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MLS Power Rankings: Sounders surge
by Ridge Mahoney, August 28th, 2012 4:31AM

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Midseason signings in Columbus and a Fredy Montero revival made for a goal-filled week in MLS as the top four kept their places but the surging Sounders moved into the top five by crushing Chivas USA, 6-2.

Paced by Federico Higuain and Jairo Arrieta, the Crew scored six goals in victories over Eastern Conference rivals Toronto and New England. Montero rang up a hat trick in a 6-2 rout of Chivas USA, and the Quakes got a pair of goals each from Simon Dawkins and Alan Gordon to pummel the Rapids, 4-1.

Here are the power rankings headed into another busy week of international and domestic games, as well as a lighter schedule the following weekend due to World Cup qualifying.

1. SAN JOSE (15-6-5). Rather than using his usual motif of scoring last-minute goals off the bench, Alan Gordon parlayed a starting assignment into a tour-de-force: two goals, a defense-splitting diagonal ball to set up Simon Dawkins for one of his two goals, and countless balls won on the ground and in the air. Ramiro Corrales collected three assists in the 4-1 victory over the Rapids that opened up a seven-point lead atop the Western Conference and improved the Quakes' record at Buck Shaw Stadium this season to 9-0-3. They also lead the league in goals scored with 52, an average of two per game.  Last week: 1.

2. NEW YORK (13-7-6). The Red Bulls did the seemingly impossible by tying SKC, 1-1, despite not managing a shot on goal. Thierry Henry missed the trip to Kansas City to be with his birthing wife, and New York got a fortunate equalizer when Sebastien Le Toux's free kick into the goalmouth produced an own goal. Dax McCarty had a chance to steal a victory in the final minutes but couldn't get off a shot from close range. Last week: 2.

3. SPORTING KANSAS CITY (14-7-5). Goals at both ends by Kei Kamara left SKC frustrated after a 1-1 tie with New York in the first of their three late-season meetings. Kamara's goal was his fifth in the last 10 league matches but in the second half he tried to clear a free kick that keeper Jimmy Nielsen should have handled and accidentally headed it past his immobile teammate. The late-season push will be hampered by the absence of Teal Bunbury, who suffered ACL and LCL damage in his left knee and will be out for at least six months.  Last week: 3.

4. HOUSTON (11-6-9). After winning 3-1 in El Salvador against Isidro Metapan, Houston came home and took a 1-0 lead over Toronto FC, but wavered late in the final minutes and wound up with a 1-1 tie. Will Bruin ended his goalless streak by putting away a pass from Oscar Boniek Garcia in the 21st minute and even though the victory slipped away, the Dynamo has lost just once in the last 11 matches. Last week: 4.

5. SEATTLE (12-6-7). The Sounders won their fourth game in the last five by hitting six past Chivas USA keeper Dan Kennedy at Home Depot Center. Threes were also prominent in the 6-2 shellacking: Fredy Montero hit a hat trick and Mauro Rosales registered assists on each of his goals. Last week: 7.

6. D.C. UNITED (12-9-4). Pointing ahead to a big Wednesday clash with the Red Bulls, D.C. started its game in Montreal Saturday with Dwayne De Rosario and Chris Pontius on the bench, and as subs they weren't able to get much done in a 3-0 defeat. Three days earlier United used its RFK mojo (9-0-3 at home) and goals from four different players to thump Chicago, 4-2. Midseason acquisitions Long Tan and Lionel Pajoy got their first goals for the club and Brandon McDonald and De Rosario also scored. Last week: 5.

7. CHICAGO (12-8-5). The Fire sat out the weekend after absorbing a 4-2 defeat at D.C. United. Gonzalo Segares and Daniel Paladini scored for the Fire, which conceded more than two goals for the first time this season. Chicago has a Sunday match on tap against Houston, which must play Thursday in Concacaf. Last week: 6.

8. REAL SALT LAKE (13-10-4). A 0-0 tie in Philadelphia halted a three-game losing streak; more notable was the fact that coach Jason Kreis left behind attacker Fabian Espindola, with Luis Gil added to the midfield mix. RSL, playing its third game in six days, didn't generate much in the attack but the five-man midfield seldom let the Union seriously test the back four. RSL is back home Saturday to play D.C. United, which has a major midweek showdown with the Red Bulls. Last week: 8.

9. LOS ANGELES (12-11-4). Yes, the defense has tightened up, but a very underrated element of the Galaxy's recent play is myriad players stepping up to contribute offensively. Holding mid Juninho and left back Todd Dunivant not only scored in a 2-0 defeat of FC Dallas, they did so with finishes a few MLS strikers would struggle to produce. Teenager Jose Villareal set up Juninho's goal with the aplomb of a veteran by stripping defender Matt Hedges and drawing keeper Kevin Hartman out of the net.  Last week: 9.

10. COLUMBUS (10-8-6). Crew fans can only wonder what this season might have been like had Federico Higuain and Jairo Arrieta been available in January rather than July. That tandem spurred the Crew to a six-point week with a 2-1 victory over Toronto FC and a wild 4-3 comeback defeat of New England. Higuain set up Eddie Gaven for a goal and scored against TFC, and both players scored twice to down the Revs. Arrieta nailed the winner in the 86th minute after Higuain had twice connected on free kicks. Higuain has scored three goals and registered three assists in three MLS appearances, and the Crew is 2-0-2 in its last four games. An injury to keeper Andy Gruenebaum is a major concern. Last week: 11.

11. MONTREAL (12-13-3). Two goals by Patrice Bernier led the Impact past United, 3-0, for its fifth straight victory. Marco Di Vaio also got on the board with his third goal of the season, which might serve notice that the team's winning streak coincides with him getting more familiar with his teammates irrespective of his stats. His bending shot into the top corner gave the Impact a Goal of the Week candidate for the fourth straight week, and settled the defense in front of keeper Troy Perkins, who posted his second shutout in three appearances for Montreal. Last week: 12.

12. FC DALLAS (8-12-8). A 2-0 loss to the Galaxy halted FCD's recent revival and cooled a burst of feverish playoff speculation, but with six games to play FCD is just five points behind fiffh-place Vancouver. It will get its chance: after hosting Seattle this week, FCD stays at home to play Vancouver Sept. 15. Blas Perez returned to the lineup after missing 12 games with a foot injury and replaced Fabian Castillo in the 41st minute. With him and David Ferreira healthy, FCD will have enough attacking potency to make a run at the postseason. Last week: 10.

13. VANCOUVER (10-10-7). They may be getting tired of hearing "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," but such homilies are appropos after a 2-1 loss in Portland left the 'Caps winless all-time in the Cascadia Cup and wearing three straight losses. Keeper Joe Cannon let a free kick squirt through his gloves for the winning goal, and more than 700 fans who made the trip left disappointed despite celebrating Kenny Miller's first league goal for the team. The 'Caps still have a five-point cushion in the playoff race but are three points behind the fourth-place Galaxy heading into a meeting at Home Depot Center this weekend. Last week: 13.

14. CHIVAS USA (7-10-6). Juan Agudelo scored his first goal for the club from the penalty spot but the much-vaunted defense was riddled in a 6-2 home loss to Seattle. Miller Bolanos' goal cut the deficit to 3-2 in the 64th minute before the roof fell in. Recently signed defender Bobby Burling got his first start for the club alongside John Valencia and the product wasn't pretty. Chivas USA has won just two of its last nine and is still the lowest scoring team in the league with 17 goals in 23 matches.  Last week: 14.

15. PHILADELPHIA (7-12-4).  The Union struggled to break down a packed RSL defense in a rugged 0-0 tie that extended its winless streak to four games. Antoine Hoppenot nearly stole a win in stoppage time but his shot from a sharp angle hit the outside of the post to send home a sellout crowd frustrated. Gabriel Gomez started in place of Freddy Adu, who came on as a sub in the 82nd minute. Philly hosts the Crew Wednesday and plays at New England Saturday; along with points, the players are vying for jobs in 2013. Last week: 15.

16. COLORADO (8-16-2). The Rapids lost for the 11th time in the last 14 games with a miserable defensive performance that allowed the Quakes many more chances than the four they converted in a 4-1 thumping. Trailing 2-0, Colorado scored when Tyrone Marshall headed home a Martin Rivero corner kick, and after a few brief promising minutes San Jose regained control to win going away.  Coach Oscar Pareja elected not to use recent signing Hendry Thomas because the Rapids were "chasing the game." He might get a run Friday in Portland. Last week: 17.

17. PORTLAND (6-13-6). A rivalry win counts the same as any other win yet Jeld-Wen Field reverberated with cheers and songs as the Timbers Army counted down the final seconds of a 2-1 defeat of Vancouver to end their eight-game (0-6-2) winless streak. Franck Songo'o scored his first goal as a Timber on a free kick for the winner. Darlington Nagbe also scored and a few key saves from Donovan Ricketts got the victory. Rumors that surfaced last week that the Timbers are trying to hire Akron head coach Caleb Porter were repeated by The Oregonian newspaper. Last week: 18.

18. NEW ENGLAND (6-14-5). The Revs slumbering attack -- one goal in the previous three games -- woke up but the defense couldn't contain Columbus, which rallied from a 2-0 deficit to win, 4-3. Goals six minutes apart by Ryan Guy and Jerry Bengston provided the lead, and after New England fell behind Lee Nguyen equalized with a penalty kick, but five minutes later the Revs were breached yet again. Juan Toja joined the Revs Monday in an allocation draft four years after leaving MLS to play in Europe; is this really what he had in mind? Last week: 16.

19. TORONTO FC (5-15-6). Terry Dunfield took advantage of a tiring Dynamo defense to score the tying goal in the 85th minute for a 1-1 tie in Houston. TFC has just two ties in the last four matches yet got the point after a 2-1 loss in Columbus Wednesday that maintained its status as the league's worst team. Last week: 19.



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