Posted: Mon May 20, 2013 5:28PM; Updated: Mon May 20, 2013 8:27PM
Avi Creditor

Landon Donovan looks strong in return, Seattle keeps surging

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Landon Donovan looked fit during the Galaxy's loss to the Red Bulls this past weekend.
Landon Donovan looked fit during the Galaxy's loss to the Red Bulls this past weekend.
Rich Graessle/Icon SMI
Week 12 MLS Power Rankings
New Rank Old Rank Team
1 1 FC Dallas (7-2-3)
The Supporters' Shield front-runner took a step back for the first time in more than two months, having a nine-game unbeaten run go up in smoke against Seattle. Despite a spirited two-goal comeback -- and a fantastically placed Olimpico by Michel -- FCD just could not stop the Sounders after Blas Perez was controversially sent off. The club will have to go on without its Panamanian front man against San Jose for this weekend's clash.
2 2 Sporting Kansas City (6-4-3)
Sporting KC will feel aggrieved after one of the worst offside calls in recent memory, which wiped away a very good goal by Ike Opara off the board that could have completely changed the complexion of the club's 1-1 draw with cellar-dwelling D.C. United. Instead, D.C. was able to keep a foothold in the game, nicked an equalizer and prevented SKC from finding a winner.
3 4 Portland Timbers (4-1-7)
If you didn't know already, these aren't the Timbers of the last two years. Drawing penalties, getting points on the road and being in every game they play are the new hallmarks of Caleb Porter's bunch, and Portland's franchise-best unbeaten streak is up to 10 games after the club found yet another way to remain undefeated away from home. Late sub Jose Adolfo Valencia played the role of hero with his first MLS goal.
4 7 New York Red Bulls (7-4-3)
Tim Cahill's late winner off of Juninho's sublime free kick handed the surging Red Bulls their fifth win in six games. Much can be made of it being LA's second game in five days, and with the Red Bulls having played more games than anyone in the league, perhaps their place atop the Eastern Conference standings is a little inflated. But it certainly feels like this team is starting to achieve consistency and has the roster depth to compete with anyone in the league.
5 5 Montreal Impact (6-2-2)
Despite being in fourth place, the Impact, coming off a bye week, are in a pretty advantageous position in the league standings. They have four games in hand on first-place New York, trail by just four points, and saw the clubs directly ahead, SKC and Houston, drop points. Montreal will wish it had put itself in a better position in the Canadian championship, though, settling for a 0-0 draw in the home leg of the final against Vancouver.
6 3 Houston Dynamo (6-4-2)
What happened to Houston's BBVA Compass Stadium mojo? The Dynamo dropped a second straight home game, this one a lackluster 2-0 defeat to New England, after a run of 36 home games unbeaten. More concerning is how Dom Kinnear will address his immediate woe at center back, after Bobby Boswell's red card and Jermaine Tayor's injury suddenly has the club shorthanded in the back ahead of a revenge bout with rival SKC, which ended Houston's home streak and was not shy in celebrating the fact.
7 6 Los Angeles Galaxy (5-4-2)
The Galaxy earned a split on their two-game East Coast road swing, taming Philadelphia with a dominant second half spearheaded by Landon Donovan before turning a draw to a loss with a last-minute concession to the Red Bulls. Carlo Cudicini, brought in to be an upgrade over two-time MLS Cup winning goalkeeper Josh Saunders, was largely to blame for the stoppage-time goal after failing to come off his line for a free kick hit deep into his box. He has not been as sure of a thing in net as some may have expected.
8 8 Real Salt Lake (6-5-2)
RSL bounced back from its loss in Montreal to confound Chivas USA, with Ned Grabavoy's rare brace leading the way. Despite the 4-1 scoreline, goalkeeper Nick Rimando played a huge role in the victory, turning in a couple of highlight reel saves, including one with the result still very much in the balance.
9 13 Seattle Sounders (4-3-3)
The surging Sounders are now unbeaten in six games and have scored eight goals in their last two. On top of that, Sigi Schmid now has an embarrassment of scoring options up top, with Eddie Johnson and Lamar Neagle continuing to fare well and Obafemi Martins making good on his scant playing time with another goal. The club will hold its breath on the injury that forced Osvaldo Alonso out of the 4-2 win over FC Dallas, though.
10 9 Philadelphia Union (5-4-3)
Jack McInerney's latest game-winning goal (he has all five for the Union this season) helped the club bounce back from a midweek defeat to the Galaxy with a second 1-0 victory over the Chicago Fire in three games to stay in fifth position in the Eastern Conference. McInerney's league-high eight goals (which match his career-high already) has the 20-year-old forward in line for a first-career All-Star nod in what could be a busy summer for him should Jurgen Klinsmann come calling for the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
11 10 Colorado Rapids (4-4-4)
Former U.S. U-20 player Nathan Sturgis has had quite the journeyman career (six teams in eight seasons), but he looked right at home in the Colorado midfield Saturday night, scoring the opening goal and nearly netting a second in the club's hard-fought 1-1 draw at San Jose. The Rapids get a crack at reeling Chivas USA this weekend with a golden chance to extend their unbeaten streak to five games.
12 11 Columbus Crew (4-4-3)
Based on the early returns, Columbus has certainly gotten the better half of the Dominic Oduro for Dilly Duka (and Robbie Rogers' MLS rights) deal it made with Chicago. Oduro's team-high fifth goal of the season was all the Crew needed to notch a 1-0 Trillium Cup victory over Toronto FC. While Oduro's finish was class, so too was the ball played into him by Federico Higuain, who may not be putting up the same numbers as he did upon his entrance to the league, but is nevertheless a consistent threat to break open a game with his play.
13 12 Vancouver Whitecaps (3-4-4)
The Whitecaps received a breakout performance from Camilo, which could go a long way, even though the instant aftermath was a 2-2 draw against a 10-man Timbers side at home in the latest Cascadia Cup clash. The draw was the second-most notable one of the week for the Whitecaps, who held the Montreal Impact to a 0-0 result in the Stade Saputo leg of the Canadian championship and just need a result at home to seal a place in this summer's CCL group stage.
14 16 New England Revolution (3-4-4)
Perhaps the most impressive win of the week was turned in by the Revs, with the young attacking tandem of Juan Agudelo and Diego Fagundez doing their part to lift the club to a statement 2-0 victory in Houston. The match marked just the second time all season that the club tallied multiple goals. The end result took the spotlight off Dimitry Imbongo's red card-drawing brawl with Bobby Boswell that left both team with 10 men.
15 14 San Jose Earthquakes (3-4-6)
Marvin Chavez having his suspension cut in half and being allowed to play was a blessing for the Earthquakes, who needed the Honduran's well-hit free kick to force a 1-1 home draw with Colorado. After another failure to put away an opponent at Buck Shaw Stadium, the Earthquakes now have just one win in their last nine games, and are a shell of the dominant force they were a season ago.
16 15 Chivas USA (3-6-2)
Unpredictable Chivas USA was picked apart and stretched to the limit by Real Salt Lake, falling for the fifth time in six games. Although the club's early-season surge made it seem like the joke was on the rest of the league for underestimating the Goats, the joke is very much back on the club.
17 17 Chicago Fire (2-7-1)
It was deja vu for the Fire, who saw Sebastian Le Toux and McInerney hook up for yet another goal and saw goalkeeper Zac MacMath come up big when he was seriously called upon in a 1-0 loss to the Philadelphia Union. The attacking progress that Chicago had made appears to have been stunted, and the club, which is tied with D.C. for a league-worst six goals, may need to either look around the league for a trade option.
18 18 Toronto FC (1-6-4)
A fourth consecutive loss for Toronto FC has the Reds and their patient fans asking familiar questions. The club continues to try deal with loan moves from overseas and in-league trades, but no matter the cast of characters, the ball is going into the wrong net. The latest move, acquiring veteran Bobby Convey from Sporting Kansas City, gives the club an MLS-tested veteran, and he made his debut along with newcomers Jeremy Brockie and Steven Caldwell.
19 19 D.C. United (1-8-2)
D.C's seven-game losing skid is officially over after a hard-fought draw with Sporting Kansas City, but the result comes with a bit of an asterisk after Opara's first-half goal was wrongfully disallowed. Still, it was a sight for sore D.C. eyes to see a healthy Chris Pontius deliver a sumptuous ball for Kyle Porter, who touched home the equalizer -- and to see Bill Hamid celebrate his latest U.S. call-up with a stellar performance under pressure in goal.

Landon Donovan responded to his critics, Chivas USA picked up even more and Seattle shed its remaining detractors in MLS Week 12:

1. Landon Donovan's immediate response: When Landon Donovan was left off Jurgen Klinsmann's roster for the upcoming U.S. national team training camp, friendlies and World Cup qualifiers, it sparked a debate among all corners of American soccer fans.

For some, Klinsmann is being hypocritical by claiming that Donovan's form isn't up to par while calling up out-of-form and out-of-action players like Brek Shea, Stuart Holden and Danny Williams. For others, Donovan must earn his way back onto the national team despite being the USA's all-time leading scorer. Should Klinsmann's quest to maintain the team's chemistry override what Donovan may be able to contribute right now? Klinsmann may resent Donovan's departure during a time when the U.S. was facing adversity and crucial qualifying matches. Others might feel Donovan is the exception to any rule and should be called in no matter what.

Either way, there is not a more polarizing topic in U.S. Soccer right now, but Donovan himself has appeared to take the news in stride.

Right now, all Donovan can control is what he says and how he plays, and the immediate response on both accounts has been top-notch. His one-goal, two-assist showing in Philadelphia for the LA Galaxy the night before the actual roster release (but after the Grant Wahl report that he would be omitted) was quite telling that whatever message Klinsmann is trying to send has gotten across. In speaking to the press, Donovan's comments have been humbling, professional and have lacked a sense of entitlement.

Donovan has proven to be a candid and open speaker, so when he says that he'll happily accept a place on the Gold Cup roster if granted the opportunity, it sounds legitimate. Even though Donovan followed up his game against the Union five days later with a less emphatic showing in New York, the message is clear: For Donovan to get called up, he'll have to work his way back and earn it at a higher standard than perhaps anybody else.

VIDEO: Donovan discusses sabbatical, USMNT

2. Chivas USA continues to confound: Chivas USA has serious questions to answer in just about every facet of the club's operations.

On the field, Jose Luis "Chelis" Sanchez Sola's unorthodox tactics are no longer a surprise, and his team is getting picked apart by the opposition. Real Salt Lake had its way with Chivas' three-man back line Sunday night by sending runner after runner through gaping pockets of space and keeping the Goats on their back heels with pace, good timing and well-placed passes. Case and point: Ned Grabavoy had not scored a league goal since Oct. 16, 2010, and his career high for a single season is three. He torched Chivas for two goals on Sunday. And what in the world is goalkeeper Dan Kennedy doing 80 yards off his line taking a first-half free kick in a one-goal game? Is Chivas really that low on viable options to resort to such a gimmick at that juncture in the game?

As for how the front office is operating, Chivas made another questionable move last week. Acquiring Gabriel Farfan from the Philadelphia Union is a decent move on the surface. He's a California guy, a tenacious and versatile player who can serve roles in different spots on the field. Giving up a first-round pick in next year's SuperDraft (which is destined to be an early selection) and allocation money on top of that to get him though? That hardly makes any sense. This comes after Chivas shipped Juan Agudelo (and his future MLS rights should he bolt for Europe after this season) for allocation money.

Off-field news also makes it a tenuous time to be a Chivas fan right now, with conflicting reports of billionaire Carlos Slim purchasing parent club Chivas de Guadalajara but not wanting Chivas USA. In terms of the immediate future, one has to ask just what the plan is, or if there is even one in place.

3. Seattle's onslaught: Remember when the Seattle Sounders couldn't buy a goal? Yeah, neither do they, because those days seem like months ago.

Following a second straight four-goal outburst -- this one at the expense of first-place FC Dallas -- it's safe to say the Sounders are back to the feared level most expected they would be at. Sigi Schmid is suddenly overflowing with options to turn to in the attack, with Eddie Johnson's two-goal, slump-busting performance being aided by another standout showing by unheralded local hero Lamar Neagle. Even without Steve Zakuani and Mauro Rosales, Seattle is still red hot on offense. That makes for one heck of a scary proposition for Sounders opponents.

The Sounders enter arguably their most difficult part of their schedule, but the club is unbeaten in six games and on an absolute roll. As a result, there is plenty of anticipation for their Sunday night tilt with the Galaxy in Los Angeles. Each team could be missing a vital piece for that match, though, with it coinciding with the start of U.S. national team training camp. Whether Johnson and Omar Gonzalez are available or will join training camp a day late remains to be seen.

4. Rough week for refs: MLS' official website labeled this past week as Referee Week, with in-depth features about the road to becoming a referee, how disciplinary decisions are made and a look at the Professional Referee Organization a year into its existence. As it turned out, the timing couldn't have been more ironic. Yes, every league in every country has refereeing blunders, but MLS is no exception, and it certainly seems as if the poor calls and wrong decisions in MLS really take things to the limit.

In D.C., one of the most egregious offside calls ever was turned in by assistant Matthew Nelson, who ruled Ike Opara offside on what should have been a first-half goal for Sporting Kansas City. Nelson later fessed up and told a pool reporter after the game that he misjudged the play, but that hardly puts any points on the board for SKC.

In Seattle, FC Dallas striker Blas Perez' elbow to Sounders defender Leo Gonzalez head was deemed worthy of a straight red card by Mark Geiger after some deliberation. Meanwhile, Servando Carrasco had gotten away with a similar offense earlier in the game without even so much as being whistled for a foul (and credit former Sounder and current team color analyst Kasey Keller for his unbiased approach at explaining the call, giving his professional opinion and defending Perez).

The Professional Referee Organization has been open about admitting when calls were blown and offering up explanations of controversial plays. While the transparency is comforting, it still does not prevent some major on-field decisions -- and a lack of consistency -- from impacting results around the league.

5. Team of the Week:

Goalkeeper: Luis Robles (New York Red Bulls)

Defenders: Jamison Olave (New York Red Bulls), Ike Opara (Sporting Kansas City), Jose Goncalves (New England Revolution)

Midfielders: Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Michel (FC Dallas), Ned Grabavoy (Real Salt Lake), Will Johnson (Portland Timbers)

Forwards: Eddie Johnson (Seattle Sounders), Camilo (Vancouver Whitecaps), Federico Higuain (Columbus Crew)

WAHL: Beckham looks to buy MLS team, Chivas owner struggling with reputation

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