MLS Power Rankings: Top 5 Undergoes Drastic Change After Week 26

Peter Galindo@@GalindoPWFeatured ColumnistAugust 31, 2015

MLS Power Rankings: Top 5 Undergoes Drastic Change After Week 26

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    Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

    MLS' "Rivalry Week" lived up to its billing with three particular matches dominating the headlines.

    The Seattle Sounders defeated the Portland Timbers, the New York Red Bulls triumphed over D.C. United and the San Jose Earthquakes beat the LA Galaxy.

    Not only did these results drastically alter the MLS standings, they also shifted the top five spots in this week's power rankings.

    As always, the power rankings are determined by the following criteria:

    Quality of opponent and performance
    Recent form
    Key absences
    Remaining games in hand (if applicable)

    Here's where all 20 teams stand after Week 26 in MLS.

20. Philadelphia Union (Previous: 18)

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    Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

    The Philadelphia Union suffered a narrow 1-0 loss to the New England Revolution in a match they could have won.

    The Union had 12 shots to the Revolution's 13, but Philadelphia was wasteful. Only two attempts reached the target. 

    Tranquillo Barnetta was lively and had a few chances. The best one came in the ninth minute about eight yards from goal, but he flubbed the shot wide.

    To make matters worse, Cristian Maidana was sent off late in the match for spitting in the direction of Lee Nguyen.

    Philadelphia was the only team in the bottom four of the power rankings who lost this weekend. For that reason, it falls to No. 20.

19. Real Salt Lake (Previous: 14)

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    Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

    Real Salt Lake was brushed aside by FC Dallas in a 2-0 loss on Saturday night.

    Dallas' forwards peppered the RSL goal with 21 shots. Goalkeeper Nick Rimando stood tall until Tesho Akindele won and converted a penalty in the 51st minute.

    Even though RSL was outshot, the Claret and Cobalt had a few opportunities. Kyle Beckerman should have opened the scoring in the 35th minute off a Luis Silva cross but missed the net from point-blank range.

    RSL has now lost nine away games this season. It has also conceded a Western Conference-leading 28 goals. If it has any hopes of making the playoffs, the team has to improve on the road on both sides of the pitch.

18. Orlando City SC (Previous: 17)

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    Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

    Orlando City SC drew 1-1 with the lowly Chicago Fire at home on Saturday night. Inclement weather forced delays and caused the game to finish at around midnight.

    This was a match that Orlando had to win in order to widen the gap between the other bubble playoff teams. The Lions are in sixth place in the Eastern Conference, but it's just a one-point advantage.

    Orlando had a vast majority of the possession, but the Fire scored a deserved goal to open the scoring. Apart from the Eric Gehrig own goal, Orlando didn't test Chicago goalkeeper Sean Johnson too much. 

    Despite Orlando City moving up to sixth in the East, it has slipped to No. 18. The Montreal Impact have four games in hand and Orlando is riding a five-game winless skid.

17. Chicago Fire (Previous: 20)

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    Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

    Inclement weather delayed the Orlando City SC vs. Chicago Fire match for almost three hours combined. The game finished just after midnight in a 1-1 draw.

    Chicago will be happy with the point given the possession Orlando had during the game. The Fire still managed to register 12 shots and opened the scoring through David Accam.

    Chicago coughed up the lead just seven minutes later, and it could have been prevented by goalkeeper Sean Johnson. His hesitation allowed Cyle Larin to execute a header that forced an own goal from Eric Gehrig. 

    The Fire's 3-2 win over the New York Red Bulls was incredibly impressive as well. Kennedy Igboananike now has four goals in his last three games after scoring twice on Wednesday. The team is also a lot more fluid in the final third without Shaun Maloney in the lineup.

    After a four-point haul this week, Chicago deservedly moves up to No. 17. Shockingly enough, the Fire are two points away from a playoff spot with a game in hand.

16. New York City FC (Previous: 16)

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    Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

    New York City FC is somehow still in the playoff mix in the Eastern Conference. The expansion side lost 2-1 to the Columbus Crew at home, but other teams in the East also slipped up this week.

    The defense remains a mess, especially on set pieces. Andrea Pirlo was tasked with marking Federico Higuain on a corner, but Higuain easily evaded the Italian before scoring the opening goal.

    Andrew Jacobson equalized shortly thereafter with a strike from distance. However, NYCFC surrendered the lead with about seven minutes left. Justin Meram simply dribbled into the box and rolled the ball into the net.

    Following the game, head coach Jason Kreis questioned the motivation of the players. The squad needs to find some confidence quickly with matches against the likes of FC Dallas and Toronto FC coming up.

15. Colorado Rapids (Previous: 19)

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    Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

    The Colorado Rapids have now won three straight games after defeating the Houston Dynamo and Sporting Kansas City this week.

    This is the second time that the Rapids have accumulated three wins in a row. With the season coming to a close, they're hitting form at the right time.

    Dillon Serna was instrumental in Colorado's win over Houston as he assisted Kevin Doyle's goal. The back line did not allow a single shot from the Dynamo forwards as well. The Rapids also showed resolve in coming back to defeat SKC.

    Now the Rapids find themselves just five points away from a playoff spot with a game in hand. As a result, they move up to No. 15 in the power rankings.

14. Montreal Impact (Previous: 13)

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    Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

    The 10-man Montreal Impact lost 2-1 to Toronto FC, which cost head coach Frank Klopas his job.

    Montreal was missing playmaker Ignacio Piatti and striker Didier Drogba due to injury. Klopas also guided the Impact to a CONCACAF Champions League final in April.

    The Impact probably should've beaten Toronto FC on Saturday. Montreal missed a couple of terrific chances through Dominic Oduro and Johan Venegas in the first half.

    Montreal still has a few games in hand and is in line to qualify for the playoffs. However, this business is based on results, and the Impact have lost four straight games in all competitions. Ownership likely wasn't pleased with this and the predictable style of play.

    The Impact's recent form sees them fall to No. 14 after wins by the Houston Dynamo, Seattle Sounders and San Jose Earthquakes.

13. Houston Dynamo (Previous: 15)

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    Bob Levey/Associated Press

    The Houston Dynamo rebounded from a 2-1 loss to the Colorado Rapids by defeating the nine-man Vancouver Whitecaps 2-0 on Saturday night.

    Houston was able to kill off the game once Matias Laba and Kendall Waston were sent off. However, the Dynamo capitalized on one opportunity in the first half where the Whitecaps kept missing.

    The major difference was the Dynamo midfield. They kept spreading the ball out wide to evade Laba and Deybi Flores. It worked to a tee as their first goal was created from the right flank.

    The performance as a whole was significantly more convincing compared to Wednesday's defeat in which the forwards couldn't register a shot the entire game.

    This win over a team fighting for the Supporters' Shield makes up for the midweek loss. Not only is Houston three points away from a playoff berth, it moves up to No. 13 in the power rankings.

12. Seattle Sounders (Previous: 12)

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    Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

    The Seattle Sounders earned a morale-boosting 2-1 win over the Portland Timbers on Sunday. The victory kept Seattle level with the San Jose Earthquakes for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

    The Portland Timbers dominated, and Seattle caught a break with this penalty to double its lead. However, unlike the Timbers, the Sounders were clinical. The high pressing from Nelson Valdez and persistence of Obafemi Martins turned into a goal after just minutes.

    Goalkeeper Stefan Frei was also incredible. He made at least three game-saving stops, including this one on Lucas Melano in the first half.

    Despite the win, the Sounders are still in a precarious position. If Seattle beats Toronto FC on Saturday, it will move up the power rankings.

11. San Jose Earthquakes (Previous: 11)

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    The San Jose Earthquakes earned a massive 1-0 win over the 10-man LA Galaxy on Friday night. It was the team's second victory over LA this season.

    Overall, San Jose was the better team. They constantly exposed the Galaxy's slow defense and shut down the wealth of scoring options.

    Marc Pelosi and Anibal Godoy were integral to the strong defensive performance by the Earthquakes. They restricted space for Robbie Keane, Giovani dos Santos, Steven Gerrard and Juninho. 

    San Jose benefited from a red card to Leonardo, but he shouldn't have been sent off. A replay showed that Quincy Amarikwa tripped over his own legs, which is what led to a foul being called.

    Nonetheless, the Quakes did well to hold on to their lead against the league's top team. However, due to Toronto FC's win and the questionable red, San Jose stays at No. 11.

10. Toronto FC (Previous: 10)

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    Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

    Toronto FC earned a 2-1 win over the Montreal Impact, but it may have come at a price.

    TFC's leading scorer Sebastian Giovinco had to leave the match early with an adductor injury. He was called up to the Italy national team but has been ruled out of the upcoming games, per the FIGC (via the official MLS website).

    Apart from Giovinco's injury, the Reds will be satisfied with the win. Montreal's wastefulness helped TFC, who is now nine points above the seventh-placed Impact.

    Toronto's next match is against the Seattle Sounders at CenturyLink Field on Saturday. It would be a huge blow to Toronto's chances if Giovinco isn't fit.

    Because TFC conceded 18 shots and played against 10 men in the second half, it remains at No. 10 this week.

9. Portland Timbers (Previous: 7)

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    Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

    The Portland Timbers are in trouble. After losing 2-1 to their fierce rivals Seattle Sounders, the Timbers are a loss away from falling out of the playoffs.

    The Sounders and San Jose Earthquakes trail Portland by just two points. San Jose has a game in hand on the Timbers as well.

    Portland actually played really well on Sunday. It heavily outshot the Sounders and didn't concede a lot of space defensively.

    The penalty against goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey was questionable. However, Lucas Melano should also take some blame for failing to score on a breakaway in the first half. If both situations had gone in the Timbers' favor, they would have won.

    This means that the misfiring Timbers move down to No. 9 this week.

8. D.C. United (Previous: 5)

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    Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

    Bill Hamid literally saved D.C. United from complete embarrassment on Sunday. The New York Red Bulls beat D.C. 3-0, but the Red Bulls could have scored at least five goals.

    Hamid was forced to come out and make timely saves on several occasions. Eventually, Lloyd Sam was able to defeat the D.C. goalkeeper after a Bobby Boswell giveaway.

    Bradley Wright-Phillips' stunning volley doubled the lead just before halftime. Wright-Phillips finished the night with two goals, but the game was practically over after 45 minutes.

    It's clear that D.C. is missing Fabian Espindola. The attack was virtually nonexistent. Chris Rolfe was shut down, Alvaro Saborio was invisible and the midfield was overrun.

    United has now lost three games in a row for the first time since 2013, per the Washington Post's Steven Goff. Because of this, it moves down to No. 8.

7. New England Revolution (Previous: 6)

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    Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

    It wasn't pretty, but the New England Revolution edged the Philadelphia 1-0 on the road on Saturday night.

    New England has now won three straight games and is unbeaten in its last five. The Revolution have conceded just three goals during the five-match span.

    Since Jermaine Jones returned, the collective defending his improved greatly. Diego Fagundez, who was disappointing a year ago, scored the winning goal. He's started five straight games and has done well enough to keep his spot in the lineup.

    The Revolution are in fifth place and are in great form, but they have to make room for the surging Columbus Crew. 

6. Columbus Crew (Previous: 8)

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    Mark Lennihan/Associated Press

    Justin Meram's late strike helped the Columbus Crew clinch a 2-1 win over New York City FC on Saturday.

    The victory also moved the Crew to within three points of the Eastern Conference leaders D.C. United. 

    NYCFC may have outshot Columbus but many of the attempts hardly troubled goalkeeper Steve Clark. However, if Meram hadn't been substituted into the game, the Crew probably would've exited the Bronx with just one point.

5. Sporting Kansas City (Previous: 4)

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    Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

    Sporting Kansas City's 2-1 defeat to the Colorado Rapids was its third loss in a row. There shouldn't be too much panicking in Kansas City, though. Sporting has only played 25 games.

    SKC head coach Peter Vermes was critical of the officials after Saturday's loss. Vermes has an argument, but his team should keep playing until a whistle is blown.

    The defending on both goals was abysmal. Kevin Doyle and Maynor Figueroa were given too much space in the box and should have been closed down.

    SKC is still in the top five due to its games in hand. However, at this rate, it may end up squandering those opportunities.

4. FC Dallas (Previous: 9)

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    Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

    FC Dallas finally returned to winning ways due to a 2-0 victory over Real Salt Lake on Saturday. 

    Fabian Castillo was electric again as he scored Dallas' second goal of the night. Unfortunately for the Hoops, Castillo will be unavailable next week against the Columbus Crew as he'll be with Colombia.

    Only four of Dallas' remaining fixtures are at Toyota Stadium. It has earned nine wins in 14 home matches this season compared to just three victories on the road.

    The defense has been relatively solid away from home. Taking away the 6-2 defeat at Sporting Kansas City, Dallas has conceded just 12 goals in 11 matches. The issue will be the attack without Castillo in the lineup.

    For now, Dallas is in third place with at least one game in hand over the top two teams in the Western Conference. That's why the Texan side is up to No. 4.

3. Vancouver Whitecaps (Previous: 2)

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    Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

    The Vancouver Whitecaps must dread games in Texas these days. The Whitecaps' 2-0 loss to the Houston Dynamo was the team's ninth defeat in the Lone Star State.

    It's worth noting that Vancouver finished the match with nine players. Kendall Waston was sent off and Matias Laba followed him shortly thereafter. Houston was leading 1-0 at this point and virtually clinched the win after Laba's red card.

    Both sides were coming off midweek games. However, Vancouver head coach Carl Robinson made quite a few changes to his lineup. Darren Mattocks failed to convert on two glorious chances during the game.

    Luckily for the Whitecaps, the LA Galaxy also lost, so they didn't lose any ground in the Supporters' Shield race.

    Vancouver was underwhelming even when it had all 11 players on the field. For that reason, the Whitecaps fall to No. 3 this week.

2. LA Galaxy (Previous: 1)

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    The LA Galaxy suffered a narrow 1-0 defeat at the hands of the San Jose Earthquakes on Friday. 

    Defender Leonardo was sent off for a challenge on Quincy Amarikwa as he was running alone toward the goal. However, Amarikwa appears to have tripped over his own leg after the Brazilian challenged him.

    However, head coach Bruce Arena admitted that the Galaxy played better with 10 men. The attack was shut down by the Earthquakes' midfield duo of Anibal Godoy and Marc Pelosi.

    Despite the loss, LA is still the top team in MLS. However, the New York Red Bulls' recent form drops the Galaxy to No. 2 this week.

1. New York Red Bulls (Previous: 3)

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    Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

    The New York Red Bulls confidently defeated their rival D.C. United 3-0 on Sunday night. Goalkeeper Bill Hamid should be credited for preventing a blowout.  

    Bradley Wright-Phillips earned a brace. Lloyd Sam and Mike Grella were tireless and couldn't be contained. Dax McCarty was also brilliant in the heart of midfield again. He was breaking up onrushing attacks and executing inch-perfect passes all night.

    The Red Bulls started the season on a high note before going into a slump just before the summer. Now they're just two points behind D.C. for first place in the Eastern Conference.

    New York has only lost once in its last eight games. The one defeat was on Wednesday against the Chicago Fire. However, there's no doubting the Red Bulls' form. They deservedly move up to No. 1.

    Peter Galindo covers MLS and U.S. soccer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @GalindoPW.