Photo by Jane Gershovich/Soccer By Ives
By IVES GALARCEP
If you would have asked most people which MLS team would wind up being the final one with a perfect record, few people outside of Ohio would have every considered saying the Columbus Crew.
That’s where the Crew stand though, a perfect 3-0 after a dramatic last-second winner from Justin Meram helped Gregg Berhalter’s side improve to 3-0 and climb even further up the SBI MLS Power Rankings.
Though the Crew have the only perfect record in MLS, the top spot in the rankings belongs to Real Salt Lake, which showed their extremely high level of quality in beating Toronto FC in convincing fashion. They have shaken off injuries to play some of the best soccer in the league and are setting the standard in the league at the moment.
FC Dallas is another team that enjoyed a big jump in the standings after their win against the Portland Timbers improved them to 3-0-1. A start that has FC Dallas in first place in the West. Led by Mauro Diaz’s impressive playmaking, FCD have the look of a strong playoff contender.
Here is how this week’s SBI MLS Power Rankings shook out (rankings determined by SBI staff voting):
SBI MLS Power Rankings (Week 4)
1. (Last Week- 3) REAL SALT LAKE (2-0-2)
OUTLOOK- May not have a perfect record, but they’re playing like the best team in MLS, and their showing against Toronto FC solidified that fact. RSL’s depth is truly impressive, and as this team gets healthier it will only get tougher.
2. (7) COLUMBUS CREW (3-0)
OUTLOOK- Going to Seattle and earning a road win is big for Gregg Berhalter’s side and while it has only been three matches, you have to start taking them seriously as an Eastern Conference contender. A shot at 4-0 looks good with Toronto FC expected to be missing several key players.
3. (9) FC DALLAS (3-0-1)
OUTLOOK- Mauro Diaz continues to play some of the best soccer in the league while Matt Hedges anchors a defense that has done well despite the absence of George John. Some good tests against Houston and Toronto FC in the coming weeks should tell us more about Oscar Pareja’s side.
4. (1) TORONTO FC (2-1)
OUTLOOK- Outplayed by Real Salt Lake and exposed a bit without injured Jonathan Osorio, TFC face a brutal challenge this week taking on unbeaten Columbus without the services of Jermain Defoe, Steven Caldwell and Doneil Henry (and potentially without Osorio). If anything, we should get a glimpse of just what sort of bench options Ryan Nelsen really has.
5. (4) LOS ANGELES GALAXY (0-1-1)
OUTLOOK- The time off should do the Galaxy some good, though Omar Gonzalez and Landon Donovan did play for the USMNT at midweek. They face an improved Chivas USA side this weekend, followed by back-to-back matches against unbeaten Vancouver.
6. (5) SEATTLE SOUNDERS (2-2)
OUTLOOK- The late loss to Columbus was certainly a gut punch for the Sounders, but the return of Clint Dempsey from suspension should provide a boost that allows Seattle to rebound. The only problem is the Sounders face arch-rival Portland in a match the Timbers desperately need after starting the season winless. Obafemi Martins will need to step up if Seattle is going to taste victory in Portland.
7. (6) SPORTING KANSAS CITY (2-1-1)
OUTLOOK- Dom Dwyer looks like a man intent on proving he’s a reliable goal scorer. His winner against Colorado was a stunning strike, and if he can start contributing on a regular basis then Sporting KC will once again look like a championship side. This week’s clash against RSL will tell the tale of just how close Sporting KC is to being at their best.
8. (11) VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (2-0-2)
OUTLOOK- Pedro Morales continues to dazzle as the Whitecaps remain unbeaten heading into MLS Week Five. The Vancouver defense has quietly enjoyed a strong start to 2014, and will be the real story if the Whitecaps can continue their success. Colorado will offer a tricky challenge this weekend.
9. (2) HOUSTON DYNAMO (2-1)
OUTLOOK- Just didn’t impress in their loss to Vancouver, looking flat and raising questions about whether their season-opening wins were a true measure of their quality. You can rest assured head coach Dom Kinnear will have them ready for the Texas Derby, and the Dynamo defense will need to be its usually stingy self against a dangerous FC Dallas attack.
10. (8) PHILADELPHIA UNION (1-1-2)
OUTLOOK- Played well enough to beat Montreal last week, but surrendered another late goal to drop precious home points. The Union midfield continues to look outstanding, and it is clear by the team’s trading of Jack McInerney that John Hackworth didn’t feel his star forward was making the most of the revamped midfield.
11. (10) COLORADO RAPIDS (1-1-1)
OUTLOOK- Tough loss to Sporting KC in a match the Rapids played well enough to get at least a point. The Rapids defense showed signs of vulnerability, while the attack still hasn’t scored a non-penalty kick goal. Finding that elusive run-of-play goal won’t be easy against a tough Vancouver side on the road.
12. (12) PORTLAND TIMBERS (0-2-2)
OUTLOOK- It may not be time to panic in Portland just yet, but heading into a showdown against arch-rival Seattle needing a win to avoid a five-match winless start to the season should make for an interesting evening at Providence Park. Darlington Nagbe and Diego Valeri have yet to really get going and Saturday they will need to be at their best to beat the Sounders.
13. (13) NEW YORK RED BULLS (0-1-3)
OUTLOOK- Paid the price for a poor first half against Chivas USA, and while they did rally to earn a point, there is clearly something wrong with this Red Bulls team. Now they have to travel to Montreal to face the Impact without Thierry Henry, Jamison Olave and Tim Cahill. Yes folks, the Red Bulls will be the underdog against Montreal.
14. (15) CHIVAS USA (1-1-2)
OUTLOOK- Surrendering a late equalizer to the New York Red Bulls was obviously disappointing, but Wilmer Cabrera had to be pleased with his his team played on the road against a tough Red Bulls team. Things don’t get any easier for the Goats, with the Galaxy, Timbers and Sounders up next on the schedule.
15. (17) NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION (1-2-1)
OUTLOOK- Finally saw one of their players score a goal, and what a dramatic goal it was. Lee Nguyen’s winner against San Jose could be the spark this Revs team needed to wake up and start playing like the team many expected them to be.
16. (14) SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES (0-2-1)
OUTLOOK- Had the tables turned on them by virtue of New England’s stoppage-time winner. The result was a disappointing one considering the good feelings after a courageous performance in CONCACAF Champions League. Injuries have played a part in the team’s slow start, but the Earthquakes should benefit from a week off to get healthy.
17. (17) CHICAGO FIRE (0-1-3)
OUTLOOK- Quincy Amarikwa and Harrison Shipp continue to impress under Frank Yallop, so much so that the Fire dealt away long-time player Chris Rolfe to D.C. United. The defense needs to step it up and find more consistency
18. (18) MONTREAL IMPACT (0-3-1)
OUTLOOK- Showed great resolve in earning a road point in a match they could have easily lost. Landing Jack McInerney in a trade for Andrew Wenger could be a steal if Frank Klopas can figure out how to partner McInerney with Marco DiVaio.
19. (19) D.C. UNITED (0-2-1)
OUTLOOK- Earning a point is a start for a team that desperately needed something to build on, but Ben Olsen’s squad is in dire need of a win to avoid falling in too deep a hole to start the season in the East.
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.