By Ridge Mahoney
D.C. United got its first win by pounding FC Dallas, 4-1, and San Jose handed Seattle its first loss in a very volatile week of MLS action that lifted and dropped a number of teams several places in the standings.
You’d be reluctant to bet that on the same weekend Seattle, Portland and the Galaxy would all lose at home, but that’s what happened as MLS closed out its March schedule.
You’d never have thought that after four games the Whitecaps would be not only unbeaten but unscored upon; such is the case after a 0-0 tie at Philadelphia that marked the return of Sebastien Le Toux. And things are going so well for the Colorado Rapids that a player they signed a few days ago, Kamani Hill, came on as a sub and scored on his debut. Oh, and the league’s worst team last year, New England, punked the defending champion on its home field.
Those events and many more shaped the Week 4 Power Rankings:
1. SPORTING KANSAS CITY (4-0-0).Coach Peter Vermes may not be all that impressed – at least publicly – by the team’s first 4-0 start in its history, but just about everyone else is. Graham Zusi improvised to record his league-leading fifth assist of the season; when his shot was deflected onto the crossbar, he followed up with a header to C.J. Sapong, who nodded it home to down Chivas USA, 1-0. Last week: 1.
2. REAL SALT LAKE (3-1-0). With Nat Borchers, Alvaro Saborio and Javier Morales starting together for the first time this season, RSL stood a good chance, even in the cauldron that is Jeld-Wen Field. Yet trailing Portland, 2-1, three subs turned the game around. Will Johnson set up Jonny Steele to equalize, and Fabian Espindola’s flick set up Kyle Beckerman for the winner. The depth, and swagger, that propelled RSL to the title in 2009 seems to have returned. Last week:6.
3. VANCOUVER (2-0-2).Blanking an opponent on the road is always the objective, and the ‘Caps did just that at PPL Park to frustrate the Union in a 0-0 tie. Unfortunately, Sebastien Le Toux squandered two good opportunities in his return to Philly, but another stout defensive effort ran Vancouver’s shutout streak at the start of the season to 360 minutes. When the offense gets going, this team should rock. Last week: 3.
4. HOUSTON (2-1-0). The Dynamo took a bye and sits out this weekend as well. It gets back to action April 15 at Chicago. Last week: 4.
5. COLORADO (3-1-0). Sign a player and watch him score in his debut. That’s the karma currently in force with Colorado, for which Kamani Hill’s stoppage-time clincher came just days after his acquisition. Another nice goal for Omar Cummings and an impressive stint by newcomer Martin Rivero have the Rapids looking like serious contenders for the big prize. Post-concussion problems will sideline Pablo Mastroenifor more than a month, to the concern of everyone around the league. Last week: 8.
6. SAN JOSE (3-1-0).New turf or old, most teams labor on the artificial surface at CenturyLink Field, yet the ‘Quakes pinged balls around with aplomb while upending the Sounders, 1-0. Chris Wondolowski took advantage of a dubious call to score the only goal from the penalty spot, and for more than an hour they fended off the home team to record a third shutout in four games. Last week: 10.
7. SEATTLE (2-1-0). An occasional clunker at home isn’t necessarily of great concern, but coming soon after a 6-1 humiliation by Santos Laguna in Concacaf play, the 1-0 loss to San Jose etched another furrow in the brow of owner Joe Roth. Defender Marc Burch’s challenge on Steven Lenhart resulted in the decisive penalty kick, and though Fredy Montero caused problems his shooting lacked the sting required to beat Jon Busch. After three at home, Seattle goes on the road for two of the next three. Last week: 3.
8. COLUMBUS (2-1-0).The Crew took advantage of Toronto’s feeble start to the MLS season by extracting a 1-0 victory from BMO Field despite Milovan Mirosevic’s saved penalty kick. Bernardo Anor punished a poor TFC clearance by driving home the rebound. Keeper Andy Gruenebaum and his defensive mates weren’t troubled as they got their first road win of the season.Last week:13.
9. NEW YORK (2-2-0). Never mind the visa-impaired Luke Rodgers, the Red Bulls are still sorting out their defense. Wilman Conde’s arrival has sparked improvement, but he hobbled off during a 5-2 rout of Montreal propelled by Thierry Henry’s hat-trick-plus-assist masterpiece. Rafael Marquez set up one of Henry’s goals before leaving with a groin strain, and replacement Teemu Tainio helped stabilize the midfield as New York blew open a 2-2 game. Last week: 12.
10. CHICAGO (1-1-1). In a 2-0 loss at Colorado, Dominic Oduro squandered a clear chance late in the first half by shooting straight at the keeper and failing to corral the rebound, and with two other prime opportunities failed to beat the goalie and shot just over the crossbar. Marco Pappa caused his usual share of problems but the Fire sustained their first loss of the season. Last week: 9.
11. NEW ENGLAND (2-2-0). The Revs are at .500 for the first time in a long time after blasting the Galaxy, 3-1, at Home Depot Center with a game of high-pressure and efficient finishing. Rookie Kelyn Rowe and Chris Tierney scored in the first 13 minutes and the Revs so thoroughly blanketed David Beckham that he was substituted at halftime. Last week: 15.
12. D.C. UNITED (1-2-1). Tied 1-1 with FC Dallas at halftime, the RFK faithful fidgeted nervously as to what might transpire in the second 45 minutes. They roared first in disbelief and then ecstacy as D.C. scored three times in 13 minutes after livewire Nick De Leon had rattled the crossbar. He finished off a sweeping move with an incredible shot wedged into the top corner to break the tie, then found Danny Cruz for the third goal. Maicon Santos notched his second goal of the game to close out a memorable 4-1 display. Last week: 16.
13. FC DALLAS (1-2-1). Blas Perezconverted a deflected through ball that might have been judged offside just before halftime to tie the game with D.C. United, 1-1. The FCD defense and midfield then collapsed under waves of attacks in a 4-1 loss that had Coach Schellas Hyndman and his players utterly mystified. Last week: 7.
14. LOS ANGELES (1-2-0).A week off was supposed to revive the defending champion after it played four domestic and international matches in 12 days. Instead, the sluggish Galaxy conceded two goals to New England in the first 13 minutes, which so infuriated Coach Bruce Arena that he removed midfielders David Beckham and Marcelo Sarvas at halftime after they’d squabbled about a breakdown. The ensuing 3-1 loss has observers wondering if without Landon Donovan andOmar Gonzalez the Galaxy is just another team. Last week: 5.
15. PORTLAND (1-2-1).Two stunning golazos by Darlington Nagbe would be brighter in the memory if the Timbers hadn’t faltered in the final minutes as RSL rallied to score twice and win, 3-2. They had fallen behind, 1-0, for the fourth straight game, and in training this week that issue along with the late-game collapse will be addressed. Last week: 11.
16. CHIVAS USA (1-3-0). Tidy possession that lacks a cutting edge in the final third has been the story so far for Chivas USA and so it was again Sunday as Sporting Kansas City posted a 1-0 win at Home Depot Center. Seven minutes after Nick LaBrocca hit the post, SKC scored when keeper Dan Kennedy deflected a Graham Zusi shot onto the crossbar, and Zusi bumped aside defender Heath Pearce to set up the only goal. Those plays decide tight games. Last week: 14.
17. MONTREAL (0-3-1).The Impact toasted the New York defense twice to take a 2-1 lead at Red Bull Arena on goals by Sanna Nyassiand Justin Mapp, but thenThierry Henry took over. On his best days Henry is capable of taking apart most MLS teams, yet Montreal paved its own demise when defender Matteo Ferrarifouled Dax McCarty to give away a penalty kick in first-half stoppage time. Can’t do that! Last week: 17.
18. PHILADELPHIA (0-3-1). The Union attack failed to generate consistent pressure in a 0-0 home tie with Vancouver. A close-range effort by Carlos Valdes hit the post and the Union managed only two shots that required saves. On the positive side, it did hold Vancouver – and former Union stalwart Sebastien Le Toux – without a shot on goal. Keeper Zac MacMath’s sliding clearance outside the penalty area helped stymie the ‘Caps. Last week: 19.
19. TORONTO FC (0-3-0). Striker Danny Koevermans said after a 1-0 loss to the Crew at BMO Field that “everybody could see we were the better team.” Well, OK, keeper Milos Kocic did save a penalty kick, but a Julian de Guzman giveaway set up the Columbus goal, and it was Koevermans who shot tamely with TFC’s last decent chance of its second straight home defeat. Last week: 18.