The boys from the Mountain Time Zone have finally taken over. One week into the season, Real Salt Lake and the Colorado Rapids have emerged as the top two teams in the first official Power Rankings of the 2011 season. Got an issue? Vote for your own! All match times for this week's games are ET.
Lose the defender of the year with a hamstring strain? No problem. Second-year center back Chris Schuler stepped in for the injured Jamison Olave and, after some early-game jitters, helped lead RSL to a 1-0 road win over the Quakes in a monsoon at Buck Shaw Stadium.
This Week: Saturday vs. LA (9 pm, Matchday Live, Direct Kick)
First they came for the doubters and left with an MLS Cup. Now they’ve come for the haters, and they put on a clinical, beautiful attacking display against Portland. The Rapids took more offseason grief than any Cup winner since the ’05 Galaxy, but there wasn’t an ounce of negative football to be found in Commerce City.
This Week: Saturday at Chivas USA (10:30 pm, Matchday Live, Direct Kick)
Can’t like the taste of two lost points at home to a weak Revolution side, but given the circumstances (torrential rains, three missing starters and a bad early goal) it’s not the end of the world. Nonetheless, Bruce Arena will be happy when Juan Pablo Angel is fully healthy because the Galaxy strikers thus far have been barren in front of net.
This Week: Saturday at RSL (9 pm, Matchday Live, Direct Kick)
They got a fair portion of help from Seattle’s shoddy finishing, especially in second-half stoppage time. And there are real questions up top this week, with Juan Agudelo on international duty and Thierry Henry already picking up a nick.
This Week: Saturday at Columbus (4 pm, Matchday Live, Direct Kick)
DC’s revival, coupled with that of Charlie Davies, could be one of the big stories of the year if their 3-1 win over the Crew is any indication. They’ll play some fun 4-3 games this year — and win their fair share of them.
This Week: Saturday at New England (4:30 pm, Matchday Live, Direct Kick)
The offense was convincing in the Home Depot Center on Saturday night, but the defense left much to be desired. Part of that is the aggressive nature of Peter Vermes’s 4-3-3, but partially it looked like a lack of communication from Matt Besler and Julio Cesar. They’ll need more time to jell.
This Week: Saturday at Chicago (4 pm, Matchday Live, Direct Kick)
Eric Alexander hasn’t made anyone forget Dax McCarty just yet, but he looked smooth and covered a lot of ground against the Fire. A draw at home isn’t the way Schellas Hyndman and company wanted to start the season, of course, but until the red card they were the better team.
This Week: Saturday vs. San Jose (9 pm, Matchday Live, Direct Kick)
Four goals and three points taken from a rival, all in front of a sell-out crowd and record TV ratings is probably the best league-entrance in the history of MLS. But there have to be concerns about the way TFC dominated possession (60 percent) and the two goals that came of it.
This Week: Saturday at Philadelphia (4 pm ET, Matchday Live, Direct Kick)
That ugly 1-0 win in Houston was a bit of a milestone for the Union. Last year they would have squandered the early lead and, at best, gotten a draw out of it. Instead they defended for their lives, and Faryd Mondragón helped make the goal stand. A good sign for 2011 in Philly.
This Week: Saturday vs. Vancouver (4 pm ET, Matchday Live, Direct Kick)
Diego Chaves will be very happy with his first goal, and very frustrated that Gaston Puerari didn’t feed him the ball when they had a 2-on-none on the hour mark. A bigger concern is that, after spending all offseason in the 3-5-2, de los Cobos scrapped it at the 35-minute mark for a more traditional 4-4-2. The Fire may have to re-learn their system on the fly.
This Week: Saturday vs. Kansas City (4 pm, Matchday Live, Direct Kick)
The Revs allowed insane amounts of space for Landon Donovan to work on the flanks and somehow weren’t punished for it. They got the result, and they got 90 healthy minutes from Shalrie Joseph, but there was plenty to be concerned about – starting with Joseph’s central midfield partners.
This Week: Saturday vs. D.C. United (4:30 pm, Matchday Live, Direct Kick)
For the second consecutive year the Quakes were shut out by RSL in their home opener. That’s the bad news. The good news is that they generated a ton of chances; they’re the first team to put 10 or more shots on Nick Rimando’s goal in years.
This Week: Saturday at FC Dallas (9 pm, Matchday Live, Direct Kick)
Still a work in progress, but it looks like the defensive woes of 2010 could be a thing of the past. The striker corps still needs sorting, especially with Brian Ching becoming more injury prone as the years wear on, but in rookie Will Bruin, there is hope that the future can be now.
This Week: Friday at Seattle (10 pm, Fox Soccer)
It’s entirely possible that Seattle start the season in a funk, then turn it on around mid-May or so. Last year Sigi Schmid had to bench Fredy Montero to get him started, after all, and with the upheaval of Blaise Nkufo’s dismissal and Steve Zakuani’s injury, it hasn’t been the smoothest March.
This Week: Friday vs. Houston (10 pm, Fox Soccer)
In their last two competitive games they’ve given up seven goals and looked every bit the sieve that would suggest. Yes, there were injury concerns, but the same holds true for almost every team on this list. The Crew are already listing, and without the veteran leadership that led them to so many trophies, it’s not clear who’ll take the point in getting them on track.
This Week: Saturday vs. New York (4 pm, Matchday Live, Direct Kick)
The good news is that those preseason questions about where the goals would come from look to have been answered, at least a little bit. The bad news is that they made mistake after mistake to gift Sporting a win on home soil. Ugly start for the Rojiblancos.
This Week: Saturday vs. Colorado (10:30 pm, Matchday Live, Direct Kick)
John Spencer showed he’s not one to dither about making changes, and the Timbers’ second half in Commerce City was a good start. Their first half, however, was atrocious. There’s a lot of talent, but this team needs a leader in the central defense to be a threat.
Next Match: Saturday at Toronto (2 pm, TSN)
Give Aron Winter credit: He promised good, attacking soccer, and that’s what the Reds delivered going forward. Unfortunately they also delivered it to the Whitecaps, who repeatedly carved up the TFC defense. Expect backline reinforcements sooner rather than later. And if none come, expect TFC to reside in this spot permanently.
Next Match: Saturday vs. Portland (2 pm, TSN)