MLS Power Rankings: Real Salt Lake and FC Dallas Solidify the Top Spots

Peter Galindo@@GalindoPWFeatured ColumnistApril 20, 2016

MLS Power Rankings: Real Salt Lake and FC Dallas Solidify the Top Spots

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    Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

    A jam-packed week in MLS has come to an end, and two teams in particular have reinforced their status in the latest power rankings.

    Six clubs played multiple games this week, so a few sides have games in hand on the rest of the league. Therefore, the following criteria will be used to grade every team:

    • Form over the last five games
    • Injuries/absences
    • Quality of a team's most recent performance
    • Games in hand (if applicable)

    Here are the latest MLS power rankings.

20. New York Red Bulls (Previous: 19)

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    Bradley Wright-Phillips and the New York Red Bulls took some baby steps this week, but they still lost twice, extending their winless skid to four games. 

    The Red Bulls lost a tight game to the San Jose Earthquakes in a 2-0 defeat Wednesday. They followed it up with a 2-1 loss Saturday night against the Colorado Rapids in a snowstorm. 

    Head coach Jesse Marsch rotated his lineup for both matches, but it does not seem to matter who starts. The Red Bulls cannot generate an offensive spark, despite recording the fifth-highest amount of shots in the league, per the official MLS website.

    No other team is experiencing a worse run of form than New York, and it is ravaged by defensive injuries. Simply put, the Red Bulls are in a rut, and it may take a while until they recover.


    Points: Three.


    Record: 1-6-0


    Standing: 10th in the Eastern Conference.

19. New York City FC (Previous: 18)

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    New York City FC's winless skid now stands at five games after losing 3-2 to the Columbus Crew on Saturday.

    The scoreline itself flattered NYCFC on the night. The Crew were the superior side in the second half and should have won by at least two goals if not for a late penalty. 

    Once again, NYCFC were active in the final third but recorded just five shots on target out of 19 attempts. The majority of the chances that fell to David Villa were smashed wide, which is disappointing for a finisher with his pedigree.

    Somehow, NYCFC are still in sixth place in the Eastern Conference. However, their scoring issues and winless run cannot be tolerated any longer.


    Points: Six.


    Record: 1-2-3


    Standing: Sixth in the Eastern Conference.

18. Houston Dynamo (Previous: 17)

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    For around four minutes, the Houston Dynamo were rolling against the LA Galaxy. But the final 86 were anything but smooth for the Dynamo as they lost 4-1 on Friday.

    Once the Dynamo opened the scoring, the Galaxy dominated the match. Houston was completely outdone by Giovani dos Santos, especially against the run of play. The individual defending was a shambles as well.

    The Dynamo have now conceded 13 goals this season. Only the Portland Timbers (14) have allowed more in MLS in 2016. To make matters worse, Houston has only scored twice in its last three games.

    The Dynamo were a rampant team to begin the campaign, especially up front. They do not have as much room on the counter, which could be why they have struggled to score. Whatever the reason, Houston needs to reduce individual errors at the back and start getting its front four more involved.


    Points: Five.


    Record: 1-3-2


    Standing: 10th in the Western Conference.

17. D.C. United (Previous: 16)

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    D.C. United's 1-0 loss to Toronto FC was the polar opposite of their performance versus the Vancouver Whitecaps in their last match. It wasn't just because United won 4-0; it was due to their confidence and clinical finishing.

    Fabian Espindola, who was so lethal a week ago, struggled in front of goal again. Luciano Acosta's inclusion ignited the attack for a few minutes, but otherwise, it was a dull performance from the forwards.

    Credit the defenders for nullifying Sebastian Giovinco after his early opener, but the one issue United have had is chance creation and scoring. The team has the personnel, it just needs an injection of pace and technique, which Acosta provides.


    Points: Six.


    Record: 1-3-3


    Standing: Eighth in the Eastern Conference.

16. Columbus Crew (Previous: 20)

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    It was touch and go for a while, but the Columbus Crew finally earned their first win of 2016 after defeating New York City FC 3-2 on Sunday.

    Kei Kamara scored his first goal of the season, Ethan Finlay snapped his poor run of form with a goal and Justin Meram was a menace. The Iraqi international was involved in all three goals.

    The play in the final third was encouraging in general because Columbus was creating chances in previous games. The Crew were just uncharacteristically woeful in front goal.

    The match ended on a nervous note when Tyson Wahl conceded a penalty and Michael Parkhurst was wrongly sent off afterwards. However, this was still a much-needed win for the Crew and moves them out of the basement.


    Points: Five.


    Record: 1-3-2


    Standing: Ninth in the Eastern Conference.

15. Chicago Fire (Previous: 15)

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    The Chicago Fire's four-game unbeaten streak came to an end with a 2-1 defeat at the hands of the Montreal Impact on Saturday.

    The Fire's old nemesis, Didier Drogba, had a hand in the loss upon his return to the field. However, much like every other team at the bottom of the rankings, the offense was lacking in both chance creation and finishing.

    Chicago mustered 10 shots, but only two reached the target. Most of the Fire's efforts were very tame and easy to handle for goalkeeper Evan Bush, apart from Kennedy Igboananike's incredible goal.

    The Fire are reportedly interested in FC Groningen attacker Michael de Leeuw, per Chicago Fire Confidential's Guillermo Rivera. With David Accam still injured, the Dutchman could bring some incisiveness in the final third.

    For now, Chicago remains at No. 15 despite the loss due to its solid form entering the weekend, the Accam injury and its game in hand.


    Points: Six.


    Record: 1-2-3


    Standing: Seventh in the Eastern Conference.

14. Vancouver Whitecaps (Previous: 12)

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    Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

    The Vancouver Whitecaps' 1-0 road loss to an unbeaten Real Salt Lake side does not appear to be a terrible result, but for a team that is struggling to score, it's another depressing defeat.

    Octavio Rivero has not scored for more than 18 hours on the pitch, per MLS armchair analyst Matthew Doyle. Considering the Uruguayan is a designated player and was signed to alleviate Vancouver's scoring woes, that is a massive worry.

    Injuries haven't helped the team gel, but when chances like these fall to a striker with a designated player tag, they have to be converted.

    Vancouver is now winless in three straight games, and if it cannot ignite a struggling attack, it will keep sliding down the rankings.


    Points: Seven.


    Record: 2-4-1


    Standing: Ninth in the Western Conference.

13. Portland Timbers (Previous: 13)

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    The Portland Timbers began their week with a crushing 3-1 loss by FC Dallas last Wednesday. However, they made amends by defeating the San Jose Earthquakes 3-1 the following Saturday.

    The Dallas game was an absolute disaster. Individual mistakes by Jack Jewsbury allowed the Hoops to score their first two goals, which deflated the entire stadium. 

    Portland received more bad news when defender Alvas Powell was ruled out for six to eight weeks after wrist surgery. Liam Ridgewell is still hurt, too, so this is a massive blow to the champions.

    The Timbers can take solace in the fact they recovered at home a few days later versus the Earthquakes. The forwards, specifically Fanendo Adi, were tenacious in chasing down loose balls and were clinical in the box when chances fell to their feet.

    The victory was enough to keep the Timbers at No. 13, but the suspension to Diego Valeri, plus the injuries to Powell, Ridgewell and Darlington Nagbe could be troublesome.


    Points: Eight.


    Record: 2-3-2


    Standing: Seventh in the Western Conference.

12. Seattle Sounders (Previous: 14)

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    Saturday was a monumental day for the Seattle Sounders. Not only did they win, but Jordan Morris netted his first MLS goal in a 2-1 win over the Philadelphia Union.

    Morris had only taken three shots in his first five appearances prior to Saturday night. He finished the evening with three, all of which hit the target. The goal itself was brilliant, too, as the 21-year-old demonstrated speed, strength and intelligence off the ball to make the run and stay composed in the finish.

    There will always be steep patches in form for young players. Morris' slump wasn't going to be permanent, but now that he has his first goal, he could cancel out his poor start to the campaign.

    Like Morris, the Sounders are slowly improving and are now unbeaten in three straight matches. Their current streak and game in hand moves Seattle past their Cascadia Cup rivals this week.


    Points: Seven.


    Record: 2-3-1


    Standing: Eighth in the Western Conference.

11. New England Revolution (Previous: 11)

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    Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    The New England Revolution and Orlando City SC deservedly battled to a 2-2 draw on Sunday, but the wild finish to the game was a tad unnecessary.

    With the match tied 1-1, Orlando's Kevin Molino struck in second-half stoppage time, but referee Baldomero Toledo failed to see Molino control the ball with his arm prior to the goal. Just minutes later, New England was bailed out with a phantom penalty. Lee Nguyen converted the equalizer from the spot.

    In the end, the result was fair, but it's clear the officiating is not up to standard. This was a thrilling game that was ruined with two brutal decisions. 

    As for the match itself, New England was the better team after Orlando opened the scoring in the second minute. Nguyen, Kelyn Rowe, Diego Fagundez and Teal Bunbury combined for 12 shots Sunday and were causing problems for Orlando City's back line all afternoon.

    Still, the Revolution have to start winning. Refereeing decisions have cost them the last two weeks, but the Revs cannot crack the top 10 until they start earning consistent victories.


    Points: Eight.


    Record: 1-1-5


    Standing: Fifth in the Eastern Conference.

10. Sporting Kansas City (Previous: 2)

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    Sporting Kansas City had a week to forget after losing back-to-back games Wednesday and Sunday.

    Sporting KC were dealt the first cruel blow in a 2-1 defeat by the Colorado Rapids at home. Diego Rubio started for the first time for SKC as he recorded four shots, but he could not get any of them in the back of the net.

    One brutal turnover by Lawrence Olum and a lucky sequence outdid SKC on Wednesday night, but poor finishing was Sporting's downfall on Sunday at Toyota Stadium.

    Opportunities like these fell to Dom Dwyer on a couple of occasions, but Dwyer and the other SKC forwards kept failing to convert. Eventually, Dallas capitalized on a defensive mix-up and a brilliantly struck a free kick.

    Sporting are still solidly in fourth place in the Western Conference, but with many other teams in the top 10 winning, SKC fall to No. 10 after two consecutive losses.


    Points: 12


    Record: 4-3-0


    Standing: Fourth in the Western Conference.

9. San Jose Earthquakes (Previous: 7)

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    The San Jose Earthquakes snapped a three-game winless skid with an emphatic 2-0 win over the New York Red Bulls on Wednesday. However, they followed it up with a dour 3-1 defeat at the Portland Timbers on Saturday.

    The performance against the Red Bulls was brilliant. The Earthquakes earned their first clean sheet since their first game March 6, and goalkeeper David Bingham was rarely tested. Chris Wondolowski scored his fifth goal of the season in the win as well.

    Unfortunately for San Jose, the defensive solidity evaporated in Portland. The tackling was lackadaisical, which provided the Timbers forwards with two or three extra chances to score. 

    On the other hand, the Quakes attack was comparatively worse Saturday night. Only four of their 16 shots hit the target. When playing on the road in a hostile atmosphere, the forwards have to be more clinical.

    San Jose is still clinging to sixth place in the Western Conference, but until it gains consistency on both sides of the pitch, it will stay in or around the top 10 of the power rankings.


    Points: 11


    Record: 3-2-2


    Standing: Sixth in the Western Conference.

8. Toronto FC (Previous: 9)

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    Toronto FC's 1-0 win over D.C. United was another quintessential road performance from TFC in 2016.

    The Reds have now scored six goals, conceded five and have earned eight points from six away matches. It's not entertaining, but it is productive.

    Toronto relied on another goal from league MVP Sebastian Giovinco. However, considering how poor TFC's road record was last season, depending on Giovinco is not a bad idea.

    One year ago, TFC only picked up 15 points from 17 away games. They also earned just two clean sheets all season in those matches. Toronto already has two shutouts in 2016 on the road.

    It's still tough to judge this current TFC squad without them playing at home, but vast improvements at the back keep the Canadian side in the top 10.


    Points: Eight.


    Record: 2-2-2


    Standing: Fourth in the Eastern Conference.

7. Philadelphia Union (Previous: 5)

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    The Philadelphia Union lost 2-1 to the Seattle Sounders on Saturday, but it was a courageous effort from the Union after a crucial red card to Roland Alberg.

    The Union were also missing key players like Ilsinho, who was nursing a hamstring injury, and Maurice Edu. However, the Alberg red card was what ultimately hurt Philadelphia.

    Warren Creavalle's sending off in a 1-0 loss to the Chicago Fire also cost the Union in that game. The fact they still registered chances and caused problems for Sounders is admirable, but Philadelphia has to keep 11 players on the pitch.

    Given the injuries, the red card and previous form, the Union are deservedly in the No. 7 spot this week.


    Points: Nine.


    Record: 3-3-0


    Standing: Second in the Eastern Conference.

6. Orlando City SC (Previous: 6)

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    Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    The ending of Orlando City SC's 2-2 draw with the New England Revolution on Sunday was as crazy as it was unnecessary.

    Referee Baldomero Toledo somehow missed a clear handball on Kevin Molino, but he then opted to make amends for the missed call by awarding the Revolution a phantom penalty. The final result was deserved, but what transpired in second-half stoppage time ruined the game. 

    Orlando itself was average in the match. The Lions conceded quite a few chances to New England but managed to escape with a draw in the end.

    Orlando City was just welcoming back Cyle Larin after his injury, plus Cristian Higuita is still hurt, so the Floridian outfit remains in the No. 6 spot. However, anything other than a win next week could move Orlando down the top 10.


    Points: Nine.


    Record: 2-1-3


    Standing: Third in the Eastern Conference.

5. LA Galaxy (Previous: 8)

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    The LA Galaxy, specifically Giovani dos Santos, were absolutely breathtaking in their 4-1 victory over the Houston Dynamo on Friday.

    Dos Santos recorded two goals and an assist in what was his best performance since arriving in MLS. He was too quick and too incisive for the sluggish Dynamo defenders.

    This was also LA's first road victory of the season. If the likes of dos Santos and Steven Gerrard, who also had a solid game, can continue this form, there's no reason why the Galaxy cannot take the Western Conference by storm.


    Points: 11


    Record: 3-1-2


    Standing: Fifth in the Western Conference.

4. Colorado Rapids (Previous: 10)

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    No MLS team has surprised more this season than the Colorado Rapids. Their strong start continued with two more wins this week over Sporting Kansas City and the New York Red Bulls.

    The victory over SKC on the road was a typical away performance. Colorado hung on for dear life, took advantage on the counterattack and walked out with three points.

    The match against the Red Bulls was the more memorable of the two games due to the snow and Jermaine Jones' incredible debut. The U.S. international was shockingly slotted in the No. 10 role, but the move paid off as he scored the opener. Jones also assisted Dominique Badji's winning goal.

    The addition of Jones gives the Rapids more grit in midfield and additional goalscoring based on his majestic performance in the final third on Saturday. Tim Howard's inclusion will only bolster an already decent squad.

    Colorado has won all three of its home matches so far and has earned three victories in its last four matches. They may not be the most thrilling side, but the Rapids are proving difficult to beat these days.


    Points: 13


    Record: 4-2-1


    Standing: Third in the Western Conference.

3. Montreal Impact (Previous: 4)

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    The Montreal Impact welcomed back Didier Drogba, and he returned with a vengeance as the Ivorian struck in a 2-1 victory over the Chicago Fire.

    The goal was Drogba's fifth against the Fire, who nearly signed the former Chelsea striker last summer. That strike ignited a comeback as the Impact were down 1-0. Ignacio Piatti's late winner was the difference, but it was a well-deserved victory for Montreal.

    Drogba did not appear to be rusty, Dominic Oduro set up both goals, Piatti was a menace on the ball and the Impact offense looked to be in sync.

    If Drogba looked that lethal with such little playing time under his belt, the rest of the league better be on high alert.


    Points: 12


    Record: 4-2-0


    Standing: First in the Eastern Conference.

2. FC Dallas (Previous: 3)

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    Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

    FC Dallas may have played eight games already, but they looked unstoppable in both of their wins over the Portland Timbers and Sporting Kansas City. 

    Michael Barrios was arguably the best player in both games as he scored in each match. Slowly but surely, he is becoming a more prominent figure in Dallas' attack. However, Fabian Castillo and Tesho Akindele were also impressive both on and off the ball.

    The Hoops were dealt a blow after learning about a knee injury to defender Matt Hedges. Walker Zimmerman and Zach Loyd appeared to be a firm partnership Sunday versus SKC, so it may not be terrible news, but Hedges is one of the pillars at the back.

    However, if there is one side that can overcome an injury to a key player, it's Dallas, which tops the Supporters' Shield standings but just miss out on No. 1 to an unbeaten Real Salt Lake side.


    Points: 17


    Record: 5-1-2


    Standing: First in the Western Conference.

1. Real Salt Lake (Previous: 1)

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    Once again, Real Salt Lake owns the No. 1 spot after a 1-0 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday. RSL is now unbeaten in six straight games to open the season.

    Joao Plata, who has been RSL's best player, assisted Juan Manuel Martinez's winner. It was the Ecuadorian's fourth assist and the eighth goal he has been involved in this season.

    RSL also notched its second straight clean sheet, despite the absence of Jamison Olave. In this current form and with games in hand, the Claret and Cobalt are clearly MLS' top team.


    Points: 14


    Record: 4-0-2


    Standing: Second in the Western Conference.