Perhaps we’re buying into our own preconceptions, but last week was a relatively stable one in Major League Soccer. At least, if you see Power Rankings like these as an indication of flux, MLS’s teams are starting to play to expectations. Only two teams moved more than two spots on this week’s chart.
One of those teams, Sporting Kansas City, is in the middle of its worst slide since 2011. Even if you saw KC’s fall coming — and I don’t know anybody that did — you couldn’t have predicted it’d be this bad. Granted, Sporting still sits second in the East, but in terms of form, this team has gone from among the league’s most predictable to a mid-season question mark.
The other big mover is New England, who is on its third third major streak of the season. Five straight wins this spring vaulted the Revs to the top of our rankings, but when our list returned after a World Cup break, New England was two from the bottom, an eight-match losing streak sending Jay Heaps’ side out of the East’s top five. Now, having won four-in-a-row, New England’s climbing back toward the top, but won’t worry. There’s still time for Mr. Hyde to send the Revs back to the bottom.
Until then, here’s our updated list, with New England knocking on the door of what’s become a solid quintet at the top:
LA Galaxy: Anywhere else on the chart, you want to seethat bright green “UP” in the “Up/Down” column. But when you’re at the top, nothing looks better than that thin back line – the dash that says all your challengers fell short. We were here last week, we’re here now, and in all likelihood, we’ll be here going forward. LA hopes the latter is true. (14-5-7)
Real Salt Lake: After 60 minutes of dominance, RSL was in danger of dropping points against visiting Dallas, but thanks to Alvaro Saborio’s idyllic return, the Claret and Cobalt hinted at what it will be going forward: A team capable of punishing teams resting in their own third. (12-5-10)
D.C. United:The draw at Vancouver was more than a point, particularly given the absences of Eddie Johnson (short-term) and Chris Rolfe (longer). With Sporting slumping, United has a change to lock down the East with upcoming games against New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia. (14-8-5)
FC Dallas: Two spots is a severe drop for a team that only lost by one at RSL. Compared withhow United performed in Utah, Dallas looks like the better team. If it wasn’t for the Toros’ loss last week at Chicago, we’d be inclined to agree, but recent form suggests Dallas should take this step back, particularly after being so far behind the game over Saturday’s first hour. (12-9-6)
Seattle Sounders: Though last Wednesday was impressive, Seattle ultimately beat a nose-diving Chivas USA. It’s no reason to move up, but given how impressive the Soudners were in Wednesday’s first half, it was also no reason to move down. (16-7-3)
New England Revolution: Five spots is a big jump, but New England had a two-win week, with Sunday’s new set up showing Jermaine Jones will be given room to dominate. With Lee Nguyen inserting himself into MVP discussions, New England’s become the biggest threat outside our increasingly staid top five. It’s almost as if the June (and July) swoon never happened. (12-12-3)
Philadelphia Union: It was a six-point week for Philadelphia, but wins over Toronto are becoming obligatory. If the Union were lower on this chart, those steady performances would be enough to justify a rise. At seven, though, competition above them makes it more difficult to move up. (9-9-9)
Columbus Crew: So Columbus loses last week at Montreal and moves up, but they a win this week costs them a spot? Go figure, context is important, and whereas a strong performance by the Impact made last week’s loss understandable, the 3-0 win over Chivas USA flattered an often flat performance. Ultimately, Columbus’s ranking has been more influenced by teams New England and Kansas City than the team’s own decent results. (9-9-9)
Portland Timbers: Portland may be the most entertaining team in the league, but at this point, that entertainment is coming at the expense of results. Not that Caleb Proter’s been willing to make that trade, but as exciting as his attack has been, his defense seems committed to preserving drama. One week after a clean sheet in Vancouver, Portland gave up three at home. (8-8-11)
New York Red Bulls:Saturday’s was a great result for New York, but in terms of Power Rankings, the results were more equivocal. What is a win over a plummeting Sporting worth right now? Unfortunately, we don’t know, so instead of vaulting New York up the chart, we’ll take a wait-and-see approach. (8-8-10)
Houston Dynamo: Three wins in four games have renewed Houston’s playoff hopes, and while they’re still five back of a postseason spot, Power Rankings are easier to navigate. The teams below this line are all struggling to get results. Though Houston has yet to silence its doubters, the team’s still cracking the win column. While there’s a danger of being too results-based, the points serve a nice tiebreaker when things get close. (9-13-4)
San Jose Earthquakes: Again: consider the form; consider what’s around them. San Jose has taken points from Real Salt Lake, Seattle, and Portland recently, and while they’ve also gone over a month without a win (over Seattle, mind you), the Earthquakes have at least shown they’re capable of troubling some of the league’s stronger teams. Right now, with the possible exception of Montreal, nobody below this point is doing the same. The record says lower. The form says here.(6-10-9)
Sporting Kansas City: A two-loss week, five more goals allowed, and Sporting has lost the benefit of the doubt. Losing at New York after Dom Dwyer, Benny Feilhaber, and Aurelien Collin returned to the lineup left them out of excuses. Right now, Sporting’s just not that good. (12-10-6)
Vancouver Whitecaps: Much as, as in the case of Philadelphia, it’s difficult to climb once you reach a certain point in the rankings, it’s also difficult to fall too far without losing games. Vancouver has done their fair share of that of late, but with a draw on Saturday against East-leading D.C., it’s difficult to be too harsh. In the bigger picture, however, there are very few teams Vancouver seems capable of beating, at the moment – the reason why a team still on the verge of a playoff spot is so ranked so low. (7-6-13)
Montréal Impact: The Impact ultimately lost this weekend, but for the fourth game in a row, Montreal gave a decent performance. The only games this team’s lost since Aug. 2 have been on the road, and with wins over Chicago and Columbus (as well as Saturday’s encouraging show in Houston), Montreal deserves this bump. (5-16-5)
Chicago Fire: A one-goal loss at New England would look a lot better if the team put more than one shot on target. Whatever progress Chicago made against Dallas didn’t make its way to New England. (5-7-14)
Colorado Rapids:Friday was a disaster, but given how it happened, the game tells us nothing new about how Colorado will play going forward. They were bad last week. They were bad against LA. If something doesn’t change, they’ll be bad next week, too. (8-13-6)
Toronto FC: After two more losses, there’s only one team in Major League Soccer we can see the Reds beating on a neutral field, right now. Thankfully for Greg Vanney, the gains Toronto made over the season’s first five months keep TFC in playoff contention. (9-11-6)
Chivas USA: Since drawing Vancouver at home on Aug. 16, Chivas USA has been outscored 11-2 (four games). During their nine-match winless run, six games have been decided by more than one goal. If Chivas USA is trying to finish its existence with a prolonged metaphor, mission accomplished. We get it: This franchise wasn’t that good. (6-15-6)