By DAN ITEL
The opening week of the 2014 MLS season wasn’t kind to the teams considered the top title contenders heading into the new campaign.
The Portland Timbers, Sporting Kansas City and Los Angeles Galaxy all failed in their bids to start the season off with a win, stumbling out of the blocks while at least one title contender started the season in impressive fashion.
Real Salt Lake, by virtue of a 1-0 victory over the Galaxy on a virtuoso performance by goalkeeper Nick Rimando, jumped four spots to No. 1 in Week One rankings. It wasn’t exactly a powerhouse performance by the reigning MLS Cup runner-up — they had to weather 27 shots, nine of which were turned away by Rimando, including a game-saving Robbie Keane penalty-kick save — but it showed that RSL may just be the same old RSL under new coach Jeff Cassar.
The Portland Timbers’ performance in a 1-1 draw Saturday against upstart Philadelphia Union wasn’t much to write home about. The Timbers, who drop a spot to No. 3, asserted themselves possession-wise but were only able to put two of their 15 shots on target, while the Union’s new additions of Maurice Edu, Cristian Maidana and Vincent Nogueira certainly had Portland reeling at times. The Union, however, remain at eighth.
Here are some of the other Power Rankings movers and shakers after a week’s worth of play:
The New York Red Bulls’ dismal performance in a 4-1 loss against the Vancouver Whitecaps dropped them from fourth to ninth, while the ‘Caps move up a whopping nine spots to No. 7.
The Houston Dynamo’s 4-0 rout of the New England Revolution earned them a precipitous jump from No. 10 to sixth.
Here are the SBI MLS Power Rankings for Week One, as voted on by our editorial staff:
SBI MLS Power Rankings
1. (Last Week – 5) REAL SALT LAKE (1-0)
OUTLOOK- RSL are just chock full of winners, evident in their latest triumph by Nick Rimando’s heroics in the net. While head coach Jeff Cassar may want to find a nice thank-you gift for his ‘keeper, it appears not much has changed under the new boss.
2. (6) SEATTLE SOUNDERS (1-0)
OUTLOOK- Beat the defending champion, and people will start talking. It wasn’t a dominant performance by any means, but the new-look Sounders appear to be ready to put 2013′s disappointments behind them.
3. (2) PORTLAND TIMBERS (0-0-1)
OUTLOOK- Probably nothing to worry about in the Rose City, but the Philadelphia Union definitely gave the Timbers fits and deserved more out of their 1-1 draw. The Timbers might need a bit more time to bring their newcomers, namely attacker Gaston Fernandez, into the fold.
4. (1) SPORTING KANSAS CITY (0-1)
OUTLOOK- There were just one too many lapses in Saturday’s 1-0 loss to Seattle, perhaps due to the absences of fullbacks Seth Sinovic and Chance Myers. They should be back soon, however, so the next thing SKC need to deal with is finding a reliable finisher.
5. (3) LOS ANGELES GALAXY (0-1)
OUTLOOK- The Galaxy looked dangerous and fired off a load of shots (27) but lost 1-0 thank to Nick Rimando’s stand-on-his-head performance. It’ll probably take some time to get L.A.’s new attacking pieces sorted.
6. (10) HOUSTON DYNAMO (1-0)
OUTLOOK- Head coach Dominic Kinnear called his team’s first 30 minutes in Saturday’s 4-0 rout of New England the best he’s seen from Houston. And Will Bruin’s two-goal, one-assist performance is certainly a good sign.
7. (16) VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (1-0)
OUTLOOK- The Whitecaps might just be the greatest show on turf in MLS this year. A brace from Kenny Miller and goals from newcomers Sebastian Fernandez and Pedro Morales in their 4-1 rout of the New York Red Bulls have fans in Vancouver rightfully excited.
8. (8) PHILADELPHIA UNION (0-0-1)
OUTLOOK- The Union looked completely different from last year thanks to newcomers Maurice Edu, Cristian Maidana and Vincent Nogueira. They were one last-minute set piece away from escaping Providence Park with a big win.
9. (4) NEW YORK RED BULLS (0-1)
OUTLOOK- Sure, the Red Bulls were without two of their best players in Thierry Henry and Jamison Olave, but they were still humbled in defeat. Commence Supporters’ Shield hangover worries in three, two…
10. (7) TORONTO FC (0-0)
OUTLOOK- Toronto will put their new stars to the test in their season opener Saturday against the Sounders at CenturyLink Field.
11. (9) NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION (0-1)
OUTLOOK- The Revolution may have come into the season a bit overconfident, or perhaps the defense just wasn’t ready for Will Bruin. Whatever the case, the Revs won’t have any easy game to rebound in, with a trip to Philadelphia looming.
12. (12) FC DALLAS (1-0)
OUTLOOK- Mauro Diaz might just be the next big thing in MLS. And new coach Oscar Pareja had FC Dallas looking like a side that has been given a new lease on life after Saturday’s 3-2 win over Montreal.
13. (14) COLUMBUS CREW (1-0)
OUTLOOK- Yet another new coach who saw his team respond positively, with Gregg Berhalter’s new-look Crew beating up on hapless D.C. United in a 3-0 win. It will be interesting to see what Federico Higuain is capable of in a full season under new coach Gregg Berhalter.
14. (11) COLORADO RAPIDS (0-0)
OUTLOOK- The Rapids and newly-minted head coach Pablo Mastroeni open their season Saturday on the road against the Red Bulls.
15. (13) SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES (0-0)
OUTLOOK- The Earthquakes earned a nice 1-1 draw against Toluca in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals matchup Wednesday at Buck Shaw Stadium. They’ll try to build on that in their MLS opener Saturday against Real Salt Lake.
16. (19) CHIVAS USA (1-0)
OUTLOOK- Could this actually be a new beginning for Chivas USA, following their surprising 3-2 win Sunday over the Chicago Fire? The performances of youngsters Erick “Cubo” Torres and Thomas McNamara, and veteran playmaker Mauro Rosales, say it just might be.
17. (15) MONTREAL IMPACT (0-1)
OUTLOOK- The Impact continued their downward spiral that started last summer with their 3-2 loss to FC Dallas, but they were without three players, including star striker Marco Di Vaio and midfielder Andrés Romero, who were serving suspensions.
18. (17) D.C. UNITED (0-1)
OUTLOOK- The collection of new pieces in the D.C. United starting lineup simply didn’t come together in the season-opening loss to Columbus. It’s still early, but the fact that other rebuilt teams enjoyed strong starts leaves you wondering why D.C. was so slow out of the block.
19. (18) CHICAGO FIRE (0-1)
OUTLOOK- New Fire head coach Frank Yallop might have been beaten by Chivas USA, but a promising performance by youngster Benji Joya, who scored shortly after coming on as a second-half substitute, should give Fire fans hope for the future.
What do you think of this week’s rankings? Which team do you feel is ranked too low? Which team is ranked too high?
Share your thoughts below.