PST’s Major League Soccer Power Rankings – Mid-week adjustment

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Last week’s new custom carries over into this week, where three mid-week games allow us to reconsider Tuesday’s Major League Soccer Power Rankings. Here’s how PST sees the MLS crowd going into the weekend:

D.C. United
Tuesday ranking: 3
Wednesday result: 1-0 loss at New York Red Bulls

Fabian Espindola’s controversial first half red card meant D.C. had little chance to complete its season sweep of New York. As far as Power Rankings are concerned, though, the game didn’t tell us much.

If D.C. starts making a habit of going down a man, then we can consider that problem. But given the team has only seen two red cards this season, Wednesday looks like an aberration.

New ranking: 3

LA Galaxy
Tuesday ranking: 1
Wednesday result: 2-2 draw at Montreal

Ever since ripping apart Seattle on the road, LA has struggled away from Stub Hub:

  • Aug. 16: 4-1 loss at Columbus
  • Aug. 20: 4-3 win at Colorado
  • Sept. 10: 2-2 draw at Montreal

Of course, struggle is relative. Most teams would be happy with four points on the road. LA’s been so good, we’re  holding them to a different standard.

That standard was evident in people’s reactions to Wednesday’s performance. Ultimately, it was one bad half – one where Robbie Roger’s and James Riley’s lack of fitness forced Bruce Arena to start with a 3-5-2 formation.

That wasn’t the real LA. Even if it was, the result wasn’t that bad. Montreal’s played beyond their record for nearly a month. GivenLA’s mid-week, cross-country trip, a draw wasn’t the most unreasonable result.

New ranking: 1

Montreal Impact
Tuesday ranking: 15
Wednesday result: 2-2 draw with visiting Los Angeles

One of the most disappointing parts of last night’s games was multiple broadcasters acting as if Montreal’s record reflected the team’s current quality. Not everybody can watch every game, but the Impact’s improvement has happened over the course of a month. And it hasn’t been that difficult to track.

It’s one thing to be deferential to the standings. It’s another thing to ignore their limitations. Montreal has the worst record in MLS, but it’s been a while since the Impact were the league’s worst team.

Granted, it’s a big hypocritical for me to say that when the team was only ranked 15th on our list. So let’s fix that now (if only slightly):

New ranking: 13

New York Red Bulls
Tuesday ranking: 10
Wednesday result: 1-0 win over visiting D.C. United

The temptation here is to drop New York, given how impotent they looked for most of the night against a 10-man United. But just was it’s difficult to judge D.C. based on the strange circumstances, it’s hard to come down on New York, especially after a win.

Perhaps, after this weekend’s games New York’s poor showing will hurt. But for now …

New ranking: 10

San Jose Earthquakes
Tuesday ranking: 12
Wednesday result: 2-0 loss at Vancouver

If the Whitecaps weren’t in the midst of slump, this result wouldn’t look that bad, but given what we saw when Portland and D.C. United went to BC Place, last night’s two-goal loss hints we were overrating the Earthquakes. In focusing on recent performances against Real Salt Lake and Seattle, perhaps we were underrating San Jose’s 5-0 loss to Dallas?

Regardless, it’s time to adjust. At a minimum, the Earthquakes need to fall below the Whitecaps. Add in the Impact’s rise, and San Jose takes a big fall.

New ranking: 15

Vancouver Whitecaps
Tuesday ranking: 14
Wednesday result: 2-0 win over visiting San Jose

One of the underlying principles we’ve worked with this year is distributing credit (or, blame). Of course, scores can be the result of both good and bad performances, but that doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. When we’re lucky, both teams play well, and on those nights that drag, both teams are probably playing poorly. It’s not a zero-sum game.

On Wednesday in Vancouver, the Whitecaps made progress, ending their 449-minute scoreless run. The context of that win, however, included a poor showing from the Earthquakes.

If Montreal hadn’t played well, Vancouver would have moved up. With the Impacts’ improvement, Carl Robinson’s side stays steady on our chart.

New ranking: 14

On Seattle …

Excuse this indulgence, but I’d like to backtrack for a moment. I want to go back to Tuesday and talk about a ranking beyond the three- or four-sentence blurbs we allow for each team.

The biggest misgiving I had as I posted Tuesday’s list was Seattle’s spot: Fifth, behind D.C. United and FC Dallas. I was so uneasy about the choice, I hit up a friend over IM, somebody who covers the team daily. I needed to talk it out.

Perhaps I’m spending too much time looking at the standings, talking myself out of the low ranking because of Seattle’s place in the table. Then again, much of that place rests on results that are now outdated. How much does the Sounders’ strong spring really influence how capable they are now? Regardless, five seemed low for a team that’s been playing so well.

But those strong performances, the ones that pulled them out of their August rut, have been against Portland, Colorado, and Chivas – the bottom half of the West.  Before that, unimpressive performances against the Galaxy, Real Salt Lake, and San Jose contributed to the Sounders’ PR fall.

There isn’t much of an argument to put the Sounders ahead of LA or RSL, unless you want to dwell on the standings; in which case, Power Rankings aren’t for you. Given Dallas’s recent performance against similar foes (RSL, San Jose) and the Toros’ record since May (only two losses this summer), there’s a strong case for Oscar Pareja’s team being that high. D.C. United’s only losses over the last month were while depleted at Los Angeles and last night’s aberration.

Perhaps I’m only typing this out to make myself feel better, because it really does seem weird to see Seattle ranked so low. Intuitively, we know the Sounders are capable of beating anybody. But they’re also capable of being blown out by LA and losing at San Jose.

Five may be low, but the teams above the Sounders have strong cases to their spots. If Seattle beats RSL on Friday, the conversation changes.

PST’s Major League Soccer Power Rankings (post-mid-week results):

1. LA Galaxy
2. Real Salt Lake
3. DC United
4. FC Dallas
5. Seattle Sounders
6. New England Revolution
7. Philadelphia Union
8. Columbus Crew
9. Portland Timbers
10. New York Red Bulls
11. Houston Dynamo
12. Sporting Kansas City (+1)
13. Montreal Impact (+2)
14. Vancouver Whitecaps
15. San Jose Earthquakes (-3)
16. Chicago Fire
17. Colorado Rapids
18. Toronto FC
19. Chivas USA