By Ridge Mahoney
Going into the final week of play, four of the 10 playoff slots are still unclaimed and Houston, currently sixth, could finish as high as third or as low as seventh in the Eastern Conference. That's what parity can do for you.
While the playoff picture remains murky, the Power Rankings stayed the same, at least at the top. The top four teams held their spots, and Sporting Kansas City took over fifth place from the Galaxy.
Further down the rankings, New England, Montreal, and Chicago jumped up by posting crucial victories. Even though it clinched a playoff spot thanks to other results, Seattle’s plummet continued when it suffered a fourth straight defeat, 2-0, at FC Dallas.
The bottom three teams have combined for just 14 wins in their 98 games. Parity has its price.
Week 34 Soccer America MLS Power Rankings
RANK TEAM (W-L-T) LAST WEEK
1. NEW YORK (16-9-8) 1. The fastest goal in league history -- Tim Cahill after eight seconds -- set the Red Bulls off to a 3-0 win at Houston in which they were outshot, 20-5, yet defended well enough that Luis Robles posted his 11th shutout. Bradley Wright-Phillips scored his first MLS goal after Ibrahim Sekagya had doubled the lead. Five wins during a seven-match unbeaten run stamps them as a real threat to reach MLS Cup.
2. REAL SALT LAKE (15-10-8) 2. A pragmatic point at Portland – RSL did not get a shot on goal in the 0-0 tie – secured a playoff spot. A late double save by Nick Rimando denied Portland a winner. RSL is 1-1-1 in its last three home games but should get a Rio Tinto boost in the season finale against Chivas USA Wednesday. RSL will also get the benefit of resting during the final weekend when every other team is playing.
3. PORTLAND (13-5-15) 3. The Timbers lead the Western Conference and are unbeaten in their last seven games; the 0-0 tie with RSL was their fifth straight at home and 14th of the season. They are second-best in goals allowed with 33, so if defense wins championships they are certainly among the favorites.
4. COLORADO (14-10-9) 4. Gabriel Torres showed his class and coolness by curling home the winning goal, his second of the game, in a 3-2 Rapids’ comeback victory over Vancouver two minutes after the ‘Caps had equalized. Teammate Dillon Powers may be the Rookie of the Year frontrunner, but candidate DeShorn Brown put in a sharp performance that included a clever chip for the second Rapids’ goal.
5. SPORTING KANSAS CITY (16-10-7) 6. Dom Dwyer has been up-and-down since returning from a one-game loan to Orlando City in early September, but his hustle paid off when he stole an errant back pass and steered home the goal that downed D.C. United, 1-0. Jimmy Nielsen extended his shutout streak to 321 minutes with just one save in a 1v1 showdown with Jared Jeffrey.
6. LOS ANGELES (15-11-7) 5. One goal in two games was enough to get four points and a playoff spot. Kofi Opare scored his first professional goal during a scramble as the Galaxy backups beat Montreal, 1-0, Wednesday. Most of the starters returned in a 0-0 tie with the Quakes Saturday and though Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane weren’t at their best, a few sharp saves by Jaime Penedo earned L.A. its 13th shutout.
7. NEW ENGLAND (13-11-9) 9. In the first of a home-and-home series with Columbus, the Revs rallied to eliminate the Crew, 3-2, and claim a tenuous hold on fifth place. Diego Fagundez’s winner, his 13th goal of the season, followed goals by A.J. Soares and Chris Tierney. The crowd of 26,458, a season-high, watched a tremendous spectacle.
8. MONTREAL (14-12-7) 11. After the loss in L.A. extended its winless streak to six games, the Impact fell behind at home and trailed Philly, 1-0, at halftime. Then came the spirited rally. Marco Di Vaio equalized with his 20th goal and Homegrown player Karl Ouimette headed home a Justin Mapp free kick for the winner.
9. CHICAGO (14-12-7) 13. Mike Magee coolly chipped a penalty kick to down Toronto FC, 1-0, yet the Fire should have had more goals; Jose Luis Anagono hit the woodwork twice. Keeper Sean Johnson thwarted TFC with back-to-back saves for a third straight victory.
10. HOUSTON (13-11-9) 7. Shocked in the opening seconds by Cahill’s stunning goal, the Dynamo sputtered in the attack and tested Robles only once, when Oscar Boniek Garcia’s blast was nimbly deflected. The 3-0 defeat snapped a five-game unbeaten streak and gave the Red Bulls a sweep of the season series.
11. SAN JOSE (13-11-9) 10. The Goonies magic evaporated in a 0-0 tie at StubHub Center despite the Quakes applying considerable pressure to the Galaxy goal. A 10-5-3 mark under interim head coach Mark Watson gives management good reason to hire him long-term, but he may also have drawn interest from other teams.
12. SEATTLE (15-12-6) 8. Another disappointing display yielded a 2-0 defeat at FC Dallas and extended the winless run to six. The Sounders can leap out of a wild-card slot by beating the Galaxy Sunday in the final game of the season, otherwise, it could be looking at a knockout game on the road.
13. PHILADELPHIA (12-11-10) 13. It lost a game it couldn’t afford to lose in Montreal and blew a 1-0 lead as well. A nice ball from Kleberson set up Fabinho to score in the 29th minute but a second-half collapse left the Union in seventh place with one game to go, a home date with SKC Saturday.
14. FC DALLAS (11-11-11) 16. The five-year reign of Schellas Hyndman deserved some tribute, and his players supplied it by beating Seattle, 2-0, in his final home game. Matt Hedges’ headed in Michel’s free kick and the Brazilian stuck home a rebound for the second goal.
15. VANCOUVER (12-12-9) 14. Only a win would suffice, and despite taking a 1-0 lead on another snazzy goal by Kekuta Manneh, the ‘Caps playoff hopes ended in a 3-2 loss at Colorado. Camilo netted his 19th of the season from the penalty spot to tie the game, 2-2, and less than three minutes Vancouver conceded the winner. Let the inquest begin.
16. COLUMBUS (12-16-5) 15. Sharp equalizers by Dominic Oduro and Aaron Schoenfeld, who each earned assists setting up the other, gave the Crew a chance at New England. But the Revs’ stronger finish ended the Crew’s slim playoff hopes. Reports that Guillermo Barros Schelotto has interviewed for the head coaching job ramped up speculation about the future, which also includes decisions on perhaps a dozen players.
17. TORONTO FC (5-17-11) 17. A young lineup gave the Fire a few nervous moments, and veteran Robert Earnshaw forced a good save. But still the team incurred its fourth loss in the last five games on a penalty kick called when a free kick hit Jonathan Osorio in the arm as he turned away from the ball.
18. CHIVAS USA (6-18-8) 18. After a weekend off the season concludes with a Wednesday game at RSL and a home date with Portland, so the team will have a bearing on the playoffs. Some offense would be nice; Chivas USA has scored only two goals in its last three home games.
19. D.C. UNITED (3-23-7) 19. If it doesn’t beat Houston at home in the season finale D.C. will set a league record for the fewest wins in a season. The 1-0 loss at SKC left it with a road mark of 0-14-3 and the distinction of being the first MLS team to go winless away from home all season.