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MLS Power Rankings: Top dogs feed on the weak
by Ridge Mahoney, October 1st, 2012 5:25PM

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Most of the MLS games last weekend matched teams likely to make the playoffs with those either eliminated or with slim hopes, and the top dogs usually prevailed.

The big match of the week didn't produce much drama, as Sporting Kansas City crisply defeated Chicago, 2-0, Friday in a matchup of the Eastern Conference's top two teams. The victory did pull SKC to within three points of overall leader San Jose, which added to its late-game legacy by scoring in the 95th minute to tie FC Dallas, 3-3.

Otherwise, all the teams that have qualified for the playoffs or are close to doing so either won or tied. Columbus eliminated Philly, 3-2, but still trails the Dynamo (a 2-0 winner over New England) by one point for the final spot in the Eastern Conference.

1. SAN JOSE (18-6-7). Steven Lenhart came off the bench to score twice, including yet another stoppage-time goal, in a 3-3 tie that preserved San Jose's unbeaten run at Buck Shaw Stadium, which dates back to last season. They've won 11 and tied seven since losing to the Crew on Aug. 13, 2011. Yet they've conceded six goals in the last three games after blanking Chivas USA in back-to-back matches, and that needs to be rectified as the season winds down. The Quakes are at Colorado Saturday. Last week: 1.

2. SPORTING KANSAS CITY (17-7-7). Graham Zusi scored early and late as SKC posted is league-high 14th shutout by dousing the Fire, 2-0. Lawrence Olum got his second straight start in place of centerback Aurelien Collin and helped stamp out a Fire attack that mustered just one shot on goal. SKC is unbeaten in its last nine games and takes the league's best road mark (8-4-3) to Columbus Sunday. Last week: 2.

3. CHICAGO (16-9-5). The Fire could have taken over first place by winning at Livestrong Sporting Park, but instead labored to dent SKC's imposing defense and succumbed to a 2-0 defeat, its first loss away against Kansas City in five years. Chris Rolfe misfired on an early chance and Patrick Nyarko, felled by hard tackle in the first half, seldom threatened. Defender Gonzalo Segares and Coach Frank Klopas were red-carded during a frenzied stoppage-time melee and will miss Wednesday's home game against Philly. Last week: 3.

4. SEATTLE (13-7-10). The Sounders rode their luck and a few key plays by keeper Michael Gspurning to earn a 0-0 tie at Vancouver and clinch their playoff spot. Chances were spurned by Fredy Montero, Steve Zakuani and Eddie Johnson in the second half as the defense earned its 10th shutout of the season. Mauro Rosales returned to the lineup after sitting out three games with a quadriceps strain and played the first 70 minutes. The Cascadia Cup quest reconvenes Saturday at home against Portland. Last week: 4.

5. LOS ANGELES (15-11-5). Juninho isn't the only Galaxy central mid who carries a pulverizing shot; Marcelo Sarvas hit a blast from outside the box for his second goal of the season in a 1-1 tie at Colorado that ran L.A.'s unbeaten league streak to seven games. In the span of about a minute, Landon Donovan lost a goal for an apparent pushing foul and defender A.J. DeLaGarza left the match with a sprained left knee. Rookie Tommy Meyer, making his first appearance since early May, took over, and may get the start Saturday against RSL if DeLaGarza can't recover in time. Last week: 5.

6. NEW YORK (15-8-8). The Red Bulls took care of business by squashing Toronto FC, 4-1, but only after falling behind did they unleash the attack that produced a goal and three assists from Thierry Henry. He set up Marcus Holgersson for an equalizing header with a corner kick and conjured up two chances that Kenny Cooper converted, then tacked on the fourth goal himself. With only two wins in the last six games the Red Bulls must turn it up when they host Chicago Saturday if they are to challenge SKC for the conference title. Last week: 6.

7. REAL SALT LAKE (16-11-4). As expected, RSL took its turn cuffing Chivas USA and also sharpened the scoring instincts of Alvaro Saborio, whose hat trick in a 4-0 rout took his tally for the season to 17, second-best in the league. Fabian Espindola entered the record books as the first RSL player to record three assists in a league match, and RSL moved into second place among MLS teams with its 12th shutout. It holds a two-point lead for second place in the Western Conference over the Galaxy heading into a return trip to Home Depot Center for a Saturday showdown. Last week: 7.

8. D.C. UNITED (15-10-6). A very dubious penalty-kick decision provided Chris Pontius the opportunity to score the goal that brought United a 1-1 tie at Portland. United failed to hold the lead after Pontius converted in the 60th minute yet did hold on for its 10th point in the last four games. Last week: 8.

9. HOUSTON (13-8-10). Midseason changes carried the Dynamo to the 2011 MLS Cup, and two recent arrivals this year -- Ricardo Clark and Oscar Boniek Garcia -- scored the goals by which it knocked off New England, 2-0, to extend its home unbeaten streak to 23 games. Brad Davis set up Clark's goal in the 77th minute for his team-high 12th assist, and Tally Hall earned his 12th shutout. Houston needs to keep the home mojo working Saturday against the not-yet-eliminated Impact. Last week: 9.

10. COLUMBUS (14-11-6). A wild 3-2 defeat of Philadelphia kept the Crew just one point behind Houston for the fifth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot. Milovan Mirosevic scored in the 87th minute to regain a lead the Crew had squandered following two sharp finishes by Jairo Arrieta late in the first half. With eight goals in 15 games, all as a starter, Arrieta has proven to be a very astute midseason acquisition. And Andy Gruenebaum leads the league in saves. Last week: 10.

11. FC DALLAS (9-12-10). Coach Schellas Hyndman was steamed after a 3-3 tie at San Jose last week in which FCD twice conceded goals that wiped out one-goal leads. Blas Perez underlined his importance by scoring twice and a brave header by Matt Hedges pushed FCD in front, 3-2, in the 88th minute but a stoppage-time goal by the Quakes deprived it of tying Vancouver for fifth place in the West. Still, there's three points for the taking Sunday at Chivas USA. Last week: 12.

12. MONTREAL (12-15-4). The weekend's results didn't eliminate the idle Impact, which takes its 2-12-1 road record for a must-win game to Houston, which hasn't lost at home since June of last year. Midfielder Brian Arguez has returned from a three-month loan to FC Edmonton of the NASL Last week: 11.

13. VANCOUVER (10-12-9). Jay DeMerit failed to put away a good chance and Camilo misfired in stoppage time to leave the Whitecaps with a 0-0 tie against the Sounders that extended their winless streak to seven. Some good work by keeper Brad Knighton, who posted his first shutout of the season, earned the result that preserved a two-point lead over FCD in the playoff race. Darren Mattocks and John Thorrington left the match with injuries and unknown is their status for Wednesday, when the 'Caps take their shot at Chivas USA at home. Last week: 14.

14. COLORADO (9-18-4). The Rapids have been pretty poor a few times this season but not so at home against the Galaxy Sunday while scrapping for a 1-1 tie. They fell behind early yet rallied to tie the game when right back Hunter Freeman got up the wing to center a ball Jaime Castrillon drilled first-time into the net. Castrillon's goal took his season tally to eight, not bad for a new player on a struggling team. Last week: 13.

15. PHILADELPHIA (8-15-6). The inevitable elimination from playoff contention came at Columbus, which prevailed, 3-2, after a penalty kick by Danny Cruz and equalizer from Jack McInerney had wiped out a 2-0 deficit. Blunders by Amobi Okugo gave the Crew openings on its first two goals. The Union conceded the winner right from the kickoff after it had tied the game, but still its 19 road goals conceded is one of the lowest figures in the league. Now officially in the role of spoiler, it gets back on the road Wednesday in Chicago. Last week: 15.

16. PORTLAND (7-15-9). Bright Dike scored his second goal in as many games in a 1-1 tie with D.C. United, which grabbed the lead on a penalty kick awarded when officials thought David Horst had deflected a cross with his arm. He hadn't but still the Timbers fought back to score when Dike chased down a loose ball before United could clear it. The Timbers take a modest run of nine points from the last seven games to Seattle for a Cascadia Cup clash on Sunday. Last week: 16.

17. NEW ENGLAND (7-16-8). The Revs lost for the ninth time in the last 14 matches, dating back to early July, when they were shut out, 2-0, in Houston. Benny Feilhaber got his first start since Sept. 1 and hit a curling free kick that forced a good save, and Jerry Bengston bounced a header just wide from a Fernando Cardenas cross. Bobby Shuttleworth posted five saves in his second straight start as Coach Jay Heaps ponders his plan for 2013. Last week: 17.

18. CHIVAS USA (7-16-7). The losing streak stands at six matches and the goalless run is 442 minutes after a 4-0 home loss to Real Salt Lake. Since taking over prior to the 2011 season, head coach Robin Fraser's record is 15-30-19, and the team is on course to set a league record for fewest goals scored with just 21 and four more games to play. Last week: 18.

19. TORONTO (5-19-7). In the race to avoid finishing the season rock-bottom, TFC took a 1-0 lead over the Red Bulls when Ryan Johnson belted a searing shot into the top corner less than six minutes after the opening kickoff. Not much went right after that in a 4-1 defeat. Last week: 19.



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