By Ridge Mahoney
The battle for second place in the Western Conference is mirrored in the power rankings; in both listings, FC Dallas holds a narrow lead over Seattle. Eastern Conference leader Columbus stuck to fifth place in the rankings, but rival New York slid again after extending its winless streak to six games (not counting the Emirates Cup).
1. LOS ANGELES (13-3-9). It will come as no surprise to anyone that the impetus to sign Irish striker Robbie Keane came directly, according to a source, from AEG president Tim Leiweke. In the swap of DP forwards, if Juan Pablo Angel indeed is traded away to make room, the Galaxy will have replaced Angel with a player four years younger. A week off from league action leads into the Concacaf Champions League group opener with Honduran club Montagua, which features ex-Galaxy attacker Guillermo “Pando” Ramirez, who scored LA’s winner in the 2005 MLS Cup. Last week: 1.
2. FC DALLAS (12-6-7). A 2-2 tie at Philadelphia would feel better if FCD hadn’t given away penalty kicks by which it squandered one-goal leads forged by Maicon Santos and Brek Shea. A flying save by Kevin Hartman on Sebastien Le Toux, who beat him on both penalties, in the first half denied Le Toux the hat trick. Of the five CCL openers involving MLS teams this week, FCD gets by the far the most daunting task: a Mexico City trip to play UNAM Pumas. Last week: 3.
3. SEATTLE (11-5-9). A penalty kick that wasn’t converted and an apparent second that wasn’t called left the Sounders frustrated by a 0-0 home tie with Chivas USA. Still, the Sounders have earned 10 points in their last five games – one of only three MLS teams to hit double-digits in that span – and by using a lot of players over the past two months have built the depth they will need. They open against Guatemalan club Comunicaciones Tuesday at home and play a league match in Dallas Saturday that is crucial to final placings. Last week: 2.
4. COLORADO (10-6-10). Lacking Conor Casey, the Rapids are nonetheless adopting a swagger as they head down the stretch. They were outplayed at San Jose yet took advantage of a free kick, penalty kick, and dubious red card to beat the Quakes, 2-1, for their third straight win and fourth in the last five games. Macoumba Kandji, out since suffering an injury while scoring the winning goal last November in the MLS Cup,, saw his first minutes as a late sub. Colorado debuts in the CCL when it hosts Isidro Metapan Wednesday and stays home to play Chivas USA in league action Saturday. Last week: 4.
5. COLUMBUS (10-7-7). Speaking of swagger, the Crew showed no panic when it fell behind New England, 1-0, at home late in the first half. After an own goal tied the game, it hit twice in six minutes with goals by Julius James and Emilio Renteria and rode out the remaining minutes for a 3-1 win despite midfielder Eddie Gaven missing his first game of the season with a leg contusion. Dilly Duka got back on the field for the first time in three months as a second-half sub. The Crew leads the Eastern Conference by three points and host second-place Philly on Saturday. Last week: 5.
6. REAL SALT LAKE (10-6-6). Two RSL shots that nicked the top of the crossbar and a low roller that slithered across the goalmouth and just inside the far post produced a 1-0 loss to lowly TFC at BMO Field. With three losses in the last five games and Alvaro Saborio struggling -- his misses had at least as much to do with the loss as TFC’s 3-4-3 formation – RSL is not well-prepared to play eight of its last 12 on the road even with games in hand. Last week: 6.
7. PHILADELPHIA (8-5-10). Sebastien Le Toux converted a pair of penalty kicks in the Union’s third straight tie, a 2-2 result at home with FC Dallas. Freddy Adu played 62 minutes as a starter in his return to MLS. Philly can tie the Crew atop the East by winning in Columbus Saturday and it can’t count on PKs again, especially on the road. Last week: 7.
8. CHIVAS USA (7-8-9). Keeper Dan Kennedy snuffed Pat Noonan and Alvaro Fernandez on promising opportunities and caught a break when Fernandez’s PK came off the post and hit him in the back yet went wide. A late Seattle penalty claim that was waved off enabled it to leave CenturyLink Field with a 0-0 tie, its eighth shutout of the season. Coach Robin Fraser goes back to his playing days with a match Saturday in Colorado, where he played for the pre-MLS Foxes and the Rapids. Last week: 8.
9. D.C UNITED (7-6-9). The Chris Pontius Show (two goals) dismantled Vancouver, 4-0, at RFK as Andy Najar – with a nutmeg finish of a Santino Quaranta feed – and backup keeper Joe Willis – timely saves and poise despite his inexperience – played supporting roles. Dwayne De Rosario stormed through the ‘Caps to assist on the first and last goals as D.C moved to within one point of the Red Bulls, who shipped DeRo to D.C in late June. Last week: 9.
10. HOUSTON (7-7-10). Mentor Dominic Kinnear won the battle against his former assistant coach John Spencer; the 2-1 defeat of Portland moved the Dynamo into a tie with New York for third place in the Eastern Conference. An incredible strike from nearly 40 yards by Adam Moffat and a sharp Brian Ching finish provided the goals as Houston ran its modest unbeaten streak to three games, and gave an MLS debut to Honduran attacker Carlo Costly. Last week: 12.
11. SPORTING KANSAS CITY (7-7-9). A week off gave SKC time to regroup, but it has lost defender Daneil Cyrus to a fractured metatarsal while playing in a reserve game. He had played just five games since being signed in July and his departure will require another tweak to find a centerback partner for Matt Besler. SKC is 4-1-4 at Livestrong Sporting Park and needs increases in the left-hand column with week at Portland and D.C. United come to town. Last week: 11.
12. NEW YORK (6-6-13). Dane Richards assisted on goals by Thierry Henry (his league-high 12th of the season) and Joel Lindpere (sixth) in another frustrating tie, this one a 2-2 home deadlock with Chicago that the Red Bulls led, 1-0, in the ninth minute yet needed Lindpere’s equalizer. Trade acquisition Stephane Auvray (from Sporting Kansas City) replaced Mehdi Ballouchy for the final 30 minutes but he’s not the answer for this underperforming enigma that has logged just three points in the last five games. Last week: 10.
13. PORTLAND (7-11-5). A modest run of three games without a loss ended Sunday with a 2-1 defeat in Houston. Captain Jack Jewsbury fired home his seventh goal of the season after the Timbers had fallen behind, 2-0, and they couldn’t avert a seventh loss in 11 road matches. Another critical game looms Wednesday at Kansas City; with 11 games left and having lost 11 already, Portland’s margin of error is just about gone. Last week: 13.
14. TORONTO FC (4-11-11). Turns out that Torsten Frings' stint in the back line against D.C. United a week ago wasn’t a cameo appearance. The former German international midfielder anchored a three-man defense that helped TFC beat Real Salt Lake, 1-0, with a Joao Plata goal in the 77th minute. Academy product Matt Stinson marked his MLS debut as a starter by assisting on Plata’s goal. Still, those revived playoff hopes might require TFC to win seven of its remaining eight games. Not likely. Last week: 16.
15. SAN JOSE (5-9-10). In another depressing home loss, the Quakes fell to Portland, 2-1, despite taking a 1-0 lead on Joey Gjertsen’s first goal of the season. Sam Cronin gave away a PK with a disputable handball and was then sent off for a hard challenge that won the ball from Pablo Mastroeni and caught him on the ankle. San Jose conceded the winner on a free kick in the 72nd minute and had a late penalty claim waved off. A new signing, Ecuadoran striker Edmundo Zura, has arrived on loan. It may be too late. Last week: 14.
16. NEW ENGLAND (4-11-9). After taking a 1-0 lead just before halftime when Benny Feilhaber scored his second goal of the season, the Revs gave the goal back to Columbus with what was ruled a Kevin Alston own goal. They then surrendered two more to lose, 3-1. A superb double-save by keeper Matt Reis stymied the Crew prior to Feilhaber’s goal. DP Milton Caraglio played 79 minutes in his second appearance. Last week: 15.
17. CHICAGO (2-7-14). Dominic Oduro scored his team-high seventh goal of the season and recent acquisition Sebastian Grazzini netted his first in MLS to give the Fire a 2-1 lead at Red Bull Arena after just 24 minutes. Chicago could not hold the lead and ended up with a record-tying 14th tie of the season, not a bad result considering it was outshot, 20-9, but a terrible outcome give its occupancy of last place in the Eastern Conference. Last week: 18.
18. VANCOUVER (3-12-9). Jay DeMerit and John Thorrington, hobbled by injuries for much of the season, returned to the starting lineup in a 4-0 pounding inflicted by D.C. United that drops the ‘Caps back down to the bottom. During the week Vancouver announced that Martin Rennie, head coach of the second-division Carolina RailHawks, will take over from Tom Soehn as head coach for 2012. At least ‘Caps fans get another revival of the original NASL days Saturday with a trip to Portland. Last week: 17.