Monday, June 29, 2015

MLS Week 17 Rankings: Sorting Through the...INCOMING!!!

Your newest member of the Sonoma County Sol!
I had this Major League Soccer at the Half Rankings concept all worked out. It had a couple of attendant challenges: for one, not every MLS club has played 17 games; some have less, some have more (along with the potential for sitting idly later in the season as other clubs play their cards in the hand well; see, the Los Angeles Galaxy and DC United). Giving a high-five to a milestone as it passed all of us by had some appeal, as well. A big part of attraction to that idea, though, was the sheer amount of goddamn data spit out by the last two weeks.

By all that's So The last week alone featured 16 regular season games, which spelled two-game weeks for all but 7 MLS clubs (yeah, that odd number tells me I overlooked a dead rat in the data). The Saturday and Sunday before that: more games. The freakin' week before that: U.S. Open Cup. For goddamn everybody. With that much soccer on offer, I figured some enterprising coaches would send out heavies to scout soccer-friendly bars across the country in search of able-bodied, and nearly-able-bodied males, recruiting the ones they could convince, and shanghaiing the rest as the market dictated.

The situation argued for a wider focus, basically, and what's more big picture than a big, Vaseline-lensed looked back at the first half of the 2015 season? Frame it as a projection, maybe, a way of arguing that this one club that no one would dare project in the playoffs, yeah, I'm sayin’' it. Going. Maybe even all the way. In a crazy league this one, I mean, who can say, really? Right?

And then I wrote it all down and realized that my "crazy" projections for the post season look a-whole-goddamn-lot like the current standings. The only change – literally, the only difference? – I have the San Jose Earthquakes going into the post-season over FC Dallas. So, there's that.

Still, can we all agree that the following three coaches are now circling The MLS Musical Chair Hot Seat: the Chicago Fire's Frank Yallop; the Colorado Rapids' Pablo Mastroeni; and the Philadelphia Union's Jim Curtin. My money's on Pablo. And I give him...mid-August. He.s gone by mid-August. OK, enough of that...

OK, onto the Methods section. Just two games watched in full this past weekend (Damn my obligations! And, OK yes, sometimes entirely natural wish to mix up my weekends a little!)
Real Salt Lake v. Columbus Crew SC
Portland Timbers v. Seattle Sounders (HA! Ha ha ha ha! Whoo...still enjoying that one)
Quickly, just prior to the ranking, I think I finally have clear explanations for two numbers beneath each team's name. If it's unclear to anyone, do speak up. And, full disclosure, I may or may not have watched the 20-minute mini-games for Week 16 1/2, Hogwarts Week in MLS (e.g. the June 24 set of games)...long may Hogwarts Week precede Rivalry Week.

OK, rankings time. Stack 'em up!

1) Sporting Kansas City
(Full games: 6) (Last week: 2)
Beating the Rapids at home is like an adult male arm-wrestling his mom – i.e. they can win, but only provided certain, specific circumstances – e.g. temporary weakness, perhaps as a side-effect of medication. With all their pieces back, The Wiz What Was goes up because they look to me like the most-balanced club in MLS. And who knew that nail-eating maniac, Kevin Ellis, would cover that ably for Ike Opara?

2) DC United
(Full games: 4 1/2) (Last week: 1)
The need for points notwithstanding, Sunday impressed just as much as Wednesday for DC. At least by bare results. Then again, Conor Doyle's goal. That league-high 20 games would look fragile for other clubs, but DC has a pretty fluffy cushion over the rest of the East. More importantly, all that veteran savvy buys plenty of time for inspiration to come knocking.

3) Vancouver Whitecaps

(Full games: 6) (Last week: 4)
It's been pointed out, but, yes, the 'Caps do have the most points per game in MLS. More to the point, they're MLS's only traveling, shit-in-yer-stadium road show. They've crapped in LA, in New York, in the vicinity of Boston. On a tear, I tells ya! I haven't watched 'em in a while, but I'm definitely impressed by what I'm in 20-minute bursts. Especially from David Ousted. That's my 'keeper of the year, so far, hands-down. (And, yes, I'll start watching them.)

4) Portland Timbers
(Full games: 17) (Last week: 5)
Is this inflated? Yeeeaahhh...but, the thing is, I had 'em up so high last week, and, yeah, the little loss to LA was just this week, but they did really good against Seattle, I mean, really good, and everything looks like it's, y'know, clicking? (Actual thoughts through the link. Thanks!)

5) Seattle Sounders
(Full games viewed: 9) (Last week: 2)
I won't be surprised if I see other rankings posts drop them further, because Seattle has very, very clearly found where its depth bottoms out. Turns out, it wasn't so far as everyone thought. The Sounders probably need either at least Clint or Oba, but the way the Timbers kept carving up the same spot made me wonder if they haven't missed Osvaldo Alonso more.

6) Toronto FC
(Full games: 6) (Last week: 6)
I remember reading good things about the win over Montreal...maybe. They looked fine in the win over DC, kept Bill Hamid busy, etc., but a win would have said something. A draw? Says less, that's for sure. That said, Jonathan Osorio has had enough moments that I'm starting to see why people rate him. I have thoughts on Bradley, too, but they're for another post. Assuming I get to it. Overall, though, I think they're playoff-bound. Not even a jinx can stop it.

7) Los Angeles Galaxy
(Full games: 3 1/2) (Last week: 8)
The Galaxy's full week provides just enough cover for the Timbers, ah, elevated ranking. See, that 5-0 drubbing? Anomaly. The way San Jose pulled 'em apart proves it. Or at least argues for it. All that aside, the San Jose game really does project like Portland's loss to LA: a hiccup that's interrupting a generally positive trend. LA has just about everyone back and they're racking up the points to announce it. And they'll add a big (ideally, not too disruptive) gun in July. Bright future.

8) Columbus Crew SC
(Full games: 6) (Last week: 10)
For me, the Crew had the best Week(s 16 1/2) 17 in MLS. They played two hungry, hungry clubs tough, and won the game they had to, and came back to twice in the one they didn't. Until they stop being something of a high-wire act, however, they're not a great bet to rise higher in the rankings. Or go deeper in the playoffs. So many good the Crew trapped in a system? That's the big one for me.

9) Houston Dynamo
(Full games: 3) (Last week: 7)
As much as the result (and cannon-jacking!) upsets Houston fans, I dunno, the 2-0 loss to Dallas was kind of a nothing result for Houston. It doesn't really shift their win-some-lose-some overall vibe and it doesn't change the fact that they're relying on Will Bruin to produce. Oh, and Raul Rodriguez may fall short of that pedigree: Fabian Castillo isn't the first guy to run past him at right back.

10) Orlando City FC
(Full games: 2 1/2) (Last week: 11)
Time for a little honesty: Orlando still sort of slips my mind. I can stare at them and sort of fail to process. That's another way of saying I don't really have much to say about them. I only know they've been consistent, beating teams they should, etc. (See: the Colorado Rapids, the pass-around punk of the entire league, I'd say). Probably good enough for the post-season consistent.

11) Red Bull New York
(Full games: 5) (Last week 13)
Even with the Empire State lighting up the wrong color (thereby confirming what's long been suspected), the Red Bulls had a good week. Sacha Kljestan finally looked like he understood his role, Felipe didn't wail away toward the goal like some toddler off his meds at T-ball practice, Bradley Wright-Phillips may have exorcised the demons out of his shoes, etc. They can only rise so far this week, however, because some awful, New-England-May-June-level shit came before. Ooh...not there yet.

12) San Jose Earthquakes

(Full games: 1) (Last week: 14)
Sure, I've seen them less than Orlando, less than any team in MLS, in fact, but I somehow feel like I know San Jose. Or at least what they're about. The Bash Brothers may be gone or gone limping, but, when at their best, the club still bristles with aggression. They channel that chip on Chris Wondolowski’s shoulder as needed. Another player I'm noticing: Matias Perez-Garcia; I didn't rate him before, but he has definitely wowed me over at least 40 minutes of soccer (that's viewing time, btdubs, not his playing time).

13) Real Salt Lake
(Full games: 3) (Last week: 12)
My first game in a while with RSL confirmed a couple theories: their telling transition comes at forward for now, with more to come later. "Almost" Garcia got a little closer and Sebastian Jaime is on a two-game goal-scoring "tear," but they’re a long way off proven. In brighter news, that Phanuel Kavita kid looked fine, maybe even better than. In still brighter news, RSL might have one of the better long-term defensive foundations in MLS. Mm. Now that I wrote that, it sounds a little too big.

14) FC Dallas
(Full games: 4) (Last week: 15)
It was a fine win, and definitely one they need, and yet. And yet. Does it ever feel to anyone else that Dallas' season is more or less an exercise in waiting for Castillo to kick his game into fifth? And doesn't that seem pretty goddamn low-percentage to you? We all know about Dallas' pattern by now – e.g. start by flying and hope your momentum carries you just far enough over the skids to make the playoffs – but it feels...deeper this year. As is said every year, I'm sure. Still, saying it again this year.

15) New England Revolution
(Full games: 4) (Last week: 9)
A bottom-less pit of Suck has opened beneath Gillette Stadium, apparently, and, help!, the Revolution can't get out of it! OK, first, think I'll go watch the highlights of Columbus' win over New England after this goes up. Second, several Revs players look great this year; maybe even better than last. Here, I'm thinking Teal Bunbury and Scott Caldwell. On a deeper level, though, if missing Jermaine Jones hurts a team this badly, one point of view could argue that it's not a good team. If I were them, I'd try pressing like New York. Then again, I think they already do.

16) Montreal Impact
(Full games: 4) (Last week: 17)
Didn't really see Toronto's win over them (sigh...watching that after, too; NOTE: skipping Orlando – sorry!), but they provided the other half of what looked like one hell of a fun game against Philly. Ignacio Piatti could've scored the winner; then again, the Union's Richie Marquez might very well have had their winner called back. All in all, Montreal survived going a man down well enough (and nice one, Jack Mac). And, Laurent Ciman: another solid import.

17) Philadelphia Union
(Full games: 2 1/2) (Last week: 18)
Philly had a good enough week (which C. J. Sapong rode to a great one!), but there's just something...fragile about the Union. I've never really seen them in control this season. Not that I've watched a lot, either, but points are points, and records, records – and the Union is on the wrong end of everything except the standings. Where they're doing surprisingly well. Go figure.

18) New York City FC
(Full games: 4 1/2) (Last week: 17)
First, I really want to dock NYCFC for that field/stadium situation. In fact, a basic sense of fair play is the only thing keeping me from dropping them to 20. This close, NYCFC! Get on that fucking stadium. Aw, but the feel-great story about Tommy McNamara wants me to lift them higher; tales of redemption stir the soul, after all. The trouble with this club is balance, the old "Toronto Problem." And bringing in Andrea Pirlo (which is done, right?) and Frank Lampard won't fix it in enough places.

19) Chicago Fire
(Full games: 2 1/2) (Last week: 20)
They poked their noses back into the regular season and looked what happened! Conor Doyle kicked the fucker right off! Ha, ha, ha!! You're funny when you fail! Yeah, Chicago's bad. Worse, I don't see them getting better. That said, given all their extended breaks, how the hell haven’t they played fewer games than Montreal?

20) Colorado Rapids
(Full games: 4) (Last week: 20)
This week's two losses confirmed it: this club is fucking terrible. Pretty much what it says in the entry above for Orlando (ouch!) I think Marcelo Sarvas almost cried when his maybe-penalty didn't get called, too. Mastroeni really should go. The talent on this roster is argument enough...

OK, that's it. Or, rather, just one more thing: I have only general faith in the current count of the number of times I've seen each club over the full 90 minutes. Some of them...well, probably lost in the mix. What can I say? The monkey sorting the data ate something trippy. Bis spater!

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