MLS Power Rankings Week 7: Firsts for Jones, Morris, Drogba
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When Colorado’s lineup appeared on Saturday, it was no surprise that midfielder Jermaine Jones was in the starting XI. How could he not be? The 34-year-old U.S. international brings a depth of experience and professionalism that the Rapids could use, and finally eligible off a six-game suspension, coach Pablo Mastroeni wasted no time in turning to him.
What was surprising is where Mastroeni wanted Jones to play: At the top of a three-man central midfield, behind striker Luis Solignac. Jones, who usually occupies a more defensive or box-to-box role with the U.S. and previous teams, would be a “No. 10.”
The unexpected placement worked brilliantly, as Jones was involved in everything positive Colorado did in a 2-1 win over New York Red Bulls. Jones scored the opener, provided a slick assist through the snow for the second, and showed once again that his presence may be enough to bring an MLS team up a level (and once again that he thrives in snow).
“I’m really happy. I’m thankful, too. [Colorado] gave me an opportunity to prove people wrong,” Jones told MLSSoccer.com after the game. “That’s what you saw today on the field, I tried to give back to them and give them that trust back.”
Jones’s belated debut comes after serving his ban for an altercation with Mark Geiger in last year’s playoffs–a sanction that affected Jones’ ability to find a new club after turning down a contract offer from the New England Revolution.
How influential can Jones be? New England won seven of its last nine games after he joined the team in 2014, before going on a surprising run to the MLS Cup final (which it then lost to the LA Galaxy). Much like that Revs team, Colorado has an interesting mix of talent and a young, unproven head coach. The Rapids will hope Jones can have a similar impact, albeit in a different position, evidently.
More MLS firsts
Jones wasn’t the only one with a notable first this weekend. The Seattle Sounders’ Jordan Morris and Montreal Impact’s Didier Drogba each scored their first goals of the campaign, with each carrying its own special significance.
For Morris, the goal is his first as a professional, though that distinction seems to mean slightly less when you’ve already been scoring goals at the international level as often as he has in the last year-plus (his goal, oddly enough, came almost a year to the day of his goal for the USA vs. Mexico in San Antonio). Still, it’s a proud moment for the 21-year-old, who is a Sounders Homegrown Player and grew up in the area.
Morris hasn’t adjusted quite as seamlessly from Stanford University to MLS as he did to the U.S. national team, but Saturday’s performance showed that he’s starting to learn the ropes. He was active throughout his time on the field on Saturday, before finally breaking through with a nice flicked finish:
The Sounders will be counting on Morris to score more of those...at least until they lock down another DP attacking player (or Chad Marshall stops scoring).
For Didier Drogba, getting a first goal of the season means something a bit different than it does for others in MLS. Drogba has sat out four of Montreal’s opening six game due to them being played on turf, which doesn’t agree with his left knee. So even though we are at Week 7 of MLS, Drogba is playing in just his second game. That could explain why he didn’t start for Montreal against the Chicago Fire in Chicago, though his Impact would be felt within minutes of coming on.
As for the goal itself, well, Drogba may not score an easier one all year. After a bad giveaway by Chicago goalkeeper Matt Lampson, Drogba found so much space in the box that he could have finished Dominic Oduro’s service however he liked. He elected for a nifty backheel.
Offensive player of the week: Chris Wondolowski, San Jose Earthquakes
Wondolowski added two more goals to his league-leading total of six in his first seven games. Though one of them this week came on a penalty kick vs. Portland, it was the more notable one because of its historical impact. With the goal, his 115th in MLS, Wondolowski passed Ante Razov for fourth on MLS’ all-time scoring list. He still has another 18 to go to get to Jaime Moreno in third. At this rate, I wouldn’t rule it out.
Defensive player of the week: Chad Marshall, Seattle Sounders
Obafemi Martins' departure meant that someone on the Sounders would have to step up to shoulder the scoring load. It’s not likely that anyone thought it would be Marshall to do it. Besides scoring for the second straight week, Marshall was at his imperious best on Saturday, shutting down the Union’s cross-heavy attack save for one goal by former Sounder Sebastien Le Toux.
FC Dallas took Portland by storm in Wednesday’s shocking win at Providence Park, blitzing the defending champions with three goals in the opening 30 minutes. They followed that with a solid win over Kansas City at home. That they did all this without Mauro Diaz makes it even more impressive.
RSL may not fill up the scoresheet, but it clearly doesn’t need to as it remains the lone undefeated team in MLS. The Royals have quietly assembled one of MLS’s most effective (and entertaining) front lines in Burrito Martinez, Joao Plata, and Yura Movsisyan, and it all worked in sync even without Javier Morales in Saturday’s win over Vancouver.
Didier Drogba scoring his first goal of the season is huge, even if it came off a terrible giveaway by Chicago. Montreal is already among the league’s elite early on…with an in-form Drogba, they’ll probably stay there.
The Galaxy may have conceded early to the Dynamo, but what followed bodes well for Bruce Arena’s team. Not only did it capitalize on mistakes to re-take the lead, but it was L.A.’s stars, particularly two-goal Giovani Dos Santos, who did the capitalizing.
After ending last week on top of the league (and these Power Rankings), SKC came crashing down to earth with a pair of 2-1 losses. Sunday’s at FC Dallas is the more forgivable of the two. The loss to Colorado was SKC’s second loss in a row at home–just the second time the team has ever lost two straight at Children’s Mercy Park.
Seattle looks to be back on track after suffering three consecutive defeats to start the season, pulling out a 2-1 win over Philadelphia at home. Chad Marshall found the back of the net again for his second goal in as many weeks. Marshall scored two total goals over the previous three seasons.
The Earthquakes protected their undefeated home record with a 2-0 win over the Red Bulls mid-week, then traveled up to Portland and were dealt a 3-1 loss. As long as Wondolowski is scoring (which he is), you can never entirely count the Earthquakes out.
The Citrus Bowl has seen its fair share of anger in the past two weeks. Last week it was a last-second winner for the opponents. This week it was a last-second penalty kick (which shouldn’t have been called) canceling out a last-second goal for the Lions (which also shouldn’t have counted).
A very early goal against D.C. United was all Toronto needed, as goalkeeper Clint Irwin kept D.C. United at bay with saves and superb control of his penalty area. It might not have been pretty, but after a four-match winless run, three points is all that matters for TFC as they prepare to play its last away game before opening a renovated BMO Field.
The week started with a 3-1 loss to Dallas on Wednesday. Then Fanendo Adi scored a brace as the Timbers defeated San Jose 3-1 on Saturday. Adi came on as a sub for Darren Mattocks, who left with a head injury. Goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey also left with an apparent hand injury. Those could be big absences moving forward.
The Union have struggled to maintain a consistent level of play this season, and that cause wasn’t helped by Roland Alberg’s 53rd-minute red card in a 2-1 loss to Seattle. It’s been two years since Philly strung four games or more together without losing.
What a week for Pablo Mastroeni’s team. First, a mid-week win at Sporting Kansas City, then the team tops the Red Bulls as Jermaine Jones makes an impactful first start for the Rapids. For the first time in what seems like forever, there’s reason for optimism at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
The Revs appear to be the frontrunners for this season’s draw kings after ending things even for the fifth time this season against Orlando City. Teal Bunbury and Lee Nguyen scored their first goals of the season, but only one player on the team has more than a single goal to his name so far in 2016 (Diego Fagundez, with two).
The Dynamo scored quickly on Friday night, but defensive miscues handed the game right back to LA in a 4-1 loss to the Galaxy. It continues a disturbing trend: Houston has had the lead in four of the five games it has not won.
Columbus finally got its first win of 2016, and looked just like their 2015 selves while doing it (at least on the attacking end). All three of the attacking trident of Ethan Finlay, Justin Meram, and Kei Kamara scored.
After signs of improvement in recent weeks, defense was a huge problem for NYCFC on Saturday. At various points, the backline left Kei Kamara unmarked and failed to pick up trailing runs from Ethan Finlay and Justin Meram.
The club switched off in the first minute of the game against Toronto, and that’s always going to be a costly mistake with players like Altidore and Giovinco on the other side. It created chances to strike back, but couldn’t finish. Last week’s offensive explosion looks more and more like a mirage.
Initially, it looked like Kennedy Igboananike’s wonder strike might help the Fire break out of its offensive doldrums. Not so. That goal counted for half of all the Fire’s shots on target, and Ignacio Piatti mimicked the goal exactly for a stoppage time winner.
Vancouver had plenty of chances against Real Salt Lake, but simply couldn’t bury any of them. The Whitecaps were shut out for the third consecutive game, a feat that didn’t happen at all last season.
Perhaps the roughest week of a surprisingly difficult season for the Shield holders. The club was shut out again and weak defensively in a 2–0 loss at San Jose, then fell 2–1 at Colorado amid tough, snowy conditions. That’s four straight losses for the Red Bulls. Reinforcements are needed.