MLS Power Rankings After Week 8: The East Takes Hold of the Top 3
Week 8 of the MLS season has concluded after an action-packed weekend. Several teams earned vital wins, while others continue to struggle.
The Seattle Sounders defeated their fierce rivals the Portland Timbers at CenturyLink Field on Sunday night. Clint Dempsey's goal was the difference in a 1-0 win.
Toronto FC ended its four-game losing streak by shutting out Orlando City SC, who have yet to win a match at home.
The New York Red Bulls managed to stay undefeated by tying the LA Galaxy, but was it enough to keep them at No. 1?
Here are the MLS power rankings after Week 8.
20) Montreal Impact
Previous Week: No. 20
The Montreal Impact drew 1-1 at the Estadio Azteca against Club America in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League final. It's an impressive feat, but the team still hasn't played an MLS game since April 11.
The Impact's next match isn't until May 9 versus the Portland Timbers. Due to their lack of activity, they remain at the bottom of the rankings, but with just four matches played, there will be plenty of opportunities to move up.
19) Philadelphia Union
Previous week: No. 18
The Philadelphia Union were missing Fernando Aristeguieta and Vincent Nogueira versus the Columbus Crew. However, the Crew were clinical, scoring with all four shots on target against the Union.
The Union were thoroughly outplayed, the defense was disorganized and goalkeeper John McCarthy conceded on a couple of blunders.
Even if Philadelphia head coach Jim Curtin had started Aristeguieta, the attack still would've been ineffective. Until they give the Venezuelan service and stop letting him collect the ball from deep, the Union will remain near the bottom of the MLS standings.
18) New York City FC
Previous week: No. 17
For the fourth time this season, New York City FC failed to score a goal. Andrew Jacobson was also sent off as the Chicago Fire went on to win 1-0 on Friday evening.
David Villa's absence has clearly affected the team's attack, but it doesn't help when Adam Nemec and other attackers aren't scoring. The Spaniard leads the team in goals despite missing three games.
To be fair to NYCFC, Josh Saunders was suspended, and if it wasn't for Ryan Meara's blunder, the match may have ended 0-0. However, the faulty attack and basic defensive errors moves New York into the bottom three.
17) Orlando City SC
Previous week: No. 14
Orlando City SC was defeated at home by Toronto FC, who entered Sunday's game with four straight losses. Orlando has earned just one point at the Citrus Bowl, which came against expansion cousins New York City FC in the opening match of the campaign.
Orlando's attack cannot convert its chances, and it cost the Lions in half of their games this year. The striker situation isn't ideal, with Bryan Rochez trying to gain fitness and Pedro Ribeiro injured.
This inconsistency is hurting Orlando. Losing to TFC with Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco up front is understandable, but given the form the Reds were on, this loss sends the expansion side down the power rankings.
16) Colorado Rapids
Previous week: No. 19
The Colorado Rapids avoided defeat against FC Dallas again, drawing 1-1 in the most recent fixture on Friday. Colorado scored about 20 minutes after Dallas' Blas Perez was sent off, but given the Rapids' bad luck this season, they deserved at least a point.
Even though they didn't score until the 79th minute, the Rapids played well. They controlled the majority of the possession and generated plenty of quality chances.
Dominating a game against the second-best team in the Western Conference means that Colorado moves up to No. 16 this week.
15) Portland Timbers
Previous week: No. 12
The first regular-season game of 2015 between the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders was a frustrating, tactical affair. However, like so many times in the past, the Sounders took advantage of some lazy Timbers defending on a throw-in and scored the winning goal.
Clint Dempsey converted in the 77th minute after Andy Rose's shot was bobbled by Portland goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey. However, the Timbers still had chances to nick an equalizer. Fanendo Adi hit the crossbar and narrowly missed the far post off two headers.
Adi was substituted into the game in the second half for Maxi Urruti. The Argentinean started, but was extremely ineffective. Urruti's replacement was far more menacing after entering the match in the 74th minute.
Head coach Caleb Porter has to be questioned for his decision to start Urruti over Adi. He also failed to expose center-backs Zach Scott and Brad Evans. It cost his team dearly, who now drop three spots to No. 15.
14) Toronto FC
Previous week: No. 16
Toronto FC eased the pressure off head coach Greg Vanney by shutting out Orlando City 2-0 on Sunday night. It was Toronto's most impressive win of the young campaign due to its stingy, organized defending.
Jozy Altidore scored both of Toronto's goals; Michael Bradley and Benoit Cheyrou were immense in the midfield. It was a complete performance by the visitors.
It was TFC's first clean sheet since September 21 against Chivas USA at home. The Reds' last shutout on the road came on August 2 last year, versus the Montreal Impact.
Thanks to that clean sheet and vital road win, which are tough to come by, Toronto is now 14th for this week.
13) Chicago Fire
Previous week: No. 15
Don't look now, but the Chicago Fire have earned three straight wins after losing their first three matches of 2015.
The Fire's 1-0 triumph against 10-man New York City FC could have resulted in a 3-0 or 4-0 victory if they were more clinical. Chicago attempted an astounding 24 shots but just scored once, per the official MLS website.
Chicago has been grinding out wins, but its in a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and is one of the in-form teams in the East in April. The Fire deserve to move up the rankings after earning yet another win and a shutout.
12) Real Salt Lake
Previous week: No. 9
Real Salt Lake had a severely weakened squad against the New England Revolution on Saturday. Ten players were unavailable, including goalkeeper Nick Rimando, defender Chris Schuler and midfielder Javier Morales.
No one would blame RSL for losing the game, but a 4-0 defeat is inexcusable. The Revolution outplayed Salt Lake from the onset of the match, recording 25 shots—13 of which were on target, per the official MLS website.
There's no way RSL can remain in the top 10 after Saturday's performance. Even if they were missing several key players, losing 4-0 is an embarrassing result.
11) San Jose Earthquakes
Previous week: No. 11
The San Jose Earthquakes didn't play this weekend, so they remain at No. 11 for this week.
San Jose has a chance to move into the top 10 with a crucial game against Real Salt Lake this Friday. The Earthquakes must improve defensively if they want to win, because the defending against the New York Red Bulls in their previous match was horrible.
If San Jose comes out flat again, it will slide down the power rankings next week.
10) Sporting Kansas City
Previous week: No. 13
The most entertaining game of the weekend was the 4-4 draw between Sporting Kansas City and Houston Dynamo. The latter appeared to have the game won after taking a 3-1 lead, but Sporting KC came back twice to eventually earn a point on the road.
SKC capitalized on a penalty and a poor Houston back-pass, but they showed incredible resilience in twice fighting back. The visitors played against 10 men for the final 11 minutes plus stoppage time, but that didn't lessen their efforts.
Houston managed to expose SKC's makeshift back line on set pieces, but the defenders are still getting used to one another after Ike Opara's injury. Goalkeeper Luis Marin was also at fault for the third goal. The Chilean custodian should have dealt with Giles Barnes' shot a lot better.
It looks like a steep climb for a draw in which the defense was sloppy, but due to Real Salt Lake's abysmal showing in New England, SKC benefits by climbing into the top 10.
9) Houston Dynamo
Previous week: No. 10
The Houston Dynamo let a lead slip twice against Sporting Kansas City, but scoring four goals is a step in the right direction.
Conceding four obviously isn't ideal, but the Dynamo allowed two of those via a penalty and an individual error from Giles Barnes. Krisztian Nemeth's opening goal was also incredibly difficult to stop.
Houston's biggest issue has been scoring. Striker Giles Barnes completed a brace on Saturday, which is a step in the right direction. The Dynamo are also in fifth place in the Western Conference, which is why they're deserving of a move up to No. 9.
8) FC Dallas
Previous week: No. 3
FC Dallas may have faced the Colorado Rapids with 10 men for the final 30 minutes of this match, but they were pitiful overall.
Colorado was at home and didn't take a complete stranglehold of the game until the second half, but Dallas created very few chances. If it wasn't for Dan Kennedy and Mauro Diaz, the Rapids could have won the match.
Dallas' recent form hasn't been encouraging. After starting the season with three wins and a draw, the Hoops have recorded just one win. This and the performances against the LA Galaxy, Columbus Crew, New England Revolution, Seattle Sounders and others mean that Oscar Pareja's side has to slip.
7) LA Galaxy
Previous week: No. 8
The LA Galaxy earned an impressive draw on the road against the New York Red Bulls. The Galaxy weren't in top form, but they did enough to pick up a point.
Bradford Jamieson IV, LA's 18-year-old prospect, scored the team's only goal in the 1-1 tie. It was a terrific play as the homegrown talent dribbled around a helpless Chris Duvall before placing a shot into the far bottom corner.
The Galaxy will hit their stride this summer as always. However, picking up a point against one of the hottest teams in MLS is reason enough to move up in this week's power rankings.
6) Seattle Sounders
Previous week: No. 6
Defeating a rival is always a great feeling. The Seattle Sounders did just that last week, beating the Portland Timbers 1-0 on Sunday night.
Despite the absence of Chad Marshall, Seattle kept a clean sheet. Portland wasn't turning heads with its attacking display, but Osvaldo Alonso and Gonzalo Pineda did a great job closing down Darlington Nagbe and Maxi Urruti.
Once Fanendo Adi entered the game, the Nigerian was able to beat the Sounders defenders in the air and managed to record a couple of chances. To their credit, the Sounders stayed compact defensively and did not concede a late equalizer.
However, because the likes of the Columbus Crew, D.C. United and New England Revolution also won, and more emphatically to boot, Seattle stays at No. 6. The Sounders are on the rise, though. They should definitely be feared now that everyone is healthy.
5) Columbus Crew
Previous week: No. 7
The Columbus Crew's massive 4-1 victory over the hapless Philadelphia Union was an eye-opener. Kei Kamara, Justin Meram and Ethan Finlay were the standouts up front, but the entire team delivered a brilliant performance on Saturday.
Thanks to that four-goal display, Columbus now leads MLS in goals scored with 12. Only the New York Red Bulls and Seattle Sounders have conceded fewer goals than the Crew's six.
It's clear that Columbus is going to be a contender in the Eastern Conference. This win demonstrated how dangerous the Crew can be on the break and how difficult it is to stop them. They've earned their place in the top five this week.
4) Vancouver Whitecaps
Previous week: No. 2
The Vancouver Whitecaps are still the league-leaders, even after their 2-1 defeat at the hands of D.C. United on Saturday night. However, there are a few growing concerns with this team.
Firstly, the Whitecaps' home form has been slightly inconsistent. Vancouver has already dropped points three times at BC Place, including the last game against D.C.
It was a harsh loss, because Matias Laba was sent off in the first half, but the Whitecaps still had several chances to earn at least a point.
On the other hand, the defending was a mess. Pa-Modou Kah and Sam Adekugbe were responsible for the first D.C. goal. The second goal was a tad unlucky, since Steven Beitashour slide tackled the ball right to the foot of Chris Rolfe.
With that being said, the Whitecaps still lead the league and should have ended up with a draw from this game, so they maintain their status near the top of this list.
3) D.C. United
Previous week: No. 5
D.C. United continue to roll. Fabian Espindola finally returned from his suspension, but he wasn't needed as Bobby Boswell and Chris Rolfe scored both goals in a 2-1 win over the league-leading Vancouver Whitecaps.
D.C. has not won games by outscoring the opposition by three or four goals. It has earned victories by staying compact defensively and utilizing the flanks on counterattacks, which has worked extremely well.
Defeating the Whitecaps on the road is a huge result. It's arguably D.C. United's biggest victory of the season and has launched them into the top three. United may have been lucky to claim all three points given the onslaught the Whitecaps produced, but what matters is the scoreline after the match.
2) New England Revolution
Previous week: No. 4
The New England Revolution knew they were facing a depleted Real Salt Lake squad on Saturday. As expected, they dominated the match and walked off the pitch with a 4-0 win.
The Revolution continue to rack in points after a horrible start to the season. New England lost its opening two matches, but since then, it's won four and drawn two. As a result, the Revs are now second in the Eastern Conference.
If it wasn't for the New York Red Bulls' undefeated streak, the Revolution would likely be No. 1 in the power rankings. Both sides face each other this Saturday in what should be an entertaining affair.
1) New York Red Bulls
Previous week: No. 1
They had to work for it, but the New York Red Bulls stayed undefeated after a 1-1 draw versus the LA Galaxy.
The Red Bulls were in control for most of the game, but Bradford Jamieson IV's incredible individual goal prevented New York from staying on top of the Eastern Conference.
Nonetheless, the zero in the loss column remains, and if it wasn't for a couple of Jaime Penedo saves from point-blank range, the Red Bulls may have earned their fourth win of 2015.
New York is still just two points behind New England with two games in hand. Until they lose a match, the Red Bulls will stay on top of the power rankings. The pivotal match versus the Revolution may change that, though.
Peter Galindo covers MLS and U.S. soccer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @GalindoPW.