Ah, power rankings.
As much as we pretend that they don't matter, that they don't affect us, that they're utterly irrelevant, the fact is, they mean something.
No, it doesn't matter as far as actual results go. The Chicago Fire are second place in the East; even if every soccer writer in the county argued that we weren't that good of a team, that fact would remain.
But a day after the Fire's 15th anniversary party, prestige means a lot. The way that the rest of the league and the rest of the country thinks of us matter.
So when the Week 30 SB Nation MLS Power rankings came out, it was hard to not feel a bit of a slight gut punch.
Yep. Beat Red Bulls at RBA for the first time...and drop two spots.
A couple of takeaways:
1) Don't shoot the messenger:
The power rankings article is written by Jeremiah Oshan, who is the soccer editor for SB Nation. He is also one of the managers of Sounder at Heart, the Seattle Sounders SB Nation site. The Sounders were ranked fifth in last week's rankings and have now taken the #3 spot that used to belong to the Fire. Should beating a fairly anemic Portland Timbers side at home (yes, I get that it's a rivalry, Cascadia, attendance et al.) be worth such a bump? Probably not.
But before the conspiracy theories get too far out of whack, it's important to note that Jeremiah doesn't make these rankings himself. The SB Nation Power Rankings are determined by voting between the various SB Nation soccer blogs. Hot Time in Old Town has two votes each week. The full list of voters is identified at the bottom of each power rankings article. But Jeremiah still only has one vote.
However, that does raise another point...
2) Why don't other writers around the league respect the Fire?
There are 25 writers in total who participate in the power rankings. Two of them are our guys. That leaves 23 other writers out there, some of whom apparently don't respect us. Indeed, two writers even had us as low as EIGHTH in the rankings this week.
Jeremiah looked at this phenomenon about a month ago, and there were the general arguments about inconsistency, quality wins and luck. And it is important to point out that this past week got off to a miserable start when the Fire dropped a 3-1 decision to the Philadelphia Union at home last Wednesday. Had the Men in Red not been able to bounce back and knock off the former Metrostars and secure a playoff berth, it would have been a horrid week.
But the Fire did bounce back in a resilient fashion and are now gearing up for their first Red Alert campaign in three years. Which brings us to...
3) Just win, baby, win
Once the playoffs start, everything else goes out the window. Power rankings don't matter. The regular season becomes irrelevant. Individual stats mean next to nothing.
So while playoff seeding is important, anything can happen once those November games begin. Since the conference semifinals and the conference finals are two-legged (assuming the Fire don't drop into fifth), each team has that chance to lean on the home fans.
One thing is for certain: it's good to be back. Make sure you hit the link above to check out the full standings over on SB Nation's MLS hub if you want the full scoop.