MLS Power Rankings: Playoff picture clears, top sides stumble in Week 31
Both of Major League Soccer’s top teams lost last weekend after coming up against opponents with playoff hopes on the line and missing players due to international duty. The Seattle Sounders and LA Galaxy are still tied on 60 points, and they face each other twice to finish the season.
It’s the showdown that has been on the books for the last few weeks, although Seattle has the advantage. Unless the Galaxy win both matches, or win one and tie the other, the Sounders have the first tiebreaker (total wins) locked up, despite LA’s goal difference being astronomically higher.
In other games, the New England Revolution, Real Salt Lake, the New York Red Bulls, Sporting Kansas City and FC Dallas qualified for the playoffs, while the Philadelphia Union and Houston Dynamo’s seasons effectively ended last weekend.
Every team has two matches remaining, two playoff spots remain unclinched and seeding for the postseason is still up for grabs. Here’s how the league stands:
MLS Power Rankings — Week 31
1. LA Galaxy (17-6-9)
Last ranking: 1
Last week’s results: 1-2 at Dallas
Remaining matches: vs. Seattle (Sunday), at Seattle (Oct. 25)
Stefan Ishizaki scored early in the game, but the Galaxy, playing without leading MVP candidate Robbie Keane (international duty), gave up two second-half goals to lose late in Dallas. Chalk it up as a missed opportunity to take the lead in the Supporters’ Shield race.
2. New England Revolution (15-13-4)
Last ranking: 3
Last week’s results: 2-2 at Montreal
Remaining matches: at Houston (Thursday), vs. Toronto (Oct. 25)
With one point against Montreal, the Revs are back in the MLS postseason. Lee Nguyen scored again to deliver his team the vital point and ensure New England has still lost just once in the last 10 games.
3. FC Dallas (15-11-6)
Last ranking: 4
Last week’s results: 2-1 vs. LA
Remaining matches: at Colorado (Saturday), vs. Portland (Oct. 25)
Fabián Castillo put back a rebound from Jaime Penedo to secure Dallas’ first playoff berth since 2011, spearheading a come-from-behind victory over the Galaxy. Now, the battle will be with RSL for third place in the West and to avoid the play-in round.
4. Seattle Sounders (19-10-3)
Last ranking: 2
Last week’s results: 0-1 vs. Vancouver
Remaining matches: at LA (Sunday), vs. LA (Oct. 25)
Seattle’s loss to Vancouver could have caused more difficulties, but LA couldn’t take advantage of the open window. The Sounders just need two points out of the last two games, both against the Galaxy, to secure their second trophy of the season after the Open Cup.
5. D.C. United (16-9-7)
Last ranking: 5
Last week’s results: 3-1 at Houston
Remaining matches: vs. Chicago (Saturday), at Montreal (Oct. 25)
D.C. went up 2-0 on the road and ended up winning 3-1 for the franchise's first win in Houston despite being out-possessed, especially in the second half. All United needs to secure first place in the East is one point from the club's final two matches, both of which should be winnable.
6. Real Salt Lake (14-8-10)
Last ranking: 6
Last week’s results: 2-0 vs. San Jose
Remaining matches: at Portland (Friday), vs. Chivas (Oct. 22)
RSL reversed a two-game skid to secure its seventh straight playoff appearance on Saturday. That’s the longest current streak in MLS, meaning the team has made the playoffs every year since its third as a franchise.
7. Vancouver Whitecaps (11-8-13)
Last ranking: 8
Last week’s results: 1-0 at Seattle
Remaining matches: at San Jose (Saturday), vs. Colorado (Oct. 25)
Vancouver passed what should be its sternest remaining test before the playoffs, snatching a narrow win over the Sounders as well as its second consecutive Cascadia Cup. Carl Robinson’s team is in the driver’s seat for the final playoff place in the West now, as its remaining schedule is easier on paper than Portland’s.
8. New York Red Bulls (12-9-11)
Last ranking: 7
Last week’s results: 3-1 vs. Toronto
Remaining matches: vs. Columbus (Sunday), at Kansas City (Oct. 26)
Bradley Wright-Phillips’ chase for the MLS goalscoring crown has slowed, but he scored for the first time in three games on Saturday to pull within two of the single-season record. He has scored once in each of the four matches so far against New York’s two remaining opponents, so he could still tie or break Roy Lassiter and Chris Wondolowski’s record of 27.
9. Portland Timbers (11-9-12)
Last ranking: 9
Last week’s results: 3-0 vs. San Jose
Remaining matches: vs. Salt Lake (Friday), at Dallas (Oct. 25)
Despite an emphatic victory over the Earthquakes, Portland will be playing catch-up and hoping the Whitecaps slip up against inferior opposition in the last two matches. Not only are both of the Timbers’ opponents higher in the standings, which is not the case for Vancouver, but they also kick off 90 minutes earlier on the final match day, putting the pressure firmly on Portland to win.
10. Columbus Crew (12-10-10)
Last ranking: 10
Last week’s results: 3-2 at Philadelphia
Remaining matches: at New York (Sunday), vs. Philadelphia (Oct. 26)
Down 2-0 late in the second half, Columbus scored three times in four minutes to keep its playoff hopes alive and end Philadelphia’s. The teams meet again to close out the season, but not before Columbus travels to play the Red Bulls in the match that could decide fourth place in the East.
11. Sporting Kansas City (14-11-7)
Last ranking: 13
Last week’s results: 2-0 vs. Chicago
Remaining matches: at Philadelphia (Saturday), vs. New York (Oct. 26)
Finally, Sporting KC qualified for the playoffs on Friday with a late win over the Fire. Two goals in the last 10 minutes erased the possible ramifications of Dom Dwyer’s penalty miss early in the first half.
12. Houston Dynamo (11-15-6)
Last ranking: 12
Last week’s results: 1-0 at Toronto, 1-3 vs. D.C.
Remaining matches: vs. New England (Thursday), at Chicago (Oct. 24)
The Dynamo valiantly closed out a victory by the slimmest margin against Toronto despite going down a man in the second half. They couldn’t keep the magic going on the weekend, falling 3-1 to D.C. and officially missing out on the playoffs for the second time since relocating from San Jose.
13. Philadelphia Union (9-11-12)
Last ranking: 11
Last week’s results: 2-3 vs. Columbus
Remaining matches: vs. Kansas City (Saturday), at Columbus (Oct. 26)
Things looked promising for the Union on the eve of the U.S. Open Cup final, but since that loss to Seattle, things have gone downhill. Philadelphia hasn’t won in a month, capped off by a stunning loss on Saturday – in which the club blew a late 2-0 lead – that mathematically eliminated the Union from the playoffs.
14. Chicago Fire (5-9-18)
Last ranking: 14
Last week’s results: 0-2 at Kansas City
Remaining matches: at D.C. (Saturday), vs. Houston (Oct. 24)
The masters of the draw were within 10 minutes of another one, away to Kansas City, before conceding twice to lose it late. The Fire threatened to score sporadically, forcing Andy Gruenebaum into a couple of important saves, but the same attacking troubles that have plagued Chicago all season once again left it scoreless after 90 minutes were up.
15. Chivas USA (8-18-6)
Last ranking: 18
Last week’s results: 2-1 vs. Colorado
Remaining matches: at Salt Lake (Oct. 22), vs. San Jose (Oct. 26)
Chivas has won twice in a row, and the Goats get another shot at the RSL team they stunned in their previous game in their penultimate match as a franchise. Chivas is the only team that plays twice in the final week of the season instead of once in each of the last two weeks, giving them a better chance of being rested and ready to finish on as high a note as possible.
16. Toronto FC (11-14-7)
Last ranking: 15
Last week’s results: 0-1 vs. Houston, 1-3 at New York
Remaining matches: vs. Montreal (Saturday), at New England (Oct. 25)
Jermain Defoe missed a penalty when Toronto went up a man against Houston, and TFC couldn’t find a goal to equalize despite playing 11-on-10 for most of the second half. The second game of the week was even more frustrating, a 3-1 loss to the Red Bulls leaving the Reds six points behind Columbus with two games left. Despite its winter spending spree, TFC looks likely to miss out on the playoffs again.
17. Montreal Impact (6-18-8)
Last ranking: 19
Last week’s results: 2-2 vs. New England
Remaining matches: at Toronto (Saturday), vs. D.C. (Oct. 25)
On the verge of retirement, Marco Di Vaio had a trademark afternoon against New England, scoring twice. Without anything to gain from a victory, the Impact couldn’t make 1-0 or 2-1 leads stand, as the Revs secured the point they needed to qualify for the playoffs.
18. San Jose Earthquakes (6-15-11)
Last ranking: 16
Last week’s results: 0-3 at Portland, 0-2 at Salt Lake
Remaining matches: vs. Vancouver (Saturday), at Chivas USA (Oct. 26)
It’s been 13 games since the Earthquakes won, and two losses by a combined score of 5-0 last week showed just how far the team has fallen since winning the Supporters’ Shield just two seasons ago. With an abysmal playing style and no real positive results in 2014, something major has to change before next year kicks off.
19. Colorado Rapids (8-16-8)
Last ranking: 17
Last week’s results: 1-2 at Chivas USA
Remaining matches: vs. Dallas (Saturday), at Vancouver (Oct. 25)
The Rapids are winless in 12 games, 10 of which have been losses, marking the largest nosedive in the second half of the league this year. Colorado looked like a playoff team in July, but not much has gone right for the Rapids since a 2-0 win over Vancouver at home on June 28 — they’ve only won once since then.