Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By IVES GALARCEP
Sporting Kansas City started the 2013 season slower than most would have expected, but they have started to hit their stride and are looking every bit like the title contender they were expected to be when the season began.
Claudio Bieler’s game-winning goal helped Sporting KC beat D.C. United and push their unbeaten streak (and shutout streak) to four matches. Their latest win helped push them closer to the top of the
SBI MLS Power Rankings (Week Six)
1. (Last week-1) LOS ANGELES GALAXY (2-0-2)
LAST WEEK- Lost to Monterrey, 2-1, last Wednesday (CONCACAF)
THIS WEEK- at Monterrey on Wednesday (CONCACAF); at FC Dallas on Saturday.
OUTLOOK- Their CONCACAF Champions League loss was a gut punch last week, and this week they face a very tough road swing that includes a trip to Monterrey and a meeting with surprising FC Dallas. Now would be a good time for Landon Donovan to find his form and shake off the rust.
2. (4) SPORTING KANSAS CITY (3-1-2)
LAST WEEK- Beat D.C. United, 1-0, last Friday
THIS WEEK- Bye Week.
OUTLOOK- Claudio Bieler’s latest goal has him looking like an outstanding Designated Player signing, but it is the play of Matt Besler as the anchor of the Sporting KC defense lately that deserves the headlines. The team is really finding a good rhythm, but they’ll need C.J. Sapong to get going if they’re really going to challenge for the top spot.
3. (5) MONTREAL IMPACT (4-1)
LAST WEEK- Bye
THIS WEEK- vs. Columbus Crew on Saturday.
OUTLOOK- A week off can’t hurt an older team like the Impact, and facing the Crew at home is a good way to ease back into things.
4. (6) CHIVAS USA (3-1-1)
5. (3) FC DALLAS (4-1-1)
LAST WEEK- Tied Toronto FC, 2-2, last Saturday
THIS WEEK- vs. Los Angeles Galaxy on Saturday.
OUTLOOK- Their second-half collapse vs. Toronto FC was a bit troubling, but in the end they did get a road point despite losing defensive leader George John at halftime. The team’s toughest test of the season awaits on Saturday vs. the Galaxy.
6. (2) HOUSTON DYNAMO (3-2)
LAST WEEK- Lost to Portland Timbers, 2-0, last Saturday
THIS WEEK- vs. Chicago Fire on Sunday.
OUTLOOK- The Dynamo aren’t really known as a great road team, but their flat showing vs. Portland was disappointing even by those standards. They clearly missed the energy and attacking threat of Oscar Boniek Garcia, but even his absence couldn’t justify just how poorly they played in Portland.
7. (15) PORTLAND TIMBERS (1-1-3)
LAST WEEK- Beat Houston Dynamo, 2-0, last Saturday.
THIS WEEK- vs. San Jose Earthquakes on Sunday.
OUTLOOK- After surrendering early leads on multiple occasions only to pull off stirring comebacks, the Timbers finally got a taste of what life can be like when they avoid early mistakes. The result was a dominant performance that could be the start of a strong run for Caleb Porter’s squad.
8. (9) SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES (2-2-2)
LAST WEEK- Tied Vancouver Whitecaps, 1-1, last Saturday.
THIS WEEK- at Portland Timbers on Saturday.
OUTLOOK- The Earthquakes were the better side against the Vancouver Whitecaps, but the shoe-change fiasco ultimately cost them two points in a match they should have been able to run away with. Having Alan Gordon and Steven Lenhart back is a major step toward having the Earthquakes back to full strength, and they’ll need them when they face a tough trip to Portland.
9. (8) COLUMBUS CREW (2-1-2)
LAST WEEK- Tied Philadelphia Union, 1-1, last Saturday.
THIS WEEK- at Montreal Impact on Saturday.
OUTLOOK- Dominic Oduro looked very dangerous against the Union, showing the qualities that helped him enjoy a career season with the Fire in 2011. The rest of the attack left a little to be desired, and Columbus will need more than Oduro playing well if they are going to garner any points from their trip to Montreal.
10. (7) REAL SALT LAKE (2-3-1)
LAST WEEK- Lost to Colorado Rapids, 1-0, last Saturday.
THIS WEEK- at Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday.
OUTLOOK- It isn’t often Alvaro Saborio has as poor a game as he had against the Rapids, but he wasn’t alone in lacking some quality in the final third. His pairing with rookie Devon Sandoval didn’t really work. Javier Morales continues to work his way back to full strength, and once he is ready, you can expect RSL to take things up a notch.
11. (12) PHILADELPHIA UNION (2-2-1)
LAST WEEK- Tied Columbus Crew, 1-1, last Saturday.
THIS WEEK- vs. Toronto FC on Saturday.
OUTLOOK- The Union’s defense continues to impress, but the attack is still failing to put away dangerous scoring chances. John Hackworth went with the Jack McInerney-Conor Casey forward tandem, which did help generate one goals, but not having Michael Farfan and Sebastien LeToux in the starting lineup resulted in little creativity in midfield. It remains unclear when Kleberson will become a part of the rotation, but the Union could certainly use his quality.
12. (11) VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (2-2-1)
LAST WEEK- Tied San Jose Earthquakes, 1-1, last Saturday.
THIS WEEK- vs. Real Salt Lake on Saturday.
OUTLOOK- The Whitecaps held a considerable edge in possession, and touches, vs. San Jose, but still managed to muster close to half as many chances. That shouldn’t have come as a surprise considering the Whitecaps were without Darren Mattocks and Kenny Miller. Vancouver’s defense still shows some signs of vulnerability and the visit from Real Salt Lake should let us know whether the Whitecaps defense has settled down since the loss of Jay DeMerit.
13. (13) TORONTO FC (1-2-2)
LAST WEEK- Tied FC Dallas, 2-2, last Saturday.
THIS WEEK- at Philadelphia Union on Saturday.
OUTLOOK- TFC showed some promise in their second-half comeback vs. FC Dallas, but there are certainly still question marks about their defense. If FC Dallas had finished their chances, Toronto would have been blown away. Gale Agbossoumonde turned in a solid first start for the club, and it will be interesting to see if he can force his way into a regular starting role eventually. Darel Russell struggled defensively yet again, but his outstanding equalizer will probably ensure he remains in the lineup.
14. (18) COLORADO RAPIDS (1-3-2)
LAST WEEK- Beat Real Salt Lake, 1-0, last Saturday.
THIS WEEK- at Chivas USA on Saturday.
OUTLOOK- The Rapids played their best game of the season in knocking off rival RSL, and their young players like Dillon Powers and Clint Irwin continue to impress. Having Edson Buddle in the mix is encouraging as he works to shake the rust off, and Atiba Harris looked more like the player who played well for FC Dallas rather than the one who struggled in Vancouver. A road trip to face a rested and dangerous Chivas USA side will let us know if the Rapids are to be taken seriously.
15. (19) CHICAGO FIRE (1-3-1)
LAST WEEK- Beat New York Red Bulls, 3-1, last Sunday.
THIS WEEK- at Houston Dynamo on Sunday.
OUTLOOK- Maicon Santos scored the winning goals for the Fire, but the play of Daniel Paladini was the real bright spot for the Fire. Perhaps even more encouraging was the performance turned in by a patchwork Chicago defense, that played without Arne Friedrich and Gonzalo Segares. The Fire still need Friedrich back to really make a push back up the standings, and the offense still has some question marks even after scoring three goals vs. the Red Bulls, such as whether Sherjill MacDonald is ever going to get going.
16. (10) NEW YORK RED BULLS (1-3-2)
LAST WEEK- Lost to Chicago Fire, 3-1, last Sunday.
THIS WEEK- at D.C. United on Saturday.
OUTLOOK- The Red Bulls defense turned in their worst performance of the year, which can also be said for goalkeeper Luis Robles, who may not be long for the starting job at this rate. On the forward front, the Red Bulls need Thierry Henry and Fabian Espindola healthy and starting ASAP. He hasn’t had many games, but the early prognosis on Peguy Luyindula is that he simply can’t finish.
17. (14) D.C. UNITED (1-3-1)
LAST WEEK- Lost to Sporting Kansas City, 1-0, last Friday.
THIS WEEK- vs. New York Red Bulls on Saturday.
OUTLOOK- So maybe that beautiful goal from Rafael two weeks ago wasn’t a sign of big things to come. It’s still early, and he’s young, but the reality is D.C. United need him to really step up because Lionard Pajoy just doesn’t look like he will be all that productive. The absence of Nick DeLeon and Dwayne DeRosario obviously hurt their ability to generate chances against Sporting KC, but
18. (16) SEATTLE SOUNDERS (0-3-1)
LAST WEEK- Lost to Santos Laguna, 1-0, last Tuesday (CONCACAF)
THIS WEEK- Tied Santos Laguna, 1-1 on Tuesday (CONCACAF); vs. New England Revolution on Saturday.
OUTLOOK- The Sounders fell short in CONCACAF Champions League, but they don’t have much time to mourn that failure considering they are sitting in last place in the West. The big bright spot from Tuesday was Mauro Rosales’ play late in the second-leg vs. Santos Laguna. They definitely need Rosales back to his dominant self, especially with the rest of the midfield struggling recently.
19. (17) NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION (1-2-1)
LAST WEEK- Bye.
THIS WEEK- at Seattle Sounders on Saturday.
OUTLOOK- The Revs have struggled since their season-opening win, and it starts with their impotent attack, which just isn’t generation many chances. The team is now also dealing with the unsettling news of Kevin Alston’s leukemia diagnosis, which has to weigh on them mentally. Losing Alston on the back-line will also hurt a defense that has been the lone bright spot so far this season for the Revs.