Philadelphia, PA – Major League Soccer action resumes this weekend after a two-week break to accommodate a slate of international fixtures.
Four teams were still in action over the course of the hiatus as the New England Revolution claimed a 2-0 victory over the Chicago Fire on June 2 and Vancouver Whitecaps FC bested the Houston Dynamo by a 3-1 score on June 10.
The two results are indicative of how surprising the MLS season has been to this point. Teams that struggled last season are proving to be forces in the new year, while others that were formidable in 2011 have not found similar success this go-around.
With the 2012 MLS campaign roughly a third of the way complete, here is a graded team-by-team look at how the season has unfolded:
Chivas USA: C+
Chivas USA's home record of 1-5-1 leaves a lot to be desired, but there is still something to be said for consistently turning out strong performances on the road. The Goats are a team in slight transition after some early trades, but if they work out for the better, then Robin Fraser's men could make a surprise appearance in the postseason.
Colorado Rapids: B
There was a great deal of uncertainty in projecting how Colorado's season would unfold, but it has been mostly positive through the initial portion. First-year head coach Oscar Pareja has erased any doubts over his credentials by lifting his team to fourth place in a stacked Western Conference. Still, Colorado's road form must improve if it wants be legitimate contenders.
FC Dallas: D
FC Dallas is one of this season's most disappointing teams. Expectations were high after a fourth-place finish last term, but it is safe to say that Dallas has not risen to the occasion. Blas Perez and Brek Shea have combined for just eight goals, but the defensive struggles overshadow all - the club has conceded an MLS-high 24 goals.
Los Angeles Galaxy: F
How the mighty have fallen. Los Angeles looked poised to repeat its impressive 2011 season which ended with a Supporters' Shield and an MLS Cup. But at this rate - the Galaxy sit last in the West with 11 points - Bruce Arena's men would be fortunate to simply qualify for the playoffs. How much longer will the Galaxy's abysmal run continue?
Portland Timbers: D+
The Timbers had reason for optimism entering the season. Kris Boyd was brought in and the defense was solidified with the additions of Andrew Jean-Baptiste and Hayner Mosquera. With two of the team's 12 goals coming as a result of an own goal from the opposition, Portland's offense has not found its top gear. Throw in a winless road record and you have all the ingredients for a team that sits just two points clear of last place in the Western Conference.
Real Salt Lake: A
One of the strongest clubs in MLS over the last few seasons, it's no surprise Real Salt Lake has an MLS-best 29 points. Rio Tinto Stadium is still a fortress as the Claret and Cobalt have taken 18 points from a possible 21 in Sandy, Utah. Jason Kreis just needs his team to stay on course and replicate its fine regular-season form come playoff time.
San Jose Earthquakes: A+
There is no contest as to which MLS side has exceeded expectations the most in 2012. San Jose was not expected to do much this season. Most of the preseason hype surrounded Seattle, Real Salt Lake and reigning champion Los Angeles. But the 'Quakes have surprised everyone with organized defensive displays and methodical attacks that have helped the team claim an 8-3-3 record through 14 games.
Seattle Sounders FC: B+
The Sounders haven't experienced a poor season since joining MLS, so it's no shock they're right in the thick of things in the Western Conference picture with 24 points through 13 games. Seattle is the last remaining unbeaten road team this year with a 2-0-3 record away from CenturyLink Field, but it will need to do better than a 5-3-0 home record if it wants to claim a piece of silverware other than its three straight U.S. Open Cups.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC: B+
After a poor debut season in MLS, Vancouver Whitecaps FC has bounced back in impressive fashion. The 'Caps have risen to fourth place in the Western Conference on 22 points, nearly eclipsing their 2011 total of 28. At the heart of the turnaround is head coach Martin Rennie, who joined the club after successful stints with the Cleveland City Stars and the Carolina RailHawks of the United Soccer League and North American Soccer League, respectively. Rennie has gotten the best out of the vast attacking options at his disposal, but he still has some work to do in finding consistency in Vancouver's defensive unit.
Chicago Fire: B
The Chicago Fire have performed as expected to this point in the season. Dominic Oduro is leading the team with four goals on the campaign while Marco Pappa and Sebastian Grazzini have chipped in with three assists apiece, leaving the club fifth in the East with a 5-5-3 record. The Fire have proven to be better at home this year, so they will likely go as far as their road form will take them.
Columbus Crew: B+
The Columbus Crew have flown under the radar since winning MLS Cup in 2008. For the first time since Guillermo Barros Schelotto left the club at the end of the 2010 season, head coach Robert Warzycha has his club playing effective football despite the lack of a true playmaker. It hasn't hurt the Crew that eight different players have chipped in with goals to help the club to fourth place in the East. They have compensated well to this point, but sooner or later the Crew will need to find a consistent scoring threat if they want to make another deep postseason run.
D.C. United: A
Expectations were not too high for D.C. United ahead of the 2012 season. Many pundits predicted the club would struggle to clinch a playoff berth and that Ben Olsen would be on the hot seat for long stretches of the season. They appeared to be correct after United managed only one point from its opening three games, but the club has turned it around and climbed all the way to first place in the East. RFK Stadium has become a fortress once again while D.C. has posted a 6-1-2 record in the nation's capital.
Houston Dynamo: B-
Last season, Sporting Kansas City showed us what a new stadium can do for a club, posting a 9-2-6 record at home after Livestrong Sporting Park opened in June to guide the team to first place in the East. The Houston Dynamo face similar circumstances this year when the club began the season with seven consecutive road games (going 2-3-2 over that stretch) before the grand opening of BBVA Compass Stadium on May 12. Houston has been disappointing, but there is no reason that a heavy home schedule the rest of the way can't help the club made a deep run.
Sporting Kansas City: B
No team got off to a better start this season than Sporting Kansas City. Last year's Eastern Conference regular-season champions picked up right where they left off by beginning the new campaign with a perfect 7-0-0 start. A three- game losing skid dropped Sporting out of first place in the East, but with a tremendous work rate and a plethora of attacking options, there is no reason to doubt that K.C. will finish as one of the top teams in all of MLS.
Montreal Impact: C-
Things are not all bad for the Montreal Impact. Despite a 3-7-3 record that leaves the Impact third from bottom in the Eastern Conference, the expansion side can hang its hat on a winning home record. Montreal already has half as many wins as Vancouver Whitecaps FC, one of 2011's expansion sides, did last term and only a third of the season is complete. But there is still plenty of room for improvement and the Impact will need more points on the road and more consistency to make a late surge up the table.
New England Revolution: C+
There were plenty of questions surrounding the New England Revolution before the season began. After missing the playoffs for two consecutive years, the Revs looked to first-year head coach and former player Jay Heaps to get the club back on track. He has been an adequate replacement to Revolution legend Steve Nicol, helping New England to sixth place in the East on 16 points. The Revs have been strong at home with a 4-1-1 record at Gillette Stadium, but their road form must improve if they have any hopes of returning to the postseason.
Red Bull New York: B+
With such a star-studded roster, the argument could be made that Red Bull New York's second-place position is not even good enough. But with injuries plaguing many first-choice players, including captain Thierry Henry, head coach Hans Backe has been forced to field a team consisting of several reserves in key positions. The "Baby Bulls" have performed admirably, helping lift the team to 26 points on the season. New York sits just one point behind first-place D.C. United while holding two games in hand.
Philadelphia Union: D-
It was always going to be tough for the Philadelphia Union to build upon the superb sophomore season they enjoyed last year and the slow start cost manager Peter Nowak his job on Wednesday. After dealing Sebastien Le Toux to Vancouver and seeing veteran goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon return to his native Colombia, the Union came into the season in rebuilding mode. It shows as the club has claimed just eight points, the second fewest total in the league, through its first 11 games. The low point of the season so far came at BMO Field when a 1-0 loss handed Toronto FC its first points of the season.
Toronto FC: F
There is little debate regarding which is the worst team in MLS. That distinction goes to Toronto FC, a club that has managed just three points from its opening 10 matches. Aron Winter's experiment clearly fell short of expectations and he was consequently sacked on June 7. Paul Mariner will fill the void and try to lift TFC to its first playoff appearance, although the club may have too much ground to make up in a short period of time. Toronto will improve, but mainly because it can't get much worse.