MLS Power Rankings, Week 9: Orlando City's Lions roar to the top
- Orlando City is a perfect 5-0-0 at its new stadium, has Kaka back in the fold and has won four in a row, overtaking unbeaten FC Dallas at the top of our MLS Power Rankings.
Week 9 in MLS featured no shortage of fireworks, from incredible goals to sterling comebacks and everything in between. But as the dust settles, it’s impossible to escape the concept that things are mostly as they were. The worst teams in the league are still the worst. The best teams in the league are still the best. There aren’t many big jumpers in this week’s edition of the Power Rankings, but there is one very notable change right at the very top.
Let’s get to ‘em:
The Lions: King of the jungle, and atop the Power Rankings for the first time. Saturday’s 2–0 win over Colorado was Orlando’s fourth win in a row overall and fifth win in a row to open its new stadium. And, oh yeah, the team just got a former World Player of the Year and the highest-paid player in the league, Kaka, back from injury. An away test at Toronto awaits this Wednesday, and it's a result that will say an awful lot about just how good this team can be.
Dallas didn’t look its best against Portland, but the team showed a lot of character to fight back from a losing position twice to get a point against a very good Western Conference rival. Dallas remains the only unbeaten side in the league and keeps on grinding out very respectable results. Its drop from the top of these rankings is mostly a product of Orlando’s red-hot form, but a draw at home didn’t help Dallas’s case as much as a win clearly would have.
Playing on the road at the best team in the league, down arguably its best player and captain (Diego Valeri), the Timbers nonetheless scraped a valuable point from its matchup vs. FC Dallas. That’s not the kind of result that will turn a lot of heads around the league, but the team has ample reason to be proud of it. Nonetheless, like Dallas, it drops in the rankings thanks to Orlando’s winning run.
SKC hadn’t beaten Real Salt Lake since MLS Cup 2013, but it put that winless run to an end with a 3–0 domination in a rainy game at home. SKC’s defense is back to the great form it showed back in that 2013 run, having only allowed three goals though its first eight games. Add that to Dom Dwyer finding his stride in front of goal (three goals in his last four games), and SKC is looking like one of the toughest teams in the league to beat at this stage.
Last week it was Sebastian Giovinco’s time to shine. This week, it was Jozy Altidore’s. The U.S. international broke through with both goals in Toronto’s 2–0 win over Houston, and looked every bit a man in form while doing so. After some slight defensive struggles in recent weeks, TFC has looked as solid as ever in the back, holding MLS’s top scorer Erick Torres to nothing on the night.
Jack Harrison enjoyed his first multi-goal game as a professional and NYCFC ran out of Columbus with a 3–2 win against one of the Eastern Conference’s better teams. Even more impressive: NYCFC did this without either David Villa (out with an illness), or Andrea Pirlo (unused substitute). NYCFC has yet to win two games in a row; it'll get a chance this weekend when it hosts Atlanta United.
The Red Bulls are the Red Bulls again. Since the team’s switch back to its familiar 4-2-3-1 formation it has been an unstoppable force, winning three in a row, including Saturday’s 2–1 victory over Chicago. The Red Bulls got a goal from Bradley Wright-Phillips and from defender Kemar Lawrence, who has been in good form lately. They face a tough test with a visit to Sporting KC on Wednesday, though.
The Dynamo’s road woes went on in Week 9, as the club fell 2–0 to Toronto FC at BMO Field. Houston managed to break through with a series of attacks at the end, but otherwise found it hard to generate quality scoring chances. The Dynamo have proven to be a dangerous team at home–the next big step will be proving it on the road, where they have yet to pick up so much as a point in three tries.
Little by little, Atlanta United is showing itself to be a little less than the phenomenon the club was when it burst on to the MLS scene to start the season. This weekend’s 3–1 home loss to D.C. United showed there’s still plenty of work to be done, particularly along the back line (though they were subject to a virtuoso performance from D.C.’s Luciano Acosta). Next it visits NYCFC in what should, on paper, be a fun, high-scoring matchup that may play to Atlanta’s strengths.
If ever there was a draw that felt like a win, this week’s result was it for the Seattle Sounders. Shockingly down 3–0 to the New England Revolution at home, the Sounders hit the post three times before finally scoring three in the final 16 minutes to earn a dramatic point. It’s hard to judge the Sounders too much on such an unusual game, but suffice it to say that giving up three goals at home isn’t a great look for a defending champion, no matter how dramatic the comeback is.
After a good start to the season, Columbus has hit a rough patch. Gregg Berhalter’s side has gone 1–3–0 in its last four games, including Saturday’s 3–2 loss to NYCFC at home. It’s tough to tell what exactly isn’t clicking for the Crew; this week they once again looked lifeless and disjointed in the second half, allowing NYCFC the chance to reverse a 2–1 deficit.
Dax McCarty’s return to Red Bull Arena as a member of the Fire was certainly emotional, but the result left a lot to be desired for the midfielder’s new team. McCarty played quite well, setting up Nemanja Nikolic’s fifth goal of the season, but the Fire were outdone by a few defensive lapses. The Fire have their third road game in a row next week, as they travel to face the LA Galaxy.
After playing well in a losing effort away from home last week, the Whitecaps put forth one of their best performances of the season in a 2–1 win at Montreal. The team had an unexpected hero in defensive midfielder Andrew Jacobson, who hit a gorgeous volleyed goal and had multiple key plays throughout the game. Every Vancouver win has been followed by a loss this season. This weekend, it plays at last-place Colorado with a chance to buck the trend.
D.C. scored perhaps the most surprising result of the weekend, a 3–1 win over Atlanta United. Luciano Acosta had the kind of game many D.C. faithful have been hoping he’d have every single time out on the field, and the club’s bend-but-don’t-break style of defense coped well with Atlanta’s relentless attacks. Montreal visits RFK Stadium this week.
Finally, relief for the Earthquakes. After a six-game stretch without a win, San Jose broke through with a 1–0 win at Minnesota United. It wasn’t the prettiest game, but then again playing pretty hasn’t really been the Quakes’ forte these last couple of years. It’s been nearly a month since Chris Wondolowski scored. The Quakes can’t afford for that to be the norm.
One week after scoring three goals away from home, Montreal looked listless at home against Vancouver, falling 2–1 to its Canadian rival. Ignacio Piatti struggled to get anything going, and striker Matteo Mancosu had to be subbed out with an injury. It’s still early in the season, but seven points from eight games isn’t the start Mauro Biello was anticipating.
The Revolution rode the red-hot Juan Agudelo to a 3–0 halftime lead at Seattle, then completely and utterly imploded in allowing three late goals in a 3–3 draw. There’s a lot to question with the Revs right now, including a tactical plan that ceded just about all the possession to the Sounders in the second half. But hey, at least Agudelo is in form–he’s in the Golden Boot conversation with six goals to start the season.
Minnesota struggled on the attacking end against San Jose and it came back to bite them as Florian Jungwirth struck in the second half. After a nightmare start to the season, Minnesota has improved quite a bit, but games like these are where the club shows that it isn't quite at the level needed to cause trouble in this league yet.
Playing without Nick Rimando and Kyle Beckerman, Real Salt Lake fell 3–0 at Sporting KC on Saturday. That’s two losses in a row for RSL, with the team allowing six goals combined in those two games. The defense will need to tighten up, and quickly: FC Dallas visits Rio Tinto Stadium this weekend.
The Galaxy needed a win, and badly, to reverse the trend of negativity that has surrounded this team since the start of the season. Instead, LA couldn’t get a goal in a 0–0 draw at home against the league’s worst team so far, the Philadelphia Union. Yes, the Galaxy had chances, including a Joao Pedro effort that hit both posts before going out. But the margins should not be that small, in that situation, for a team with as much talent as LA.
After an epic collapse vs. Montreal last week, just about anything other than a loss would be an improvement. As such, a 0–0 draw at the (admittedly not very good) LA Galaxy counts for quite a bit. Still, this team has major issues, and remains the last team in MLS to not find its way into the win column this year.
It seems more and more like all the things that went right for the Rapids last year are turning against the team this year, and in a very big way. The Rapids 2–0 loss at Orlando was their fourth in a row, and fifth in their last six games. They average 0.71 goals and a little over two shots on goal per game, both the worst marks in the league by some distance.