Two matchups at the top of the rankings meant last week’s stability was destined to fall by the wayside, but for the most part, the changes to the fifth edition of our Power Rankings are mild ones. Of the 19 teams on the list, 13 of them move less than one spot, though two teams (Philadelphia and New England) took dramatic falls.
The list’s big enigma remains FC Dallas, whose 4-0-1 record leaves the team on top of the Western Conference. But where a soft schedule hasn’t obscured the team’s true, still unknown quality, strange games have. Two weeks ago, it was the first half double-red cards against Portland. This week, it was David Horst’s 60th minute dismissal. In both games. Dallas was relatively even with its opponent while playing 11-on-11. After cards started flying, FCD won.
For now, we’re taking a cautious approach, part of the reason Dallas remains outside the top five. One team breaking into the group, however, is the LA Galaxy. After this week’s result in the Clásico Angelino, we finally have more context on the team’s first two results. That context: The team can be pretty impressive when it’s not playing Real Salt Lake.
Here’s our view on Major League Soccer five weeks into the season:
Sporting Kansas City:They may not have won on Saturday, but a performance where they generated five or six good chances while giving up none informs the “next week, neutral field” standard. Granted, up until an hour ago, I was prepared to have co-number ones (convinced nobody can really tell which of Sporting and RSL is better). Ultimately, given how the teams played, I think Sporting wins Saturday’s game more times than not. (2-1-2)
Real Salt Lake: Of course, that conclusion (above) becomes problematic when you remember Nick Rimando, Chris Wingert, Tony Beltran and João Plata were all missing from Saturday’s team. Still, there’s a difference between good performance and good result. If you’re RSL, you take your point from Sporting Park. You also look at Saturday’s performance and say “that’s not how it was supposed to go.” (2-0-3)
Toronto FC: Proving their poor performance at RSL was a bit of a fluke, the Reds handed the Crew their first blemish of the season, doing so without four of its starters. Missing Jermain Defoe, TFC matched its highest goal output of the season. Despite the absences of Steven Caldwell and Doneil Henry, a Reds central pairing of Bradley Orr and Nick Hagglund buttressed the team’s best defensive performance of the season. (3-1-0)
Columbus Crew: While the crowd of Federico Higuaín, Bernardo Añor, Tony Tchani and Hector Jimenez in Columbus’s middle should have dictated Saturday’s game, their control was mostly a passive one. Michael Bradley and a surprisingly stalwart Kyle Bekker were able to disrupt the Crew’s connections and force play wide, where the Crew attempted 47 crosses. The season’s previous high: 28, against the packed-in, 10-man Sounders. Columbus just needs to play better. (3-1-0)
LA Galaxy: It’s amazing how good a team looks when it doesn’t have to play RSL. Though Chivas USA looked a little too much like their 2013 selves, Sunday’s result still provided a point of comparison. LA had an easier time against the Goats than Dallas did three weeks ago, with a revamped, diamond midfield giving the team a new option going forward. (1-1-1)
FC Dallas: Another week, and we’re still not sure what to make of FC Dallas. For 60 minutes, they looked Houston’s equals on Saturday. After David Horst earned a suspect red card, however, Dallas poured it on. While it’s 4-1 win was impressive, the 11-on-11 game was different. There’s only so high Dallas can climb after playing 30 minutes on the power play. (4-0-1)
Seattle Sounders: For 84 minutes, Portland was very good on Saturday, yet Seattle still found a way to earn a point. Whereas at one point this season the Sounders were having trouble creating quality chances, Saturday’s game saw a ruthless team capitalize on Portland’s inevitable mistakes. With Clint Dempsey back to his opportunistic self, it’s a trait Seattle should maintain going forward. (2-2-1)
Houston Dynamo: The collapse after Horst’s sending off was disturbing; hence, the drop. A lot of that, though, was Gilles Barnes just having a bad night. Between his poor defense on Je-Vaughn Watson and his inability to convert a couple of very good chances, Barnes had one of his worst games since his arrival. Despite that, Houston looked fine 11-on-11. (2-2-0)
Philadelphia Union: This is a big drop for a team coming off a road draw, but within the context of Philadelphia’s other recent results, Saturday’s performance opened our eyes. The team has question marks in attack (specifically, at forward) and in defense, while the midfield that looked like a strength underperformed against a Fire team it could have controlled. Add that to the late capitulation against Montréal the week before, and it looks like the honeymoon is over. Their previous mistakes are more than aberrations, now. (1-1-3)
Colorado Rapids: Vancouver was the better team until Matías Laba’s sending off, but at BC Place, you’d expect that. Colorado managed to stay close enough to take advantage of the 10-man team, and with Clint Irwin back in goal, the Rapids are closer to having their first choice XI in place. They still need to figure out how best to use Gabi Torres, and Chris Klute has yet to return to the lineup, but having knocked the Whitecaps from the ranks of the unbeatens, things are trending in the right direction for the Rapids. They’ve finally scored an open play goal. (2-1-1)
Vancouver Whitecaps: Given the team was up 1-0 while playing 11-on-11 (and the red card to Laba was a weird one), there’s only so much we can justify dinging the Whitecaps. Consider this the Rapids passing them rather than the Whitecaps falling. Vancouver should be better when Nigel Reo-Coker returns, when the team can go back to their 4-2-3-1. (2-1-2)
Portland Timbers: Three games at home, three draws, but things are moving in the right direction for the Timbers, even if the team’s not getting results. On Saturday, they came up against a talented opponent capable of taking advantage of their mistakes. While Caleb Porter seems to finally be losing his tolerance for those individual errors, Portland won’t be facing Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins every week. (0-2-3)
San Jose Earthquakes: San Jose was off this weekend, so consider this regression to the mean. While this week’s results made its home loss to New England look even worse, the Revs’ loss at RFK also make the upset look more like a fluke. Given that was San Jose’s only poor performance of the season, 13 seems about right. (0-2-1)
Chicago Fire: Frank Yallop was right to be slightly flabbergasted while being interviewed during Saturday’s game. His team was playing good. They were taking the game to Philadelphia. Yet thanks to two weird goals conceded in eight first half minutes, Chicago couldn’t get its first win. While that’s on the defense, the back line has been mostly good since week one, but as evidenced on Maurice Edu’s goal, players are just turning off at the wrong times. (0-1-4)
Chivas USA: Sunday was the Goats’ worst performance of the season – the first game Wilmer Cabrera’s team hasn’t mounted a challenge. Normally, that means a drop in the rankings, but at this point, there’s only so far they can go. Right below them is a team that lost to D.C. United. Chivas’s performance was disappointing, but because it came against a good team, it’s hard to drop them any farther. (1-2-2)
New England Revolution: Over two weeks, New England has been the ultimate streak buster. Two weeks ago, they ended San Jose’s 21-game home unbeaten run. On Saturday, they fell at RFK, handing D.C. United its first win since August. That inconsistency is why the Revolution, having vaulted four spots last week, are among the biggest fallers this week. With only one goal off their own boots this season, this is where the Revs will stay until they can get more out of Teal Bunbury and Diego Fagundez. (1-3-1)
Montréal Impact: Marco Di Vaio’s terrible pass across the defense to Jonny Steele may have cost Montréal a win; then again, Péguy Luyindula could have converted his early second half penalty kick. Ultimately, the Impact had a half an hour after Felipe’s equalizer to find a winner against a poor New York. That they couldn’t is why they remain this low. (0-3-2)
New York Red Bulls: Like Chicago, New York has drawn four in a row, but whereas the Fire look to be improving, the Red Bulls are searching for answers. Without Thierry Henry, Tim Cahill, and Jámison Olave this weekend, Mike Petke’s overhauled his side gave up chance after chance to Montréal. Though the Red Bulls earned a point, there was still a “back to the drawing board” feeling about the result. (0-1-4)
D.C. United: Ben Olsen got strong performances from Davy Arnaud, Perry Kitchen, and Fabian Espindola on Saturday, but this is still a very limited side, so much so that it needed a fluke Jose Gonçalves own goal to pave the way to its first victory in eight months. Three points, at this stage, is three points, and while this weekend’s performance would ave earned a win from few (if any) other teams in MLS, it can still serve as a platform going forward. (1-2-1)
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Christian Pulisic, whose name was known to only the most ardent of U.S. national team supporters six short months ago, is the fastest rising star in American soccer these days, but you’d never know it just listening to him talk.
Speaking after the USMNT’s 4-0 victory over Bolivia here at Children’s Mercy Park on Saturday — having made a big bit of history of his own in the process (WATCH HERE) — Pulisic seemed to have just walked off the field following just another ordinary game — something you’d be easily tricked into thinking he’d done 500 times thus far in his career.
USMNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann has something of a theory to explain Pulisic’s meteoric rise, from making his Borussia Dortmund debut three months ago, to scoring his first international goal on Saturday: the youngster is fearless — perhaps because he’s not been around the block enough to know any better, but without fear of conscience in the face of any challenge nonetheless.
“I think he is a wonderful kid. He’s grounded, he knows that he has a long way to go, but he has no fear, and this is very important — not having fear, especially when you play in our region (CONCACAF), where it becomes really physical. What you’re going to see next Friday will be very, very physical.”
On that lack of fear, Pulisic says it’s something that was instilled in him at a very young age, playing soccer and living an ordinary childhood in his hometown of Hershey, Penn., before it became clear that his future was to be anything but ordinary. Fear does seem a foreign concept to the now-three-times-capped USMNT starlet when asked how he’s made the transition from Dortmund Under-19s, to Dortmund first team, to USMNT impact-maker, so seamlessly.
“It’s just what I learned since I was a little kid. My dad taught me no matter what — I would play against these bigger players — to just be myself. I knew that I was good enough, that I had the ability, so I never shy away from any moment and I don’t think anyone should.”
The challenges for a 17-year-old earning his stripes on a team chock-full of established stars such as Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, Tim Howard and on and on, are innumerable. From trying to impress Klinsmann and earn a share of first-team minutes, to “making friends” with the senior members of the squad, Pulisic is just doing his best to fit in and prove he can contribute at next week’s 2016 Copa America Centenario — the USMNT’s last major tournament before the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
“The guys have taken me in, they’re all really nice, and it’s helped me a lot that I’ve been with them a few weeks now. It’s getting more and more comfortable. I’m making more friends. Normally, you’d hang out with some of the younger guys — kind of work your way up. You really have to earn your respects on the field. Off the field, they’re all nice guys.”
And yet, with all of that said, an air of naiveté hangs over Pulisic as he talks of becoming the youngest goalscorer in USMNT history (17 years, 253 days), the 17-year-old that he is. Does the magnitude of such an accomplishment register an hour after that record-breaking strike?
“Honestly, no. I’m just living life, living in the moment. It’s cool — stats and stuff are cool — but I want to win this tournament coming up. That’s the overall goal, so I don’t really care too much about being the [youngest] goalscorer.”
Yes, the United States should beat Bolivia at home, and soundly, but that doesn’t make Saturday’s 4-0 win in Kansas City any less fun.
Jurgen Klinsmann’s men throttled Bolivia, picking up the biggest win over a South American foe in national team history while writing in the U.S. men’s record book from an individual standpoint as well.
Christian Pulisic became the youngest goal scorer in USMNT history, and the Americans will be feeling pretty good after improving to 7-1-1 in their last nine games before the start of the Copa America Centenario on Friday in California.
So who showed well? See below:
Brad Guzan — 7 — Called on only once or twice, but made the saves. Always hard to know what to score a goalkeeper who doesn’t have much to do. We’ll go with 7.
Matt Besler (off HT) — 7 — Filling in at left back wasn’t a problem for Sporting KC’s center back, and he even pulled off a nifty attacking trick or two.
John Brooks — 6 — Made up for a horrible giveaway by charging into the play to score the Yanks’ second goal. Out of position on a late chance that Guzan handled well.
Geoff Cameron — 7 — This team is so much better when he is healthy. Have to wonder if the Confederations Cup berth would’ve been assured with him last summer.
Michael Orozco (off HT) — 6 — Wasn’t noticed much, and that’s good for him.
Bobby Wood —7 — Lively and active, even if his finish was off.
Gyasi Zardes (Off, 64′) —7 — If he wasn’t fighting his first touch, might’ve scored 3 or 4. Two is pretty good, though, right? He’d be a center forward, but Klinsmann needs to know the man up top can handle his first touch better.
Clint Dempsey (Off, 73′) — 6 — By no means bad. Is it too far off to say he’s doing the American version of the waning years of Cuauthemoc Blanco’s Mexican prime?
Fabian Johnson (On, HT) — 6 — Slow to get back on Bolivia’s only scoring chance.
DeAndre Yedlin (On, HT) — 6 — Like Orozco, had very little to do on the right side.
Christian Pulisic (On, 64′) — 7 — He’s a mouth-watering prospect, and became the youngest goal scorer in USMNT history.
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — For the most part, the U.S. national team systematically dismantled Bolivia, to the tune of a 4-0 victory (as it should have done), in its final pre-2016 Copa America Centenario tune-up Saturday night at Children’s Mercy Park. We learned a few things about Jurgen Klinsmann’s side ahead of Friday’s tournament opener…
Michael Bradley is the USMNT’s no. 6. End of story. His ability to play himself (and teammates) out of trouble at all times and hit (quick) long balls out to the wings changes the point of attack in an instant. The USMNT actually resembles a dangerous attacking side in these brief moments. (He’s also the quickest thinker in the player pool, doing things like this to set up goals.) Not to mention, he’s got the wheels to recover tons of space when a quick counter is inevitably launched the other way — something that Kyle Beckerman, for everything he’s been to the USMNT the last few years, simply doesn’t have anymore.
Alejandro Bedoya was easily the standout performer Saturday night, though, bagging a pair of first-half assists as the USMNT took a 2-0 lead into halftime. Speaking of circulating the ball quickly, Bedoya’s first-time chipped helper was the only ball that puts Gyasi Zardes into space with enough time to compose himself and beat the goalkeeper the way he did for the opener. With Bradley and Jermaine Jones capably waging the possession battle a bit deeper, Bedoya has the license — and ability — to flair out wide when a pocket of space presents itself (reference: USMNT goals scored in above links).
Matt Besler and Michael Orozco, who are center backs by nature, started the game at left and right back respectively. It wasn’t the worst thing in the world defensively, but tasked with overlapping a pair of narrow-sitting wide players ahead of them, Zardes and Bobby Wood, much was left to be desired.
Klinsmann brought Fabian Johnson and DeAndre Yedlin, full back-winger hybrids by nature, on at halftime, and things opened up all over the field. Bolivia’s full backs had to stay wide, given their speed and (actual) ability to pick out a cross. Remember those long diagonals from Bradley that we talked about above? It was open season for “The General,” who played the decisive ball over the top to free Wood down the left, at which point his cross for Zardes was the final piece for a 3-0 lead.
USMNT (finally) has impact subs … if they’re not going to start
Darlington Nagbe and Christian Pulisic are the future — feel free to debate amongst yourselves whether or not they should instead be the present; I won’t stop you — but for now, they’re the impact substitutes the USMNT has been missing for so long. The dynamic duo came on after 63 minutes on Saturday, and immediately they looked to link up and run at opposition defenders every time they got on the ball.
Whether on the halfway line or the edge of the opposition penalty area, it’s quick one and two-touch passing and moving from these two, as was the case in the 69th minute, when Nagbe turned one defender inside the box before sliding a simple square ball to Pulisic. The 17-year-old Borussia Dortmund prodigy made no mistake on the finish and bagged his first senior international goal.
At this point, perhaps they’re best suited for 30 minutes of running at tired defenders with heavy legs. At some point, though — in the not-so-distant future — they need to be given the opportunity to prove themselves as 90-minute players.
Pulisic became the youngest USMNT goal scorer in history with his second half goal, set up by Darlington Nagbe. Alejandro Bedoya had a hand in two goals as well for Jurgen Klinsmann’s Yanks, who open up Copa America play on Friday against Colombia.
Bolivia is no power, but the Yanks gave them little room to maneuver after 20 minutes of play.
Bolivia had moments early, specifically on a 15th minute set piece that saw New York Cosmos striker Yasmani Duk a split second offside in heading wide of goal.
Zardes put the Yanks ahead in the 26th minute on a cool bit of passing. Geoff Cameron found Clint Dempsey, who clipped the ball over to Alejandro Bedoya. The Nantes midfielder played a pretty ball through to Zardes, who calmly fired past a charging Guillermo Viscarra. 1-0.
This game was very chippy, with Bolivia doing the little nasty things to go with big, card-worthy fouls. The Yanks kept their composure, though, and made it 2-0 when Bedoya slid to knock the ball outside the six for Brooks to pass home with his left foot.
Bobby Wood made a lightning quick cut while running onto a Clint Dempsey pass, only to see his shot saved Viscarra on the edge of stoppage time.
The Yanks made a pair of changes at halftime, introducing DeAndre Yedlin and Fabian Johnson for Orozco and Besler.
There was a terrific build-up for the Yanks on goal No. 3, as Bradley played a gorgeous diagonal ball into the box for Wood. The Bundesliga striker worked his man and then fed Zardes for a left-footed, close-range goal. 3-0.
It took 67 minutes for Bolivia to really trouble Guzan, but the Aston Villa keeper rose to the challenge when Brooks and Fabian Johnson were a bit lax in returning to the back line.