MLS Power Rankings: Changes at the top
It didn’t take very long for there to be a shakeup at the top of the MLS Power Rankings. LA Galaxy’s recent struggles, and Real Salt Lake’s outstanding performance in their opening week win in LA, has led to some shifting and a new No. 1.
The Seattle Sounders looked like a good bet to take over the top spot, but Wednesday night’s mauling at the hands of Santos Laguna made handing them the crown seem a bit inappropriate.
There were several quality performances in week one, as well as some straight-up stinkers. FC Dallas looked like a team ready to challenge the league’s elite, while the Vancouver Whitecaps played like a team ready to jump up from the league’s basement to a playoff spot.
Then you have the New York Red Bulls, who looked every bit like the dysfunctional team that struggled through the 2011 season. It is only one game, but things could start getting ugly in a hurry, and a visit to Real Salt Lake next weekend probably isn’t going to help matters.
The Western Conference needed just one week to re-assert its dominance over the East, winning six of seven inter-conference clashes. Only the Houston Dynamo was able to take a West scalp, though it happened to be that of lowly Chivas USA.
Here are the new FOX Soccer MLS Power Rankings going into week two of the new 2012 season:
1- REAL SALT LAKE
Looked very sharp in beating the LA Galaxy, and doing so while missing several starters from the lineup made the victory even more impressive. Rookie Sebastian Velasquez looks like the real deal, and back-up centerback Chris Schuler was outstanding playing in place of injured Nat Borchers.
2- SEATTLE SOUNDERS
Their first-leg victory over Santos Laguna was a very solid display, but the second half of Wednesday’s second leg was a collapse of epic proportions. Jhon Kennedy Hurtado looked slow and downright lost, leaving us to wonder if his performance is a sign of things to come (and if Sigi Schmid might have to replace him sooner than later).
3- FC DALLAS
The opening weekend went about as well as Dallas could have asked. Newcomers Blas Perez and Hernan Pertuz looked very sharp, and Ricardo Villar played impressively in place of the injured David Ferreira. Losing Brek Shea for the coming weeks for Olympic qualifying won’t help matters, but the signing of forward Luis Perea should help the team cope.
4- LOS ANGELES GALAXY
The start of the new campaign couldn’t have gone much worse for the Galaxy: eliminated from the Champions League and outclassed by RSL. Defensive woes were to be expected, but the underwhelming performances of so many key veterans are what really have to be troubling for Bruce Arena. The Galaxy will have time to regroup soon enough, but until they start playing like defending champions, they won’t be climbing back up the rankings any time soon.
5- SPORTING KANSAS CITY
It took a stoppage time goal to knock off D.C. United, but Sporting KC was the better side over 90 minutes anyway and came away with plenty to feel good about. The defense looked organized and the midfield worked well to create chances for the forwards. It will be interesting to see how Bobby Convey fits into the KC attack. He’ll need time to adapt.
6- PORTLAND TIMBERS
It took a half to get going, but once the Timbers attack got rolling, it was an impressive sight. Kris Boyd looks as good as advertised, and the defense was impressive considering the team was without new center back Hanyar Mosquera. It’s scary to think how good Portland will be once Darlington Nagbe is fully healthy and Mosquera is in the lineup.
7- COLORADO RAPIDS
The Oscar Pareja era got off to a promising start with a home win against Columbus, and while there wasn’t a major difference in the team’s approach under him, there were some encouraging signs from some new faces. Colombian newcomers Jaime Castrillon and Luis Zapata looked sharp, and Castrillon should only improve as he adjusts to his teammates. A tough test awaits in Philly though.
8- HOUSTON DYNAMO
A good start for the Dynamo saw them create plenty of chances before finally breaking through late against Chivas USA. Houston still looks likely to add a forward in the summer (if not sooner), but Will Bruin is making his case to keep the job alongside Brian Ching. The defense looks as stingy as ever, and Geoff Cameron looks like a player determined to stay on the national team radar.
9- VANCOUVER WHITECAPS
Another new head coach who enjoyed an encouraging start to his MLS career, Martin Rennie got to see just how dangerous his Whitecaps attack might be. In fairness, it came against Montreal, but the Sebastien LeToux-Eric Hassli-Camilo trio will be tough for anybody to stop. Even more promising for the Whitecaps was the play of the defense, which is where the team must improve off of 2011.
10- NEW YORK RED BULLS
It is only one game, but the opening-week loss to FC Dallas raised some serious red flags about the Red Bull defense. Markus Holgersson looks slow and Roy Miller was atrocious. Wilman Conde can’t get healthy soon enough. Offensively, Kenny Cooper gave the Red Bulls something to build on, as he and Henry looked to be a better fit than Henry and Agudelo.
11- SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES
A 1-0 home win against a team as weak as New England isn’t a sign a MLS Cup title is on the horizon, but there were certainly encouraging signs for a San Jose side looking to return to the playoffs. New center back Victor Bernardez looks like the real deal and the kind of player to anchor a defense, and the Chris Wondolowski-Steven Lenhart forward combination should cause problems for opposing defenses all year.
12- TORONTO FC
The Canadian club is riding high off its impressive CONCACAF Champions League series win versus LA, but we will find out pretty quickly against Seattle whether this TFC team is to be taken seriously in league play. Torsten Frings, Ryan Johnson, Nick Soolsma, Milos Kocic and Luis Suilva all performed extremely well in the LA series, and if they can keep playing at that level, Toronto will be climbing even further up these rankings in no time.
13- PHILADELPHIA UNION
There wasn’t much to feel good about after Monday’s 3-1 dismantling by Portland, but the biggest concerns were the team’s flank defending and inability to generate dangerous chances. Porfirio Lopez had a nightmare debut, but he should have a chance to redeem himself against Colorado in the Union’s home opener. The real question is which forwards will Peter Nowak turn to next in his quest to fill the void left by Sebastien LeToux.
14- CHICAGO FIRE
The Fire had the weekend off in preparation for their season opener in Montreal. They should have gained some confidence from watching the expansion team’s struggles in their opening loss, but Chicago will also face the prospect of taking on a team with a game under their belt. Will Dom Oduro be able to duplicate his 2011 success? We are about to find out.
15- D.C. UNITED
The biggest bright spot from Saturday’s loss to Sporting KC was the play of goalkeeper Bill Hamid, but with him leaving for Olympic Qualifying for the next three weeks, we are left with a D.C. team that needs to figure out how it couldn’t generate more of an attack in the opener. New Designated Player Hamdi Salihi didn’t muster a single shot on goal versus KC, but both he and the rest of the attack should find chances against a struggling LA defense this weekend.
16- COLUMBUS CREW
The opening week loss was a testament to meager attacking play and some shaky defending. New playmaker Milovan Mirosevic didn’t exactly wow us in his MLS debut, but Olman Vargas did seem to pick up the attack when Robert Warzycha switched from a 4-5-1 to a 4-4-2. Losing Dilly Duka to injury hurts bad, but not as much as the glaring reality that the team needs a veteran defensive midfielder to keep from losing the battle in midfield.
17- NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION
The good news for Jay Heaps is that the Revs defense held up in the second half if Saturday’s loss to San Jose. The bad news is the offense didn’t generate much in the way of chances. The arrival of Jose Moreno should help some, but it is clearly rebuilding mode time in New England.
18- CHIVAS USA
Dan Kennedy kept the Goats from enduring a brutal opening weekend loss, but the performance was still disappointing. Juan Pablo Angel’s return is a huge boost, but if the midfield can’t generate more chances, it won’t matter. The Chivas USA roster still needs revamping, and unless some more reinforcements come, Robin Fraser looks to be in for a long year.
19- MONTREAL IMPACT
A rather forgettable debut for the first-year club, which shouldn’t have been too shocking. The offense was expected to struggle, and moved to address that with the signing of Bernardo Corradi this week, but the ease with which Vancouver torched the Impact defense has to worry Jesse Marsh.