By IVES GALARCEP
After an extended break for the World Cup, the SBI MLS Power Rankings are back, and a lot of the same teams are stacked near the top, while some of the usual suspects continue to bring up the rear.
Sporting Kansas City has overcome the defensive crisis that had them severely short-handed in the back and are now atop the Eastern Conference. Benny Feilhaber’s heroics coupled with Peter Vermes ‘ability to maintain a strong patchwork defense, has helped the champions regain their title-winning swagger.
D.C. United has enjoyed a serious climb up the charts over the past two months, with a 5-1-1 mark since the end of may pushing Ben Olsen’s side into second place in the East.
Out West, the Seattle Sounders have been threatening to lap the field, but the Los Angeles Galaxy showed on Monday that they are still very much a title contender, and a team nobody wants to have to deal with in the stretch run.
Then you have the Portland Timbers, who are slowly starting to creep up the standings as they erase the memories of a horrendous start to the season. Caleb Porter’s side looks like a good bet to chase down a playoff spot, though it won’t be easy in the stacked Western Conference.
Here are the SBI MLS Power Rankings for Week 20:
SBI MLS Power Rankings (Week 20)
1. SPORTING KANSAS CITY (11-5-5)
OUTLOOK- Outplayed on the road for much of the match, but still found a way to win despite going a man down. The sign of a championship team is winning even when you don’t play well.
2. LOS ANGELES GALAXY (8-4-6)
OUTLOOK- Played one of their best matches of the year in trouncing Seattle. What’s the most impressive thing about their current 6-1-3 run? The Galaxy were 5-1-3 without Omar Gonzalez before he made his return against Seattle. With Gonzalez back, LA is primed for a run.
3. SEATTLE SOUNDERS (12-5-2)
OUTLOOK- Losing Chad Marshall to back spasms before the Galaxy loss certainly didn’t help, but that alone didn’t account for Seattle’s lack of energy in midfield. Getting Marshall, Brad Evans and Leo Gonzalez back will help, as well facing San Jose in their next match.
4. D.C. UNITED (10-5-4)
OUTLOOK- A week from MLS play probably didn’t come at a great time consider the team’s 5-1-1 record in its past seven matches, especially not after having to travel to Florida for a meaningless friendly (which D.C. lost to Fulham, 3-0). A tough stretch of matches looms, with six of the next seven matches coming against teams in playoff position.
5. REAL SALT LAKE (8-4-8)
OUTLOOK- Olmes Garcia hadn’t scored a goal all season before his two-goal effort in the win against Montreal, and if the Colombian striker can get rolling, RSL could do well in an upcoming stretch of five games against teams currently in playoff position. Tonight’s match at home against the New York Red Bulls will be especially important to try and build some momentum.
6. FC DALLAS (8-7-6)
OUTLOOK- Don’t look now but FC Dallas is unbeaten since May, posting a 3-0-3 record during that span (while also making a run to the U.S. Open Cup semifinals). With Raul Fernandez regaining his “Superman” form, and rookie Tesho Akindele really blossoming, FC Dallas look more than capable of being a playoff team.
7. COLORADO RAPIDS (8-6-6)
OUTLOOK- Manhandled a Chivas USA team that embarrassed them at home back in May. The Dillons (Powers and Serna) playing well and the defense posted a sorely-needed shutout. Perhaps the most encouraging aspect of the win against Chivas USA was seeing struggling Panamanian forward Gabriel Torres score his first goal of the season.
8. PORTLAND TIMBERS (6-6-9)
OUTLOOK- Posting a road win in Montreal, the Timbers’ second straight, has Portland creeping ever closer to the playoff pack in the West. Three points out of the top five at the moment, the Timbers face a stiff test from a Galaxy team that they have enjoyed success against since Caleb Porter took charge of the Timbers.
9. VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (6-4-10)
OUTLOOK- Jay DeMerit’s retirement was an emotional blow to a team that has lost its captain, but with some extra salary cap room to work with, Vancouver should be able to add to its roster soon. Pedro Morales continues to make his case for MLS Newcomer of the Year (and is second only to Dom Dwyer on the ‘Biggest All-Star Snub” list).
10. TORONTO FC (7-6-5)
OUTLOOK- Michael Bradley chose to rip the referees after Saturday’s loss to Sporting Kansas City, when he should probably have been criticizing his team’s poor finishing. Dom Oduro looked very dangerous in the defeat, but has a track record of having the occasional gem followed by frustrating mediocrity.
11. COLUMBUS CREW (6-7-8)
OUTLOOK- Federico Higuain’s perfect free kick goal helped the Crew post a second straight win and edge into a tie with TFC for third place in the East. A place that may not be easy to keep hold off without some summer transfer reinforcements.
12. PHILADELPHIA UNION (5-8-8)
OUTLOOK- The arrival of Algerian goalkeeper Rais Mbolhi should provide the team with an upgrade in goal, but Zac MacMath wasn’t exactly a problem for the Union. Now the team will likely have to deal MacMath in order to address other needs, like forward depth and potentially centerback help. Mbolhi will have a harsh welcome to the league as he faces defending champion Sporting KC in his debut (assuming he is fit enough to play on Friday).
13. NEW YORK RED BULLS (5-6-9)
OUTLOOK- Beating a short-handed Arsenal side in a friendly really doesn’t mean much, but winning on the road against Real Salt Lake tonight certainly would. That will be easier said than done though, as Rio Tinto Stadium has been a bit of a house of horrors in recent years for the Red Bulls.
14. SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES (5-8-5)
OUTLOOK- Putting up a five-spot in routing the Chicago Fire last week had to instill some confidence. So could a draw against Atletico Madrid in last weekend’s friendly. The Earthquakes will need that confidence considering the next four matches consist of two dates with Seattle and clashes with the Galaxy and FC Dallas.
15. NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION (7-11-2)
OUTLOOK- From a 7-1-1 hot streak to an 0-7 losing skid that has the Revs in danger of challenging the league record for futility, New England is a mess. Having the Rapids travel to Gillette Stadium for tonight’s match should help, but the losing streak won’t end if the midfield doesn’t take control of things.
16. CHICAGO FIRE (3-5-11)
OUTLOOK- With just one win in nine matches, the Fire don’t have much to be excited about, but reports that the team is pursuing Jermaine Jones have to give Fire fans some reason for optimism.
17. CHIVAS USA (6-9-5)
OUTLOOK- The team’s encouraging four-match winning streak from earlier this month is a thing of the past, with consecutive losses leaving the Goats falling toward the West basement yet again.
18. HOUSTON DYNAMO (5-11-4)
OUTLOOK- The Dynamo had a week off from MLS play, but the additions of DaMarcus Beasley and Luis Garrido having Houston looking like a team very capable of a second-half surge.
19. MONTREAL IMPACT (3-12-5)
OUTLOOK- Having the worst record in the league was bound to cost someone his job, and on Wednesday that man became Nick DeSantis.
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.