Disclaimer: The Power Rankings are voted on by the entirety of the MLSsoccer.com editorial staff. You should probably be gently made fun of if you still think the actual rankings are made by just one person. Except for this week. This week I let my nephew pick which team is the best by whose colors are the coolest. Because I’m personally determined to ruin the sanctity of the most sacred tradition in sports: The MLS Power Rankings. Anyway, you should really recognize that the stakes have never been lower.
Run from it. Dread it. Chicago arrive for us all the same. Even the best of us.
The Revs need seven points from their final four games to break the points record. They did not get four points closer to the Supporters' Shield though. Because...
Lol. What? I mean seriously, what?
The Sounders owned the worst result of MLS’ version of what the good folks in the college football world call a “Blood Week.” Just wait. Count how long it takes us in the Power Rankings to get to the teams who actually won something this weekend. Sometimes you just have to sit back and laugh at the absurdity of the MLS of it all. This is that week. And Seattle losing to Houston is probably the funniest of all the absurd things to laugh at. Except for maybe Chicago being everyone’s terrible friend from college who shows up and immediately makes you revert back to the worst version of yourself. That part continues to be very funny.
Anyway, we’re just going to sit back and not take much from this week at the top of the league. Some weeks there are just larger forces at play.
Did not win. But at least got a point against a good D.C. team. They didn’t get a goal, but they did get a point. You’d think two of the top four teams in the league in expected goal differential would have created an actual goal or two, but only like three things about Week 30 made sense.
Nope. Still not at the part where a team wins.
At least Jakob Glesnes’ quest to never be involved in any normal goal ever is still alive and well.
Didn’t win. In fact, didn’t win so badly they lost a whole entire trophy. Of course, it didn’t really affect their place in the standings because, ya know, everyone else lost too. Still can’t get that trophy, though. Albert Rusnak made sure of that.
We’re almost to the part of the Power Rankings where a team wins a game!
If there’s any team I’ve possibly been more skeptical of as a contender than Portland, it’s the Galaxy. So I’m not entirely sure what to make of them losing to LA. But is it possible, just possible, the international break derailed some of their positive momentum?
I mean, probably not. That’s not actually how things work. Fun narrative, but nah. What might be possible though is the 24th-best team in the league on expected goal differential maybe won’t cruise the rest of the way through the back end of the season like it looked like they might for second there. That doesn’t mean they’re a bad team. Just that they didn’t magically solve every single issue over the last month. Atlanta fans know what I’m talking about.
The good news is you don’t have to solve every single issue to make a run in the playoffs. And Portland are in no danger of missing out there.
Hey! A team that actually won!
After sputtering for a moment there, Orlando have taken seven points from their last three games and look relatively safe in their quest for the playoffs. It doesn’t necessarily get easier for them here on out – Montréal twice, New England, Columbus and Nashville is a heckuva group to close the year with – but a five-point lead over eighth-place does give them some leeway.
And we’re back to teams that didn’t win.
For now, D.C. are one point above the playoff line with New England, NYCFC and the Red Bulls up next. For a team that’s gone from last in the league in expected goal differential in 2020 to third in the league this season, missing the playoffs would feel like a surprising but still unwelcome disappointment. The underlying numbers say they should be alright, but then again, the underlying numbers said that pretty much everything that happened this weekend shouldn’t have happened.
So this seems pretty good. And, honestly, with Atlanta’s remaining schedule, I wouldn’t be surprised if they end up on that list at the end of the season. It’s just that the first half against Toronto gave us a glimpse of the Atlanta United still buried deep into the core of this team. The one that doesn’t move off the ball and refuses to play an early ball into the box or just refuses to try and get the ball or numbers into the box in general.
That got sorted in the second half – in particular by George Bello, who read all my tweets about Atlanta’s fullbacks allowing the defense to get settled over and over again and had his best game of the season – and Atlanta’s quality won out. They should take care of business the rest of the way and make it into the playoffs. That’s with or without Josef Martinez, who might be sitting things out with a knock until he’s really, truly needed.
Anyway, you may be wondering how Atlanta United ended up behind D.C. United despite having beaten D.C. in each of their last two meetings and having more total points than them on the season. And the answer to that is that THE PEOPLE IN THE IVORY TOWERS AT MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER DON’T WANT YOU TO KNOW THE TRU — [gets tackled].
Have we done a Damir Kreilach appreciation post in a second? Either way, we’re going to do it now. Kreilach picked up a goal and two assists in RSL’s Rocky Mountain Cup-clinching 3-1 win over Colorado last weekend. He’s very quietly been one of the most productive players in the league this season on a team that’s hung around or been in a playoff spot for most of the year.
Kreilach has scored 14 (!) times and dished out eight (!) assists in 27 starts. He’s tied for fourth in the league in goals scored and his 22 total goal contributions have him tied for second in the league with Ola Kamara and Hany Mukhtar. Kreilach, along with Rusnak and Rubio Rubin, have quietly (of course) been one of the best attacking trios in the league. And it really seems like Real Salt Lake are about to quietly (the world’s quietest team) find themselves in a playoff spot at the end of the season.
Well, that’s one way to get back on track. After not winning a game since Aug. 14, the Galaxy took some time to work on themselves over the international break and took down Portland, 2-1. Chicharito scored to give himself two goals and an assist over the last three games. And the Galaxy looked a lot more like the early-season version of themselves than the group that had picked up just four points over the last nine games.
It may seem like a mind-numbingly irresponsible challenge bailed them out in the end of this one, but LA created 3.3 expected goals worth of chances compared to 0.4 for Portland. This should have been easy for LA. Instead, they had to sneak by. They’ll take it either way.
Montréal outplayed Philadelphia for a lot of their 2-2 draw. When they equalized late into stoppage time it felt well deserved. Mostly because Philly’s first goal still looks so incredibly unearned it seems fake.
The draw kept them tied for sixth place for now, one point above the playoff line. A three-game road trip to Orlando, Toronto and the Red Bulls is on the way. That’s not easy. They’ll have to keep pace until they can return home and take on Houston, then Orlando again on Decision Day.
Even if they do miss out on the playoffs in the end, I really want to hammer home that this team had to live in Florida for a good chunk of their season and are still on the verge of making the playoffs. Orlando City proved how hard that is for like five years before they figured it out. Wilfried Nancy isn’t going to win, but he is going to get some deserved votes for the MLS Sigi Schmid Coach of the Year award.
Minnesota United won and kept the seventh spot in the West. They’re fourth in the West on expected goal differential. They fell two spots.
Maybe everyone voting got spooked by this tweet?
I mentioned this in the newsletter I write for this website, The Daily Kickoff, that y’all have almost certainly subscribed to. But how many teams have ever had a better regular season against their biggest rival? The Red Bulls used NYCFC as a launching pad for their playoff push while that launch contributed in a major way to NYCFC’s status as a team one point below the playoff line. The Red Bulls got three shots at NYCFC in a little over a month, with each game increasing in importance, and took seven points off the blue side of the city with the draw coming in “feels like a loss for NYCFC” fashion.
It’s rare to get three shots at your biggest rival, but to do it in such a short and important span of time has got to be kind of unprecedented right? I’m sure someone with like filing cabinets worth of MLS box scores will correct me on a message board somewhere, but for now I choose to live in a reality where this is a relatively new and relatively big deal.
Anyway, the Red Bulls have only lost once since August ended and are just one point behind Montreal for seventh place in the East, and equal on points with NYCFC. Dear reader, believe me when I say, I absolutely cannot believe it. Even if New York’s underlying numbers are actually pretty good and they’re still technically underperforming their “expected points” numbers, I still wouldn’t have expected them to put together these kinds of results with consistency. Especially considering that they’ve only scored more than one goal in a game twice since July 31 and that the “body language” was rumored to be less than stellar a couple of months back.
But here we are. For now anyway. They face Columbus next, but their final four games come against D.C., Montréal, Atlanta and Nashville. If they get in, they’re going to really earn it. This push might end up being a little too late.
The most exciting playoff chase in the league still lives in Vancouver. With RSL, LA and Minnesota all winning this weekend, the Whitecaps entered a Sunday night matchup against SKC of all teams, needing a win. Well, wouldn’t ya know it, in true late 2021 Whitecaps form, newcomers Ryan Gauld and Brian White helped get the job done in a 2-1 win.
Which, speaking of, Gauld might just be your Newcomer of the Year? He’s only started in eight games so far for Vancouver, but in games where he’s played 45 minutes or more, Vancouver have seven wins, two losses and a draw. He has three goals and four assists on the season. There’s a clear marker in this team’s season that’s pre and post-Gauld. If they make the playoffs, it’s hard to think of anyone else who might deserve it more.
They’ve still got some ways to go to get there though. They go on the road to face Portland and San Jose this week, before closing the year with a massive game against Minnesota, then LAFC and Seattle. Surviving the seven-game stretch they’ve been handed to close the year would be something truly special.
Yikes. Just yikes, man. I’m not sure I even have the adjectives at this point. They just took two points from their last five. Three of those games were against their biggest rival and one included a loss to Chicago. They’ve won three times since Aug. 4 and those three wins came against Inter Miami, FC Cincinnati and, inexplicably at this point, New England. That’s 14 games if you’re keeping track. We’re in full LAFC territory with this group now. The underlying numbers can say a lot about a team. But when a team shows you who they are over and over again, at some point you have to believe them.
Right now, they’re a team that not only can’t win, but they can’t score either. Congrats, dear reader. You have as many goals as NYCFC over their last 419 minutes of soccer.
Yikes. Just yikes, man.
Since 2013, here are your all-time leaders in expected goal differential minus actual goal differential.
- 2019 Sporting KC (-23.76)
- 2021 LAFC (-22.89)
- 2014 Chivas USA (-17.94)
LAFC are already historically unlucky compared to their underlying numbers and they’re not even done with the season yet. They may be the single unluckiest team of all time by the time it’s said and done. They might already be, considering no one else in the top five of that list has an expected goal differential of more than 2.76. The rest of the teams have a negative expected goal differential.
LAFC? 21.89. That leads the entire league. And yet, their actual goal differential is sitting there at -1 and they needed to beat San Jose last weekend to even have a shot at the playoffs. The morbidly funny part of that win is that they barely won the xG battle in this one. This one could have easily ended in a draw or worse for LAFC. But they’re in the playoff race for now.
Frankly, I still don’t think they’re going to make it. They’re four points behind with five games to go and two teams in front of them. That feels like a serious gap right now. For the first time all year, they’ll need to get a little lucky.
The Crew played one of their best games of the season in a 4-0 win over Inter Miami last weekend. They’re not totally out of this yet. But they need a ton of help. They’ve got three teams and four points between them and the playoffs. At least they’re not going away quietly.
The Quakes, however, are going away without a word. Their loss to LAFC this weekend basically sealed their fate. They won’t be in the playoffs this year. It’s a disappointing result for a team that had an eyebrow-raising offseason and then seemed to maybe be figuring things out once they brought in Jeremy Ebobisse. Nothing panned out like they wanted in the end, though. It’s back to the drawing board for San Jose.
Hey, maybe they should have played this Darwin Quintero guy more?
There was like a two-week period there where we almost collectively decided Inter Miami may just have something to say in this playoff race. There was a sense, though, that we should wait until they beat a non-Chicago/Toronto/Cincy team though before we got carried away.
They’ve now lost six straight.
Chicago’s overall record: 7 wins, 7 draws, 16 losses.
Of those 14 wins and draws, 12 have come against Eastern Conference teams within one point of the playoff line or higher. Chicago are shaping the entire playoffs and we’ve all been too blind to see it.
US men’s national team player Ricardo Pepi plays for this team.
Toronto Football Club is based in Toronto, Ontario is in a country called Canada.
FC Cincinnati’s colors are blue and orange, OR orange and blue, depending on who you ask.