Photo by Michael Janosz/ISIphotos.com
The Los Angeles Galaxy followed an unexpected slip-up with perhaps their most important victory of the season, and as a result, they maintain the top spot in the SBI MLS Power Rankings.
After fending off FC Dallas to create some separation in the race for the Supporters' Shield, L.A. heads into a bye week feeling pretty good about things. Another team feeling good now is the defending MLS Cup champion Colorado Rapids, who continued to stay unbeaten in the aftermath of Conor Casey's injury and topped an in-form Columbus side to stay in the thick of things in the Western Conference.
Those in free-fall mode include teams in two of the Eastern Conference's biggest markets, as New York finds itself with its lowest ranking of the year, and Chicago finds itself in dead last with plenty of catching up to do.
Here are this week's SBI MLS Power Rankings (as voted on by SBI staff):
SBI MLS POWER RANKINGS (WEEK 21)
1. (Last Week — 1) LOS ANGELES GALAXY (13-3-9, 48 points)
Last week: Lost to Portland, 3-0, on Wednesday; Beat FC Dallas, 3-1, on Saturday.
This week: Idle.
Outlook: The Galaxy had a bipolar week, looking rather disinterested in a loss at Portland only to come back and take their all-important meeting with FC Dallas. Now with two weeks off before their next league match, the Galaxy can sit back and relax a bit; however, the form of the benched Juan Pablo Angel up top is still a massive question mark for the club.
2. (3) SEATTLE SOUNDERS (11-5-8, 41 points)
Last week: Beat Sporting Kansas City, 2-1, on Saturday.
This week: vs. Chivas USA, 4 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: Just when the Sounders were left for dead, Mauro Rosales and Lamar Neagle came up big in the waning minutes to do what Seattle has made a habit of lately — breaking Sporting Kansas City's hearts with a late game-winner. The late win also ended Sporting KC's 14-match unbeaten streak and was the first loss dealt to the team at Livestrong Sporting Park.
3. (2) FC DALLAS (12-6-6, 42 points)
Last week: Lost to Los Angeles, 3-1, on Saturday.
This week: at Philadelphia, 8 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: Marvin Chavez' continued run of form had FC Dallas out in front in their crucial matchup with L.A., but the team had a hard time defending David Beckham's set pieces and succumbed with a golden opportunity to pull level in the race for the Supporters' Shield. FCD is still in fine shape, but the quest for the regular-season top spot just got a lot more difficult.
4. (5) REAL SALT LAKE (10-5-6, 36 points)
Last week: Lost to Sporting Kansas City, 2-0, on Wednesday; Beat New York, 3-0, on Saturday.
This week: at Toronto FC, 7 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: RSL made its mid-week loss to SKC seem ages ago with its thorough dismantling of the Red Bulls over the weekend. U.S. national team call-up Kyle Beckerman was stellar, and Luis Gil scoring his first MLS goal will only add to his growing confidence as the team gets set to face the league's worst defensive unit in Toronto.
5. (6) COLORADO RAPIDS (9-6-10, 37 points)
Last week: Beat Columbus, 2-0, on Friday.
This week: at San Jose, 10:30 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: Brian Mullan's laser of a goal against Columbus was the latest confirmation that the Rapids are hitting on all cylinders right now. From a steady Matt Pickens in goal all the way up to the emerging Sanna Nyassi as a makeshift forward, Colorado is in good form, now 3-0-1 since Casey's season-ending injury.
6. (4) COLUMBUS CREW (9-7-7, 34 points)
Last week: Lost to Colorado, 2-0, on Friday.
This week: vs. New England, 7:30 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: The Crew suffered a setback in Colorado but still maintains the top spot in the Eastern Conference after the teams behind them couldn't take full advantage of their loss. The lack of chances created against the Rapids is troubling, but not as troubling as Andres Mendoza's squandering of the chances that were created.
7. (7) PHILADELPHIA UNION (8-5-9, 33 points)
Last week: Tied Chicago, 1-1, on Wednesday; Tied Houston, 1-1, on Saturday.
This week: vs. FC Dallas, 8 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: The Union are in a bit of a rut. They're still collecting points, but wins are harder to come by, and the team's lack of a consistent scoring punch up top remains an issue. Jack McInerney did well in his start against Houston, as he scored a goal and likely could have had at least another one, but Philadelphia will need him and all other hands on deck against a stout Dallas unit.
8. (8) SPORTING KANSAS CITY (7-7-9, 30 points)
Last week: Beat Real Salt Lake, 2-0, on Wednedsay; Lost to Seattle, 2-1, on Saturday.
This week: Idle.
Outlook: The club was poised to extend its unbeaten streak to 15 games, but disaster struck late against Seattle again, and SKC was forced to settle for its first loss since May 21 — which ended on a stoppage-time goal by Seattle. The week off comes at a decent time, as DP Jeferson exited the Seattle game with an injury.
9. (T-10) HOUSTON DYNAMO (6-7-10, 28 points)
Last week: Tied Philadelphia, 1-1, on Saturday.
This week: vs. Portland, 9 p.m., Sunday, Galavision.
Outlook: Geoff Cameron rescued a point for the Dynamo with a late goal against Philadelphia, as Houston continues to lurk on the edge of the playoff picture. With Carlos Costly added to the mix and the addition of Brazilian midfielder Luiz Camargo, the Dynamo could be getting ready to surge at exactly the right time.
10. (T-10) D.C. UNITED (6-6-9, 27 points)
Last week: Tied Toronto FC, 3-3, on Saturday.
This week: vs. Vancouver, 7:30 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: Dwayne De Rosario's hat trick against Toronto capped a wild affair that had U.S. national team goalkeeper Bill Hamid get sent off in the 7th minute and coach Ben Olsen get sent off for going ballistic following a TFC goal that was taken during a D.C. substitution. While D.C. let what could have been a win slip away, the fact that a 10-man unit scored three times is a silver lining and something to take into its home meeting against the Whitecaps.
11. (12) CHIVAS USA (7-8-8, 29 points)
Last week: Beat New England, 3-2, on Saturday.
This week: at Seattle, 4 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: The Goats' attack came to life against the Revs, with Alejandro Moreno coming up big in front of goal to lift Chivas to the win. As long as Dan Kennedy keeps playing at his high level in goal, Chivas will have a chance against anybody, and he'll likely need to be at his best for the club to go into CenturyLink Field and come away with points.
12. (9) NEW YORK RED BULLS (6-6-12, 30 points)
Last week: Lost to Real Salt Lake, 3-0, on Saturday.
This week: vs. Chicago, 7:30 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: The sky is falling over Red Bull Arena. New York returned from its Emirates Cup victory with a lifeless performance against RSL, in which the team's set-piece defending was exposed yet again. Considering that the club is still within range of a sure playoff spot, it's hard to call this weekend's game against Chicago a must-win, but considering the team's morale and fortunes, a loss to the lowly Fire would be quite catastrophic.
13. (14) PORTLAND TIMBERS (7-10-5, 26 points)
Last week: Beat Los Angeles, 3-0, on Wednesday; Tied San Jose, 1-1, on Saturday.
This week: at Houston, 9 p.m., Sunday, Galavision.
Outlook: The Timbers have a pulse after all. Their dismantling of Los Angeles was one of the more impressive results of the season, although they could not follow it up with a victory over the weekend. Even so, the four-point haul puts the Timbers within postseason range, something that seemed improbable after a summer swoon.
14. (13) NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION (4-10-9, 21 points)
Last week: Lost to Chivas USA, 3-2, on Saturday.
This week: at Columbus, 7:30 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: The debut of DP Milton Caraglio was overshadowed by the MLS debut of Homegrown Player Diego Fagundez, who drew a penalty and scored a goal in the losing effort. As impressive as that was, the Revs can't be counting on a 16-year-old high school student to do their heavy lifting, especially with a match at conference-leading Columbus looming over the weekend.
15. (15) SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES (5-8-10, 25 points)
Last week: Tied Portland, 1-1, on Saturday.
This week: vs. Colorado, 10:30 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: Alan Gordon's first goal in an Earthquakes' jersey salvaged a point for the Earthquakes, who are treading water at this point. San Jose hasn't won in its last 10 league matches (0-4-6), a stretch that extends back to June 11. Time is not on the Quakes' side, and they're going to have to start beating the teams ahead of them in the table to have any shot of a return to the postseason.
16. (17) TORONTO FC (3-11-11, 20 points)
Last week: Tied D.C. United, 3-3, on Saturday.
This week: vs. Real Salt Lake, 7 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: Toronto's improved attack continues to put up goals, but its defense hit a new low by conceding three times to a 10-man squad. The newness factor hasn't worn off some of the pieces brought in by Aron Winter, and the lack of cohesiveness shows. That's not a good sign ahead of a meeting with Salt Lake.
17. (18) VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (3-11-9, 18 points)
Last week: Beat Chicago, 4-2, on Sunday.
This week: at D.C. United, 7:30 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: The Whitecaps showed how potent their attack can be with a four-goal outburst against the Fire. Eric Hassli's performance would have been good enough to win Player of the Week honors most other weeks, but De Rosario's hat trick trumped him on that front. With a solid result in the rear view mirror and its coaching situation sorted out for next year, Vancouver has its eye on 2012 while having nothing to lose in its role of spoiler the rest of the way.
18. (16) CHICAGO FIRE (2-7-13, 19 points)
Last week: Tied Philadelphia, 1-1, on Wednesday; Lost to Vancouver, 4-2, on Sunday.
This week: at New York, 7:30 p.m., Saturday.
Outlook: Rock bottom. That's where Chicago is right now. Despite all those player changes and additions, the results continue to be rather similar for the Fire. Yielding four goals to Vancouver was bad enough, but if New York finds the offensive form that it's capable of having, Chicago could be in for a rough night on Saturday.