MLS Power Rankings: Seattle holds Shield edge; One playoff spot remains
A back-and-forth game in Southern California saw Major League Soccer’s top two teams draw their Week 32 head-to-head match. The LA Galaxy scored once on either side of halftime, and the Seattle Sounders responded with two within three minutes in the second half to take away a point.
Seattle and LA go head-to-head once more on Saturday to decide the Supporters’ Shield and No. 1 overall seed in the league. All the Sounders need is a point, although they’ll certainly be looking for more in their home stadium with a chance to clinch their first Shield and match the 2003 Chicago Fire's feat of pulling off the U.S. Open Cup-Supporters' Shield double.
Elsewhere, the New York Red Bulls locked up the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference despite a loss to the Columbus Crew. Toronto FC’s home draw secured it, also meaning the Reds have still failed to ever qualify for the postseason. Following a winter in which the club spent big to bring in the likes of Michael Bradley and Jermain Defoe, TFC's showing is a major disappointment.
Only one playoff spot comes remains unclaimed following the final weekend, as the Vancouver Whitecaps have a slight advantage over the Portland Timbers for fifth in the West. Teams could reposition themselves for seeding otherwise, but the rest of the 10-team field is set.
The Eastern Conference in particular is tight: while D.C. United and the New England Revolution have the top two spots secured, the next three are separated by three points, and only one of Columbus, New York and Sporting Kansas City can avoid the play-in game.
In the West, FC Dallas and Real Salt Lake will battle for third and to avoid having to host the other play-in game. Of course, all will be overshadowed by Seattle and LA’s clash for first in the conference and league.
One week remains in the regular season, with all but Chivas playing just one game. Here’s where every team stands heading into the league-wide finales:
MLS Power Rankings — Week 32
1. LA Galaxy (17-6-10)
Last ranking: 1
Last week’s results: 2-2 vs. Seattle
Remaining matches: at Seattle (Saturday)
A goal on either side of halftime propelled LA into the lead in the first of two matches to finish the season against Seattle. However, despite a two-goal advantage, the Sounders came back with two tightly clustered goals in the second half to steal a point and the stronger position heading into the last game, spoiling Landon Donovan's regular-season LA finale in the process.
2. New England Revolution (16-13-4)
Last ranking: 2
Last week’s results: 2-1 at Houston
Remaining matches: vs. Toronto (Saturday)
Lee Nguyen continues to score goals in important situations for the Revs, making him a more intriguing MVP candidate seemingly every week. Against the Dynamo, he scored a second-half brace to reverse a 1-0 halftime deficit and put pressure on D.C. to win to secure first in the East, which it did nonetheless. Nguyen has 17 goals on the season, including four in his last three games.
3. FC Dallas (16-11-6)
Last ranking: 3
Last week’s results: 1-0 at Colorado
Remaining matches: vs. Portland (Saturday)
Dallas kept up its hot second half of the season — with only four losses since June — and continues to make Óscar Pareja look a likely candidate for MLS Coach of the Year. The tricky Timbers are last up for Dallas; it won’t be easy to secure third in the West against a team fighting for its playoff life that RSL slipped against last weekend.
4. Seattle Sounders (19-10-4)
Last ranking: 4
Last week’s results: 2-2 at LA
Remaining matches: vs. LA (Saturday)
Seattle scored twice more in the final 30 minutes against LA — the Sounders are the best team in the league in the last half-hour with a plus-18 goal difference — to ensure just a draw in Saturday's rematch will clinch the Supporters' Shield. CenturyLink Field will surely be rocking for a potentially landmark day.
5. D.C. United (17-9-7)
Last ranking: 5
Last week’s results: 2-1 vs. Chicago
Remaining matches: at Montreal (Saturday)
A win in D.C.’s final home game of the regular season clinched first place in the Eastern Conference, one year after finishing on the opposite end and only winning three matches all season. That’s the biggest turnaround in league history, earning 42 more points in 2014 than 2013, with the potential for three more by this time next week.
6. Real Salt Lake (14-8-11)
Last ranking: 6
Last week’s results: 0-0 at Portland
Remaining matches: vs. Chivas (Wednesday)
After a single point at Portland and Dallas’ win against Colorado, RSL is suddenly in fourth place and facing the prospect of a postseason play-in game, even after Nick Rimando's latest round of heroics preserved a scoreless draw vs. the Timbers. Salt Lake will play on short rest in midweek, against a Chivas USA side that has defeated RSL twice this season, although both were at the StubHub Center.
7. Vancouver Whitecaps (11-8-14)
Last ranking: 7
Last week’s results: 0-0 at San Jose
Remaining matches: vs. Colorado (Saturday)
Portland's draw meant Vancouver faced less pressure against the Earthquakes on the road, which is a spot the Whitecaps have struggled in this year. Their record away from home moved to 3-5-9 with the tie, and if they win at home against the lowly Rapids to close out the season, they’ll be in the playoffs.
8. Columbus Crew (13-10-10)
Last ranking: 10
Last week’s results: 3-1 at New York
Remaining matches: vs. Philadelphia (Sunday)
Before even kicking off against the Red Bulls, Columbus clinched its spot in the playoffs thanks to Toronto’s draw against Montreal. The Crew also jumped over the Red Bulls into fourth place in the East with a 3-1 road win, courtesy of Aaron Schoenfeld’s two-goal game.
9. New York Red Bulls (12-10-11)
Last ranking: 8
Last week’s results: 1-3 vs. Columbus
Remaining matches: at Kansas City (Sunday)
The Red Bulls’ destiny is firmly in their own hands with two direct competitors for playoff seeding as their final two matches, but they didn’t get off on the right foot on Sunday, with a 3-1 home loss to Columbus. With anything less than a win in Kansas City on the final day, New York will have to travel for its first playoff game — and even three points doesn’t assure a home game.
10. Portland Timbers (11-9-13)
Last ranking: 9
Last week’s results: 0-0 vs. Salt Lake
Remaining matches: at Dallas (Saturday)
A single point helped neither RSL nor Portland, but the Timbers were hurt most by not getting the full complement on Friday. Portland went ahead of Vancouver on goal difference with the draw, but the Whitecaps’ draw in San Jose meant the Timbers don't control their own destiny and need two results to go their way on the final day to make the postseason.
11. Sporting Kansas City (14-12-7)
Last ranking: 11
Last week’s results: 1-2 at Philadelphia
Remaining matches: vs. New York (Sunday)
Once looking strong atop the Eastern Conference, the reigning champion could hobble into the playoffs in as low as fifth place after losing to the already-eliminated Union on Saturday. Sporting KC's second half of the season has been atrocious, with a 3-7-1 record since the All-Star Game.
12. Philadelphia Union (10-11-12)
Last ranking: 13
Last week’s results: 2-1 vs. Kansas City
Remaining matches: at Columbus (Sunday)
With nothing of its own left to play for, Philadelphia can only play spoiler to a couple playoff-bound teams in its last two matches. The Union did that last weekend, beating Sporting KC to end a five-game winless streak, and that could continue at Crew Stadium on Sunday.
13. Houston Dynamo (11-16-6)
Last ranking: 12
Last week’s results: 1-2 vs. New England
Remaining matches: at Chicago (Friday)
Dominic Kinnear’s last home game as Houston’s manager started promisingly, with Giles Barnes’ first-half goal, but ended disappointingly. The match served as a microcosm of the entire season for the Dynamo, whose inconsistency plagued them this year, particularly until the All-Star Game.
14. Chicago Fire (5-10-18)
Last ranking: 14
Last week’s results: 1-2 at D.C.
Remaining matches: vs. Houston (Friday)
Statistically, Chicago played D.C. pretty evenly on Saturday, finishing with the same number of shots and shots on target, slightly more possession and similar passing numbers. The difference was in goal, where Bill Hamid showed his shot-stopping chops, and in Harry Shipp’s deflected shot off the post in the 74th minute.
15. Chivas USA (8-18-6)
Last ranking: 15
Last week’s results: Off
Remaining matches: at Real Salt Lake (Wednesday), vs. San Jose (Sunday)
After a week off, Wilmer Cabrera’s team finishes its tenure as an MLS franchise with two matches in the final week of the season. RSL is one of two teams that Chivas has beaten twice in its last season, but the Goats have a chance to do the same against San Jose in their third meeting of the year.
16. Toronto FC (11-14-8)
Last ranking: 16
Last week’s results: 1-1 vs. Montreal
Remaining matches: at New England (Saturday)
Toronto was officially eliminated from the playoffs with a draw against Montreal, although the wheels came off long ago this year for the Reds. They still have never made the MLS postseason, despite making the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals in 2011 and winning four straight Canadian Championships from 2009 to 2012.
17. Montreal Impact (6-18-9)
Last ranking: 17
Last week’s results: 1-1 at Toronto
Remaining matches: vs. D.C. (Saturday)
Seven yellow cards and three reds, including four and two to the Impact, respectively, marked a wild Canadian derby at BMO Field. After the players’ studs and the grass blades stopped flying, the Impact snatched back a point after going down 1-0 early, still leaving them an opportunity to finish in 18th rather than 19th in the overall table with a win against D.C. and a San Jose loss to Vancouver in the last week of the season.
18. San Jose Earthquakes (6-15-12)
Last ranking: 18
Last week’s results: 0-0 vs. Vancouver
Remaining matches: at Chivas USA (Sunday)
The Earthquakes couldn’t close Buck Shaw Stadium with a win, although they ended their era there the same way it began in 2008 against FC Dallas, with a goalless draw. The tie also broke a club record, although not one San Jose will be proud of, as its current 14-match winless streak is the longest in franchise history.
19. Colorado Rapids (8-17-8)
Last ranking: 19
Last week’s results: 0-1 vs. Dallas
Remaining matches: at Vancouver (Saturday)
Speaking of long winless streaks, the Rapids are working on their own team-record 13-game skid after another loss, this one to FC Dallas. A 3-0 win over Chivas USA on July 25 was their last victory, and that result is the only thing that separates Colorado from a 17-game winless run.