MLS Power Rankings Week 22: West's best are on the rise

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The friendlies have come and gone. A successful All-Star Game is in the books. The second half of the Major League Soccer season looms full of potential and with most of the league still in the playoff chase.

The CONCACAF Champions League is also back, with MLS’s bottom team, the Montreal Impact, taking three points off CD FAS on Tuesday. The extra competition might make it difficult for Montreal to climb out of the basement, though, as it lost to Philadelphia on its return to league play Saturday. Portland, Kansas City, D.C. and New York all kick off their Champions League campaigns in August as well, and all four of them are fighting either for a playoff spot or the advantage that comes with being a higher seed.

Week 22 was one of individual notables as well, as Landon Donovan announced his retirement, Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando set a new mark with his 113th shutout and Sigi Schmid won his 200th career regular season match as manager.

Here is how the teams stand as the second half of summer continues before fall sweeps in, bringing the MLS playoff chase with it:

MLS Power Rankings — Week 22

1. Seattle Sounders (13-6-2)

Last ranking: 4

Results: 2-0 vs. Houston

Obafemi Martins saw red in the final five minutes against Houston after two yellow cards, the result of a physical match that included 34 total fouls. The Sounders clawed another victory in a style that has become familiar lately, earning the win without playing spectacularly well.

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2. LA Galaxy (9-4-5)

Last ranking: 1

Last week’s results: 2-2 vs. San Jose

Days after Donovan's retirement declaration, one point against the Earthquakes is a bit of a stumble for the Galaxy after their recent momentum. Still, only once in the last 12 games has LA failed to take at least a point off its opponent, in a stretch that includes wins over Seattle and Salt Lake.

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3. Real Salt Lake (10-4-9)

Last ranking: 5

Results: 3-0 vs. D.C.

Rimando is MLS’s all-time shutout leader, breaking a tie with Kevin Hartman and earning the 113th clean sheet of his career despite barely being troubled against D.C., as RSL dictated the game for 90 minutes. Rimando should go down as the best goalkeeper in league history, and certainly the most complete man to play the position as a superior shot-stopper with excellent foot skills and leadership to match. He deserved his call-up for the World Cup, and he certainly deserves his new record — which comes despite never winning MLS Goalkeeper of the Year.

4. Sporting Kansas City (11-6-6)

Last ranking: 3

Results: 0-2 at Vancouver

Kansas City suffered its first loss since May 31 against D.C., ending an eight-match unbeaten run on Sunday. Homegrown goalkeeper Jon Kempin, fresh off Man of the Match honors at the Homegrown Game during All-Star week, came on for an injured Andy Gruenebaum at halftime and saved a penalty in the 85th minute to keep it from being worse.

5. D.C. United (11-7-4)

Last ranking: 2

Results: 0-3 at Salt Lake

After a perfect month of July, D.C. has lost twice to kick off August, although both matches were away from home in tough environments (the heat of Houston followed by the altitude of Salt Lake). It’ll be a busy month for United, which has five matches in all competitions remaining, including four league games.

6. Toronto FC (9-7-5)

Last ranking: 7

Results: 3-2 at Columbus

Only four times has Toronto kept more than 40 percent possession this season, including Saturday’s win in Columbus, and three of those four games were wins. The Reds bucked another negative trend on the game-winning goal from Luke Moore, which was the team’s first goal off a corner kick in 2014.

7. Vancouver Whitecaps (7-4-11)

Last ranking: 8

Results: 2-0 vs. Kansas City

Vancouver took advantage of some poor Kansas City defending, taking an early lead on a comical own goal from Igor Julião. Darren Mattocks capitalized on another opportunity, putting home an easy pass from Pedro Morales as the two Whitecaps attackers went 2-on-1 with Aurélien Collin, and the two first-half goals stood up for an important win at home.

8. New York Red Bulls (6-7-10)

Last ranking: 6

Results: 0-1 at Chicago

A New York loss in Chicago opens up a small gap in the Eastern Conference standings, as four points now separate the fourth-placed Red Bulls and Toronto a spot above them. Next, New York gets a week off before hosting last-place Montreal on Aug. 23.

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9. FC Dallas (10-7-6)

Last ranking: 10

Results: 3-1 vs. Colorado

Up 2-0 at halftime and fighting against Colorado momentum after the restart, Matt Hedges cleared a shot off the line through the run of play. A couple minutes later, Fabian Castillo scored to make it 3-0 and effectively close out the game with his well-timed strike at Clint Irwin’s near post.

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10. Portland Timbers (7-7-9)

Last ranking: 11

Results: 2-0 vs. Chivas

The Timbers have won three of their last four games, including just the third home win of the season against Chivas on Saturday. However, a 9,000-mile round trip from Oregon to Guyana to open Champions League play makes the upcoming stretch of three games in eight days much tougher.

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11. Colorado Rapids (8-9-6)

Last ranking: 9

Results: 1-3 at Dallas

The Rapids conceded four goals inside the first 15 minutes of the last three league games, including two to Dallas on Saturday. A couple goal-line clearances from Dallas made it even more difficult to come back, and the game was well over by the time Gabriel Torres scored a consolation penalty with five minutes left.

12. Philadelphia Union (6-8-9)

Last ranking: 12

Results: 2-1 vs. Montreal

Sebastien Le Toux, the Union franchise’s leading scorer, bagged two more to defeat Montreal on Saturday and bring his season total to 10. Philadelphia has 11 games left in its regular season, seven of which are at home in a stretch run that will be vital for a team straddling the playoff line in the standings.

13. San Jose Earthquakes (5-9-6)

Last ranking: 14

Results: 2-2 at LA

Every point against Western Conference teams will help, but San Jose has to put together a winning streak soon to have a chance at finishing on the correct side of the red line in the MLS standings. The Earthquakes have won twice in a row just two times this season, missing out on its first three-game winning streak with a draw against LA in which they led twice.

14. Chivas USA (6-10-5)

Last ranking: 13

Results: 0-2 at Portland

As Cubo Torres goes, so does his team, and he’s been effectively silent for the last four matches. It’s no coincidence, then, that Chivas has lost all four and been shut out in the last three since Torres scored a penalty against D.C. on July 20 when it was already 3-0 to United.

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15. Chicago Fire (4-5-13)

Last ranking: 18

Results: 1-0 vs. New York

Despite only winning four games in 2014, Chicago is now two points out of a playoff place in the East with lowly Montreal up next on the schedule. The Fire could have scored more than one, finishing with seven shots on target against New York on Sunday and showing some potential in attack that hasn’t been there the last few weeks.

16. Columbus Crew (6-8-9)

Last ranking: 15

Results: 2-3 vs. Toronto

The Crew came back twice to tie Toronto and had momentum when it became 2-2 with 10 minutes to go on Justin Meram’s curling cross that avoided all touches and wound up inside the far post. Columbus couldn’t close it out, conceding a third goal despite how little time remained, then couldn’t tie the game a third time despite throwing everything it had at Joe Bendik’s goal.

17. New England Revolution (8-12-2)

Last ranking: 17

Results: Off

The Revolution got a week off to perhaps end the poor momentum of the last 10 league matches, having lost eight straight in that stretch and returning to losing ways against New York after snapping the streak with a 3-0 win over Colorado. It might help that five of New England’s next six matches are at home, and at least three of those (Chivas, Chicago and Montreal) look winnable on paper.

18. Houston Dynamo (6-12-4)

Last ranking: 16

Results: 0-2 at Seattle

Houston had a chance to take the lead at CenturyLink Field, benefitting from a penalty called by assistant referee Ian Anderson on a Djimi Traore handball in the box. However, Brad Davis put his shot too close to Stefan Frei, and Seattle scored twice after the hour mark – on a deflection and a penalty – to take three points.

19. Montreal Impact (3-14-5)

Last ranking: 19

Results: 1-2 at Philadelphia

A 1-0 win against CD FAS in the CONCACAF Champions League couldn’t help reverse league momentum, as the Impact fell to Philadelphia and made it seven straight losses in MLS. It might be time to put more emphasis on the continental competition, where Montreal can probably make some more strides than it can in league play.