MLS Power Rankings, Week 8: FC Dallas tightens grasp on top spot
- FC Dallas won a battle of unbeatens to strengthen its credentials, but the Lions of Orlando City are charging hard behind in-form striker Cyle Larin.
Eight weeks into the MLS season, we got a real taste of extremes. There was, for example, the extremely good: In a battle of unbeatens, FC Dallas continued its outstanding form with a 1-0 win over Sporting Kansas City. Then, there was the extremely bad, as Philadelphia somehow snatched a draw from the jaws of a win over Montreal, blowing a 3-0 lead at home to remain the league’s lone winless team. Those FCD and the Union book-end this week’s Power Rankings, but, as has become the norm in MLS, all 20 places in between them remain in constant flux.
Let’s get to the rankings themselves:
FC Dallas is on such a good run, even guys that aren’t regular scorers are stepping up to get the team points. Defender Maynor Figueroa, he of eight total goals in his 304-appearance pro career prior to this weekend, scored the only goal as FC Dallas topped previously-unbeaten Sporting KC 1–0. There’s probably a way to beat Dallas, but no team in the league has figured it out so far.
The Timbers got a 2–1 win over Cascadia rival Vancouver, thanks to a stunning strike by Darlington Nagbe (seriously, watch it if you haven’t already), and a winner by Darren Mattocks. It was the perfect way to recover after a disappointing home loss to Kansas City last week. Portland remains at the top of the West standings, having played two more games than FC Dallas.
The Lions have made news around the league thanks to their excellent home form, but a 2–1 win at NYCFC showed that they are a force to be reckoned with on the road as well. Cyle Larin scored two more to put him just one off the lead for the Golden Boot. Orlando has won three in a row and has a date at home vs. Colorado this weekend. It’s a good time to be a Lion–not to mention that a win at Yankee Stadium had to be extra satisfying for Jason Kreis.
Atlanta United’s assault on opponents’ goals went on, as the expansion side got a 3–1 win at Real Salt Lake. But while RSL may not have put up much of a fight, Atlanta deserves credit for pouncing on the mistakes and making the home side pay. The result caps a four-game road stretch for Tata Martino & Co., in which they gathered five of a possible 12 points. Not bad for any team, especially a brand new one.
After an offensive uptick in the past two games, SKC was silenced in a 1–0 loss at FC Dallas. It’s SKC’s first loss of the year, but it resembled a way this side has been beaten often in the past. Peter Vermes’ side had 61% possession but couldn’t generate clear scoring chances against a Dallas side content to sit back and counter. Of Sporting’s 11 shots, only one was on target.
Erick “Cubo” Torres maintained his hold on the top spot in the Golden Boot race, and Alberth Elis added an insurance tally to see the Dynamo over the San Jose Earthquakes 2–0 on Saturday. Houston is undefeated at home to start the year, but has yet to get so much as a point in either of its two previous road games. It'll get a chance to improve on that this weekend at Toronto FC.
Larin continued his total domination over NYCFC, scoring his eighth and ninth goals against the club in just his seventh game as an opponent. David Villa did score a nice goal to make it interesting at the end, but this will still go down as a disappointing home loss. If NYCFC wanted to blame the loss on the awfully-confusing special edition jerseys both teams wore for Earth Day, I’d be OK with that.
Sebastian Giovinco finally looked like Sebastian Giovinco in 2017, scoring two goals en route to TFC’s 3–1 home win over the Chicago Fire. This was a win that Toronto sorely needed to get back on track, and it came against a Chicago Fire side that was riding some momentum after the acquisition of Bastian Schweinstieger. TFC got big contributions from Raheem Edwards, a homegrown wingback who has been superb in his appearances so far.
The Red Bulls won their second straight game for the first time since the opening two games of the season, as they dispatched Columbus 2–0 at Red Bull Arena. A notable development in this one was Jesse Marsch’s decision to shift the Red Bulls back into a the 4-2-3-1 formation that has been successful for them over the past couple years. They looked more comfortable in that look than they have all season.
After a decent run of form to start the season, Columbus looked oddly lifeless in a 2–0 loss at the Red Bulls. Then again, Crew SC suffered a pair of big injuries in the first half, as central midfielder Artur went down with a broken wrist and impressive rookie center back Alex Crognale had to be subbed with a sprained ankle. Luckily, Crognale shouldn’t be out for long, while Artur may be set for a longer spell on the sidelines.
The Sounders earned their second win of the season in dominant fashion, beating the Los Angeles Galaxy 3–0 away from home. Beating the Galaxy at StubHub Center doesn’t mean quite as much as it used to, but it’s still a nice way to end a three-game road stretch for the Sounders. U.S. internationals Clint Dempsey and Jordan Morris both got on the score sheet, sandwiching an own goal.
The Fire lost 3–1 at Toronto FC, but it was far from a one-sided affair. The Fire were able to create chances and get Toronto into an end-to-end game, but the brilliant play of Giovinco was the difference. Unfortunately, the Fire’s next test will also come on the road, at the Red Bulls.
Anthony Jackson-Hamel has had quite a couple of weeks. In Week 7, the homegrown forward scored a late winner at home to beat Atlanta. In Week 8, he scored two goals, including the equalizer, as the Impact overcame a 3–0 first-half deficit to draw 3–3 at Philadelphia. The Impact’s defense was a bit of a mess in the first half, but Jackson-Hamel and Ignacio Piatti deserve credit for lifting their team when many others would have folded.
The Revolution, like the San Jose Earthquakes had two games this week. But unlike the Quakes, both those games came at home. As such, the team getting two draws (0–0 vs. San Jose and 2–2 vs. D.C.) is a disappointment. For some reason, an attack that boasts so much talent is struggling to put the ball in the back of the net–one of the Revs’ goals vs. D.C. was a Sean Franklin own goal (though Juan Agudelo would argue otherwise).
The Earthquakes were dealt a tough schedule this week, playing two road games within four days. Wednesday’s 0–0 draw at New England was a bit of a snoozer, and and the lingering effects of that game and associated travel seemed to weigh on the team in the weekend’s 2–0 loss at Houston Dynamo. The Earthquakes haven’t won since March 11.
The Whitecaps fell victim to Nagbe’s golazo, but played reasonably well in a 2–1 loss at Portland. Playing at Providence Park is never easy, but the Whitecaps put forth a dangerous performance that could easily have earned them a result were it not for a few missed chances. Fredy Montero scored and is looking more and more like the reliable forward the Whitecaps have craved for a while. Despite the loss, they rise one spot in these rankings thanks to the bad form of teams around them.
A 2–2 draw at New England would normally be a decent result, but not anything to crow about. However, D.C. will be very happy with that point, considering its extensive injury list. D.C. was missing a whopping six regular starters vs. the Revs, but got goals from Sebastian Le Toux and Jared Jeffrey to earn the draw. Coach Ben Olsen will be happy with his team’s scrappy, next-man-up attitude, and it could serve them well as the season goes on.
For all the jokes and sneers and criticism of Minnesota United early on in the season, the fact of the matter is that the team has improved a bunch over its first eight games in MLS. Sunday’s 1–0 win over Colorado was notable not just because of the three points, but also because of the shutout. The Loons have still conceded an insane 24 goals at this point in the season, but anything that avoids adding to that total is a very good thing. So is Miguel Ibarra getting on the board to add another threat to the Christian Ramirez-heavy attack.
After two straight wins under Mike Petke, Real Salt Lake suffered its first serious setback in Week 8. Saturday’s 3–1 loss to Atlanta was notable not just for the result, but also in how it came together. RSL looked slow and lackadaisical in multiple facets of the game–pretty much the opposite traits that propelled the team in its time as a Western Conference power.
Hoo boy. What is there left to say? The LA Galaxy may not be quite as talent-laden as past years, and losing MLS’s most successful coach and a talismanic goal-scorer is always going to hurt. But few could have expected the Galaxy to look as bad as they did in a 3–0 home loss to Seattle. On the plus side, LA faces one of the few teams in worse form, Philadelphia, at home on Saturday with a chance to turn things around.
Bad times in the Rockies. The Rapids lost 1–0 at Minnesota United on Sunday, making it three straight losses in five-game stretch where Colorado has gone 0-4-1. Their No. 1 DP goalkeeper Tim Howard is suspended, but even with him the defense wasn’t living up to its very high 2016 level. Making matters worse, the Rapids visit Eastern Conference leaders Orlando City this week. That bad form may well be extended.
The Union thought that they would finally snap their four-game losing streak with a win, but ended up snapping it with a draw that feels like a huge, huge loss. Up 3–0 at home over Montreal in the first half, all Philly had to do was see the game out with competency. They failed, allowing three unanswered goals in a 3–3 draw. They are the last winless team in the league.