Power Rankings: Houston & K.C. give East some respect

By Ridge Mahoney

The Western teams continue to hold sway, and the Galaxy and Seattle came back from disappointing defeats in Concacaf play to win their league games, but Eastern Conference contenders Houston and Sporting Kansas City won again to secure their spots in the top five.

Montreal drew the largest crowd in its history of professional club soccer (58,912) though the home fans had to be satisfied with a 1-1 tie that kicked off the 2012 campaign for Chicago, which was one of three teams to sit out First Kick Weekend.

Seattle, which also had a Week 1 bye, shook off its 6-1 hammering in Mexico by Santos Laguna to beat Toronto FC in its league opener, 3-1. The only Western teams to lose were San Jose (to Houston) and Chivas USA, which lost its second straight home game, to Vancouver, 1-0. Philly disappointed its raucous home fans, who sang the national anthem on national television, by losing its PPL opener, 2-1, to Colorado, which joins RSL and the Whitecaps along with SKC and Houston with 2-0 records.

1. REAL SALT LAKE (2-0-0) -- A 2-0 win over New York extended RSL’s unbeaten streak against the Red Bulls to five games and exhibited the club’s considerable depth. Defender Nat Borchers sat out the match and Javier Morales and Alvaro Saborio came on as subs in the 62nd minute with the score already 2-0. Fabian Espindola beat the offside trap to score late in the first half, and his fierce shot turned into a rebound that Luis Gil buried for the clincher. Rookie Sebastian Velasquez turned in an impressive 84 minutes. RSL’s defense limited New York to nine shots, two of which were blocked. Last week: 1.

2. HOUSTON (2-0-0) -- The Dynamo borrowed a page from the Galaxy playbook by converting a fortuitous penalty kick and riding out numerous San Jose attacks to beat the Quakes, 1-0, in a game moved to AT&T Park in San Francisco as part of a doubleheader. Brad Davis converted the PK when Jon Busch clattered into Brian Ching. Keeper Tally Hall stoned Chris Wondolowski one-v-one and Jermaine Taylor blocked a follow-up attempt as the Dynamo shut out a second straight opponent during its seven-game run of road games to open the season. Last week: 4.

3. SPORTING KANSAS CITY (2-0-0) -- A 3-0 win to open the home season against a team down to 10 men after a quarter of an hour doesn’t tell the tale of how ruthlessly SKC exploited that advantage.  Graham Zusi and Kei Kamara scored 11 minutes apart for a 2-0 halftime lead and C.J. Sapong struck early in the second half. Zusi, cautioned for excessive celebration after his goal, cut short a memorable Irish-jig celebration by his two teammates by grabbing one of the hats they had donned. Still, nothing could dampen a frenzied mood at Livestrong Sporting Park. Last week: 5.

4. COLORADO (2-0-0) --
The Rapids are adapting quickly to the possession game introduced by Coach Oscar Pareja, yet they also punished mistakes to beat the Union, 2-1, at PPL Park. Jaime Castrillon slid in at the far post to poke home a bobbled cross from Omar Cummings, and Tony Cascio staked his claim for Rookie of the Year consideration with a spectacular winning goal. Conor who?  Last week: 6.

5. LOS ANGELES (1-1-0) -- Robbie Keane got out of his funk by banging home two goals in a 3-1 dispatch of feeble D.C. United, which didn’t give the Galaxy back line enough problems to truly assess how well it is coping without Omar Gonzalez. Juninho also looked more composed and confident but, again, the opposition offered little. Left back Todd Dunivant got a rare headed assist on one of Keane’s goals. Last week: 7.

6. VANCOUVER (2-0-0) -- After beating the expansion Impact in their opener, the ‘Caps captured their first road victory in MLS by nicking Chivas USA, 1-0, at Home Depot Center. The method was just as dramatic as the moment: captain Jay DeMerit headed home a Davide Chiumiento corner kick for his first MLS goal. Keeper Joe Cannon pulled off a fantastic flying save before a quadriceps injury forced him out of the match late in the first half. Last week: 9.

7. FC DALLAS (1-0-1) --  Bryan Leyva turned his first MLS appearance into a goal with a saved shot that forward Blas Perez banged into the net for his first league goal as FCD squandered a 1-0 lead to tie Portland, 1-1. A Daniel Hernandez turnover provided Portland with the opportunity for its goal, and twice in the final minutes keeper Kevin Hartman turned away shots to preserve the point. Carlos Rodriguez (Panama) has left the team to join Brek Shea (USA) on under-23 duty. Last week:  2.

8. PORTLAND (1-0-1) -- The Timbers fell behind at home before rallying with a Darlington Nagbe goal to tie FC Dallas, 1-1, in its first road game of the season. He scored six minutes after replacing Jorge Perlaza at halftime. The Timbers have scored all four of their goals this season in the second half after falling behind; last year, they were 0-7-1 when trailing at halftime. Last week: 3.

9. SEATTLE (1-0-0) -– David Estrada drilled the third hat trick in team history to down Toronto FC, 3-1, as the Sounders – humbled 6-1 by Santos Laguna in the Conacaf Champions League on Wednesday --  shifted their focus back to MLS with an impressive win. A crowd of 38,709 chanted Estrada’s name in response to goals in the 17th, 51st, and 63rd minutes, all three of which involved combination play by Alvaro Fernandez, who received assists on the last two. Last week: 10.

10. CHICAGO (0-0-1) – Dominic Oduro, the team leader with 12 goals last year, reached out his right foot to steer home Sebastian Grazzini’s pass for the equalizer (1-1) in the Fire’s season opener at Montreal. Recently signed keeper Paolo Tornaghi looked sharp in relief of U.S. U-23 callup Sean Johnson, and a resilient defense is to be bolstered this week when former German international Arne Freidrich begins training. Last week: 12.

11. SAN JOSE (1-1-0) --
A clumsy foul by keeper Jon Busch gave away a flimsy penalty kick that Houston converted for a 1-0 win. The halftime insertion of winger Marvin Chavez and substitute debut of Tressor Moreno livened up the Quakes’ attack that had sputtered in the first half, but neither’s passing in the final third proved effective. Chris Wondolowski failed to put away a one-v-one chance against the opposing goalkeeper, who also smothered the rebound.  Last week: 8.

12. MONTREAL (0-1-1) --
The Impact started slowly in its MLS home debut, wracked by nerves in front of 58,912 fans. Once Sanna Nyassi got his game going on the right flank and Patrice Bernier and Felipe took hold of midfield, Montreal pushed Chicago back into his own half, and a Nyassi cross headed in by captain Davy Arnaud provided a 1-0 lead. The Impact couldn’t hold the edge and despite Coach Jesse Marsch throwing on three more attackers as subs in the final minutes, the huge crowd settled for a 1-1 tie on an historic day for soccer in Canada. Last week: 18.

13. TORONTO FC (0-1-0) --
TFC stumbled back to its disappointing ways by losing, 3-1, in Seattle three days after stunning the Galaxy, 2-1, in CCL action. Stung by hitting the crossbar with a header earlier in the game, Ryan Johnson took off on a dribble that culminated with a  spectacular shot into the top corner that glanced off the inside of the post. He’s scored six goals in his last six matches for club and country. Last week: 11.

14. NEW YORK (0-2-0) -- Sent on the road for the second straight week to play a tough Western Conference team, the Red Bulls looked distinctly over-matched while losing to Real Salt Lake, 2-0. Rookie keeper Ryan Meara stopped RSL with two good saves in the opening portion of the game but let Fabian Espindola’s shot skip between his ankles to break open a goalless game. Thierry Henry led New York with four shots, two of which were saved as the Red Bulls managed only seven shots at goal. The home opener Sunday is another Western showdown with Colorado, for which Rafael Marquez comes off suspension. Last week: 13.

15. COLUMBUS (0-1-0) – The Crew sat out the weekend and plays its home opener Saturday against Montreal. Last week: 14.

16. D.C. UNITED (0-2-0) – United took the wrath of Los Angeles, humbled by TFC in midweek, in a 3-1 defeat at Home Depot Center. Rookie Nick DeLeon scored his first MLS goal in the final seconds following a disjointed performance rife with aimless passes and sloppy defending. Sub Emiliano Dudar got free for two shots; one missed the target and the other was saved. DPs Hamdi Salihi and Branko Boskovic started the game on the bench; after he came on as a sub, Boskovic lost the ball in midfield to Landon Donovan, who set up the second LA goal. Last week: 16.

17. PHILADELPHIA (0-2-0) – Captain Danny Califf watched from the bench as the Union lost its home opener, 2-1, to Colorado even though it played with a man advantage for more than half an hour. Coach Peter Nowak said Califf was sat down because of a knee problem that Califf said would not have prevented him from playing. Lionard Pajoy got a well-deserved goal but he scored after bad errors by goalkeeper Zac MacMath and defender Chris Albright, who took Califf’s place at centerback, provided Colorado with the chances it converted. Last week: 17.

18. NEW ENGLAND (0-2-0) –
The Revs are scoreless in their first two games of 2012 after losing, 3-0, at Kansas City. Defender Steven McCarthy grappled with C.J. Sapong as they went for a ball played over the top in the 14th minute and was sent off for denying a clear goalscoring opportunity. Revs keeper Matt Reis palmed a cross weakly to start the sequence on one of SKC’s goals, and the 10-v-11 attack sputtered despite the debut of Jeremiah White as a 61st-minute sub. Last week: 19.

19. CHIVAS USA (0-2-0) – Some lively moments from Ryan Smith and the busy work of Nick LaBrocca couldn’t get Chivas USA a goal as it lost a second straight home match, 1-0, to Vancouver. A spectacular blast by Casey Townsend forced a highlight-reel save and LaBrocca went down in the penalty area under a challenge that seemed to be a foul but didn’t earn a PK. As it had in losing the opener to Houston by the same score, Chivas USA conceded a goal from a set play. The road portion of the schedule starts Saturday with a rough patch: at RSL. Last week: 18.

3 comments about "Power Rankings: Houston & K.C. give East some respect".
  1. beautiful game, March 20, 2012 at 10:25 a.m.

    RB commentary is an reality, a dismal exhibition by the whole squad.

  2. StrikerBob Norman, March 20, 2012 at 11:16 a.m.

    Go to Fox Soccer for realistic rankings. Does this guy watch any matches or just look at the standings as evidenced by his year-end rankings for 2011? By year's end I predict he'll have inferior Eastern teams that have lost to the West, ranked ahead of Western teams locked out of the playoffs by the ridiculous unbalanced schedule. So Toronto beats LA and the Sounders crush TFC and LA is ranked ahead of them? At least reverse the positions of these two clubs, puh-lease!

  3. Philippe Fontanelli, March 20, 2012 at 3:24 p.m.

    *New York has to get rid of that pompous bias Hans Backe. He is not a motivator he is a Nordic Bull. First of all Cooper should have been starting and also Agudelo. Just when the NY fans are are going to revolt against him? *Then Philadelphia having a pretty good team last year (well much better than this year) Nowak gets rid of Sebastian Le Toux the leading scorer. What is wrong with this picture? Nowak has to retire his coaching went out with "Dick Clark" (if you know what I mean. Also you have to stop reviving Adu he is done. He is just keep on regressing. *LA it is easy to beat a defunct Phila of the above, but time will tell. I also think that Arena's style also went out with Dick Clark. Donovan well Donovan who? * Hope Portland, Seattle and Montreal will do well they deserve it as they have by far the best supporting fans thus they deserve it. Also Toronto has a great crowd but they need the result besides beating LA. *Chivas will fold up unless the will Latinize it with some quality Mexican players to lift up the team. They need to leave up to the name (Chivas) and not having a hodge-podge of players’ mix, to excite their fan base. Otherwise their attendance will be further dwindling down. *Sporting KC under Vermes and old USMNT player but a newer version of coaches than a couple of the above teams is a pleasant surprise. Hopefully it will continue. Vermes although nothing earth shattering to date, but he understands the game much more than "others" he was an intelligent player and a forward. I always felt that he had the knack of the coaching of the USMNT way above Arena and Bradley. Anyway it is good to have another upcoming team with prospects and potentials. *But the team that deserves Kudos (and I mean capital K) is Real Salt Lake. I think 2012 is their year. What an assembly of great players playing well in a very cohesive manner with heart and soul. Bravo!

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