Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By IVES GALARCEP
The same team that finished the 2012 season on top of Major League Soccer looks very much like a team that intends to stay on top of the league.
The Los Angeles Galaxy’s 4-0 humbling of the Chicago Fire sent a very clear message that the defending MLS Cup champions aren’t about to suddenly revert to mediocrity after the departure of David Beckham, and amid the absence of Landon Donovan. Mike Magee was the star for LA on Sunday, but there were plenty of good performances to go around and plenty of reason to believe the Galaxy remain the best team in MLS.
The Houston Dynamo lost to the Galaxy in December’s MLS Cup Final and they look like a team equipped to take the next step and win a title after an opening week that saw them handily beat D.C. United before posting a very impressive 1-0 victory against Santos Laguna on Tuesday night in CONCACAF Champions League action.
The SBI MLS Power Rankings are led by the MLS Cup finalists, while there was plenty of shaking up after Week One’s results. The big gainer after the opening weekend was the Montreal Impact, which scored a valuable road win against the Seattle Sounders, a victory that helped them climb six spots from the pre-season power rankings.
Here are the SBI MLS Power Rankings after Week One:
SBI MLS Power Rankings
1. (Previous rank- 1) LOS ANGELES GALAXY (1-0)
LAST WEEK- Beat Chicago Fire, 4-0, last Sunday.
THIS WEEK- at Herediano on Thursday (CONCACAF Champions League).
OUTLOOK- Mike Magee’s hat-trick stole the show, but Leonardo’s solid performance at centerback might have been the most encouraging sign for the Galaxy.
2. (4) HOUSTON DYNAMO (1-0)
LAST WEEK- Beat D.C. United, 2-0, last Saturday. Beat Santos Laguna, 1-0, last Tuesday (CONCACAF).
THIS WEEK- Bye.
OUTLOOK- Ricardo Clark is looking like a man on a mission to start the season, turning in two stellar performances for the Dynamo, who head to Torreon for their second leg against Santos Laguna riding a wave of confidence after Brad Davis’ last-minute game-winner on Tuesday.
3. (3) SPORTING KANSAS CITY (1-0)
LAST WEEK- Beat Philadelphia Union, 3-1, last Saturday.
THIS WEEK- at Toronto FC on Saturday.
OUTLOOK- Overcame a terrible start to their game against Philadelphia, with Graham Zusi really stepping it up and taking over. Both Oriol Rosell and Claudio Bieler turned in quality outings, making the departures of Roger Espinoza and Kei Kamara earlier in the winter less of an issue.
4. (8) REAL SALT LAKE (1-0)
LAST WEEK- Beat San Jose Earthquakes, 2-0, last Saturday.
THIS WEEK- at D.C. United on Saturday.
OUTLOOK- Alvaro Saborio looked sharp in scoring both goals, and burning San Jose standout defender Victor Bernardez in the process, but it was the contribution of Joao Plata off the bench that really impressed. The centerback tandem of Chris Schuler and Kwame-Watson Siriboe also looked solid, and the early signs are that RSL’s ‘rebuilding year’ might not be one after all.
5. (2) SEATTLE SOUNDERS (0-1)
LAST WEEK- Lost to Montreal Impact, 1-0, last Saturday.
THIS WEEK- at UANL Tigres on Wednesday (CONCACAF).
OUTLOOK- The Sounders created chances, but just couldn’t finish them against Montreal. A loss at home is tough to take in the opener, but ultimately the defense allowed just one beautiful Davy Arnaud goal, and the Sounders attack created chances.
6. (6) NEW YORK RED BULLS (0-0-1)
LAST WEEK- Tied Portland, 3-3, last Sunday.
THIS WEEK- at San Jose on Sunday.
OUTLOOK- Looked very good early on, but a poor second half cost them a two-goal lead and raised some questions about them defensively. Fabian Espindola looks inspired, and Jamison Olave showed stretches of dominant play (even if he was beaten for a goal and gave up an own goal).
7. (11) COLUMBUS CREW (1-0)
LAST WEEK- Beat Chivas USA, 3-0, last Saturday.
THIS WEEK- at Vancouver on Saturday.
OUTLOOK- The scoreline was a bit flattering considering the Crew didn’t break through until Federico Higuain’s second-half blast. It’s still three points on the road, and a confidence booster for the Crew defense.
8. (5) SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES (0-1)
LAST WEEK- Lost to Real Salt Lake last Saturday.
THIS WEEK- vs. New York Red Bulls on Sunday.
OUTLOOK- Missing Steven Lenhart and Alan Gordon was clearly a detriment and something the Earthquakes attack couldn’t overcome. Frank Yallop will be more troubled with the defense, particularly Victor Bernardez, who was abused on both RSL goals.
9. (15) MONTREAL IMPACT (1-0)
LAST WEEK- Beat Seattle Sounders, 1-0, last Saturday.
THIS WEEK- at Portland Timbers on Saturday.
OUTLOOK- The Impact didn’t have a ton of chances but the story of the night in their win in Seattle was the play of their defense, which was organized and stingy. Alessandro Nesta and Matteo Ferrari helped up very well against Seattle’s dangerous attack, and Davy Arnaud looks poised to have a big year for the Impact.
10. (10) PORTLAND TIMBERS (0-0-1)
LAST WEEK- Tied New York Red Bulls, 3-3, last Sunday.
THIS WEEK- vs. Montreal Impact on Saturday.
OUTLOOK- The first 30 minutes of Sunday’s tie vs. the New York Red Bulls was forgettable, but the next 60 minutes were very impressive and encouraging for the Caleb Porter era. Diego Valeri looks like the real deal and Will Johnson showed why the Timbers traded for him and made him captain. The key for Portland will be getting Mikael Silvestre to play more like he did in the second half, and much less like he struggled in the first half.
11. (12) VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (1-0)
LAST WEEK- Beat Toronto FC, 1-0, last Saturday.
THIS WEEK- at Columbus Crew on Saturday.
OUTLOOK- Losing Jay DeMerit to a torn Achilles is a gut punch, but Brad Rusin stepped in and looked very good. Rookie Kekuta Manneh showed flashes, but the Whitecaps attack should have been able to put more goals on the board against a weak TFC side. Nigel Reo-Coker looks like he’ll be a force.
12. (7) CHICAGO FIRE (0-1)
LAST WEEK- Lost to Los Angeles Galaxy, 4-0, last Sunday.
THIS WEEK- vs. New England Revolution on Saturday.
OUTLOOK- Just one of those days the Fire will want to forget quickly. Sean Johnson let in four goals, but actually made a bunch of quality saves. The Fire need Arne Friedrich back badly.
13. (9) D.C. UNITED (0-1)
LAST WEEK- Lost to Houston Dynamo, 2-0, last Saturday.
THIS WEEK- vs. Real Salt Lake on Saturday.
OUTLOOK- There were questions about their attack heading into the season, and the D.C. offense looked very anemic vs. Houston, though to be fair, the Dynamo can make most teams look bad.
14. (14) FC DALLAS (1-0)
LAST WEEK- Beat Colorado Rapids, 1-0, on Saturday.
THIS WEEK- at Chivas USA on Sunday.
OUTLOOK- You can argue that Colorado were the better side, but the fact is FC Dallas played well defensively, pounced on a big blunder, and took home a big opening win. The Hoops will have to play much better to take points off better teams though.
15. (13) COLORADO RAPIDS (0-1)
LAST WEEK- lost to FC Dallas, 1-0, last Saturday.
THIS WEEK- vs. Philadelphia Union on Saturday.
OUTLOOK- Stewart Ceus’ blunder aside, the Rapids created chances and pushed Dallas to the brink. Rookies Dillon Powers and Deshorn Brown looked good in their pro debuts, but you have to wonder how the return of Edson Buddle and arrival of Danny Mwanga will affect the Rapids attack.
16. (16) PHILADELPHIA UNION (0-1)
LAST WEEK- Lost to Sporting Kansas City, 3-1, last Saturday.
THIS WEEK- at Colorado Rapids on Saturday.
OUTLOOK- Showed great promise in the first 30-35 minutes vs. Sporting Kansas City, but then promptly fell apart. The elements are there for the Union to play good soccer, but their inexperiences shines through despite the arrival of some veterans. We could be seeing more and more games like this as the Union grow up.
17. (17) NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION (0-0)
THIS WEEK- at Chicago Fire on Saturday.
OUTLOOK- An extra week to get Saer Sene closer to playing isn’t a bad thing, and it will be interesting to see just what midfield combination Jay Heaps turns to.
LAST WEEK- Lost to Columbus Crew, 3-0, last Saturday.
THIS WEEK- vs. FC Dallas on Sunday.
OUTLOOK- The 3-0 score is a bit misleading consider two goals came very late, but what was lost amid all the complaints about Chivas USA’s embarrassing attendance totals is the fact that the Goats didn’t play all that terribly for about 70-75 minutes. No easy task considering the patchwork defense ‘El Chelis’ threw on the field.
19. (19) TORONTO FC (0-1)
LAST WEEK- lost to Vancouver Whitecaps, 1-0 last Saturday.
THIS WEEK- vs. Sporting Kansas City on Saturday.
OUTLOOK- It was an accomplishment to keep the game close, but aside from Kyle Bekker showing some promise, there wasn’t a ton to be overly excited about from TFC in the opener.