MLS Power Rankings Week 5: As Galaxy, RSL fall, Houston, Columbus keep rising
- Columbus's three-game winning streak has the club on the rise, while perennial Western Conference contenders LA and RSL have suffered through poor stretches of form.
There's no FIFA flu here! With most of the league–save for six teams–off for the March international break, the MLS Power Rankings took a one-week vacation but return fully healthy and ready to roll. The same can not be said of many MLS teams, some of which had players return from international absences to play in results that simply didn’t fit the narrative of what was happening before.
There were also a couple of notable firsts in Week 5, including Minnesota United winning its first game as an MLS franchise and Bastian Schweinsteiger scoring his first goal on his debut for the Chicago Fire.
How did all of those Week 5 results affect the rankings? Let’s find out:
FC Dallas was mercifully given Week 5 off ahead of its all-important trip to Pachuca in the CONCACAF Champions League on Tuesday. We’re not sure why Vancouver wasn’t afforded the same scheduling luxury, but we do know that none of the immediate contenders for FC Dallas’ place atop the rankings did enough to unseat it.
David Villa was in fine form as a provider as NYCFC defeated San Jose 2–1 at Yankee Stadium on Saturday. Patrick Vieira’s side fell behind early after a really sloppy defensive giveaway, but showed great character to fight back and earn all three points. It’s a good sign that Villa continues to find ways to impact the game even when he’s not scoring goals.
The Dynamo bounced back from a big loss to Portland with a bang, demolishing the New York Red Bulls 4–1 behind a hat trick from Erick “Cubo” Torres. There’s no doubt now that Cubo is back to the form that made him such a threat with Chivas USA years ago, and the rest of the league is in trouble if he can maintain it. The Mexican already has six goals, the most in the league so far.
In retrospect, it’s unclear what was more unlikely for Atlanta United: Keeping a clean sheet, or getting shut out. Somehow, Tata Martino’s side managed to do both against Seattle on Friday, earning a 0–0 draw away from home in one of MLS’s most unforgiving environments. Atlanta created chances in this game and was unlucky to not score at times. A point on the road will do.
Toronto FC managed only two shots on target despite numerous opportunities, and that wastefulness was punished with a lost two points at home in a 0–0 draw with Sporting Kansas City. The biggest news to come out of this game was the injury to Clint Irwin, who will miss the next 4–5 weeks with a hamstring problem. Amazingly enough, that’s good news. The injury looked far worse in real time, when Irwin had to be carried off and his knee looked to be the primary problem.
It’s been a two-week reality check for the Timbers, who had their perfect start ruined with a 3–2 loss at Columbus over the international weekend and a 1–1 draw at home with New England in Week 5. The Timbers still look great on the attack, with Diego Valeri in particular showing some of the best form he’s ever had in MLS. But repeated defensive lapses have cost this team points in the early season.
All of a sudden, Columbus is arguably the hottest team in MLS. Columbus added its second and third win in succession, grinding out a fun 3–2 win over Portland over the international break and then putting forth a solid, professional performance in a 2–0 win over Orlando City. Justin Meram scored three goals over those two games after declining to join the Iraq national team for its World Cup qualifiers over travel concerns and the USA's travel policies.
On the plus side, Sporting Kansas City is one of three teams in MLS with an undefeated record. On the downside, the attack is struggling mightily. All three of Kansas City’s draws have been scoreless, including Friday’s result at Toronto FC. On its own, a point at BMO Field is good, but in connection with the larger trend, there’s reason for SKC fans to feel a bit anxious despite the unblemished start.
Orlando City owned the last perfect record in the league entering Week 5, though that status was a bit misleading as it had only played two games. In any case, that perfection is gone now after 2–0 loss at Columbus in which the team’s high defensive line was torn apart by the Crew’s wide attack. Orlando still looked dangerous on the attack, though, so there are likely plenty more wins to come for the Lions.
The Red Bulls were one of the unlucky teams to have to play over the international break, and even with Sacha Kljestan away with the U.S. you'd have expected more than a scoreless home draw against Salt Lake. A 4–1 drubbing at the hands of Houston in Week 5 made matters worse. The Red Bulls haven’t looked like themselves so far this season, even when they are winning.
The Rapids are in the odd position of having a two-week break from MLS play despite not being involved in the CONCACAF Champions League. As such, their movement in these rankings is mostly down to the form of the teams around them. Colorado’s next takes to the field on Sunday at Sporting Kansas City.
The Sounders scored a moral victory of sorts by shutting out high-scoring newcomer Atlanta on Friday. However, the defending champs will feel they should have gotten more from the game, as Cristian Roldan and Clint Dempsey each narrowly missed scoring opportunities. Still, playing with several reserves, it’s a point that Seattle will take at this point in the season.
No MLS team had a more publicity-filled couple of weeks than the Chicago Fire, which made a big splash with the signing of German icon Bastian Schweinsteiger. The club instantly felt his impact, as Schweinsteiger scored the opening goal in the Fire’s 2–2 draw with Montreal. The Fire still have work to do along the back line, but a lot of teams would kill to inherit their central midfield situation.
The Revolution looked to have gotten somewhat back on track after two losses to open the season. The team was incisive and ruthless in a 5–2 win over Minnesota United over the international break, then fought back admirably for an impressive 1–1 draw at Portland on Saturday. They face a stern test at home against Houston this weekend.
It’s been a mixed bag at best for San Jose so far. The club won its opening two games at home, but dropped its second straight result on the road in a 2–1 loss at NYCFC. Goalkeeper David Bingham, who had an unusually bad outing in a Week 3 loss to Sporting KC, once again looked rusty in the Bronx. Luckily for San Jose, two more home dates await before their next road trip.
The Impact thought they had snatched their first win of the year away at Chicago thanks to a late strike from 18-year-old Ballou Jean-Yves Tabla. Then a stoppage-time equalizer doomed the Impact to their third successive draw. Montreal will have a chance to get its first three-point result of the season next week at the LA Galaxy.
The Black and Red still aren’t at their best, but they took advantage of Philadelphia’s mistakes in a 2–1 win at RFK Stadium on Saturday. The biggest performer on the night was definitely Bill Hamid, who made several eye-catching stops to preserve the three points. D.C. plays NYCFC next, a game where it will hope to avenge a 4–0 shellacking earlier in the season.
Maybe things are O.K. in the Canadian corner of Cascadia. The Whitecaps bounced back from two straight losses, beating the Galaxy 4–2 behind two goals from Matias Laba and a wonderful performance from Cristian Techera. Vancouver’s prowess on the attack–its first game after trading Kekuta Manneh–was something to behold in this one, but can they 'Caps keep it up?
The Union fell behind in the first half, and a second-half goal from CJ Sapong was all the team could muster in response in a 2–1 loss at D.C. United. On the plus side, that’s Sapong’s third straight game with a goal, perhaps staking his claim for a starting spot over newly acquired Jay Simpson up top.
Finally, a win for the Loons! Minnesota United is still giving up goals, but in Saturday’s 4–2 win over Real Salt Lake it scored enough of them to where it didn’t matter. Christian Ramirez looks to have found his rhythm at the MLS level. Now, the Loons just need to sort out that pesky back four.
It's unclear what got into Galaxy goalkeeper Clement Diop, but his, ahem, adventurous goalkeeping was a big reason the Galaxy lost their third game of the season, 4–2 at Vancouver. It wasn’t just Diop, of course. The entire LA defense looked out of sorts in this game, especially after taking a 2–1 lead thanks to two goals from new DP Romain Alessandrini. The Galaxy now have a lower PPG than Minnesota United. None of this is a good look for MLS’s most decorated team.
A bad start to the season just keeps getting worse for RSL. Salt Lake’s respectable 0–0 draw with the Red Bulls over the international break gave way to one of the most surprising results in the league this weekend, a 4–2 loss at Minnesota United to give the latter its first win in MLS. RSL has been beset with injuries, but much more was expected of them than this. New coach Mike Petke has plenty of work to do.