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PST’s Major League Soccer Power Rankings – Week 11

May 20, 2014, 4:01 PM EDT

Lee Nguyen, Blake Brettschneider, Chris Tierney

The next six weeks of Major League Soccer will take Power Rankings to whole new, ridiculous level. Trying to provide insight into these teams’ relative strengths? Good luck. Until the 31 players who’ve left for the World Cup return, we’re looking at a Football Manager experiment gone wrong. We’re looking at a number of teams that should have never been allowed to transcend hypotheticals.

The 11 Mark Watson had to pick for this weekend’s game in Seattle? That was a U.S. Open Cup blow-off team, but thanks to absences, injuries, and suspensions, the team was fighting for three points in Seattle. And what about Peter Vermes’ options in Bridgeview? They led a staunchly 4-3-3 Sporting to start in a 5-3-2 formation against Chicago. Anything learned at a team-level from these types of games is too ephemeral to take seriously.

As such, don’t expect a lot of movement over the next six weeks. When two in-tact teams face each other, we’ll be able to make some meaningful assessments, but given the teams whose June games are going to be compromised, the pods that’ve formed through the season’s first 10 weeks may hold up:

  • Don’t expect Kansas City, Real Salt Lake, or Seattle to fall out of the top four. If they collapse this month, it will likely be because of their absences. We’ll keep that in mind.
  • Expect a lot of movement in the middle group, but few teams to jump in or out.  LA will likely stay near the top of the six-through-12 cluster, but without Landon Donovan or Omar Gonzalez around, it will be difficult to justify a fall.
  • Any improvement we see from teams like Colorado, Portland, Philadelphia, Chicago — teams left almost unscathed by World Cup call ups — will be taken with a grain lick of salt, particularly if they come against a depleted squad

So what’s the point? If we’re going to be reluctant to change teams’ rankings, why do the list at all? In fairness, the exercise doesn’t have much relevance  under normal circumstances, but to the extent they matter, the rankings can still reflect one person’s view of the league’s balance of power. Just because that’s unlikely to change over the next month doesn’t mean it won’t. If new faces  prove themselves over the next six weeks, they could change a team’s outlook for July and beyond.

Here’s my look at Major League Soccer after 11 weeks:

MORE: Week 10 Power Rankings | Methodology

source:  1 UP 2 New England Revolution: Do I think New England is going to keep this two games, 10 goals pace? No, but that’s not was these rankings are about, either. After consecutive wins against Sporting Kansas City, at Toronto, versus Seattle and at Philadelphia — a team that had just won in Kansas — the Revolution have done enough to take this spot. The way they’re playing right now, I believe they would beat Real Salt Lake more times than not if playing tomorrow, full strength, on a neutral field. (6-3-2)

2 Real Salt Lake: Part of the reason I kept RSL at two: Strength of opposition. What a surging New England is to the top of this list, Colorado has become to the bottom. While Real Salt Lake didn’t show any weaknesses on Saturday in Sandy, the teams’ opposition didn’t allow them to score the same points New England did in Philadelphia. (6-0-5)
source:  3 UP 1 Seattle Sounders: This rise is more about Kansas City than what the Sounders did Saturday against the Earthquakes. A 1-0 home win over a depleted team is the least Seattle could have one. Thanks to Sporting’s midweek slip, however, that win was good enough to climb a spot. (8-3-1)
source:  4 DOWN 3 Sporting Kansas City: Sunday’s loss at Chicago? Who cares. The team was wiped out, forced to go five at the back to compensate for its lack of central defenders. The loss on Wednesday to Philadelphia, though? That’s what this drop is about. With a full strength team, Sporting lost to one of the coldest sides in Major League Soccer. (5-4-2)
source:  5 UP 1 Vancouver Whitecaps: Carl Robinson’s team had the week off but climbed after the Galaxy’s scoring woes continued in Houston. They’ll back on the field Saturday afternoon against Seattle. Given the team’s World Cup absences, the Whitecaps should expect a win over the Sounders. (4-2-4)


6 DOWN 1 LA Galaxy: A strong performance at Portland, even in a draw, isn’t something that causes a team to drop, but thanks to New England’s revolution, the Galaxy slip a spot. They remain without a point in games where Robbie Keane does not score. (2-3-3)
source:  7 New York Red Bulls: The Red Bulls deserved to drop after Saturday’s showing in Toronto, but with none of the teams immediately below them giving us reason to move them up, New York holds its ground. (3-4-5)
source:  8 UP 4 Toronto FC: All those teams that failed to pass New York? The San Joses, D.C. Uniteds, and Dallases of the world? They also cleared the way for TFC to make up ground. A close home win wouldn’t normally justify this leap, but Irrelevus, Greek God of Power Rankings, was on the Reds’ side. (4-4-0)
source:  9 UP 4 Houston Dynamo: Like Toronto, Houston takes advantage of mid-chart parody and others’ off weeks to make a big leap, though the Dynamo’s victory over the Galaxy also gives Dom Kinnear’s team three wins in four, further pushing the team’s April struggles into the shadows. (5-5-2)
source:  10 DOWN 2 San Jose Earthquakes: Based on their litany of absences, suspensions, and injuries, I’m willing to give the Earthquakes a pass for their 1-0 loss at Seattle. Toronto and Houston, however, we not as gracious, passing them on the chart. (2-4-4)
source:  10 UP 1 Columbus Crew: Gregg Berhalter’s team offered such a mixed bag in Portland, you could justify almost any move with the Crew. They were up 1-1 while playing 11-on-11 on the road – a positive sign. They also needed a penalty kick and (what should have been) an own goal to stay even with the 10-man Timbers. Ultimately, Saturday’s was an aberrational game that told us little about Columbus or Portland. The Crew finally scored from goals, but their climb is due to others’ falls. (3-4-4)
source:  12 DOWN 3 D.C. United: A draw at home against the league’s worst sidewill cause any team to fall, but D.C.’s performance was more worrisome than a mere 1-1 result. In failing to take advantage of those first 55 scoreless minutes against the Impact, United’s performance hinted the team may be the limited, beatable team many expected after their offseason revamp. The team played like a collection of veterans let go by their previous clubs. While that’s often enough to take an opportunistic win (or four), it’s also enough to leave you within striking distance of Montreal. (4-3-3)
source:  13 UP 1 Chicago Fire: From winless to their first winning streak, the Fire’s consecutive victories have given the team some much-needed momentum. The defense, however, still managed to concede a goal to a depleted, 10-man team. Regardless, Frank Yallop’s group moves up as other fall. (2-2-6)
source:  14 DOWN 4 FC Dallas: FCD’s losing streak is over, but the disappointing results continue. Falling behind and then drawing against Chivas USA only justifies worries this team is lost without Mauro Diaz. Given results with the young Argentine also offered a series of caveats, it’s unclear how good this team is … or can be. (5-5-2)
source:  15 UP 3 Philadelphia Union: Saturday’s loss against the Revolution was troubling, but given what New England did to Seattle the week before, that may be less about the Union than their opponents. The midweek win against a full strength Sporting shouldn’t be forgotten. (2-6-5)
source:  16 DOWN 1 Portland Timbers: Penalty kicks, red cards, own goals, … throw-ins dropping in the six and goalkeepers doing Street Fighter impressions. Portland’s defense continues to find new ways to sink its team, something that’s gone from troublesome to sad. They’re scoring more goals now, but the results are still lagging. (1-3-7)
source:  17 Chivas USA: The Goats got their second straight road result, but they also went without a shot on target before their early second half goal. Saturday’s performance was more a smash-and-grab without the grab than a building block for success going forward. (2-5-4)


18 DOWN 2 Colorado Rapids: After losing at home to Chivas USA, Ikept the Rapids above the Goats, feeling they would still win a neutral site game against Wilmer Cabrera’s team. After this weekend’s match in Salt Lake and some more thought about the Rapids’ recent form, they fall again. Until the attack starts clicking, this is one of the worst teams in Major League Soccer. (4-4-3)
source:  19 Montréal Impact: D.C. United didn’t offer much, yet the Impact’s performance still gave Frank Klopas reason for hope. Beyond Cristian’s second half mistake, Montreal put six other shots on Bill Hamid. It may be too much to say they were the better side, but the Impact were competitive on the road. That’s progress. (1-5-4)

  1. term3186 - May 20, 2014 at 4:43 PM

    I’m a bit confused on how you can justify Galaxy at #6. They’re 2-3-3. Sure, the team is stacked, but at what point do you actually start looking at results? They have the second fewest points in the league, and even if they won their next 3 games they would be in a 3-way tie for 8th. And they’ve gone D-L-D-L in their last 4. They aren’t doing well overall AND their current form is poor.

    • Richard Farley - May 20, 2014 at 4:46 PM

      It’s a good question. Sorry if it made it seem like I haven’t been looking at results, but …

      *All three of their losses a 1-0 games, two of which were on the road.
      *They drew 1-1 at RSL and 2-2 in Vancouver, performances that recommend them for the top of the table.
      *In their 1-0 loss in Houston, it was an aberrational mistake, not anything systemic, that cost them the game.

      Their results say they should probably be above Vancouver, a team Vancouver walloped (New York), and the teams below them. Even Houston, climbing on this list, showed little to say they would beat LA if the teams played again tomorrow.

      This is pretty much what Power Rankings should be about: Looking beyond the mere results. It shouldn’t be a form table.

      • term3186 - May 20, 2014 at 5:06 PM

        I suppose that’s fair. Drawing @ RSL & VAN are very nice points. You’d think with games like that they’d have more than 9 points. They must drive supporters nuts.

      • lunasceiling - May 20, 2014 at 7:06 PM

        Richard, I agree with looking beyond the score lines for rankings…but wouldn’t that method be kinder to Portland? Yeah, they flat out gave away two of the goals vs. Columbus (idiotic foul in the box and a fluky own goal) and a 19-year-old Powell got a boneheaded red card…but the Timbers also dominated the second half, down a man. That was a very good draw.

      • Richard Farley - May 20, 2014 at 7:11 PM

        Agree, but while 10-on-11 play is admirable, it’s also aberrational. I honestly didn’t know what to do with that game, the same way I didn’t know what to do with Houston’s performance against Real Salt Lake last week. Ultimately, I said “there isn’t much we can learn from this game” and really only dropped Portland because Philadelphia won midweek in Kansas.

        Maybe Portland does deserve more credit, though.

    • lunasceiling - May 20, 2014 at 8:27 PM

      That’s fair, too, Richard! =P

      Sure was an exciting game, regardless of outcome. It was good to see my Timbers put together a far stronger offensive performance…and frustrating to see the almost-obligatory defensive blunders cost them points. They’ve played better than their record this year (kinda the opposite of last year), but playing well doesn’t matter a whole lot if you’re not getting points from it. Even playing with 10, a home draw is never what you like to see, particularly when it’s going to take something special over the next few weeks to have a shot at the playoffs.

      • Richard Farley - May 20, 2014 at 8:54 PM

        To me, it’s all about Futty. I know the TA are debating him right now, but I’d stick with him. When he’s not screwing up, he’s their best defender, and you have to figure, as strange as all these errors are, they’ll stop eventually.

        It’s not like the guys constantly being beaten the same way. These are all kind of one-off events, IMO.

        Then again, perhaps you could say the same thing for Paparatto (I wouldn’t).

      • lunasceiling - May 21, 2014 at 12:35 PM

        I’m in the “give Paparatto another shot” camp, but I’m certainly not ready to give up on Futty. He’s cost us points several times now, but those situations have been cases of horrible lapses amidst generally solid play. Perhaps a little time riding the bench might improve his focus.

  2. talgrath - May 20, 2014 at 4:44 PM

    The World Cup break is always frustrating for an MLS fan, the league can’t just stop playing for two months, but at the same time the teams are so depleted that you can’t get a real idea of where they are at and of course if a team has poor form during the break due to missing players it can keep the best teams out of the playoffs.

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