Well 8 matches took place between Saturday and Monday evening as Major League Soccer kicked off their first week of action, and there weren't too many surprises on the pitch. I was impressed by the crowds at most of the matches, as LA, FC Dallas, San Jose, and Portland all had sell outs.
So as I said for me it makes sense to break the conferences up for Power Rankings as we will see the impact more and more of the unbalanced schedule.
So I am going to start with the Eastern Conference:
1. Houston Dynamo - while it took a stoppage time goal to break down the defense of Chivas USA, Houston controlled most of the match and was the better team on both sides of the ball. Next up for Houston will be a bigger test as they will head up the coast to take on the San Jose Earthquakes.
2. Sporting Kansas City - It also took a stoppage time goal for SKC to get the win over DC United, but again they were the better team throughout most of the match. It will be interesting to see how the offense of Sporting continues to develop this year, a very good group of players that should score a lot of goals. Sporting will play host to the New England Revolution on Saturday.
more rankings after the jump:
3. New York Red Bulls - One simply has to wonder why Hans Backe does some of the things he does? The whole of starting Juan Agudelo over Kenny Cooper, debacle, but one thing was clear someone explained to Hans that you can use all 3 of your subs in MLS. It was clear that when Kenny Cooper came on for NYRB that they were more productive, he took 3 shots including a goal in 27 minutes, Juan had 1 shot in 90 minutes. The Red Bulls stay on the road with a Saturday match against Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium.
4. Toronto FC - TFC had the weekend off to prepare for the Wednesday Champions League match against the LA Galaxy, they move up a couple spots simply based on the fact that they didn't lose. After their Wednesday match at the Home Depot Center they will stay on the West coast and head to Seattle for a Saturday match to open their 2012 MLS season.
5. Chicago Fire - The Fire like Toronto had a bye the first weekend of MLS action but that means they didn't lose which puts them a step up on 6 of the Eastern conference teams. The Fire will open up their 2012 MLS season on the road as they will head to Montreal to take on the expansion Impact.
6. Philadelphia Union - When you lose the anchor of your defense and your best offensive player, well struggling in your first match is probably to be expected, when you have to head to Portland and take on the Timbers for your first match that adds even a tougher time. Well the Union didn't look very good in their 3-1 loss against the Timbers, they should be able to do better on Sunday when they host the Colorado Rapids at PPL Park.
7. D.C. United - The new DCU looked a lot like the version we saw last year, some good plays but a lot of very disjointed action on both sides of the ball, while they have more talent than last year it still hasn't come together on the pitch for them yet. They came close to withstanding a Sporting KC attack that had 8 shots on goal, DC managed just 7 total shots, but in stoppage time it was a set piece play that lead to C.J. Sapong costing DC United a share of the points. DC will next head on the road for a visit to the Home Depot Center on Sunday and a showdown with the LA Galaxy.
8. Columbus Crew - A second year with a lot of changes as the Crew continue their rebuilding efforts, and that showed in their lackluster performance on Saturday afternoon in their 2-0 loss at Colorado. Just 5 shots taken, only one on goal, just 70% of their passes completed, in fact they only led the Rapids in fouls and yellow cards. Could be a long year for Crew fans, but they get a chance to get some things fixed as they are the bye team this week.
9. New England Revolution - The Rev's had a great preseason, but opening day they were unable to get things going and found themselves on the wrong end of a Chris Wondolowski goal that was enough for San Jose to get the 1-0 win. It wasn't a pretty match for either team, and the Rev's will have little time to get things worked out as they will head to KC to take on Sporting on Saturday.
10. Montreal Impact - It is funny each year that a new team comes into the league, they set their goals so high. I blame the Chicago Fire who did so very well their first year in the league, but the reality is that the Impact are a team made up of a bunch of pieces that will take some time to adjust to each other as well as adjusting to MLS. I expect they will experience a lot more days like Saturday in which they lost 2-0 to the Vancouver Whitecaps. Saturday they will play their first home match against the Chicago Fire, that team the set the expansion bar oh so high.
Now let's take a look at the Western Conference and how they stack up after one week of action.
1. Los Angeles Galaxy - There are times when I love Bruce Arena, they are rare but there are times, so only after losing to RSL 3-1 on Saturday did he realize that he had started a number of players who had played on Wednesday at Toronto? Yeah I get the whole two matches in a week thing, it is something every MLS team will have to deal with this year, LA included. Now I do think MLS did LA a bit of a disservice by not giving them a bye on the opening weekend like they did the other CCL teams (Seattle and Toronto FC) but they didn't and the reality is that the question marks about the defense and depth of the LA Galaxy both were spotlighted in their loss. LA will play at home on Wednesday in CCL action against Toronto, and on Sunday they will play host to D.C. United, I expect a very tired LA squad will like a return to some type of normalcy after that.
2. Real Salt Lake - Every point matters, since 2009 the gap between the Supporters' Shield winner and the team chasing them has been 4 points or less, so yes every point matters. RSL battled hard despite a lineup with several of their normal starters out, they did what they do best, keep possession, connect their passes, and took advantage of their opportunities. The result was a 3-1 win over the defending MLS Cup Champions the LA Galaxy, it had to feel good for the RSL players who saw their 2011 season end on that same pitch at the Home Depot Center. Next up for RSL is their home opener on Saturday night against the New York Red Bulls.
3. Seattle Sounders - I am leaving the Sounders up this high despite the fact that they didn't have a match this weekend, like TFC they worked out their schedule to allow them time to prepare for the 2nd leg of their Champions League series on Wednesday night. The Sounders will kick off their 2012 MLS season on Saturday as they play host to Toronto FC.
4. FC Dallas - A huge home crowd for the season opener against the New York Red Bulls and FCD didn't disappoint as they got a 2-1 win, both of their goals were assisted by their new man up top Blas Perez. While New York tried to rally back late in the match FC Dallas were able to hold on for the win, I do find their lack of possession troubling (just 36% on the night). They will likely get a better test of where they are on Saturday night as they play host to the Portland Timbers in what will be a huge Western Conference match up.
5. San Jose Earthquakes - I think the Quakes could be one of the clubs that surprises a lot of people this year, while they aren't as deep and don't have the big names of some other clubs, they do have some very good players. I think the combination of Chris Wondolowski and Stephen Lenhart could be one of the top offensive duo's in the league this year. This week the Quakes get one of their big rivalry matches, as the Houston Dynamo come to town on Saturday, how big? They are moving the match to AT&T Park instead of Buck Shaw.
6. Portland Timbers - Well it was a big time national TV match and there was no "meow, meow, meow" chant from the Timbers Army, but the team did respond by rewarding them with a 3-1 win over the Philadelphia Union. It was a fairly one-sided affair if you are honest about it as the Union looked rather lost on the pitch for most of the match, the Timbers will get a better test on Saturday when they head to Frisco for a showdown with FC Dallas.
7. Vancouver Whitecaps - I know they looked good on Saturday, I know they have a ton of offensive weapons, but beating up on an expansion team in their first match simply doesn't impress me much. I don't expect that this weekend they will get too much more of a test as they will be taking on Chivas USA, who simply didn't look good in their first match.
8. Colorado Rapids - It is sad even with a big opening day win at home there isn't much room to move the Rapids up the rankings, yes that is how good the West is, I would have put the Rapids as a top 3 team in the East but here they barely avoid the cellar. Their 2-0 win over the Crew was a good win, but I think there are still a lot of questions on how good this Rapids team will be, we should know more after their Sunday match at PPL Park against the Union.
9. Chivas USA - You know I feel bad for Robin Fraser, I get the feeling that while he knows what needs to be done to compete in MLS that his hands are tied on a lot of decisions. Still despite out shot, out possessed, and out passed by Houston it took a stoppage time goal to hand Chivas the 1-0 loss. I get a feeling there will be a lot of 1-0 matches in Chivas' future this year. Their next match has them playing host to the very offensive (minded) Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday, it will be a real test of their defense.
So there you have it my look at the two conferences and how I see the power structure in each of them after one week of MLS action. For those of you keeping score there were 6 matches between the East and Western conferences, the West won 5 of the 6. For a more conventional look at the MLS power rankings, you can check out the SB Nation Power Rankings.
OFF MY SOAPBOX