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MLS Power Ranking: Eastern teams rising
by Ridge Mahoney, August 21st, 2012 1:51PM

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The Quakes lost, 3-1, in Montreal, but still cling to the top spot in the overall rankings though most of their closest pursuers posted victories. New York and Sporting Kansas City are just three points and one point, respectively, behind San Jose in the race for the best overall record.

Real Salt Lake lost its third straight game, 2-1, to FC Dallas, and tumbled down the rankings to eighth place though it is still second in the Western Conference. The balance of power between the conferences is shifting, with slots second through sixth occupied by Eastern Conference teams. In four inter-conference games hosted by Eastern teams last week, they won two and tied two.

Columbus, Philadelphia and Chivas USA still lag behind the field with 22 games played; FC Dallas and Montreal are both in sixth place, one slot shy of a playoff spot, and lead the league with 27 games done and dusted.

This week's schedule is again crowded by Champions League play, with RSL, Houston, and the Galaxy facing Central American opposition. There are also Eastern Conference games on Wednesday: Columbus-Toronto FC, and D.C. United-Chicago. The Fire is the only team sitting out the weekend's league play, which features an Eastern showdown between SKC and New York at Livestrong Sporting Park on Sunday.

1. SAN JOSE (14-6-5). Chris Wondolowski's league-leading 18th goal of the season provided a 1-0 lead the Quakes were unable to retain in Montreal. Steven Lenhart was sent off in the first half for prompting a scuffle, and Jason Hernandez was dismissed in the 71st minute for denying a goalscoring opportunity. Fortunately, the Quakes have enough depth to account for such absences. The league's highest-scoring team at home (28 goals) returns to Buck Shaw Stadium, where it plays four of the next six games, Saturday to host Colorado. Last week: 1.
 
2. NEW YORK (13-7-5). Tim Cahill scored his first goal as a Red Bull player as New York rallied from a 2-0 deficit to down Portland, 3-2.  Kenny Cooper moved into a second-place tie with Alvaro Saborio among the league leaders by scoring his 14th goal and Heath Pearce got the winner in the 83rd minute. The victory, its second straight following two losses, also gives New York the league's best record (9-0-3) at home. Last week: 2.
 
3. SPORTING KANSAS CITY (14-7-4). Kei Kamara's free kick that snuck into the net off the fingertips of TFC goalie Milos Kocic was just enough for a 1-0 victory that was SKC's third straight. Keeper Jimmy Nielsen leads all keepers with 11 shutouts and he's played every minute for the league's best defense (22 goals allowed in 25 games for a per-game average of 0.88). SKC can widen its lead atop the Eastern Conference when it hosts second-place New York Sunday. Last week: 4.
 
4. HOUSTON (11-6-8). The Dynamo preserved its unbeaten home mark, barely, by tying Columbus, 2-2, with an Adam Moffat equalizer that squeezed through the gloves of Andy Gruenebaum. It is 8-0-4 at BBVA Compass Stadium and hasn't lost at home for 20 games, since a 2-0 Crew victory on June 18, 2011. This wasn't a great performance by Houston, though Brad Davis nailed a Goal of the Week candidate into the top corner for its first goal.  A busy week starts with a Wednesday game in El Salvador against FAS and continues at home Saturday against Toronto. Last week: 3.
 
5. D.C. UNITED (11-8-4). Two dismissals, a missed re-taken penalty kick, and a disallowed goal made for a bizarre 1-1 home tie against Philadelphia. Dwayne De Rosario converted his first attempt from the spot after a foul on Chris Pontius, but Hamdi Salihi was judged, correctly, to have encroached, and after a scuffle that resulted in a red card to midfielder Branko Boskovic, DeRo hit the re-kick against the crossbar. Defender Emiliano Dudar departed in stoppage time with a red card, and after the final whistle Chris Korb and Brandon McDonald jawed heatedly with each other. Coach Ben Olsen has only a couple of days to sort it all out for a Wednesday visit to RFK by Chicago, which D.C. trails by four points in the standings. Last week: 6.
 
6. CHICAGO (12-7-5). Chris Rolfe's disputed penalty kick provided an early lead and Sherjill MacDonald's first MLS goal was protected for more than an hour as the Fire beat New England, 2-1. After MacDonald scored midway through the first half, rookie Austin Berry stripped Saer Sene with a do-or-die tackle in the penalty area and also cleared a ball out of trouble to help Chicago earn its third straight victory and its eighth in 12 home games this season. Last year, it won only six of 17 at Toyota Park, and finished with 43 points, just two more than it has already in 2012. Last week: 7.

7. SEATTLE (11-6-7). Two minutes after coming into a goalless match against Vancouver, Fredy Montero scored, and with three minutes left Eddie Johnson added a clinching goal to trigger a frenzied celebration at CenturyLink Field, from which most of the 55,718 fans left delighted at the 2-0 score. The shutout reduced Michael Gspurning's goals-allowed average to a microscopic 0.57. The Sounders are 4-1-3 in their last eight games and got some good news beyond the first team when Steve Zakuani scored in a reserve game. Last week: 8.
 
8. REAL SALT LAKE (13-10-3). FC Dallas stung RSL with a goal in the 94th minute to inflict a third straight league defeat and fourth overall, 2-1. Coach Jason Kreis kept a few regulars out of the starting lineup to keep them fresh for a Tuesday Concacaf game, yet RSL pushed for the victory after Alvaro Saborio's 14th goal of the season had tied the match in the 70th minute. Payback can be cruel: RSL had beaten FCD, 3-2, with a stoppage-time goal May 26. Salt Lake City native Justin Braun made his debut at Rio Tinto as a second-half substitute. Last week: 5.
 
9. LOS ANGELES (11-11-4). Robbie Keane tucked away a cross from Sean Franklin for his 11th goal of the season -- only three players have scored more -- as the Galaxy rallied for a 1-1 tie in Columbus. It leads the league in away goals with 25 yet has .500 records at home (5-5-1) and away (6-6-3). It kicks off its Concacaf schedule at home Thursday against Isidro Metapan in the first of four games to be played in a span of 10 days. Last week: 9.
 
10. FC DALLAS (8-11-8). A six-point week fueled by Player of the Week David Ferreira brightened those slim playoff hopes. FCD trails the Galaxy and Vancouver, which have just one game in hand, by five points with seven games to play. Ferreira assisted on both goals in a 2-0 midweek defeat of Vancouver, and on Saturday against RSL he followed up yet another assist with a top-corner blast in stoppage time for a 2-1 win at Rio Tinto. Fabian Castillo netted a goal in each game as FCD posted its fifth win in the last eight matches. Homegrown signing Ruben Luna has been loaned to San Antonio and could see time in the NASL playoffs. Last week: 12.
 
11. COLUMBUS (8-8-6). Needing wins to get into the playoff chase, the Crew did manage a pair of creditable ties: 1-1 at home against the Galaxy and 2-2 in Houston. Jairo Arrieta's goal early in the second half against the Galaxy didn't stand up, and ANdy Gruenebaum's flub in Houston negated goals by Cole Grossman and Eddie Gaven that had wiped out a 1-0 deficit. A moment of silence and a video tribute at the Galaxy game honored the memory of midfielder Kirk Urso, who died Aug. 5. Fans displayed signs and banners displaying his name and No. 15 throughout the match. Last week: 11.
 
12. MONTREAL (11-13-3). The Impact's fourth consecutive win came against overall points leader San Jose, 3-1, after a scuffle midway through the first half resulted in each team losing a player to a red card and a 1-0 Quakes lead. After Steven Lenhart and Hassoun Camara tangled and were ejected, a goal by Marco Di Vaio tied the match.  Midfielder Felipe took advantage of the extra space afforded playing 10-v-10; Patrice Bernier set up Lamar Neagle for the go-ahead goal and notched the clincher himself from the penalty spot after Di Vaio was fouled.  Last week: 13.
 
13. VANCOUVER (10-9-7). Defender Jay DeMerit's battle with post-concussion problems and 2-0 losses to FC Dallas and archrival Seattle made for a very tough week. The 'Caps were also hampered by callups (Darren Mattocks and Dane Richards) against FCD, and a suspension handed to Barry Robson, who had bickered with a match official in the Dallas game, for the Seattle showdown. The 'Caps are still tied with the fourth-place Galaxy, though their 28 goals scored is the fewest of any team occupying a playoff slot, and they are 3-6-3 in their last dozen games. Last week: 10.
 
14. CHIVAS USA (7-9-6). A seventh straight game against Colorado failed to produce a win, but a Juan Pablo Angel goal in the 83rd minute brought a 1-1 tie away from home. Angel's goal was his fourth of the season and just the team's league-low 15th. A giveaway by recent acquisition Shalrie Joseph provided the Rapids with the chance on which they scored, but a pair of excellent saves by Dan Kennedy thwarted Colorado's efforts to increase its lead. Though it has 12 more games to play it is 10 points out of a playoff spot. Last week: 14.
 
15. PHILADELPHIA (7-12-3). Ex-D.C. midfielder Brian Carroll scored against his former club to give Philly a 1-0 lead at RFK but Amobi Okugo deflected a free kick into his own net for the goal that produced the eventual 1-1 tie. Defender Sheanon Williams, who couldn't convert a late opportunity to score the winning goal, was sent off in stoppage time of a madcap game that included three red cards. Carroll scored from a scramble following a free kick from another former United player, Freddy Adu, who played at RFK for the first time since 2006. Last week: 15.

16. NEW ENGLAND (6-13-5).  A 2-1 loss at Toyota Park extended the Revs' winless run in that stadium as well as overall to seven games; in both regards, they are 0-6-1. After falling behind to a disputed penalty in the opening minutes, they tied the match with a goal by Fernando Cardenas, but quickly fell behind again and needed several sharp saves from Matt Reis to stay in the game as they were outshot, 22-7. Subs Benny Feilhaber, Kelyn Rowe and Jerry Bengston were unable to revive the attack. New England takes its 1-9-2 road record to Columbus this weekend. Last week: 16.

17. COLORADO (8-15-2). Things are so grim that a 1-1 tie at home against fellow straggler Chivas USA brought more angst. The Rapids were unable to preserve a lead bestowed when Brian Mullan scored in the 19th minute  and couldn't net a second goal despite a 19-5 edge in shots. Omar Cummings failed to put away prime opportunities, and his best effort was thwarted by a superb save.  Next up is a road trip to San Jose, which has already won at Dick's Sporting Goods Park this season. Last week: 17.

18. PORTLAND (5-13-6). The Timbers didn't have any trouble scoring goals last week; they netted four in two matches. Yet they wound up with just a point by rallying to tie Toronto FC, 2-2, with a late goal by Darlington Nagbe, before squandering a two-goal lead to the Red Bulls in a 3-2 loss. Bright Dike celebrated his first MLS start with a goal against the Red Bulls and Nagbe scored again before the defense collapsed, which isn't the best way to welcome new keeper Donovan Ricketts. Sal Zizzo got his first goal of the season in Toronto. Last week: 19.

19. TORONTO FC (5-14-5). Irish defender Darren O’Dea debuted in the 1-0 loss to Kansas City in which TFC conceded a goal in the final minutes for the second straight game. On Wednesday it allowed a late goal to wind up tied with Portland, 2-2, after Eric Hassli and Luis Silva had scored to wipe out a 1-0 deficit .It has conceded 10 goals in the final 15 minutes of games, third-most in MLS, and is tied for the league lead in home losses with seven. Last week: 18.



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