After a month of the Major League Soccer season, patterns are starting to emerge. Teams' trends, positive and negative, are becoming more difficult to reverse. It's still early, but some teams from which much was expected have left themselves a job to do.
The Portland Timbers, despite being up two goals late on Saturday against rival Seattle, are still winless. The same goes for the New York Red Bulls, although they only led by one. For others, including the Vancouver Whitecaps and Chivas USA, inconsistency is the most consistent pattern discernible.
However, it's still early enough that teams change positions frequently in the power rankings. A big win can shoot a team up the table several places, especially against a tough opponent. Here is this week's installment of the MLS Power Rankings:
MLS Power Rankings — Week 5
1. Real Salt Lake (2-0-3)
Last week: 3
After five games, three of which came on the road, RSL is unbeaten despite facing tough competition in L.A. (twice) and coming out of Kansas City and San Jose's stadium fortresses with a point. Defense was the focal point on Saturday, and backup goalkeeper Jeff Attinella covered well for Nick Rimando. Salt Lake has shown impressive depth, starting 17 different players across those five games without much of a difference in quality.
2. FC Dallas (4-0-1)
Last week: 4
Until David Horst's red card for the Dynamo, FC Dallas was on the ropes. It opened the scoring against the run of play, benefitting from a Ricardo Salazar call on the penalty, and Chris Seitz made a couple big saves until Horst was sent off. Dallas took advantage, scoring on a set piece and a counterattack to win big, but without that red card, the story may have been different.
3. Toronto FC (3-1-0)
Last week: 7
Clearly, Toronto has more depth than everybody thought. The spine of the team was largely makeshift — Bradley Orr, Nick Hagglund and Kyle Bekker deputized down the middle — but performed admirably under pressure to take a 2-0 win at Crew Stadium. Michael Bradley scored his second career MLS goal and first since returning, putting in another solid shift after a midweek appearance with the national team.
4. Columbus Crew (3-1-0)
Last week: 1
The only perfect team in the league had its record ruined by a shorthanded Toronto FC team at home. Columbus was bound to have an eventual slip after such a strong start, and the Crew struggled to mount serious threats on Júlio César's goal on Saturday.
5. Sporting Kansas City (2-1-2)
Last week: 2
Kansas City had a frustrating day in the attacking third, plagued by Jeff Attinella's acrobatics in the RSL goal. Sporting had multiple chances in the first half and continued that pressure in the second half, made more difficult by Uri Rosell's red card in the last 10 minutes of the game. Still, Sporting pressed, but RSL's defense held strong.
6. Houston Dynamo (2-2-0)
Last week: 5
After dominating the start of a Texas rivalry match against Dallas, Houston gave up a penalty to go down a goal against the run of play. A further stroke of bad luck saw Horst harshly sent off, and from that point, Dallas' pace in attack took over. Houston got a penalty of its own late in the game, but even if Seitz hadn't saved Oscar Boniek Garcia's try, the result was decided by that point.
7. Philadelphia Union (1-1-3)
Last week: 6
Philadelphia was just a few minutes from winning on the road in Chicago, but it ended up needing an extremely late penalty save from Zac MacMath to avoid leaving the Windy City with zero points. The Union fought back well from going down in the first quarter-hour to go up 2-1, but they will feel they should have won after reversing the deficit.
8. Seattle Sounders (2-2-1)
Last week: 9
For the second straight game, Seattle relinquished the lead after scoring the first goal. However, the team showed great character to come back twice in a hostile Cascadia Cup away atmosphere, and Clint Dempsey's hat trick bodes well for the second season of his MLS comeback.
9. Colorado Rapids (2-1-1)
Last week: 10
Goalkeeper Clint Irwin was solid in his first start of the season, and the Rapids defense held strong at BC Place despite going down 1-0. Irwin made an important stop just after conceding that kept the game close, and José Mari took advantage of the man-up situation after Matias Laba's red card, scoring two Goal of the Week contenders to take all three points.
10. L.A. Galaxy (1-1-1)
Last week: 8
L.A.'s participation in the CONCACAF Champions League and other MLS scheduling quirks have seen the Galaxy play just three league games so far. They might have flown under the radar because of that, but they dominated Chivas from start to finish on Sunday. It wasn't so much that L.A. played spectacularly to win 3-0; Chivas just didn't play that well. The Galaxy showed some positive signs, though, especially in the combination play that created their third goal.
11. Vancouver Whitecaps (2-1-2)
Last week: 11
Darren Mattocks finally got his goal, but the Laba red card was a mental breakdown that reversed momentum between the Whitecaps and Rapids. Laba should know better than to give the referee an opportunity to show him a second yellow card by falling on the ball after being tackled. It cost his team the game, and Vancouver will need every point it can get at BC Place if its road record is going to be inconsistent.
12. New York Red Bulls (0-1-4)
Last week: 12
Another week passed by without a win for the Supporters' Shield holder, although Saturday's tie was on the road and came after surviving an early Montreal onslaught. Goalkeeper Luis Robles came up big several times, but scoring two goals on the road should be enough to win a game.
13. New England Revolution (1-3-1)
Last week: 14
Lee Nguyen continues to be one of the more underrated midfielders in MLS, but as long as New England continues its attacking struggles, it won't look like there's much to rate because it won't result in a final product (except his winner in San Jose two games ago). Besides a couple half-chances from Diego Fagundez, the Revs again failed to seriously threaten to score against D.C. on Saturday.
14. Chivas USA (1-2-2)
Last week: 13
If New England's attack lacked inspiration, Chivas' lacked any sort of heartbeat. Set pieces aside, frustration permeated the Goats' performance, which was particularly sluggish considering the success Erick Torres has had up to this point. The one shot Chivas managed to get on target — 10 minutes from the end of the game — rolled tamely into Galaxy goalkeeper Brian Perk's hands.
15. Portland Timbers (0-2-3)
Last week: 15
The Timbers reacted well to an early Sounders goal, scoring just a couple minutes later. But after going up 4-2 in the second half, Portland couldn't hold the lead for its first win of the season. After such a promising 2013 season and an offseason of hopeful additions, the Timbers are winless in five games and searching for answers.
16. Chicago Fire (0-1-4)
Last week: 17
The Fire scored an early goal, but they gave up the lead and missed a stoppage-time penalty to remain winless. Chicago did score twice and pressured the Union goal early, but the attack fizzled out in the second half. Chicago has to find a way to maintain that early momentum — especially at home — to end up in the playoffs at the end of the season.
17. San Jose Earthquakes (0-2-1)
Last week: 16
The Earthquakes took the week off on the back of their first home loss in 21 games, and it won't be easy to restart that streak with the Crew traveling to Buck Shaw Stadium on Sunday. The late loss to New England showed the risks of relying on late-game heroics to earn points, but San Jose has led only once so far this year, and it lasted just five minutes against RSL.
18. D.C. United (1-2-1)
Last week: 19
Finally, D.C. got a win. United managed the match well after going up 1-0 in what wasn't a particularly stylish win, but after the past eight months without a league win, style means little. The 2-0 final score flattered D.C.'s performance a bit, but it was a deserved win over a toothless opponent.
19. Montreal Impact (0-3-2)
Last week: 18