MLS Power Rankings: Orlando City Surges into the Top 5

Peter Galindo@@GalindoPWFeatured ColumnistApril 6, 2016

MLS Power Rankings: Orlando City Surges into the Top 5

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    Zachary Scheffer/Overflow Productions, Inc./Getty Images

    Eighteen teams were in action this past weekend in Major League Soccer. Once again, most matches were dominated by controversy, but a few results had a major impact in the standings and power rankings.

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

    • Current form
    • Injuries/absences
    • Quality of a team's most recent performance
    • Games in hand (if applicable)

    Here is where every MLS team stands after the weekend.

20. DC United (Previous: 20)

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    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    D.C. United's winless skid in all competitions now stands at nine games dating back to last year's playoffs.

    This is the third time in United's history that the club has not earned a win in its first five matches of the regular season. D.C. was foiled by a late goal against the San Jose Earthquakes but struggled in the attacking third after Patrick Nyarko's opener.

    Luciano Acosta was also benched for the second straight game. It's a baffling decision from head coach Ben Olsen considering Acosta's speed and technique on the ball.

    The Argentinean was also building chemistry with Lamar Neagle earlier in the year. Neagle and Acosta are an ideal pairing in a counterattacking system, so they should be earning more minutes together.

19. Houston Dynamo (Previous: 13)

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    Scott Halleran/Getty Images

    The Houston Dynamo have cooled off since their huge 5-0 win over FC Dallas in the Texas derby. They lost to a depleted New York Red Bulls side, then suffered a 1-0 defeat to the Vancouver Whitecaps despite a strong second half.

    This could just be a minor blip, especially with injuries to Giles Barnes and Cristian Maidana. The latter is fully fit again, so there is a good chance that Houston can return to winning ways.

18. Columbus Crew (Previous: 14)

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    Ralph Lauer/Associated Press

    Normally, a road draw against the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference last year would be a solid result. That is not the case for a hapless Columbus Crew side.

    Last season's MLS Cup finalists are still winless. Even more surprising, the attack has been wildly inconsistent and only produced seven shots against FC Dallas.

    It appeared as if the attacking woes were behind Columbus after Justin Meram's ninth-minute header. The Crew tested goalkeeper Chris Seitz on a couple of occasions, but Dallas was the superior side in the final third.

17. Chicago Fire (Previous: 19)

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    The Chicago Fire finally earned their first win in polar-like conditions against the 10-man Philadelphia Union.

    The Fire haven't looked spectacular to begin the new season, which is to be expected after a huge rebuild. However, defeating a team that was riding momentum entering the weekend is a fine achievement, even if the Union finished the game with 10 men.

    The Fire desperately needed this victory. Once Sean Johnson and David Accam return from injury, Chicago should be able to gain more consistency on the pitch.

16. New York City FC (Previous: 16)

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    Adam Hunger/Associated Press

    New York City FC has not been clicking since their massive win at the Chicago Fire in their first match.

    NYCFC have failed to win their last three games and have struggled at home. Whether it is a failure to close out matches or suddenly lackluster finishing, New York City cannot clinch that elusive win at Yankee Stadium.

    There have been a couple of positives, such as the improved defending and tactical experimentation from head coach Patrick Vieira. However, none of this will matter if NYCFC can't succeed on the pitch.

15. New York Red Bulls (Previous: 10)

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    Adam Hunger/Associated Press

    The New York Red Bulls may feel aggrieved after losing 1-0 to the New England Revolution, but they don't have much of a case.

    The Revs opted to keep playing despite the fact that Kemar Lawrence was on the ground with an apparent injury. But, there is no reason for the referee or the Revolution to stop play unless it is a head injury or a serious knock. 

    New York was also unhappy about Felipe's red card, which is a fair claim. This was not a dangerous tackle and probably didn't even warrant a foul, let alone a sending off.

    The Red Bulls actually played very well in the game but couldn't finish any of their chances. They were also missing three center backs, which is an even more impressive feat. 

    Nonetheless, New York's attack is still inconsistent and has lost all but one of its matches so far in 2016. The Red Bulls will continue to slip if they do not find some consistency.

14. Seattle Sounders (Previous: 18)

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    Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

    The Seattle Sounders won. That is a sentence that has not been uttered since the regular season began a few weeks ago.

    Seattle's victory over a strong Montreal Impact side is a solid result, although there is still a lingering issue: The Sounders still haven't scored a goal from open play.

    Sometimes a hard-fought win is what a team needs to turn around some misfortune. However, if the Sounders' woes continue, then the fans' worries will too. 

13. Portland Timbers (Previous: 4)

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    Scott Audette/Associated Press

    The Portland Timbers have never started a season strongly, but now that they are the champions, any poor run of form will be critiqued heavily.

    Portland has not won since its first game of the season and has since conceded eight goals. Yes, Liam Ridgewell is hurt and Jack Barmby made his debut, but the back line has been shaky over the last three games. This was bound to happen. 

    The overall team defending has been shocking as well. Orlando's players were running circles around the midfield—especially Diego Chara and Darlington Nagbe. 

    The Timbers kept 13 clean sheets a year ago. The loss of Ridgewell is big, but they have to start restricting space for the opposition, or else Adam Kwarasey's goal will be pummeled.

12. New England Revolution (Previous: 17)

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    The New England Revolution's loss to the Philadelphia Union seemed to reinvigorate the team based on the last two games.

    The Revolution may have edged the New York Red Bulls thanks to a controversial goal, but it was a badly needed three points for the hosts.

    The score was still a tad misleading because New England was very solid. The Revs were defensively sound and were creating plenty of chances. If not for a few poor touches by Teal Bunbury and Juan Agudelo, the Revolution could have had a field day in the final third.

    With a floundering Toronto FC side coming to town, the Revs have a chance to build on this win and move even higher in the standings.

11. Toronto FC (Previous: 5)

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    With a win and a draw in its first four matches on the road, Toronto FC may turn out to be more difficult to defeat away from home this season after claiming just four road victories in 2015. On the other hand, TFC have labored in front of goal and haven't accrued any wins since defeating the New York Red Bulls at the beginning of March.

    Benoit Cheyrou's red card aside, TFC's recent performance against the Colorado Rapids (a 1-0 loss) exposed some of their issues. The Reds have seldom broke down at the back, but they cannot generate many scoring chances.

    Sebastian Giovinco is the only forward who has been a threat in the final third. Unfortunately for TFC, he hasn't scored in his last two games.

    Now that Jozy Altidore is fully fit again, TFC head coach Greg Vanney has another option to alleviate the pressure off Giovinco. However, if Toronto fails to score again in New England, Vanney may need to start rethinking his tactics.

10. Colorado Rapids (Previous: 15)

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    The Colorado Rapids are in fifth place in the Western Conference and are level with the likes of the L.A. Galaxy and Vancouver Whitecaps (though ahead on goals for). 

    It's only four games into the year, and they did not excite the neutrals in their win over Toronto FC, but the Rapids are consistently earning points.

    Colorado is astute defensively, which it was last year as well, but the major transformation in the final third has turned the Rapids into a well-rounded side. Marco Pappa has been incredible, as has Shkelzen Gashi.

    The Rapids are third in shots per game, according to WhoScored.com. If the likes of Kevin Doyle can start converting these chances, Colorado will be a dangerous team later in the year.

9. San Jose Earthquakes (Previous: 9)

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    The San Jose Earthquakes haven't won since mid-March but earned a vital draw with D.C. United thanks to a late goal from Adam Jahn.

    The Earthquakes were significantly stronger at the back but were uncharacteristically wasteful up front. Certainly it's only a matter of time before head coach Dominic Kinnear finds the right balance.

    Kinnear's teams usually finish the season on a fervent run of form, so the Quakes are on the right track.

8. Philadelphia Union (Previous: 7)

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    Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

    The Philadelphia Union were excellent on Saturday, despite the inclement weather and being reduced to 10 men. 

    Philadelphia lost, yet it was the superior side against the Chicago Fire. The Union nearly opened the scoring prior to Warren Creavalle's red card. Ilsinho smacked the crossbar and C.J. Sapong hit the post twice prior to Creavalle's exit. 

    The Union are still in very good shape. Their next game is at home against Orlando City, so if Philadelphia earns a result in that game, this latest defeat will be considered a blip.

7. LA Galaxy (Previous: 6)

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    Victor Decolongon/Getty Images

    The L.A. Galaxy had a man advantage over the Vancouver Whitecaps for more than an hour, yet the visitors had to settle for a 0-0 draw.

    Gyasi Zardes had a glorious chance saved by David Ousted from point-blank range, but other than that, the Galaxy didn't really trouble the Whitecaps goalkeeper.

    The injuries to Robbie Keane, Giovani dos Santos and Steven Gerrard clearly affected the team. However, earning a draw against 10 men is not a spectacular result. 

    Keane is out for the next few weeks, but Gerrard and Dos Santos should be healthy soon. Injuries have been L.A.'s biggest issue, so once it gains a fully fit squad, it will be a contender in the Western Conference.

6. Vancouver Whitecaps (Previous: 8)

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    Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images

    The Vancouver Whitecaps have become very resilient since their loss to Sporting Kansas City on March 12. Vancouver is unbeaten with two wins and one draw. The latter result was accomplished with 10 players against the L.A. Galaxy.

    Matias Laba's sending off will split opinions, but at the end of the day, the Whitecaps were still in control after he exited the game.

    Instead of bombing forward in search of a win, Vancouver stayed calm and picked up a vital point. This will serve the Whitecaps well later in the season.

    There is still one persistent concern, though. MLS armchair analyst Matthew Doyle pointed out that Whitecaps forwards have scored just one goal in the team's last 16 games in all competitions. 

    A lack of goals from strikers has hurt the Whitecaps for some time now. This has to change if they want to become a serious contender.

5. Montreal Impact (Previous: 3)

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    Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

    The Montreal Impact scored six goals in their first two games of the season. They have been shut out in back-to-back games since their last victory over the New York Red Bulls.

    The absence of Didier Drogba is a crucial blow, but Dominic Oduro has proven to be a capable replacement. He scored in both of Montreal's wins, as did Ignacio Piatti, who also helped shoulder the load up front.

    The defending has been relatively compact, so that hasn't been an issue. The attack just hasn't been able to test the opposition goalkeeper. A large reason for that is down to a lack of space. Opponents are closing down Piatti, Oduro, Harry Shipp and Lucas Ontivero.

    It's up to head coach Mauro Biello to concoct a plan to counter this in the future, because surely the opposition has a similar tactic for Drogba when he returns.

4. Orlando City SC (Previous: 10)

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    There wasn't a more convincing performance this weekend than Orlando City's 4-1 win over the Portland Timbers.

    The hosts were dominant from the opening whistle. Kaka, who made his season debut, was pulling the strings throughout the game. He was involved in three of Orlando's four goals in what was arguably the best individual showing of the weekend.

    Cristian Higuita deserves some credit as well. The 22-year-old midfielder was breaking up Portland's attacks with ease and helped settle a back line that lost Tommy Redding during the game.

    Redding took a blow to the head, which means that his status is still in doubt. However, Aurelien Collin is an experienced defender who can easily fill in for the 19-year-old.

    Orlando has gradually improved after each match. It will be tough to top this match against the defending champions, but the Floridian side is rolling—especially with Kaka back in the fold.

3. Sporting Kansas City (Previous: 1)

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    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Sporting Kansas City's perfect record was snapped on Saturday against Real Salt Lake. Even the return of Benny Feilhaber couldn't save Sporting from their first blemish of the season.

    Feilhaber scored a late consolation in the game, but by then, it was too late to salvage a draw. SKC's finishing was lacking and RSL took advantage off a set piece and a long-distance strike.

    One loss does not hurt Sporting, especially since they still occupy second place in the Western Conference. The suspension to Roger Espinoza was also a huge blow.

2. Real Salt Lake (Previous: 12)

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    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Real Salt Lake is still undefeated and managed to knock off the hottest team in MLS entering the weekend.

    RSL managed to accomplish those feats without Nick Rimando, Jamison Olave, Kyle Beckerman and Juan Manuel Martinez. Winning a game without four key starters is tough enough. Defeating a previously unbeaten side without those players is even tougher.

    Once those starters are back in the lineup, RSL is going to be a force, and they're only going to improve as the season continues.

1. FC Dallas (Previous: 2)

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    Ralph Lauer/Associated Press

    Result aside, FC Dallas were incredible against the Columbus Crew. The hosts ended up splitting the points with the Crew, but the final score doesn't tell the whole story.

    Dallas was absolutely rampant. It mustered 21 shots and the Hoops didn't skip a beat without playmaker Mauro Diaz, who failed a late fitness test before the game.

    Dallas has lost just once in its opening five games and has accumulated a league-leading 10 points. No other team in MLS is as supreme as the Texan side.

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