By IVES GALARCEP
The Montreal Impact have slowly but surely erased any doubts about their validity as a transformed team and legitimate playoff-caliber squad.
The Impact beat Canadian rival Toronto FC to improve to 3-0, taking an early lead in the MLS Eastern Conference and serving notice that they are a force to be reckoned with.
It has been a strong start to the season to say the least. Some of the league’s strongest teams are off to slow starts in MLS play, like the Seattle Sounders and Sporting Kansas City, while some of the league’s weaker teams have benefited from weak schedules to enjoy surprising starts, like the Philadelphia Union and FC Dallas.
The MLS Power Rankings still come down to form and performance, and not purely results. If you’re expecting a ranking that looks similar to the actual MLS standings then you might want to look elsewhere. Why? Pretty simple. Not every team has played the same schedule, and not every result has told the story of the quality of each team’s play.
That is why a winless Seattle side remains ranked high on the list, while two-win FC Dallas still sits in the bottom half of the table. The coming weeks will tell the tale though, and show us whether Seattle’s results will start matching their form, and whether Dallas will start improving their quality of play as the competition gets tougher.
Here are the SBI MLS Power Rankings for Week Three:
SBI MLS Power Rankings (Week Three)
1. (Previous Rank- 3) MONTREAL IMPACT (3-0)
LAST WEEK- Beat Toronto FC, 2-1, on Saturday.
THIS WEEK- vs. New York Red Bulls on Saturday.
OUTLOOK- Another win and another step toward being a legitimate powerhouse. Do I really think they’re the best team in the league? Not really, but there’s no denying they’ve had a strong start and are a far different team than they were last year. Alessandro Nesta has suffered his first injury of the season, which will provide the first true test to the Impact’s depth.
2. (1) LOS ANGELES GALAXY (1-0-1)
LAST WEEK- Beat Herediano, 4-0, last Wednesday (CONCACAF); tied Chivas USA, 1-1, last Sunday.
THIS WEEK- vs. Colorado Rapids on Saturday.
OUTLOOK- Securing a place in the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals was a major step, but dropping points to Chivas USA had to feel like a gut punch, particularly given the fact the Galaxy dominated the game. This weekend’s match against the Rapids will seriously test their depth, with Robbie Keane and Omar Gonzalez on international duty.
3. (5) VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (2-0)
LAST WEEK- Bye week.
THIS WEEK- at Houston Dynamo on Saturday.
OUTLOOK- The week off probably came at a bad time for the surging Whitecaps, but they’ll be rested heading into a tough test on the road against a Houston Dynamo side coming off a tough loss.
4. (4) SEATTLE SOUNDERS (0-1-1)
LAST WEEK- Beat Tigres, 3-1, last Wedneday (CONCACAF); tied Portland Timbers, 1-1, last Sunday.
THIS WEEK- at San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday.
OUTLOOK- The Sounders were riding high off their impressive Champions League quarterfinal triumph over Tigres, but suffered a big letdown by allowing a late goal in a draw against Portland that Seattle will have to feel like they should have won. Now the Sounders will have their depth tested during the international week as Eddie Johnson and Mario Martinez depart for national team duty. They won’t get much sympathy from a San Jose side beset by injuries.
5. (7) SPORTING KANSAS CITY (1-1-1)
LAST WEEK- tied Chicago Fire, 0-0, last Saturday.
THIS WEEK- at New England Revolution on Saturday.
OUTLOOK- Another disappointing showing for Sporting, and now they face the prospects of being hit hard by international call-ups, with Matt Besler and Graham Zusi called into USMNT camp. Sporting KC has depth though, and players like Lawrence Olumn, Ike Opara and C.J. Sapong should have the chance to step up. One bright spot for KC has been the play of Oriol Rosell, who has been solid since becoming a starter.
6. (6) REAL SALT LAKE (1-1-1)
LAST WEEK- tied Colorado Rapids, 1-1, last Saturday.
THIS WEEK- at FC Dallas on Saturday.
OUTLOOK- Thoroughly dominated the Rapids but were forced to settle for a draw after a defensive blunder by Chris Schuler. There is no denying that RSL has played well to start the season, but the past two weeks have seen them settle for disappointing results. Now they lose Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando to call-ups, making a trip to Texas to face FC Dallas a daunting task.
7. (13) PHILADELPHIA UNION (2-1)
LAST WEEK- Beat New England Revolution, 1-0, last Saturday.
THIS WEEK- Bye week.
OUTLOOK- Jack McInerney keeps on finding the net, and while the Union aren’t exactly lighting up the scoreboard, the fact that their young striker continues to impress is an important sign. Where John Hackworth has to be pleased is with the play of his defense. Jeff Parke and Amobi Okugo are forming a strong partnership, and you don’t hear anybody saying they miss Carlos Valdes these days, which is no easy accomplishment.
8. (8) SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES (1-1-1)
LAST WEEK- tied Columbus Crew, 1-1, last Saturday.
THIS WEEK- vs. Seattle Sounders on Saturday.
OUTLOOK- Rookie Adam Jahn continues to impress and the Earthquakes find yet another way to pull off a comeback. Justin Morrow turned in a standout performance and was rewarded with a USMNT call-up. Now with Morrow and Victor Bernardez on international duty, the Earthquakes are even more short-handed and could be in trouble against a strong, though also short-handed, Seattle side.
9. (2) HOUSTON DYNAMO (1-1)
LAST WEEK- lost to Santos Laguna, 3-0, last Wednesday (CONCACAF); lost to FC Dallas, 3-2, last Sunday.
THIS WEEK- vs. Vancouver on Saturday.
OUTLOOK- Talk about a rough week. As if the Champions League loss to Santos Laguna wasn’t enough, then to suffer a last-minute defeat against Texas rival FC Dallas has to leave the Dynamo stunned. Houston returns home to BBVA Compass Stadium, where they have been unbeatable, but taking on an impressive Vancouver side without Brad Davis, who has been called up to the USMNT.
10. (17) FC DALLAS (2-1)
LAST WEEK- Beat Houston Dynamo, 3-2, last Sunday.
THIS WEEK- vs. Real Salt Lake on Saturday.
OUTLOOK- It’s tough to remember a 2-1 team being less impressive over the course of three weeks to start the season, but the fact remains Dallas has two wins and they showed some toughness in facing Houston’s two-goal rally and still mustering a game-winning reply. There are still questions to be asked of their defense, but we are seeing signs of the high-flying attack we expected when the year began.
11. (12) NEW YORK RED BULLS (0-1-2)
LAST WEEK- Tied D.C. United, 0-0, last Saturday.
THIS WEEK- at Montreal Impact on Saturday.
OUTLOOK- They didn’t score a goal, but the Red Bulls had to come away from their scoreless draw with D.C. United feeling good about how they dominated the match. Their passing was sharp and defense organized, but now they take on unbeaten Montreal, and they must win on the road without Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill (and potentially without Juninho). That one won’t be easy at all.
12. (10) COLUMBUS CREW (1-1-1)
LAST WEEK- tied San Jose Earthquakes, 1-1, last Saturday.
THIS WEEK- at D.C. United on Saturday.
OUTLOOK- The Crew continue to look like a team that could be in for a good season, but also a team that still quite isn’t hitting on all cylinders. This week’s test vs. D.C. United is a very important one because D.C. is one of the teams Columbus will likely have to edge out for a playoff spot this year. Missing Jairo Arrieta will hurt, but Federico Higuain has been sharp from day one and could be in for a big game against a tough D.C. defense.
13. (9) D.C. UNITED (1-1-1)
LAST WEEK- Tied New York Red Bulls, 0-0, last Saturday.
THIS WEEK- vs. Columbus Crew on Saturday.
OUTLOOK- Bill Hamid saved D.C. United’s skin yet again last weekend, and is in outstanding form, but the D.C. attack is looking toothless and there are starting to be serious questions raised about whether they have the firepower to be a real threat in the East. How they do agains the Crew will provide a good barometer of where the team really stands in the East.
14. (11) PORTLAND TIMBERS (0-1-2)
LAST WEEK- tied Seattle Sounders, 1-1, last Saturday.
THIS WEEK- Bye week.
OUTLOOK- Another second-half rally and another well-earned draw after a shaky first half has the Timbers heading into their bye week feeling good even though they are still searching for their first victory. Jack Jewsbury enjoyed a successful return to the lineup and looked good playing alongside Will Johnson and Diego Chara. Diego Valeri continues to work hard but also continues to face plenty of attention from opposing defenses. Something to work on during the bye week will be to see whether Rodney Wallace can work his way into the starting lineup.
15. (16) CHIVAS USA (1-1-1)
LAST WEEK- Tied the Los Angeles Galaxy, 1-1, last Sunday.
THIS WEEK- at Chicago Fire on Sunday.
OUTLOOK- The Goats looked to make last week’s match vs. the Galaxy ugly and they succeeded, slowing down the Galaxy attack while orchestrating a great goal on the counter to tie things up. Having Joaquin Velasquez’s red card rescinded was a big step, but seeing Bobby Burling step up against the Galaxy had to give ‘El Chelis’ reason to smile.
16. (15) TORONTO FC (1-2)
LAST WEEK- Lost to Montreal, 2-1, last Saturday.
THIS WEEK- Bye week.
OUTLOOK- A week off could help the new faces in the TFC squad get better acclimated in Canada. It will also give head coach Ryan Nelsen some more time to figure out his starting lineup, particularly in the back, where competition is fierce for minutes.
17. (14) NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION (1-1)
LAST WEEK-Beat Chicago Fire, 1-0, last Saturday.
THIS WEEK- vs. Sporting KC on Saturday.
OUTLOOK- After two games it’s early to make proclamations about teams, but this Revs team needs Saer Sene back. Jerry Bengtson can’t carry the attack on his own, even with the number of skilled midfielder on the roster. On the bright side, Andrew Farrell looks like the real deal.
18. (18) CHICAGO FIRE (0-2-1)
LAST WEEK- Tied Sporting Kansas City, 0-0, last Saturday.
THIS WEEK- vs. Chivas USA on Sunday.
OUTLOOK- Sean Johnson has been in good form early in the season, but the Fire attack continues to sputter, with zero goals in three matches. A visit from Chivas USA might help Chicago’s attack get going.
19. (19) COLORADO RAPIDS (0-2-1)
LAST WEEK- Tied Real Salt Lake, 1-1, last Saturday.
THIS WEEK- at Los Angeles Galaxy on Saturday.
OUTLOOK- The loss of Matt Pickens to a broken forearm was a big blow, but Clint Irwin’s performance as a replacement was a reason for some optimism. That, coupled with Deshorn Brown’s impressive early form are two of the few bright spots to a dismal start of the season.