The defending MLS Cup champions got their title defense off in dramatic fashion as Real Salt Lake cruised past San Jose in Week 1 of MLS action.
Led by MLS Player of the Week front-runner Javier Morales, Real Salt Lake scored the rare road win, perhaps a sign that last fall's championship has, in fact, changed something about a team that used to dread road games like the plague.
The Columbus Crew got its quest for a third straight Supporters Shield off to a good beginning courtesy of a 2-0 victory against Toronto FC.
The most impressive performance of the weekend went to the Kansas City Wizards, which thrashed D.C. United by four goals to spoil Curt Onalfo's return to CommunityAmerica Ballpark.
The Wizards' comprehensive victory led to Peter Vermes' squad seeing the biggest jump in the SBI MLS Power Rankings. KC figured to need some time to integrate all its new players, but it looks like that transition has already taken place by a Wizards team ready to make a serious run at the playoffs.
Here is how this week's SBI MLS Power Rankings shook out:
SBI MLS POWER RANKINGS (Week 1)
Last Week– Defeated Toronto FC, 2-0, on Saturday.
Next Week– Bye week (at FC Dallas on April 10).
Outlook: Crew dispose of toothless TFC, though the performance wasn't as dominating as it should have been.
2 (2). REAL SALT LAKE (1-0)
Next Week– vs. Houston Dynamo on Thursday.
Outlook: Javier Morales looks possessed. If he can play at a high level all season, RSL can coast to West crown.
3 (4). SEATTLE SOUNDERS (1-0)
Next Week– vs. New York Red Bulls on Saturday.
Outlook: Steve Zakuani looks primed for a big year, but Seattle still can't finish.
4 (3). LOS ANGELES GALAXY (1-0)
Last Week– Beat New England Revolution, 1-0, last Saturday.
Next Week– vs. Chivas USA on Thursday.
Outlook: Three points will do, but Galaxy struggled to impose will on Revs squad missing its heartbeat in Shalrie Joseph.
5 (10). KANSAS CITY WIZARDS (1-0)
Next Week– Bye Week (vs. Colorado on April 10).
Outlook: Wizards took chances well and kept pressure on make-shift D.C. defense. Ryan Smith speed on the flank makes Claudio Lopez a distant memory.
6 (8). COLORADO RAPIDS (1-0)
Last Week– Beat Chivas USA, 1-0, last Friday.
Next Week– vs. Chicago Fire on Saturday.
Outlook: Defense held up against Chivas USA well thanks to Marvell Wynne's emergency contribution at centerback, and Pablo Mastroeni and Jeff Larentowicz were predictably tough to play against, but the attack has to involve more than sending balls to Omar Cummings and praying he can do something.
7 (5). HOUSTON DYNAMO (0-0-1)
Last Week– Tied FC Dallas, 1-1, last Saturday.
Next Week– vs. Real Salt Lake on Thursday.
Outlook: A road point to start the season isn't bad, but the Dynamo are lacking a creative spark.
8 (11). NEW YORK RED BULLS (1-0)
Last Week– Beat Chicago Fire, 1-0, last Saturday.
Next Week– vs. Seattle Sounders on Thursday.
Outlook: Joel Lindpere was New York's best player vs. Chicago, but the back four played a very strong match, a performance that bodes well for a bounce back season for the Red Bulls. That being said, what in the world is New York waiting for to bring back fan favorite Dave Van Den Bergh?
9 (6). CHICAGO FIRE (0-1)
Last Week– Lost to New York Red Bulls, 1-0, last Saturday.
Next Week– at Colorado Rapids on Saturday.
Outlook: Fire played the Red Bulls even on Saturday, with Joel Lindpere's goal providing the only margin, but Chicago must get more creativity and possession from its midfield. Absence of John Thorrington didn't help, but Julio Martinez had no impact. On the bright side, Collins John looks ready to step in and start making an impact.
10 (13). FC DALLAS (0-0-1)
Last Week– Tied Houston Dynamo on Saturday.
Next Week– Bye Week (vs. Columbus Crew on April 10).
Outlook: Dropping points at home to an arch-rival is tough enough, but drawing a paltry 8,016 to the season opener has to set off major alarm bells in MLS headquarters.
11 (9). NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION (0-1)
Last Week– Lost to Los Angeles Galaxy, 1-0, last Saturday.
Next Week– at D.C. United on Saturday.
Outlook: After bleeding talent for years, Revs have been reduced to a team without much beyond Shalrie Joseph in its front six. Without Joseph on Saturday, it's a miracle Los Angeles didn't win by more. That's more a statement of the Galaxy's slow start to the season than New England's preparedness for it.
12 (7). D.C. UNITED (0-1)
Last Week– Lost to Kansas City, 4-0, last Saturday.
Next Week– vs. New England on Saturday.
Outlook: There couldn't have been a more dejected person in MLS than Curt Onalfo, who surely wanted some measure of revenge for being fired by KC, only to go home with an ugly loss. To be fair, only Onalfo has himself to blame for playing Clyde Simms at right back and starting youngster Andy Najar in a tough road game.
13 (12). CHIVAS USA (0-1)
Last Week– Lost to Colorado Rapids, 1-0, last Friday.
Next Week– at Los Angeles Galaxy on Thursday.
Outlook: Remember when Chivas USA was the model for attacking soccer in MLS? Okay, so maybe that has never been the case, but Friday's offensive effort was largely disappointing, particularly in midfield.
14 (14). TORONTO FC (0-1)
Last Week– Lost to Columbus Crew, 2-0, last Saturday.
Next Week– Bye week (at New England Revolution on April 10).
Outlook: Another year, another late arriving crowd of reinforcements. TFC will likely struggle early in the season as new signings arrive, but the team that faced Columbus on Saturday is certainly not good enough to contend for a playoff spot.
15 (15). SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES (0-1)
Last Week– Lost to Real Salt Lake, 3-0, last Saturday.
Next Week– Bye Week (at Chicago Fire on April 10).
Outlook: We told you not to take too much from San Jose's strong pre-season. The Earthquakes still lack presence in central midfield and their attack is still missing a truly dangerous player.
16 (16). PHILADELPHIA UNION (0-1)
Last Week– Lost to Seattle Sounders, 2-0, last Thursday.
Next Week– Bye Week (vs. D.C. United on April 10).
Outlook: Playing its first game at a packed Qwest Field was always going to be tough, but Peter Nowak's men need to take some lessons from what Seattle was able to do, which was frustrate them. A good first 15 minutes was ultimately spoiled, but the Union's young team still has promise, even if it may take a bit longer than expected for that promise to be realized.
What do you think of this week's rankings? Ready to place RSL ahead of Columbus? Think we moved KC up too high, or not high enough? Who would you rank at No. 16?
Share your thoughts below.