MLS Power Rankings: Heavy schedule takes toll

It was a great week for Philadelphia, which beat the Galaxy, 2-1, at Home Depot Center and four days later thumped Toronto FC, 3-0, at PPL Park.

The Union was the only team to take maximum points from its two matches, though Real Salt Lake, Seattle, Sporting Kansas City, and Vancouver all managed to get a win and a tie.

While there were no dramatic comebacks along the lines of that posted by the Quakes the week before when they wiped out a 3-1 deficit to beat the Galaxy, 4-3, several players returned after long-injury absences to spice up the Western Conference playoff chase. A huge crowd at CenturyLink Field greeted Steve Zakuani, sidelined for 15 months with multiple leg fractures, and also getting back on the field were Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez and FC Dallas playmaker David Ferreira.

The comebacks were offset by a departure, that of John Spencer. A 3-0 loss to Real Salt Lake Saturday prompted his dismissal by the Timbers. He is the third coach jettisoned this season, following Aron Winter (Toronto FC) and Peter Nowak (Philadelphia) out the door.

With most teams hitting or passing the halfway mark of their seasons, the comments reflect a bit on the past four months as well as last week’s games.

1. SAN JOSE (11-4-4). For once, a late Alan Gordon goal didn’t result in a Quakes’ tie or win. His 74th-minute strike against Portland turned out to be only a consolation goal in a 2-1 defeat on Tuesday, and he and the Quakes were blanked Saturday though they managed to survive severe heat to tie FC Dallas, 0-0. Designated Player Tressor Moreno, upset over a well-deserved lack of playing time, is probably departing. Last week: 1.

2. D.C. UNITED (10-5-3). It was an active week for D.C. even without league play. Negotiations were finalized that will bring in Erick Thohir, identified in March by the Washington Post as a prospective owner, as the new majority owner. Current owner Will Chang will retain a stake in the club as the new group pushes forward to finalize a stadium project and stabilize the club’s finances. Thohir will be introduced at a press conference Tuesday, United returns to action Sunday in Houston. Last week: 2.

3. REAL SALT LAKE (11-6-3). Alvaro Saborio broke out of a three-match goalless drought to hit a hat trick as RSL ended a four-game winless streak by pounding Portland, 3-0. A 0-0 tie at home to Seattle on Wednesday prevented RSL from taking over the conference lead but it can get that done Saturday by winning at San Jose, where it lost, 3-1, in April on two stoppage-time goals after going down to nine men. Last week: 5.

4. NEW YORK (9-5-4). Kenny Cooper nailed a shot off the post and Roy Miller cleared one off the Red Bulls’ goal line as they fell to the Revs, 2-0. Missing Thierry Henry, Heath Pearce and Rafa Marquez, they maintained some possession but were ineffective in the final third. The defeat extended their winless streak at Gillette Stadium to 17 games (0-13-4). The Bulls, who have won only one of their six, play three in seven days, starting Sunday at home against Seattle. Last week: 3.

5.   SPORTING KC (10-5-3). SKC parlayed two penalty kicks, converted by Kei Kamara and Graham Zusi, into a 3-1 victory at Montreal, but was unable to hit the net at home against Houston in a 0-0 tie Saturday that was a rematch of their meeting in last year’s conference final. Jacob Peterson, again starting in place of the injured Bobby Convey, also scored in Montreal to improve SKC’s road record to 4-3-2 as it moved into a tie with D.C. for the conference lead. Last week: 6.

6.   CHICAGO (8-6-4). Unsettled Sebastian Grazzini, who returned to his native Argentina as contractual disputes lingered, missed a 0-0 tie in Houston and 2-0 home loss to the Galaxy as a three-game winning streak ended. Recent signing Alex came on in the 80th minute against the Dynamo to make his second appearance and got close enough to goal to force a last-ditch block of his shot. In the L.A. game, defender Jalil Anibaba fired a close-range shot wide, then was called for a handball right on the edge of the penalty area for the penalty kick that opened the scoring. Last week: 4.

7. VANCOUVER (8-4-6). A flying save of a Paolo Cardozo free kick that triggered applause by Chivas USA players highlighted keeper Joe Cannon’s eighth shutout of the season, a 0-0 tie at Home Depot Center. Eight points in their last five games have opened up a seven-point gap back to the fifth place Galaxy, and with a 3-3-3 road mark they’ve put last year’s 0-12-5 abomination well behind them. Last week: 8.

8.   COLUMBUS (6-6-4). The Crew conceded two goals in the final 12 minutes to leave Montreal with a 2-1 defeat that dropped its road mark to 2-4-3. Milan Mirosevic’s header in the 64th minute from Nemanja Vukovic’s corner kick opened the scoring but eventually the Impact made good on its 25-9 edge in shots. Chris Birchall’s foul on Justin Mapp provided Montreal’s winner from the penalty spot. Last week: 7.

9.   LOS ANGELES (7-10-2). Robbie Keane gave some overdue value for his DP salary by scoring twice on his 32nd birthday as the Galaxy took advantage of the fatigued Fire, 2-0, Sunday after it fell to the Union, 2-1, at home Wednesday.  Keane put away a penalty kick in the first half and knocked home a Landon Donovan feed late in the match to move into a tie with Donovan for the team lead in goals (6). The shutout was L.A.’s third of the season; it recorded 16 last year. Last week: 10.

10.  SEATTLE (8-5-6). A team record nine-game winless run ended with a 2-1 defeat of Colorado Saturday that also featured the first-team return of Steve Zakuani, seriously injured in April of last year by a reckless Brian Mullan tackle. Mauro Rosales assisted on goals by Alvaro Fernandez and Eddie Johnson to set the stage for Zakuani, whose entrance in the 86th minute triggered a thunderous ovation. Earlier in the week, the Sounders had tied RSL on the road, 0-0. Last week: 11.

11. HOUSTON (6-5-7). The Dynamo can’t seem to get out of neutral. It failed to score in back-to-back games scoreless draws with Chicago at home and SKC on the road playing a 4-3-3 formation being tested by head coach Dominic Kinnear. Neither of the consecutive 0-0 ties featured Geoff Cameron, who is hobbled by a hamstring strain amid reports of a possible move to English club Stoke City. DP Boniek Garcia is getting more dangerous in the attack each time he plays. Last week: 9.

12. NEW ENGLAND (6-7-4). Honduran DP Jerry Bengtson debuted and scored just a few days after his signing was made official as the Revs ran their unbeaten streak to five games by thumping New York, 2-0. Another bright game from Lee Nguyen included his third goal of the season and a midseason report card for Jay Heaps would have to give on overall grade of at least B-minus, which for a rookie head coach ain’t bad. Last week: 12.

13. PORTLAND (5-8-4). Knocking off overall points leader San Jose, 2-1, in midweek with goals by Danny Mwanga and Jack Jewsbury only bought former head coach John Spencer a few more days. A 3-0 loss to RSL Saturday turned out to be his last game in charge upon notification Monday that he’s been replaced by technical director Gavin Wilkinson. Job One will be to buff up that 0-6-2 road record, but first there’s a big home game against the Galaxy on Saturday. Last week: 14.

14. COLORADO (7-10-1). Consecutive losses to Vancouver (1-0) and Seattle (2-1) left the Rapids with four defeats in their last five matches and in sixth place, a point behind the Galaxy, which occupies the final Western Conference playoff spot. Omar Cummings came on as a sub to score a late goal against the Sounders and an apparent equalizer by Jeff Larentowicz was disallowed because a teammate was adjudged to be interfering with play while in an offside position. This weekend there’s a must-win home game against FC Dallas, followed by road games in Toronto and Salt Lake City. Last week: 13.

15. PHILADELPHIA (5-9-2). Late Night with Gabriel Farfan stole the show at Home Depot Center; he assisted on a goal in first-half stoppage time, then scored the winner in the 95th minute in a 2-1 defeat of Los Angeles on Independence Day. Philly rode the momentum of that win to paste TFC, 3-0, over the weekend with goals by Freddy Adu, Gabriel Gomez and Antoine Hoppenot. Three wins in the last five games and 15 goals scored in six matches with John Hackworth as head coach are reviving the Philly faithful. Last week: 18.

16. CHIVAS USA (5-7-5). Some sharp goalkeeping left Chivas USA frustrated in a 0-0 home tie with Vancouver. The deadlock was Chivas USA’s second straight and third in the last five games, which is better than losing but no way to climb up the Western Conference ladder. Keeper Dan Kennedy posted his fifth shutout as his teammates were being blanked for the eighth time this season.  Last week: 16.

17.  MONTREAL (6-11-3). The Impact split a pair of home games, losing 3-1 to Sporting Kansas City after conceding two disputed penalty kicks, then beating Columbus, 2-1, with a pair of late goals, including, of course, a late penalty kick. Patrice Bernier knocked home the 89th-minute winner for his second goal in as many games after Zarek Valentin had equalized in the 78th. The victory stopped a losing streak that had been extended to three by the loss to SKC in which handballs were called on Bernier and Davy ArnaudLast week: 15.

18. FC DALLAS (3-9-7). Keeper Kevin Hartman marked his record 400th league appearance in a 1-1 tie with Toronto FC, and pulled off two spectacular saves to earn his 109th  career shutout, another record, in a 0-0 tie with San Jose. Defenders Hernan Pertuz and Carlos Rodriguez helped him out against the Quakes with goal-line clearances, but the ties extended FCD’s club record winless streak to 13 matches. David Ferreira played the last 32 minutes against TFC to end a 14 1/2-month layoff due to a broken ankle. Last week: 17.

19. TORONTO FC (2-11-4). On Wednesday, Danny Koevermans scored his ninth goal -- and in his fifth straight game -- in a 1-1 tie at Dallas that TFC nearly won after falling behind in the fifth minute. That effort looked to have drained the players as they fell feebly in Philly, 3-0, on Sunday to snap a five-match unbeaten streak, four of which were ties. In off-the-field news regarding young players, TFC Academy product Ashtone Morgan (21) signed a long-term contract, but the move back to Ecuador of Joao Plata (20) seems irreversible.  Last week: 19.

1 comment about "MLS Power Rankings: Heavy schedule takes toll".
  1. Don Wishon, July 11, 2012 at 11:24 a.m.

    A rain storm passed through Frisco earlier Saturday afternoon/evening cooling temperatures considerably. So, I would not really phrase the Quakes game as "managed to survive severe heat". Severe heat was more in the Midwest...

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