Tuesday, April 5, 2011

MLS Power Rankings Week 3: April 5, 2011

Everyone loves a power ranking in the USA, so I thought I'd get in on the act. Now that three weeks of MLS action has been played I feel it is a good time to make a few judgements on MLS clubs.

1. Colorado Rapids
The Rapids have had little trouble in their first three fixtures, and are using last season's MLS Cup victory as a springboard for this season; much like RSL did in '09. Colorado is doing it as a team and have had five different players on the score sheet in their three matches. Unlike many MLS Cup winners, they have strenghtened the team in key areas. They've signed striker Caleb Folan (who scored two in Week 3), they've brought back Danny Earls as defensive cover and also signed Sanna Nyassi. This team is much better than last season, which cannot be said for their cup final opponent FC Dallas.

2.Real Salt Lake
Salt Lake sit on six points from two matches and in their last MLS match humiliated LA Galaxy. They have an excellent starting 11, and have added depth to key areas with the signing of Conor Chinn. RSL should advance to the CONCACAF Champions League Final this week as they attempt to prove they are the best team in North and Central America. Fatigue shouldn't be a factor for this club. Yes, they've played extra matches in the CL competition, but they are good enough not to let it affect them. Much like Colorado they work as a team, though they have Alvaro Saborio as a DP, this team works for each other.

3. New York Red Bulls
New York is still undefeated in this early part of the season and looked better this past weekend against Houston than the previous week in Columbus. As long as this team has it's key centreback pairing of Tim Ream and Rafa Marquez it should be hard to beat. However, Bouna Coundoul is a liability and was at fault for Houston's goal on Saturday night. Dwayne De Rosario should fit in well. He had a fantastic through ball to Dane Richards to set up the Red Bulls only goal. Richards has become a fantastic talent since the arrival of Hans Backe.

4. LA Galaxy
LA handled Philadelphia quite easily in week 3 with a lone goal from Leonardo. Nothing special from LA in truth. They simply looked like the better team. With Landon Donovan back they should be able to handle most MLS teams, but may struggle against the top of the league. Their old legs don't help and need a youthful injection. Donovan is no spring-chicken anymore either.

5. New England Revolution
I wasn't expecting much from this team this season. Yes, they did get some fortunate calls against DC United in week 2, but they have played some good football. Throughout Saturday's match they looked evenly matched with Portland. Their defence looks solid only giving up three goals this season, however, they gave Portland too much room in the attacking third. At times Kenny Cooper was able to run freely through the middle of the defence. Steve Nicol will need to shore this up prior to week 4's match in Vancouver. The Whitecaps wide open attack could cause the Revs some problems. If the defence can get shored up and some more attacking talent is added this team could get back to old habits this season.

6. Chicago Fire
A pleasant surprise thus far in Chicago. This team can attack and after switching to a 4-4-2 (from 3-5-2) look like they can go toe to toe with anyone. They seem to have ditched the defensive mentality they showed for so many years under Denis Hamlett and the lot. They look more free flowing giving Marco Pappa the chance to run the midfield. Chicago also got rid of the old boys on the team this past season and the turnover has helped thus far. They just need to cut out the mistakes, like Gonzalo Seagres' 30-yard back pass to no one that Teal Bunbury picked off and scored in week 2.

7. San Jose Earthquakes
I've been surprised thus far with San Jose's play. They've played some good football, and Chris Wondolowski looks like the real deal and not the flash in the pan I thought. He has two goals, but more importantly his run and touch have been outstanding. They moved the ball well against Seattle last week and at times looked like the better team. Their finishing has been the achilles heel in home matches this season.

8. Philadelphia Union
Sorry Union, but I think you have been punching above your weight this season. Only two goals scored and one was by defender Danny Califf on a goal mouth scramble following a corner. The attackers haven't gelled yet and were completely out played by LA over the weekend. Week 1 and 2 were easier for the Union who will now face New York, Seattle and Salt Lake in the next three matches. We'll see if the Union are truly good enough then.

9. Vancouver Whitecaps
Maybe the most exciting team so far this season. An unbelievable, unprobable come back against Sporting KC capped by two goals in second half stoppage-time. They have two of the best midfielders in the league in Davide Chiumento and Terry Dunfield; and even without DP Eric Hasseli are scoring goals. If Hasseli can stay on the pitch and not be suspended Vancouver will be one of the hardest teams to beat all season.

10. Sporting KC
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Great attack and awful defence. This team again upgraded the attack in the off season and again neglected the defence. The powers that be seem to think they'll outscore every team. Sporting is lucky to have four points out of nine. If it weren't for goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen Sporting would have surely lost this past weekend against Vancouver. They've given up eight goals in three matches, however, they have scored eight. They play exciting football, but if they aren't winning come June I don't expect their new stadium to fill up every weekend.

11. Seattle Sounders FC
Against San Jose, Seattle looked the best they have all year. I credit that to the injuried Fredy Montero. For the first time O'Brian White came into the match, and registered a goal. Is it just me or does he look unfit? Without Montero Seattle played more as a team and wasn't relying on one player throughout. Perhaps, it is time to move Montero on and stop depending so much on one player. Yes, when he is on he is on, but Montero has been incredibly wasteful this season as he drifts in and out of matches. Not to mention his selfish play. I think it's time for Seattle to make a difficult decision in moving Montero to strengthen the rest of the team. They have the best midfield in the league, and Saturday's match against San Jose was an example of what Steve Zakuani can do down the left. Zakuani's final ball following his blazing runs was there. I'm a big fan of Mauro Rosales and Erik Friberg and both were outstanding.

12. Toronto FC
One moment of bad marking and TFC paid the price in week 3. Though Chivas USA did have numerous opportunities to stregthen the lead their inability to finish chances kept TFC in the game. Despite trading Dwayne De Rosarion TFC is in good condition getting two quality players in Tony Tchani and Danleigh Borman. Alan Gordan's goal showed that TFC doesn't need DeRo to score every time, however, no one should miss a header when they're marked that freely.

13. Columbus Crew
Eddie Gaven is the most underrated played in all of MLS. Finally, he was allowed to play centerally against FC Dallas and he controlled the match. The Crew were gifted a penalty from what looked like a good challenge followed by the attacker and defender running into each other after the ball had been cleared. But the Crew were the better team throughout and capped it off with a fantastic Gaven strike from 20-yards. If I was an MLS club looking for an experienced midfielder then Gaven is my man. Still only 25-years old with eight years professional experience.

14. DC United
Week 1's result flattered DC United. They're not that good. Columbus's defence was just that bad in week 1. However, DC was rather unlucky in week 2 followed by a humilating defeat in a cold snowy Colorado this past weekend. DC again was unlucky as the Rapids' Conor Casey should have been sent off in the first 15-minutes. This team was missing several key players to injury and USMNT U20 matches. They are still putting the pieces together and I am still not convinced by Ben Olsen leading this team.

15. Houston Dynamo
The Dynamo have played relatively well so far this season. But where will the goals come from? Cameron Weaver had a classy goal against New York, but Bouna Coundoul should have done better. They've been strong at the back, and goalkeeper Tally Hall could be the next big thing in US goalkeeping.

16. Portland Timbers
The Timbers looked quite good against New England in week 3. Kenny Cooper came into the game well and did a fantastic job of running at defenders. Captain Jack Jewsbury showed why the Timbers traded for him with a classy goal to draw the match level. This team still needs better quality throughout the team, however. And sorry, but I'm not convinced by Rodney Wallace as professional footballer.

17. Chivas USA
Surprisingly they weren't the worst team in the league this week, but close. A much better all around display, but that's not hard when you are the worst team in the league. Justin Braun continues to show why I think he is overrated, awful and not cut out to be a top-flight football player. Braun had atleast four clear chances to put the game away against TFC, but each time missed and missed badly. I can't believe some MLS pundits believe Braun should be on the USMNT and is one of the best (young) players in the league. I just don't get it. By the way, Braun was at fault for the TFC goal, too. He was the one marking Alan Gordan, if you call marking standing four yards away and allowing a free header from one of the shorter players on the field to be marking.

18. FC Dallas
How the mighty have fallen. I keep saying that FCD didn't replace the players that left in the off-season, and yet again it shows. They were unlucky in the awarding of a penalty to Columbus. But the midfield allowed Eddie Gaven to run the show on the night. David Ferriera has looked like a shell of last season's form. There's no goal scorers as they've only scored once in three games. That came back in week 1 on a Milton Rodriguez wonder goal. Also, someone needs to tell Schellas Hyndman that Brek Shea is not a central defender. He has been terrible in the position. I know you can't expect him to completely learn a new position in the off-season. But maybe you should put him there gradually, give him some reserve matches there. He's too weak to play as a centreback anyway. He is slightly more affective as a wide midfielder. I actually think being 6' 3'' he should be deployed as a target man up front. His size should allow him to not only be a good header of the ball, but able to hold the ball up. FCD should have done the same as Colorado in the off-season and added quality to the squad, not get rid of it.

Team of the week: Vancouver Whitecaps for their come back from 3-0 in 20 minutes.
Player of the week: Caleb Folan 2 goals for Colorado and an honourable mention for Vancouver's Camilo for his 2 goals in second half stoppage time and Eddie Gaven for his 1 goal and play against FCD.

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