More than one gullible league observer tabbed Vancouver as preseason MLS Cup favorite, citing savvy offseason additions that would presumably bolster a young, talented core. In practice, the new-look Whitecaps have yet to mesh.

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More than one gullible league observer tabbed Vancouver as a preseason MLS Cup favorite, citing savvy offseason additions that would presumably bolster a young, talented core. In practice, the new-look Whitecaps have yet to mesh.

With the standard caveat that it’s a long season, that reading too much into early May MLS standings is even more questionable than tabbing a team without a single all-time playoff win as a frontrunner, the ‘Caps just haven’t looked right. Every other team in the Western Conference — yes, including you, Houston — has at least shown flashes of promise. Even Vancouver’s supposed breakthrough, a 3-0 home win over Dallas, came in a home match that was dominated by the visitors for a significant chunk of the evening.

The latest low point came at struggling New York City FC, where the Whitecaps netted a first-minute goal against a team that hadn’t won at home in five previous tries yet still coughed up the lead en route to a 3-2 defeat.

Vancouver’s ills are both curable and complicated. Relying upon young players as enthusiastically as coach Carl Robinson does entails riding out stretches of inconsistency. The team is still in need of a reliable forward — Designated Player Octavio Rivero’s early goal at Yankee Stadium was his first since Aug. 9 of last year, and offseason signing Masuto Kudo has yet to score.

It’s tempting to write off the slow start due to small sample size, giving Robinson the benefit of the doubt due to his team’s back-to-back postseason appearances, trusting that a young team is only going to improve as the year progresses.

But this run of poor form stretches back into the end of last year. Vancouver won just two of its final eight matches of the regular season — losing four of them — and was held scoreless in two legs of its Western Conference semifinal series against Portland.

Colorado’s impressive two months and San Jose’s 15 points from nine games means some of last season’s playoff qualifiers could be edged out of the picture. Based on performances to this point, Vancouver looks more likely to be one of the teams displaced rather than one ready to challenge for an MLS Cup berth.

– Toronto FC is for real this time, you guys, I swear.

TFC may have fallen 2-1 on Sunday at Providence Park, but they more than held their own against the defending champion Portland Timbers. They outshot the hosts by a 2-to-1 clip and comfortably edged the possession battle. Despite the loss, Toronto still stockpiled 11 points from its eight-game, season-opening road trip necessitated by a renovation to its stadium.

And though most are justifiably pointing to a defense that has limited opponents to a league-low seven goals so far this year, former TFC goalkeeper and current Sounder Stefan Frei posited another theory on Monday.

“What helps them, for one, is just having a coach there for longer than a year,” Frei said. “Someone who has a vision and who is allowed a little bit of time to implement it and is allowed to teach the players about what he wants to do. I was there for five years and I think I had seven coaches and 200 teammates.

“You can have the best players – and we had good players; Torsten Frings is one of the best players I’ve ever played with – and it’s awfully difficult to run a ship when the ship has constantly moving parts. I think that consistency has helped.”

Toronto coach (and former Sounders color commentator) Greg Vanney is beginning his second full season at the helm, having taken over late in the 2014 campaign. And though his overall record is still below .500, Vanney led the club to its first-ever postseason appearance last season. TFC is shooting even higher this time around, and early signs are positive.

– The Rocky Mountain Cup is back! A rivalry that trended toward irrelevance by the end of last season could end this Saturday’s edition with either the Colorado Rapids or Real Salt Lake atop the Supporters’ Shield standings. Both are coming off positive results, too, Colorado having battled for a 2-2 draw at first-place-in-the-East Montreal and Salt Lake coming from behind to down Houston with two second-half goals.

– Goal of the week: Diego Valeri, Portland Timbers.

Valeri celebrated his 30th birthday in style, curling a pinpoint free kick into the top corner to give the Timbers a hard-fought win. After another slow start, Portland is beginning to show signs of a team finding its footing.

– Games to watch in the coming week: Portland at Vancouver (Saturday at 2 p.m. PST on MLS Live), Dallas at Toronto (Saturday at 4:30 p.m. on MLS Live), Salt Lake at Colorado (Saturday at 6 p.m. on MLS Live).

Updated standings

Eastern Conference

Points Overall Home Away
# Club PTS PPG GP W L T GF GA GD W-L-T W-L-T
1 Montreal Impact 14 1.56 9 4 3 2 13 11 2 2-1-1 2-2-1
2 Philadelphia Union 13 1.63 8 4 3 1 11 8 3 3-0-1 1-3-0
3 Toronto FC 11 1.38 8 3 3 2 9 7 2 0-0-0 3-3-2
4 Orlando City SC 10 1.25 8 2 2 4 15 13 2 1-0-3 1-2-1
5 D.C. United 10 1.11 9 2 3 4 11 11 0 2-2-1 0-1-3
6 New York City FC 10 1.11 9 2 3 4 13 15 -2 1-1-4 1-2-0
7 New England Revolution 10 1 10 1 2 7 11 16 -5 1-0-4 0-2-3
8 New York Red Bulls 9 1 9 3 6 0 12 17 -5 3-2-0 0-4-0
9 Columbus Crew SC 8 1 8 2 4 2 7 10 -3 2-1-0 0-3-2
10 Chicago Fire 7 1 7 1 2 4 7 8 -1 1-2-2 0-0-2

Western Conference

Points Overall Home Away
# Club PTS PPG GP W L T GF GA GD W-L-T W-L-T
1 Colorado Rapids 17 1.89 9 5 2 2 12 8 4 4-0-0 1-2-2
2 Real Salt Lake 17 2.13 8 5 1 2 14 12 2 4-0-0 1-1-2
3 FC Dallas 17 1.7 10 5 3 2 15 17 -2 3-0-2 2-3-0
4 LA Galaxy 15 1.88 8 4 1 3 18 8 10 3-0-1 1-1-2
5 San Jose Earthquakes 15 1.67 9 4 2 3 12 11 1 4-0-1 0-2-2
6 Sporting Kansas City 14 1.4 10 4 4 2 11 10 1 2-2-1 2-2-1
7 Portland Timbers 12 1.33 9 3 3 3 14 16 -2 3-1-1 0-2-2
8 Vancouver Whitecaps FC 11 1.1 10 3 5 2 12 15 -3 2-1-2 1-4-0
9 Seattle Sounders FC 10 1.25 8 3 4 1 8 10 -2 3-2-0 0-2-1
10 Houston Dynamo 5 0.63 8 1 5 2 14 16 -2 1-1-2 0-4-0