Week 16 rankings: Season resumes
The return of MLS play after a two-week break for the World Cup brought with it the type of uneven play one would expect.
Still, a few teams managed to hit the ground running in their first game back, and the amount of rest provided by the break should help clubs navigate the rough summer better than in most seasons. The week brought amazing goals, a handful of surprise wins and the requisite shake-up of the ESPN FC Power Rankings.
1. Seattle Sounders
Post-World Cup break, still without Clint Dempsey and DeAndre Yedlin and missing Obafemi Martins, the Sounders collected three points on the road in D.C. in a 1-0 win. There's still a long way to go, but it's beginning to feel like the Sounders have enough to at least finish out a Supporters' Shield-winning campaign.
2. Colorado Rapids
After the Sounders, the West is awash with middling teams doing just enough to get by and remain in the playoff hunt. The Rapids are one of those teams, but with no one in the East playing convincing soccer, and by virtue of Colorado's 2-0 win over Vancouver on Friday night, they jump into the No. 2 spot. Dillon Powers is developing into one of the league's best midfielders.
3. Vancouver Whitecaps
A fall to the third spot is the Whitecaps' penalty for losing in Colorado on the back of a draw with Montreal in midweek. The loss was Vancouver's first since May 7, a run that lifted them into a playoff position in the West. Carl Robinson & Co. have to guard against the loss becoming a streak, with the margin for error in the conference so razor thin. Getting Steven Beitashour back in lineup after his World Cup sojourn will help.
4. New England Revolution
With the 3-1 loss to Philadelphia, the Revolution have now followed a five-game winning streak with a three-game losing streak. The quality is there for New England to be a true threat for MLS Cup, but a lack of consistency is troubling this deep into the season. Maybe it was rust, but if Jay Heaps' team is going to meet its potential, the Revs will have to even out their form.
5. Toronto FC
On the verge of three points on the road in New Jersey, TFC conceded a needless late equalizer to Bradley Wright-Phillips and the Red Bulls in a 2-2 draw. Toronto will surely feel like it was a missed chance, but in a race as tight as this, every point on the road is a positive. Beyond the result, TFC is playing good soccer and doing it without Michael Bradley. Gilberto's goal, his first in MLS, scored from a fantastic free kick, was big for Ryan Nelsen's side.
6. Sporting Kansas City
Dumped out of the U.S. Open Cup at home by the Timbers in midweek, Sporting turned the result around with a 1-0 win in Portland. Crucially, the game played out in exactly the way Sporting hopes their clashes with dangerous attacking teams always will -- using their physical play and aggressive pressure to unsettle the Timbers. Peter Vermes' team withstood a late push by Portland and held on for a win.
7. Real Salt Lake
Losing 1-0 to Chivas USA, home or away, is never a good look for a team with designs on another MLS Cup final appearance. RSL is still dealing with the absences of Nick Rimando in goal and Kyle Beckerman in the midfield as the pair remains at the World Cup past their earlier possible return date. Despite their depth, those absences and a rash of injuries are making life difficult.
8. L.A. Galaxy
The Galaxy are still an unfinished product. A 1-0 win against San Jose in front of a big crowd at Stanford Stadium revealed as much. Still, there were positive signs of progress for L.A., including the contributions of Gyasi Zardes on the attacking end and the resolute defending of Tommy Meyer in place of Omar Gonzalez.
9. D.C. United
United's loss to the Sounders, as competitive as it was, showed how reliant they've become on Fabian Espindola to create chances and score crucial goals. With the Argentine out of the lineup for another month with a knee injury, Ben Olsen needs greater contributions from the rest of the side's attacking group. Eddie Johnson in particular will be asked to carry the scoring load. In 13 starts, he has just one goal.
10. New York Red Bulls
The Red Bulls need Tim Cahill to lead and contribute. On Friday night, fresh off his World Cup experience with Australia, he did just that by entering as a substitute and setting up Bradley Wright-Phillips with a flick-on header in added time. The moment was classic Cahill, not just because he assisted on the goal, but because he did it fresh from Brazil when his team needed it most.
11. San Jose Earthquakes
Missing four starters, the task for the Quakes against L.A. on Saturday was just too much to overcome. The Goonie magic never showed up, which may mean that it requires the presence of Chris Wondolowski to work. Whatever the case, San Jose is not nearly as dangerous without winger Shea Salinas in the lineup.
12. Portland Timbers
Even when the Timbers play well, create chances and manage to play passable defense, they can't seem to grab the results they'll need to climb up the Western Conference standings. Against Sporting on Saturday, the Timbers did all of those things, but still fell 1-0 on a first-half goal from Lawrence Olum. A late-game push for an equalizer came up short.
13. Columbus Crew
The resumption of MLS hostilities had to wait a day for the Crew. Lightning strikes postponed a Saturday match against FC Dallas until Sunday. The game ended in a goalless draw and a point for each team, but the thoughts of the Crew organization are surely with the fan struck by lightning during the weather system that impacted the scheduled match the day before.
14. Chicago Fire
The idle Fire get back to MLS business on Wednesday against Toronto FC. They'll have the home-field advantage, and will be facing a team without Michael Bradley fresh off an intense Friday match in New Jersey. Any revival of their disappointing season needs to start now.
15. Philadelphia Union
The win against New England pushes the Union up the rankings a few places. Always talented enough to be better than they've showed, Philadelphia gets a chance to ride a bump of new enthusiasm that comes after John Hackworth's dismissal and the installation of Jim Curtin as interim head coach.
16. Montreal Impact
The Impact returned to MLS action with a 0-0 draw against the Whitecaps on Wednesday, then crushed the Dynamo 3-0 on Sunday night. Jack McInerney's insane over-the-shoulder flick for Montreal's second goal signaled the young striker's growing confidence. Playing with Marco Di Vaio is paying off.
17. Chivas USA
A win over the second-place team in the West, no matter their current issues, earns you a move up the rankings. Chivas USA might not be much more than Erick Torres and 10 other players, but it should be obvious to the rest of the league at this point that Torres is a star worth watching. With his winner against RSL, Torres became the highest-scoring Mexican goal scorer in MLS history at 21 years old.
18. FC Dallas
Miraculously, FC Dallas still sits in a playoff position in the Western Conference despite just one win in its past 11 matches. Sunday's rescheduled match against the Crew in Columbus did nothing to ease fears that the slide down the table will be a precipitous one.
19. Houston Dynamo
After losing to Montreal 3-0 in Quebec on Sunday night, the Dynamo are now in the midst of a five-game losing streak made all the more painful by the fact Dom Kinnear's side hasn't scored a goal in that span. The Dynamo desperately need Brad Davis back from World Cup duty, though it's unlikely his influence can right a ship taking on so much water.