Power rankings. So ubiquitous, so irresistible, and yet so often misunderstood.
Before we get to the first edition of the Stumptown Countdown, however, we need to cover some ground rules:
So many MLS writers do power rankings to opine on the order of MLS teams based on their body of work. To those of us who can read standings, however, those power rankings become less and less interesting as the season goes along because, by the end of the season the best teams in MLS are, by definition, the teams atop the conference tables. And so by the summer many MLS power rankings become nothing more than annotated standings - a not-so-rough reflection of the MLS table with a (sometimes) clever sentence or two appended to each team.
But power rankings aren’t supposed to be about who will win the Supporters Shield or MLS Cup. Rather, power rankings are meant to be a snapshot in time designed to answer one simple question: If any two teams played on a neutral field today, who would win? Accordingly, power rankings should be volatile because they’re about present form rather than the body of work.
So, if you want to measure a team’s body of work, look at the table. If you want power rankings, look to the Stumptown Countdown.
1. Seattle Sounders - There’s no real debate about which team put forth the best performance in Week One. Injured Lee Nguyen and Jermaine Jones be damned, the Sounders’ 3-0 throttling of the New England Revolution put the league on notice that a Sounders step back is very unlikely.
2. Toronto FC - It sure didn’t look this way in the first half when Vancouver dominated the run of play, but TFC’s second-half silencing of B.C. Place was comprehensive enough to suggest maybe they can live up to their immense, expensive talent this time around. Maybe.
3. L.A. Galaxy - The Galaxy are going to have to manage minutes for Robbie Keane and, when he arrives, Steven Gerrard. A strong performance by Jose Villarreal suggests Bruce Arena may have another legitimate weapon at his disposal to help do so.
4. FC Dallas - This is generous. The Burn shouldn’t have needed until second-half stoppage time to beat the San Jose Earthquakes at home. But Dallas still had the better of the game and, given their immense talent, seem to have plenty of room for improvement.
5. Sporting Kansas City - The draw with the New York Red Bulls at home is a disappointment, but SKC gets credit for being the slightly better team in arguably the weekend’s best matchup. The Wiz’s reaction to Matt Besler’s sending off didn’t go unnoticed, either, even if some poor finishing from Dom Dwyer derailed SKC’s ten-man push for a late winner.
6. Columbus Crew - The weekend’s lovable losers, Crew SC went to Houston and pretty handily outplayed a Dynamo team that many have projected to be improved in 2015.
7. New York Red Bulls - The MetroStars emerged from a chaotic offseason to earn a very solid point in Kansas. Concerns about depth and whether they can find a consistent playmaker to feed BWP remain, but the Red Bulls' performance on Sunday is hard to argue with.
8. Portland Timbers - No Will Johnson. No Diego Valeri. No Diego Chara. This team isn’t great right now, but a backline that looks considerably improved from 2014 could be enough to keep the Timbers afloat until Valeri, Johnson, and Chara are all back. And if so, watch out. They won’t be 8th anymore.
9. D.C. United - Whereas the Timbers have injury problems in the engine room, United have been ravaged up top by a mysterious medical condition (Eddie Johnson) and a six-game suspension (Fabian Espindola). So it was probably a bit of a relief for D.C. fans to see Chris Rolfe and Jairo Arrieta show fairly well in an otherwise underwhelming performance.
10. Houston Dynamo - They won, but they really didn’t look great in doing so. Still, if Giles Barnes is going to score goals like that, the Dynamo are going to be viable.
11. Real Salt Lake - Bad News: The attack looked flummoxed by the duct-tape Timbers midfield of George Fochive and Jack Jewsbury. Good News: Nick Freaking Rimando.
12. New England Revolution - Let’s face it. The Revs stunk up the joint in Seattle. They’ll almost certainly climb back up the rankings when Nguyen and Jones return, but until then this just isn’t a great team.
13. Vancouver Whitecaps - Saturday was the kind of performance from Kekuta Manneh that his supporters have been telling everybody he’s going to stop having. But Manneh’s problems are representative of the team as a whole; they’re systemically solid, but borderline incompetent in the box. Oh, and the defense got worse with the addition of Pa Modou Kah. Surprise, surprise.
14. Orlando City - They were certainly the more cohesive team on Sunday, but that really isn’t saying much. A poor outing at Houston next week and the Lions will take a dive down the charts.
15. Montreal Impact - They played well enough on Saturday to deserve to be ranked a couple places higher. But we’re a ruthless bunch at the Stumptown Countdown and Justin Mapp’s injury is probably more than this paper-thin Impact roster can handle.
16. New York City FC - Khiry Shelton needs to start over Adam Nemec. Patrick Mullins needs to start over Adam Nemec. Heck, Jason Kreis should probably start over Adam Nemec. Adam Nemec wasn’t NYCFC’s only problem on Sunday. 1-1 was flattering.
17. San Jose Earthquakes - On the upside, they managed to hang into a game for 90 minutes with a good team. The Quakes are 17th by rule, however, on account of starting Sanna Nyassi in a competitive soccer game that didn’t take place in 2011.
18. Philadelphia Union - If they couldn’t beat a Colorado Rapids team that didn’t start three of its four best players at PPL Park, then the Union don’t deserve to be higher than 18th right now.
19. Chicago Fire - It’s stunning they aren’t last on this list after a truly horrific performance in Carson. Somebody needs to save a quickly sinking Harry Shipp from Frank Yallop’s poisonous tutelage.
20. Colorado Rapids - Why was Pablo Mastroeni permitted to board the flight back to Commerce City after excluding Dillon Powers, Deshorn Brown, and Shane O’Neill from his lineup? Oh, but good thing he made room for James Riley.