Soccer America Power Rankings

[MLS: Week 29] Robbie Keane ran wild in the major-market matchup of Designated Players to keep the LA Galaxy in the top spot, but Seattle also romped to stay right on its heels. New England, Toronto, and Columbus posted critical wins to reshuffle the rankings and jumble up the playoff picture as well. Dom Dwyer’s 20th goal wasn’t enough to prevent another SKC loss against the Revs, and the defending champion is trending in the wrong direction as the playoffs approach.

MLS RESULTS, Week 29:
Sept. 28
 (Report)
LA Galaxy 4 New York 0
Houston 2 Chicago 0

Sept 27 (Report)
Colorado 1 San Jose 1
Columbus 2 Montreal 0
Vancouver 2 Real Salt Lake 1
Seattle 4 Chivas USA 2
D.C. United 1 Philadelphia 0
Toronto FC 3 Portland 2

Sept. 26 (Report)
Sporting KC 2 New England 3

Sept. 24 (Report)
FC Dallas 3 Seattle 1

1. LOS ANGELES (16-5-9), 1. A rampant attack rolled up the score on the Red Bulls to 4-0, yet a few decisive moments from keeper Jaime Penedo were needed to stave off first-half surges when balls were slipped through the middle. Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane and Gyasi Zardes showed what crisp, decisive work on and off the ball can do. Keane’s elegant chip that opened the scoring typified his mastery of the goalscoring craft; he leads the team with 17 goals, one more than Zardes, who scored the third goal after swapping passes with two teammates. Donovan’s three assists tied Steve Ralston’s all-time record of 135.

2. SEATTLE (18-9-3), 2. The expected pulverizing of Chivas USA didn’t go as planned; twice the visitor exploited some lax defending to take the lead, though once again the irresistible combination of Obafemi Martins and Clint Dempsey prevailed. Martins lashed a long, left-footer for one of his two goals and Dempsey glided into the box to secure the winner from a Martins feed after Lamar Neagle had re-tied the game at 2-2. But a 4-2 victory is the fifth straight game in which the Sounders have given up at least two goals and adjustments are sorely needed.

3. D.C. UNITED (15-9-6), 5. Late-season games often feature a playoff-type grittiness, and such was the case at RFK Stadium before and after Luis Silva scored his 11th goal of the season, by which D.C. downed Philly, 1-0. Head coach Ben Olsen said he would have liked his team to press the game more rather than riding out the play after Silva scored in the 10th minute, but the toll of playing an 11th game in 42 days also played a role in the containment policy that ensued. United will clinch a playoff spot if it avoids defeat at home Friday against defending champion Sporting Kansas City, and omens such as Chris Korb assisting on the goal in his first league start since Aug. 9 bode well for the outcome.

4. NEW YORK (10-9-11), 4. The dark aspects of their play -- wasteful finishing, sluggish transitions from attacking to defending, inability to win second balls -- sent the Red Bulls down to a 4-0 loss that ended a four-game unbeaten streak. Bradley Wright-Phillips and Eric Alexander squandered excellent opportunities in the first half, and a midfield and back line consistently riddled by the Galaxy attackers succumbed to the onslaught. Tim Cahill played the full 90 yet didn’t get off a shot and committed three fouls. A disastrous giveaway by Chris Duvall yielded the second Galaxy goal. Three of the last four games are at home, where are the Red Bulls are 8-2-4 this season, so there won’t be any excuses if they falter in October.

5. REAL SALT LAKE (13-7-10), 3. Win, lose or tie, RSL in recent games hasn’t been able to post a shutout. A 2-1 loss to Vancouver increased to 11 the goals conceded in the six games played since it last registered a zero. Against the Whitecaps RSL was whistled for two penalty kicks, the fouls for which didn’t convince head coach Jeff Cassar of their validity, and though stand-in keeper Jeff Attinella saved the first he couldn’t stop the second one. Newcomer Sebastian Jaime got in behind the back line with the score 1-1 but was stymied. In the race to avoid a play-in game, RSL does have an edge in scheduling: two of its last four games are against conference doormat Chivas USA and it also plays the Quakes, who could be eliminated by the time they meet Oct. 11.

6. FC DALLAS (14-10-6), 6. In his first start since May, David Texeira scored twice in a 3-1 defeat of Seattle Wednesday and by doing so allayed suspicions that FCD doesn’t have much depth. He hadn’t netted since an April 12 game against the Sounders. His two goals, plus one by Blas Perez, plus a pair of assists for Anders Escobar as he worked both flanks, tamped down fears the team is overly dependent on Fabio Castillo, who sat out the game with a hamstring injury, and rookie Tesho Akindele. FCD is keeping up the pressure on RSL in the race to finish no lower than third and avoid the one-game, play-in scenario.

7. NEW ENGLAND (14-13-3), 7. They’re only a game over .500, but the Revs are finishing the regular season like a team that could go deep into the postseason. Though they let a 2-0 lead slip at Sporting Kansas City they got the winner when Jermaine Jones made the space to drill home a low shot. Kelyn Rowe opened the scoring from a Kevin Alston pass and defender Jose Goncalves pushed the ball 40 yards upfield to sting a low shot into the bottom corner. Beating the defending champion on its home field after it scored two quick goals should further boost the confidence of a team mining more belief every week.

8. COLUMBUS (11-9-10), 8. How do you respond at crunch time? How about five wins in the last seven games, the latest of which -- a 2-0 defeat of Montreal -- tightened the Crew’s grip on fourth place. Ethan Finlay scored in the second minute and Federico Higuain cast off his spot-kick demons -- he’s failed to convert three penalty kicks this season -- to clinch a fifth straight home victory. Finlay is second on the team with eight goals and keeper Steve Clark is among the league leaders with eight shutouts. The road to the playoffs goes through New England, Philadelphia and New York before a season-ending home date against the Union.

9. HOUSTON (10-13-6), 12. If this is late September, the Dynamo must be ramping up its playoff push. A 2-0 defeat of Chicago was its fourth victory in the last seven matches, yet still the gap may be too great even though fives are wild: it is five points out of fifth place with five games to play. Omar Cummings and Boniek Garcia scored the goals and keeper Tyler Deric came up with a sharp save to keep Chicago off the board as the Dynamo registered its second straight shutout. 

10. PHILADELPHIA (9-10-11), 9. Philly has yet to score since falling in the Open Cup final two weeks ago and it is in seventh place, three points out of a playoff spot after losing, 1-0, at D.C. United. Two excellent defensive plays by Carlos Valdes kept the game as close as it was, though Danny Cruz and Sheanon Williams both hit good opportunities right to the keeper. Philly needs points and embarks on a dream sequence of three straight home games, starting Thursday against Chicago, to revive its postseason quest. Rais Mbolhi recorded six saves at RFK and whether he or Zac MacMath gets the call in goal during the critical stretch run and how healthy will be the ankle of Sebastien Le Toux, who left the match early and returned on crutches, are among the many questions being pondered by interim head coach Jim Curtin.

11. SPORTING KC (13-11-6), 10. Much is amiss with the defending champion; it lost its fifth game of the last six, 3-2, at home to New England and is in danger of slipping into a play-in game. SKC fell behind, 2-0, and conceded a third goal after Paulo Nagamura scored and then helped set up Dom Dwyer’s 20th goal of the season. Another major game looms Friday at D.C. United; SKC will be honored at the White House on Wednesday. The crisp communication on the back line that marked the 2013 season has surfaced only sporadically this year, and aside from Dwyer, nobody has more than four league goals.

12. TORONTO FC (11-11-7), 14. A dramatic 3-2 defeat of Portland had a transformative feel to it and BMO Field shook in celebration as it hasn’t for quite a while. All three goals -- the first two in the MLS career of Nick Hagglund, and a winner from Michael Bradley -- resulted from set plays and another goal from a free kick was correctly disallowed for offside. Hagglund’s giveaway had set up Portland for its first goal yet he and his teammates rallied to claim three valuable points. A gut-check at StubHub Center against the Galaxy is up next.

13. VANCOUVER (9-8-13), 15. Those who were wondering, with some justification, what had happened to Pedro Morales were reminded of his prowess as the Whitecaps rallied to beat RSL, 2-1, and regain fifth place in the Western Conference. After his penalty kick was saved, he got his head together and converted a second opportunity, then nipped into the box to redirect Steve Beitashour’s serve high into the net for the winning goal. Two excellent saves by David Ousted helped the cause. Yet that was just the fourth win in the last 15 games, and FC Dallas is up next.

14. PORTLAND (9-9-12), 11. Another discouraging defeat -- this one a 3-2 loss at Toronto in which a 2-0 lead melted away and captain Will Johnson was stretchered off with a broken leg in the early minutes -- dropped the Timbers below the playoff tier. Ben Zemanski replaced Johnson and though Fanendo Adi notched his ninth goal and an own goal doubled the lead, the Timbers were repeatedly victimized on set plays. Aside from a 3-0 defeat of Vancouver, they have allowed eight goals in three games and shoring up the middle in Johnson’s absence is imperative.

15. CHICAGO (5-8-16), 13. Defenders Bakary Soumare and Lovel Palmer were suspended for a game in Houston, and the 2-0 defeat extended the Fire’s winless run to four games. A great save denied Quincy Amarikwa and a few solid stops by Sean Johnson weren’t enough to salvage a dire situation.

16. MONTREAL (6-18-6), 16. A 2-0 loss in Columbus reversed a 2-0 Impact victory at Stade Saputo four weeks earlier. Montreal was chasing the game after going behind in the second minute and when Jeremy Gagnon-Lapare was called for a foul in the penalty area and Columbus converted the penalty kick, the Impact was doomed to its third defeat in the past five games. Head coach Frank Klopas fiercely protested the PK call and when he ranted again eight minutes later, he was ejected and will not be on the bench Sunday for the game against Chicago. A failed penalty kick by Marco Di Vaio, who hit the ball hard, in stoppage time somehow seemed fitting.

17. COLORADO (8-14-8), 17. Life in MLS has been rough for keeper Joe Nasco, but the former peace officer did his job well in a 1-1 tie with San Jose though he couldn’t prevent a last-gasp equalizer. He stretched to save a shot in the seventh minute and stopped another dangerous chance by slapping a ball away at the last second. Gabriel Torres hasn’t been anything close to the factor that was anticipated when he signed, yet he latched onto a Chris Klute cross to score in the 85th minute.

18. SAN JOSE (6-12-11), 18. A late, late goal by Atiba Harris earned a 1-1 tie that extended a winless streak to 10 games. On the plus side, Designated Player Matias Perez Garcia got back into the lineup after recovering from an injury to cause the Rapids a few nervous moments. It was his ball that set up the chance for Harris. If the Argentine hadn’t missed six games, would the Quakes be near the playoff tier? Back-to-back games with Portland, which is scrapping for a playoff spot, will supply pertinent data on him and many other players.

19. CHIVAS USA (6-18-6), 19. The Sounders were surprised by an energetic, determined opponent that showed up at CenturyLink Field and twice took the lead before succumbing, 4-2. Felix Borja kept his dribble alive long enough for the ball to run to Erick "Cubo" Torres, who ended a personal six-game goalless streak by banging home his 15th goal. A shot by Leandro Barrera produced a second goal when a defender put the ball into his own net as Torres angled for the rebound. Still, the loss streak is seven games and Chivas USA hasn’t won since mid-July.

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