MLS Power Rankings, Week 11: Toronto FC makes its case for FC Dallas's place at the top
MLS’s notoriously unpredictable results took another turn messing with the weekly power rankings, this time to the relief of teams rooted at the bottom of the table (well, except for one).
The Colorado Rapids had their lengthy losing streak snapped, the Philadelphia Union continued to rebound after a nightmare start and even the LA Galaxy got a win after several weeks of uneven performances.
There was movement near the top of the chart, too, though FC Dallas still reigns supreme with its unbeaten start stretching to nine games, holding off streaking–but banged up–Toronto FC.
Here's how the league stacks up, 11 weeks into the 2017 campaign:
FC Dallas has yet to win more than two games in a row, but who cares when you start the season on a nine-game unbeaten run? Saturday’s 1–1 draw against NYCFC is a tiny bit of a disappointment at home, but it could easily have been a win were it not for some outstanding saves from NYCFC goalkeeper Sean Johnson. FCD will have a chance to push its run into double digits when San Jose pays a visit on Saturday.
TFC’s schedule has been absolutely brutal recently, with the team playing five games in 15 days. The exhaustion factor alone would be enough for most teams to dip in form, but all Toronto has done is win 100% of those games to build an impressive six-game winning streak overall. Toronto’s has gotten key contributions from their deep roster, while striker Jozy Altidore is in tremendous form with three goals and an assist over that span. Sebastian Giovinco’s injury, suffered in the first half this past weekend, could bring this run to a halt soon, though.
Facing the league’s last undefeated team, NYCFC did just enough to get a valuable away point at FC Dallas on Sunday. Tommy McNamara’s goal was probably the most hilariously ugly strike of the week in the whole league, but it’s nice to know that NYCFC can score goals like that if it has to, especially against such an in-form opponent. The team’s road trip continues with two away games this week, at Real Salt Lake on Wednesday then at Orlando on Sunday.
What’s crazier: That Dom Dwyer, a forward, needed only 10 games to get a one-game suspension for yellow card accumulation, or that his unheralded replacement Latif Blessing would score both goals in one of the league’s toughest away environments? Whatever the answer, fact is that Saturday’s 2–2 draw was mighty impressive, as SKC became the first visiting team not to lose while visiting the Lions’ new home.
The Houston Dynamo are, at time of writing, tops in the West after Friday’s 2–1 win over Vancouver, a team that has been building up an impressive record away from home this season. It’s the Dynamo’s spotty away record that will get put to the test in the coming weeks, though. The club travels to face Philly on Wednesday, Atlanta on Saturday, then a huge Texas derby game vs. FC Dallas next weekend.
Coming off a two-loss week, Orlando dropped its first points at Orlando City Stadium in a 2–2 draw against Sporting Kansas City. That would normally be a disappointment, but the play of Kaka in that game should give the Lions plenty of reason for optimism going forward. His goal was a thing of beauty, as was his string-pulling in midfield. Orlando travels to San Jose on Wednesday, then hosts NYCFC on Saturday.
Missing Darlington Nagbe, the Timbers settled for a 1–1 draw against Atlanta at home, where the team’s only goal came via a Liam Ridgewell header on a set piece. The Timbers haven’t won in three games, and they won’t have another home game until June. Their first chance to get back in the win column comes this Saturday at Montreal.
Columbus missed a huge opportunity by blowing a 1–0 lead late in Wednesday’s 2–1 loss to Toronto, but followed it up with an impressive 3–2 win against Montreal in which Justin Meram scored a hat trick and hit the winner in stoppage time. Those two games pretty much encapsulate what has been a very uneven season for Crew SC so far. The club visits New England on Sunday.
The Fire ended a three-game winless run with one of the team’s most dominant performances of the season, a 4–1 win at home over defending champion Seattle. The team appears to have found a gem in Nemanja Nikolic, who scored two against the Sounders and always seems to combine well with the attackers around him. Chicago hosts Colorado on Wednesday then travels to face D.C. United on Saturday.
Just two weeks ago, the Red Bulls seemed to have figured things out and were rapidly on the rise in these rankings. Now, after a 3–1 home loss to the Galaxy gave the club its third straight defeat, they continue to drop. Each of those three defeats have been fairly ugly in nature, with the club’s defense in particular looking leakier than it ever has with Jesse Marsch at the helm. That unit faces a stiff test this Friday, hosting Toronto FC.
After a series of results that showed how Atlanta needed to tighten up its defense, Tata Martino’s side did a good job of doing just that in a 1–1 away draw vs. Portland. The Timbers’ main man Diego Valeri was held in check for most of the game, and though there was a hiccup on the set piece that led to the conceded goal, overall this week was an improvement. The defense will get another big test on Saturday when it hosts Houston and Erick "Cubo" Torres, MLS’s leading scorer.
The last time the Sounders were playing this badly, the club fired its coach and went on an unexpected run to MLS Cup. That sort of turnaround may still be on the cards (Brian Schmetzer's job does not appear to be in peril, for what it's worth), but the Sounders showed that there’s still plenty of work to be done in Saturday’s 4–1 loss to Chicago. The team travels to face Sporting KC on Wednesday, then hosts Real Salt Lake.
The Whitecaps may have lost at Houston on Friday, but the team made up for that points deficiency with its previous two wins, both of which were away. If Carl Robinson & Co. are going to make a real run up the table, they’ll need to win at home, which they’ll have a chance to do on Saturday against Sporting KC.
The Revolution halted a five-game winless run in style, hitting all four goals in the first half in a 4–0 win against Real Salt Lake. Kei Kamara made a scoring return to the lineup after missing the previous two games due to the birth of his child, and Diego Fagundez looked dangerous as both scorer and provider. The Revs host Columbus this weekend.
After two straight wins, the temptation was to think that this San Jose had finally turned the corner from mediocrity. Then it lost, 3–0, to the Colorado Rapids, who were riding a five-game losing streak coming into the game. This Earthquakes side is clearly more talented than it has been in the past, but really needs to find a way to grind out results for longer than two games at a time.
When it rains, it pours, apparently. After waiting until Week 10 to grab a win, the Union kept that momentum going with a 4–0 demolition of D.C. United at RFK Stadium. Philly has a ways to go before it can challenge for one of the East’s playoff spots, but the last two weeks have obviously been huge steps in the right direction. The Union have a two-game homestand in Week 12, hosting Houston on Wednesday, followed by the Rapids on Saturday.
Minnesota doesn’t have nearly as much talent as Toronto FC, but it gave the Canadian club its best shot in a 3–2 loss away from home on Saturday. Three goals conceded adds to the Loons’ comically high goals-against total, but the truth is that the defense has been much-improved in recent weeks and Kevin Molino (two goals on Saturday) appears to be a legitimate threat up top. Minnesota hosts the LA Galaxy on Saturday.
The Galaxy needed a big performance after their recent run of bad results, and boy did they ever get one in a 3–1 win away from home at the Red Bulls. Romain Alessandrini had an excellent game, scoring twice and setting up the PK for the third goal. It’s the Galaxy’s first win against a quality opponent this season. They travel to face Minnesota on Sunday.
The go-to complaint with the Rapids this year has been the team’s putrid offensive performance, so naturally in Week 12 it went out and got a 3–0 win against a decent (though not great) defensive team. That win brought a five-game losing streak (and seven-game winless streak) to a merciful end. The Rapids will try to replicate that performance on the road twice this week, at Chicago on Wednesday and Philadelphia on Saturday.
The Impact are currently sitting in the Eastern Conference cellar, and they looked like they belong there for most of Saturday’s 3–2 home loss to the Columbus Crew. The Impact got goals from the always-dangerous Ignacio Piatti and promising youngster Anthony Jackson-Hamel, but the back line simply couldn’t contain an in-form Justin Meram, as he scored a hat trick. The Impact will try to rebound at home on Saturday against Portland.
United coach Ben Olsen ripped into his players after last week’s 1–0 loss to Montreal, and was rewarded this week with an even worse performance. United looked listless, fragile and out of ideas throughout a 4–0 home loss to Philadelphia, to the point to where it didn’t look like much effort was being made by several players at the end. If this team wants to live up to its coach’s demands, Saturday’s home tilt vs. Chicago would be a good place to start, though it'll have to happen without playmaker Luciano Acosta, who was sent off vs. the Union.
There seems to be a weird rotation of teams falling into absolutely dismal runs of form so far this season, and this week it was Real Salt Lake’s turn to take the most dubious of crowns. Saturday’s 4–0 beatdown at home against New England is RSL’s fourth-straight loss, with a combined score line of 13-1. Nothing is working for Mike Petke’s side right now, and the team faces a tough week with NYCFC coming to town midweek before a trip to the always-intimidating environment in Seattle.