2011 MLS Power Rankings: Week 25
Ahhh, Labor Day Weekend. For some players, that means a call to national team duty—from 2014 FIFA World Cup qualification to international friendlies. For others, it's a time for players to recharge their batteries and prepare for the September and October gauntlets.
Still for others, it's a time to focus on U.S. Open Cup duty, and maybe play a makeup league game or two.
Whatever the case may be, this week's MLS Power Rankings don't have a lot of movement for once, with few teams in action. But you can be sure that in Week 26's edition, there will be plenty. Let's take a look at this week's MLS Power Rankings.
18. Toronto FC
Aron Winter's Toronto FC were off this week, but they did have some players in action on international duty.
Midfielder Terry Dunfield helped Canada demolish St. Lucia in World Cup qualifying, while Ryan Johnson's Jamaica side were hammered 5-2 by Ecuador and Javier Martina could not deliver for Curacao against Antigua and Barbuda by the same scoreline.
In the middle of all the hullabaloo regarding international duty was Toronto FC goalkeeper Milos Kocic, who stayed with the Reds to improve on his skills as a goalkeeper.
“They trusted me and I really appreciate the opportunity I got after that [first] game [against Real Esteli in CONCACAF Champions League play],” Kocic told TorontoFC.ca's Larry Millson. “We have to accept that our position as a goalkeeper is a tricky one. Everybody can see every mistake you make or every good play you make. It's the most responsible position on the team.”
Toronto also named a new scout for its Under-15 and Under-13 programs in Mario Halapir, of Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario.
"I am excited by this opportunity to provide players with a pathway to play at the next level," Halapir told reporters this past week. "I am familiar with the (Kitchener-Waterloo) area and the quality that exists there, so I know it will be a good fit."
Toronto FC's next contest will be on Saturday, Sept. 10 when they travel to Crew Stadium in Columbus, Ohio to take on the Columbus Crew. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET and will be televised by GOLTV Canada.
17. San Jose Earthquakes
After seeing the Ecuadorian turn into a bust in the span of 20 minutes against the Los Angeles Galaxy, the Quakes shipped Zura back to South America.
San Jose will hope for a miracle to qualify for the postseason. A player that could deliver the goods is forward Chris Wondolowski, the team's leading goalscorer.
“He’s been banging goals left and right in training,” the Quakes' Jacob Peterson told MLSSoccer.com's Geoff Lepper. “Whatever the reason, maybe it hasn’t been seen in games, but he’s been sharp. I don’t think there’s anybody on this team that’s lost confidence in him. We know what he’s capable of, and we see it on a regular basis. I think he went on a tear in the last few games of last season, so yeah, we hope we can get that same production out of him.”
Can Wondo save San Jose? Or rather, can San Jose save themselves?
Up next for the Earthquakes is a match with the Chicago Fire on Saturday, Sept. 10 at Buck Shaw Stadium on the campus of Santa Clara University in Santa Clara, California. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. PT/10:30 p.m. ET and will be televised by Comcast SportsNet.
16. Chivas USA
Robin Fraser's Chivas USA were off this week, but they suffered a massive blow to their chances at a postseason berth with Heath Pearce injured due to a pulled hamstring suffered in their 1-0 defeat to Real Salt Lake last month.
Pearce kept hope alive, expecting to be out less than one month.
“The MRI said four to six [weeks out], but I think it’s going to be on the short side of that,” Pearce told MLSSoccer.com's Adam Serrano. “I feel like this is a minor injury and it will be on the short side of the window, if not shorter… I feel that the news of the level of the strain and the pull that it was, was the best of bad news, the best-case scenario so that’s a positive.”
Currently, Chivas USA have a record of 7-10-10 (31 points) and are one point behind the New York Red Bulls, who hold the final wild card spot but have a game in hand over the Goats.
Up next for Chivas USA is a match with D.C. United at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California. Kickoff is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 10 at 7:30 p.m. PT/10:30 p.m. ET and will be televised by KDOC TV and KWHY TV.
15. Vancouver Whitecaps FC
A player that has been on the rise for Tom Soehn's Vancouver Whitecaps is midfielder Gershon Koffie, who scored in an MLS contest with the Chicago Fire and has plenty of room to grow.
“You could see a lot of athletic qualities but his soccer brain was something special,” Soehn told the Vancouver Sun's Bruce Constantineau. “I don't think we see enough of the offensive qualities that I saw when I scouted him. He can supply some offense and I'm constantly pushing him to bring that aspect of his game out.”
Meanwhile, there is less than one month remaining until the Whitecaps say farewell to Empire Field for good and move into their new home, BC Place Stadium and the Bell Pitch. Vancouver's first game at BC Place will be on Oct. 2 when they host the Portland Timbers.
In the meantime, there is a big two-game road swing to attend to, starting with the New York Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey. Kickoff is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 10 at 4:30 p.m. PT/7:30 p.m. ET and will be televised by Rogers SportsNet Pacific.
14. Portland Timbers
John Spencer's Portland Timbers have had a season of highs and lows, but they are now within touching distance of a postseason berth in their first year.
Currently, Portland are 9-12-5 (32 points) and are just behind the New York Red Bulls on goal differential for the final wild card spot in the MLS Cup Playoffs.
The Timbers' Rodney Wallace, playing for the Ticos of Costa Rica, scored a "Shot Heard Round The World" in helping upset the United States, 1-0, in an international friendly at the Home Depot Center.
Among the other oddities going on in Timbers Country is the addition of a corn maze on Sauvie Island. Well done, that Craig Easterly.
Wallace will hope that his goal against the USA translates to a result against the struggling Philadelphia Union on Saturday, Sept. 10 at PPL Park in Chester, Pennsylvania. Kickoff is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. PT/7:30 p.m. ET and will be televised by ROOT SPORTS.
13. Philadelphia Union
It was a tough weekend for Peter Nowak's Philadelphia Union, who fell to Real Salt Lake 2-1 in the only league match of the week at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah.
Sebastien Le Toux scored his fourth goal of the season in the 30th minute for Philadelphia.
“I believe it was a good game, a good performance,” Nowak told philadelphiaunion.com's Andy Jasner. “In some capacity, we still missed a couple chances we created. We’ve got to get better with anticipation, but I'm quite pleased with the performance because the tempo was high and we still pushed throughout the game.
"We have to work on those set pieces we gave up goals from. That needs to be improved.”
Up next for the Union are a couple of matches. On Wednesday, Sept. 7, the Union host the New England Revolution at PPL Park. Kickoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. PT and will be televised by Galavision and Comcast SportsNet.
On Saturday, Sept. 10, Philadelphia host the Portland Timbers. Kickoff at PPL Park is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET and will be televised by Comcast SportsNet.
12. Red Bull New York
Hans Backe's New York Red Bulls had a busy week of action outside of league play.
Tim Ream and Juan Agudelo were in action for the United States, who lost to Costa Rica 1-0 this past week.
Other Red Bulls that have been called up for international duty include defender Rafael Marquez for Mexico, defender Roy Miller for Costa Rica, midfielder Dane Richards for Jamaica and goalkeeper Bouna Coundoul for Senegal.
On the home end, defender Tyler Lassiter, selected 30th overall in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft, was loaned out to the Carolina Railhawks of the North American Soccer League. Currently, Carolina lead the NASL with a 16-4-3 record (51 points).
Finally, the Under-18s were given a stern challenge by the Colombian national team in a scrimmage held at nearby East Rutherford, N.J. Colombia went on to defeat Honduras 2-0 in a friendly held at Red Bull Arena.
New York host the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday, Sept. 10 at Red Bull Arena. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET and will be televised by MSG.
11. New England Revolution
Steve Nicol's New England Revolution saw the unlikeliest of visitors come to train with the club in Sergio Garcia of the Professional Golfers Association (PGA) Tour this past week.
From the looks of it, Garcia held his own. Perhaps in Sergio's second life he was a stud with FC Barcelona?
A couple of practicing Muslims—Kenny Mansally and Sainey Nyassi—went through Ramadan, which lasted from Aug. 1 through Aug. 29. Hot temperatures mixed with fasting episodes and many an Iftar combined with matches and practice took its demanding toll.
“It’s hard because in the morning time you run a lot, and then you need to wait all the way to 8 (p.m. to eat again),” Mansally told RevolutionSoccer.net's Julia Maldonado. “I drink a lot of water because I lose it (while playing), but it’s really hard just drinking water with no food, no nothing.”
Recently, a fatwa in Aug. 2010 ordered that Muslim athletes need to continue their normal routines as if Ramadan never took place. But for Mansally, tradition is something never to be broken.
“When we are traveling, the team also allows us some time to pray,” Mansally continued. “They don’t disturb us. [Revolution head coach] Stevie [Nicol] told me, ‘It’s your religion. If you believe in something, go ahead.’”
Of course, not even a prayer can save the Revolution, who are so far off the pace in the playoff race that the plans for next season may as well be set in motion.
Up next for New England are a couple of matches. On Wednesday, Sept. 7, the Revs take on the Philadelphia Union at PPL Park. Kickoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET and will be televised by Comcast SportsNet and Galavision.
Then on Sept. 10, New England will return home to Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts to face FC Dallas. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET and will be televised by Comcast SportsNet.
10. Columbus Crew
Robert Warzycha's Columbus Crew got a huge boost this past week when the manager signed an extension to remain with the club for the long haul.
“I believe Robert’s record speaks for itself and that he has unquestionably earned the opportunity to continue leading our club,” Crew president and general manager Mark McCullers said in a statement, according to thecrew.com's Craig Merz.
The signing was a result of the Crew's current standing at the top of the MLS Eastern Conference table with a record of 11-8-7 (40 points), as well as the performances of SuperDraft selections like Bernardo Anor and Justin Meram.
“I got an extension because of them,” Warzycha said of the extension. “They are very dedicated. They are a hard-working group. They work so hard to get us where we are now.”
Tony Tchani's recent knee problems will likely keep him out for the remainder of the season. Technical Director Brian Bliss wasn't one to make any apologies.
“I’m not saying we would not have done [the trade], but the idea is, this guy is 22,” Bliss argued in defending trading Andy Iro and Leandre Griffit for Tchani. “We’ve seen what he could do in college. We’ve seen what he’s done to this point. This is a future move for the club.”
The Crew will have to soldier on without Tchani's services when they renew the battle for the Trillium Cup against Toronto FC. Kickoff at Crew Stadium is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 10 at 7:30 p.m. ET and will be televised by ONN-TV.
9. Colorado Rapids
Plenty of international action was to be had for Gary Smith's Colorado Rapids, who saw four of its players called up.
Forward Omar Cummings represented Jamaica in their 5-2 defeat to Ecuador and will be taking part in a friendly against Colombia on Sept. 6 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Midfielder Sanna Nyassi represented The Gambia for an African Cup of Nations qualifier against Namibia, which they lost 1-0.
Midfielder Jeff Larentowicz represented the USA against Costa Rica and will be in action against Belgium for the Stars and Stripes on Sept. 6. Goalkeeper Steward Ceus represented Haiti in their 6-0 victory over the U.S. Virgin Islands and will be in action against Curacao on Sept. 6.
Aside from the first team, one of the bright spots for the Rapids is the play of the reserves, who took part in CONCACAF Champions League action.
“I think that the experience in CONCACAF really helps the self esteem of these players and it makes them excited because now there are meaningful games to play,” reserve team manager Brett Jacobs told MLSsoccer.com's Nick Thomas. “They’ve really attacked the reserve games as well, so I am very pleased.”
Colorado's next contest is on Friday, Sept. 9, when they travel to the Home Depot Center to take on the Los Angeles Galaxy. Kickoff is scheduled for 9:00 p.m. MT/11 p.m. ET and will be televised by Fox Soccer Channel.
8. D.C. United
Ben Olsen's D.C. United received some welcome news when midfielder Dwayne De Rosario was named MLS Player of the Month by the North American Soccer Reporters for his production in the month of August.
De Rosario was on hand to help Canada crush St. Lucia 4-1 at BMO Field in Toronto, Ontario and will face Puerto Rico on Sept. 6 at the Estadio Juan Ramon Loubriel in Bayamon.
Andy Najar debuted for Honduras in their 2-0 defeat to Colombia and had nothing but rave reviews for his experience playing with Los Catrachos.
"I think [the international level] is based more on technique," Najar told DCUnited.com's Nicolas Fernandez. "This is great because it will help me develop my soccer skills. This experience will also help me keep learning a little bit more about soccer every day."
Aside from De Rosario and Najar, another D.C. United standout that has been making waves is Supplemental Draft selection Blake Brettschneider, a former South Carolina Gamecock who is now waking up the neighbors with his skill and finishing as a forward.
"This is where a lot of people want to be," Brettschneider told DCUnited.com's Travis Clark. "Any college senior who’s aspiring to be a professional wishes they were here, so for that I consider myself to be very fortunate. Things have worked out probably a little better than I expected with the playing time and the situation here in DC, but this is definitely where I have hoped to have seen myself."
On Saturday, Sept. 10, D.C. will take on Chivas USA at the Home Depot Center. Kickoff is scheduled for 10:30 p.m. ET and will be televised by Comcast SportsNet.
7. FC Dallas
Schellas Hyndman's FC Dallas saw some highs and lows this past week.
On Wednesday, FC Dallas lost to the Seattle Sounders 1-0 in the semifinals of the U.S. Open Cup at the Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila, Washington.
“We’re a team that really has ambitions and wants to win championships but unfortunately tonight we weren’t able to get a result,” goalkeeper Kevin Hartman told FCDallas.com's Robert Casner.
“As I mentioned to the guys, this is not the way we wanted to go in the Open Cup, but we also are excited about having a week-and-a-half off, for sure," Hyndman added after the match.
Tigres UANL proved to be a perfect punching bag for the Hoops to take their frustrations of futility out on.
After trailing 1-0 in the second leg of the Rio Grande Plate, Ruben Luna equalized in the 44th minute and Jackson Goncalves scored the go-ahead goal in the 46th minute that forced a penalty shootout. All six players—Jackson, Maykey Galindo, Luna, Jonathan Top, Zach Loyd and Jeremy Hall—converted their spot kicks as Dallas won 6-5 on penalties.
The victory over Tigres could be the impetus behind a successful last-ditch attempt to catch up to Seattle and Los Angeles in the race for the MLS Supporters' Shield. Up next for the Hoops is a match with the New England Revolution on Saturday, Sept. 10 at Gillette Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. CT/7:30 p.m. ET.
6. Sporting Kansas City
Peter Vermes's Sporting Kansas City, who had a rough start to the season playing long stretches on the road, have settled into their friendly confines of Livestrong Sporting Park and currently sit second in the MLS Eastern Conference with a 9-8-9 record (36 points).
“That thing is right above our heads when we’re eating breakfast every morning,” midfielder Davy Arnaud told SportingKC.com's Andrew Wiebe. “You see it, we know where we’re at and we know who we have coming up. We’ve got it all ahead of us, and we’ve got it all to play for.”
In the meantime, Sporting signed Haitian international Peterson Joseph, who has been dubbed the "Haitian Xavi."
"For me it is a change to come from Europe, obviously, but this is a step up in my career so I am happy to be able to provide my skills to the team and help the team score goals,” Joseph said in a statement, according to Wiebe. "I feel that my pace and my experience can hopefully help the team win a championship this year.”
Whether or not he will be available for the match against the Los Angeles Galaxy is a different story, but they will be facing an LA outfit that will see Landon Donovan in action.
Kickoff between Sporting and the LA Galaxy at Livestrong Sporting Park is scheduled for 5 p.m. CT/6 p.m. ET and will be televised by Fox Soccer Channel.
On Saturday, Sept. 10, Sporting host the Houston Dynamo. Kickoff is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 10 at 3:00 p.m. CT/4:00 p.m. ET and will be televised by TeleFutura.
5. Chicago Fire
Frank Klopas's Chicago Fire will take on the Seattle Sounders for the U.S. Open Cup and a spot in next year's CONCACAF Champions League Preliminary Round after dismissing USL PRO's Richmond Kickers 2-1 at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, illinois.
Sebastian Grazzini opened the scoring in the 32nd minute, while team-leading goalscorer Dominic Oduro delivered the game-winner in the 61st minute of play.
“Obviously it puts us in a situation in the final with an opportunity to win something,” Klopas told MLSSoccer.com's Sam Stejskal. “We knew what was at stake. Moments like this, you can’t let them slip away because that’s how you build a team, with tradition. These guys know the history of the club, but the good thing about it is that they want to write their own history.”
The Fire do have some work to do in the race for the playoffs, with an awful 4-7-15 record (27 points), putting them five points adrift of the New York Red Bulls for the 10th and final spot.
Next up for the Fire is a match with the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday, Sept. 10 at Buck Shaw Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 9:30 p.m. CT/10:30 p.m. ET.
4. Houston Dynamo
Dominic Kinnear's Houston Dynamo were not in league action this week, but they did have an international club friendly with defending CONCACAF Champions Monterrey at Robertson Stadium on Sunday.
However, Los Rayados lost this match before it even got started.
Opting to go shopping rather than hold a training session, Victor Vucinich's club paid the price for not taking this match seriously and proceeded to get blown apart, 3-0, in a contest that saw four ejections—three for Monterrey and one for Houston.
Even Vucinich was given his marching orders—poetic justice for a side that never wanted in the Space City to begin with, and whether or not they will return in the future remains to be seen.
Cam Weaver scored in the 12th minute, Brad David made it 2-0 off a spot kick in the 23rd minute and Jason Garey put the icing on the cake in the 70th minute of play.
Up next for the Men in Orange is a match with Sporting Kansas City at Livestrong Sporting Park. Kickoff is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 10 at 3:00 p.m. CT/4:00 p.m. ET and will be televised by TeleFutura.
3. Los Angeles Galaxy
Bruce Arena's Los Angeles Galaxy have one busy September ahead of them. Up first, a match with Sporting Kansas City today at 3:00 p.m. PT/6:00 p.m. ET that will be televised by FoX Soccer Channel.
“They have an amazing new stadium, great atmosphere and they’ve been fantastic at home, so we’ve got to make sure we don’t underestimate them,” Galaxy midfielder Mike Magee told MLSSoccer.com's Luis Bueno.
The Galaxy are currently 14-3-9 (51 points) and have a game in hand over second-place Seattle, and need a result to hold off Sigi Schmid's crew until this weekend.
On Friday, the Galaxy will face the Colorado Rapids at the Home Depot Center. Kickoff is scheduled for Sept. 9 at 8 p.m. PT/11 p.m. ET and will be televised by Fox Soccer Channel.
2. Real Salt Lake
Real Salt Lake were in action this past weekend and defeated the Philadelphia Union 2-1. Kyle Beckerman scored his third of the season in the 18th minute, while Chris Schuler delivered the eventual game-winner in the 26th minute of play.
“I hope that we’re never going to be content with where we’re at, at anytime," Head coach Jason Kreis told reporters after the match. "There’s so many details that we’re letting slip right now. We need to improve on all those little details, and one of those things is how we finish games. To see it tonight again shows that we’re improving. And I think improving at the exact right time.”
Beckerman will be suiting up for the USA when they take on Belgium later this week.
Up next for Real Salt Lake is a big one: a date with the Seattle Sounders at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, Washington. Kickoff is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 10 at 2 p.m. MT/4 p.m. ET and will be televised by KMYU 2.2, Comcast 22 and Dish Network 12.
1. Seattle Sounders FC
Sigi Schmid's Seattle Sounders rule the roost again this week after their 1-0 victory over FC Dallas in the semifinals of the U.S. Open Cup. Here's a hint, Sigi: wear the electrics on the day of the Final.
Fredy Montero scored the game-winner in the 40th minute of play. The Sounders will take on the Chicago Fire in the final on Oct. 4 at CenturyLink Field. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. PT/10 p.m. ET.
Before that takes place, however...there is the matter of putting up with Real Salt Lake on Saturday, Sept. 10. Kickoff at CenturyLink Field is scheduled for 1 p.m. PT/4 p.m. ET and will be televised by KING 5.