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MLS Power Rankings Week 14: Confronting obstacles easier for some entering break

How did international duty, injuries and long road trips impact our MLS Power Rankings after Week 14?

There are a lot of excuses for awful performances in MLS. Players might be injured, or away on international duty, leaving already-slim rosters stretched even thinner. There are teams that may have a several-thousand mile road trip to combat. How teams react to these difficulties can often determine the course of their season, and we saw in Week 14 that some teams are handling bumps in the road slightly better than others. 

The MLS XI, Week 14: Center backs dominate, Real Salt Lake capitulates

Let’s see how those challenges affected this week's Power Rankings: 

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1. Toronto FC

PREVIOUS: 1

RECORD: 8-2-5

This week TFC lost Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore to international duty, used many first-choice starters for a must-win midweek game in the Canadian Championship (which it won), and then lost forward Tosaint Ricketts for 3–4 weeks with a hamstring strain in that game. Toronto fell 3–0 away to New England on Saturday, but all indications point to that bad performance being an outlier. Toronto stays on top of these rankings now despite the loss.

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2. FC Dallas

PREVIOUS: 4

RECORD: 6-2-5

Dallas snapped a four-match winless run with aplomb on Saturday, shellacking Real Salt Lake 6–2 behind a hat trick from Roland Lamah and a first MLS goal for 16-year-old homegrown rising star Jesus Ferreira, whose dad David made a habit of scoring for FCD not too long ago. Mauro Diaz continues to find his feet after a long injury layoff, and once he does, it’s easy to see this team starting another long unbeaten run.

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3. Chicago Fire

PREVIOUS: 2

RECORD: 7-3-4

The Fire will rue a huge missed opportunity to pick up points in a tough Eastern Conference this week after a 0–0 draw at Orlando City. Normally a scoreless draw away wouldn’t be looked on so negatively, but Chicago played the vast majority of this match up a man after an Orlando red card, then up two men after another ejection in the second half. However, it can be tough to break down a bunkered defense with the crowd behind them.

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4. Sporting Kansas City

PREVIOUS: 5

RECORD: 7-4-4

Sporting KC found its goals from a couple of odd places in the absence of striker Dom Dwyer on Saturday, beating Minnesota United 3–0 at home behind goals from defenders Ike Opara and Saad-Abdul-Salaam, plus another from midfielder Jimmy Medranda. SKC was all over a much-improved Minnesota side from the beginning, and has gone 6–0–1 in its home games this season. Having that kind of advantage will be huge as 2017 progresses for Peter Vermes and Co.

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5. New York City FC

PREVIOUS: 3

RECORD: 7-5-3

Late goals wrote the story of Week 14 for NYCFC, which let a late lead slip away at the death in a 2–2 against the Revolution on Wednesday, then followed that up with a comeback 2–1 win over Philadelphia on Saturday. Those two results are indicative of the maddening inconsistency NYCFC has displayed so far this season: The club seems to be capable of anything, and that’s the problem.

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6. Portland Timbers

PREVIOUS: 6

RECORD: 6-5-3

The Timbers snapped a five-match winless run behind two goals from talisman Diego Valeri in a 2–0 win over San Jose on Friday. The Quakes may have handed this one to the Timbers a little bit, as Darwin Ceren’s first-half red card forced San Jose to play shorthanded for the entire second half. In a choppy game that threatened to turn ugly, getting three points will be encouraging for Portland.

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7. Atlanta United FC

PREVIOUS: 7

RECORD: 5-5-3

Atlanta United took the lead early at Vancouver, but succumbed to a couple set piece goals in a 3–1 loss. The dropped points will be extra frustrating for the expansion team because it controlled large portions of the match in terms of possession, but couldn’t generate too many quality scoring chances. This is Atlanta’s longest away trip of the year, so if the team is looking for positives, at least that’s out of the way.

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8. Houston Dynamo

PREVIOUS: 8

RECORD: 7-6-2

The Dynamo were part of Real Salt Lake’s terrible week, defeating RSL 5–1 at home on Wednesday before traveling to Seattle and falling 1–0 off a goal from former Dynamo forward Will Bruin. The story for Houston is the same now as it was before: the team’s form is scorching at home (7–0–1 record this season), but one of the worst in the league on the road (0–6–1).

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9. New York Red Bulls

PREVIOUS: 9

RECORD: 6-7-2

The Red Bulls’ sputtering attack continued to struggle in Week 14 in a 1–0 loss at Montreal. Jesse Marsch’s side could only manage three shots on target from 58% possession through the game. The Red Bulls will have this week off for some fine-tuning before returning to play Philadelphia in two weeks’ time.

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10. LA Galaxy

PREVIOUS: 10

RECORD: 5-5-3

Third-choice goalkeeper Jon Kempin had a solid enough outing as the Galaxy fought to a 0–0 draw with D.C. United to further improve their away record. Amazingly, the Galaxy have picked up far more points away from home (13) than they have in the confines of StubHub Center (five). They’re also riding a six-match unbeaten run, which they’ll put on the line on June 17 against Houston.

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11. Orlando City SC

PREVIOUS: 12

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RECORD: 7-5-3

Orlando was dealt an unjustified red card and a slightly more justified red card in a single game but still managed to hang on for a 0–0 home draw against Chicago with just nine men on the field at the end. The loss of two points will hurt in the standings, but this was the kind of committed, gritty defensive performances that could pay big dividends for the team as the year goes on. That, plus a midweek win over D.C. United, made this a pretty good week for the Lions.

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12. Vancouver Whitecaps

PREVIOUS: 13

RECORD: 6-6-1

The Whitecaps probably can’t rely on Kendall Waston to score two goals every week, but the two he got against Atlanta on Saturday will do just fine for the team as it picked up a 3–1 win at home. Vancouver has followed up just about every win this season with another loss, so one win might not mean much in the long term (or even the short term). The club faces FC Dallas in two weeks.

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13. Philadelphia Union

PREVIOUS: 11

RECORD: 4-6-4

Goalkeeper Andre Blake’s good form continued, but he couldn’t do enough on his own to stop his team from giving up a 1–0 lead in a 2–1 loss at NYCFC on Saturday. That’s Philadelphia’s second straight loss after four straight wins, which itself followed two straight draws, four straight losses, and two straight draws again. Say this for the Union: They know how to go on runs.

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14. New England Revolution

PREVIOUS: 17

RECORD: 5-5-5

The Revolution came back twice to force a 2–2 draw away from home at NYCFC, then followed that up with a dominant 3–0 win over Toronto FC. Those aren’t just two positive results; they’re two positive results against two of the strongest teams in the Eastern Conference. The Revs are still inconsistent, but being able to perform against the league’s top sides is a good quality to have.

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15. Seattle Sounders

PREVIOUS: 14

RECORD: 5-6-4

It was a mixed bag of a week for Seattle, which fell 3–0 at Columbus on Wednesday but recovered to win 1–0 at home against Houston on Sunday. That makes it three wins in their last four games for the Sounders, enough to push the team in the last playoff spot out West. Could another late-season surge be on the cards for the defending champions?

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16. Columbus Crew

PREVIOUS: 16

RECORD: 7-8-1

The Crew put forth one of most impressive performances of their season in a 3–0 win over Seattle on Wednesday, but then allowed two late goals away from home in a 2–1 loss to Colorado. The worrying aspect of the latter result is that the Rapids managed to score both goals after the Crew made defensive substitutions.

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17. Minnesota United FC

PREVIOUS: 15

RECORD: 4-8-2

After a big win over Orlando City, the Loons came back down to earth in a 3–0 loss at Sporting Kansas City. The defensive woes that plagued the team earlier this season crept back, but more worrying might be that Minnesota did next to nothing to trouble SKC’s defense in this game. Leading scorer Christian Ramirez was totally contained.

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18. Colorado Rapids

PREVIOUS: 20

RECORD: 4-8-1

Rapids coach Pablo Mastroeni got a bit of criticism this week for a recent press conference where he derided soccer’s advanced stats in favor of more vague, traditional qualities like “the human spirit.” However you feel about that statement, the Rapids definitely showed some human spirit on Saturday, coming back from 1–0 down with two late goals in a 2–1 win over Columbus.

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19. San Jose Earthquakes

PREVIOUS: 18

RECORD: 5-6-4

After going on a mini-run up the standings, the Earthquakes are now riding two straight losses. Friday’s 2–0 loss at Portland saw the team on the back foot for the vast majority of the game, only generating five total shots to Portland’s 23. The Earthquakes have enough quality to be competitive, but it’s not happening on an every-week basis yet.

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20. Montreal Impact

PREVIOUS: 21

RECORD: 4-4-4

New acquisition Blerim Dzemiali struck for his first MLS goal in a 1–0 win over the Red Bulls that lifted Montreal off the bottom of the Eastern Conference. Dzemiali probably won’t have a Nico Lodeiro-like impact for Montreal, but his presence does add a bit of steel and savvy to a team that seems to have lost its way over the early part of this season.

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21. D.C. United

PREVIOUS: 22

RECORD: 4-7-3

D.C. United rises in these rankings thanks to RSL’s terrible week, but make no mistake: things continue to be disappointing in the nation’s capital. United huffed and puffed but individual errors cost the team away in a 2–0 loss at Orlando, while a slightly better defensive performance at the weekend saw it get a 0–0 draw at home against the LA Galaxy. D.C. has the league’s worst attack, and another shutout week showed plenty of reasons why

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22. Real Salt Lake

PREVIOUS: 19

RECORD: 4-10-2

Oof. There’s really no other way to describe Week 14 for Real Salt Lake, which was beaten by a combined 11–3 over two games in Texas against Houston (5–1 loss) and Dallas (6–2 loss). Head coach Mike Petke called out his players directly after the latter loss, and it’s hard to blame him. RSL is in a bad spot right now; nothing is working on either side of the ball, and it’s hard to see what, if anything, can bust them out of this awful run of form.