Ladies and gentleman, there is a new MLS Cup title favorite, and it isn’t a team we are used to seeing wear the label. That team is the Columbus Crew.
Yes, the Houston Dynamo is playing very well and comes into this season as the two-time defending champion, but no team has been more consistent and more impressive than the Crew, which made an emphatic case to be taken seriously with its 4-0 thrashing of the New England Revolution on Saturday. Yes, Columbus was already on top of the SBI MLS Power Rankings before the dismantling of the Revs, but that result has pushed the Crew to the forefront for all to see.
The game also provided the latest evidence of Guillermo Barros Schelotto’s standing as the front-runner for MLS MVP honors. I’m sure Landon Donovan will get votes based on his goal total and general adoration by some segments of the media, but as great a player as he is there is no doubting that Schelotto has been the central figure on the Crew’s rise to the status of best team in MLS.
Columbus isn’t the only team streaking toward the top. San Jose pushed its unbeaten streak to eight games with a win against D.C. United that pulled te Earthquakes within two points of Chivas USA for the final playoff spot in the West. That’s the same Chivas USA squad basically gifted three points after facing a patchwork TFC team that signed three free agents just to fill out the squad.
Here is how this week’s SBI MLS Power Rankings shook out:
SBI MLS Power Rankings
1 (Last week-1). Columbus Crew (13-6-4)
Last Week: Beat New England, 4-0, on Saturday.
This Week: at Toronto FC on Saturday.
Last Five MLS Games: 4-1
Outlook: Thoroughly dominated the Revolution to put a hammer-lock on first place. Yes, New England was missing players to injury, but the Crew was missing Alejandro Moreno and Frankie Hejduk to national team duty so the win is still extremely impressive. Also, the MVP award is Guillermo Barros Schelotto’s to lose.
2 (3). Houston Dynamo (10-5-8)
Last Week: beat Kansas City, 3-1, on Sunday.
This Week: at San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday.
Last Five MLS Games: 4-1
Outlook: Easily handled the fading Wizards but now the real test awaits, what amounts to a home-and-home series against the hard-charging San Jose Earthquakes, who haven’t lost a game in two months.
3 (4). Chicago Fire (11-7-5)
Last Week: beat New York Red Bulls, 1-0, on Saturday.
This Week: at Colorado Rapids on Sunday.
Last Five MLS Games: 3-2
Outlook: Defense enjoyed a strong night in downing the Red Bulls. Now the Fire most head to Colorado to face a revived Rapids squad coming off a big win.
4 (2). New England Revolution (11-7-5)
Last Week: lost to Columbus, 4-0, on Saturday.
This Week: vs. Chivas USA on Saturday.
Last Five MLS Games: 1-2-2
Outlook: Revs were missing Steve Ralston, Kenny Mansally, Adam Cristman (out for the season) and Gabriel Badilla, but that’s still no excuse for a blowout loss. New England has just one win in its past six league matches.
5 (8). San Jose Earthquakes (7-9-7)
Last Week: beat D.C. United, 2-1, on Saturday.
This Week: vs. Houston on Saturday.
Last Five MLS Games: 4-0-1
Outlook: Can anybody stop the Earthquakes? Since the addition of all the new blood, San Jose has gone eight matches without a loss (4-0-4) and has won four of five. Now comes the real test, facing first-place Houston twice in a row.
6 (5). New York Red Bulls (8-7-8)
Last Week: Lost to Chicago Fire, 1-0, on Saturday.
This Week: vs. Real Salt Lake on Saturday.
Last Five MLS Games: 3-1-1
Outlook: Offense struggled against stingy Fire defense, but chances were still there. Diego Jimenez committed the game-losing blunder, but he also made a clutch goal-line clearance earlier in the match so don’t expect him to become the odd man out in defense based on one mistake.
7 (6). D.C. United (10-11-2)
Last Week: Beat Charleston Battery, 2-1, on Wednesday (U.S. Open Cup Final), lost to San Jose Earthquakes, 2-1, on Saturday.
This Week: vs. FC Dallas on Saturday.
Last Five MLS Games: 2-2-1
Outlook: Won first U.S. Open Cup title in 12 years last Wednesday, but could not overcome absences of Jaime Moreno, Luciano Emilio and Fred in loss to to red-hot San Jose.
8 (7). Real Salt Lake (8-8-7)
Last Week: Tied Los Angeles Galaxy, 2-2, on Saturday.
This Week: at New York Red Bulls on Saturday.
Last Five MLS Games: 2-2-1
Outlook: Managing a draw on the road seems like a decent result for RSL given its road form this year (a league-worst five points earned on the road), but not when you consider LA didn’t have Landon Donovan or David Beckham and boasts one of the league’s worst home marks. Now, in order to hold off hard-charging San Jose in the West, RSL must gain a point at Giants Stadium, where the Red Bulls have lost just once all season.
9 (10). Chivas USA (8-9-6)
Last Week: Beat Toronto FC, 3-1, on Saturday.
This Week: at New England Revolution on Thursday.
Last Five MLS Games: 2-1-2
Outlook: With Ante Razov showing signs of being back to his top form, there is still hope for the Goats to secure a playoff spot. They must knock off a realing New England team on Thursday or else risk being overtaken by San Jose.
10 (12). Los Angeles Galaxy (6-9-7)
Last Week: tied Real Salt Lake, 2-2, on Saturday.
This Week: at Kansas City Wizards on Saturday.
Last Five MLS Games: 0-2-3
Outlook: Winless streak reaches 11 games. Yes, 11 games. Has ridiculous as that stat is, tying Real Salt Lake without Beckham and Donovan after tying New England seems to show that Bruce Arena is doing something to help change things. Is it too late to save this season? Anything less than a win against the Wizards and you can start putting nails in the coffin.
11 (14). Colorado Rapids (7-12-3)
Last Week: Beat FC Dallas, 1-0, on Thursday.
This Week: vs. Chicago Fire on Sunday.
Last Five MLS Games: 2-3
Outlook: Surprising road win against FC Dallas has Rapids feeling optimistic, but Colorado needs another win to keep pass in the chase for a playoff spot. That won’t come easy against a tough Chicago team.
12 (9). FC Dallas (6-9-8)
Last Week: Lost to Colorado Rapids, 1-0, on Thursday.
This Week: at D.C. United on Saturday.
Last Five MLS Games: 1-1-3
Outlook: Winless in four straight, the Hoops have fallen out of the playoff chase and a brutal upcoming schedule threatens to overwhelm FC Dallas before it can mount a comeback. You have to wonder if Kenny Cooper is thinking, "I missed out on a multi-million dollar transfer for this?"
13 (13). Toronto FC (7-10-5)
Last Week: Lost to Chivas USA, 3-1, on Saturday.
This Week: vs. Columbus Crew on Saturday.
Last Five MLS Games: 1-3-1
Outlook: There’s nothing like being in essentially a must-win situation against the league’s best team. That’s what Toronto faces against the Crew on Saturday. Kudos to the one-day signings for trying to keep TFC afloat against Chivas USA, but it was too much to ask such a short-handed team to get any points out of that match.
14 (11). Kansas City Wizards (6-8-8)
Last Week: Lost to Houston Dynamo, 3-1, on Saturday.
This Week: vs. Los Angeles Galaxy on Saturday.
Last Five MLS Games: 1-3-1
Outlook: The Wizards dealt for Herculez Gomez and Abe Thompson last week but it may be too little, too late for a KC season that showed so much promise early on. The most absurd thing this week? The fact that the KC-LA match on Saturday is being played at Arrowhead because of the Beckham Effect. Nobody tell those casual fans that the teams they’re watching are a combined 1-7-5 since the All-Star break.
What do you think of this week’s rankings? Think Columbus is the team to beat, or do you still give the nod to the champs from Houston? Can San Jose keep the hot streak going against the Dynamo? Does LA have anything left? Share your thoughts below.