Little change in the rankings this week as the favored teams all won at the weekend. This is how MLSoccer ranks the MLS teams after three weeks of the season.
1: Real Salt Lake
Nothing anyone in the league did this past weekend could have knocked RSL out of the top spot: a 4-0-1 mark in all competitions heading into Tuesday’s CONCACAF Champions League semifinal second leg, Nick Rimando the Player of the Month for March and every reason to believe the RSL machine will keep chugging along indefinitely.
2: Colorado Rapids
Which isn’t to say the Rapids are far behind. It’s not often MLS Cup champs get better and deeper, but it looks like that’s exactly what happened this offseason with the addition of Caleb Folan and Sanna Nyassi. A midweek US Open Cup play-a loss at the Chicago Fire in which the Rapids played largely a reserve squad – is a blip, not a trend.
3: New York Red Bulls
New York are not the first team to have their night ruined by Tally Hall, but Juan Agudelo and especially Thierry Henry were complicit in the 1-1 scoreline. Despite the addition of Dwayne De Rosario, there are real questions to ask of this team, first and foremost being, “Where are the goals going to come from?” No definitive answers yet.
4: LA Galaxy
The Power Rankings committee was right to give LA a mulligan for their 4-1 drubbing at RSL last week. The return of some key starters – none more so than Omar Gonzalez – and a clever tactical shift from Bruce Arena provided the best defensive performance of any team this year, even while down a man.
5: Philadelphia Union
The Union kept their core pieces from 2010, but look like a totally different team. They’re now defined by a lock-down defensive unit and a solid veteran ‘keeper. Gone too, though, is the attacking verve and creativity that was the highlight of the inaugural season. They need Sebastien Le Toux and Justin Mapp to get healthy — and Danny Mwanga to rediscover his confidence.
6: Chicago Fire
The place of the Fire is still up for debate since they’ve played most of the season up a man and then beat a Colorado side in the Open Cup play-in that was short-handed. But there’s no denying the attacking power of Gastón Puerari, Diego Cháves, Marco Pappa and Patrick Nyarko. Things are looking good in the Windy City.
7: San Jose Earthquakes
The Quakes still have some kinks to work out with Frank Yallop’s new 4-3-3, but there’s no question they’re generating chances and playing some good soccer. With Ike Opara returning to full health and fighting for minutes, there’s a good chance the defense will improve as well.
8: New England Revolution
On First Kick weekend, the Revs played a 1-1 draw at LA that probably felt like a win. This past Saturday, their 1-1 home result against the Timbers probably felt like a loss. The good news, though, is that last year’s leaky defense is a thing of the past and central defender A.J. Soares is an early Rookie of the Year contender.
9: Sporting Kansas
For about 65 minutes they were climbing up the rankings behind some of the most exciting attacking play in the league. Then the questions about their outmanned defense cropped up again in what was a stomach-punch of a draw. How they bounce back can reveal a lot about this team.
10: Vancouver Whitecaps
It’s looking very likely that the ‘Caps aren’t your run-of-the-mill expansion franchise. Their 3-3 comeback draw sent the crowd into delirium – rightly so – and spoke to a heart and solidarity that any team in the world would envy. When Eric Hassli and Russell Teibert get back, and Jay DeMerit and Davide Chuimiento get healthy, Vancouver could be a force.
11: Seattle Sounders
Getting a point from a very good San Jose team at their house is a positive result. Doubly so when two goals are part of the package, and newest signing Mauro Rosales shows his playmaking chops in the final third. Also, Steve Zakuani looks like he’s made the leap and become one of the top five players in the league.
12: Columbus Crew
The Crew finally got the ship headed in the right direction with their 2-0 win over FC Dallas on Friday. Emilio Renteria provided the spark and Eddie Gaven iced the cake, but the questions about the team’s form in front of net will continue to be real until Andres Mendoza starts scoring from the run of play.
13: Houston Dynamo
For the second straight week, Tally Hall stood on his head and got his team a point on the road. He has faced nearly 50 shots in the last 180 minutes, and only two have found their way into the back of his net. It’s great to have a goalkeeper who can get you points, but Hall’s teammates are going to have to do some heavy lifting of their own soon.
14: Toronto FC
Hand-wringing about De Rosario, debates about sacred locker rooms and the miss of the century overshadowed what was a strong last 70 minutes from TFC. Tony Tchani protected the back line, Danleigh Borman got up and down the left wing and their shape was solid throughout. The new beginning looked good, even though the result was disappointing.
15: DC United
This marks the second straight week that DC conceded goals in bunches, a worrying trend for Ben Olsen. Relying on rookie Perry Kitchen to come back and right the ship is promising but dangerous as Kitchen is just 19 years old. The offense, however, still looks good – even when playing at the champs, and even without a number of starters.
16: FC Dallas
It’s not crisis time in Dallas just yet: FCD were equally bad to start the 2010 season. But it looks like the loss of all the “little things” Dax McCarty did has taken a big-picture toll. Add in some defensive injuries, under-performing rookies and the fact that they keep giving their opponents a man advantage, and it’s been an ugly start to 2011 in Big D.
17: Portland Timbers
The Timbers got their first win in MLS with a midweek victory over Chivas USA in a US Open Cup play-in game, then got their first point in the league by going on the road and playing pretty well at New England. Jack Jewsbury was the key man in both results, and the Timbers now have something to build upon.
18: Chivas USA
A point on the road is a good result for a team looking for anything at all to be positive about. But they were lucky to get that much, and haven’t consistently been threatening in the final third. Robin Fraser & Co. have a lot of work yet to do to prevent a long season for the Rojiblancos.