Week 3: Power Rankings & Picks Tally

With my urge to make this wrap a total, permanent-floating resource the threat of sprawl is both a real and present danger. You have been warned.

In all seriousness, beyond an effort to make the information contained herein consistent, the only addition I’m making is posting the standings. Knowing that Major League Soccer (MLS) will continually update their standings as the season progresses, I wanted a series of archived roadmaps to show how we got there from here; you’ll find that at the very bottom of the page, after the power rankings. One last caveat and I’ll lay off the editorial business: due to the crappy highlight service from this week, I’m having to operate on strictly second-hand knowledge for a few calls in the power rankings - and some others besides. I can’t say I like this state of affairs, but it is what it is. So take that into consideration as you read what follows.

Let’s begin with my record on calling the games: it currently stands at 8-11 (it builds up from here...and, shit!). As much as I’d like to blame my self-imposed punishment for calling a specific score in the Crew/Revs draw, the reality is I wouldn’t have been over .500 anyway. Thing is, I didn’t know the Rapids hadn’t notched a regular-season win in Dallas since before 9/11 till after the game.

Before turning to the power rankings, let’s look at some interesting talking points from Week 3. In no particular order:

- I’m smashing the games together a bit at this point, but, assuming I remember it correctly (a midfield clip of an opposition player’s foot in the center of the field?) I share Clint Mathis’ apparent puzzlement at getting sent off.

- And what the hell is Red Bull New York doing in first place? What the hell are they doing looking so good in doing it?

- On the other side of the coin, I think Houston is a paper tiger, or something like. Put another way, they’ll have to get their game back on track before I rate them anything close to #1.

- Loath to admit it as I may be, Chicago possesses an ominous kind of solidity.

- Is there a hotter seat in the league than the one on which Real Salt Lake coach John Ellinger now sits precariously?

- OK, all of you - the hype-merchants to the early acolytes - you win: Josmer Altidore does look pretty good. I’m not sold yet, but I’m starting to buy it.

- On the other side of the hype coin, Freddy Adu is overrated. He will remain overrated till he discovers what is plain as day to everyone else: Freddy does, in fact, have a right foot.

- Speaking of players, Dane Richards looks about as exciting as anyone in MLS right now.

Right, moving on now to the power rankings, I’ll note last week’s ranking in parentheses immediately after this week’s ranking...and, yeah, I suspect I’ll fluctuate more than most and, yeah, I can barely justify any of these, but it’s what I’m seeing. And, as with last week, to let visitors to the site know the extent to which I’m working by direct observation, here’s a key: “@” means I watched their most recent performance in its entireity; “$” means I caught it through Quick Kicks, which provides extended highlights; “&” means I watched only the rump highlights available through MLSnet.com. And, finally, if I leave it blank, that means I saw the score, maybe read a match report...but, in general, I prefer banging out these reviews having read as little of others’ thinking as possible.

On with it now, fer reals:

1. (7) Chicago Fire
What can I say? Maybe I read too much into their sleep-inducing performance against the Rapids in Week 2; maybe I’m reading too much into this last game (which I didn’t see, not even in highlights...you bastards). But, as noted above, the Fire just appears solid, like they’ll be simultaneously hard to beat and sufficiently confident on offense to have a good season. Still, I’ve got to make watching a(nother) full game for this team a priority; I’m flying on impression here.

2. (8) Red Bull New York(@)
The only thing keeping Red Bull out of the top spot is, oh, 11 years of league history. Put another way, habit makes it hard for me to place them even this high. But with the way Richards runs at defenses, how confident, smart, and powerful Altidore looked as a lone forward, and how solid Red Bull seemed all over the field, they’re looking like something pretty close to the best team in the league right now.

3. (3) Chivas USA (@)
Even as the quality of the opposition does matter - and you’ll see how I rate Real Salt Lake (RSL) below - Chivas ran over the Utah team like a three-trailer semi. Those four goals could have been six, even seven and, courtesy of a penalty call that didn’t come (on Sacha Kljestan late in the game), it really should have been five. The rout of RSL only served to make the loss to Houston look unluckier. Preki has started really well.

4. (2) Colorado Rapids (&)
Whenever I mention not being able to justify a call on power rankings or previews, the Rapids are usually in the back of my mind. There’s just something I like about this team and it renders me dubious about moving them much based on one result. The fact the players believe they outplayed Dallas this weekend somehow deepens my belief. Another loss, though, and I’ll have to re-think things - especially if they show the same vulnerability on the road from past seasons.

5. (4) New England Revolution (@)
While last Thursday’s game against the Crew tipped ever-so-slightly in the latter’s favor, the reality is that the Revs came within a blown trap of leaving Crew stadium with all three points. Problems off the field and injuries aside, this team seems ready to play for each other. So long as they (OK, Twellman) can keep scoring, New England’s hard enough to beat that they should do fine.

6. (1) Houston Dynamo (@)
Call this one an “accumulation foul.” To this point, Houston has turned in two good halves in MLS regular season games; that’s two out of possible six. They looked, frankly, awful against Red Bull and nothing can excuse that. It may be we’ve discovered the limits to coach Dominic Kinnear’s half-time oratory. Until Dwayne DeRosario gets back on track and Ching can go a full 90, the champs won’t live up to last year.

7. (9) FC Dallas (&)
This was the toughest call of this week; and, again, I can’t explain why I plunked the team FC Dallas beat four spots above them in the table. Put my reticence down to long bitter experience with rating Dallas clubs too highly. Still, count Ramon Nunez’s goal in the run of play my Goal of the Week for Week 3 - and Bouna Coundoul’s spazzy freakout after conceding on the free kick...priceless.

8. (10) Columbus Crew (@)
I’ll say it flat-out: Columbus looks better to me than its record - which, to be fair about it, kinda sucks. Because W’s count for more than T’s, though, the Crew find themselves on the wrong side of this ledger. But Columbus looks better playing the game than they have for the past couple seasons, so call the omens promising.

9. (6) Kansas City Wizards
Two consecutive losses - one in U.S. Open Cup play against RSL and, now, last weekend’s loss to Chicago - raises the question of how much KC owed their impressive opening win to DC ham-footed defense. With Chicago “flying high” (honestly, with them looking like MLS’s answer to the Arsenal teams that earned that club the “boring, boring” label, I can only type that phrase in scare quotes), it’s the loss to RSL that really has me questioning this team’s real-world quality. I couldn’t watch this one, but the score gives the impression that the goal they managed falls firmly in consolation territory.

10. (5) DC United (idle)
I dropped these guys further based as much on KC’s rough week as anything. For all that, they have nowhere to go from here but up. But a win next week against Columbus is the only immediate remedy - and I’m not sure they’ll get it.

11. (11) Los Angeles Galaxy (idle)
More or less ditto from DC’s situation. They’ll move up when they move themselves up; till then, I’m not sure they can score.

12. (13) Toronto FC (idle)
The only team, at least from where I sit, who improved by idling over Week 3. And that’s thanks to....

13. (12) Real Salt Lake (@)
It’s not every day one sees a rout - especially in MLS. But this one was a “rout-plus,” just a thorough, even humiliating, domination by a club that should be roughly an equal. Even at their best in Saturday’s game, RSL never looked much like scoring; they merely looked confused. All in all, RSL’s off to such a shaky start that I expect I’ll be checking MLSnet.com to look for John Ellinger’s jump/push out of the hot seat.

And now, the final piece of the weekly wrap up - well, at least till more comes later today (including my write-up for Write On Sports; I like my feature this time) - the MLS standings after Week 3. This is my first shot at this concept, so forgive the ugliness. And, for complete, current listings, here’s a link to the official standings:

Eastern Conference:
1. Red Bull New York: 7 pts. (2-0-1: 4 GF, 0 GA, +4; home, 2-0-0; away, 0-0-1)
2. Chicago Fire: 7 pts. (2-0-1: 4 GF, 2 GA, +2; home, 2-0-0; away, 0-0-1)
3. New England Revs: 4 pts. (1-1-1: 6 GF, 3 GA, +3; home, 1-0-0; away, 0-1-1)
4. Kansas City Wiz: 3 pts. (1-1-0: 5 GF, 4 GA, +1; home, 0-0-0; away, 1-1-0)
5. Columbus Crew: 3 pts. (0-0-3: 2 GF, 2 GA, 0; home, 0-0-2; away, 0-0-1)
6. DC United: 0 pts. (0-2-0: 3 GF, 6 GA, -3; home, 0-1-0; away, 0-1-0)
7. Toronto FC: 0 pts. (0-2-0: 0 GF, 6 GA, -6; home, 0-0-0; away, 0-2-0)

Western Conference
1. FC Dallas: 7 pts. (2-1-1: 7 GF, 7 GA, 0; home, 1-0-0; away, 1-1-1)
2. Chivas USA: 6 pts. (2-1-0: 6 GF, 1 GA; +5; home, 2-0-0; away, 0-1-0)
3. Houston Dynamo: 4 pts. (1-1-1: 1 GF, 1 GA, 0; home, 1-0-1; away, 0-1-0)
4. Colorado Rapids: 4 pts. (1-1-1: 4 GF, 5 GA, -1; home 1-0-1; away, 0-1-0)
5. Real Salt Lake: 2 pts. (0-1-2: 2 GF, 6 GA, -4; home, 0-0-2; away, 0-1-0)
6. Los Angeles Galaxy: 1 pt. (0-1-1: 1 GF, 2 GA, -1; home, 0-1-0; away, 0-0-1)

Good GAWD! My fingers hurt.

1 comment:

L.B. said...

DC at 10... that's about right. I don't see how anyone could rate them any higher at this point, you know. And I agree, I don't know that they can beat Columbus at this point.