Soccer America Power Rankings

[MLS Week 28] There’s a new team atop the Power Rankings as the streaking LA Galaxy took advantage of a rare Seattle blip.  A big win for the Red Bulls over the Sounders moved them up, and Columbus also jumped another notch.

MLS WEEK 28, Results:
Sept. 21 (Report)
Toronto FC 3, Chivas USA 0
Sept. 20 (Report)
Portland 3, Vancouver 0
Philadelphia 0, Houston 0
New York 4, Seattle 1
Columbus 1, New England 0
Montreal 2, San Jose 0
Chicago 3, D.C. United 3
LA Galaxy 2, FC Dallas 1
Sept. 19 (Report)
Real Salt Lake 5, Colorado 1

1. LA GALAXY (15-5-9), 2. Several players are making strong cases for MVP consideration, and while sentiment might favor Landon Donovan, 2014 has been another exemplary display by Robbie Keane. In a 2-1 defeat of FC Dallas he scored his team-high 15th goal of the season to tie the game, then with a wonderful chip – his 14th assist, second only to Donovan on the Galaxy and in MLS -- set up Alan Gordon to head home his fourth goal since arriving in a trade from San Jose. Gordon’s target presence, spirit and knack for scoring off the bench (three goals in that role) has added another weapon during an eight-game unbeaten streak and it’s fitting that his goal clinched a playoff spot.

2. SEATTLE (17-8-3), 1. The Sounders rotated a few players in the wake of their extra-time, Open Cup victory in Philadelphia and thus did their four-game MLS winning streak end, 4-1, at Red Bull Arena. Clint Dempsey came off the bench to score his 12th goal of the season as he and front-line partner Obafemi Martins again carved up an opponent. There’s yet another road test ahead, at FC Dallas on Wednesday, prior to a Sunday home match with Chivas USA. The planning starts now for October and November, a process greatly complicated by those home-and-away games with the Galaxy on the final two weekends.

3. REAL SALT LAKE (13-6-10), 4. Sebastian Jaime started his first MLS match and lived first-hand the RSL mystique: trailing, 1-0, to Colorado after half an hour, it blasted four goals before the halftime whistle and went on to win, 5-1. Joao Plata started the resurgence by instituting and finishing a superb sequence to curl a shot into the top corner and, helped by some shaky goalkeeping, RSL ran rampant. Javier Morales whipped a corner kick that found the net. Defender Carlos Salcedo replaced the suspended Nat Borchers and scored his first MLS goal with his hip. Salcedo’s centerback partner, Chris Schuler, also netted. This was a big win against a crumbling team, yet a good confidence boost in any case.

4. NEW YORK (10-8-11), 5. With his third hat trick of the season Bradley Wright-Phillips closed to within three of the league’ single-scoring scoring record of 27 goals. The scoreline is a bit misleading; the Red Bulls deserved to win, but after being rocked by a goal after 29 seconds and two more two minutes apart, the Sounders kept battling and if not for a superb double-save by Luis Robles the final 20 minutes would have been very tense. Still, the five wins in the last eight games include New England, Sporting Kansas City and D.C. United along as well as Seattle. Here’s another test: Sunday night on national television against the Galaxy at StubHub Center in yet another Battle of the DP Stars.

5. D.C. UNITED (14-9-6), 4. A listless start and some poor defending dropped D.C. into a 2-0 hole against the Fire, then it scored three straight goals before conceding the one that forged the eventual 3-3 tie. Luis Silva converted a penalty kick and scored on a free kick, and clipped another ball into the box that produced a scramble and a goal by Bobby Boswell, who had been one of the culprits during United’s rocky beginning. Post-concussion issues prevented Eddie Johnson from making the trip and Fabian Espindola was suspended, so Silva played in the hole behind Michael Seaton, who came off at halftime. Replacement Chris Pontius got 45 minutes in his second appearance of the season; he’s needed two surgeries and extensive rehab to correct a serious hamstring injury.

6. FC DALLAS (13-10-6), 3. A fit and sharp Blas Perez would certainly aid FCD’s playoff run, and his third goal in two games yielded a 1-0 lead over the Galaxy that didn’t hold up as FCD lost its third game in the last four. Victor Ulloa lost a ball in the penalty area and the Galaxy converted the turnover into the equalizer. Fabian Castillo and Matt Hedges took the night off to better prepare for a home game against Seattle Wednesday, after which FCD has a nine-day break from league play and thus should be fresh for the final push.

7. NEW ENGLAND (13-13-3), 5. The second five-game winning streak of the season ended in Columbus with a 1-0 defeat. New England labored during the first 45 minutes at both ends of the field, then fell behind early in the second half and generated enough good chances to get at least a point. Only a great save thwarted Charlie Davies in the final minutes. An eight-game losing streak followed the last run of wins, but Jermaine Jones, Lee Nguyen, Kelyn Rowe and Jose Goncalves are playing too well for that to happen again. Yet the Revs have yet to clinch a spot, are hovering dangerously close to the play-in game, and on Friday are away to Sporting Kansas City.

8. COLUMBUS (10-9-10), 9. Several good chances and 65 percent of possession didn’t produce a goal in the first half against New England, so Federico Higuain bent a free kick into the net shortly after halftime. The crucial 1-0 victory edged the Crew into fifth place, though late in the match Higuain – who has scored against the Revs on free kicks four times in his career -- failed to convert a penalty kick for the third time this season. Robust work by Tony Tchani helped contain the Revs’ potent midfield yet somehow a breakaway occurred in the final minutes that required a superb fingertip save by Steve Clark. The last four games are against conference foes in the playoff hunt, so this week’s home match against Montreal is, well, massive.

9. PHILADELPHIA (9-9-11), 8. For the second time this season, the Union played a 0-0 tie at home with Houston and the result also left it scoreless against the Dynamo in all three meetings. It held Houston without a shot on goal and took 10 corner kicks but didn’t break the deadlock, though a tackle on Vincent Nogueira triggered imploring cries for a penalty kick that weren’t heeded. Rais Mbolhi got the shutout in his second MLS start. The result dropped Philly two points out of the playoff tier despite a 3-0-2 record in its last five games. Three of the last five are at home but first on the list is a trip to RFK, and the Union probably can’t afford to lose any of its games down the stretch.

10. SPORTING KC (13-10-6), 10. SKC took the weekend off in between a double-dip of CCL action; it beat Costa Rican rival Saprissa last week and hosts Real Esteli of Nicaragua Tuesday. On just two days’ rest, SKC then hosts New England Friday. Its only two MLS wins out of the last six games have come against Chivas USA and Toronto FC. That’s hardly the stuff of a league champion.

11. PORTLAND (9-8-12), 12. It’s not a bad formula for success against Vancouver: keep the defense tight and let Diego Valeri and Fanendo Adi do what they do so well. The Timbers beat their Cascadia Cup rivals for the second consecutive time by a 3-0 score. Valeri’s sensational volley hit at ankle-height opened the scoring and he then set up a goal for Adi, who netted a pair in a game for the fourth time this season. The Timbers may have solved the ‘Caps, but aside from those victories they have conceded nine goals in the last three games. After a CCL date with Alpha United on Tuesday, they fly to Toronto, then come back for back-to-back games against the Quakes.

12. HOUSTON (9-13-6), 11. Unable to put a shot on goal at Philadelphia, the Dynamo came home with a 0-0 tie and slightly dimmer playoff prospects. The dismissal of Servando Carrasco during the first half didn’t help its cause, nor did the injury absences of Will Bruin (foot) and Oscar Boniek Garcia (concussion) and a few other players. Two of the last five games are against Chicago, starting Sunday at home. A decimated roster means head coach Dominic Kinnear must push all the right buttons and get some luck to stay afloat.

13. CHICAGO (5-7-16), 14. Quincy Amarikwa scored an early goal, won the penalty kick that produced another, and set up a late equalizer for Matt Watson in a 3-3 deadlock with D.C. Head coach Frank Yallop questioned officiating decisions regarding two of United’s goals and should also be wondering how his team let a 2-0 lead slip against an opponent that started sluggishly. The tie ballooned Chicago’s home record to an absurdly lopsided 3-2-10. Florent Sinama-Pongolle made his MLS debut in the 63rd minute and replaced Alex, one of several midfielders whose status for 2015 is uncertain.

14. TORONTO FC (10-11-7), 15. How much confidence did a 3-0 pasting of lowly Chivas USA infuse? That won’t be known for another game or two, yet a clicking midfield combination of Michael Bradley and Jonathan Osorio fueled a dominant TFC display at a critical time of the season. Jackson, Luke Moore and Gilberto got the goals as TFC ended a six-match winless run. A scheduling quirk matches TFC against Portland (at home) and the Galaxy (away) before it closes out the season against the Eastern Conference, and it needs points in both games to stay in touch with the playoff tier. It is 3-2-2 against Western teams so far this season.

15. VANCOUVER (8-8-13), 13. Shut out by Portland, 3-0, for the second time in the last four games and beaten for the fourth time in the last six overall, the Whitecaps still are only two points behind the fifth-place Timbers but trending in the wrong direction. A giveaway in the middle third by Matias Laba set in motion Portland’s attack for its second goal, three minutes after Sebastian Fernandez seemed to have been tripped in the penalty area. Eleven goals in the last 16 games explains how the prowess of keeper David Ousted -- tied for the league lead in shutouts with nine -- may not be enough for playoff soccer.

16. MONTREAL (6-17-6), 18. Other results eliminated the Impact from playoff contention despite a 2-0 vanquishing of San Jose that featured another vintage showing by Ignacio Piatti before he came off in the 57th minute to rest an ouchy knee. His replacement, Marco Di Vaio, launched a shot that was saved and then caromed into the net off Jack McInerney. Seven minutes later, Dilly Duka corkscrewed before notching the second goal. The Impact has scored in eight straight games, which is significant for a team blanked seven times this season.

17. COLORADO (8-14-7), 16. Jose Mari opened the scoring in Seattle by hooking home a worm-burner, and from thence the Rapids’ fortunes plummeted. Bobbles and flubs by keeper Joe Nasco led to three of the goals in a 5-1 loss that was the eighth defeat in the last nine games and killed playoff hopes of all but the most optimistic. Vicente Sanchez, Edson Buddle, Drew Moor and Nick LaBrocca didn’t travel and Dillon Powers was a late scratch due to illness. Yet still the Rapids led after half an hour before lack of confidence and Nasco’s troubles sent them down to another dispiriting loss.

18. SAN JOSE (6-12-10), 17. How feeble are the Quakes right now? They lasted more than 80 minutes in Montreal before conceding twice in a 2-0 defeat that extended their winless streak to nine. An apparent goal in the 17th minute was disallowed for a foul on the goalkeeper and they managed only one other shot on target. The midfield was continually overrun by the Impact and the winning goal came when a Jon Busch save went right to an opponent and bounced off him into the net. The playoffs are just about of reach, yet a few wins might help drive season-ticket sales for the new stadium that opens up next year and might also save a few jobs.

19. CHIVAS USA (6-17-6), 18. The losing streak is six games and the winless run stands at 11 after a 3-0 loss in Toronto. A giveaway led to the first goal and slack marking on corner kicks yielded the other two. Shortly before the second goal, Eric Avila misfired on a good chance. Nigel Reo-Coker got into a scrap with Jackson, scorer of TFC’s first goal, and was sent off in the 67th minute.
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