Aston Villa
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 By Jason Davis

New York Red Bulls cruise into the MLS playoffs atop the Power Rankings

The regular season is over. After 34 rounds and countless surprises, one team stands above the pack and it's a team few would have picked to secure the Supporters' Shield for the second time in three years. That team is the New York Red Bulls, No. 1 again, and No. 1 when it counts. Now for the playoffs.

1. New York Red Bulls (no change)

The Red Bulls didn't allow other results to decide their Supporters' Shield fate -- they went to Chicago and won at Toyota Park, something they'd never done before. It wasn't always comfortable, but finishing strong is just another reason to hail this New York team as the best in club history.

2. Vancouver Whitecaps (no change)

The Caps are young, fast and led by a coach who might one day land in Europe. They finished the year with a 3-0 win over Houston and will have extra rest ahead of a conference semifinal. That makes them contenders, especially if David Ousted gets hot in goal.

3. Columbus Crew (no change)

Columbus dropped five goals on D.C. United in the regular-season finale. Jack McInerney was a force, and Ethan Finlay scored twice. It's a nice boost of confidence for a team with the talent to go all the way.

4. FC Dallas (no change)

They couldn't overtake New York for the Supporters' Shield, but what a year for FC Dallas. The club's commitment to young players, and the hiring of the right coach to lead them, is paying big dividends. Even if this isn't their year in the playoffs, we've witnessed the dawn of a perennial contender.

5. Montreal Impact (no change)

Anything and everything to do with the Impact right now comes down to just one man: Didier Drogba. On the back of two goals scored by Montreal's unstoppable striker in Sunday's 2-1 win, the Impact will host Toronto FC in the first round. A late injury scare for the Ivorian proved to be nothing of concern.

The Red Bulls are playing great soccer and have a real team spirit that will make them hard to beat in the playoffs.

6. Portland Timbers (no change)

Darlington Nagbe is an eminently frustrating player but he's in great form as the Timbers close the regular season. Free to roam in the Portland attacking setup, the newly minted American citizen scored twice in a 4-1 win over Colorado. Was Jurgen Klinsmann watching?

7. New England Revolution (+1)

That's more like it. A comfortable 3-1 win over NYCFC puts New England back on the positive side of things on the eve of the playoffs. The defending Eastern Conference champs haven't made it easy on themselves, but they certainly won't fear a trip to RFK in midweek.

8. Seattle Sounders (+1)

When the Sounders are good, they look like MLS Cup champions-in-waiting. When they're bad, they look like also-rans who will have hard questions to answer this winter. Which team shows up in the playoffs might very well hinge on which Clint Dempsey they get -- the striker's two goals in a 3-1 win over RSL on Sunday are reason to hope he'll be ready come Wednesday

9. LA Galaxy (-2)

The final two weeks of the season could not have gone worse for a team already qualified for the playoffs. LA's loss in Kansas City, combined with other results, means the Galaxy will have to go to Seattle for a midweek playoff match. There are real questions for Bruce Arena, including whether Steven Gerrard is the best choice on short rest and turf.

10. Sporting Kansas City (no change)

In any other year, Benny Feilhaber might be the only choice for MVP. Despite the fact that he's unlikely to win the award, the midfielder's incredible year -- which at times saw him single-handedly lead SKC to several wins -- deserves to be celebrated.

11. Toronto FC (no change)

Sebastian Giovinco's season will go down in MLS history as the best of all time, and rightfully so. The Italian attacker didn't score on Sunday to add to his Golden Boot-winning goal total, but he did tack on an assist, making him the first player in league history to lead MLS in both categories.

12. Orlando City (no change)

The Lions didn't have much of a shot of sneaking into the playoffs, but the performance they delivered in a 1-0 defeat at Philadelphia was extremely disappointing nonetheless. A "good" year by expansions standards still makes for a "bad" year according to their goals.

13. D.C. United (no change)

The worst part of United's loss in Columbus wasn't that they lost -- though that does sting because they miss out on a bye in the playoffs -- it was the way they lost. The defense was a disaster, and there was no right. Can Ben Olsen get his team up in time for a playoff match against New England?

14. San Jose Earthquakes (no change)

The Quakes missed the playoffs, but it was by no means a poor season for Dom Kinnear in his first year back in California.

15. Houston Dynamo (no change)

Houston's season didn't turn on the production of Erick "Cubo" Torres, but it's worth pointing out that the young Mexican striker, who burned up the league with Chivas USA last year, did not score for the Dynamo after arriving this summer.

16. Real Salt Lake (no change)

With the playoffs still a possibility down the stretch, Real Salt Lake lost three of four before closing out with a loss to Seattle in a game that meant nothing. That's not the RSL we've come to know.

17. Philadelphia Union (+1)

Philly beat Orlando 1-0 in their regular-season finale but the big news for the club came Monday morning with the announcement that Earnie Stewart will join as the new technical director. A new era for the Union starts Jan. 1.

18. New York City FC (-1)

New York City FC finished with a disappointing 3-0 loss at home against the Revs, but the real drama begins now. Rumors about Jason Kreis' position and the inevitable turnover of the roster makes this an incredibly interesting offseason in the Bronx.

19. Colorado Rapids (no change)

Philly just hired Earnie Stewart, Chicago has brought in Nelson Rodriguez . . . Will the Rapids do anything to turn around their fortunes? They might be the worst-run organization in MLS at the moment.

20. Chicago Fire (no change)

Chicago made New York sweat over the last 10 minutes but ultimately couldn't play spoiler in the Supporters' Shield race. Now it's back to the drawing board for Nelson Rodriguez, the man tasked with returning the Fire to their former glory.

Jason Davis covers Major League Soccer and the United States national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @davisjsn.


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