MLS Power Rankings: The Western Conference Rules the Top 3

Peter Galindo@@GalindoPWFeatured ColumnistApril 13, 2016

MLS Power Rankings: The Western Conference Rules the Top 3

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    Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

    There were plenty of big results in MLS this past weekend, with a couple of rivalry games influencing the latest power rankings.

    A few teams were missing a few starters, and they also have games in hand this early in the campaign. Therefore, the following criteria will be used to grade each club:

    • Form over the last five games
    • Injuries/absences
    • Quality of a team's most recent performance
    • Games in hand (if applicable)

    Here is where every team stands after the weekend.

20. Columbus Crew (Previous: 18)

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    Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

    The Columbus Crew's 2-0 loss to the Montreal Impact was the team's third of the season. The wait for the Crew's first win continues after five matches.

    It is odd to see Columbus at the bottom of the power rankings considering it was in the MLS Cup final last year. However, the same issues plagued the Crew in Montreal. The marking on set pieces was woeful and the attack was misfiring again.

    The Crew appeared to be hampered by the artificial turf. However, they still generated some quality scoring chances, specifically Justin Meram's volley in the 37th minute.

    Columbus has the capability of snapping this poor run of form, but with no wins after five games, it rightfully occupies the bottom spot.

    Points: Two.

    Record: 0-3-2

    Standing: 10th in the Eastern Conference.

19. New York Red Bulls (Previous: 15)

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    The New York Red Bulls lost 2-0 to Sporting Kansas City with a depleted back line, but the entire night was a disaster for the Supporters' Shield winners.

    Bradley Wright-Phillips had a penalty saved and recorded 10 shots in the defeat, which set an MLS record. The ex-Golden Boot winner's night was a microcosm of the Red Bulls' season thus far. They have troubled the opposition, but the end product is not there.

    Injuries are obviously a massive problem for New York at the moment. Almost every center back is hurt, as is full back Kemar Lawrence. However, the lack of scoring is the hindrance for the Red Bulls.

    New York has only scored in one game. The Red Bulls bagged four goals at home against the Houston Dynamo in a 4-3 win. They have been shut out in every other match and have lost them all.

    The Dynamo game showed that the Red Bulls are an offensive force. They just haven't been able to find consistency due to injuries and suspensions.

    Points: Three.

    Record: 1-4-0

    Standing: Ninth in the Eastern Conference.

18. New York City FC (Previous: 16)

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    New York City FC opened their 2016 season with a 4-3 victory over the Chicago Fire in one of the most entertaining games of the campaign so far. Both sides met for the rematch on Sunday, but this was nowhere near as enthralling as the first meeting.

    NYCFC tied the Fire 0-0, which extended New York City's winless skid to four games. Shockingly, each of these matches were played at home.

    However, it's not like NYCFC have been silent in these games. The hosts recorded 19 shots against the Fire and have mustered 67 attempts at home. 

    Head coach Patrick Vieira has been in charge for fives matches so his philosophy is still settling in with his team. Nonetheless, the inaccurate finishing is inexcusable, and it has to improve if NYCFC want to qualify for the playoffs.

    Points: Six.

    Record: 1-1-3

    Standing: Fifth in the Eastern Conference.

17. Houston Dynamo (Previous: 19)

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    The Houston Dynamo were seconds away from a hard-fought win over the Seattle Sounders. However, Chad Marshall's goal at the death meant that the two sides had to settle for a 1-1 draw on Sunday.

    This is not the first time that the Dynamo have collapsed. They conceded in stoppage time versus the New England Revolution and drew 3-3. Houston led twice against the New York Red Bulls but ended up losing that match.

    If the Dynamo held on to win both games, they would have 10 points, which is double their current total.

    Houston's attack is one of the best in the league and is incredibly entertaining to watch. However, only the Vancouver Whitecaps, Portland Timbers and New York Red Bulls have conceded more goals than the Dynamo's nine.

    Defensive solidity and an increase in mental resolve at the end of matches could easily turn the Texan side into a playoff team. For now, it owns the 17th spot in the power rankings.

    Points: Five.

    Record: 1-2-2

    Standing: Eighth in the Western Conference.

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

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    Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

    D.C. United finally earned its first win of the season, and it was obtained in the most dominant way possible.

    United defeated the depleted Vancouver Whitecaps 4-0 on Saturday, but this was the most impressive D.C. performance of the year despite the Whitecaps' disadvantage.

    Fabian Espindola and Alvaro Saborio ruled the headlines thanks to their respective braces, but there were a few other standout performers. Marcelo Sarvas was one of D.C.'s top tacklers and was tied for the team lead in interceptions, per WhoScored.com. Even Nick DeLeon was contributing defensively.

    Second-half substitute Luciano Acosta also demonstrated why he needs to start more games with his speed, technique and vision. He assisted both of Saborio goals and he only played 13 minutes. There's no telling what Acosta could contribute with more time.

    D.C. has underachieved in their first six games of the season. However, this victory could be the start of a strong run in form.

    Points: Six.

    Record: 1-2-3

    Standing: Seventh in the Eastern Conference.

15. Chicago Fire (Previous: 17)

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    Michael Stewart/Getty Images

    The Chicago Fire's 0-0 draw with New York City FC at Yankee Stadium on Sunday was a solid result for a rebuilding team. However, the squad may feel aggrieved with the disallowed goal.

    The offside call appears to be the correct one. Right before Jonathan Campbell heads the ball, his teammate is in an offside position and is impeding an NYCFC defender.

    Nonetheless, Chicago earned a valuable point and is unbeaten since its season opener against NYCFC on March 6. The defending has been noticeably stronger since that 4-3 defeat, but the attack has scored precisely one goal per game, which is not good enough.

    Once David Accam is fit, the offensive output should increase.

    Points: Six.

    Record: 1-1-3

    Standing: Sixth in the Eastern Conference.

14. Seattle Sounders (Previous: 14)

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    Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

    The Seattle Sounders scored their first goal from open play through defender Chad Marshall as they claimed a late 1-1 draw with the Houston Dynamo on Sunday.

    Despite the dramatic ending, the Sounders' attacking woes continued. Both Jordan Morris and Aaron Kovar were replaced by Herculez Gomez and Oalex Anderson in the second half. The substitutes were a lot more incisive in the penalty area and were unlucky not to have scored.

    Gomez is 34 years old, but he can still provide a spark up front. The U.S. international can also mentor Morris. It's clear that the youngster is very raw. Perhaps alleviating the attacking burden off of the 21-year-old's shoulders can help him in the future.

    Surprisingly, the Sounders are much more resolute at the back compared to previous years. This is a side that has the talent to be a playoff team, but Seattle has to be more clinical in the final third.

    Points: Four.

    Record: 1-3-1

    Standing: 10th in the Western Conference.

13. Portland Timbers (Previous: 13)

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    Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

    The Portland Timbers' 1-1 draw with the LA Galaxy was the least of the team's problems after Darlington Nagbe was on the receiving end of a nasty tackle from Nigel de Jong.

    Reputation aside, De Jong should have been sent off. He caught Nagbe's ankle with his studs and it led to the American being carted away in a wheelchair.

    According to Sports Illustrated's Grant Wahl, Nagbe was diagnosed with a "medial ankle sprain and contusion." That is great news considering the Timbers midfielder could have suffered a more significant injury.

    As for the performance, Portland's defensive display was much improved after the 4-1 rout against Orlando City SC. The Timbers just need to start converting the chances they create. The loss of Nagbe will hinder the team's offense, but the likes of Diego Valeri can provide a creative spark.

    Points: Five.

    Record: 1-2-2

    Standing: Ninth in the Western Conference.

12. Vancouver Whitecaps (Previous: 6)

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    Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

    The Vancouver Whitecaps were without Matias Laba, Christian Bolanos, Octavio Rivero, Nicolas Mezquida and Pedro Morales. Nonetheless, their 4-0 loss at D.C. United was downright embarrassing.

    The regular back line of Jordan Harvey, Kendall Waston, Tim Parker and Fraser Aird started, yet goalkeeper David Ousted was still peppered with shots. Even though Ousted conceded four goals, he was absolutely sensational.

    However, it's not a positive if the goalkeeper is that busy. Vancouver was sluggish and aimlessly passed the ball. The Whitecaps only completed 59 percent of their passes in the final third, per the official MLS website.

    Injuries and suspensions have ruined the chemistry within the Whitecaps squad, but zero goals in open play and just one goal from a forward in their last 17 matches are seriously concerning statistics.

    Points: Seven.

    Record: 2-3-1

    Standing: Seventh in the Western Conference.

11. New England Revolution (Previous: 12)

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    Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

    The New England Revolution's 1-1 draw at home with Toronto FC on Saturday may not look like a great result, but the Revolution were deserving of a victory.

    The Revs were denied this penalty shout after TFC defender Drew Moor appeared to trip Teal Bunbury. Toronto ended up scoring the equalizer just seconds later, adding insult to injury for the Revolution.

    On the bright side for New England, the midfield duo of Scott Caldwell and Gershon Koffie was almost impenetrable. Sebastian Giovinco's goal was the only time they were beaten.

    The performances by Caldwell and Koffie have not only helped out the Revs' defense, they have also provided a boost to the attack. The forwards are on the ball more often and are generating chances. Surely the Revolution are poised for a strong run of form.

    Points: Seven.

    Record: 1-1-4

    Standing: Fourth in the Eastern Conference.

10. Colorado Rapids (Previous: 10)

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    Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

    This writer has previously stated that Zac MacMath was a capable starting goalkeeper in MLS. However, since the Colorado Rapids announced the signing of Tim Howard, MacMath has been a disaster.

    A horrendous error from the shot-stopper led to a 1-0 loss for Colorado against Real Salt Lake in the Rocky Mountain Cup on Saturday. This is the second howler that MacMath has conceded after his costly mistake versus D.C. United on March 20.

    The Rapids probably could have scored two goals in this game. RSL's defense was caught napping on a couple of occasions, but Nick Rimando made some excellent saves to preserve the 0-0 scoreline.

    It's harsh to solely blame MacMath for the loss, but earning a road point over a rival is a solid result. Instead, the Rapids left empty-handed. 

    The Rapids have neither scored nor conceded more than one goal in any of their games this season. The defensive solidity is still present despite their goalkeeper's errors, but without Kevin Doyle, Colorado has to find an attacking solution soon.

    Points: Seven.

    Record: 2-2-1

    Standing: Sixth in the Western Conference.

9. Toronto FC (Previous: 11)

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    Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

    Toronto FC have now gone four games without a win after a 1-1 draw with the New England Revolution on Saturday.

    The difference in this match compared to previous games was the team's defensive performance after the opening goal. However, TFC may have avoided a clear-cut penalty prior to Sebastian Giovinco's equalizer.

    Much like the other games, this was not a thrilling match, but that will suit Toronto after its abysmal away record one year ago. Since the Reds have played all of their matches on the road, they get the benefit of the doubt until the team plays at home.

    Points: Five.

    Record: 1-2-2

    Standing: Eighth in the Eastern Conference.

8. LA Galaxy (Previous: 7)

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    Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

    The LA Galaxy's 1-1 draw with the Portland Timbers on Sunday was dominated by Nigel de Jong's horror tackle on Darlington Nagbe.

    De Jong will surely face a heavy suspension for the challenge, which will deplete the Galaxy midfield for the next few weeks.

    The injuries to Robbie Keane, Steven Gerrard and Dan Kennedy have not helped the Galaxy's chemistry, although LA has only conceded four goals so far, which is a big positive.

    There are still issues in the final third, though. An own goal by Nat Borchers secured a point for the Galaxy and kept their three-game home unbeaten streak intact, but if they cannot produce more goals, they will be in trouble.

    Points: Eight.

    Record: 2-1-2

    Standing: Fourth in the Western Conference.

7. San Jose Earthquakes (Previous: 9)

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    Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

    The San Jose Earthquakes earned a deserved 2-2 draw with FC Dallas on Saturday evening. If it wasn't for some clumsy defending, the Earthquakes could have left Toyota Stadium with a win.

    San Jose is winless in three straight games, but it has played relatively well apart from the loss to the LA Galaxy on March 19. Chris Wondolowski scored his fourth goal in five matches, Quincy Amarikwa recorded two assists, and Tommy Thompson has been a menace on the ball in recent weeks.

    The Quakes' sloppy defending has outdone that hard work up front, though. A needless penalty was conceded by Shaun Francis and an own goal by Victor Bernardez clinched a point for Dallas. This has to stop soon.

    Points: Eight.

    Record: 2-1-2

    Standing: Fifth in the Western Conference.

6. Orlando City SC (Previous: 4)

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    Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

    Orlando City SC were thwarted by a late free kick by Tranquillo Barnetta as Orlando lost 2-1 to the Philadelphia Union on Friday. 

    The Lions were missing four key starters. Defender Tommy Redding, midfielder Cristian Higuita, winger Brek Shea and striker Cyle Larin all missed the game due to injury or suspension. If it wasn't for a brilliantly taken goal, Orlando would have left with a valiantly earned point on the road.

    Shea will return from his suspension on Sunday against the New England Revolution, although it's uncertain if the other three absentees will be back in time.

    If Orlando can take any lessons from this defeat, it's that the squad depth is a lot stronger compared to last season. Even though this is the team's first loss, it still retains a spot in the middle of the top 10.

    Points: Eight.

    Record: 2-1-2

    Standing: Third in the Eastern Conference.

5. Philadelphia Union (Previous: 8)

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    Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

    Tranquillo Barnetta's late free kick secured a massive 2-1 win for the Philadelphia Union against Orlando City SC on Friday, although this was one of the most even matches in MLS this season.

    Both sides registered the same amount of shots (14), the possession was edged by the Union at 52 percent and it was decided by a stunning goal.

    PRO eventually ruled that the goal shouldn't have counted due to Union players obstructing the view of goalkeeper Joe Bendik.

    It's a fair decision, but the final result states that Philadelphia won, which is why it moves into the top five after a solid performance on both sides of the pitch.

    Points: Nine.

    Record: 3-2-0

    Standing: Second in the Eastern Conference.

4. Montreal Impact (Previous: 5)

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    Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

    The Montreal Impact returned to winning ways with a 2-0 victory over the Columbus Crew on Saturday. It also propelled Montreal into first place in the Eastern Conference.

    Both of the Impact's goals came from unlikely sources in defender Hassoun Camara and midfielder Kyle Bekker. Nonetheless, Montreal earned a clean sheet and a convincing win.

    None of Dominic Oduro, Ignacio Piatti, Harry Shipp and Lucas Ontivero were on the scoresheet, but they were menacing presences in the final third. The Impact front four registered 12 shots in the victory.

    Since this was Montreal's first win since March 12, it narrowly misses out on the top three, but grabbing the top spot in the East is worthy of No. 4 this week.

    Points: Nine.

    Record: 3-2-0

    Standing: First in the Eastern Conference.

3. FC Dallas (Previous: 1)

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    Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

    FC Dallas fought back twice to earn a 2-2 draw with the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday. Even though Dallas needed a penalty and an own goal to secure a point, this was still a decent result for the team.

    Both sides utilize a similar style with fast attackers in a counterattacking system, so it was no surprise to see the majority of chances being created on the break, especially by Dallas.

    However, despite the Hoops recording 19 shots, it was evident that they are missing playmaker Mauro Diaz. The inclusion of Mauro Rosales provided a creative spark in the final third, but it's clear that Diaz is the best option when fit.

    Nonetheless, Dallas is still picking up points without the Argentine and occupies a top-three spot in the Western Conference. Therefore, the Texan side has moved back into third in the power rankings.

    Points: 11

    Record: 3-1-2

    Standing: Third in the Western Conference.

2. Sporting Kansas City (Previous: 3)

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    Sporting Kansas City's 2-0 win over the struggling New York Red Bulls was one of their most complete performances of the season so far.

    Sporting's swift counterattacking and pressing allowed Graham Zusi and Benny Feilhaber to run in behind the Red Bulls defense for the first goal. Dom Dwyer capitalized on poor defending from Chris Duvall off a throw-in to double the lead in the second half.

    Somehow, SKC were heavily outshot 21-7 in this game. A penalty save by goalkeeper Tim Melia was crucial, but overall, Sporting KC were the superior side on the night.

    Sporting now leads the league with 12 points, but due to Real Salt Lake's win against them on April 2, SKC must settle for the No. 2 spot in the power rankings.

    Points: 12

    Record: 4-1-0

    Standing: First in the Western Conference.

1. Real Salt Lake (Previous: 2)

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    Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

    Real Salt Lake is the only unbeaten team left in MLS after defeating the Colorado Rapids 1-0 in the first Rocky Mountain Cup meeting of the season on Saturday.

    This was not a flashy performance by any means. In fact, not only were RSL outshot, but they were gifted with the winning goal after a crucial error by Rapids goalkeeper Zac MacMath.

    If it wasn't for Nick Rimando making a few outstanding saves and one insane clearance by Aaron Maund, Colorado might have stunned RSL.

    However, as it stands, the Claret and Cobalt have not been beaten and rightfully claim the top spot in this week's power rankings as a result.

    Points: 11

    Record: 3-0-2

    Standing: Second in the Western Conference.