It's becoming clear that there are about five bona fide contenders in MLS (Dallas, Colorado, LA, NYC and Portland), a group of clear pretenders (Columbus, Houston, Chicago, maybe Seattle) and everyone else. Considering 12 teams make the postseason, someone from this group in the middle needs to separate themselves from the pack and join the contenders, or else suffer the fate of early round exit in the playoffs.
1. FC Dallas (Last Week: 1)
Dallas lost in resounding fashion midweek to Seattle, but you can hardly count it. The team Oscar Pareja threw out there was hardly a first-choice XI, and it almost felt like a throwaway game for rest. Dallas is still the best team in the league. Next week's game on the road at Colorado is not only a match-up of the two best teams in the Western Conference, but the two best teams in the entire league.
2. Colorado Rapids (Last Week: 2)
Colorado won in Colorado fashion over Kansas City this week, 1-0, to extend the Rapids' current unbeaten run to a pretty incredible 14 games. The Rapids need just five more games unbeaten to tie the record jointly held by the 2004 Columbus Crew and the 2010 edition of FC Dallas. Those next five games are as follows: vs. Dallas, at NYCFC, vs. Vancouver, at LA, and vs. Orlando. Needless to say, looking at that slate, the Rapids will have truly earned a share of that record should they survive that stretch of opponents unblemished.
3. LA Galaxy (Last Week: 3)
Steven Gerrard scored to beat Houston and extend LA's winning streak to three games. That patented Late Summer Push has arrived.
4. New York City FC (Last Week: 4)
Frank Lampard called first overall pick Jack Harrison "a revelation" and I think that's a fairly accurate summation of the 19-year-old. On a team of aging stars, the Soccer Yankees needed a jolt of young energy and Harrison is giving them just that. He has scored three goals in just eight games since coming on in the 7-0 loss to the Red Bulls earlier this year.
5. Portland Timbers (Last Week: 5)
Portland beat dreaded rival Seattle on network television on Sunday to close out a week that also saw them draw Montreal. The Trees have not lost since May 15, a streak that currently sits at nine games, which is tied with an LA nine-game unbeaten run for second-longest of the season to Colorado's current tear.
Of note: Portland has yet to win a game away from home.
6. Vancouver Whitecaps (Last Week: 10)
I feel really poorly about putting the Caps this high in the rankings, but their competition for the spot has given me no choice. Among teams ranked 6-11 here, Vancouver is the only one to have not lost in their last three games. Vancouver has two draws sandwiching their win over RSL in their last three games.
7. Philadelphia Union (Last Week: 9)
Philly sits second in the East, but has the highest goal differential in the conference. That could be key come the end of the season, unless NYCFC can overcome that 7-0 beatdown that sent their differential to the toilet.
8. Sporting Kansas City (Last Week: 7)
Of all the teams in the 6-11 muck, I think SKC is the most dangerous. Peter Vermes needs to settle on a consistent lineup and they need to start stringing wins together, but they by far have the best potential in this middle section of the power rankings.
9. Montreal Impact (Last Week: 8)
Missing Ignacio Piatti to red card suspension hurt the Impact this week, but on the bright side they got Didier Drogba back from his midsummer
vacation rehab stint in Qatar! That wasn't good enough, though, to deny NYCFC all three points on Sunday.
10. Real Salt Lake (Last Week: 6)
RSL hasn't won in five games over the course of nearly a month, and now sits 10 points behind Dallas for the top position in the West. I said it a few times this year: RSL might not have the horses to keep pace in the bloody Western Conference race.
11. New York Red Bulls (Last Week: 11)
I think it's officially time we start telling it like it is: The Red Bulls are not only the second-best team in the New York metropolitan area, but are also the second-most interesting team in their own organization. The Baby Bulls down in USL are terrific and currently sit second in the entire league, with games in hand on first-place Louisville. The USL edition of the Red Bulls hasn't lost since May 1.
12. San Jose Earthquakes (Last Week: 15)
I really, truly wish San Jose would just start to stink so that I wouldn't have to sweat the thought of them actually making the playoffs, but right now they are only four points out.
13. D.C. United (Last Week: 13)
D.C. traded for Lloyd Sam, cementing United's status as the team built up of other teams' role players and former stars. D.C. United: One team's trash is our treasure!
14. Toronto FC (Last Week: 12)
So Toronto lost at San Jose after the Quakes had two players sent off with red cards. How did this happen? I, frankly, have no idea except to say that Toronto will find any way it can to underachieve.
15. Orlando City (Last Week: 14)
If the Jason Kreis rumors are true, I've made a comparison in my head that is as enjoyable to consider as it may be far-fetched: Kreis could be the Brian Clough of MLS. Both were prolific strikers who had less than stellar national team careers, both had success managing smaller teams to league titles (Derby County and RSL), both then left those gigs for what seemingly were dream jobs which turned out to be nightmares (Leeds United and NYCFC), and both then found success at what were their final jobs (Nottingham Forest and perhaps Orlando City?). I know I'm leaving out Clough's stop at Brighton and I know Kreis isn't nearly the personality Clough was, but it's an interesting thought. All Kreis has to do is win back-to-back CONCACAF Champions League titles in Orlando to make the comparison complete.
Did I say it was far-fetched?
16. New England Revolution (Last Week: 16)
The Revs have just one win they can even try to hang their hat on, which was over Vancouver. You're not going to make noise in the postseason if you can't at least beat some of the real title contenders in the regular season.
17. Seattle Sounders (Last Week: 18)
Jordan Morris missed a wide open look just in front of the six-yard box in Seattle's 3-1 loss at Portland on Sunday. Increasingly, as Seattle continues to sink farther and farther from playoff contention, the only reason the Sounders remain relevant is Morris.
18. Chicago Fire (Last Week: 19)
Chicago beat Sporting Kansas City midweek, which gives them two wins in four games. Does that matter in the grand scheme of MLS? Nope.
19. Houston Dynamo (Last Week: 17)
Houston lost on Friday night to LA in a rematch of two recent MLS Cup Finals. I still can't decide if Houston bailed on Owen Coyle too soon, because they feel like a team without any semblance of a plan to climb back into contention.
20. Columbus Crew (Last Week: 20)
C-Bus drew 1-1 twice this week, which is better than losing. The Crew have won just once since the end of April, but somehow are just five points out of the playoffs in the East. If that's not proof that 12 of 20 teams making the playoffs is too many, I don't know what is.