A goal filled weekend left us scratching our heads about whom to crown top of the league in week 5. It’s a very illustrious title, so we didn’t want to jump the gun. Here is how we see the league stacking up after five weeks of action.
1. Real Salt Lake (Last Week: 3, Draw 0-0 at SKC, Next: at PHI)
- Patrick: Going to KC and getting dominated but stealing a point was a sign of a champion. When you’re a really good team you’ll have nights where you get outplayed but still get a point (and sometimes three, if you’re really lucky). RSL held strong, even without hero Nick Rimando or stalwarts Tony Beltran and Chris Wingert. A huge point for the Salt Lake side.
- Jake: Agree entirely with what Patrick said. Great teams gut out results. They find ways to get points even when they are playing far below their potential. We all know that the team that played against Sporting this weekend is capable of more than what they showed. Let’s see it going forward.
2. FC Dallas (Last Week: 6, Won 4-1 at HOU, Next: vs SEA)
- Patrick: What separates Dallas from RSL is simply strength of schedule. RSL has played three of the top five teams (with only four being possible, given they are one) while Dallas has played only one of those teams while also playing some of the worst. Their win in Houston made me buy into them more (hence the jump) but not enough to convince me that their hot start won’t fizzle out later in the season. Time will tell. Seattle this week at home should be an interesting game.
- Jake: Did the red card help them out a ton in this one? Yes. Let’s not forget how good this team has been to start the season just because of that, though. The reality is they started strong last year and then puttered dismally through the summer. If they can keep these results going they’ll have a hell of a season, but they also need to play some heavy hitters to earn that number 1 spot.
3. Sporting KC (Last Week: 2, Draw 0-0 v RSL, Next: Bye)
- Patrick: Dropping points at home in this league is a big no-no for top teams. They outplayed RSL but had nothing to show for it. They are a very good side, though, so dropping a couple points shouldn’t be much of a worry. Dom Dwyer needs to stop tweeting, though. That is for sure.
- Jake: This is a very good team, do not doubt it. I still worry about their ability to score goals in the run of play against just about anyone with a decent back line, but on set pieces we know they can score. Rule number 1 with KC: Don’t give them deep throw ins. I’m interested in seeing these guys play TFC and the Crew 3 times each this year and where those results end up.
4. Toronto FC (Last Week: 8, Won 2-0 at CLB, Next: v COL)
- Patrick: What a rebound! After getting run out of the building in Salt Lake, they went into Columbus and ran the show. It goes to show just how important their wing players are to the system. This team is going to really struggle with just one or two absences/injuries, but when full strength they can be a top team. Playoffs? I’m not seeing how they couldn’t. Oh, that’s right, they’re TFC…
- Jake: The first half of the Mexico game showed just how dominant Michael Bradley can be, which is damn good. This team is going to take time to really get clicking. Far too many new pieces to expect them to play to their potential every single game. If they can get it together consistently this team will be very dangerous. Odds of that happening are 50/50, maybe even lower than that.
5. LA Galaxy (Lat Week: 7, Won 3-0 “at” CHV, Next v VAN)
- Patrick: They finally played a team not named RSL in MLS play! They played that other team that plays in HDC. If that’s a road game, then I’m Miles Davis. That said, they took care of business. Hard to knock them. Keane and Donovan might have the right piece behind them in Ishizaki. If things start to click, they are easily the most dangerous offense in the league.
- Jake: The last goal in this game was scary good. The movement and one touch passes were great to watch from a team that is normally much more direct. I want to see these guys play a team other than the Goats or RSL (or VAN for that matter) before I really pass judgement on them. Ishizaki is a crazy good pick up for them and could be newcomer of the year if everything pans out.
6. Columbus Crew (Last Week: 1, Lost 0-2 v TFC, Next at SJ)
- Patrick: What was that!? I hype this team up and then that!?I think they’re on the right track and then they lay an egg like that. At home, no less. The good news for them is that it’s just one game. Still, that looked like a big momentum killer. How they respond in San Jose this weekend will be telling of the new management. I think they’re good, but that game against TFC reminded me of last year when they failed to make the playoffs. Just not enough creativity outside their maestro Higuain.
- Jake: LOL at Pat. I’ll be honest, this one shocked me. There’s no way I would have picked this lopsided a result the week before this game. (I didn’t). I think “one dimensional” might describe the performance from the Crew in this one. They need to find a way to get offense other than through Higuain. Without the ball going through him, they are lost.
7. Vancouver Whitecaps (Last week: 4, Lost 1-2 v COL, Next at LAG)
- Patrick: This is exhibit A in why you shouldn’t grab the ball to get a foul. That one moment defined this game. Prior to the second yellow (which was correctly given) they had the game under control. After that, though, it all went out the window. This team has a massive test in LA this weekend. The sinking will likely continue if they can’t find that offensive form from week one.
- Jake: Is there a team that is more bi-polar than Vancouver at this point? Maybe TFC? Away to LA is a big one, and one that LA should win if they keep their current form. Vancouver need to figure out who they want to be as a group.
8. Houston Dynamo (Last week: 5, Lost 1-4 v FCD, Next at NER)
- Patrick: David Horst. Oh David Horst… Why go into the tackle like that? WHY!? Like Vancouver, the game was decided on that one play. Dallas took advantage (and then some) of the stupidity of Horst. The loss this last week was really a big shocker to me. I thought Houston was capable of holding Dallas, especially at home. A rebound this weekend at New England would be big. They need to get the rancid taste of the Texas disaster out of their mouths.
- Jake: I’m on a little bit of a different page than some with regards to the Horst tackle. Dangerous? Yes. Red card? Maybe….. I get that they have to clamp down on even the mere appearance of a tackle that could hurt someone in order to eradicate tackles that are really dangerous from the league, but seeing some of the tackles that others got away with this weekend there’s a part of me that feels like Horst got it a little bit rough. That being said, don’t make the ref make that decision.
9. Colorado Rapids (Last week: 14, Won 2-1 at VAN, Next at TFC)
- Patrick: Jose Mari, welcome to the league. What a cracker of a goal. Yes, both of them. These guys did enough to hang around until Vancouver gifted them the man advantage. From there, well you’ve seen the highlight reel goals. Still, those were the only goals this team hasn’t converted from penalties (directly or from the subsequent miss). Can they generate anything like that in Toronto? I don’t think Michael Bradley will be kind enough to get sent off early.
- Jake: Goal of the Week, no doubt. Colorado are toothless in all reality. They’ve been very lucky with some calls and haven’t really done anything spectacular thus far. Beating VAN is a marquee win, to the extent that VAN are a “better” team. This weekend is huge for them. A result against TFC could get some momentum for them going in the right direction.
10. Philadelphia Union (Last week: 10, Draw 2-2 at CHI, Next vs RSL)
- Patrick: What a bizarre game in Chicago. These guys just can’t seem to figure out how to close a game out. Thanks to the heroics of Zack McMath – it was a hell of a PK double save on Magic Mike – they got a point in Chicago. How they play against top dogs RSL this week will be telling. If they lose the midfield battle to RSL like they have been in previous games, it’ll be a long afternoon.
- Jake: HOW DOES MIKE NOT SCORE THAT!?! My woes with Chicago will be discussed later. Good on Philly for getting a result. Their defense is shaky and seems to provide too many good opportunities to an opponent to really give them shots at wins. Having given up 6 goals in 5 games, it’s not terrible, but it could be a lot better.
11. New York Red Bulls (Last week: 11, Draw 2-2 at MTL, Next at DCU)
- Patrick: This team is its own worst enemy sometimes. A lot of mistakes are being made that just shouldn’t be made on a defending champion team. They did well to get a point given the players out, but still left a lot to be desired. Jonny Steele is having to step up to get this team through this rough stretch. No offense to the former RSL player, but that isn’t who a top team like New York should have to depend on.
- Jake: Oh how the mighty have fallen. I’ve said it every week, their age is showing this year. We all knew it would happen eventually. This week at DC is a trap game if there ever was one. DCU need results, badly, and a desperate team is a dangerous team.
12. Chivas USA (Last week: 9, Lost 0-3 vs LAG, Next at POR)
- Patrick: Just how far can this team sink? For a few games early on they were playing with our emotions, making us think that they could actually compete this year. This game felt like the Chivas of 2013. They were split open way too easily and lacked anything on the offensive end to really scare LA. A trip up to Portland this weekend looks like a chance to drop to the bottom part of the table.
- Jake: SO. BAD. I really thought they had something going this year. Riding the wave from the ownership change and a key acquisition in Mauro Rosales, and now that has fallen flat. Same ol’ Chivas. Portland are by no means a great team right now, but they score goals, and Chivas give up goals in fistfuls, so that should be fun.
13. Seattle Sounders (Last week: 13, Draw 4-4 at POR, Next at FCD)
- Patrick: Hey, Clint Dempsey bagged three goals! Seattle’s defense? Oh, yeah, they gave up four. What a howler of a defensive performance from these guys. Some of the most basic stuff was not only being missed, but done in the completely wrong way. Giveaways in terrible spots and then giving space around the 18? That’s soccer 101 stuff.
- Jake: He’s back!! Or Portland are really terrible on defense. Oh yeah. A 4-4 draw, as great of a spectacle that it was, speaks more to how terrible these two teams are on defense, than how great they are in the attack. Both teams have shown that when faced with a decent back 4 they are less than potent.
14. Portland Timbers (Last week: 16, Draw 4-4 vs SEA, Next v CHV)
- Patrick: Speaking of bad defenses, what happened to this team? It’s baffling to watch film of 2013 Portland Timbers compared to what we’ve seen in 2014. Did they buy too much of their own hype? I liked the involvement of Nagbe and Valeri against Seattle, but let’s be honest, what other team is going to give up that much space to these guys? The Chivas game this weekend should be a good chance to work on fixing some of their glaring issues.
- Jake: Please refer to my comments above RE: Defensive ineptitude. Porterball needs a kick start right now. I’m not sure what it is, I mean, all the pieces are there still. They really have no connection or commitment to the defense at all right now. Similar to many other teams currently, they are good going forward and terrible in their own defensive third.
15: New England Revs (Last week: 12, Lost 0-2 at DCU, Next v HOU)
- Patrick: These guys might have just been fooling us with their improved play at the end of 2013. They look lost. Outside of the win at San Jose, I’ve never really felt like this team was a threat. They’re embarrassingly bad at times defensively and rely too heavily on one or two players up top. The hype for New England is looking to be all bark and no bite.
- Jake: Heaps getting kicked out of the game this weekend may have been the lone highlight from NER during that match. Unless you count some of the horrible tackles made by their defense throughout the match. They lack organization or any semblance of a common purpose anywhere on the field. Their play is disjointed and directionless at most times. Not even sure that there’s enough time to fix that this season, and we’re only 5 weeks in.
16: San Jose Earthquakes (Last week: 17, BYE, Next v CLB)
- Patrick: A week off to recover from the craziness that was CCL was just what the doctor ordered for this team. They needed to rest, find an approach, and then execute. The goonies take on a very talented Columbus side this weekend. Will they be able to get some goals against the Crew with their smash and bash style?
- Jake: Columbus come into this one off a huge loss and will press San Jose to get a win. San Jose will be San Jose. I’m just not sure that they will be able to hold off Columbus for any significant amount of time.
17. Chicago Fire (Last week: 18, Draw 2-2 v PHI, Next at MTL)
- Patrick: After a rather poor showing against Philly, they had a chance to steal all the points and forget the match. In what is becoming kind of habitual fashion, Chicago screwed the pooch late. Magee doesn’t look like the Mike Magee that dominated the league last year. The midfield at Chicago is a big reason why. They just can’t get the ball settled in.
- Jake: Freaking Fire. I really want this team to be good. Call it what you will, but more teams that are competitive in the East is better for not only the league as a whole, but for RSL. Gotta make a penalty kick that will win you the game. Period. There’s a lot of other stuff that’s wrong with Chicago right now, but put that away. I’ll probably say this every week, but they are one midfield piece away from being a really good team.
18. DC United (Last week: 19, Won 2-0 v NER, Next v NYRB)
- Patrick: That’s right! They’re off the bottom! A win against New England isn’t reason to say they’re on their way back to the glory days, but it was definitely a step in the right direction. That said, if Luis Neal had been properly sent off in this one early, this game could have gone very differently. Still, three points are three points. Good job, DC…?
- Jake: A WIN! First one in 16 league games. Hadn’t won since August 3rd of last year. Yeah, that’s oddly impressive. This game was atrocious. Horrible tackles flying in from both sides with several players lucky not to see red. I feel like a result is obtainable against NYRB. Take whatever momentum you have from this win and throw it at a wall, maybe it’ll stick to some points.
19. Montreal Impact (Last week: 15, Draw 2-2 v NYRB, Next v CHI)
- Patrick: Ladies and gentlemen, your new cellar dwellers. Oh, how this team has fallen apart. Marco Di Vaio is still a top notch striker and Felipe is one of the best midfielders in the league, but Montreal leaves a lot to be desired defensively. This isn’t directed just at their defenders, it’s more a team thing. Their shape is awful. The giveaway by Di Vaio, for example, that led to the New York goal was a prime example of how poorly this team shape is. Yes, bad pass, but then the subsequent adjustments made things exponentially worse. This team needs to find a change in tactics or they’re going to get torn
- Jake: I really like this one. A lot. Again, this result speaks to how poor both of the teams are, but almost more to Montreal. I really don’t understand how a team with this much talent can be this bad. Coaching? Chemistry? Fitness? Age? Take your pick, really. The Chicago game will be telling, but to me it’s an opportunity for Chicago to find some form and for Montreal to lose again.