MLS Power Rankings: Sporting Kansas City Still on Top After International Break

Peter Galindo@@GalindoPWFeatured ColumnistMarch 30, 2016

MLS Power Rankings: Sporting Kansas City Still on Top After International Break

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    Gary Rohman/MLS/USA TODAY Sports

    Only six teams were in action in Major League Soccer this past weekend due to the international break. However, there was still some movement in the power rankings.

    As always, the following criteria were used to grade every club:

    • Current form
    • Injuries/absences
    • Quality of a team's most recent performance

    Here is where every MLS team stands after the international break.

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

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    Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

    D.C. United were thoroughly defeated 3-0 by FC Dallas on Saturday. The loss extended D.C.'s winless skid to eight games in all competitions dating back to last year's playoffs.

    United were missing center back Steve Birnbaum, who was away on international duty with the U.S. men's national team. However, Kofi Opare has filled in before, so the familiarity with Bobby Boswell was not an issue. Yet defensive breakdowns and miscommunication ultimately cost D.C.

    D.C. even had a penalty to salvage something from the game, but Fabian Espindola was stopped by Chris Seitz. Now United will be without Marcelo Sarvas for one match after he was sent off in the 66th minute. 

    Head coach Ben Olsen was trying to stay positive after the match, but it has been a disastrous start to the 2016 campaign for his side.

19. Chicago Fire (Previous: 19)

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    Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

    The Chicago Fire were not in action during the international break but will face the red-hot Philadelphia Union in their next match.

    Chicago has not won an MLS game since October 3. A victory at home over a Union side that have been on a tear these past couple of weeks would be a significant boost for the Fire.

18. Seattle Sounders (Previous: 18)

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    Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

    It was evident the Seattle Sounders' attack was lacking a killer instinct in their first three games without Obafemi Martins. That led to the Sounders signing Herculez Gomez to bolster their forward corps.

    Gomez only made seven appearances with Toronto FC during his brief stint in Canada last season. Perhaps the U.S. international will earn more minutes in Seattle, but he will be 34 years old on April 6. Whether he is the answer to the Sounders' woes up front remains to be seen.

    The one certainty Sounders fans can hold on to is the team is not afraid to make moves when they are struggling. A win over the Montreal Impact in Seattle's next game would help to snap this poor run of form.

17. New England Revolution (Previous: 20)

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    Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

    The New England Revolution are still winless, but their performance at New York City FC was their best of the season.

    The Revolution played with 10 men for most of the second half. Midfielder Gershon Koffie was sent off for this challenge, yet New England had chances to win the game. It ended up settling for a 1-1 draw.

    The Revs were a lot stronger defensively compared to the previous game versus the Philadelphia Union. The attack created chances, but with Charlie Davies back, the offensive output should increase over the coming games.

16. New York City FC (Previous: 16)

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    Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

    New York City FC are still winless at home after drawing 1-1 with 10-man New England Revolution on Saturday.

    Thomas McNamara opened the scoring after wonderful dribbling from Andoni Iraola, Tony Taylor and David Villa. NYCFC continued pressuring the Revolution goal until Chris Tierney equalized off a deflected free kick.

    From that point on, New England generated more scoring chances, even after Gershon Koffie was sent off. That is a huge worry for NYCFC, especially since they were facing a struggling team at home.

    It's not like New York City was missing Ronald Matarrita and Khiry Shelton, either. The hosts just could not muster any quality scoring opportunities or keep possession in the second half, which are worrying signs.

15. Colorado Rapids (Previous: 15)

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    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    The Colorado Rapids have a chance to recover from their 1-1 draw with D.C. United by defeating a couple of former players.

    The Rapids face Toronto FC next week as goalkeeper Clint Irwin and defender Drew Moor return to Dick's Sporting Goods Park for the first time. TFC have been a resilient side on the road, so this will be a stern test for a Colorado attack that struggled on the road in D.C.

    Shkelzen Gashi returns from his suspension for this game, so perhaps his inclusion will boost a stagnant offense.

14. Columbus Crew (Previous: 14)

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    Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

    The Columbus Crew are still searching for their first win of the campaign. The 2015 MLS Cup finalists will face FC Dallas on the road in what could be one of their most pivotal matches in the early portion of the season.

    Dallas has been on a roll since losing 5-0 to the Houston Dynamo, so if the Crew can earn a result, it could kick-start their season. 

13. Houston Dynamo (Previous: 13)

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    Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

    The Houston Dynamo were edged 1-0 by the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday thanks to a Pedro Morales penalty.

    Head coach Owen Coyle was frustrated with the decision, but he also admitted his team has to perform better, per the Dynamo's official website:

    In my opinion, and I stress again my opinion so we don't get into any bother, that's never a penalty in a million years. Unfortunately for us it's been given. 

    It's hard to take, but we know we're a good side. We know we can play. Created chances, hit the bar, hit the post, had numerous very good opportunities and forced a very good Vancouver Whitecaps team on the back foot at home. And we controlled the game from probably 20 minutes in... We do have to start the game better.

    Coyle is partially correct. The Dynamo have to start matches on a stronger note. They also have to convert their chances. Houston recorded 17 shots to Vancouver's 12, yet the visitors were shutout by a team that was missing its starting center backs.

    The injury to Giles Barnes and the absence of Oscar Boniek Garcia affected the previously dominant Dynamo attack. Houston was the stronger side, and this impotency up front could end up being a one-off.

12. Real Salt Lake (Previous: 12)

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    Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

    Real Salt Lake are still undefeated but are not clicking on all cylinders as of yet.

    The defense had issues closing out the opening game at Orlando City, then indiscipline hurt RSL in the previous match against the Portland Timbers. The Claret and Cobalt have to harness their aggressiveness defensively as the rest of the team has played incredibly well so far.

    RSL's discipline will be put to the test at Sporting Kansas City. SKC love to press high up the pitch, so if the visitors are wary of Sporting's pace and keep 11 players on the field, they have a chance to win on the road.

11. Orlando City SC (Previous: 11)

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    Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

    Orlando City SC are riding high after their first win of the season at New York City FC. Cyle Larin scored his third goal in as many games and the team has slowly improved after each match.

    The ultimate test will come at home versus the defending champions. The Portland Timbers have failed to win either of their last two matches, while Orlando is searching for its first victory at home.

    Given how wasteful the Timbers attack has been recently, this would be a prime opportunity for the Lions to grab that elusive victory at the Citrus Bowl.

10. New York Red Bulls (Previous: 10)

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    William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports

    The New York Red Bulls will enter their game against the New England Revolution without three center backs. Damien Perrinelle, Gideon Baah and Ronald Zubar are all injured, meaning head coach Jesse Marsch will have a dilemma on his hands.

    Amobi Okugo was given a look by the Red Bulls search for reinforcements, according to Mike Vorkunov of the MLS website. Kemar Lawrence and Karl Ouimette finished the previous game at center back, so that is a possibility as well.

    The one positive that could come out of this is the midfield and attack rediscovering their 2015 form. New York will have no choice but to rely on its scoring output for the next few weeks.

9. San Jose Earthquakes (Previous: 8)

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    Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

    The San Jose Earthquakes face a struggling D.C. United side as they try to recover from their loss in the California Clasico to the LA Galaxy.

    Considering how poor D.C. has been in the final third, this is a tremendous opportunity for San Jose to improve its team defending. The Earthquakes have conceded 51 shots in three games.

    The Quakes cannot expect success if they are allowing 17 attempts per match. Chris Wondolowski and Quincy Amarikwa certainly can't bail out San Jose in every game.

8. Vancouver Whitecaps (Previous: 9)

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    Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

    The Vancouver Whitecaps won yet another game thanks to a penalty from Pedro Morales. It was the Whitecaps' fourth spot-kick in three games. They had five all of last season.

    Despite the 1-0 win, Vancouver was still outshot 17-12 by the Houston Dynamo. The second half was especially nervy as the Dynamo kept pushing for an equalizer and nearly accomplished their task on a few occasions.

    The Whitecaps were missing center backs Kendall Waston and Tim Parker, plus Christian Bolanos and Perez, so earning a clean sheet was no easy task. 

    Vancouver may have squandered a ton of opportunities, but there are signs that the attack is starting to click. Chance creation was significantly higher versus the Dynamo, so the Whitecaps should be able to repeat this performance against the LA Galaxy. 

7. Philadelphia Union (Previous: 7)

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    Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

    The Philadelphia Union have been on a roll since opening the season with a 2-0 loss at FC Dallas.

    Philadelphia earned a road win over the Columbus Crew for the first time then emphatically defeated the New England Revolution at home. It's only a two-game sample, but the Union are showing a lot of promise.

    C.J. Sapong scored his first goals of the year as he completed a brace in the win over the Revolution. He will have a supreme opportunity to build on that performance against a rebuilding Chicago Fire side.

    Like every other team, the Union will experience ups and downs. What is important is that the team stays healthy and competitive. There is finally some semblance of a plan at PPL Park, and it's paying dividends.

6. LA Galaxy (Previous: 6)

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    Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

    The LA Galaxy have been the very definition of Jekyll and Hyde in 2016.

    The Galaxy have started games slowly, especially in their home games against D.C. United and the San Jose Earthquakes. The Quakes were reduced to 10 men, but there has been one common factor at play in each of the Galaxy's wins.

    Giovani dos Santos was taken off at halftime with an injury in the D.C. game, and Mike Magee took over and led LA to victory. The Earthquakes game was almost exactly the same. Steven Gerrard exited with a knock, then Gyasi Zardes completed a brace and guided the Galaxy to a crucial win over their rivals.

    LA's next match is away to the Vancouver Whitecaps, who are starting to gain some momentum. This match will be one to watch.   

5. Toronto FC (Previous: 5)

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    Gary Rohman/MLS/USA TODAY Sports

    Toronto FC have accrued a respectable four points in three road games. TFC were a tad unlucky to not earn a draw at Sporting Kansas City after Brad Davis' controversial goal, but the team is finally showing more tactical flexibility, which is a positive sign.

    The Reds were often too relaxed with their team defending on the road last season. They have been more resolute and defensively responsible this time around, which will aid TFC in their push for the playoffs.

    Toronto faces the Colorado Rapids at Dick's Sporting Goods Park, which is always a difficult venue for any visiting team, but if it can sit deep and be patient, TFC could nick a victory.

4. Portland Timbers (Previous: 4)

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    Troy Wayrynen/Associated Press

    The Portland Timbers have traditionally struggled to begin an MLS season, which is why the champions should not panic yet.

    The injury to center back Liam Ridgewell has led to some defensive issues in the last two games. The Englishman is still rehabilitating his hamstring, per the Oregonian's Molly Blue, so it does not sound like he is returning anytime soon. 

    The Timbers defense will face a stern challenge versus Orlando City SC at the Citrus Bowl this weekend. If it can cope with a pacey Orlando attack, then Portland will likely earn a vital road win.

3. Montreal Impact (Previous: 3)

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    Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

    The Montreal Impact have a chance to make amends for their 2-0 loss to FC Dallas in their last game by defeating the struggling Seattle Sounders on the road.

    Montreal may have to face the Sounders without defender of the year Laurent Ciman, who suffered an ankle injury in training.

    If he misses the match, the Impact should still be in good shape. Wandrille Lefevre, who was excellent last season when called upon, would be the likely replacement for Ciman.

    In addition, the Impact will be dangerous going forward. Ignacio Piatti, Harry Shipp, Dominic Oduro and Lucas Ontivero should be extra lethal on that wide pitch at CenturyLink Field.

2. FC Dallas (Previous: 2)

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    Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

    FC Dallas throttled D.C. United 3-0 on Saturday in what was one of the most dominant performances of the season for the Texan side.

    Dallas' goals came through Maxi Urruti and Michael Barrios, who completed a brace within 14 minutes. Mauro Diaz was the provider on Barrios' second.

    What makes Dallas so lethal is its attacking versatility. Every one of its starting forwards have scored at least once this season. It also helps when Diaz has accumulated a league-high four assists already. He has eight in his last 10 games dating back to 2015.

    The Hoops also handed homegrown left back Aaron Guillen his full league debut. The 22-year-old started and looked very comfortable in possession while maintaining his defensive responsibilities. 

1. Sporting Kansas City (Previous: 1)

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    Gary Rohman/MLS/USA TODAY Sports

    Sporting Kansas City may have been inactive this past weekend, but they are still the team to beat in MLS so far this season.

    SKC's perfect record will be on the line this Saturday at home to Real Salt Lake. RSL boasts one of the league's most potent attacks, so this promises to be Sporting KC's toughest match on paper thus far in 2016.

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