- The Seattle Sounders have overcome a sluggish start and are rounding into the form as the home stretch of the season approaches. Sound familiar?
Usually in sports, one expects things to regress to the norm. Sometimes, though, they simply do not. When the 2017 MLS season started and the Eastern Conference appeared to be by far the stronger of the two, many expected the table to balance at least a little bit before the end of the season. Instead, it's done the opposite.
As it stands right now, of the three teams that share the top spot in the Western Conference with 37 points, only two would make the playoffs out of the East, because now a full four teams in that conference have more points than the best teams in the West. Of course, the schedule is still unbalanced, and there’s plenty of soccer left to play, but it’s a nice little oddity to ponder while you wait for the playoff races to heat up in earnest.
Luckily, this week’s Power Rankings aren’t quite so biased towards the East, as last season's MLS Cup winner makes its summer push up the table:
Any game where you win 4–1 is a good one, but it’s especially impressive when none of your big stars need to get on the scoresheet to make that happen. Instead of Sebastian Giovinco, Jozy Altidore or Michael Bradley, it was Marky Delgado, Victor Vazquez, and a double from defender Justin Morrow. TFC’s unbeaten run now stands at six games.
David Villa scored a golazo. What else is new? Jonathan Lewis, that’s what. The rookie opened the scoring before the latest entry into Villa’s file, and it wasn’t a half-bad one either. The 2–0 win over the Galaxy is NYCFC’s second straight. This week the club hosts New England at Yankee Stadium.
Bradley Wright-Phillips is on fire, and that’s a good thing for a Red Bulls team that will be missing the previously on-fire Daniel Royer for a bit because of a knee injury. Wright-Phillips scored his fifth goal in his last four games in Saturday’s 3–1 win over Orlando City, and the Red Bulls have won five of their last six.
The Sounders have officially gone from “heating up” to “red hot.” Saturday’s 1–0 win over Sporting KC is the club’s fifth victory in its last six and also extends an unbeaten run to eight games. Clint Dempsey has scored three goals in the last two weeks, Jordan Morris continues to work hard in a down year, and everything just seems to be clicking for a team tied for the Western Conference lead.
Atlanta United had the weekend off, but will travel to face a D.C. United squad in the midst of a full makeover on Wednesday–after trading for D.C. defensive stalwart Bobby Boswell.
The Fire are still among MLS’s best teams, but yet another bad loss is threatening to take Chicago out of the race for the Supporters’ Shield and could cost the club valuable seeding come playoff time. In Saturday’s 3–1 loss to Columbus, it looked like the team simply ran out of gas in the second half. The Fire have lost three of their last four.
Don’t look now, but the Dynamo are starting to put a nice little run together just as the race for playoff seeding gets intense. Houston looked totally in control throughout its 3–0 win at home over San Jose on Saturday, a win that extended its unbeaten run to six games and vaulted the club to top spot in the West. Now, about that 1-7-4 mark on the road...
SKC missed the chance to extend its unbeaten run to 10 games in a 1–0 loss away at Seattle, a game in which Peter Vermes elected to start many reserves after the club’s 120-minute U.S. Open Cup semifinal win last Wednesday. The SKC defense held tough for most of the match, but the one time it fell asleep was the moment where Dempsey took advantage. So it goes.
FC Dallas unleashed 28 shots against the Colorado Rapids defense, but only hit the target on eight of them in a 0–0 draw. Those missed opportunities will hurt enough, but it’ll be doubly hard for Dallas to swallow those dropped points because Maxi Urruti did manage to put the ball in the back of the net once. The problem was, there was a foul in the buildup, which the VAR identified to wipe out the tally. It’s the second straight week Dallas has lost a goal to video review.
Playing away at the league’s best team isn’t an enviable task, but Portland still should have performed much better than it did in a 4–1 loss to Toronto FC. Coach Caleb Porter’s postgame comments echoed this disappointment. Portland should still be fine to make the playoffs in a weak Western Conference, but the club’s lack of consistency could be a killer.
Real Salt Lake’s rise continues! Head coach Mike Petke has now overseen a six-game unbeaten run, extended this week by a 1–0 win at D.C. United. Salt Lake had to deal with a 24-hour rain delay in addition to the lengthy travel time, so that’s an impressive win no matter how badly D.C. is playing at the moment.
The Whitecaps lost a real snoozer of a game to the New England Revolution, in which one of the few moments of excitement was Teal Bunbury’s goal. Stefan Marinovic made his first start between the posts for Vancouver, and though his goal kick did lead directly to Bunbury’s tally, that may be on the defending of the Whitecaps’ field players, not Marinovic himself.
The Philadelphia Union remain one of the most confounding middle-of-the-road teams in MLS. Last week, the team looked invincible at home in a win against FC Dallas. This week, it looked totally clueless in a 3–0 home loss to the Montreal Impact. The personnel was mostly the same. What gives?
A wonderful ball from Kelyn Rowe and a skillful finish from Bunbury were all the Revolution needed to beat the Whitecaps on Saturday, but there’s still an undeniable sense that this team should be much better than it is. Perhaps new arrival Krisztian Nemeth, formerly of Sporting KC, will help things. Or perhaps he’ll just further muddle an attacking group that already suffers from a lack of clear direction.
The Earthquakes looked lethargic and off the pace in Saturday’s 3–0 loss at Houston, but at least they have a good excuse; The team had just played 120 minutes before losing on PKs in the US Open Cup semifinal against Kansas City three days prior. Combined with Houston’s phenomenal home record, and it was always going to be difficult for the Quakes this weekend.
Justin Meram scored yet again, Kekuta Manneh scored his third of the season, and Crew SC achieved perhaps the biggest surprise of the weekend with a 3–1 win over Supporters’ Shield-chasing Chicago Fire. When Columbus is clicking up top, the team is capable of results like this consistently. Will it click this week at Orlando City?
Blerim Dzemaili hasn’t made a consistent impact, but when he has, it’s been important. The Swiss international scored twice in a 3–0 win against the Union, giving Montreal its second straight win. The quest for a third straight will be tough: the Impact face Chicago on Wednesday.
How much can change over the course of an MLS season? Early on, the Lions were on top of these Power Rankings. Now, they barely resemble the side that rattled off six wins over their first seven games. Saturday’s 3–1 loss to New York Red Bulls is the latest example–for all the team’s talent, it’s the eighth straight game in which it has failed to score more than one goal.
Minnesota United has this week off, but travels to face the hottest team in the league on Sunday when visiting Seattle. Could Ethan Finlay, newly acquired from Columbus at the transfer deadline, help the Loons in their push for a playoff spot?
The Rapids withstood a huge amount of pressure from FC Dallas throughout all 90 minutes on Saturday, so it could be considered something of a positive that Tim Howard & Co. were able to muster a 0–0 draw out of all that. Amazingly enough for a team that places such pride on its defense, it’s just Colorado’s fourth shutout of the year.
The Galaxy’s home form continues to disappoint mightily. Saturday’s 2–0 loss to NYCFC is the club’s seventh of the season at home, a staggering number considering that the Galaxy only lost six games at home in the previous four seasons combined. Sigi Schmid must work some magic to get LA back to its former glory.
God bless the D.C. United fans that paid to attend the team’s game at RSL in the first place, double-bless those that tried to wait out the rain delay as the RFK concourses flooded, and triple-bless those that came back the next evening to watch their team drop its 15th game of the season thanks to a goal from Luis Silva, a former D.C. United player. Can a summer roster makeover salvage the stretch run?