MLS Power Rankings Week 1: FC Dallas, Portland take strong first steps
- Supporters' Shield holder FC Dallas picked right up where it left off, while Portland enjoyed an opening day success at the expense of expansion club Minnesota.
The 2017 MLS season is officially off and running. Now that the dust has settled and we’ve had some time to digest the results, it’s time to put teams in their place. Some squads, like FC Dallas, picked right back up where they left off with wins after success last season. Some, like Houston, showed improvement. Others, like the LA Galaxy, may have regressed. The two expansion teams, Atlanta United and Minnesota United, each lost, but did so in vastly different ways.
It’s always tough to tell from a single game how these teams will do for the rest of the season. But for now, based on that very small sample size, here’s how the league shapes up at the outset of the new campaign.
Oscar Pareja’s machine just keeps on rolling. After advancing to the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals earlier in the week, Dallas’ 2–1 win at the LA Galaxy gets the new season off to the best possible start. New winger Roland Lamah delivered the game-winning assist, and 21-year-old Kellyn Acosta was a two-way force in midfield, scoring said winner.
Yes, they were playing an expansion team, and yes the scoreline was inflated by a couple of garbage time goals. But any way you slice it, winning 5–1, as the Timbers did at home against Minnesota United, is just about as ideal a way to start the season as Portland could have wanted. Fanendo Adi netted a pair, as did Diego Valeri, and new DP Sebastian Blanco looks to fit pretty seamlessly with those two and Darlington Nagbe.
Nothing much changed for Toronto FC on the field. On Saturday against Real Salt Lake, Greg Vanney started the exact same lineup that began the 2016 MLS Cup final. Like that championship match, this week’s game also ended 0–0 after 90 minutes. Of course, there was no penalty shootout, but there was a penalty kick: Sebastian Giovinco had a subpar effort saved by Nick Rimando. The result is a little disappointing considering that miss, but starting the season with a shutout on the road can be counted as a positive.
One would think that being down 1–0 away from home in front of a raucous crowd is where the Red Bulls might have missed Dax McCarty, its longtime captain and locker room leader that was traded in the off-season. They didn’t...entirely. The Red Bulls were able to come from behind to snatch a 2–1 win, but questions remain about this team thanks to a pair of poor performances vs. Vancouver before the MLS opener in the CONCACAF Champions League.
Surprise, surprise: It’s a 1–0 win for the Colorado Rapids. The team with last year’s best defensive record and one of the worst goal-scoring marks in the league looked every bit the same side against the Revolution on Saturday, stopping New England’s multiple threats and delivering the winner on a well-executed set piece. I’m on record as saying the Rapids can’t keep last year’s insane defensive pace up, but they at least started going in that direction again this weekend.
It wasn’t pretty. In fact, much of it was pretty ugly. But Jason Kreis won’t care and neither will the fans that packed Orlando City Stadium to see their team inaugurate their stadium with a 1–0 win over NYCFC. Orlando looked great to start the match, but faded big time after Kaka left with was turned out to be a pretty serious hamstring injury. Cyle Larin’s goal was well-taken as always, leaving plenty to wonder how long it’ll be until Europe comes calling for the 21-year-old.
Patrick Vieira’s side may have lost 1–0 at Orlando City, but his side certainly didn’t lack for chances. NYCFC generated 14 shots, seven of which were on target, and were it not for an outstanding performance from Orlando goalkeeper Joe Bendik the visitors might have even won this game. The defensive unit seems improved from last year, though they were given a reprieve by not having to deal with Kaká for most of the game.
Sporting KC looked dangerous in the attacking third, despite not being able to muster a goal in a 0–0 draw at D.C. United. DP winger Gerso Fernandes appears to be a good fit for Peter Vermes’ high-intensity 4-3-3 system, but like many other teams SKC still has some gelling to do on the offensive end. Tim Melia made an insane double-save on a PK, before joining Jimmy Medranda and Dom Dwyer in making a trio of goal-line clearances on a single play.
MLS’s original United started its long goodbye to RFK Stadium with a 0–0 draw against SKC, a game it could have won if not for the aforementioned heroics. D.C. clearly missed the influence of playmaker Luciano Acosta, sidelined with an injury to start the season. The club surely hopes he can make it back on the field sooner rather than later.
If you’re looking to turn over a new leaf after years of mediocre-to-bad play, defeating the defending champs on opening day is one hell of a way to do it. The Dynamo were able to secure a 2–1 win over the Seattle Sounders thanks to a game-winning golazo from new signing Romell Quioto, and a free-kick strike from Erick “Cubo” Torres. Torres’s goal is his first in MLS since he scored for Chivas USA on September 27, 2014–a span of 889 days. That goal, weirdly enough, also came against Seattle.
It’s tough to put a finger on why, but the defending champion Sounders just seemed listless for the vast majority of the first half of its game against the Dynamo. In that time, Houston scored twice, and Clint Dempsey’s late goal in his return from an irregular heartbeat wasn’t enough. The Sounders looked ill-prepared to handle Houston’s suddenly-pacy attack, which is a little understandable considering how much the Dynamo have changed this off-season. Still, the Sounders will have hoped for better from their season opener.
The crowd at Bobby Dodd Stadium was electric (other than some instances of bad behavior), and the team on the field looked mostly impressive (other than the defensive breakdowns that led to goals). Sunday’s 2–1 loss to the Red Bulls isn’t how Tata Martino wanted his side to start off, but there’s clearly a lot to build on down south.
The Earthquakes were all over Montreal from the opening whistle, so much so that it’s legitimately disappointing that they only won 1–0. Chris Wondolowski, of all people, missed a couple nice chances, while Anibal Godoy scored the winner with a sublime chip in the first half. The Quakes’ new additions, including defender Nick Lima, played particularly well, offering a welcome sign of hope in San Jose.
The Galaxy held the lion’s share of possession at home against FC Dallas, but couldn’t turn that time on the ball into clear-cut scoring chances. The Galaxy’s lone goal in a 2–1 loss came via Giovani Dos Santos’s penalty kick. It’s a disappointing start for a Galaxy team that has the talent to do much better. Perhaps Gyasi Zardes, who missed this match with an injury, can provide some scoring punch upon his return.
Real Salt lake faced a tough opponent at home in its opener, but it managed to get a point with the draw against TFC. Nick Rimando added to his league-record tally of PK saves (he now has 29) by stopping a Giovinco effort after taking the Italian star down in the box. Albert Rusnak looked like he could be a suitable replacement for Javier Morales in the playmaking role, but he will have to wait until next week for a chance to get on the scoresheet.
The Revolution’s multifaceted attack couldn’t get anything going against one of the league’s best defenses on Saturday in a 1–0 loss at Colorado. The Revs’ defense will rue the goal they let in, the result of failing to react to a broken set piece play. Overall, though, the defense looks to have improved on last year’s unit, and there’s simply so much talent up top that going scoreless isn’t likely to become a regular thing.
The Fire looked much-improved in Saturday’s 1–1 draw with Columbus, and that may be worth more than three points to a team that finished last in the league in each of the past two seasons. Dax McCarty was his same old self in the center of the part, and though new DP striker Namanja Nikolic had problems with his finishing touch, he at least found himself in dangerous positions. David Accam, who scored the Fire’s only goal, appears to remain their most important attacking player.
The Crew had the better of play in the first half of Saturday’s 1–1 draw against Chicago, evidenced by Ethan Finlay’s assist to Justin Meram that kicked off the scoring in the 17th minute. From there, though, Columbus let the Fire back into the game, and they were punished for that with Accam’s equalizer. Still, the Crew’s new additions, especially defender Jonathan Mensah, did reasonably well.
In what was undoubtedly the worst game of the weekend from a neutral’s perspective, the Union traveled a long way from home to earn a 0–0 draw at the Whitecaps. The shutout will be very encouraging for manager Jim Curtin, who has had to shuffle his back line around a bit following an injury to center back Joshua Yaro. Oguchi Onyewu, making his MLS debut at age 34, performed well. Derrick Jones became the first graduate of the Union’s academy to start an MLS game, and the 20-year-old did well in a holding midfield role.
Despite the 0-0 snoozer, the Whitecaps remain an interesting watch if only because of the continuing rise of 16-year-old Alphonso Davies. He was occasionally brilliant in an otherwise dull game from Vancouver. The club did have a successful week in that it reached the CONCACAF Champions League semis, though.
The worry with the Impact was that their aging team would tire towards the end of the season. Well, it’s the first game of the season, and they already seem tired. The Impact looked slow and disjointed in Saturday’s 1–0 loss at San Jose, a game they easily could have lost by more with some better finishing from the Earthquakes. The Impact showed no ingenuity going forward and not enough fight at the back. Improvement is needed, en vitesse.
The final scoreline, in this case, is a little bit deceiving. The Loons were second best for much of the night but were not dominated by the Timbers in the way the 5–1 tally might indicate. Minnesota actually had a decent chance to level things at 2–2 after Christian Ramirez scored the team’s first goal in MLS history, but the team simply fell apart in the closing moments. Not a great look, but there will be plenty of time for manager Adrian Heath to get it right.