Well according to the calendar it is week 12 of the MLS season, but with over half the league having played more than 12 matches I wonder how much that date connection means? Anyhow it was a full weekend of MLS action as the vast majority of teams won't see action again for several weeks, so with a big break in front of them how did teams respond?
So beyond just the numbers there are a couple of services out there that use formulas to try to figure out where teams stand. There are the Sagarin ratings featured on USA Today's website, they have the top 5 as this:
- Real Salt Lake
- Sporting Kansas City
- San Jose Earthquakes
- New York Red Bulls
- Seattle Sounders
So with the break at hand I am going to do a total league ranking as for most teams they are at least 1/3 of the way through their season. Now I know a lot of people wonder how I do my rankings, I try to factor in a lot of things and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. I look at over all record, recent form, home and road performance, who they have played, and then I go by how the teams look (I do try to watch as much of every match as I can, and this year I have seen about 90% of the MLS matches played). So here is my number 1 team:
1. Real Salt Lake - 9-3-2 - 29 pts 4-0-1 in last 5 - 2.07 points per match
No team has a better record over their last 5 matches, and despite not playing up to the expectations of themselves or their fans the team has dealt with numerous injury issues as well as national team call ups. Just once in 14 matches has RSL really had their top choice lineup at the start of a match, and yet they find out a way to get results. Yes they are my home town team but in MLS action you just can't count them out of any match at home or on the road. They are lead by Alvaro Saborio with 6 goals and Fabian Espindola with 4 goals, and 5 clean sheets
The rest of my rankings after the jump:
2. New York Red Bulls - 8-3-2 - 26 pts 4-0-1 in last 5 - 2.00 points per match
The only other team with 4 wins and a draw in their last 5, and doing it without some of their best players and while they are a point behind DC United in the East, they have two matches in hand and given their recent form they should be able to take back the top spot. If they are this good without players like Thierry Henry, Wilham Conde and Teemu Tainio what happens when those players are heatlhy? Who will Red Bull bring in this summer as their 3rd DP, you know it is likely to be a big move.
3. D.C. United - 8-4-3 - 27pts 4-1-0 in last 5 - 1.80 points per match
While DC might have played more matches than anyone else, they are one of just 3 teams with 4 wins in their last 5 matches. Let's be honest they may be the biggest surprise of the 2012 MLS season, the team had just 9 wins all of last year. You know that a team with Dwayne De Rosario on it is always going to be dangerous and sure enough the 28 goals of DC United are most of any team in the league and their +9 goal differential is the second best in the league. Can they keep living beyond their expectations or will the long summer take a toll on their new found success?
4. San Jose Earthquakes - 8-3-3 - 27pts 1-2-2 in last 5 - 1.93 points per match
Like DC United, the Quakes are a bit of a surprise as they have equaled their 2011 win total in just 14 matches, and they have done so with a very good offense that has scored 27 goals. The combo of Chris Wondolowski and Stephen Lenhart gives defenders nightmares and now with Alan Gordon playing the role of super sub this is a team that simply is able to take it to their opponents. One thing is clear the Quakes are one of the teams in the West making noise in the first half of the season.
5. Seattle Sounders - 7-3-3 -24pts -1-2-2 in last 5 - 1.85 points per match
A couple weeks ago it looked as if the Sounders were going to jump to the top of the West and likely all of MLS but the reality of no wins in their last 4 bring them back to reality. Still this is a good team, and the only team that hasn't been beaten on the road (2-0-3) but the questions are what can the Sounders do over the course of the season, a great start (despite CCL disappointment), now we are in US Open Cup season and the Sounders have been very good in USOC winning it the past 3 years, but the bar has been raised and the Open Cup won't be enough for the Sounders or their fans this year. Can they regroup during this break? Most likely.
6. Sporting Kansas City - 8-3-1 25pts - 1-3-1 in last 5 - 2.08 points per match
I wanted to put them higher based on their win over San Jose last week but those 3 losses in a row, when they looked very mediocre leave me with some big questions about SKC. There were no major injuries, no national team call ups, so what happened? If a team can go that cold, that quick it just raises doubts in my mind, but you can't deny that they have a ton of talent on both sides of the ball, they are a physically strong team but can they endure the long MLS season?
See this is where it gets ugly, I have little doubt that those are the 6 best teams in MLS this year, but beyond them it just is a hot mess of 6-7 blah teams, followed by teams with real issues at the bottom of each conference. So beyond this point rankings are a lot more subjective based on matches that I have seen the teams play.
7. Columbus Crew - 5-4-3 - 18pts - 3-0-2 in last 5 - 1.5 points per match
The Crew are just one of 3 teams that can say they haven't lost in their last 5 matches but I just don't buy them as a contender. They look rough on the pitch, and with few exceptions have been outplayed in most of their matches even when they grind out a win. Don't get me wrong having a guy like Justin Meram get you a couple of game winning goals is nice, but can he do it week in and week out over the length of the season? Doubt it. So can the Crew find a way to elevate themselves into the top tier of the East, nope I don't think so. Can they fight for the number 4 or 5 spot, yup and I think it will be an darn entertaining fight.
8. Vancouver Whitecaps - 5-3-4 - 19 pts - 2-1-2 in last 5 - 1.58 points per match
The Whitecaps are improved over the 2011 version for sure, but I think with the moves they made in the off-season that people might have expected a lot more from them, I didn't and I don't. Listen they have some offensive players that I think have under performed to this point, like Sebastien Le Toux and Eric Hassli, but I think their defense has played better than expected. Like many teams in this middle tier, I think they will fight for one of those wildcard playoff spots, but it will take something special for them to jump into the top 3 in the Western Conference.
9. Chicago Fire - 5-4-3 - 18pts - 2-2-1 in last 5 - 1.5 points per match
Like the teams above them, they don't look convincing in their wins, but as they grind out results they keep themselves in the race for the 4th or 5th spot in their conference. I am just not sure they can rise above that, I do like that Marco Pappa has been playing well (3 goals, 3 assists) and I still think he will need to play a major role along with Sebastian Grazzini and Federico Puppo for the Fire to "Rise Up" this season. The Fire are one of the few teams with a match during the FIFA break, as they will travel to New England and take on the Revolution on Saturday.
10. Colorado Rapids - 6-6-1 - 19pts - 2-2-1 in last 5 - 1.46 points per match
The Rapids like a couple teams in MLS have been hit hard by injuries that have caused chaos for them on the pitch. There are times when they look like a top team in the league and other weeks they look like they would be fighting relegation if such a thing existed in MLS. If they can get healthy and stay healthy over this break, including Pablo Mastroeni, then they could find a way to move up. That is a mighty big "if" and it is more likely they continue to be very inconsistent and find themselves fighting for a wildcard spot at the end of the season.
11. Houston Dynamo - 4-3-4 - 16pts - 2-1-2 in last 5 - 1.45 points per match
Of all the teams in this middle tier it is the Dynamo despite their many issues, that could move up to that top tier with a schedule that will be home heavy the rest of the season, they have played 8 of their first 11 on the road. Still their 12 goals scored is among the lowest in MLS, but their 12 goal allowed is among the best in MLS, this is a grind it out team. They will wear you down on both sides of the ball, you will make a mistake and Brad Davis' left foot will make you pay either directly or indirectly. We saw that in the playoffs last year, and we saw what happened without him at MLS Cup last year. Oh how I feel for the teams headed to BBVA Compass Field in July and August.
12. Chivas USA - 4-6-3 - 15pts - 1-1-3 in last 5 - 1.15 points per match
Chivas have made some bold moves in recent weeks and are unbeaten in their last 4, of course they also have just one win in their last 5, so they sit here in this middle tier as one of the teams still clearly in the rebuilding process but maybe a bit further along than some others. The issue for Chivas USA is figuring out how to score more goals, their 9 goals is the second lowest total in MLS and their inability to close out matches on the defensive side both may have been addressed with picking up Danny Califf and Juan Agudelo, but in a tough Western Conference they are more likely to move down than move up.
Here is that next gap and both Chivas and New England could have landed on either side of this gap, but the teams below need to make some moves either on the pitch or in their staffs if they are going to recover and get themselves moving in the right direction this year.
13. New England Revolution - 4-7-1 - 13pts - 2-2-1 in last 5 - 1.08 points per match
The Rev's are rebuilding and to think otherwise is foolish, when you rebuild you get an energy pop from having a new coach, and another pop if you get a player who can excite the locker room, and New England has both. Saer Sene is the real deal, he is big, quick, and good with the ball and in just 11 matches in MLS he has 7 goals and 2 assists. However he won't continue to catch teams by surprise and no other forward for the Rev's has more than a single goal. This is a team that won't quit and is hard to beat but they are going to need a couple more pieces before they become a real contender in my book.
14. Portland Timbers - 3-5-4 - 13pts - 1-1-3 in last 5 - 1.08 points per match
The Timbers made a run at the playoffs last year as an expansion team, but this year they aren't improved, instead they are looking more like an expansion side this year. I know most people think I am nuts but the clear ego of John Spencer is hurting this team more than helping it, and when you add that to the fact that Jack Jewsbury isn't having another career year, well the Timbers are just an average team. Good individual talent but they seems to be a real inconsistency and disjointed play on the pitch makes me worry that the Timbers can turn it around this year.
15. Montreal Impact - 3-7-3 - 12pts - 2-2-1 in last 5 - 0.92 points per match
As an expansion team the Impact have an interesting mix of players and that has lead to them being up and down on the pitch. They have found how to score goals, but their defense is still suspect at they have given up 21 goals and have a -6 goal differential. One thing is clear the owners of the Impact aren't afraid to spend money, they are bringing in Marco Di Vaio to add more attacking power and they may be looking for a 3rd DP this summer. Still this is a team that has a lot of pieces and if they find the right formula they could be a tough team to face.
16. LA Galaxy - 3-8-2 - 11pts - 0-4-1 in last 5 - 0.85 points per match
I just couldn't put the Galaxy any higher or lower than this, but one has to believe that they will get on a run at some point this year their is just too much talent on the team. I do find the statements of Landon Donovan in recent weeks a bit disturbing, as it seems he is a bit disinterested in MLS. Then add in the very distracted David Beckham and I am left thinking that when the Galaxy lost out of the Champions League that the wind left their sails and I am not sure what it will take for them to get focused back on the task at hand, that being MLS.
17. FC Dallas - 3-8-4 - 13 pts - 0-4-1 in last 5 - 0.87 points per match
It isn't any one factor at play in the demise of FC Dallas, injuries, a lack of discipline that has lead to suspensions, and while there is plenty of talent on their roster, there far too often is little of it on display on the pitch. It is funny that the talk about making a coaching change has already started in Dallas, I don't think that is the issue but clearly when a player like Brek Shea is allowed to self destruct one has to wonder what is going on in the locker room. Unless they can get some players back healthy and focused it will be very unlikely that FC Dallas will be able to fight their way into a playoff spot.
18. Philadelphia Union - 2-7-2 - 8pts - 0-4-1 in last 5 - 0.73 points per match
Well if anyone needs a roadmap on how to dismantle a playoff team into a laughing stock of a league, you need look no further than Philly. I feel bad for the fans of the Union who deserve much better, than what Peter Nowak has delivered this year, he has isolated himself and alienated talent since the end of last year and the result is a team that is in chaos. No team has scored fewer goals than the Union's 8, and just 3 players have found the back of the net. I am not sure what moves they will make this summer but unless they make a few really good moves they can quickly start planning for 2013 as this season will be all but over.
19. Toronto FC - 1-9-0 - 3pts - 1-4-0 in last 5 - 0.30 points per match
Oh my it is rough to see any team struggle this way, and like the Union fans, I feel bad for the fans of TFC. No team has scored fewer goals than the 8 of Toronto, and only FC Dallas who have played 5 more matches than they have allowed more goals to be scored against them than the 21 that TFC have given up. Their -13 goal differential is the worst in the league. Now injury issues have played a major role in their struggle but one has to believe that Aron Winter like so many other coaches is finding MLS a very tough nut to crack. A healthy Danny Koevermans and Torsten Frings could help them get some results but it is too late for TFC again this year.
So this is how I see things after 12 weeks of the MLS season and the next break in the action will be in September and I expect things will change a whole lot by then.
So what do I have right, or wrong in my rankings?
OFF MY SOAPBOX