MLS Power Rankings Week 3: San Jose success in new stadium debut
Another soccer-specific stadium opened its Major League Soccer tenure in Week 3 of the 2015 season. On the opposite coast, one team kept its perfect record intact with its third win in a row.
The San Jose Earthquakes opened Avaya Stadium with a 2-1 win over the Chicago Fire, building on the momentum of a big away win in Seattle. Meanwhile, FC Dallas took three more points against the Philadelphia Union to max out at nine in three games.
Draws in half of last weekend’s eight matches, including three of the scoreless variety, again underscored MLS’s parity. Even so, a few things stood out in the third week of the MLS season:
Will this be the year Óscar Pareja gets the recognition he deserves?
After opening the season with two wins at home, Dallas went away to PPL Park and won again. It may have been a red card-assisted victory and still closer than it should have been according to the statistics, but Pareja’s men got it done.
Dallas can’t afford to coast now. In 2013, the team went undefeated through early May before a lengthy winless streak left it above only Chivas USA in the Western Conference. Last year, Dallas won five of its first seven followed by a streak of one win in 11. However, something feels different this season.
Many coaches stamp their identity on their teams through player selection and their style of play, and Pareja in Dallas is no different.
FCD boasts players who match technical ability and an MLS-requisite physicality, including Mauro Díaz and Fabián Castillo, with a healthy amount of fire personified by one of MLS’s most hated opponents, Blas Pérez.
That mixture makes it seem as if Dallas can find wins in multiple ways, and Pareja has enough depth to tailor his lineup as necessary. After finishing as a finalist in both of the last two MLS Coach of the Year races, this group might be the one to win the 46-year-old Colombian that accolade—as long as it can avoid the inconsistency that has plagued the team in recent seasons.
Avaya Stadium looks like a gem
MLS teams continue to open their own spectacular stadiums, and the resources many North American owners enjoy make it plausible that the league could have the most enticing arenas for the beautiful game before too long.
The atmosphere at Avaya provides a unique experience, with planes taking off and landing just off the East side of the structure.
Nothing can replace tradition, which MLS is slowly building, but despite lacking a true cathedral of the game on the scale of Camp Nou, Old Trafford or La Bombonera, stadiums in the league have modern appeal.
The trend doesn’t stop in San Jose, with D.C. United and Orlando City SC set to join the list of franchises with such homes (and NYCFC and the New England Revolution theoretically on deck). The next major battle will be whether it’s plausible that all teams in the league not only have their own stadiums, but also natural grass surfaces within their four walls.
The Montreal Impact can’t catch a break in league play
After experienced midfielder Justin Mapp suffered a dislocated and fractured elbow in the team’s MLS opener against D.C. United two weeks ago, rookie Cameron Porter took a nasty fall on the turf at Gillette Stadium on Saturday. It looks like the 21-year-old, who set the CONCACAF Champions League alight with a series-clinching goal against Pachuca, will be out for some time, although the Impact have yet to announce a definitive diagnosis.
Injuries and largely uninspired play have marked the Impact’s brief 2015 season so far—the exact opposite of its latest foray into the Champions League knockout rounds. It could come down to emphasis, as Montreal doesn’t need to rely on MLS play to qualify for the competition, and it seems Frank Klopas’ team places more importance on the continental competition.
As such, Montreal could be the first MLS team since Real Salt Lake in 2011 to make the final. That would be a great achievement even if it comes at the expense of league results, and it would vindicate the team’s efforts to overhaul in the offseason regardless of its ultimate MLS standing.
Over half of MLS matches have been scoreless at halftime so far this season
Saturday offered more red cards than goals through the first three matches, as an FC Dallas double and Vancouver Whitecaps late winner offered the only respite from a brutal start to the weekend. Philadelphia Union midfielder Zach Pfeffer earned the only straight red of the bunch for a nasty elbow on Díaz.
Unlike a week before when the referees took center stage, all the officiating decisions were justified this time around.
In fact, Jorge González could have added a fourth red when Kekuta Manneh lunged into Aurélien Collin with two straight legs before Vancouver scored in stoppage time to defeat Orlando City SC.
Always the entertainer, Robbie Keane broke up the monotony with a blazing run through the Houston Dynamo defense to give the LA Galaxy a lead three minutes into Saturday’s nightcap. Houston equalized eight minutes later, and that was it for the goalscoring until Sunday.
Week 3 Best XI
GOALKEEPER: Josh Saunders (New York City FC)
DEFENDERS: Marc Burch (Colorado Rapids), Ike Opara (Sporting Kansas City), Zach Loyd (FC Dallas), Donny Toia (Montreal Impact)
MIDFIELDERS: Dillon Powers (Colorado Rapids), Fatai Alashe (San Jose Earthquakes), Harry Shipp (Chicago Fire)
FORWARDS: Octavio Rivero (Vancouver Whitecaps), Robbie Keane (LA Galaxy), Bradley Wright-Phillips (New York Red Bulls)
Dallas is the only MLS team on maximum points after its win over the Union and D.C.’s loss to the Red Bulls, but beware Dallas’ propensity to start fast and fizzle.
Seattle takes to the road for three of its next four matches after some mixed fortunes at home early in the season.
With a goal in each match, Octavio Rivero is off to the steadiest start in MLS this year, including his impressive diving header in stoppage time to steal a late win on Saturday.
After a day of slow first halves on Saturday, Robbie Keane offered a respite with his third-minute individual effort, but the Galaxy couldn’t make it stand up for a home win, conceding soon after.
The Earthquakes opened Avaya Stadium with a positive result, giving them more wins than losses on the season for the first time since the end of 2013, although it’s still early days.
Conceding extremely late at home on Saturday left Orlando reeling after another match in which it held more possession and led the shot count but couldn’t be more efficient in front of goal.
After a week off, Columbus hosts the Red Bulls next weekend before inexplicably taking another full week and a half off from competitive matches.
Despite a mediocre road record in 2014 and conceding a goal early against LA, Houston resiliently scored a goal of its own eight minutes later through Nathan Sturgis and defended resolutely to earn a point at the StubHub Center.
Looking for its first win of the season, RSL gets no advantage from its week off, as Week 4 opponent Toronto FC also took some time off.
After just three appearances for RSL in 2014, goalkeeper Josh Saunders has been one of NYCFC’s most valuable players in the early going, making seven saves to earn a point on the road Saturday.
After a week off, Toronto heads to Utah as it nears the halfway point of its seven-match exile from BMO Field due to stadium renovations.
With the weight of his new Designated Player tag weighing heavily, along with provider Thierry Henry’s retirement, Bradley Wright-Phillips finally delivered with a goal and assist on Sunday.
The Timbers have drawn all three matches and failed to score in two in 2015, harkening back to their 15-draw 2013 season, in which they drew three of their first four and finished first in the Western Conference during the regular season.
Ben Olsen’s coaching style really only allows for one style of victory, and when his players’ passion and grit do not match his own, they’re bound to lose as they did against the Red Bulls.
Philadelphia hasn’t scored at home in two matches, bookending a three-goal outpouring in Salt Lake that wasn’t good enough to get all three points.
Kansas City has scored just two goals in its opening three games, matching its slow 2014 start; Dom Dwyer hasn’t scored yet, but he only scored once in the first three last year.
The Rapids’ winless streak is at 16 after failing to score against MLS newcomer NYCFC at home. The last team they beat–Chivas USA in a 3-0 result July 25, 2014–doesn't exist anymore, either.
Montreal lost Cameron Porter to an apparent serious knee injury after Justin Mapp dislocated his elbow in the first game of the season and failed to match its CCL output in MLS play.
After having one of the league’s most potent attacks in 2014, New England hasn’t scored through its first three games in 2015.
Harry Shipp continues to be a bright spot for an otherwise dismal Fire, finally getting on the scoresheet in an eventual loss on Sunday.