MLS Power Rankings: Fire & Crew pressing

With several teams getting hot in the final portion of the season the final weeks look to be intense even if most of the playoff spots are already locked up.

Impressive streaks by Chicago, Seattle, and Columbus, as well as the Galaxy, have tightened up the standings in each conference as well as the power rankings. A few games will be played over the next 10 days and the points for teams, many of which will be missing players for World Cup qualifying, will help determine the final placings.
1. SAN JOSE (16-6-5). When defenders score on free kicks, they seldom do so directly, but that's precisely how the Quakes scored three of their goals in a 4-0 rout of Chivas USA. Centerback Victor Bernardez nailed the first after a long run-up, and after Simon Dawkins scored from the run of play -- his third goal in the last two games -- left back Ramiro Corrales whipped two past keeper Dan Kennedy to set a team record for goals in a season (56). Last week: 1.

2. NEW YORK (13-7-7). Wilman Conde's smash into the top corner from outside the penalty area in the 88th minute earned New York a 2-2 tie at RFK and ran its unbeaten streak to four matches. The Red Bulls are just inconsistent enough to temper any serious belief they can actually win the title, but their big-time players as well as linchpin Dax McCarty and rookie stalwart Connor Lade must be respected. Last week: 2

3. SPORTING KANSAS CITY (15-7-5). Yes, the opposition was lowly Toronto FC, but nevertheless SKC showed some comeback chops by using a goal and assist by Paulo Nagamura to win, 2-1. Nagamura equalized with his first goal of the season and in the 87th minute set up Oriol Rosell to score his first MLS goal. In five August games SKC took 13 of a possible 15 points to retain its hold on first place in the East and stay close to overall points leader San Jose.  Last week: 3.

4. SEATTLE (12-6-8). Making his first start in 500 days, Steve Zakuani tore up the left flank to hit a centering pass that Mauro Rosales tucked into the net as the Sounders tied FC Dallas, 1-1, to improve their record to 5-1-2 in the last eight games. The return of "Z," the upgrade addition of Christian Tiffert, and the predatory instincts of Fredy Montero -- who was shut out after scoring six goals in his last four games -- gives the Sounders just the faintest trace of a championship sheen. Last week: 5.

5. HOUSTON (11-7-9). The Dynamo, playing three days after securing a hard-fought 1-1 CCL tie with Olimpia in Honduras, just didn't have the legs to keep up with Chicago in a 3-1 loss on Sunday. Its players won't rest this week during the FIFA "break"; instead they host RSL in a crucial league match Thursday. Last week: 4.

6. CHICAGO (13-8-5). Four wins in the past five games stands the ledger after an emphatic 3-1 defeat of Houston. Patrick Nyarko stole a pass and scored just 50 seconds into the match and Daniel Paladini tallied for the second game in a row to give the Fire all the goals it would need. No one seems concerned about the midseason departures of Sebastien Grazzini and Marco Pappa, nor should they be.  Last week: 7.

7. COLUMBUS (12-8-6). Crunch month for the Crew -- seven games -- ended in a blaze of glory as they swept their midweek and weekend games for the second straight time. Eddie Gaven tapped home a rebound in the final seconds of a five-minute stoppage-time interval to edge the Crew past Philadelphia, 2-1, and Emilio Renteria's tally in the third minute of stoppage time downed Montreal by the same score to run its winning streak to four matches. Federico Higuain set up both goals against the Impact with a free kick that Chad Marshall headed home and a precise pass that Renteria put away. Higuain has three goals and six assists in his five MLS matches. Is there a Latecomer of the Year Award in this league? Last week: 10.

8. REAL SALT LAKE (14-10-4). RSL won for the first time in five games thanks to Will Johnson's headed goal that downed D.C. United, 1-0. Is a revival truly in store? A Thursday game in Houston with both teams deprived of a few international players will provide an interesting test. Last week: 8.

9. LOS ANGELES (13-11-4). Juninho, again, and David Beckham, ditto, got the goals as the Galaxy won for the 10th time in its last 15 games. In that span it has also posted seven shutouts, which is how it went about winning the title last year. Not so reminiscent is this stat: Juninho's goal was his sixth in the last five games (including CCL play). Last week: 9.

10. D.C. UNITED (12-10-5). If D.C. doesn't make the playoffs, a point out of games against New York and RSL may bear the brunt of the blame. United led the Red Bulls, 2-1, at home on Dwayne De Rosario's 100th MLS goal and another by rookie Nick DeLeon, but conceded an equalizer in the 88th minute. The 1-0 loss to RSL was its third in the last six matches yet ended a grueling stretch of five games in 14 days. Last week: 6.

11. MONTREAL (12-14-3). A five-game winning streak ended with a 2-1 loss in Columbus that the Impact led in the 73rd minute thanks to a cleverly chipped goal by Marco Di Vaio. The playoff push may come too late for a direct reward but this team could be a major pain to play against for the rest of the season and looks quite formidable for 2013. Last week: 11.

12. FC DALLAS (8-12-9). FCD closed to within four points of Vancouver in the race for the final playoff spot by tying Seattle, 1-1, but having led on Jackson's goal in the 32nd minute FCD really needed the victory. A couple of key saves by Kevin Hartman enabled FCD to improve its record to 3-1-1 in the last five matches; next up is the game of the year Sept. 15 against the Whitecaps. Last week: 12.

13. VANCOUVER (10-11-7). They did lose to the Galaxy, 2-0, on a pair of incredible goals, but still, a fourth straight loss -- even if the last three were on the road -- should have the Whitecaps taking long, serious looks at every facet of their play. That 2-1 defeat of RSL seems like three months ago rather than three weeks (Aug. 11). Last week: 13.

14. PORTLAND (7-13-6). Bright Dike celebrated with consecutive flips after he converted a Sal Zizzo cross in the 45th minute, and the Timbers Army did some celebrating of its own at the final whistle of a 1-0 defeat of Colorado that was Portland's second win in a row. Overall, the season is a stinker but that 7-4-3 home record ain't bad. Last week: 17.

15. CHIVAS USA (7-11-7). Believe it or not, Chivas USA actually outshot San Jose, 9-5, in the first half and had the better chances yet still went into the break trailing, 2-0, in what would become a 4-0 loss. Juan Agudelo spurned two great chances before halftime and despite another monster game by Dan Kennedy it fell heavily after a spirited rally Wednesday had earned a 3-3 tie at New England. Shalrie Joseph scored twice in his return to Gillette Stadium but he and his new team crashed back to earth when it got back to the West Coast. Last week: 14.

16. PHILADELPHIA (7-13-5). The Union led in the 29th minute on a goal by Carlos Valdes and finished playing 11 against 10 yet still lost at home, 2-1, when the Crew got its winner in stoppage time. Philly shook off that disappointment and carved out a 0-0 tie at New England on Saturday that was only its third point in the last six matches. Last week: 15.

17. COLORADO (8-17-2). The Timbers' 1-0 loss to the Rapids dropped them behind that foe into last place of the Western Conference. A 12th defeat in the last 15 games, despite some heroic goalkeeping by Matt Pickens, has the 2010 MLS Cup champion in complete freefall. Last week: 16.

18. NEW ENGLAND (6-14-7). A 0-0 tie at home with Philadelphia left the Revs winless (0-7-3) in their last 10 games, a team record, and was also the 10th time it has been shutout this year, tying a club record set last year. Goals weren't a problem in a Wednesday game against Chivas USA, Saer Sene scored twice but still the Revs wound up in a 3-3 tie. Sene suffered a knee injury in the match and is out for the season. Last week: 18.

19. TORONTO FC (5-16-6). TFC coughed up a 1-0 lead provided by a Ryan Johnson goal in the 44th minute and lost its fourth straight game, 2-1, to Sporting Kansas City. Not much else to say, really. Last week: 19.

3 comments about "MLS Power Rankings: Fire & Crew pressing ".
  1. James Madison, September 4, 2012 at 2:09 p.m.

    Trust me, you are under-rating LA. And this from a San Jose supporter.

  2. Alex G. Sicre, September 4, 2012 at 2:57 p.m.

    Ric and James, you are absolutely right, there has, and always will be an eastern bias slant to this "Ragin Ridge" guy. He was probably born in Chicago, went to school in Columbus.

  3. David Sirias, September 4, 2012 at 3:10 p.m.

    Vancouver has a bad GM They had a good team at the beginning of the season. Now they are a one dimensional route 1 team that got rid of all creativity. Scotland is not the model upon which to build a long term successful MLS team. Epic fail.

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