MLS Power Rankings: Is There a New No. 1 After Week 15?
Week 15 in MLS produced some controversial moments and results. The penalty called against Seattle Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei gifted Sporting Kansas City three points. Elsewhere, referee Baldomero Toledo brandished three red cards in the San Jose Earthquakes vs. FC Dallas match.
All of these moments significantly altered the standings as well as this week's power rankings. Was Benny Feilhaber's penalty against the Sounders enough to move SKC into the No. 1 spot?
Here are the MLS power rankings after Week 15.
20. Chicago Fire (Previous: 16)
The Chicago Fire began their match against D.C. United by running at the defenders and generating chances with this tactic. It paid off as the Fire opened the scoring in the first half but succumbed to a 3-1 defeat.
D.C. was able to take advantage of slow and sloppy defending from Chicago, as Orlando City did a few days later. Both of the Fire's opponents capitalized on corners and by pressing the midfield in order to win back possession.
The positive for Chicago is the attack. David Accam scored twice and recorded an assist in two games. Harry Shipp and Kennedy Igboananike were also excellent. However, these two losses cannot be ignored due to the defensive lapses. For those reasons, Chicago falls to the bottom of the rankings.
19. Colorado Rapids (Previous: 18)
The Colorado Rapids nearly walked out of Rio Tinto Stadium with three points against Real Salt Lake in the match for the Rocky Mountain Cup. Luis Solignac won a penalty, but Dillon Powers hit his shot wide of the goal. The match finished 0-0 in the end.
Colorado still earned a draw, but the team will feel like it's two points lost as opposed to one point gained. The Rapids were handed two lifelines in this game. The first was the injury to Jamison Olave. The second was the penalty. They couldn't take advantage of either gift.
Normally a draw would be enough for the Rapids to move up in the power rankings. However, since the likes of New York City FC, the Montreal Impact and Philadelphia Union also won, Colorado now sits at No. 19.
18. New York City FC (Previous: 20)
Last season at this time, Thomas McNamara was recovering from a torn ACL. One year later, the New York City FC winger scored a brilliant goal to help NYCFC record a 2-1 win over the Philadelphia Union. It was also New York City's first road victory in team history.
This was also NYCFC's first win since March 15 and just its second triumph in 2015. There are still plenty of issues within the team, like Adam Nemec's struggles and the defensive issues, but the victory should give New York City some much-needed confidence.
NYCFC wasn't perfect and needed to recover from a 1-0 deficit, but it managed to fight back and deserves to move up two spots this week.
17. Philadelphia Union (Previous: 17)
The Philadelphia Union crushed a rotated Columbus Crew side on Wednesday. The 3-0 win was easily the most convincing performance by the Union this season, but a 2-1 defeat to New York City FC on Saturday was a dose of reality for Philadelphia.
The Union were more clinical than the Crew, but that wasn't the case against NYCFC. Goalkeeper Brian Sylvestre will also feel aggrieved because he could've done better on Patrick Mullins' game-winner.
The loss canceled out the win, which means Philadelphia stays put at No. 17 this week.
16. Montreal Impact (Previous: 19)
The Montreal Impact recorded consecutive wins this week against the Vancouver Whitecaps and Columbus Crew. The Impact had to hold on for dear life for large portions of both games, but they were ultimately the superior side in both meetings.
Montreal's defense was impeccable against the Whitecaps. The back line nullified the speedy attack and was eventually beaten after Pedro Morales converted a penalty kick.
Saturday's game was a little tougher for the Impact. Crew striker Kei Kamara had three brilliant scoring opportunities but couldn't find the back of the net.
However, credit Montreal for its persistence against Columbus and Vancouver. Two wins against a pair of quality opponents catapult the Impact to No. 16.
15. Real Salt Lake (Previous: 14)
Real Salt Lake delivered a lackluster performance against the Colorado Rapids. It was a boring and uneventful match from both sides, but RSL had the better chances and couldn't convert.
Alvaro Saborio had the majority of the opportunities, but he only hit the target once. It was the only save that Colorado goalkeeper Clint Irwin had to make on Sunday.
A missed penalty from Rapids forward Dillon Powers preserved the 0-0 draw. Overall, it was a dire game and a poor display from RSL, and it drops them to No. 15.
14. Columbus Crew (Previous: 10)
The Columbus Crew's winless streak was extended to five games after losses to the Philadelphia Union and Montreal Impact on Wednesday and Saturday, respectively.
Crew head coach Gregg Berhalter rotated his starting XI on Wednesday against the Union. Defender Michael Parkhurst was suspended, Hector Jimenez, Tony Tchani and Kei Kamara were all rested. It was evident how much they were missed.
The defenders were caught ball-watching and were easily beaten on the flanks when C.J. Sapong and Sebastien Le Toux scored. Goalkeeper Steve Clark also handed the Union a goal.
The Impact match was slightly better, but it was similar to Wednesday's game. Kamara had a few great chances but couldn't convert. Montreal took advantage and walked out of the Mapfre Stadium with a deserved win.
Recording back-to-back losses stings, especially with the missed opportunities in the final third. Thanks to those defeats, the Crew slips to No. 14.
13. Orlando City SC (Previous: 15)
Orlando City SC moved into a playoff spot after a dramatic 3-2 victory over the Chicago Fire on Saturday. Orlando is also in a great run of form, losing just once in its previous six MLS games.
The match itself wasn't perfect, but there were a couple of positives. Rookie Cyle Larin scored his fifth goal in 11 games and the attack appears to be clicking after a rocky start to the season.
The defending was still a problem, although the second goal was difficult to stop. Nonetheless, it was another win on the road, which moves Orlando into the No. 13 spot for this week.
12. L.A. Galaxy (Previous: 11)
The L.A. Galaxy welcomed back MVP Robbie Keane to the starting lineup, but he didn't make a difference as the hosts lost to the Vancouver Whitecaps 1-0 on Saturday.
The defeat snapped the Galaxy's 29-match unbeaten streak at home, per the official MLS website. L.A. also failed to hit a shot on target for just the third time in history.
The Galaxy's midfield played poorly, and it wasn't the first time that happened this season. The positive is that, with Keane back, the team should improve from here on out.
However, the Galaxy still cannot gain any consistency and have slipped one spot in the rankings despite the narrow loss.
11. Houston Dynamo (Previous: 12)
Friday's match between the Houston Dynamo and New York Red Bulls was the most confusing game of the weekend thanks to some odd refereeing decisions.
Marcos de Oliveira and his assistants negated goals for the Dynamo and Red Bulls, but they likely wouldn't have made a difference. Houston won 4-2 and were worthy winners on the night.
Will Bruin scored twice in the game and has now recorded seven goals in 14 appearances. He and the Dynamo are still below the red line, but they are creeping closer to the top 10 after a solid display.
10. New England Revolution (Previous: 8)
The New England Revolution were about five minutes away from walking out of Providence Park with a point. However, the Revolution conceded two goals within minutes of each other, allowing the Portland Timbers to win 2-0 on Saturday night.
New England will feel hard done by after conceding twice in the closing stages, but goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth gave his team a chance to pick up a massive road win. The Revs couldn't take advantage, mustering just four shots, per the official MLS website.
The Revolution appeared to be hampered by the narrow pitch at Providence Park. New England likes to spread the ball out wide but struggled to generate any meaningful attacks. For that reason, the Revs slip two spots.
9. San Jose Earthquakes (Previous: 9)
Despite the 0-0 score, the match between the San Jose Earthquakes and FC Dallas was entertaining in the first half. The second half disappointed thanks to referee Baldomero Toledo issuing three needless red cards.
Earthquakes striker Mark Sherrod was sent off after he accidentally struck the head of Dallas goalkeeper Dan Kennedy. It was incidental contact, so to brandish a red in that situation is incredibly harsh.
Head coach Dominic Kinnear had to compensate for the loss by taking out his playmaker Matias Perez Garcia, who was visibly frustrated with Toledo before exiting the game. It was a shame for the Earthquakes, because they played well, even after they were reduced to 10 men.
The Earthquakes also lost J.J. Koval, so they finished the game with nine players. Despite this, they still earned a valuable point, but they stay at No. 9 because they failed to convert some prime opportunities.
8. New York Red Bulls (Previous: 7)
The New York Red Bulls were leading 1-0 against the Houston Dynamo until the 59th minute. Oscar Boniek Garcia's deflected shot looped over the Red Bulls defense and goalkeeper Luis Robles, which marked the beginning of a Dynamo onslaught.
Houston ended up winning 4-2, but the Red Bulls were second-best in the final 45 minutes. Roy Miller had to fill in at center back with Matt Miazga at the U20 World Cup and Damien Perrinelle's suspension, which is why the defense was so unconvincing.
The loss demotes New York in the rankings, but because of the absences, the Red Bulls have only been moved down to No. 8.
7. Portland Timbers (Previous: 13)
The Portland Timbers extended their winning streak to three games after defeating the New England Revolution 2-0 on Saturday night.
It took the Timbers 85 minutes to strike, but Fanendo Adi broke the deadlock and completed a brace to move Portland into fourth place in the Western Conference.
It was a terrific performance by the Timbers, who restricted a dangerous Revolution attack to just four shots, per the official MLS website. The defense was clearly impenetrable, which makes this win even more impressive.
The near-flawless game coupled with Portland's current form moves them all the way up to seventh this week.
6. FC Dallas (Previous: 5)
Referee Baldomero Toledo was the center of attention in FC Dallas' 0-0 draw against the San Jose Earthquakes. He sent off two Earthquakes players and Dallas' Je-Vaughn Watson for what appeared to be a harmless challenge.
Dallas ended up with a man advantage by the end of the game when J.J. Koval saw red, but the second half was significantly worse than the first interval due to Toledo's influence. Both coaches had to tinker with their systems and buckle down to pick up a point.
Key players like Mauro Diaz struggled, and Toronto FC and Vancouver Whitecaps wins mean that the Hoops have to pay the price.
5. Toronto FC (Previous: 6)
Sebastian Giovinco saved Toronto FC on Saturday against D.C. United, scoring twice in a 2-1 victory. Giovinco now has seven goals and six assists this season.
Despite another brilliant performance by the Italian, Toronto's defending was abysmal. D.C. defender Steve Birnbaum was left wide open on several set pieces, as were a couple of other United players. Thankfully for Toronto, the opportunities were wasted.
With that victory, the Reds have now won five of their last seven games, losing just once in that span. They're also up to third in the Eastern Conference, which is reason enough to move them into the top five this week.
4. D.C. United (Previous: 3)
D.C. United were embarrassed by Toronto FC star Sebastian Giovinco, who scored two beautiful goals to clinch a win for his team. However, D.C. has only itself to blame after controlling the first half of the game.
D.C. led 1-0 until Giovinco struck in the 34th minute, but it was the only noteworthy chance Toronto recorded in the first half.
United recorded 15 shots, as did Toronto, per the official MLS website. However, only two of D.C.'s attempts forced a save out of TFC goalkeeper Chris Konopka.
United still lead the Eastern Conference by seven points, but the wasteful finishing moves them down to No. 4.
3. Vancouver Whitecaps (Previous: 4)
The Vancouver Whitecaps finally exorcised their demons in L.A. on Saturday, defeating the Galaxy for the first time in franchise history at the StubHub Center.
Vancouver lost every single meeting in Carson, California, prior to Saturday's game. It was just a 1-0 victory, but it could have been a more convincing win if Pedro Morales and Cristian Techera had not been foiled by the post.
Even though Vancouver scored just once, it managed to nullify L.A.'s attack and didn't concede a single shot on target, per the official MLS website. That is enough to move the Whitecaps into third this week.
2. Seattle Sounders (Previous: 1)
The Seattle Sounders were rightfully upset at referee Ismail Elfath after he awarded Sporting Kansas City a dubious penalty. Goalkeeper Stefan Frei stuck out his knee to protect himself, it caught Dom Dwyer and Elfath deemed this an infraction.
Benny Feilhaber scored the winner from the spot late in the second half, but there was another controversial moment in this game. The Sounders had a goal called back for offside, which also looked questionable.
Both teams were dealing with several key absences, and the Sounders were rightfully upset after both decisions went against them. However, Sporting KC still won the game and was arguably the better side, which means Seattle has been dethroned this week.
1. Sporting Kansas City (Previous: 2)
With the Seattle Sounders moving down to No. 2, Sporting Kansas City moves into the top spot after its 1-0 win over the Sounders.
The match was won under controversial circumstances, but SKC has dealt with a few crucial injuries and international call-ups. It's a huge accomplishment for Sporting KC to be anywhere near first place in the Western Conference.
SKC is unbeaten in seven straight matches and are in scintillating form at the moment. The team deserves to be No. 1 this week.
Peter Galindo covers MLS and U.S. soccer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @GalindoPW.