May 8, 2007

USL First Division Power Rankings

We follow this league almost as closely as MLS, so I figure it's time to start with a weekly rankings post. Unlike ECB's Manic Monday Trivia posts, we'll strive to make these a weekly staple, just like our MLS Power Rankings. As always, we're open to comments and discussion.

1. Montreal Impact - The perennial powerhouse took care of business down in Miami on Saturday with a 1-0 win. The only blip on their record is the 2-2 draw in Atlanta a couple of weeks back, one in which the Impact gained more respect by coming back from a 2-goal deficit in the last 15 minutes. One question: Where is Fabian Dawkins? It looks like he didn't even make the trip to Miami last weekend and didn't get off the bench in the team's 3-2 win at Charleston a week before.

2. Atlanta Silverbacks - After the opening night debacle against Montreal, it's been all business for the 'Backs. They did what they were supposed to against Minnesota and Carolina at home, putting them at the top of the table. Another visit by Carolina on Saturday looks to be crucial, as the game is the team's first in this year's Southern Derby competition, and with a three-game roadtrip up next on the slate, the 3 points could be very valuable.

3. Vancouver Whitecaps - Don't be deceived by the defending champions. They haven't hit their stride yet but pulled a point out in a championship rematch at Rochester on Friday before taking the full 3 at Minnesota. The only head-scratchers so far are their 2-2 draw at home to debutant California and former Silverback Jason McLaughlin struggling to find his form.

4. Rochester Raging Rhinos - Another team that hasn't hit their stride yet, the Rhinos haven't completely bounced back from their opening loss at Puerto Rico. They pulled out a draw at Charleston this weekend was the first of five straight games away from PAETEC Park. Let's see how they do in California this weekend and if Cupcakes favorite John Ball can start dominating the league like he's done for the past 3 seasons.

5. Puerto Rico Islanders - This team still scares me. A bad loss in Portland a few weeks ago coupled with two-straight 0-0 draws is a little disappointing, but they head back to the island for three straight. Their games against Montreal and Atlanta in the next two weeks will show if this team can get back to the playoffs this season.

6. Portland Timbers - It's been a mixed bag for Timber Jim and his faithful. A great 3-1 win over Puerto Rico at home followed by a hard-fought 1-0 loss at Seattle on Saturday. Four straight home games should help to ease their pain of falling behind early in the Cascadia Cup.

7. Seattle Sounders - After two one-goal losses and a scoreless draw to open the season, Seattle's finest got a home victory over the arch-rival Timbers on Saturday to turn things around. I still think prying Hugo Alcaraz-Cuellar away from Portland in the offseason could be one of the biggest moves in the offseason.

8. California Victory - I still don't know what to think of this team. They're one of four teams in the league without a loss, but they've only played one game. A great 2-2 draw in Vancouver to open the season was probably the biggest surprise in the league thus far, so we'll see how things unfold on Saturday when they host Rochester in their first-ever home game.

9. Miami FC - Another team that's a mystery to me. I didn't think they'd do that great this season without Romario, Diego Walsh and Mario Rodriguez, but they played Montreal pretty well. If not for John Pulido's 43rd-minute red card, they might have pulled out the victory. My biggest complaint is how this team stays alive financially. 520 people at the Montreal game? That's embarrassing.

10. Charleston Battery - I'm not putting the Battery down here because they're the Silverbacks' main rival, but because they haven't impressed me this season. An early goal against Rochester on Saturday made me think that they'd win handily, but to no avail. Two draws (the other to a Minnesota team everyone else has been beating up on) and a 3-2 loss at home to Montreal hasn't left me with a good impression of this team. Byron Alvarez is too good to be playing on this team.

11. Minnesota Thunder - Two draws away from home to open the season were good results, but they looked terrible upon their visit to Atlanta. They were never in the game, lost their heads in the second and were done. They lost their heads again this weekend, as a late Vancouver goal gave the Whitecaps a 2-1 win at James Griffin. This team and its supporters deserve better. Maybe another deep run in the US Open Cup? Where's Melvin Tarley when you need him?

12. Carolina RailHawks - It's not that their results have been too bad, it's just that they can't score goals. One goal in four games isn't going to get it done. Another visit to Atlanta this weekend doesn't bode well for the expansion franchise, which will also be their inaugural game in the Southern Derby.

1 comment:

Longshoe said...

Based off the teams I've seen, here's how I'd shift it:

1- Montreal
2- Vancouver (I think they're the best team, but that draw against the Victory has to knock them down. They looked great for the majority of the match against Rochester)
3- Rochester
4- Atlanta (Besides Montreal, I don't think they've really played anyone of consequence. There's still some issues in the back that worry me. The real test will be road trip to Puerto Rico next weekend and Seattle's visit.)
5- Puerto Rico
6- Seattle
7- Portland
8- Minnesota (Their schedule has been brutal)
9- California (Who knows?)
10- Miami
11- Charleston
12- Carolina (They have no creativity or quality in attack, everything is a long ball to nothing)