After a week’s break, the Coutndown is back and the MLS landscape is starting to clear itself up. Pretenders are beginning to fall away, while the contenders are rising to the top.
Why? The early season is over and we’re starting to separate the genuinely good from the momentarily hot.
1. Seattle Sounders (2) - Winners of three straight and four of five, the Sounders were convincing in their trouncing of an increasingly afloat NYCFC side in the Bronx last weekend. Perhaps the only downside is that Seattle is very, very dependent on Obafemi Martins and Clint Dempsey, with the pair accounting for 11 of 13 goals and half the team’s assists. Would Seattle be able to handle an extended injury or international absence for one or both?
2. New England Revolution (6) - That three-game winless streak to start the season is well in the rear-view mirror, as the Revs have won five of six to rise to the top of the Eastern Conference. On the other hand, this past weekend’s win over New York Red Bulls is really New England’s only win over a quality opponent.
3. FC Dallas (13) - 4-0-1 with Mauro Diaz. 1-2-1 without him. The Hoops have their playmaker back for the time being, but questions remain about whether they can keep him healthy. When he is, FCD is elite.
4. D.C. United (4) - Unbeaten in six, and with Fabian Espindola back the goals look like they’re stating to come for DCU. Although this may just be the way United operates, it would be nice to seem them dominate a bit more, however, as Columbus had a lot of the run of play at RFK this past weekend.
5. Vancouver Whitecaps (3) - The air feels like it’s starting to come out of the Whitecaps’ balloon just a little bit after a home loss to D.C. United and a road draw in Portland where the ‘Caps never looked like they had a real chance to score, much less win.
6. Columbus Crew (4) - Nothing dishonorable about the Crew’s loss in D.C., as they were the better team on the field for extended periods of that game. But, at this point, Columbus’s resume doesn’t provide enough of a backstop to keep Crew SC from falling a little bit after a loss.
7. New York Red Bulls (1) - The honeymoon is over for Jesse Marsch. Winless in their last three, including home fixtures against middling LA Galaxy and the not-as-poor-as-they-used-to-be Colorado Rapids aren’t the sort of thing a top team does.
8. LA Galaxy (7) - There really isn’t a lot to like about the Galaxy’s eyeball-test performance, but, to some extent, they just keep plugging away. Still, just as with the Red Bulls, a home draw to Colorado is nothing to brag about.
9. Toronto FC (15) - Salvaged what looked like it was going to be a dreadful opening road stretch with wins at Orlando and Philadelphia. But wins in Orlando and Philadelphia haven't been hard to come by for visiting sides. TFC now gets to christen the remodeled BMO Field, which should certainly help their form. But the schedule is also going to get a bit tougher, as well. Stay tuned.
10. Sporting Kansas City (9) - The win over the Chicago Fire is nothing to shake a stick at considering the Fire’s recent form, but SKC’s (p)lucky draw at the highly underwhelming Houston Dynamo suggests they’re still mid-pack.
11. Chicago Fire (16) - Had their streak of three wins on the trot come to an end in Kansas City. The downside of those three wins: All were at home against struggling Eastern Conference teams.
12. San Jose Earthquakes (14) - They’re nothing to look at, but the Quakes are plodding along with results. Still, the purism in the Countdown just can’t get too excited about seven points in their last four games as long as San Jose is playing such wretched soccer.
13. Real Salt Lake (8) - The Claret-and-Cobalt got blitzed by New England and were dreadful in their home draw with San Jose since we last checked in. Those five games unbeaten to start the year were a long, long, long time ago.
14. Portland Timbers (12) - Same old, same old in Portland. Two solid-looking performances. Two disappointing results. Diego Valeri getting back in form should help quite a bit, but it’s hard not to think of the Timbers as the team that can play with everybody, but beat hardly anybody.
15. Orlando City (11) - Followed up their bad loss to Columbus with another pretty bad loss to TFC. An even worse loss? Losing Kevin Molino to an ACL injury in an ill-advised off-week friendly. Live and learn, Lions.
16. Houston Dynamo (10) - Not sure we’ve seen as big a home trouncing in 2015 as FCD gave to the Dynamo last weekend. Then they followed it up with another home loss, this time to San Jose.
17. Colorado Rapids (18) - The Countdown still isn’t sure the Rapids are, you know, good. But three straight draws against quality opposition suggests Colorado may not be the inevitable wooden-spoon winners we thought a few weeks back.
18. Philadelphia Union (17) - Hard to believe they’re as high as 18 with three straight losses by a combined score of 7-2. But the Union actually didn’t look horrible against TFC last weekend, with the Reds struggling to consistently create chances and the Union successfully passing the ball for the first time in weeks.
19. Montreal Impact (20) - Are they still in MLS? The Impact haven’t played a league game since April 11th, which, CCL notwithstanding, is a joke.
20. New York City FC (19) - Things are bleak in the Bronx right now. With David Villa hurt and looking disinterested, and one point in City’s last six games, it’s looking very questionable whether Frank Lampard can turn this around.