Wednesday, July 4, 2012
MLS Power Rankings: Midpoint assessment
By Scott French
It's another busy Fourth of July in Major League Soccer history, with five games around the league, including this evening's Galaxy-Philadelphia clash -- with the requisite fireworks to follow -- out at Home Depot Center.
The Galaxy have been home for the Fourth every year of their existence, winning a lot more than they lose. The league's most iconic Independence Day celebration takes place in Denver, where the Colorado Rapids also are home for the 17th time -- and looking to improve on their 11-2-3 record.
This also marks the midpoint, more or less, of the MLS season -- 10 of 19 clubs have played 17 or 18 of 34 matches -- so let's look at how things have gone.
BEST TEAM: The San Jose Earthquakes are atop the Supporters' Shield standings, and that's a decent barometer this time. Their knack for comebacks and late winners could take them far.
BIGGEST SURPRISE: See Best Team.
MOST DISAPPOINTING TEAM: You thought I was going to say the Galaxy? No, it's Toronto FC. The Reds made such huge strides last year, did well to knock out L.A. in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals, then collapsed. It cost Aron Winter his job, but they've looked better under Paul Mariner.
MVP: The best player in MLS has been Thierry Henry, but injuries have limited his time -- and New York's best run took place while he was sidelined. Dwayne De Rosario, last year's winner, is critical for D.C. United, the Eastern Conference leader. Marvin Chavez has been fantastic for San Jose. But our vote goes to Chris Wondolowski, whose importance for the Earthquakes goes beyond his league-best 14 goals.
COACH OF THE YEAR: Frank Yallop is a slam dunk for what San Jose has done.
Here are this week's power rankings:
1. SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES (11-4-3, 36 points), Last Week: 1
Week 17: Chris Wondolowski's 14th competes rally from two-goal deficit to beat the Galaxy, 4-3; Alan Gordon's strike too late in 2-1 loss at Portland.
Latest: Shea Salinas, back from a broken clavicle (thanks to Rafa Marquez), returns to the starting lineup.
American idol: Yorba Linda's gritty Steven Lenhart, the most hated forward (by opposing defenders) in the league.
Next: Saturday at FC Dallas, 6 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick).
2. D.C. UNITED (10-5-3, 33 points), LW: 5
Week 17: Chris Pontius scores his ninth just before halftime, and D.C. cruises to a 3-0 victory over Montreal.
Latest: Long Tan arrives from Vancouver, looking for playing time.
American idol: Has to be Pontius, Yorba Linda's other goal-getter.
Next: Sunday, July 15, at Houston, 6 p.m. (Galavision).
3. NEW YORK RED BULLS (9-4-4, 31 points), LW: 2
Week 17: Jan Gunnar Solli scores at the start, but Red Bulls settle for 1-1 draw at Toronto FC.
Latest: Bulls hopeful Teemu Tainio can return from knee injury. Seems surgery would help.
American idol: We're going with Kenny Cooper, a Texan only because his father -- an English goalkeeper -- was an NASL star way back when.
Next: Sunday at New England, 4 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick).
4. CHICAGO FIRE (8-5-4, 28 points), LW: 8
Week 17: Marco Pappa delivers 1-0 win at Sporting Kansas City; Fire takes a point in scoreless draw at Houston.
Latest: Forward Chris Rolfe, back with the Fire after 2½ years in Denmark.
American idol: Grazzini has five.
Next: Sunday vs. Galaxy, noon (ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes).
5. SPORTING KANSAS CITY (9-5-2, 29 points), LW: 3
Week 17: K.C.'s winless streak is three after 1-0 loss to visiting Chicago.
Latest: Bobby Convey could return from nearly two months of calf troubles on the weekend.
American idol: Rising midfielder Graham Zusi.
Next: Wednesday vs. Montreal, 4 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick); Saturday vs. Houston, 5 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick); Wednesday, July 11, in U.S. Open Cup semifinal at Philadelphia, 4:30 p.m.
6. REAL SALT LAKE (10-6-2, 32 points), LW: 4
Week 17: Utahns drop third in a row in 2-0 loss at Columbus.
Latest: Three straight losses?!? “We put a lot of pride in doing things like not losing three in a row ...,” says Jason Kreis. “It puts us in a position we’re not familiar with, we’re not comfortable with. I still believe in this group. They’ve got to believe in themselves.”
American idol: Montclair's Nick Rimando is our choice.
Next: Wednesday vs. Seattle, 7 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick); Saturday vs. Portland, 6 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick).
7. GALAXY (6-9-2, 20 points), LW: 6
Week 17: David Beckham free kick, Landon Donovan finish provides two-goal lead, but San Jose rallies for 4-3 triumph to end L.A.'s winning streak at three.
Latest: London Olympic organizers still have plans for Beckham. Cauldron-lighter, anyone?
American idol: Landon Donovan. Duh.
Next: Wednesday vs. Philadelphia at Home Depot Center (Carson), 7:30 p.m. (KDOC/Channel 56 and KWHY/Channel 22); Sunday at Chicago, noon (ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes).
8. VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (7-4-5, 26 points), LW: 7
Week 17: Idle.
Latest: New DP Barry Robson could step right into 'Caps lineup.
American idol: They even made a movie about Jay DeMerit.
Next: Wednesday at Colorado, 6:30 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick); Saturday vs. Chivas USA at Home Depot Center, 7:30 p.m. (KDOC/Channel 56 and KWHY/Channel 22); Wednesday, July 11, at Toronto FC, 4 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick).
9. SEATTLE SOUNDERS (7-5-5, 26 points), LW: 9
Week 17: Eddie Johnson scores twice, but Sounders concede in stoppage for 2-2 tie at New England as winless streak hits eight.
Latest: Osvaldo Alonso suspended for Fourth of July showdown with RSL? That's six straight games and eight of 10 some Sounder has been banned.
American idol: Star striker Eddie Johnson.
Next: Wednesday at Real Salt Lake, 7 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick); Saturday vs. Colorado, 8 p.m. (NBC Sports Network); Wednesday, July 11, in U.S. Open Cup semifinal vs. Chivas USA at Tukwila, Wash., 7 p.m.
10. HOUSTON DYNAMO (6-5-6, 24 points), LW: 12
Week 17: Brian Ching's first goal at BBVA is a penalty kick to beat Philadelphia, 2-1; Dynamo stays unbeaten at home with 0-0 draw vs. Chicago.
Latest: Brad Davis tells Ching to take the penalty, and he declines. “He insisted, so I was like, 'OK, that's fine, I'll take it,' ” Ching said. “The good thing is it went in and we got the win.”
American idol: Ching.
Next: Saturday at Sporting Kansas City, 5 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick).
11. COLUMBUS CREW (6-5-4, 22 points), LW: 13
Week 17: Tony Tchani, Eddie Gaven score first-half goals to beat visiting Real Salt Lake, 2-0.
Latest: Somehow the RSL match is played after horrendous storm the day before. “In my whole lifetime, I’ve never been in a storm as bad as [that] one,” said Trinidadian defender Julius James. “I don't want to say I was scared, but I was pretty worried because I had no idea what to expect.”
American idol: Riverside's Chad Marshall, the big man at the back.
Next: Saturday vs. Real Salt Lake, 5 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick).
12. COLORADO RAPIDS (7-8-1, 22 points), LW: 15
Week 17: Conor Casey teams up with Omar Cummings for the first time in nearly a year, scores his first of the season in 3-0 win over Portland.
Latest: Jamie Smith returns from ACL tear with a goal.
American idol: Casey, a Coloradan, of course.
Next: Wednesday vs. Vancouver, 6:30 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick); Saturday at Seattle, 8 p.m. (NBC Sports Network).
13. CHIVAS USA (5-7-4, 19 points), LW: 11
Week 17: Idle.
Latest: Teen midfielder Marvin Iraheta returns to the field -- just running, at this point -- five months after ACL tear.
American idol: Yorba Linda's Dan Kennedy.
Next: Saturday vs. Vancouver at Home Depot Center (Carson), 7:30 p.m. (KDOC/Channel 56 and KWHY/Channel 22); Wednesday, July 11, in U.S. Open Cup semifinal vs. Seattle at Tukwila, Wash., 7 p.m.
14. NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION (5-7-4, 19 points), LW: 14
Week 17: Diego Fagundez's stoppage-time goal gives Revs a 2-2 tie with visiting Seattle.
Latest: Honduran press says star striker Jerry Bengston is heading to the Revs.
American idol: Irvine's Benny Feilhaber, who was born in Brazil.
Next: Sunday vs. New York, 4 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick).
15. PORTLAND TIMBERS (5-7-4, 16 points), LW: 16
Week 17: Timbers fall, 3-0, at Colorado, then topple top side San Jose, 2-1, as Danny Mwanga, Jack Jewsbury tally.
Latest: Mwanga calls his first goal for Timbers “one of the best feelings ever.” He's a hometown boy of sorts, after fleeing his native Congo.
American idol: Gotta be Jewsbury.
Next: Saturday at Real Salt Lake, 6 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick).
16. MONTREAL IMPACT (5-10-3, 18 points), LW: 10
Week 17: Impact nosedive with 3-0 losses at home to Toronto FC, at D.C. United.
Latest: Italian star Alessandro Nesta on the verge of signing, it appears. Impact want to pair him with countryman Marco Di Vaio.
American idol: Davy Arnaud.
Next: Wednesday vs. Toronto FC, 4:30 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick); Saturday at D.C. United, 4:30 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick); Wednesday, July 4, at Sporting Kansas City, 4 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick).
17. PHILADELPHIA UNION (3-9-2, 11 points), LW: 17
Week 17: Keon Daniel's equalizer delays inevitable in 2-1 loss at Houston.
Latest: John Hackworth dumps scouting/player development director Diego Gutierrez and youth technical director Alecko Eskandarian, the former Galaxy/Chivas USA striker. “The bottom line is they are not with the Philadelphia Union anymore,” the coach said. “It was my decision, and I really don’t want to go into the details of it.”
American idol: Ghanaian-born Freddy Adu is the man.
Next: Wednesday vs. Galaxy at Home Depot Center (Carson), 7:30 p.m. (KDOC/Channel 56 and KWHY/Channel 22); Sunday vs. Toronto FC, 1 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick); Wednesday, July 11, in U.S. Open Cup semifinal vs. Sporting Kansas City, 4:30 p.m.
18. TORONTO FC (2-10-3, 9 points), LW: 19
Week 17: MLS Player of the Week Danny Koevermans and Torsten Frings team up for 3-0 win at Montreal, 1-1 draw with New York.
Latest: Joao Plata wants to return to LDU Quito, boycotts training. Looks like he'll get his wish, perhaps by the weekend.
American idol: UC Santa Barbara's Eric Avila has the biggest imprint.
Next: Wednesday at FC Dallas, 6 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick); Sunday at Philadelphia, 1 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick); Wednesday, July 11, vs. Vancouver, 4 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick).
19. FC DALLAS (3-9-5, 14 points), LW: 18
Week 17: Idle.
Latest: 2010 MLS MVP David Ferreira finally could return after 14½ months. Hoops need him badly.
American idol: Palos Verdes' Kevin Hartman, whose next appearance will be his 400th in MLS.
Next: Wednesday vs. Toronto FC, 6 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick); Saturday vs. San Jose, 6 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick).