By Ridge Mahoney
A reduced schedule of seven games -- three midweek and four on the weekend -- still managed to produce plenty of drama and intrigue.
Seattle’s sudden skid continued in Portland, which knocked off the Sounders, 1-0, and jumped ahead of them in the Power Rankings. Idle New York held onto the top spot and RSL, which also didn’t play, took over second place.
San Jose’s crucial 1-0 defeat of Colorado knocked the Rapids out of the No. 2 spot in the Power Rankings and tightened the gap between the teams to just one point in the battle for playoff spots.
Victories by Chicago and New England squeezed up the Eastern race as well; Montreal (fourth), the Fire (fifth), and Philadelphia (sixth) all have 46 points. The Revs are just one point back in seventh. SKC joined New York as the only teams to clinch a playoff berth when the Saturday results went its way after it grinded out a 0-0 tie in Houston on Wednesday.
Week 33 Soccer America MLS Power Rankings
RANK TEAM (W-L-T) LAST WEEK
1. NEW YORK (15-9-8) 1. Coach Mike Petke gave his players a few days off; the only ones in action were Tim Cahill and David Carney playing friendlies for Australia against France and Canada. A six-game unbeaten streak goes on the line Sunday in Houston.
2. REAL SALT LAKE (15-10-7) 4. RSL coach Jason Kreis sent his team through double training sessions Wednesday to make up for a week off from league play. The AMLS Disciplinary Committee has tacked an extra game onto Kenny Mansally’s red-card suspension incurred against FC Dallas Oct. 5; he will miss the last two games of the regular season, starting Saturday in Portland.
3. PORTLAND (13-5-14) 5. A promising debut season in 2011 gave way to an injury-riddled 2012 for Kalif Alhassan, but it was his first-time strike of a deflected clearance that beat keeper Marcus Hahnemann and the Sounders, 1-0, to push the Timbers atop the Western Conference. Fourteen points in the last six games mark them as a very hot team.
4. COLORADO (13-10-9) 2. A 1-0 loss at San Jose was its third in the last six games and took much of the luster off last week’s 4-1 stomping of Seattle. Coach Oscar Pareja lamented an “ugly game,” as a depleted Rapids attack threatened only rarely. Home-and-home games against Vancouver will determine its postseason fate but with luck the squad could be at its healthiest all season.
5. LOS ANGELES (14-11-6) 6. Landon Donovan’s halftime substitution in the Jamaica game and early departure should aid the Galaxy’s cause Wednesday in a home game against Montreal; with just one win in the last five games, is LA fading at the worst possible time?
6. SPORTING KANSAS CITY (15-10-7) 7. Missing Graham Zusi to international duty, SKC managed just four shots and relied on the goalkeeping of Jimmy Nielsen to earn a 0-0 tie in Houston. Nielsen chalked up his 12th shutout with four saves, including two sharp stops on Will Bruin.
7. HOUSTON (13-10-9) 8. The Dynamo failed to crack the SKC defense at home yet the 0-0 tie increased its unbeaten streak to five games, three of which have been shutouts. Defender Eric Brunner started for the first time in a month with Jermaine Taylor on duty for Jamaica.
8. SEATTLE (15-11-6) 3. After being blasted 5-1 and 4-1 on back-to-back bad nights, the Sounders fell victim to some bad luck in Portland. Clint Dempsey hit a shot off the crossbar and then labored through much of the match with an injured shoulder, Osvaldo Alonso was sent off, and while down to 10 men a deflected Steve Zakuani shot also struck the horizontal. Yet three losses in a row and five games without a win are what the record shows.
9. NEW ENGLAND (12-11-9) 9. A goal from an unusual source -- defender Jose Goncalves with his first in MLS -- powered the Revs to a 1-0 triumph at Montreal. They are 5-6-5 on the road, tied for second-best behind only SKC. Saer Sene suffered a broken right fibula and tibia when tackled by Davy Arnaud and won’t be back for at least several months.
10. SAN JOSE (13-11-8) 12. Chris Wondolowski’s header gave the Quakes a 1-0 victory in a must-win game that really was just that; otherwise they would have fallen seven points behind the Rapids. Instead, San Jose trails both Colorado and the Galaxy by a point, but the latter has a game in hand and that’s who the Quakes play next Oct. 20.
11. MONTREAL (13-11-7) 10. The wisdom and experience that propelled the Impact to the conference lead a few months ago has eroded into fatigue and lethargy; it lost its third straight home game, 1-0, to New England. The city that once served as home to Le Manic (old NASL) has been gripped by Le Panic heading into a Wednesday road assignment at Los Angeles.
12. CHICAGO (13-12-7) 13. Another MVP-worthy performance by Mike Magee and another crucial Fire victory, 3-2 at Dallas, nudged it into fifth place. Magee’s corner kick floated for Jose Luis Anangono to head home, and he scored his 19th goal of the season somewhat inadvertently when Alex’s shot bounced into the net off his shoulder. Jalil Anibaba’s first goal of the season turned out to be the winner.
13. PHILADELPHIA (12-10-10) 11. Jack MacInerney picked a good time to end his scoring drought; goalless since June 1, he struck in the final minute from a Kleberson cross as the Union grabbed a 1-1 tie. But the road point at RFK wasn’t enough to retain a playoff place.
14. VANCOUVER (12-11-9) 15. The first hat trick in Whitecaps’ MLS history and the first scored in league play by a teenager earned Kekuta Manneh Player of the Week honors, yet the 4-1 demolition of Seattle was only Vancouver’s third victory in the last 10 games. Daigo Kobayashi, playing at the advanced point of a midfield diamond alignment, assisted on two of Manneh’s threesome.
15.COLUMBUS (12-15-5) 14. The Crew’s influence on the postseason will be limited to the results of its season-ending, home-and-home series with New England. Results last week eliminated the idle Crew. The coaching search took an interesting turn when it was reported Brad Friedel is interested in the job; ex-Crew midfielder Guillermo Barros Schelotto is probably the frontrunner at this point.
16. FC DALLAS (10-11-11) 16. Kenny Cooper’s two goals led a commendable fight-back from a 3-0 deficit but a fourth loss in the last five games officially confirmed FCD’s exclusion from the postseason. Who will take the fall for a drastic plummet after topping the overall standings in mid-June?
17. TORONTO (5-16-11) 17. CEO Tim Leiweke, head coach Ryan Nelsen and general manager Tim Bezbatchenko spent part of TFC’s week off scouting players in Europe. Leiweke says the team wants to sign two Designated Players. Could the playoff road go through TFC? Sort of. It plays at Chicago and hosts Montreal in its last two games.
18. CHIVAS USA (6-18-8) 18. A 0-0 tie with New Zealand Saturday helped break up a 17-day absence from league play. Two trialists were included among the 18 players fielded by Chivas USA in the friendly. The season resumes a week from Wednesday at Real Salt Lake.
19. D.C. UNITED (3-22-7) 19. Nick De Leon had gone rather quiet for the past month or so but his wickedly swerving goal against Philly sent a buzz through the RFK crowd. United conceded an equalizer to finish the game, 1-1, yet avoided setting a league record (in the post-shootout era) for losses.