MLS Power Rankings Week 7: Sporting KC rises ahead of FC Dallas showdown
- Sporting Kansas City and FC Dallas will meet this weekend in a battle of two unbeaten squads, while on the other end of the spectrum, Philadelphia still seeks its first win.
At the start of the year, all 22 teams in Major League Soccer could claim to be relatively healthy and free from suspensions. Week 7 should be remembered as the time when, for a lot of teams, that all changed. From the suspension of Colorado Rapids goalkeeper Tim Howard to a head injury to D.C. United captain Steve Birnbaum and plenty of red cards, Week 7’s results could reverberate far into the future (...or at least until Week 8, given the unpredictable nature of the league).
Let’s assess where the teams stand for now, after the ranks of the unbeatens dropped to two and the ranks of the winless were reduced to one:
A late, late equalizer left FC Dallas with a point from its trip to San Jose instead of all three. It’s the second time in 10 days FCD has suffered late heartbreak (the other time being in the CONCACAF Champions League). That makes it disappointing for sure, but Oscar Pareja’s side is still unbeaten. It faces the league's only other unbeaten, Sporting KC, this Saturday in what will be a must-see match.
Dom Dwyer scored his second goal is as many games and Tim Melia made an unbelievable save on Darlington Nagbe to give SKC a huge 1–0 win over Portland away from home. If SKC can knock off FC Dallas immediately after winning in Portland, the Western Conference will have its pronounced top dog.
The Timbers probably played well enough to earn a draw against Sporting KC, but staunch defending from SKC handed Portland an unusual loss at home by a 1–0 score line. That marks the first time the Timbers have been shut out this season, but defense continues to be a concern. Still, this squad is pretty clearly among the best in the West at this point in the season.
Leandro Gonzalez Pirez was given a very harsh red card, and Atlanta United couldn’t hold on to a 1–0 lead away from home in a 2–1 loss at the Montreal Impact. Given that red card, the fact that one of the goals came off the resulting penalty kick and the fact that Montreal had to wait until the third minute of stoppage time to get the winner, it’s tough to knock Atlanta United too much for this one.
NYCFC recovered from last week’s loss to D.C. United with a 2–0 win, but the fact that it came at the struggling Philadelphia Union makes that away victory not quite as impressive as it would be otherwise. NYCFC is still struggling for consistency, but so are a lot of teams this early in the season. It'll have a chance to put two wins in a row together for the first time this season this week at home against Orlando.
Orlando City became the first MLS team to open a newly-built stadium with four straight wins after 2–1 triumph over the LA Galaxy. Cyle Larin netted a late winner for OCSC, which is now looking much more like a team built in coach Jason Kreis’s image. The loss of Kaka to injury doesn’t seem to have affected this team much at all–if anything, it looks more dynamic without him. But that’s a selection conundrum for another time.
Justin Meram is showing some of the best form he’s ever had since joining the league, and that was on full display in Columbus’s 2–1 home win over Toronto FC. Columbus is now on top of the Eastern Conference standings thanks to a run that has seen the side win four out of its last five matches. It'll have a chance to improve that run this weekend with a trip to play the New York Red Bulls.
The Dynamo started off doing all the things that have made it a successful team this season, building a 2–0 lead against Minnesota United at home. Then, all that good work was undone at the start of the second half, and the Dynamo had to settle for a 2–2 draw. The Dynamo are clearly much improved from last season, but it’s never a good look to surrender a two-goal lead at home.
Is it time to worry north of the border? Perhaps. Toronto FC fielded a full-strength team at Columbus but still suffered its first defeat of the season. That in and of itself is not cause for alarm, but Sebastian Giovinco’s form might be. The Italian was uncharacteristically quiet through most of this game, and has been for the last few weeks. TFC has ridden his scorching form so much over the last two seasons, that anything less than superb performances from him makes TFC seem average.
After all the questions about his potentially-awkward fit in the Fire midfield, Bastian Schweinsteiger has taken to his new team with the utmost effectiveness. The German scored his second goal as a member of the Fire in Chicago’s 3–0 win over New England. The Fire benefited greatly from playing most of the match a man up after a first-half Revs red card, but the fact remains: The Fire just keep getting better and better, a process Schweini has helped accelerate.
It’s had been a rough handful of weeks for the Red Bulls, who hadn’t won in four games and had also lost three of those games going into this past weekend. Saturday’s 2–0 win over D.C. United doesn’t solve all those problems, of course, but a win over a historic rival is always good to get the bad taste out of a team’s mouth. The Red Bulls have a sterner test awaiting them this weekend when Columbus visits Red Bull Arena.
The Sounders were haunted by a figure from the club’s own past, as Fredy Montero scored two goals to give Cascadia rivals Vancouver Whitecaps a 2–1 win over Seattle on Friday night. The Sounders don’t look like a championship team right now, but neither did they for the majority of last season before winning the championship. All the same, one win in their opening six games should be cause for concern.
A late goal from Anthony Jackson-Hamel gave the Impact a 2–1 win over Atlanta United in a game that also saw playmaker Ignacio Piatti return from injury. Piatti looked as comfortable as ever pulling the strings of the Montreal attack, and that’s a great sign. However, the 23-year-old Jackson-Hamel’s goal is another huge dose of good news for a team that’s relying on multiple older stars to carry them through the season.
Apparently, the Earthquakes enjoy symmetry. Not only does the team have a 2–2–2 record, each of those categories of results have come back-to-back: Two wins to start the year, then two losses, then two ties, the most recent being a 1–1 draw at home against FC Dallas. Jahmir Hyka’s late goal earned them that point. It’s anyone’s guess what the Earthquakes will manage to do on Wednesday at New England.
An extremely silly red card from Je-Vaughn Watson in the first half against Chicago more or less doomed the Revs as the team slumped to a 3–0 defeat. After solid results against Minnesota, Portland, and Houston, the Revs succumbed to all their worst tendencies against the Fire. They’ll have a chance to regain some momentum with a home date against San Jose this weekend.
Since Mike Petke took charge of Real Salt Lake, the team has won both of its games, the most recent being a 2–1 win at Rocky Mountain Cup rivals Colorado. Whatever Petke is doing, it seems to be working. The emergence of 18-year-old academy star (and Liverpool loanee) Brooks Lennon, who scored the winner against Colorado for his first pro goal, is another encouraging development.
It’s still hard to know what you’re going to get out of Vancouver on any given night, but on Friday against Seattle the Whitecaps were incisive and bold, and Montero was on his game with two goals in the Cascadia Cup win. Up next, a sterner test: The Whitecaps must travel to another Cascadia rival, Portland.
It’s only a five-game sample size, but it’s safe to say that these are not last year’s Rapids. Colorado gave up a late goal against rivals Real Salt Lake to lose 2–1 at home on Saturday, making it three losses in the four games since an opening-day victory. Tim Howard is suspended until the start of May, and the stabilizing presences of Sam Cronin and Marc Burch are now in Minnesota. It could be a long season for Pablo Mastroeni & Co. unless some moves are made.
The Galaxy came out on the wrong end of the weekend’s most entertaining match, a 2–1 loss at Orlando City. The Galaxy are still struggling to score goals, but new acquisition Jack McInerney could help with that. He’ll be available on Sunday as the Galaxy try to snap out of their season-opening funk against the Seattle Sounders.
Losing to your Atlantic Cup rivals is bad, but D.C. United was dealt even worse news while falling 2–0 to the New York Red Bulls: captain Steve Birnbaum will miss significant time after suffering a concussion on a collision in the second half. How D.C. deals without its captain and anchor on the back line could go a long way towards determining the team’s fate for the season.
Minnesota still has plenty of work to do defensively, as evidenced by the two goals it gave up in the first half against Houston on Saturday. However, the Loons showed signs of evolution in the second half. Two quick goals after the break evened the scores to the 2–2 final, but a sterling defensive effort in the face of Houston pressure earned them a valuable point.
Things just keep getting worse for the Union. A 2–0 loss to NYCFC is Philadelphia's fourth consecutive loss, leaving it as the last team in the league without a win in 2017. It'll have a chance to reverse that this weekend against Montreal. If the Union don’t, then coach Jim Curtin’s seat will get even hotter than it is right now.