Who’s up, who’s down? Each week, Philly Football Daily MLS contributor Noah Barnes ranks Major League Soccer’s ten hottest clubs, based on results, performances, and however else Barnes attempts to justify positioning in his column, In Form.
MLS Power Rankings Matchweek 1
Major League Soccer is back.
This past weekend saw all but three clubs in action for the first time this campaign. Opening Weekend saw just two draws, neither of which ended goalless, and a combined 26 goals scored over 10 games.
Now, with Matchweek 1 in the books, here are my Top-10 Power Rankings to begin the new season, in my new weekly column, In Form.
OK, let’s get things started.
- Houston Dynamo
Houston look a totally different outfit from last year.
Wilmer Cabrera’s Dynamo shot out of the gates to start the new season, recording a 4-0 rout at home against second-year Atlanta United. The match was virtually over by halftime, as Houston scored in the 5th minute courtesy of Philadelphia Union outcast Andrew Wenger, and they never looked back, tallying four goals before the break. Houston looked sensational in the first half, and could have continued that form throughout the rest of the match, if it had been necessary.
Putting Houston at the top of my list was rather simple, given just how dominant they were against an explosive Atlanta United side that is tipped by many to contend for a title this season.
While Atlanta turned in a performance that was far from title worthy, Houston, nevertheless, showed their potential to be one of this season’s most (wait for it) dynam-ic clubs.
- New York City FC
Patrick Vieira’s men turned in a dominant display on Sunday, beating a strong Sporting Kansas City side two to nil, away from Yankee Stadium. Maximiliano Moralez and Jesus Medina bagged the road goals to help the Cityzens earn their first three points of the campaign.
Making this win so impressive was how it came away from home, in a hostile environment like Children’s Mercy Park. NYCFC also seemed rather unfazed by the offseason loss of starlet Jack Harrison, and the visitors were able to put goals away in both halves.
NYCFC were slightly edged in both possession and shots by SKC, but nevertheless showed why they finished second in the Eastern Conference last season. They were resilient in defense, with Ben Sweat turning in a MOTM-worthy performance at both ends of the pitch, and showed the ability to counter when they wanted with quality displays in the midfield and attacking lines from Moralez, Medina, and captain David Villa.
As far as inaugural matches go, LAFC turned in one of the best cameos ever.
LAFC didn’t look like a side that has never played an MLS game nor did they look fazed playing in a hostile atmosphere, against one of the league’s better sides.
All signs before kickoff pointed towards a one-sided scoreline, with the home side, Seattle Sounders, being the favorite to “welcome” the league’s new boys. Enter Diego Rossi.
Rossi, the highly touted Uruguayan, was arguably the best player on the pitch on Sunday. It took him just 11 minutes into the contest to score the first goal in club history, further showing his ability in the attacking third.
Rossi’s goal was enough to see off a pestering Sounders’ squad that visibly lacks an attacking edge given the unfortunate and untimely loss of United States international Jordan Morris to an ACL injury last month. Surprisingly, this one only finished one to nil, as both sides could have scored many more.
Keeping LAFC out of the No. 1 spot is their troublesome backline.
While the front four of Rossi, Carlos Vela, Latif Blessing, and Marco Urena looked threatening, the back line was frail, and threatened to break throughout the contest. Were it not for heroic performances from goalkeeper Tyler Miller and center back Laurent Ciman, this game likely would not have ended in LA’s favor.
If anyone had predicted this result before the match, they would have most likely been labeled a liar. However, after watching the match myself, there are few who could say the result was not a fair and deserved one for visiting Columbus.
Away from home, Columbus Crew blanked current champions Toronto FC two to nil. Columbus showed they are here to play this season.
One nil up, just before the break, Columbus bagged another to separate themselves from the Reds, which proved enough in the end to see off the champions at BMO Field.
Columbus looked solid on both sides of the ball, with its defense proving strong against a quality attacking side and the Crew’s attacking force, which also looked dangerous. The Crew got the goals they are hoping for this season out of USMT forward Gyasi Zardes. Zardes took his debut for Columbus in stride.
Given the caliber of opponent they played, and the performance which they turned in, don’t be surprised if Columbus remain high in my Power Rankings in the weeks to come.
- LA Galaxy
On the other side of the Zardes trade were the LA Galaxy, who were able to see off Portland Timbers 2-1 in the final match of Opening Week.
In return for Zardes, LA got a proven goal scorer in Norwegian international Ola Kamara, and this move has already seemed to serve the club well. Kamara opened his account for the season on Sunday, but it was French winger Romain Alessandrini’s goal that proved the difference in the match.
Already, the Galaxy look improved from last year, but a narrow win against a Timbers side that struggled for consistency throughout last season could raise some doubts as to just how better off LA are. That said, it is hard to bet against a side that has been so dominant in the last decade.
- Vancouver Whitecaps
Vancouver Whitecaps look a quality side this year, and given their first week performance against a well-coached Montreal Impact team, this could be the year that the ‘Caps break their status as that “other club” in Cascadia.
Vancouver started the year off on the right footing, bagging a 2-1 win over their cross-country rivals. While the performance was by no means flawless or even comfortable, a victory in a rivalry game is always an impressive result. While the victory came against an Impact side likely destined for another mid-conference finish, Vancouver thoroughly showed themselves to be a better side than their Canadian counterparts.
- Seattle Sounders
Sounders in the Top-10? Yes. Here’s why: this result could have — should have — been a hard fought, 2-2 draw at the very least.
Seattle played like a team deserving a point, especially in the second half when they peppered former Sounder Tyler Miller and the LAFC goal. Brian Schmetzer proved why he retained his job as head coach, after taking over as interim manager last July. Schmetzer made two positive second half substitutions, which shifted the momentum and nearly earned the Rave and Green a point.
Seattle out shot LAFC 22 to 5 and had a goal disallowed for offsides. That said, at times, Seattle lacked creativity in the final third, and they were clearly impacted by the slew of injuries they’ve faced recently, most notably the potentially season-ending one to Jordan Morris.
If anything, this result speaks not to the lack of quality from Seattle, but the masterclass performance from LAFC. Expect Seattle to remain a Top-10 team, especially when they return to full health.
- Philadelphia Union
A two to nil win against the New England Revolution looks “eh” on paper from a neutral standpoint. But Philadelphia fans will certainly be happy with how Jim Curtin’s side, up two men at home, took care of business, dominated possession, and outshot their opponents 21 to 8.
CJ Sapong was able to get on the scoresheet once again, and the club has yet to lose when he does. Andre Blake was forced into just three relatively easy saves, by his standards. Perhaps most impressive was how the “kids” played.
18-year-old Anthony Fontana scored his first goal of the campaign and first of his MLS career, which is only just beginning. Joining Fontana in recording a memorable and impressive debut was Auston Trusty, 19, who was more than admirable at the back and helped to record a shut-out.
So what gives? Why are the Union ranked at number eight, on a Philadelphia site nonetheless? Simple: the Revolution were utterly horrendous.
First-year manager Brad Friedel’s side were shown two red cards in a display of football that can best be described as hapless, which they were at both ends of the pitch. New England hardly looked fit to challenge a group of Sunday leaguers, let alone a mid-conference MLS side.
So, as good as the Union were, I need to see them replicate more performances of this kind, against a football club that is able to keep 11 men on the field for more than 24 minutes.
Editor’s Note: Noah Barnes is a native of Massachusetts.
- FC Dallas
It can be argued that FC Dallas were fortunate to salvage a draw in their home encounter with Western Conference rival Real Salt Lake. Dallas were certainly unlucky not to have scored at least three goals before the Marcelo Silva own goal, which saw them draw level late on.
Dallas utterly dominated the game, and were it not for a lapse of concentration in the 25th minute, the home side would probably have come away with three points and a win.
FCD out shot and out possessed RSL, and while the result might not be flattering at the end of the day, their performance certainly ranks among the best this weekend.
Sometimes the better club just doesn’t win.
- San Jose Earthquakes
San Jose were 10 minutes away from being ranked in the 4th or 5th range of this week’s Top-10. Instead, they find themselves rounding out the bottom, after conceding two late goals to a considerably weaker Minnesota United side, en route to a 3-2 victory.
While the Quakes looked superb going forward, especially the Dutchman Danny Hoesen, defensive frailties nearly cost them three points. If San Jose want to “shake” up the West this season they need to tighten up at the back, especially in games against unproven opposition like MNUFC.
Conceding twice, at home and against a much weaker opponent, brings into question their cohesiveness in the back and their ability to close out matches.
Check back next Monday to see who’s up, who’s down, and of course, who’s In Form. In the meantime, let me know what you think of my Top-10 on Twitter. Cheers.