By IVES GALARCEP
There will be no winless teams in Major League Soccer in 2014, but there still just might be an undefeated team.
Okay, so Real Salt Lake still has a very long way to go to finish a full season unbeaten, but they have continued to extend their run as the lone remaining unbeaten in MLS playing some of the best soccer in the league. Their 5-2 thrashing of the Houston Dynamo was an impressive display of just how well Jeff Cassar’s team can play when firing on all cylinders.
Things will get much tougher for RSL though, now that Kyle Beckerman, Nick Rimando and Alvaro Saborio have left the team to prepare for the 2014 World Cup. The deep bench put together by Garth Lagerwey will be tested, as will that zero under the loss column.
The Chicago Fire escaped the winless column on the strength of a 5-4 victory against the New York Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena. MLS Rookie of the Year runaway pick Harrison Shipp put on a show with a hat trick while Sean Johnson made some key saves to preserve the first win of the campaign.
The hottest team in the league right now? Has to be the New England Revolution after their emphatic 5-0 drubbing of a tired Seattle Sounders side. Meshing a stingy defense with dangerous attack, the Revs are starting to look like the title contender they were expected to be before the season began.
Here are the latest SBI MLS Power Rankings, for Week 10 (as voted on by SBI staff):
SBI MLS Power Rankings (Week 10)
1. (Last Week-2) REAL SALT LAKE (5-0-5)
OUTLOOK- Javier Morales enjoys his best match of the season as RSL roll to another win, but things will get much tougher now as Nick Rimando, Kyle Beckerman and Alvaro Saborio depart for World Cup duty.
2. (5) NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION (5-3-2)
OUTLOOK- Masterful performance in routing Seattle, and it wasn’t just the impressive attack that stood out. The Revs defense has come together very well despite the absence of Jose Goncalves, with Andrew Farrell quietly playing some of the best centerback in MLS. Throw in Teal Bunbury and Patrick Mullins hitting their strides in the attack and New England now looks like the team we thought they could be heading into 2014.
3. (1) SEATTLE SOUNDERS (7-3-1)
OUTLOOK- Three games in nine days, coupled with multiple cross-country flights, led to a flat showing, but fatigue alone can’t explain the absolute breakdown of Seattle’s defense. DeAndre Yedlin had multiple breakdowns, but is now off to national team camp along with Clint Dempsey and Brad Evans.
5. (4) VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (4-2-4)
OUTLOOK- Matias Laba enjoyed a breakout performance as the Whitecap posted a shutout win against Columbus that has to give the young Vanccouver side confidence on the road going forward. Even the team’s Canadian Championship semifinal series loss to Toronto FC isn’t likely to dampen the moods of a team in good form. A bye week probably comes at a bad time considering the Whitecaps’ four-match unbeaten streak in MLS play.
6. (3) SPORTING KANSAS CITY (5-3-2)
OUTLOOK- Thoroughly dominated 10-man Montreal last weekend in a match they likely win even if the sides were even. Uri Rosell’s work in midfield was first class, and Dom Dwyer continues to evolve as a forward. The loss to Philadelphia was a far cry from the Montreal match, with Sporting KC being outworked in uncharacteristic fashion. Now Peter Vermes will earn his money as he copes with the losses of Matt Besler and Graham Zusi to national team duty.
6. (11) D.C. UNITED (4-3-2)
OUTLOOK- Very business-like approach in their 1-0 win at Philadelphia. The D.C. defense was solid, while Bill Hamid turned in some top-notch saves to preserve the shutout. Ben Olsen’s side may be winning ugly, but that beats losing. Some tougher tests await, but confidence has to be growing. It will be interesting to see how Eddie Johnson responds to his World Cup snub.
7. (9) LOS ANGELES GALAXY (2-2-3)
OUTLOOK- They didn’t get the win, but the Galaxy turned in a very impressive showing in their draw at Portland. They thoroughly outplayed the Timbers for much of the match, which is something teams don’t really do at Providence Park. The departures of Landon Donovan and Omar Gonzalez will put the pressure on the likes of Kofi Opare and Gyasi Zardes to pick up the slack.
8. (6) FC DALLAS (5-5-1)
OUTLOOK- You are starting to get the feeling that someone has an FC Dallas voodoo doll and they are injuring players for fun. Kidding aside, the bad luck suffered by Oscar Pareja’s side in recent weeks is brutal. Losing Mauro Diaz for 6-10 weeks was bad enough, but now losing defensive midfield stalwart Hendry Thomas for an extended period of time will make staying in a playoff spot in the West extremely difficult.
9. (7) COLUMBUS CREW (3-4-3)
OUTLOOK- The Crew attack is in crisis mode after being shut out for a third straight match. Gregg Berhalter has to be coming to grips with the fact that his team’s offense needs some help and the transfer market will need to be delved into. The big issue for Columbus now is losing three fourths of its starting defense to national team call-ups.
10. (8) COLORADO RAPIDS (4-3-3)
OUTLOOK- Paul Bravo and Pablo Mastroeni learned a valuable lesson. Don’t trade a disgruntled player to a team you are about to play just a few days later. There should be some concern about an offense that has gone six straight matches without scoring multiple goals.
11. (10) NEW YORK RED BULLS (3-3-5)
OUTLOOK- Losing at home to the Chicago Fire was one thing, surrendering five goals made their 5-4 loss to the Fire unacceptable for Mike Petke. Harrison Shipp danced around the Red Bulls defense far too easily, and with Roy Miller leaving for national team duty, things will only get tougher for the back-line. On the bright side, Bradley Wright-Phillips continues to look like the real deal.
12. (12) TORONTO FC (3-4)
OUTLOOK- Beating the Vancouver Whitecaps in the Canadian Championship semifinals just might be the boost TFC needs to help snap out of a funk that has seen them lose four of five matches in league play. Michael Bradley’s departure for national team duty won’t make things easier, but you wonder if Jermain Defoe won’t be motivated after being snubbed by England.
13. (14) PORTLAND TIMBERS (1-3-6)
OUTLOOK- Caleb Porter will take a point against a tough team like the LA Galaxy, but he couldn’t have been happy with how his team played over the course of the 90 minutes. Changes are afoot in Portland, with the recent addition of Nigerian forward Fanendo Adi. The real question is whether the team is close to adding another centerback, which would likely mean the very quick end to the Norberto Papparato experiment.
14. (13) HOUSTON DYNAMO (4-5-2)
OUTLOOK- Dismantled at home by RSL in a way we’re just used to seeing Houston’s defense manhandled. Things won’t get much easier for the Dynamo now that Brad Davis and Oscar Boniek Garcia are into their World Cup preparations.
15. (15) SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES (2-3-4)
OUTLOOK- Showed plenty of heart in overcoming a first-half red card to post an important 2-1 win against FC Dallas. Losing both centerbacks (Clarence Goodson and Victor Bernardez) will be very tough for coach Mark Watson to deal with, as will coping without offensive leader Chris Wondolowski.
16. (18) CHICAGO FIRE (1-2-6)
OUTLOOK- The Harry Shipp Show was an impressive one at Red Bull Arena, as were the contributions of Patrick Nyarko and Sean Johnson. But lost in the good vibes of a sorely-needed victory was the fact the team surrendered four goals, leading to continued questions about a defense that just hasn’t been good enough this year. The offense is good enough for the playoffs, but the Fire will likely have to make a deal of some sort to straighten out their back-line.
17. (17) PHILADELPHIA UNION (2-5-5)
OUTLOOK- The Union came out flat against D.C. United and delivered a truly disappointing performance with a lot on the line for their coach, John Hackworth. They made up for that loss on Wednesday, when they showed impressive effort in beating Sporting Kansas City. Amobi Okugo looked comfortable commanding the center of the midfield, while the makeshift defense faired very well. The Union will face a tough obstacle in trying to carry over some momentum, as they prepare to take on the New England Revolution on Saturday.
18. (19) CHIVAS USA (2-5-3)
OUTLOOK- Marvin Chavez paid immediate dividends for the Goats, scoring two goals in his debut, against the Rapids no less. It really was an impressive team effort, and not just by the attack, but by a Chivas USA defense that kept the Rapids under wraps. They face an injury-hit FC Dallas side next, with a chance to start climbing out of the West basement.
19. (16) MONTREAL IMPACT (1-5-3)
OUTLOOK- Outclassed in their loss to Sporting Kansas City, the Impact could use the fact they played a man down for most of the match as an excuse, but it would be a weak one to explain just how poor they looked. Beating Edmonton in the Canadian Championship semifinals was a nice consolation, though having to do so on the strength of a late and questionable penalty call makes you wonder just how unhappy owner Joey Saputo is these days.
What do you think of this week’s power rankings? Do you think any team is ranked too high? Any too low?
Share your thoughts below.