his first touch of the game to secure a 2-0 win.
Orlando City deserved its first win, even if it took a GK error to get it
The Lions have been the better team in both of their first two matches despite not scoring a goal of their own through the run of play. They needed an own goal from goalkeeper Tyler Deric to defeat the Houston Dynamo, 1-0, at BBVA Compass Stadium on Friday. Deric’s gaffe came in the midst of another otherwise-solid performance from the first-year MLS starter.
The goal-inducing error came as Deric took a heavy first touch on an innocuous back pass, highlighting the uniqueness of goalkeeping psychology.
Deric’s teammates mishandled multiple passes throughout the match, but his mistake is the most glaring because it resulted immediately in a goal. Similarly, any mistake a goalkeeper makes is magnified because of his proximity to his own goal.
It’s part of the danger of the position and one of the aspects most who play that position love about it. Ultimately, it cost Houston a goal and a loss at home, but expect Deric to gamely put himself in the line of fire again next week without a second thought. It takes a special mental disposition to be a goalkeeper, knowing that one bad mistake can erase fans’ memories of saves such as Deric’s world-class effort on Kaká in the first half.
Two refereeing decisions heavily influenced the outcome of two matches
In Columbus, David Gantar sent off Toronto FC defender Justin Morrow after he made minimal, if any, contact with Ethan Finlay just outside the penalty area. Ironically, Gantar is the same official Michael Bradley received a fine for criticizing last September by saying, “What can you say? He’s just not good enough.”
Gantar said in post-game comments to the pool reporter on site Saturday that Morrow’s foul met the requirements for denying an obvious goalscoring opportunity. If he calls a foul in that situation, it likely has to be deemed as such, but it seemed to be a clean tackle.
In Utah, Allen Chapman called Maurice Edu for a phantom foul on Luke Mulholland that gave Real Salt Lake a penalty that tied its match with the Philadelphia Union.
Chapman’s call looked just as soft as Gantar’s, with Mulholland falling over until little pressure. Both had obvious impacts on the outcomes of the respective matches.
Why didn't the Red Bulls, Rapids play in Week 2?
Four teams—D.C. United, the New York Red Bulls, the Colorado Rapids and the Montreal Impact—didn’t play a league match after the opening week. D.C. and Montreal were offered some leniency because of their participation in the CONCACAF Champions League knockout rounds, but the Red Bulls and Colorado hadn’t played competitively before Week 1.
Scheduling frequently draws criticism from the more vocal MLS coaches, including veterans Bruce Arena and Sigi Schmid. In Philadelphia ahead of the 2015 MLS SuperDraft, Schmid told SI.com if he were commissioner, he would create a more regular, balanced schedule where teams played alternating home and away dates.
With an even number of teams, every team should play the same number of matches every week.
It would eliminate any advantage teams receive from playing four matches in two weeks, while their opponent only plays once or twice in that span. If MLS can also make a conscious effort to navigate FIFA international windows, it would put an end to the complaints and headaches that the fixture list generates every year.
Week 2 Best XI
GOALKEEPER: Bobby Shuttleworth (New England Revolution)
DEFENDERS: Sean St. Ledger (Orlando City), Kendall Waston (Vancouver Whitecaps), Steven Beitashour (Vancouver Whitecaps)
MIDFIELDERS: Justin Meram (Columbus Crew), Cristian Maidana (Philadelphia Union), Javier Morales (Real Salt Lake), Harry Shipp (Chicago Fire)
FORWARDS: David Villa (New York City FC), Blas Pérez (FC Dallas), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)
A team that builds its reputation on youth, Dallas, the only team to collect six points from two games, has also received standout performances from veteran Blas Pérez in its first two matches of 2015.
Seattle’s loss to San Jose looked bad for a number of reasons, including because the Sounders were up 1-0 basically off the opening kickoff.
The Galaxy showed great character to come from behind twice, including after conceding in the 90th minute, to earn a tie at Providence Park off Alan Gordon’s stoppage-time header.
It didn’t come off a stunning Kaká free-kick goal, but Orlando got its first win in MLS on Friday, with Pedro Ribeiro's hustle resulting in an own goal.
The Whitecaps look to be MLS’s counterattacking masters, which might cause a fair amount of drama again for the team that narrowly made the playoffs in 2014. Newcomer Octavio Rivero has two goals in two games.
After Champions League elimination and a week off from league play, D.C. goes straight back into the thick of things with a trip to the perennial rival Red Bulls.
Justin Meram’s return balanced a right-leaning Columbus attack, as both goals came from the left side, although one of the Crew’s most dangerous attackers remains right back Hernán Grana.
The Timbers scored the best team goal of the week in a 1-1 draw with the Galaxy, starting with Adam Kwarasey catching a cross and finishing with Fanendo Adi bending a shot inside the far post to cap a field-encompassing, four-pass counterattack.
Re-acquired center back Jámison Olave scored the rare goal/own-goal brace on Saturday, as RSL’s defense had an uncharacteristically shaky match.
NYCFC opened Yankee Stadium with a win over New England that could have been by a much larger margin, particularly after José Gonçalves’ sending off in the second half.
A harsh red card to Justin Morrow killed Toronto’s chances against the Crew, but Columbus controlled the match even before that.
Tyler Deric’s first-half heroics saved Houston from a worse loss against Orlando, but his gaffe cost the club, which struggled to impress Friday, a point.
A soft penalty against Maurice Edu might have robbed Philadelphia of its first win of the season, but a draw in Salt Lake is much better than the season-opening draw at home against the Rapids.
Like their Week 3 opponent, D.C., the Red Bulls took a week off, but theirs didn’t make much sense considering they hadn’t played a competitive match in 2015 before the first week of the season.
The Earthquakes came back from being a goal down in the first 18 seconds and having Víctor Bernárdez sent off in the second half to defeat Seattle; this week, they inaugurate Avaya Stadium against Chicago.
The Rapids open their home slate on Saturday with a visit from league newcomer NYCFC after not playing in Week 2.
It’s been a tough start to the new season for Dom Dwyer, who missed a penalty with 10 minutes to go in Dallas that kept the score at 3-1 but could have kickstarted a Sporting comeback.
The Impact could be stretched thin next week as Alajuelense heads to Montreal for the first leg of the Champions League semifinals in midweek, followed by a trip to New England on Saturday.
Without Bobby Shuttleworth’s performance in goal, the Revs would have lost by a larger margin despite launching 16 crosses toward the NYCFC penalty area in the first half alone.
Harry Shipp can’t carry the Fire attack all by himself; he’ll need some support, or else the promising second-year pro could be the team’s brightest spot again in 2015.