Voices: Sam Jones

Power Rankings: Austin FC, Charlotte FC & Orlando City big climbers after Week 6

What a week in MLS. Toronto and FC Dallas academy products played big roles, a goalkeeper made a game-changing mistake, and the LA Galaxy beat LAFC in Carson. It was truly a week unlike any other.

Anyway, the Power Rankings are voted on by a collection of MLSsoccer.com writers, editors and voices. So the graphic showing the number next to your team you’re super worried about on Twitter for some reason is largely not my fault, but is largely Tom Bogert’s fault.

The Union finally started two DP forwards, but their most productive player ended up being ColumbusEloy Room. You can’t make it that easy on a team as good as Philly.

Especially not when Jose Martinez is doing this.

And Jim Curtin is putting in World Cup-quality performances.

Anyway, I’d personally like to thank the Union for making a lot of preseason predictions look good. They might even look a little better than we thought so far. You know exactly what you’re getting with the Union almost every time out, and more often than not that means they’re in a position to win. Now they just need to get Mikael Uhre and Julian Carranza truly clicking up top. They can’t rely on Eloy Room throwing the ball into the goal every time.

Previous: 1-0 win vs. CLB | Next: 4/16 at TOR

Man, it’s gotta feel good to know your biggest rival absolutely can not beat you when they come to your place. LAFC still haven’t had a successful trip to Carson and there haven’t been too many wins against the Galaxy in general. This Galaxy win didn’t come without some bumps and some discourse, but it's three points against LAFC all the same. On top of that, the Galaxy took LAFC’s spot in the Power Rankings this week. Must feel good knowing that they did it and they didn’t even need Mark Delgado in midfield.

That being said, the Galaxy are playing a dangerous game. Almost immediately after their win over LAFC, they tweeted at MLS to know when the Power Rankings were coming out. My brother in Zlatan, you just won El Trafico and you’re worried about the Power Rankings? Did you see what that energy did to Columbus last year? Tread lightly, friends.

Previous: 2-1 win vs. LAFC | Next: 4/16 at CHI

Every now and then we need a reminder that no one in the league has a higher top speed than Seattle, and the Sounders come out and deliver one of the more impressive performances in MLS history.

I’m not sure I can remember a team showing the quality they showed against NYCFC in the Concacaf Champions League semifinals. They were missing two starters on the backline and it didn’t matter. They bullied the reigning MLS Cup champs in the biggest game of the year so far and displayed a speed of thought and a conviction and a technical ability that few if any MLS teams could match on their very best day.

If you couldn’t tell, I was blown away. I mean, come on…

All that being said, they slipped up for a moment in that 3-1 win. Just one moment, but enough of a moment to allow NYCFC to stay alive in this series. We’ll see if they regret allowing an away goal after Leg Two on Wednesday. And we’ll see if Albert Rusnak can continue growing into his role with the team. He occupied a deeper role in the midfield on Wednesday and seemed to avoid occupying the same space as his teammates because of it. The Sounders were better for it. 

Previous: 2-1 win at MIN | Next: 4/16 vs. MIA

I too strongly dislike going outside my city limits. My gut tells me this team is still pretty good in all non-Carson-related activities though. Even if we may never get to see Brian Rodriguez, Carlos Vela and Cristian Arango on the field for an extended period. Rodriguez left El Trafico early with an apparent injury. 

Still though, good soccer team*. They’ll get a chance to regroup against SKC this weekend.

*Just not at Dignity Health Sports Park.

Previous: 2-1 loss at LA | Next: 4/17 vs. SKC

Nashville’s results have been so ordinarily Nashville it’s hard to remember they haven’t played a home game yet. The Golden Coyote Boys (or whatever) are averaging 1.67 points per game so far this year in the world’s most home field-advantagey league. None of it has looked particularly beautiful, but they’re getting the job done at a rate the average MLS team doesn’t. And the average MLS team usually isn’t dealing with all their road games piled up to start the year, back-to-back.

They’re handling this schedule with relative ease. And it should scare the rest of the conference to think about what they can do with the final two-thirds of the season coming largely at home. 

Previous: 2-1 win at SKC | Next: 4/16 at SJ

Jesus Ferreira has five goals in his last two starts. So that helps. It also helps when Brandon Servania is breaking the space-time continuum.

That’s maybe not entirely replicable over and over, but Ferreira’s performance seems to be. It’s early of course, but Ferreira is third in the league in non-penalty xG+xA, per FBref. With Alan Velasco and Paul Arriola (when healthy) on either side of him plus Servania rolling a nat-20 on shots from distance from time to time, that’s a whole lot for the opposing backlines to worry about. I’m maybe a bit worried about Dallas’s depth long-term, but for now it sure seems like their best XI is good enough to compete with the best teams in the league.

Previous: 3-1 win vs. COL | Next: 4/16 at RBNY

Orlando jumped 10 spots in celebration of beating a 10-man Chicago side like a drum. Perhaps that’s too much, but they looked good on Saturday. Especially after Brian Gutierrez’s 43rd-minute red card.

The Lions put up about three goals worth of xG after Gutierrez’s exit and looked as threatening as they’ve been in a while. To their credit, they took full advantage of being a man up and then some. Should they have finished at least one more of those chances? Absolutely. There were some hilarious misses. But they were getting into good spots even before the red card.

Especially new DP forward Ercan Kara, who finished the game with 1.88 xG and kept popping up in the right place at the right time before finally finding the net. He should have definitely had a second too but sometimes heading a ball into an open net is hard.

In addition to Kara, Pato put up 0.77 xA and 0.81 xG in this one, Mauricio Pereyra created at a similar rate and Facundo Torres grew into the game after looking scared to enter the box for a while. For a team that really needed a kickstart in attack, this is exactly what they needed. Now let’s see if that translates into something sustainable.

Previous: 1-0 win vs. CHI | Next: 4/16 at CLB

I had fully prepared myself to write about how I thought the Red Bulls were a top-three team in the East and how I thought they could easily challenge for a home playoff spot the rest of the way, even with the wear and tear that comes from being so Red Bulls all the time and how Patryk Klimala is eventually going to positively regress to his very high mean eventually and how frightening it is that they’re just now working their new DP Luquinhas into the starting lineup and then Rudy Camacho scored a goal that even he seemed surprised by and then OH GOD OH NO CARLOS CORONEL LOOK OUT

So. Yeah. Had to hold back on too many nice things. This is a team that’s doing MLS backward right now. The Red Bulls are undefeated on the road in three games with two losses and a draw at home. If they start taking the points they’re supposed to take, they really might be something scary.

Previous: 2-1 loss vs. MTL | Next: 4/16 vs. DAL

No Shaqiri and 10 men make Chicago a dull team. I mean, it’s not like they were lighting the scoreboard up before, but that didn’t help matters against Orlando.

They’ve got a big test for their (hopefully 11-man with Rafael Czichos) defense coming up this Saturday against the Galaxy at Soldier Field.

Previous: 1-0 loss at ORL | Next: 4/16 vs. LA

The first 45 minutes went great!

Rapids graphic 1 Power Rankings

Then Brandon Servania did a magic trick to close out the first half and Jesus Ferreira put the Rapids away in the second half. Definitely not a perfect game for Colorado, but maybe not one to worry too much about either. I thought the Rapids’ SBNation site, Burgundy Wave, summed things up with a well-constructed headline.

Rapids graphic 2 Power Rankings

Previous: 3-1 loss at DAL | Next: 4/16 at MIN

They weren’t quite up to the task of handling a fully functional Seattle in CCL on Wednesday. I don’t think anyone would be. But there’s hope. Thiago Andrade’s 27th-minute goal out of nowhere gave NYCFC a road goal heading back to New York. There’s a chance that moment may end up being crucial to a historic moment.

I’d feel a lot better about that historic moment coming if new DP center back Thiago Martins wasn’t having a… let’s call it questionable start to a DP career. He’s been far too…let’s say “noticeable” for any center back. Let alone a DP. They’ll need more from him on Wednesday and much more from him throughout the year.

Previous: 2-1 loss at TOR | Next: 4/17 vs. RSL

Everyone is high on Dallas as the best team in Texas at this point, but Austin are equal on points per game and exactly equal on expected goal differential, per American Soccer Analysis. Los Verdes are undefeated at home so far and Sebastian Driussi is sixth in the league in xG+xA. This group is good and has high-level talent. And they found a way to get the job done in a slog of a game against Minnesota United over the weekend.

Dallas have probably been more impressive for my money, but don’t be fooled by the Power Rankings. The gap in Texas isn’t wide.

Previous: 1-0 win vs. MIN | Next: 4/16 at DC

Eloy. My friend. No.

Not ideal. Neither is the fact they’ve scored just one goal and earned just one point in their last three games and genuinely can not win on the road. As Matt Doyle pointed out in his Sunday column, the Crew have won just three of their last 30 (!!) road games. I’m not sure if having uglier strikers is the answer to that problem, but I could be wrong.

Previous: 1-0 loss at PHI | Next: 4/16 vs. ORL

Damir Kreilach returned to the starting lineup and, of course, scored. This has been your semi-weekly Moment of Damir Kreilach appreciation. He’s been so, so good for so long.

Meanwhile, Justin Meram scored a rocket from the edge of the box to continue the longstanding MLS tradition of Justin Meram being pretty good at all this. The only problem for RSL is they couldn’t keep the lead after either goal. They should have a lot of regrets after letting 19-year-olds equalize against them twice at home.

They’re still seventh in the league in points per game though, so maybe don’t regret it too much yet.

Previous: 2-2 draw vs. TOR | Next: 4/17 at NYC

How soon is too soon to start talking about Miguel Angel Ramirez for Coach of the Year? I don’t think I’m kidding about that either. What he’s done and what he’s doing in Charlotte is remarkable. He has a team that didn’t exist a few months ago creating better moments of play than a lot of teams will have all season.

Charlotte doesn’t necessarily have the talent top to bottom to execute at that level consistently, but the fact they’re executing at that level at all is an accomplishment. They’re playing gorgeous soccer at times and Ramirez (and Karol Swiderski in particular) deserve a ton of credit. That’s in addition to a home crowd that’s already making Charlotte a difficult place for opposing teams to exist comfortably. I, for one, enjoy Charlotte FC and love our new kaiju overlord, Sir Minty.

(y’all better say something nice before he gets unhappy with us, I ain’t going out by way of death by soccer ball king).

Previous: 1-0 win vs. ATL | Next: 4/16 at NE

If you haven’t noticed, Houston have more points through six games than Nashville, Portland and Colorado. Are we sure we know who the best teams in the West are? 

The Dynamo are unbeaten in their last four games and now new DP forward Sebastian Ferreira is starting to find the net. Ferreira added a brace in Houston’s 4-3 win over the weekend.

The still-too-early underlying numbers don’t love them so far, but they don’t hate them either. It’s been as good a start as you could have possibly asked for to the Paulo Nagamura era and the team as a whole should only improve, even if they don’t quite have the firepower to stay near the top of the conference.

Previous: 4-3 win vs. SJ | Next: 4/16 vs. POR

The Timbers haven’t been spectacular this year, but my goodness do they score some gorgeous goals.

The defense still feels like a pretty massive worry, but I got too distracted by the pretty lights to really dwell on it this weekend during their 3-2 win over Vancouver.

Previous: 3-2 win at VAN | Next: 4/16 at HOU

The old Montréal of…last week would have had a tough time reigning this game in defensively after the Red Bulls opened the game with a deflected goal. This new, much more powerful Montréal kept New York close and, eventually, the breaks started going their way. I still feel good about this team, especially if the CCL hangover wearing off means that they’ll be able to find some sense of stability defensively. 

Previous: 2-1 win at RBNY | Next: 4/16 vs. VAN

Yeah, there are injuries. Yes, overall, they’re creating better scoring opportunities more consistently than they have in the previous two seasons. And yup, Thiago Almada looks like the genuine product when it comes to chance creation. But this team is still well behind the expectations that come with the most expensive roster in the league.

It starts in central midfield. A common refrain is it’s a “deep position” for the Five Stripes, but there’s only so many problems you can solve by throwing a multitude of decent-production players at them. Now that Ozzie Alonso is out for the season (ACL tear), there’s even more pressure on guys like Santiago Sosa, Amar Sejdic, Franco Ibarra and, eventually, Matheus Rossetto and Emerson Hyndman to step up and control games. I’m not convinced that’s going to happen.

On top of that, the off-ball movement remains an issue. If you were new to the league and focused on how Charlotte created chances compared to how Atlanta created chances, you’d have a tough time telling which team had only played six games in their history. Charlotte worked their way through Atlanta’s midfield and into the final third through fluid ball movement and then flooded numbers into the box on Saturday. Atlanta relied on individual moments of brilliance for much of the game, and there’s only so much Almada and Marcelino Moreno can do while Josef Martinez and Luiz Araujo remain out.

Almada, Moreno and Andrew Gutman have been great. The rest of the team hasn’t been up to that standard. And the roster itself feels like a collection of pieces from several different expensive jigsaw puzzles.

There’s a chance Araujo comes back and fixes everything or maybe the answer to it all is a Santiago Sosa and Franco Ibarra double pivot. But for now, Atlanta faces some fair question marks.

Previous: 1-0 loss at CLT | Next: 4/16 vs. CIN

The kids can’t stop.

Toronto’s youth movement continued this weekend as 19-year-old academy products Jayden Nelson and Kosi Thompson found the net for the Reds to steal a point on the road. Bob Bradley’s willingness (and really his need) to play the kids has turned into some impressive results and added a dose of optimism to the future for TFC. To put it bluntly, this could all be going much, much worse. Especially considering the defensive struggles they’ve been having. For now, they’ve picked up maybe more points than expected and are building towards something better.

Previous: 2-2 draw at RSL | Next: 4/16 vs. PHI

We came into the weekend worrying about this team in attack and we exited the weekend even more worried. Only four teams have created fewer expected goals so far and it just doesn’t seem like Emanuel Reynoso is going to carry this team the same way he has in the past. They generated just 0.5 xG worth of chances against Austin and I don’t know when or how things are going to get better. 

Previous: 1-0 loss at ATX | Next: 4/16 vs. COL

Another week without a loss for FC Cincinnati

I’m sure Brandon Vazquez took the week off to prepare for what could be a fun return to Atlanta this Saturday.

Previous: 4-3 loss vs. MTL | Next: 4/16 at ATL

Things are not great.

DeJuan Jones is not bad. Carles Gil is not bad. Justin Rennicks seems to be not bad. A bunch else is making the Foxborough faithful worry.

They simply seem broken right now. This is Bruce Arena’s first four-game losing streak ever in MLS and those losses came to RSL, Charlotte, Red Bulls and Inter Miami. Not to mention a 3-0 loss/CCL exit on PKs to Pumas somewhere in between.

The Revs picked up a new goalkeeper and a possible Matt Turner replacement in Serbia’s Djordje Petrovic last week, but we’ll see when he’s ready. At least Adam Buksa should be back for the next game and Gustavo Bou shouldn’t be out for long.

Am I saying it’s this way solely because they got rid of the Crayon Flag and that we all should have seen this coming? Yes. Yes, I am. But I don’t think anyone could have expected it to look so rough so quickly.

To sum it all up:

Previous: 3-2 loss at MIA | Next: 4/16 vs. CLT

D.C. took the week off to hopefully regroup and make their “April Fools Day” raccoon mascot a reality.

Previous: 1-0 loss vs. ATL | Next: 4/16 vs. ATX

I want to believe Vancouver are going to turn this all around, but I’m losing confidence each week they come out and do weird personnel things and just generally look ineffective. Portland ripped them apart this weekend. 

Previous: 3-2 loss vs. POR | Next: 4/16 at MTL

SKC lost at home after going up 1-0 on Nashville to make that five losses in seven games, and then Johnny Russell got into an argument with a fan postgame. Everything is fine.

Previous: 2-1 loss vs. NSH | Next: 4/17 at LAFC

The language of cinema is most effectively used when you show, not tell.

Anyway, Leonardo Campana scored a hat trick and the Inter Miami attack looked the most effective they had all year by a large, large stretch as the Herons picked up their first win of the season.

Previous: 3-2 win vs. NE | Next: 4/16 at SEA

The Quakes are the last winless team in MLS, going hand-in-hand into the canyon. On their terms. Losing 4-3 in a game they had nearly 68% possession. 

Previous: 4-3 loss at HOU | Next: 4/16 vs. NSH