PST’s Major League Soccer Power Rankings – Week 5

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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.

(MORE: Player of the Week | Team of the Week | Week 4 Power Rankings)

Here’s our view on Major League Soccer five weeks into the season:

RANKING
Up/Down
source:  1 UP 1 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)

2 DOWN 1
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)
source:  3 UP 1 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)
source:  4 DOWN 1 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)

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5 UP 4 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)
source:  6 UP 2 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)
source:  7 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)
source:  8 DOWN 2 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)
source:  9 DOWN 4 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)

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10 UP 1 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)
source:  11 DOWN 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)
source:  12 UP 1 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)
source:  13 UP 1 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)
source:  14 UP 3 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)
source:  15 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)
source:  16 DOWN 4 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)
source:  17 DOWN 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)
source:  18 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)
source:  19 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)

Everton’s Silva: ‘It is concerning about the goals we didn’t score’

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Like in the two games leading into Friday night, Everton have done their part in creating clear-cut chances.

They haven’t done their part in finishing, however. A major point of concern for manager Marco Silva following his side’s 2-0 loss against Aston Villa. From the BBC:

“It is really difficult to see how we can lose this game when we create so many chances to score. It is a tough place to play football.”

The Toffees have now outshot all three opponents they’ve faced this season (34-21), but have only a goal to speak for their attacking dominance. Against Villa, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Theo Walcott squandered ideal chances in the first and second halves, respectively. In the minutes following his Everton debut, Alex Iwobi was the closest to converting for the visitors, hitting the post in the closing minutes of the match.

Silva, as critical as ever before, acknowledges that despite his team succeeding when it comes to creating chances, they desperately need to move the ball past the white line.

“The most difficult thing is to create and when you do you have to put the ball in the net,” the 42-year-old added. “It is concerning about the goals we didn’t score and of course we should score more. Against Palace we created lots of chances to score and didn’t and again today.”

With a challenging bout against Wolves at Goodison Park next on the schedule, the Portuguese will certainly look to tinker his attack to improve the team’s poor conversion rate. Despite falling to score 10 yards in, Iwobi contributed positively for Everton at Villa Park. Moise Kean, still adjusting to the rigors of the league, can be another prudent option to consider.

Luckily, Everton have time – and a match against Lincoln City midweek – to weigh their options. Silva, as he clearly explained at Villa Park, would want the goals to come in sooner rather than later.

Villa’s Wesley hopes to ‘continue like this’ after scoring first goal

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Anwar El Ghazi was the x-factor Friday night, giving every Aston Villa supporter in attendance at Villa Park the excuse to roar at the top of their lungs following his composed finish in the dying seconds of stoppage time.

But about an hour earlier, Villa’s $28-million striker, Wesley, gave the same supporters a reason to believe that they had a chance against Everton, and, most importantly, that Villa made the right decision in securing his signature just months ago.

[ MORE: Recap | Highlights ]

With a timely run and a well-paced strike, the Brazilian opened his Premier League and Aston Villa account. Something manager Dean Smith knew was bound to happen. From the BBC:

“Wesley is not rewarding me but this performance was very good tonight. I believe in him, I have watched him for a while at Club Bruges, playing in the Champions League so I know the calibre of player we were bringing in. You can’t judge someone after two games.”

Prior to Friday, Wesley was less effective than expected in the claret and blue, recording only two shots on target in his first 164 minutes in the league. Smith was swarmed with questions about the striker’s ineffectiveness as the pressure continued to pile on.

Against Everton, however, with the Villa struggling to keep possession and most playing through frenetic counter attacks, the 22-year-old made the most out of the small number of chances he saw. 21 minutes in, he scored. A couple of minutes later – if it wasn’t for a superb last-second tackle from Everton’s Yerry Mina – the Brazilian would have had a brace.

When he wasn’t aiming for goal, the striker was effectively displacing Everton’s back four with his clever runs and brawny hold-up play. One could tell that the Brazilian was playing the game to his strengths, in peace.

“I am very happy tonight, what a performance from the team,” Wesley said after the match. “We worked hard, played very well and we hope to continue like this week by week then we will see what happens.

“The manager knows me, he sees me everyday working hard and the supporters know me too. I keep calm, I know my qualities and today you saw that I can do.

“I hope to continue like this, the last two games were very difficult but now I have to help my team with goals.”

Time will tell if Wesley will continue on the same path, but after a slow start, its quite crystal clear that everyone at Aston Villa is behind the Brazilian striker.

Late El Ghazi goal seals Aston Villa victory over Everton

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With three points under their belt and Villa Park rocking like never before, it now feels like Aston Villa are finally back in the Premier League.

Pinned back the majority of the second half, trying to conserve a 1-0 lead, Anwar El Ghazi‘s last-gasp goal sealed the deal for Villa, edging Everton 2-0 on Friday.

Wesley‘s cathartic welcome to the Premier League 21 minutes in gave Dean Smith‘s side the room to breathe, despite being behind the ball the majority of the match.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]


Four things we learned

1. Certainly not the case last time they featured in the Premier League, Villa now have the luxury of boasting game-changing choices off the bench like El Ghazi, who can come in and finish things off.

2. Three matches in, and the Toffees’ glaring void is a clinical finisher up top. They’ll need to find a solution, sooner rather than later.

3.  In the 30-minute cameo, Alex Iwobi displayed that he can turn out to be a difference-maker for Everton this season, if utilized properly.

4. On a good night, there aren’t many stadiums that roar louder than Villa Park.

Man of the Match


Jota, positive for 77 minutes on the right side of the midfield, combined time and time again with Villa right back Frederic Guilbert for the greater good of creating energetic counters. The Spaniard’s first assist of the season came in similar fashion, when Wesley finished off his precise through ball.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Everton, like in the first half, imposed themselves on the home side, dominating control of the ball. A lack of fishing and creativity in the final third, however, complicated things for Marco Silva‘s side. As the clocked ticked, the ingenuity was nowhere to be found.

Shortly after coming on, Iwobi put forward the clearest chance Everton had experienced all night. The substitute’s shot, though, struck post, denying any chances of a brilliant debut by the former Arsenal man.

Villa continued to sit back with its four-man backline and Douglas Luiz right above as the No. 6, while remaining attentive on when to spring forward and take advantage of an unbalanced Everton.

El Ghazi surprised many, riffling a shot from 25 yards out. Pickford, vigilant as ever before, calmly blocked it out of danger.

Right before stoppage time, the Toffees were a couple of feet from walking away from Villa Park with a vital point. Theo Wolcott, however, failed to keep his strike leveled, skying the ball well over the bar.

Just minutes later, substitute El-Ghazi showed those watching how to finish, leading Villa to their first Premier League win since 2016.

AT HALF: Wesley scores first goal for Aston Villa

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With pressure certainly on, Wesley scored his first Premier League goal, which has Aston Villa 45 minutes out of their first points since their return to the big stage.

Following a sublime through ball from Jota, the Brazilian didn’t shy away from slotting the ball past Jordan Pickford and into the back of the net.

[ STREAM: Aston Villa – Everton ]

Such timely run and clinical finish showcased by the 22-year-old put into perspective why Villa were willing to shell out $28 million for the striker this summer.

Welcome to the Premier League, Wesley.