Sunday, July 27, 2014

MLS rankings: The league is an Eastern Conference sandwich (5 items)

By Herb Scribner and Aaron Morton

April 30, 2014

After eight rounds of play in Major League Soccer, we have learned that the league is an Eastern Conference sandwich. With four Western teams at the top and three at the bottom, MLS is now made up of the High and Low conferences and the Conference of Mediocrity. This week we are grouping the teams in tiers, starting off with the Supporters' Shield contenders.

1 of 5. Supporters' Shield contenders

1. Seattle
No team in the league is playing better than the Sounders, who earned 10 points out of 12 in the month of April, and no person is playing better than Clint Dempsey, who scored seven goals in the last four games.

2. RSL
Losses on the season: zero. Ties that felt like a loss: three.

3. Dallas
Soccer is a team sport, but Saturday's game/debacle at DC United shows how much impact one player can have. With the Hoops up 1-0 in the 39th minute, Zach Loyd received his second yellow card and turned the game on its head. Fabian Espindola, who looked like the 2011 Espindola, started off and finished the 4-1 rout.

4. Vancouver Whitecaps
We're not sure the Whitecaps are genuine Supporters' Shield, but they are good enough to play with everyone, as Saturday can attest. So watch out come MLS Cup playoff time.

2 of 5. Mid-table teams with potential

5. Columbus Crew
There's not much going for the Crew this week, tying Red Bull New York. Jairo Arrieta’s been on a tear, scoring once again.

6. Colorado Rapids
After suffering a smackdown at the hands of the Sounders, head coach Pablo Mastroeni says breakdowns in the Rapids' attack is to blame.

7. Sporting KC
What an embarrassing loss for Sporting KC. New England may have some decent talent, but SKC just can’t seem to get things going.

8. New England Revolution
Solid work from the Revs, getting the 2-0 win over the MLS Cup champions. New England’s stadium situation may be horrid, but at least the team is getting results.

9. DC United
DC put on a clinic this past weekend with a 4-1 score. RSL’s former scoring specialist Fabian Espindola notched a pair. Eddie Johnson? Not so much.

10. Toronto FC
Toronto didn’t play this week, which is great news for its injured stars. Better hope those legs heal up, or TFC might fall back into irrelevancy.

11. Red Bull New York
New York started the season very slow, but the Red Bull seem to be back to their winning ways. A 4-1 win during the week and a draw on the weekend.

3 of 5. Mid-table teams we're still waiting to make the leap

12. Montreal Impact
With the 1-0 win over Philadelphia, the Impact seem to be showing they got the better end of the teams’ recent trade of star strikers.

13. Philadelphia Union
Tough loss for Philadelphia, dropping points to the Montreal Impact, who they traded their former star striker Jack McInerney to. The irony.

14. L.A. Galaxy
Do they still play in Major League Soccer? While most of the league has played eight games, L.A. has played just five games — against just three different teams (RSL and Vancouver twice each)!

4 of 5. The foot of the table

15. Chicago Fire
The Fire didn’t play this past weekend, but let’s assume they got a draw.

16. Houston Dynamo
Houston lost 4-1 midweek to New York, and then tied Portland 1-1 at the end of the week. Not sure if that says more about Houston or Portland.

17. San Jose Earthquakes
The 'Quakes are still a mystery to us. Against RSL on March 15: three goals. In the five MLS games since? three goals.

18. Chivas USA
After a bright start, this lame-duck (or lame-goat?) Chivas team earned just one point in four April games.

19. Portland Timbers
Remember that one season when the Timbers were good? Well, good against everybody but RSL.

5 of 5. Team Twenty

This week's Team Twenty is New York City FC. The club had a busy April, announcing that it will play its first three seasons in Yankee Stadium and that Mariano Rivera is the team's first-season ticket holder. Can that guy get any cooler. Check out the photo of him standing next to Tab Ramos and Jason Kreis.

The team could be close to signing its first player, and it is rumored that it is targeting Mix Diskerud. The problem is where to play him. The solution: send him to Australia as a "guest player."