MLS Power Rankings: United, Galaxy, Sounders tangle in tight race at top
Two months of the Major League Soccer regular season remain, and no team has managed separate itself from the pack through 25 weeks of play. At least six teams still have a legitimate shot of winning the Supporters’ Shield, and many of them face off in the coming month.
Taking a look at the upcoming schedule, several match-ups stand out: Real Salt Lake vs. FC Dallas on Saturday, the Seattle Sounders vs. RSL on Sept. 12, and Dallas vs. Seattle on Sept. 24. October is even hotter, with D.C. United vs. Sporting Kansas City on Oct. 3, Dallas vs. LA on Oct. 12 and the Sounders and Galaxy facing off home-and-home to close out the season.
Adding to the intrigue, three of those top six teams lost a game last week, two to teams near the foot of the league table. The parity on which MLS is built and loves to boast has hardly ever been more evident.
Much of the reshuffling in this week’s MLS Power Rankings comes at the bottom. Here’s the latest list:
MLS Power Rankings — Week 25
1. D.C. United (14-8-4)
Last ranking: 1
Last week’s results: 1-4 at LA, 2-0 vs. New York
D.C. bounced back after a frustrating away loss to the Galaxy in midweek to defeat Atlantic Cup rival New York and lock up that annual competition. United played seven matches in August, emerging at the top of the Eastern Conference, four points ahead of Kansas City, despite losing half of its last six matches.
2. Seattle Sounders (15-7-3)
Last ranking: 2
Last week’s results: 1-0 vs. Colorado
The Sounders scrapped to a one-goal victory over the Rapids after dominating in Portland last week. Seattle threatened all match but couldn’t capitalize until Clint Dempsey volleyed home a Marco Pappa corner with his shin early in the second half, adding three points to the team’s total without the strong statement of the previous result.
3. LA Galaxy (13-5-7)
Last ranking: 5
Last week’s results: 4-1 vs. D.C., 3-0 at Chivas
LA has won four in a row after sweeping D.C. and Chivas, climbing to just two points behind Seattle through an equal amount of matches played. At this rate, the Galaxy-Sounders back-to-back fixtures at the very end of the season could decide the top seed in the West, if not the Supporters’ Shield winner.
4. FC Dallas (12-8-6)
Last ranking: 3
Last week’s results: 0-1 at Chicago
Dallas lost for the first time in 11 games, succumbing to the Fire, but it didn’t look like that would be the case for the first 80 minutes. Dallas dominated the scoring opportunities until new Chicago signing Robert Earnshaw came off the bench to end the FCD hot streak.
5. Real Salt Lake (11-5-10)
Last ranking: 4
Last week’s results: 1-1 at San Jose
Referee David Gantar bailed RSL out with an extremely soft penalty call to allow the equalizer from Javier Morales in San Jose. Other than that, the attack struggled to get much momentum, aside from Luke Mulholland’s point-blank miss.
6. Sporting Kansas City (12-8-6)
Last ranking: 6
Last week’s results: 1-3 vs. Houston
Despite coming back to tie after going down 1-0 to the Dynamo, Sporting conceded twice in five minutes on Brad Davis set pieces to lose to Houston. It’s the first time Kansas City has lost back-to-back home matches since moving into Sporting Park in 2011.
7. New York Red Bulls (7-8-10)
Last ranking: 7
Last week’s results: 0-2 at D.C.
After just two wins in seven, the Red Bulls are outside the playoff picture, two points behind the three teams differentiated only by tiebreakers for third place in the conference. New York opens September with two important home games, against Kansas City and then D.C. again, to begin a seven-match month (in all competitions) that will likely decide the team’s playoff fate.
8. Portland Timbers (8-8-10)
Last ranking: 11
Last week’s results: 3-0 at Vancouver
Portland leapfrogged Vancouver for fifth place in the Western Conference with a 3-0 win at B.C. Place on Saturday. Alvas Powell’s first MLS goal from right back early in the second half sparked the win after a mediocre first 45 minutes from both sides.
9. Toronto FC (9-9-6)
Last ranking: 8
Last week’s results: 0-3 vs. New England
Toronto is suddenly on the edge of the playoff picture after winning just twice in the last nine matches, which led to head coach Ryan Nelsen’s firing on Sunday. In front of a sparse home crowd on Saturday, TFC conceded two early goals to bury itself early against Eastern Conference rival New England.
10. Columbus Crew (8-9-9)
Last ranking: 9
Last week’s results: 0-2 at Montreal
Again, Columbus failed to take an opportunity to win its third match in a row and attain some sustainable momentum late in the season. The Crew’s usually dynamic and dangerous wingers were silent in Montreal, leading to little attack from the visiting team.
11. Philadelphia Union (7-9-9)
Last ranking: 10
Last week’s results: Off
The Union are just three points outside the playoffs, and they host struggling Toronto on Wednesday, which will be traveling after a tough 3-0 loss to the Revs. On Saturday, Philadelphia travels to Toronto in a rare double fixture and a vital chance to pick up points for both teams in what could be decisive fixtures.
12. Vancouver Whitecaps (7-6-12)
Last ranking: 12
Last week’s results: 0-3 vs. Portland
The Whitecaps are really slumping, with just one win and five draws in their last nine matches. New acquisition Mauro Rosales showed flashes of potential in Vancouver’s system during a frustrating match against Portland, but he’ll have to get used to his new home soon to help the team into the playoffs.
13. Colorado Rapids (8-12-6)
Last ranking: 13
Last week’s results: 0-1 at Seattle
It’s now six losses in a row for the Rapids, who nearly clung on for a point to break the streak in Seattle. After just escaping the first half scoreless, Colorado conceded the winning goal to Dempsey in the second to continue a trend: The Rapids have given up 24 of their 40 goals in the second half of games in 2014.
14. New England Revolution (10-12-3)
Last ranking: 17
Last week’s results: 3-0 at Toronto
Two consecutive wins have the Revolution into third place in the East, ahead of Toronto and Columbus on total wins. Lee Nguyen and Kelyn Rowe scored in the first 21 minutes against Toronto on Saturday, sealing the win early and giving New England a jump on the tight cluster for the final three playoff spots in the East.
15. Houston Dynamo (8-13-4)
Last ranking: 18
Last week’s results: 3-1 at Kansas City
After an unusual lightning delay in Kansas City, the Dynamo scored first through Will Bruin and added two more in the last half-hour to win for just the second time on the road this season. Davis’ left foot provided both late assists, both on free kicks around the penalty area that he served into dangerous areas.
16. Chicago Fire (5-6-14)
Last ranking: 16
Last week’s results: 1-0 vs. Dallas
Earnshaw provided the spark the Fire needed off the bench, scoring the winner on a corner and finding two more great chances in stoppage time against Dallas. After the win, Chicago now has a chance to win two matches in a row for just the second time this season when it travels to New England.
17. Montreal Impact (5-15-5)
Last ranking: 19
Last week’s results: 2-0 vs. Columbus
Montreal has won two of its last three matches in its most productive stretch of the season. Newcomer Ignacio Piatti was the star of the show, scoring twice and generally running the match from a withdrawn left-wing position.
18. San Jose Earthquakes (6-10-8)
Last ranking: 14
Last week’s results: 1-1 vs. Salt Lake
The Earthquakes seemingly couldn’t buy a win in their last five games since beating Chicago and Seattle by a combined 6-1 score at home. Despite an early goal in the 14th minute against RSL, San Jose again couldn’t seal up all three points, finding itself on the wrong end of a poor penalty call for the equalizer.
19. Chivas USA (6-13-6)
Last ranking: 15
Last week’s results: 0-3 vs. LA
The Goats haven’t won in seven matches, and the SuperClásico against LA has clearly lost a lot of its luster over the last few years. Erick Torres’ red card on Sunday personified the current frustration at Chivas, which could get worse as the team will be without its talisman while he serves his suspension and joins the Mexican national team.