We've gotten out of the habit of doing MLS power rankings around here because, well, we don't really care for them. They don't do much to advance the plot and it's really just something to create conversation. That said, we're not entirely above them and now that the MLS Playoffs are upon us, now seems an appropriate time to rank the remaining teams in order of likelihood to win the MLS Cup. So, here we go (in reverse order, because of course):
10. Houston Dynamo: They needed to go 4-1-2 in their last seven to slide into the playoffs as the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference and will have a chance to host the Knockout Round game. There's actually a pretty good chance they win that one, but if we're ranking these teams on the probability that they'll actually win the whole thing, the Dynamo are the least likely. The reason? They'd be facing the Red Bulls in the conference semifinal. That's the same Red Bulls team that beat the Dynamo by a collective score of 9-1 in their three meetings this year, which included a pair of beatdowns at BBVA Compass Stadium.
9. Montreal Impact: No team goes into the playoffs on a worse run than our French-speaking brothers from the Great White North. After heading into September as the Supporters' Shield leaders, they finished the season on a 1-6-1 slide and barely got in by the skin of their teeth. Chances are, they get blown out by the Dynamo. BUT!!!!! If they do beat the Dynamo, Marco DiVaio and company have at least a puncher's chance.
8. Colorado Rapids: One of the tougher teams to figure out, frankly. When they are playing well, like they did in dismantling the Sounders a few weeks ago, they can beat anyone. Unfortunately, the playoffs are not lining up well. Central midfielder Dillon Powers is battling a concussion and might be out, which is a massive blow. They also need to open in Seattle, where they are 0-5-1 all time, and then would have to play the Timbers, a team that had their number this year. At least Oscar Pareja seems to have them going in the right direction.
7. New England Revolution: Quite possibly the most fun team to watch in the playoffs, they are unlikely to go down easy. In Kelyn Rowe (7 goals, 8 assists) and Diego Fagundez (13 goals, 7 assists), they have two of the top young attacking players. Toss in Lee Nguyen (5 goals, 7 assists) and Juan Agudelo (9 goals, 2 assists) and this is a very dangerous attack. Problem is, they are facing the team that might be best equipped to shut them down in Sporting KC, who pitched shutouts in all three meetings this year.
6. Seattle Sounders: I know what you're going to say: How can a team riding a seven-game winless streak be ranked this high? And that's totally legit, but bear with me here. I think we can all agree that the Sounders are, at least, one of the most talented teams in MLS. Their problem has been that they have been completely unable to get all their pieces on the field at the same time. If they can get past the Rapids, they'll face a Timbers team with very limited playoff pedigree and with whom they match up well. If the Sounders get a roll, they could be trouble.
5. Real Salt Lake: It's tough putting them this low, but this is all about matchups. Sure, RSL got the better of the Galaxy in the regular season. And, sure, they were one of the top teams all year. But this Galaxy team is better than their No. 3 seeding and it's just hard to see RSL coming out on top. That said, if RSL can upend the Galaxy, they might become the MLS Cup favorites.
4. Sporting Kansas City: As good as Peter Vermes' clubs have been over the past few years, they still haven't gotten back to the MLS Cup. His team remains very talented and is probably the best defensive group in the league, but I'm not convinced they are better than the Red Bulls or either of the top teams in the West. Go ahead and prove me wrong.
3. New York Red Bulls: Mike Petke deserves a massive tip of the cap. Sure, his detractors have pointed out that he only improved the Red Bulls by two points over the team led by Hans Backe a year ago, but that's missing the point. Petke managed to turn a team of not-so-lovable-losers into Supporters' Shield winners and that definitely counts for something. Plus, there's no more talented duo in the East than Tim Cahill and Thierry Henry.
2. Portland Timbers: Caleb Porter is a wizard, that's the only possible explanation. A year ago, the Timbers were one of the three worst teams in the league. But in the span of one season, Porter improved them by 23 points and 43 goals. That's just stupid. Just the mention of Diego Valeri and Darlington Nagbe strikes fear into the hearts of defenders and there is no better center midfield pairing that Will Johnson and Diego Chara. If you're looking for reasons to skeptical, though, look no further than the center back pairing of Pa Modou Kah and Futty Danso. The numbers suggest they've been much better than they really have because Donovan Ricketts has been playing out of his mind.
1. LA Galaxy: Yeah, yeah, it's the easy and possibly mindless choice. But here's the deal: Every team on this list has at least one glaring flaw and in the absence of a clear favorite, I'm going with the team that has won two straight MLS Cups. Their Achilles' heal most of the year was goalkeeper, but the addition of Jaime Penedo has changed that. They've also got a rejuvenated Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane coming off a MVP-caliber season. If they get clicking, there will be no stopping them.