Monday, June 8, 2015

MLS Week 14 Rankings: Creating v. Getting, MLS's Mason-Dixon Line

At one point, there was definitely a right side of this one.
(Man, I really have to work on titling my posts sometime before the last minute.)

Going with very little preamble this week, and rankings. Just...rankings. And some comments before and within. I'll post other content elsewhere. Soon. At any rate, here are the games I watched in full during Week 14:
Portland Timbers v. New England Revolution
DC United v. Toronto FC
Sporting Kansas City v. Seattle Sounders
I was in Seattle for Week 13, where I endured Seattle's win over the New York Red Bulls. All I'll say about that is, thank god for good company.

Before assigning a number to each MLS club, a couple things occurred to me over the past couple weeks. First, good teams create chances while mediocre and/or bad times get chances. Yeah, that's a pretty banal observation, but it strikes me more and more as this season progresses. It's the difference between this this (good) and this (lucky, even when a team makes some of the luck) Рespecially in open play. A great clich̩ of the game is that all goals count. Like most cliches, that's true and trivial all at once. Chance creation speaks to replicability Рi.e., the capacity to do it consciously and with some form of intent, instead of relying on lucky bounces and a defender falling on his ass.

Second, and more significantly, I had hoped to wax excited about some long-awaited separation opening up between the top clubs and the bottom clubs, but Weeks 13/14 put the kibosh on all that. Sadly, only a select few MLS couple clubs appear primed for excellence. With too many of the rest, it's once-good teams slipping (e.g. FC Dallas, Columbus Crew, New York Red Bulls), as a selection of the previously dire outfits rise (e.g. Montreal Impact, Toronto FC...paging Ottawa; sensing a pattern here). The really crazy thing: that the New York Red Bulls can lose three straight and stay on the right side of the Velvet Rope (stupid playoff format). More to the point, how the hell do just 12 points separate acknowledged no-hopers like the Colorado Rapids from league darlings like the Seattle Sounders?

OK, onto the rankings! Again, the first number in parentheses is the number of times I've watched a full game for each MLS club, while the second numbers show the previous week's ranking for that club – or, in this case, where I ranked that club for Week 12. This week’s sub-text: Right, on with it:

1) Seattle Sounders (7) (Week 12: 2)
As shown by Week 13's win over New York, Seattle can sleepwalk through most of a game and still rouse its talent long enough to rescue a win. If it's not Dempsey and Oba, it’s Marco Pappa. Or Chad Freaking Barrett. They'll hit the odd wall – say, in Kansas City – but they're solid.

2) Sporting Kansas City (6) (Week 12: 6)
If Connor Hallisey buried chances as well as he back-heels the ball, KC might have done better than earn a victory by decision against an equally depleted Sounders squad...if only he could have buried that collection of cross Amadou Dia so reliably forwarded from Graham Zusi...

3) DC United (4 1/2) (Week 12 Ranking: 1)
Because they dropped two games, DC had to drop in the rankings, but they showed their savvy by winning the other two in what, frankly, has been an insane stretch of games. Espindola stepped up, especially in that painful beat-down of Chicago, just as Chris Rolfe slowed down.

4) Vancouver Whitecaps (6) (Week 12: 5)
Survived LA's attempt at suffocation courtesy of Kekuta Manneh's jail-break, which only makes one wonder who much better the 'Caps could be with consistent performances out of Manneh.

5) Toronto FC (5) (Week 12: 10)
TFC operates on a blessedly simple plan: survive, then find Sebastian Giovinco and enjoy the show. In all seriousness, stopping the bleeding at the back is huge for Toronto, because that buys their stars time to shine. Three goals in their last four beats the hell out of the 10 they allowed in Games 2-5.

6) Portland Timbers (13) (Week 12: 16)
I've already banged-out an ode and will just direct readers there. Call this unexpected, certainly, but the Timbers aren't just rolling over chumps; they're putting away good, quality teams. That said, did I raise them a little higher than warranted? Eh..I'll take it under advisement.

7) FC Dallas (3) (Week 12: 3)
Probably the toughest pick to justify, especially after getting stumped by KC one week and struggling against San Jose the next; they're here, 1) because most teams below either suck or still have something to prove; and 2), in spite of the return of their red card madness.

8) Houston Dynamo (2) (Week 12: 13)
If I praise them, they drop points; damn them, and they'll go on a tear. Houston fans: I seem to be in control here (and I am at your service). Nice to see Will Bruin get rolling...and funny to see him to winded to celebrate the Dynamo's fourth against the Red Bulls...sadly, no convenient video...

9) New England Revolution (4) (Week 12: 4)
They've created a couple leads with beautiful play only to cough them up – they even outplayed KC for the opening half hour or so way back on May 20 – but New England sputtered and coasted into Portland for Week 14...where they got flat-out run over. Is there a real swoon in the offing?

10) Orlando City FC (2 1/2) (Week 12: 12)
Orlando's penchant for whining and mass confrontation is grating, but they've been good since the middle of May, not least due to Cyle Larin's push for Rookie of the Year. Solid contributions from random players like Eric Avila mean just as much, if not more. Kaka is less lonely lately.

11) Red Bull New York (5) (Week 12: 9)
While I haven't seen them look bad in 2015, I also haven't seen them win a lot. It's hard to make Mike Grella look like a stand-out, but that goes to the thing about getting chances instead of creating them.

12) Montreal Impact (3) (Week 12: 17)
Columbus can look pretty all day, but the Impact created the cleaner chances with their now-patented absorb-and-counter; if you've never watched Ignacio Piatti play, I'd make the time.

13) Columbus Crew SC (5) (Week 12: 7)
It's not just that the Crew are running like they're trapped in a nightmare, but whose tormenting them in those shitty dreams – e.g. three clubs lurking in the Eastern Conference cellar. They're currently exploring the theory as to whether playing "right" is worth not playing well.

14) Los Angeles Galaxy (3 1/2) (Week 12: 14)
LA turned in what looked like one of their better recent performances against Vancouver, but still made the mistake of letting Manneh run free (and, later, Manneh and Pedro Morales, and Octavio Rivero). If any of the clubs below them stepped even half an inch up, I'd drop LA under them right away.

15) Real Salt Lake (2) (Week 12: 8)
Plata's so rusty, he's got reddish dust falling off his joints. They had to scramble, then Jamison Olave limped off. If Nick Rimando didn't save every PK (or spook the shooter, as he did against Powers), RSL would be chilling in the Western Conference cellar with Colorado...oh, um...

16) San Jose Earthquakes (1) (Week 12: 11)
Along with Dallas, placing San Jose proved the toughest call. A couple things in my head here: first, Adam Jahn proved shockingly bad at heading the ball in Week 13 (so where are their options?). Also, Matias Perez Garcia keeps bumping his head against a fairly low ceiling (and he's Plan A, right?).

17) Philadelphia Union (2 1/2) (Week 12: 18)
What can I say? I'm feeling generous to one of MLS's longest-struggling franchises. Sure, they gave New York City FC the unfamiliar feeling of winning, but how about a little credit for the big win over Columbus? Even if Philly falls solidly on the wrong side of the whole creating/getting chances equation?

18) Colorado Rapids (4) (Week 12: 15)
RSL giveth, Rimando taketh away. Boring as that game looked (very), Sam Cronin has put together a pair of dynamite shots in as many games; maybe that'll help create space for the Rapids' bevy of new forwards, all of whom still need to find their way in MLS. To paraphrase...whoever the hell it is who sings "He Ain’t Heavy," "The Road is...loowonngg..."

19) New York City FC (2 1/2) (Week 12: 20)
Do they deserve even this little bump? Given the Fire's (fucking pained) form, I figure why not give 'em a taste of life one rung up the ladder? Great to see Tommy McNamara back on the field (and, look at the attention he's getting!), but the reality is that too much of that supporting cast surely leaves David Villa feeling like the loneliest man in MLS. Adam Nemec...really sucks.

20) Chicago Fire (2 1/2) (Week 12: 19)
Frank Yallop ended Sunday's game with the look of a man digesting news of his wife's infidelity. Chicago is on next-level pain. The only positive thing I can say is that, every time I think Chicago's DPs aren’t doing enough, they score. Then again, they score in the "getting," not "creating" way. And the rest of the club (or just Adailton) hasn't been up to making it stand up lately.

OK, that's it for tonight. I have a couple posts in the pipeline that I hope to get out before the weekend, but they're general enough that they can wait till the weekend...and Portland's not playing, so there's that…speaking of, who the Hell am I going to watch this weekend?

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