Posted: Mon April 16, 2012 1:22PM; Updated: Mon April 16, 2012 2:47PM
Avi Creditor

MLS Week 6 Power Rankings: Focal point on disciplinary committee

Story Highlights

Violent play is once again on the upsurge in MLS despite stricter penalties

Dallas could benefit from recalling versatile Brazilian Jackson

The L.A. Galaxy's stars deliver in statement win against Portland

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Rafa Marquez
The Red Bulls' Rafa Marquez (right) made unwanted headlines again after injuring San Jose's Shea Salinas.
Andy Marlin/Getty Images

More discipline awaits after a physical Week 6 in MLS that also saw Sporting Kansas City rise to the top:

1. Disciplinary Committee faces a tall task. There are no stronger buzz words in MLS these days than "disciplinary committee," with each week seemingly turned into a guessing game of "Who will be retroactively punished?"

As D.C. United defender Brandon McDonald, who returned to action Saturday after serving a one-game suspension, said this past week, "It's going on and on. Guys are joking around in the locker room that there might be a suspension every week."

The only thing is, it is far from a joke. After the most violent week in the 2012 season, the mostly anonymous MLS Disciplinary Committee has its hands full, as the weekend provided numerous instances of reckless challenges that endangered the safety of opponents.

No game will be looked at in more detail than the New York Red Bulls-San Jose Earthquakes encounter, and no play in that game will be scrutinized more than Red Bulls midfielder Rafa Marquez' NFL-style tackle and kick out on Shea Salinas. The incident, that happened inside the penalty area no less, went completely unnoticed by match officials but ended up breaking the San Jose Earthquakes winger's clavicle and should yield a multigame ban. That play overshadowed three other instances in that game alone that could merit discipline, including Marvin Chavez' flying scissor lunge from behind on Roy Miller, Thierry Henry's two-footed, studs-up challenge on Chris Wondolowski and Victor Bernardez' s apparently deliberate elbow to Kenny Cooper. Of the incidents, only Chavez' was punished with a card, which may be more of an indicator that MLS referees -- in this case Ricardo Salazar -- need to get a stronger grasp on the action and develop a better sense of when to let them play (i.e. how Kevin Stott handled the important Sporting Kansas City-Real Salt Lake tussle) and when to step in and be more of an enforcer.

Outside of Red Bull Arena, there were other instances that are worth a second look from the disciplinary committee. In New England, forward Saer Sene appeared to embellish after a McDonald elbow, something that certainly falls in line with past fines doled out to Seattle's Alvaro Fernandez and D.C.'s Danny Cruz. In Seattle, Brian Mullan's challenge from behind on Osvaldo Alonso late in Colorado's loss earned him a yellow card but could be seen as reckless and might be put under the microscope even more considering Alonso's stature in the league -- he's already been on the receiving end of one suspension-yielding tackle -- and Mullan's past against Seattle.

However many punishments get handed down this week, they will just be the latest round in the New MLS, one that is less about brutal physicality and is more concerned with cleaning up play on the field, no matter if it undermines the in-game officiating.

It is worth noting that there has yet to be an appeal of any of the new wave of suspensions. Considering that, according to comments made by commissioner Don Garber before the season, there is an unnamed representative from the MLS Players' Union on the disciplinary committee, that trend is likely to continue, as the MLSPU is typically involved in the appeals process. As a result key contributors to teams across MLS will keep learning the hard way that player safety trumps all.

"This is the new reality in our league, and sometimes it's going to hurt you, sometimes it's going to help you," D.C. coach Ben Olsen said.

2. Jackson acquisition key for FC Dallas. Sunday's transfer deadline came and went without any action, but one move a few days prior that flew a bit under the radar took place in Dallas, where the club recalled versatile Brazilian Jackson from his loan to Cruzeiro. Initially sent back to his native country because of personal reasons in January, Jackson was called back to Dallas with injuries taking their toll on the Western Conference contender, and his return could pay immense dividends.

Jackson was a key contributor all over the field for FCD last season, playing in 28 games and scoring four goals, and when it appeared that he was gone for the season it was considered a blow to Dallas' chances. Now, Jackson's suddenly an important piece to the puzzle. While he can play any position outside of goalkeeper, his assets are best used either as a fullback or on the wings in the midfield. Considering that Brek Shea could be absent for a month-long stretch when U.S. national team friendlies and World Cup qualifiers get going in a few weeks, Ricardo Villar is dealing with a foot strain, David Ferreira remains on the comeback trail and Fabian Castillo has been pushed higher up the field, Jackson's ability to fill various holes makes him an integral part of the FCD lineup as soon as he is fit to return to the field.

3. Galaxy stars align in victory. The Los Angeles Galaxy had three signature moments in their much-needed victory over the Portland Timbers, and it must have been a sight for sore Galaxy-fan eyes that the club's four most integral players had a hand in all of them.

Whether it was Robbie Keane skinning his defender and feeding Landon Donovan for the first-half equalizer, Juninho stepping up with what seemed like his first positive contribution of the season with the hustle play leading to his go-ahead goal or David Beckham's clinching wonderstrike, the Galaxy's attacking quality finally rose to the surface after a long dormant period.

The development could not have happened at a more integral time for the Galaxy, too, as a rough patch in the schedule awaits. Games at Colorado, at home against Dallas, at Seattle and a home tilt against the New York Red Bulls all take place in the upcoming three-week stretch, one that could go a long way in determining whether the Galaxy have the same mettle as the championship side of a year ago.

4. Mother Nature wins in Chicago. Neither the Houston Dynamo nor the Chicago Fire needed a break after coming off respective bye weeks -- two in Houston's case -- but Mother Nature provided that regardless, with lightning and storms forcing their Sunday night encounter to be halted after 65 minutes with the score knotted at 1-1.

The shortened draw played more into the Dynamo's favor, considering that the club was on the road without three starting midfielders (Brad Davis was nursing a calf injury, and Adam Moffat and Colin Clark were suspended) and that accruing another point before the opening of BBVA Compass Stadium next month is sufficient enough. Tell the Dynamo that entering the match under those circumstances they'd walk away with a draw, and they'd have taken it with ease.

The Fire, meanwhile, who set the league record for most draws in a season last year (16), could not have been thrilled with the premature stoppage. Considering the weakened state of the Dynamo's lineup and the way the game was unfolding, the Fire seemed more likely of the two to find the winner. Chicago, specifically Argentine playmaker Sebastian Grazzini, was more threatening going forward but was forced to settle instead. So much for the home-field advantage.

5. Team of the Week

Goalkeeper: Dan Kennedy (Chivas USA)

Defenders: Zach Scott (Seattle Sounders), Aurelien Collin (Sporting Kansas City), Heath Pearce (Chivas USA)

Midfielders: Osvaldo Alonso (Seattle Sounders), Nick DeLeon (D.C. United), Landon Donovan (Los Angeles Galaxy), Brian Carroll (Philadelphia Union)

Forwards: Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes), Blas Perez (FC Dallas), Kenny Cooper (New York Red Bulls)

Week 6 MLS Power Rankings
New Rank Previous Rank Team
1 2 Sporting Kansas City (W/L/T: 6-0-0)
Sporting KC proved it on the field yet again, as their high-pressure style flustered Real Salt Lake enough to remain perfect on the season. A short week and two games in the Pacific Northwest will pose a challenge to a club whose success is dependent on fresh legs and the ability to press throughout.
2 1 Real Salt Lake (5-2-0)
There's no shame in losing in Kansas City, but nonchalantly conceding as many set pieces as RSL did showed a surprising lack of poise by an otherwise model club. The fact that RSL couldn't muster a shot on frame until second-half stoppage time speaks volumes of how disruptive SKC's pressure was.
3 3 Seattle Sounders (3-1-1)
Considering all of the club's recent offensive struggles, leave it to the unheralded Alex Caskey-Zach Scott combo to break a scoreless deadlock with Colorado and get the Sounders back in the win column. Nicked-up wingers Alvaro Fernandez and Mauro Rosales will have plenty to say about the club's attack upon returning after the bye week.
4 4 Houston Dynamo (2-1-1)
Brian Ching might have lost a step when it comes to pace, but his feed to Will Bruin for the Dynamo's goal Sunday night was pure class and something that few forwards in MLS are capable of producing. With three games remaining before Houston's first home game, the Dynamo are sitting in a favorable position.
5 5 San Jose Earthquakes (4-1-1)
The Earthquakes did well to battle back from two deficits in New York and hold on for a road point, but losing starting winger Shea Salinas and hulking center back Victor Bernardez to injury on the same sequence is a big blow to a side that was turning into a well-oiled unit. The club's depth -- Simon Dawkins and Jason Hernandez were called into action against NY -- will be put to the test while the two starters recover.
6 6 New York Red Bulls (3-2-1)
Nobody is questioning the Red Bulls' attack, with Kenny Cooper finding the back of the net again and setting up another goal, but there's serious doubt up the middle, with Wilman Conde and Teemu Tainio injured, Rafa Marquez likely to be suspended and little in the way of effectiveness behind them.
7 7 Vancouver Whitecaps (2-1-2)
After a week off, the Whitecaps will attempt to do what no other club has been able to yet: Solve Sporting KC. The meeting may come at the perfect time for the 'Caps, who will be well-rested while their counterparts deal with a short week, long trip and potential letdown after an emotional victory over the weekend.
8 9 D.C. United (2-2-2)
After an 0-2 start, D.C. is unbeaten in four straight matches and gets expansion Montreal and a potentially short-handed New York side at home this week. Things are looking up for the Black-and-Red, which, not surprisingly, happens to coincide with Dwayne De Rosario's return to form..
9 10 FC Dallas (3-2-1)
A second straight last-gasp result has FC Dallas back in the right direction, and the winner against the Impact couldn't have been any more cathartic for Brek Shea, who was in need of a turning-point moment to regain his confidence after a rough professional stretch.
10 8 Colorado Rapids (3-3-0)
A second straight last-gasp result has FC Dallas back in the right direction, and the winner against the Impact couldn't have been any more cathartic for Brek Shea, who was in need of a turning-point moment to regain his confidence after a rough professional stretch.
11 11 Los Angeles Galaxy (2-3-0)
Has Bruce Arena pulled another magic trick by turning Chivas USA castaway David Junior Lopes into an effective solution at center back? That might be a stretch, but the Brazilian's debut in the back was far less calamitous than his predecessors' recent showings, as the Galaxy were able to clamp down on Portland and climb out of last place in the West.
12 12 Chivas USA (3-3-0)
The road success continues for the bizarro Goats, who are 3-0 away from the Home Depot Center and 0-3 at home. Goalkeeper Dan Kennedy is rapidly approaching the Osvaldo Alonso zone, too -- He shouldn't be underrated anymore, just praised for being consistently solid.
13 14 Chicago Fire (1-1-2)
All eyes were on Arne Friedrich's debut at center back, and while the German international was not tested all too often, he succeeded for the most part. His budding partnership with Jalil Anibaba should ensure that the Fire don't skip a beat in the aftermath of Cory Gibbs' latest knee injury. Sean Johnson, who returned to goal for the first time since his El Salvador mishap, appeared steady, too.
14 15 New England Revolution (2-4-0)
Conceding late goals in two straight games is all that's standing in the way of the Revs feeling very good about things during their bye week. On the bright side, Jose Moreno was able to open his account, and Benny Feilhaber returned to action after an injury layoff, two promising attacking developments for a hardworking side.
15 17 Philadelphia Union (1-3-1)
It was far from a masterpiece, but the Union did what needed to be done to get their first three-point haul of the season. A lot of the credit should be directed toward Freddy Adu, whose influential crosses were the difference in the victory over Columbus.
16 13 Portland Timbers (1-4-1)
Another bright start, another blown lead for the Timbers, who have nobody to blame but themselves for currently sitting in the Western Conference cellar. After four straight losses, the pressure is starting to mount. Catching Sporting KC in their third match in seven days while at Jeld-Wen Field should play into Portland's favor, but the club's overall confidence has to be dwindling.
17 16 Columbus Crew (2-3-0)
The performances have just not been good enough from the Crew, who trot out one of the league's least-imposing attacks. Their place in the standings is inflated by wins over Montreal and Toronto, and they'll have a hard time breaking down the Dynamo's disciplined defense this coming week.
18 18 Montreal Impact (1-5-1)
It won't count for anything in the standings, but the Impact were quite close to pulling off a road shocker in Dallas. As long as goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts maintains his high level of play, and there's no reason to think otherwise, the club will continue to be competitive.
19 19 Toronto FC (0-5-0)
The dreadful start continues, and while the defense is deservedly getting plenty of the negative attention, what about the supposedly vaunted attack, which has mustered just two goals in five games?
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