MLS Power Rankings Week 10: Red Bulls take first battle of New York
The first New York rivalry match highlighted Major League Soccer’s 10th week, as the Red Bulls defeated NYCFC in a match that wasn’t as close as 2-1 suggests. The win shot the Red Bulls into third place in the Eastern Conference with a game in hand on the leaders.
After almost a month off to focus on carrying the league’s flag in the CONCACAF Champions League, the Montreal Impact returned to its status quo in league play with a loss. Montreal remains the only team without a win this season, having played about half as many games as most others.
Elsewhere, Real Salt Lake finally gained some momentum with two positive results in a week, while the LA Galaxy went the opposite direction.
Still, after the East’s short-lived stint atop the table, two Western Conference teams retook the lead in the Supporters’ Shield race as FC Dallas and the Vancouver Whitecaps both won.
Here are some thoughts after the 10th week of the MLS season:
New York derby magnifies differences between teams
Bradley Wright-Phillips scored twice as the Red Bulls turned around its first loss of the season two weeks ago with an emphatic win in the first New York rivalry match. The impressive atmosphere carried onto the field with a high-pressure game in which Matt Miazga earned two quick yellow cards, leaving the Red Bulls a man down.
The game had a little of everything, from goals to a red card to a fracas between teams as they argued over Miagza’s first card. In the end, the match provided an entertaining end to a week of hype in the Big Apple.
It’s probably a good thing the first game between these two happened at one of the best stadiums in the league in Red Bull Arena; Yankee Stadium just wouldn’t have offered as intimate and authentic a setting. For now, the teams could hardly be further apart in terms of the way their seasons have progressed, but Sunday offered a good first chapter to the incipient rivalry.
After a week of build-up that struggled to shake a somewhat fabricated feel—cynics on social media called it “El Plástico,” a match between two promotional vehicles for foreign brands—the players importantly delivered an entertaining 90 minutes on the field. It’s hard to get too excited about a match-up like this with no history, but as brief as it’s been, it now has something tangible to grasp in future meetings.
2014 MLS Cup finalists throw away late leads
The teams that battled for the Philip Anschutz Trophy last year have started 2015 inconsistently, but that shouldn’t undermine any challenge they mount on a return to the playoff final this season. The New England Revolution already lead the East again, and the LA Galaxy still wait for Steven Gerrard to make his first appearance.
Still, blips in both teams’ results have shown how much room they still have to improve. The Revs couldn’t hold a 2-0 lead at Orlando City SC on Friday, succumbing to two goals in the last 15 minutes to settle for a point.
LA had two opportunities to win last week, first with a stoppage-time penalty at RSL and with its own late 2-0 lead at FC Dallas. Juninho was stuffed by a diving Nick Rimando on Wednesday, while two goals in less than 10 minutes sank the Galaxy in Texas.
Things change fast in a week for Real Salt Lake
After a heavy loss to the Revs in his team’s return to a 4-4-2-based system a couple weeks ago, RSL coach Jeff Cassar stuck to it against the Galaxy and Chicago Fire. The team rewarded his faith with solid showings in a scoreless draw and 2-1 win, respectively.
A quick turnaround for a team that talked openly about an identity crisis just a week earlier personified how quickly things can change in MLS. RSL still sits outside the playoff places for now, but a better attacking display in both matches last week should inspire some confidence moving forward.
Before RSL faces the Galaxy again in the penultimate match of a packed seven-game May schedule, it plays Montreal and NYCFC in good opportunities to continue that momentum.
Of course, now it loses Jordan Allen to the FIFA Under-20 World Cup, but playmaker Javier Morales began the concussion-return protocol as his team earned four points during the week.
Eastern Conference stragglers seriously struggling
The Eastern Conference houses both of MLS’s expansion teams as well as one of the league’s traditional strugglers in the Impact. Add to it the unstable Philadelphia Union, and it’s no surprise those four teams sit outside the playoff picture with just four wins among them.
Conversely, in the Western Conference, the non-playoff teams currently split 10 wins among RSL, the Portland Timbers, Houston Dynamo and Colorado Rapids. The Rapids in particular have their own issues, setting the MLS record for home winless streak last week, but the West still looks much better by comparison.
At the same time, the East’s top teams look just as capable as their opposite-coast counterparts.
One of the most interesting matches this week is a cross-conference battle between Dallas and the Red Bulls on Friday, in what could prove to be a Supporters’ Shield or even MLS Cup battle by the time winter rolls around again.
Week 10 Best XI
GOALKEEPER: Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
DEFENDERS: Kemar Lawrence (New York Red Bulls), Clarence Goodson (San Jose Earthquakes), Nat Borchers (Portland Timbers), James Riley (Colorado Rapids)
MIDFIELDERS: Darwin Cerén (Orlando City SC), Jordan Allen (Real Salt Lake), Mauro Díaz (FC Dallas)
FORWARDS: Bradley Wright-Phillips (New York Red Bulls), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders), Kei Kamara (Columbus Crew SC)
After their first loss of the season, the Red Bulls responded with a resounding victory over NYCFC, even though they lost center back Matt Miazga to a red card before halftime. Bradley Wright-Phillips's two goals provided all the offense the hosts would need.
A three-goal outburst against Philly jumped the Whitecaps back into the Supporters’ Shield lead over Dallas on goal difference after Vancouver had won just once in its previous five games.
United extended its unbeaten league run to seven to keep pace with New England at the top of the East, also marking 17 straight matches without a loss at home in all competitions.
A wide-open game in Columbus saw the Sounders fall despite Clint Dempsey’s two goals—the second of which looked marginally offside.
Charlie Davies scored for the fourth game in a row, but the Revs threw away a 2-0 lead as Orlando City scored twice in the last quarter of an hour.
Mauro Díaz assisted on both Dallas goals as it came back late against the Galaxy, including an 86th-minute winner from Tesho Akindele.
Kei Kamara scored twice to give Columbus probably its most important win of the season: its first over a team in the top half of the Supporters’ Shield standings in five tries so far.
It’s not exactly Jason Kreis’ diamond, but RSL has looked much closer to its previous incarnation in form and confidence since moving to a 4-1-3-2 system three matches ago.
Conceding twice in the last 13 minutes in Dallas marked the second time in a week LA had a chance to win but couldn’t pull it out; Nick Rimando’s stoppage-time PK save on Wednesday was the other.
The Earthquakes finished a four-match swing away from home by taking five points in three games in a week’s time; it could have been seven if not for a stoppage-time goal conceded in Colorado.
Sporting KC has won once in the last five games, and it hasn’t beaten a Western Conference opponent yet; Saturday’s upcoming match against Colorado is this club's best chance so far.
Diego Valeri scored his first goal since returning from an ACL tear as the Timbers won their second game of the season on the road, which is one more than Portland has won at Providence Park in five attempts.
Jozy Altidore’s first goal at a renovated BMO Field couldn’t spark a comeback from a two-goal deficit; after two successive wins, TFC lost again in its first home game of the season.
A loss to RSL at Toyota Park ended Chicago’s three-game home winning streak; a late penalty was all the Fire could get to fall despite outshooting Salt Lake 14-5.
The Dynamo couldn’t win at home early in the week, but it did ruin Toronto’s home opener in what was Houston’s most inspired performance of the season on Sunday, with Oscar Boniek Garcia and Will Bruin getting on the scoresheet.
Decisive goals have been scored in the 90th minute or later in four of the Lions’ five home games, but Aurélien Collin’s equalizer on Saturday was the first time it’s gone in Orlando’s favor since Kaká’s first-week free kick.
The Rapids now own a dubious MLS record, having gone 11 straight home games without a win; they have won just three times in the last 31 regular-season matches total.
A frustrating season this far got even worse with an embarrassing loss in the first New York rivalry match, as NYCFC could barely turn a man advantage into a goal, let alone a result. Patrick Mullins scored its lone goal.
The Union’s rough season continued as they were dominated at B.C. Place, debuting yet another player between the sticks in former Whitecaps reserve and PDL goalkeeper Brian Sylvestre.
Returning from CONCACAF Champions League play for the first time in almost a month, the Impact also reverted to their usual league form, losing to Portland at home to remain winless.