MLS Power Rankings Week 2: Dynamo, Red Bulls rise; winless Galaxy plummet
- The Portland Timbers, New York Red Bulls and Houston Dynamo are trending up, while the LA Galaxy have fallen on some unusually hard times after two weeks in the MLS season.
Week 2 of the 2017 MLS season is in the books, and with it came a blizzard of goals, big performances and notable injuries that will shape the landscape of the league going forward. All of these things come into play in the new Power Rankings, with the Houston Dynamo continuing their rise from obscurity and the New York Red Bulls inching into the top three despite some less-than-impressive wins.
The bottom of the rankings features a team unfamiliar to those parts, while Minnesota United looks like it might take up permanent residence in the cellar after a second straight lopsided defeat.
Here's how the league shapes up after two weeks:
Oscar Pareja rested a number of key players, replacing them with more young homegrowns, and the patchwork lineup held its own in a 0–0 away draw at Sporting Kansas City. It wasn’t a sexy result (in fact the game itself was pretty awful), but any point away from home is good, and the rest given to the likes of Kellyn Acosta, Roland Lamah, and Michael Barrios will pay dividends. Dallas plays the first leg of its CONCACAF Champions League semifinal vs. Pachuca on Wednesday.
The Portland Timbers got their first away win in their first attempt of 2017 after going all of 2016 without one, beating the LA Galaxy 1–0 at StubHub Center. There’s a lot going right for the Timbers right now, but two biggest are Sebastian Blanco, whose workrate on both ends of the field has notably improved the Timbers from last season, and the holding midfield play of David Guzman. Keep an eye on Guzman’s shoulder injury (suffered by diving) going forward.
Luis Robles set an MLS record with his 142nd consecutive appearance, and the Red Bulls stayed perfect on the year with a 1–0 home win over Colorado. The Red Bulls were generally the better side throughout in this match, but the game-winner came via an own goal from Colorado's Eric Miller. As such, the Red Bulls might have the least impressive perfect record in the league so far, but it is a perfect record nonetheless.
David Villa netted a double, Maxi Moralez and Rodney Wallace scored their first goals for their new club and the defense kept a shutout in a dominant 4–0 win over D.C. United. This was NYCFC at its best, with Moralez in particular looking like the kind of game-breaking No. 10 the team will rely on this season. The shutout, though, will be the best part for coach Patrick Vieira, whose side struggled defensively last season and looks much-improved now.
It’s early in the season, but no team has surprised more so far than the suddenly resurgent Dynamo. Wilmer Cabrera has his team playing a fast, attacking style that proved to be devastating in Saturday’s 3–1 win over Columbus. Romell Quioto, Alberth Elis, and Cubo Torres now form one of the league’s most fearsome three-pronged attacks.
That’s two away draws in two games for Toronto FC to start the 2017 season, after a 2–2 draw at Philadelphia on Saturday. It’s early in the season, but it’s a little worrying to see Toronto struggle as much offensively as it has so far. Luckily, the injury Sebastian Giovinco suffered in this game shouldn’t keep him out long.
Tim Howard made his return between the sticks and was excellent there, but he couldn’t save an away point for the Rapids in a 1–0 loss at the Red Bulls. Colorado was thoroughly outplayed in this game, having mustered just three total shots, only one of which was on target. Still, if not for a fluke own goal, the Rapids might have escaped this match with a point. In other words, they are who we thought they were.
Whoa. That’s about all there is to say about Atlanta United’s 6–1 thrashing of expansion sister club Minnesota United in the latter’s home opener. Despite frigid temperatures, a hostile crowd and snow caking the field, Atlanta put on a marvelous display of attacking soccer that was a pleasure to witness through the snowflakes. Miguel Almiron, Josef Martinez, and Hector Villalba–Atlanta’s three DPs– were all in top form.
The Earthquakes found themselves in a 2–0 first-half hole against Vancouver but took advantage after Whitecaps goalkeeper David Ousted earned a red card. The 3–2 win was capped by a wonderful strike from Anibal Godoy, who seems to finally be finding his feet in MLS after being signed in late 2015. Nick Lima, signed as a homegrown player in the offseason, has impressed on both sides of the ball–the defender also had a goal in the comeback.
Orlando City’s visit to the New England Revolution was called off due to weather, so the Lions drop based mostly on the movement of teams around them. That game against the Revs will be made up in September. At the very least, it's one less missed game for the injured Kaká.
The same problems as last year continue to haunt Sporting KC in 2017, as once again the team struggled to break down a bunker in a 0–0 home opener against FC Dallas. Sporting generated 14 shots but could only direct two of them on target despite holding a gargantuan 68% of possession. Sporting KC is one of three teams to have not scored a goal through two games. Peter Vermes has only made one in-game substitution in that time, and didn’t change his starting XI at all between games.
The Sounders didn’t slip right back into the form that won them last year’s MLS Cup, but their fight back away from home to earn a 2–2 draw at Montreal showed that this team still has a ton of heart. They might have even won this game, if not for a bad call for a handball on Jordan Morris that cancelled out a late goal from Clint Dempsey.
Nemaja Nikolic took advantage of a wonderful non-call to score, and Arturo Alvarez added the second in the Fire’s 2–0 home-opening win vs. Real Salt Lake. The most impressive part of this win may be the Fire’s defense, which worked hard to prevent RSL from getting many clear opportunities in the wake of both first-half goals. Jonathan Kappelhof, in particular, was instrumental in keeping RSL striker Yura Movsisyan at bay.
There’s no other way to put it: Ben Olsen’s side was simply awful on Sunday in a 4–0 loss to NYCFC. Yes, NYCFC played well, but D.C. allowed them to do so with slack marking, slow reactions, and choppy build-up play. So far, Sean Franklin’s move from right back to center back has been a mixed bag. This team needs Luciano Acosta back, as his string-pulling from the No. 10 has been sorely missed.
Real Salt Lake fell behind early and couldn’t manage much of a response in a 2–0 loss to the Fire. The team’s attack seems far less deliberate now with Javier Morales in Dallas. It has no problem mustering shots, but many of them were either blocked or off target against Chicago. Yes, the Fire are improved from last year, but RSL will have expected better from this game.
The Revolution’s home opener against Orlando City was called off due to weather, but the team stays where it is in these rankings despite the movement of teams around them. The Revs travel to Dallas next week, which means they won’t get their first home match of 2017 until March 25 against Minnesota.
Saturday was a real mixed bag for the Union. New signing Jay Simpson scored his first goal, then got injured, and was replaced by CJ Sapong, who scored the equalizer in a 2–2 draw against Toronto. A point against the MLS Cup finalists is nothing to sniff at, but the Union could have won it had Alejandro Bedoya’s PK not smacked off the crossbar. It’s hard to make many conclusions about the Union so far, but Oguchi Onyewu’s play in central defense has been encouraging so far.
The Impact seemed to have fixed the lethargy that plagued them in a season-opening loss to San Jose, but the team still tired towards the end of its home opener as it surrendered a late goal to Seattle in a 2–2 draw. Still, the Impact looked good for large parts of the game; Ignacio Piatti is as creative as ever, and Matteo Mancosu had a solid goal-scoring appearance. The team’s defensive lapses need to be solved sooner rather than later, though.
Columbus was overrun in just about every facet of the game in a 3–1 loss at Houston on Saturday. The Crew started off on a terrible foot as goalkeeper Zack Steffen gifted the ball to the Dynamo for the opener, and their attempts at an immediate comeback were stifled by some great saves from Houston’s Tyler Deric. Still, this game was lost in midfield, where the Crew’s combo of Artur and Wil Trapp couldn’t keep up with the Dynamo’s industry.
Is it already time for LA to press the panic button? No, of course not – we’re only two games in. Still, Sunday’s 1–0 home loss to Portland means the Galaxy have started with two straight losses for the first time since 2001. Jelle Van Damme’s red card came as a result of two dives, but the tackles that caused those dives were clearly borne of frustration. Gio Dos Santos’ injury, which brought him off the field at halftime, is another add to the Galaxy’s woes.
The Whitecaps exploded for two quick goals at San Jose, but all that good work went down the tubes after goalkeeper David Ousted picked up a silly (and deserved) red card later in that same first half. The ‘Caps were on the back foot from then on, and San Jose’s three unanswered goals dealt Vancouver its first loss of the season. This team has plenty of talent, though, so it’s way too early to write them off entirely.
The score line in last week’s 5–1 loss to Portland may have been a bit misleading, but Sunday’s 6–1 loss to Atlanta United definitely was not. The Loons were simply outplayed in every conceivable way over the course of 90 minutes, despite snowy conditions and a raucous home-opener crowd that should be been huge advantages for the expansion side. It’s tough to know where Adrian Heath should fix first, but Minnesota’s disaster of a defense might be a good place to start.