New England Soccer Today

MLS Rankings: Week 24

Every week the contributors to New England Soccer Today will look beyond just the standings to rank the 16 MLS teams. This week Brian O’Connell, Sean Donahue and Julian Cardillo all contributed rankings. Comments are followed by the ranker’s name and the rank the team was given.

1. Real Salt Lake (12-4-8, 44 points) (2 first place votes) – Easily, the class of the table. The club hasn’t lost a league game in nearly two months, and Nick Rimando has been sensational between the pipes. Combine that with the highest goals-per-game average (1.54) and it looks like Salt Lake is priming itself for more postseason glory. (Brian – 1)… The defending MLS Champions are proving last season’s MLS Cup was no fluke. Not only do they lead the league in goals scored, but also have allowed the least goals for an incredible +21 goal differential. (Sean – 1)… Defending the MLS Cup well as they snuck into the Supporters’ Shield race. Have the best defense in the league. (Julian – 2)

2. FC Dallas (10-2-11, 41 points) (1 first place vote) – How can you argue with a team that has been so consisted that they’ve only lost twice this whole season? (Julian – 1)… Amazing record with only 2 losses, but ties such as last week’s 0-0 to San Jose and comparatively low goal scoring with the top two teams just pushes them to third. (Sean – 3) …. The dark horse in Dallas. Kevin Hartman, a goalkeeper nobody wanted prior to the season, has channelled his 1999 self this season, and has only allowed two goals in his last six league matches. Although they just earned draw number 11 against San Jose, the bottom line is this: Dallas aren’t easily defeated. (Brian – 4)

T3. Los Angeles Galaxy (14-5-5, 47 points) – Big victory over Columbus this weekend gives them the edge at #2.  Slumped a little lately, but the return of Beckham only bolsters an already strong squad. (Sean – 2)… Rebounded nicely against Columbus, but will the return of David Beckham help or hurt this club? Edson Buddle has cooled down, while Donovan Ricketts, who has a league-leading 11 clean sheats, has stayed on point all season. Will need to resume their form from last Saturday night to convince us they’re more than first half champs. (Brian – 3)… Were the top dog team in the league at the beginning of the season but have been inconsistent since the end of the World Cup Break. The Edson Buddle-Landon Donovan combination isn’t as lethal as it used to be and they are no longer the top offensive team. (Julian – 4)

T3. Columbus Crew (13-6-5, 44 points) – Incredible stretch of success in Eastern Conference…amazing how they are still doing so well considering the amount of competitions they’re playing in. (Julian – 3)… Although they got shellacked against L.A. Saturday night, Columbus has been far more consistent than their Western Conference counterparts. The key has been none other than Guillermo Barros Schelotto, but Will Hemser has had a season to remember so far, with 10 clean sheets and a 0.96 GAA. (Brian – 2)… Class of the East. Have been strong all season and are still very much in the hunt for the Supporter’s Shield. (Sean – 4)

5. New York Red Bulls (12-8-4, 40 points) – The Red Bulls really overperformed in the first half, but with their headline signings paying dividends, the Red Bulls have charged through the Eastern Conference, having lost only three league matches since June. Witth Thierry Henry, Rafa Marquez, and an emerging Tim Ream in the back, the New York is eyeing the top of the conference. (Brian – 5)… You have to wonder what this team would have done had Henry and Marquez been apart of the entire season. Hans Backe has changed the team from top to bottom…will sorely miss Seth Stammler, however. Lindpere continues to be a force in the middle. (Julian – 5)… With the quality in their squad, they can challenge any of the top four for the championship. (Sean – 5)

6. Colorado Rapids (9-7-7, 34 points) – Had won 2 in a row by 3-0 prior to big loss to New York. Solid form down the stretch. (Sean – 6)… Omar Cummings has been a one-man wrecking crew in the Rocky Mountains, as the Rapids been superb at home, dropping only home match (vs. LA on 5/5). Conor Casey, alongside Cummings, has given plenty of life to attack, but the defending needs to improve in the final two months of season. (Brian – 6)… Losing Medhi Ballouchy could be trouble, but then again the Rapids do have arguably the most powerful strike force in MLS between Casey and Cummings. Adding Jeff Larentowciz this season has proven to be a great move. (Julian 6)

7. San Jose Earthquakes (9-7-6, 33 points)- Slow start to season by have come back to become quite solid. Currently fighting to keep playoff spot but need to get a better +/-  (Julian – 7)… Survived an early-season slump to position themselves well for their first postseason run of their second incarnation. The reason: outstanding defending from Jason Hernandez, Ike Opara, and Brandon McDonald. Add a revitalized Jon Busch behind them, and the Quakes look to shake up the playoffs come November. (Brian – 7)… 3-1-1 in their last 5 games. (Sean – 7)

8. Seattle Sounders (9-9-6, 33 points) – Solid position in the 8th slot and have been finishing the season strong, though their CONCACAF Champions League form has been abysmal. (Sean – 8)… Despite some midseason struggles, it looks like Sigi Schmid’s squad is back to winning football. With the brooding Freddie Ljunberg shipped off to Chicago, Fredy Montero and Steve Zakuani have made this offense their own. By claiming points in seven of their last eight, the Sounders have returned to the postseason conversation. (Brian – 8)… Have not had the best strike force this season. Has also let in more goals than have been scored. Loss of Ljunberg, Injury to Jaqua, and tough schedule have victimized Sounders. (Julian – 8 )

9. Kansas City Wizards (7-9-6, 27 points) – Have playoff hopes and have done well as of late, but skidded too much in early goings. (Julian – 9)… The Wizards have put together a little late-summer run to make things interesting in the East. Claiming points in eight of their last nine will do that. Kei Kamara and Ryan Smith engineering the offense, Kansas City is on verge of crashing the playoffs. (Brian – 9)… Still have a shot at the play-offs, but have been too inconsistent this season (Sean – 9)

10. Chicago Fire (6-8-8, 26 points)- Inconsistency has kept the Fire extinguished for much of the season. Thier backline has been bitten by bad goalkeeping, as Andrew Dystra, the unproven rookie keeper who won the job over Jon Busch to start the season, has given way to another unproven talent in Sean Johnson. (Brian – 10)… Talented squad that should be doing better. Still have a chance at the play-offs (Sean – 10)… Having difficulty making a playoff surge. Adding Ljungberg and Castillo has yet to truly pay off. (Julian – 11)

11. Toronto FC (7-10-7, 28 points)- Things are not well north of the border. With the dismissals of GM Mo Johnston and manager Preki following a six-match winless streak, Toronto’s front office has apparently waved the white flag on this season. It looks like its going to take a lot more goals from Dwayne DeRosario and Chad Barrett to bring this club back up. (Brian – 12)… Firing Preki won’t be enough for this team to make an improbable run for a play-off spot. (Sean – 11)… Maybe a rebuild is what they needed. Added Mista but haven’t seen as much production out of DeRo as before. (Julian – 10)

12. Chivas USA (7-12-4, 25 points)- Have played attractive soccer at times this season, but too inconsistent. (Sean – 12)… Plagued by injury and inconsistency. Fighting hard for playoffs. Justin Braun and Zack Thornton have laid everything on the line. (Julian – 13)… Don’t look now, but it looks like the Goats are finally putting some goals in the back of the net. Unfortunately for Martin Fernandez, the best defense is not a good offense. Chivas has suffered a few lopsided losses as of late, but hope that Justin Braun can finally answer the gaggle of goals they’re prone to concede. (Brian – 13)

T13. New England Revolution (7-13-3, 24 points))- It’s been a rough going for Steve Nicol’s neophytes this season. With a roster full of fresh faces, the new-look Revs have struggled to score, while the defense has leaked alot of goals this season. After a humiliating 2-0 loss to Chivas, the Revs hope to hide until the regular season comes to a halt. (Brian – 14)… Plagued by injury and inconsistency. Tied for worst defense in league with too much miscommunication between defenders and not enough goal scoring. (Julian – 12)… Offense looks lifeless without Perovic. Never looked like a play-off contender this season. (Sean – 13)

T13. Philadelphia Union (6-11-6, 24 points)- Have certainly shown improvement over the season and will be confident going into next year. (Sean – 14) … Peter Nowak’s club weathered a stormy early season before starting to gel late. In spite of the results, the Union have showcased a pair of rising stars in Serbastien LeToux and Danny Mwanga. With Jack McInerney waiting in the wings, Philly look like a team that’ll contend for years to come. (Brian – 11)… Making waves at the bottom. A win against Chicago was big. Adding Justin Mapp and allow Jack McInerny to play have proven to be beneficial. (Julian – 14)

15. Houston Dynamo (6-12-5, 23 points)- Have struggled severely. Hurt by injuries and trades to key players. Need confidence to rise up against all odds. (Julian – 15)… Hampered by injuries to Geoff Cameron, Brian Ching, and Pat Onstad, the Dynamo have looked less like a dynamo and more like a dud. Losing five of their last six earned them an early offseason tee time for the first time since arriving in H-town. (Brian – 15)… Dreadful season for 2006 and 2007 MLS Cup champs. (Sean – 15)

16. D.C. United (5-16-3, 18 points) – What can be said of this once-proud franchise? After Curt Onalfo was dismissed in August, management hoped former DC legend Ben Olsen could bring back the men in black to respectability. It hasn’t happened. With Andy Najar the only bright spot, it looks the like rebuilding will likely spill over into 2011. (Brian – 16)… Ben Olsen is trying, but there’s only so much he can do. Maybe Valera can save the team. It’s too disorganized, even with that awesome win against TFC last week. (Julian – 16)… Former MLS dynasty has a lot of work to do if they are ever to regain their former glory. (Sean – 16)

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