Sporting Kansas City won the big showdown last weekend, beating Real Salt Lake in a battle of conference leaders to improve to 6-0-0 -- just the third Major League Soccer team ever to win its first six -- and vault back into the top spot in the Supporters' Shield standings.
It could be 7-0-0 by the end of the night Wednesday following the first stop on a two-game Pacific Northwest trek.
“Are they the best team in the league?” pondered Vancouver Whitecaps coach Martin Rennie, whose team takes on Sporting at 7 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick). “Kansas City are the form team at the moment. We find out who the best team is in quite a few months.”
That's a pretty decent take on things. This time last year, Real Salt Lake unquestionably was MLS's standard-bearer, perhaps unbeatable, certain to push on to the Supporters' Shield and MLS Cup titles. Then the Lions lost to Monterrey in the CONCACAF Champions League final, confidence dipped, Javier Morales was lost to an ugly tackle, and the Galaxy's defense-first approach started gobbling up points.
Who is this year's Galaxy? Maybe San Jose, which is playing the league's best soccer at the moment and did a nice job schooling New York in a 2-2 draw in last week's other showdown. Or RSL, which is already thinking rematch.
“They do such a tremendous job of battling and fighting, all of the players out there,” RSL coach Jason Kreis said about K.C. “We have to figure out solutions to that. I still think that there’s ways to play against them, rather than just trying to get behind them all the time. So the next time we play them, which I guess isn’t until next year, we’ll have to improve upon that.”
No MLS Cup reunion?
“That’s you guys. That’s all you guys,” RSL captain Kyle Beckerman told reporters. “We didn’t say anything about any MLS Cup.”
MLS Cups are about who's hot in November. In this league, that could be anybody. Like, maybe, the Galaxy? Why not. They took a step forward last weekend against Portland, and although they still have issues to work out, who's gonna count them out?
Here are this week's power rankings:
1. SPORTING KANSAS CITY (6-0-0, 18 points), Last Week: 1
Week 6: Aurelien Collin heads home a CK -- Graham Zusi's league-best sixth assist -- K.C. limits Real Salt Lake to no shots on goal until second-half stoppage, and the big showdown at Livestrong goes to the hosts, 1-0.
Latest: Hamstring strain sidelines holding midfielder Julio Cesar for game in Vancouver. Hope is he can play in Portland on the weekend.
All-time goals leader (MLS regular season): Former Chivas USA head coach Preki, a two-time MLS MVP and scoring champion, fired home 71.
Next: Wednesday at Vancouver, 7 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick); Saturday at Portland, 7:30 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick).
2. REAL SALT LAKE (5-2-0, 15 points), LW: 2
Week 6: Shutout streak reaches 267 minutes before failed mark on a corner kick gives K.C. a 1-0 lead.
Latest: Two defensive errors between Utahns and a perfect record. Up next: streaking San Jose and an away game against Dallas, where RSL has never won.
All-time goals leader: Fabian Espindola's trio this season gives him a share of the top spot, with Robbie Findley, with 29.
Next: Saturday at San Jose, 7:30 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick); Wednesday, April 25, at FC Dallas, 5:30 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick).
3. SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES (4-1-1, 13 points), LW: 4
Week 6: Lawndale's Rafael Baca scores his first MLS goal, Chris Wondolowski nets his seventh this season as Quakes twice rally for 2-2 draw at New York. Should-be PK would have provided all three points.
Latest: San Jose impresses in New Jersey. “I don’t think a lot of teams are going to come here and play like they did in the second half,” Red Bulls star Thierry Henry says. “We didn’t touch the ball, simple as that.” http://www.bigapplesoccer.com/teams/redbulls2.php?article_id=30150
All-time goals leader: Ronald Cerritos' 61 is just 17 ahead of Chris Wondolowski's rising total.
Next: Saturday vs. Real Salt Lake, 7:30 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick).
4. NEW YORK RED BULLS (3-2-1, 10 points), LW: 3
Week 6: Kenny Cooper scores his seventh, but Red Bulls can't hold off superior San Jose in 2-2 draw.
Latest: Thuggish Rafa Marquez tackles Shea Salinas on a corner kick, kicks him in the face, leaves him with a clavicle broken into four pieces. “It was just kind of a weird thing to do,” says Salinas, who has forgiven the Mexican DP “I don’t know Marquez personally. I don’t know what’s in his heart or what goes on in his head. The play itself was not very nice.” http://www.mlssoccer.com/news/article/2012/04/17/earthquakes-salinas-i-forgive-marquez-what-happened No punishment yet from MLS, but a sizable ban looms, bad news for a backline missing Teemu Tainio and Wilman Conde for another month through injury.
All-time goals leader: Chivas USA's Juan Pablo Angel scored 58 in four seasons.
Next: Sunday at D.C. United, 3 p.m. (ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes).
5. SEATTLE SOUNDERS (3-1-1, 10 points), LW: 5
Week 6: Zach Scott's header ends Sounders' 205-minute drought, delivers 1-0 win over Colorado.
Latest: Steve Zakuani says he'll return to MLS action in Monday's Reserve League game at Chivas USA. “I want him back on the field more than anybody,” says Colorado's Brian Mullan, who broke so gruesomely broke the winger's leg and was booed relentlessly by 38,000-plus in his Seattle return. “He's a great player. For that to happen to him on my watch was something that I will never live down.”
All-time goals leader: Fredy Montero has 34 and counting.
Next: Saturday, April 28, at Chicago, 5:30 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick).
6. HOUSTON DYNAMO (2-1-1, 7 points), LW: 6
Week 6: Will Bruin provides the lead in lightning-shortened 1-1 draw at Chicago.
Latest: Brad Davis figures to miss another two to three weeks with strain in his left calf.
All-time goals leader: Brian Ching has 51 since the Earthquakes moved to Texas in 2006.
Next: Saturday at Columbus, 4:30 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick)
7. FC DALLAS (3-2-1, 10 points), LW: 8
Week 6: Blas Perez making MVP noise: scores, assists Brek Shea in 2-1 comeback win over Montreal.
Latest: New U.S. national team home jerseys looks like they came right off the Hoops' backs. http://www.ussoccerstore.com/us00m113112ab.html
All-time goals leader: Real Salt Lake head coach Jason Kreis netted 91.
Next: Saturday at Vancouver, 7 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick); Wednesday, April 25, vs. Real Salt Lake, 5:30 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick).
8. COLORADO RAPIDS (3-3-0, 9 points), LW: 7
Week 6: Rapids shut out in successive weeks, falls at Seattle, 1-0.
Latest: Conor Casey targets weekend game vs. Galaxy for his return from from last year's Achilles' tear. Strep throat might push him back a week.
All-time goals leader: Casey figures to add to his 48 once he's back on the field.
Next: Saturday vs. Galaxy, 6 p.m. (KDOC/Channel 56 and KWHY/Channel 22).
9. D.C. UNITED (2-2-2, 8 points), LW: 9
Week 6: Yorba Linda's Chris Pontius comes off the bench to score late goal as D.C. rallies for 2-1 win at New England.
Latest: Tribute planned for “legendary” fan.
All-time goals leader: Jaime Moreno scored 131 of his 133 while with D.C.
Next: Wednesday vs. Montreal, 4:30 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick); Sunday vs. New York, 3 p.m. (ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes).
10. CHIVAS USA (3-3-0, 9 points), LW: 10
Week 6: Oswaldo Minda's header sends Goats past Toronto FC, 1-0, their third win in as many road games.
Latest: David Junior Lopes' Galaxy debut demonstrates how deep the Goats are at the back.
All-time goals leader: Ante Razov, also the leader in Chicago, set the standard with 30.
Next: Saturday vs. Philadelphia at Home Depot Center (Carson), 7:30 p.m. (Prime Ticket and KWHY/Channel 22).
11. GALAXY (2-3-0, 6 points), LW: 11
Week 6: Landon Donovan scores, assists David Beckham beauty in 3-1 win over Portland.
Latest: Juninho's goal might have been better than Beckham's goal-of-the-week nominee, and his performance, following a tough start to the season, was the biggest plus in a win full of pluses.
All-time goals leader: Donovan's strike vs. Portland was his 84th with L.A.
Next: Saturday at Colorado, 6 p.m. (KDOC/Channel 56 and KWHY/Channel 22).
12. VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (2-1-2, 8 points), LW: 12
Week 6: Idle.
Latest: Omar Salgado, the top pick in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft, is being converted from striker to left winger. “If Omar learns more about the position and his fitness keeps getting better, then he could be really good in that position, because he's quite active ...,” Martin Rennie says. “His attributes seem to be more suited to taking people on and running. At least it gives him a chance to be a bit more free.”
All-time goals leader: Camilo's 13 includes one this year.
Next: Wednesday vs. Sporting Kansas City, 7 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick); Saturday vs. FC Dallas, 7 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick).
13. CHICAGO FIRE (1-1-2, 5 points), LW: 14
Week 6: Logan Pause's equalizer stands in 1-1 draw after lightning storms halt encounter with Houston in the 66th minute.
Latest: Chris Rolfe back with Fire after three years in Denmark.
All-time goals leader: Ante Razov netted 76 in seven seasons.
Next: Saturday at Toronto FC, 12:30 p.m. (NBC Sports Network).
14. NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION (2-4-0, 6 points), LW: 13
Week 6: Jose Moreno's first MLS goal is terrific, but D.C. United rallies for 2-1 victory at Foxboro.
Latest: Lee Nguyen, battling a 100 degree-plus fever, contributes an assist and goal-line save in Revs' loss.
All-time goals leader: Taylor Twellman scored 101 in 174 games.
Next: Saturday, April 28, at New York, 12:30 p.m. (NBC Sports Network).
15. PORTLAND TIMBERS (1-4-1, 4 points), LW: 15
Week 6: Kris Boyd scores again, but Timbers can't hold off Galaxy in 3-1 defeat.
Latest: Portland has conceded leads in three successive losses, surrendering five goals -- including all three winners -- after the 80th minute.
All-time goals leader: Kenny Cooper netted eight in the first MLS season.
Next: Saturday vs. Sporting Kansas City, 7:30 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick).
16. PHILADELPHIA UNION (1-3-1, 4 points), LW: 18
Week 6: Gabriel Gomez converts an iffy penalty kick for Union's first win, a 1-0 decision over Columbus.
Latest: German forward Kai Herding arrives on loan (through June 30, with option to stay longer) from 1899 Hoffenheim.
All-time goals leader: Sebastien Le Toux scored 25 the first two seasons, then was sent to Vancouver.
Next: Saturday vs. Chivas USA at Home Depot Center (Carson), 7:30 p.m. (Prime Ticket and KWHY/Channel 22).
17. COLUMBUS CREW (2-3-0, 6 points), LW: 16
Week 6: Eric Gehrig hand ball was harsh, cost Crew in 1-0 loss at Philadelphia.
Latest: Emilio Renteria should be an MLS superstar, but his hat trick arrived in an MLS Reserve League clash.
All-time goals leader: MLS goals leader Jeff Cunningham netted 64 with the Crew, two more than Brian McBride.
Next: Saturday vs. Houston, 4:30 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick)
18. MONTREAL IMPACT (1-4-1, 4 points), LW: 17
Week 6: Bernardo Corradi supplies the lead on a PK, but FC Dallas scores late for 2-1 victory.
Latest: Corradi's goal comes as tribute to former Udinese teammate Piermario Morosini, who collapsed and died earlier Saturday while playing for Livorno. He celebrated by running to coach Jesse Marsch to tell him “thank you. Thank you for allowing me to score a goal for my friend.”
All-time goals leader: Six guys have one goal in MLS play. Mauro Bielo netted 72 in 344 second-tier games over 16 seasons.
Next: Wednesday at D.C. United, 4:30 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick).
19. TORONTO FC (0-5-0, 0 points), LW: 19
Week 6: Heavy winds give TFC the advantage after halftime, but it's not enough in 1-0 loss to visiting Chivas USA.
Latest: Goalkeeper job appears to be Milos Kocic's, no matter Stefan Frei's condition. Reds were looking to trade Frei before broken leg put him out for six months.
All-time goals leader: Dwayne De Rosario scored 27.
Next: Saturday vs. Chicago, 12:30 p.m. (NBC Sports Network).