What a week in MLS.
As always, you can listen to Matt Doyle, Andrew Wiebe and a range of guests from around the league discuss every team on Twitter Spaces each Tuesday at 11 am ET. Listen to this week's discussion below.
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. Because last week I mentioned that Tom Bogert paid me in Chili’s gift cards as payment for filling it out himself, then ACTUAL CHILI’S reached out to me on Twitter. Like the whole entirety of Chili’s. They said they’re sending me something for mentioning them in the Power Rankings. I’m assuming it’s some way to pay for Chili’s. So this week I got Tom Bogert to make a donation to the United States Department of Education people in charge of student loan debt. Hello. Do you see me mentioning you? This is free advertising. Anyway, I let Tom do it himself this week. 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.
Congrats to the Revs on being ... uh ... the league’s only good team? OK, maybe not, but everyone else seems to be moving in some way back into the middle and the Revs just kind of keep floating out of grasp from the gravity of the league’s ever-growing central mass. It would take something pretty special at this point for the Supporters’ Shield to end up anywhere else. That’s even after they were extremely unlucky against Columbus over the weekend. They put up a club record 33 shots, earned 2.9 expected goals worth of chances and still ended up with just one goal and a draw. The regular appearance of similar acts of intervention from unseen powers is the only thing that could possibly stop them from lifting the Shield.
But will they break the points record? They’re at 2.15 points per game. LAFC ended 2019 at 2.12. They’ll need 17 points over their final eight games. And if I had to guess (which I did in my daily newsletter for this very website, The Daily Kickoff)...
- at Chicago: Probably a win.
- vs. Orlando: Orlando can’t soccer right now. Probably a win.
- at Montréal: Montréal are playing well. Let’s call it a draw.
- vs. Chicago: Definitely a win.
- at D.C. United: This is tough. Loss? Maybe a draw? Really hard to predict three points for them here.
- at Orlando: It’s tough to win on the road. Let’s be conservative and call it a draw.
- vs. Colorado: uhhhhhh draw?
- vs. Inter Miami: Win.
That puts the Revs at 16 points and gives us a tie for the best regular-season team in MLS history. I can’t decide if I was being miserly or not, but two points per game feels more than plausible. The biggest obstacle to being a record-breaking team may be themselves. With first place in the conference and league beginning to look locked up, who would blame them for resting guys as much as they could before the playoffs?
In the 13 games the Sounders have played since July began, the Sounders have scored more than one goal in a ga — actually, you know what, I want you to guess. In the 13 league games the Sounders have played since July began, how many times have they scored more than once in a game? Did you guess six? Well, you’re wrong. It’s four.
For some added context, let’s look at the team that beat a rotated Seattle lineup this week: Real Salt Lake. RSL have scored more than one goal in a game eight times in that same time frame. To go a step further, Seattle are tied with the Galaxy among the West’s playoff teams in games with two goals scored or more since July. The Galaxy have not been great for a pretty long while. The rest of the West’s playoff teams have six games or more with more than a goal scored.
Now, obviously, Seattle are a far better team than RSL and the Galaxy and haven’t needed to score that often to get results. Plus, you can easily ride a truly great defense to a trophy in a single-elimination playoff. But the Achilles heel here is increasingly clear. We’ll see if their lack of firepower right now comes back to bite them in their biggest week of the season. The Leagues Cup Final against Club Leon is Wednesday in Vegas (10 pm ET | ESPN2, UniMas, TUDN). Then they head to Kansas City in a game between the top two teams in the West.
Which, by the way, it might also be important to note, for a first-round bye’s sake, that four of their final nine games come against Sporting KC and Colorado. The phrase “controls their own destiny is terrible, but Seattle will know that each of those games could play a crucial part in their final place in the standings. The first comes this Sunday at 7 pm ET.
A huge midweek win over Minnesota put Sporting KC atop the West by points and goal differential. Their pretty spectacular implosion against LAFC is their only loss in their last nine games. They haven’t quite been ruthless in that stretch, but two straight wins have done more than enough to quell any worries about a late-season breakdown. For now anyway. A win this weekend against Seattle would go a long way towards convincing the harsher skeptics, though. And go a long way towards helping their chances of a second-straight first-place finish in the West.
They’re undefeated in their last 10, but I’m sure they’ll be kicking themselves for not taking all three points from one of their four draws over the last five games. It’s just two extra points, but two extra points would have them in first place in the West.
There’s plenty of reason to think that the Rapids will be back in the win column soon, though. Their next two games come against Toronto and Austin. Add in the fact that midfielder Younes Namli is back from an ankle injury after being out since May 8 and Diego Rubio just played his first match in nearly a month, and the Rapids should be feeling pretty good about their chances at finishing on top of the conference.
They scared me for a second there. I was worried we were real close to having to pull out the “ARE NYCFC ACTUALLY FRAUDS??!” takes. And maybe they did get luckier than anyone in their position should really be comfortable with against Cincinnati. But they got the job done eventually. Soccer is hard and it’s hard to be really good for a long time unless you’re the Revs. I should stop being angry with them just because I think they should be on the same level.
They should really probably be careful here. The gap between third and eighth is just four points now. If they continue to underperform, some things break here and there, a missed chance or five from Taty, and other assorted dangers, there’s always the chance they end up playing away from New York throughout the playoffs or looking around in a daze wondering how they missed the whole thing entirely. That really, really, really shouldn’t happen. But it feels like their own fault that it’s even a possibility. But, also, it really, really, really, really shouldn’t happen. They have the easiest schedule of any team fighting for a playoff spot from here on out. The rest of their opponents are averaging just 1.17 points per game.
Congrats to Nashville on joining Columbus, New England and Chicago in the “Teams that lost to Toronto” club. Come on in. We have Drake playing at full volume from an iPhone 5 speaker, lukewarm coffee from Tim Hortons, no microwave to heat it up in, some nature valley bars that accidentally got crushed already in a bowl on a folding table and the only place to sleep is on the floor which just happens to be that weird scratchy carpet they put on elementary school gyms to ensure that kids know what extreme rug burn feels like before they hit middle school. Ok, bye, have fun, you live here for the week until you’ve learned your lesson.
You can make spaceship noises to every single goal Atlanta United scored on Saturday. And I have. Ezequiel Barco steps up to take a free kick then PWUGHGHGHGHGHGH. Things like that. Basically, it’s my way of saying Atlanta United put on a dang show against D.C. United. It ended up looking closer than it was thanks to two equally spaceship noise-worthy D.C. goals, but Atlanta seemed in control for most of the way, even without Miles Robinson and with future MVP Luiz Araujo. Who did \this\ as soon as he came on.
I was hesitant before to say Atlanta United might be able to go “Half Sounders” where they’d turn around enough in the second half to get to the playoffs, but not go “Full Sounders" and have a chance to win the whole thing in the end. I’ve skipped past Half Sounders. Araujo and suddenly superstar quality Barco mixed together with all-around good guy Gonzalo Pineda at the helm has me convinced. Plus the backline is as talented and maybe more than anyone in the league. The only real question marks lie in the midfield’s ability to control a high-intensity game and the out of nowhere good-to-great performance of Matheus Rossetto along with Santiago Sosa appears to be answering a lot of those.
There is a wholly different vibe to this team and in its connection with the fanbase and the city. It’s the kind of thing that makes you feel like you’re watching something special. We’ll see if it continues. But I know that, right now, Atlanta can handle any team in the league. I’m finding it harder to believe each day this is the same team that didn’t win a game for almost three months.
They’ve now won seven of their last eight and have scored 10 goals in their last three games. And after this crucial stretch against their four biggest competitors for a playoff spot in the East ends, five of their final six games are Toronto twice, Red Bulls, Cincy, and Inter Miami. They’ve already won one of those four games. They’re just two points out of third place. Five points out of second. I don’t think either is unreachable for this team.
Minnesota is Minnesota. Nice enough to continue being one of the easiest teams to analyze in the world. When they have Emanuel Reynoso, they’re good. When they don’t have Reynoso, they’re bad. That’s it. That’s their whole thing.
The good news is they have Reynoso right now. And, wouldn’t you know it, his two first-half goals gave them a massive 3-0 win over the Galaxy on Saturday after getting blasted by Sporting KC on Wednesday. You’ll never guess who they didn’t have on Wednesday.
The Portland Timbers have tried “playing defense” and folks, it seems like they like it way more than they expected. That’s 13 points from their last five games against a very difficult stretch of teams and Houston. Since giving up three goals to Austin, they’ve given up just three goals. We can talk about Sebastian Blanco’s return — and it’s not like it doesn’t help — but the fact Portland have gone from the worst defense in the conference to...well, technically the second-worst defense now, but still, is the biggest factor in their run. I don’t know how much to trust it yet. I really don’t. Each game makes me believe a little more though.
It’s not going great! And maybe it hadn’t really been for a while. The underlying numbers have been iffy on LA for the entire year and now it seems like things are leveling out. It’s only been a few games, but even with Chicharito back, they’ve continued creeping toward the center of the pack. They spent the week drawing with a bad Houston team and then getting clobbered by Emanuel Reynoso.
They’ve taken three points from their last six. Let’s just go ahead and add them to the pile of teams that started the year well, but now really should be worried about the playoffs. Maybe not quite as much as some of the others, but it’s not like the five points between them and eighth place is an Alaskan King-sized mattress of a cushion. I looked it up y’all, the largest mattress size is an “Alaskan King.”
They’ve taken 10 points from their last five games and just had a six-point week. Djordje Mihailovic is second in the league in assists. Everything is just going really well for them and it has been for pretty much the entire season. Of the teams fourth place through ninth in the East, it’s Montréal that have the best-expected goal differential. I genuinely don’t have anything negative to say.
And yet, I still think they might be the last team out when it comes to the playoff race because ... well ... I don’t know? I might just be a bad person? It’s definitely not you Montréal, it’s me. I’ll work through this at some point, I promise. Unless I’m right.
Philly pulled off the classic sports trope of “playing well in a losing effort” against Club America in the CCL semifinal and then really did play well in a winning effort against Orlando over the weekend. Is it possible we’re going to see a CCL bump instead of a hangover? It might be.
It’s still not wonderful news that Jakob Glesnes is their best non-forward goal scorer with three goals when your best forward just got to eight goals this weekend and the other two have four goals, but things do change I guess. If Philly can continue playing the way they have over the last couple of games, they have the personnel to feel relatively comfortable about their spot in the playoffs.
D.C. ran into the now increasingly functioning Atlanta buzzsaw on Saturday. And they still nearly pulled out a result on the road. Fortunately, they took care of business against Chicago during the midweek slate and welcome Cincy to Audi Field on Saturday. They’re a point below the playoff line for now, but I still think this is a playoff team. The only problem now is figuring out which one of the teams ahead of them is going to be the odd man out.
SMASH. THAT. PANIC BUTTON.
Things are very bad right now for the Lions. They’re just four points out of eighth place in the East, their goal differential is down to zero, their expected goal differential is down in the negatives, and they’ve lost three in a row while giving up 10 goals over the last three games. Which, hey, that’s exactly what Atlanta United did, but bad. Y’all, is it possible, just possible, the fates of both those teams are doomed to be inversely related for all time? You can’t tell me you don’t see a trend here. Like when Orlando made the playoffs for the first time the same season Atlanta cratered? And if Atlanta is on course to make the playoffs this year, well…
Honestly, you don’t even have to involve any potential outside forces to see where this might be going. The Lions can’t score and suddenly can’t keep other teams from scoring either. Now, knowing that, what if I told that their final nine games featured New England twice, Nashville twice, and Montréal twice with D.C., Cincy and Columbus nestled in between? That’s seven of their nine games against teams ninth or better in the league in expected goal differential. Five games against top-five teams. They should be very, very worried.
And the thing is, I’m still waiting for someone smarter than me to explain why. It’s like they got healthier and then got worse. I don’t understand how this team has taken the same group from last year with the same coach and gone from one of the most exciting teams in the league to a team that can’t get out of its own way and can’t find the net. I’m baffled. But when a team shows you who they are, you should probably believe them. Orlando aren’t showing much that’s positive right now.
The last four RSL games have been a 3-2 win, a 3-2 loss, a 4-3 win and a 1-0 win over Seattle. Are RSL the most fun team on the continent? Millions are asking and wanting to know.
Unfortunately, I don’t have an answer. But I can say they’re in good form right now and above the playoff line. That’s good. As is the fact Aaron Herrera now has nine assists on the season.
The underlying numbers don’t love them and LAFC and Minnesota are lurking just below them in the standings. For now, though, RSL fans can be happy. Isn’t that all we want out of life?
The LAFC Catastrophic Moment of the Week is back!
On a very related note, LAFC are back below the playoff line.
They went right at a very good Colorado team on Sunday and came away with a draw. That puts the Whitecaps within striking distance of a playoff spot, but the rest of their schedule is just so unkind. They get three easy ones they’ll have to win before heading into a gauntlet of Seattle, SKC, Portland, (San Jose), Minnesota, LAFC and Seattle to close out their season. If they get into the playoffs they’ll have truly earned it.
I think there’s a shot that they can, but the odds are definitely against them. Which is a bummer. It has to be frustrating to start playing some pretty good soccer and know that you maybe started just be a few games too late for it to really matter.
Inter Miami had certainly been on an impressive run, but I think pretty much everyone had their heads tilted a little further with each result. They had been beating up on bad teams, and beating up is being very kind. They were escaping with stoppage-time winners and playing Toronto a lot.
Well, this week everyone’s head snapped back into place and a bunch of bloggers got to say “Ah, yep, there it is” as the New York Red Bulls pummeled Inter Miami on national TV. It was an impressive run and they certainly didn’t luck into every part of it. But my feeling is that their playoff push is going to come up short.
The Chaos Quakes returned for a glorious kaleidoscope of insanity that was last week. The Quakes scored seven goals! They also allowed seven goals! I had missed them so so dearly. And I welcomed them home like a prodigal son. But I’m afraid they’ll probably go back to their old boring ways soon…... Just maybe not this week because they play LAFC and that’s going to be a total mess.
Sure they were outshot 33 to 6, but what are “shots” anyway besides the actions that create goals in the game of soccer? Seems stupid to worry about those. You don’t see people worrying about “cameras” when they’re watching a show. We should get rid of shots. And cameras. Please take away all the cameras. Take away all the shots and stop showing the Crew on the cameras and then, what do you know, the Crew are the best team in the league again.
The Crew were just as good as the Revolution in their 1-1 draw and you can’t tell me otherwise because I didn’t watch the game and I don’t believe in shots.
Also: Eloy Room.
It likely won’t save their season. But a 4-0 beatdown always feels good.
So. Sure seems like they should have started this Darwin Quintero guy all season.
After going winless in 16 games, Houston have taken seven points from their last three games. Quintero made his first three starts of the year in these games.
One last time. Lighters in the air.
Congrats to you, dear reader, for scoring as many goals or more than Chicago Fire Football Club over the last three games.
Just when they thought they were safe, Toronto went and pulled off one of the upsets of the season. Wooden Spoons in the mirror may be closer than they appear.
Hey! A soccer player! In green and black! In the middle of the field but at the top of the formation? Is that allowed? Who knows. But Austin did look a little more improved in attack with an actual striker (Moussa Djitte) finally on the field.