What a week in MLS.
As always, you can listen to Andrew Wiebe, Matt Doyle 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. Although this time I did go mad with power and personally break a tie between two teams with no real regard for anyone else’s thoughts or feelings. You’ll never guess which one. Because I’m personally determined to ruin the sanctity of the most sacred tradition in sports: The Power Rankings. If that upsets you, think about the fact Tom Bogert got me a gift card for my birthday. It’s like he doesn’t even want to try to pretend that he cares. Anyway, you should really recognize that the stakes have never been lower.
LAFC in 2019: 2.117 points per game.
New England in 2021: 2.105 points per game.
That works out to about a 71.5 point season. They only need that half a point to go their way to tie the MLS record for points in a season. This team is real, real good.
Now the question becomes if they can keep it up without Carles Gil for however exactly long it is Carles Gil is going to be out. They tried Tajon Buchanan in a central midfield role against Nashville, and then let Adam Buksa drop deep and Tommy McNamara play a little more centrally against the Union. Four points from two games against two of the East’s best seem to indicate both of those options worked just fine. It helps when Gustavo Bou suddenly can’t stop scoring. He’s tied for the Golden Boot presented by Audi lead after scoring against Philly.
Well one week officially without Gianluca Busio and I dunno y’all, seems like SKC might be OK. They obliterated LAFC on Wednesday and then did enough to earn a road point against Colorado over the weekend with a rotated lineup. That’s an excellent week for any team. Let alone one that just sat their best young player on the gondola to stardom and watched him float away.
Anyway, guess it’s that time of the week again. The time where I point out Daniel Salloi picked up a goal and an assist this week and now has 10 goals and five assists on the year. Which, delightfully, dovetails nicely with the time of the week where I remind you center back Andreu Fontas is leading the entire league in American Soccer Analysis’ goals added metric and no one seems to want to talk about him.
The Sounders skipped back up above NYCFC this week. That’s probably not necessarily because of the 1-1 draw against FC Dallas, but is almost definitely necessarily about the three substitutions they made in this one.
Brad Smith, Will Bruin and … [ahem] ... Nico Lodeiro all checked into the game for Seattle. That’s right. We’re a Nouhou and Stefan Frei away from a fully operational Seattle preparing to integrate U22 Young Money signing Leo Chu into the lineup soon. They survived what should be the toughest part of their season and kept themselves a point away from the top of the conference. Now they’re reloading a very large, very powerful weapon.
They were never going to match the week before. Not sure we’ll see a better two-game stretch this year than beating Orlando 5-0 and Columbus 4-1. The Cityzens got away from the Yankee Stadium pitch though and didn’t look quite as lethal. That’s understandable. And two road points in two games in MLS isn’t terrible. But I think everyone would agree they probably could have taken more from teams as lowly as Chicago and Toronto right now. Allowing Toronto to come back from 2-0 should especially hurt.
For now, NYCFC are still a very good team that the underlying numbers indicate should be even better. It seemed like they might have turned that corner last week. But maybe we’ll be waiting a little longer?
It’s a new season-high for the Rapids! After a 0-0 draw! Power Rankings!
To defend the voting of me and my colleagues a bit, Colorado are fifth in points per game after 16 games played. It’s a big if, but if they win their next three games, they’ll be just three points off New England’s current pace after 19 games. Two straight wins would put them even with SKC after 18 games. It’s not like they’re stumbling into this spot.
Especially considering they’ve just added Mark-Anthony Kaye and brought in left back Lucas Esteves from Palmeiras to replace the outgoing Sam Vines. And the underlying numbers have them ninth in the league in expected goal differential, one spot below New England. Robin Fraser is working wonders this season with a team that entered the year near the bottom in total payroll.
I have a feeling Galaxy fans are going to feel some type of way about being put below Colorado. If it makes anyone feel any better, we’re talking tenths of a point difference on their average placement in the voting here. If it makes you feel any worse, the Galaxy’s goal differential, both real and expected, indicates putting Colorado a spot ahead is probably a good call.
But full credit to the Galaxy, both those numbers have been improving and only one of them is in the negatives now. More importantly, they made it through the Gold Cup while staying just two points away from the top of the West. Now, Jonathan dos Santos, Sebastian Lletget and Efra Alvarez are back. They’ve just added QPR defender Niko Hamalainen on loan along with signing U22 Initiative forward Dejan Joveljic. All the Galaxy are doing now is waiting for Chicharito to show back up. Then they can think about making a serious push toward the top of the conference. Considering who they’re bringing in, they may not even need him to hurry.
Lions, if there were ever a week to take six points, it was probably this one.
Two points obviously isn’t the end of the world. Orlando are still happily sitting in second place in the East. But six points this week would have put them within six points with a game in hand of New England.
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Hernan Losada and company earned their highest ranking of the year this week And for very, very good reason. They pummeled Columbus on the road and then powered their way past CF Montréal at home. What Julian Gressel and Ola Kamara are doing right now feels especially remarkable. Gressel is fourth in the league in goals added, third in the league in key passes, second in the league in expected assists and first in the Atlanta United fan “Boy, I miss that guy” Power Rankings. Meanwhile, Kamara is second in the Golden Boot presented by Audi race and is averaging a league-best 1.44 goals per 90 minutes. A GOAL AND A HALF PER GAME MY GOODNESS.
Probably not sustainable. Fortunately, the rest of the team’s performance probably is. There are exactly four teams with better expected goal differentials than D.C. this year. It feels like they’re only getting better and the numbers indicate that they will. This may just be one of the last weeks we can talk about D.C. keeping an eye on the playoff line.
The Union played maybe their best game of the year midweek against Toronto. It’s the kind of performance that inspires someone like Jim Curtin to say “That was us tonight.” The Union were the best version of themselves.
Then they played a U-23 team against the Revs and nearly earned a result. That’s a solid week for Philly, especially with bigger things looming on the horizon. They head to the Azteca for a CCL semifinal meeting with Club America. Not a bad week to give your best performance of the year then get a few guys some rest.
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Well, y’all. Here it comes. The road games. So, so many road games. And if this week is any indication ...well, this may be a long back half of the season. Getting a draw against New England is perfectly good. Losing to Inter Miami? Not so much.
Of course, that is not necessarily Nashville’s fault. This league is a strange, dark place sometimes.
Another week, another win for the Loons. They’ve only lost once since May 8.
The joy of writing the Power Rankings is getting to disagree strongly when the voting doesn’t go the way I want it to. And folks, gonna have to disagree a little more than strongly with Portland being put ahead of Montréal. Sure, the Timbers points per game are a little better. But the teams are even on points and Montréal fair just a little bit better in the underlying numbers. And by a little bit, I mean Portland are 21st in the league in expected goal differential.
The Timbers survived most of last year by outperforming their xG by an absurd amount. The largest amount in the league. But the timeline is a little longer this year and the arc of the soccer universe bends toward the underlying numbers after a while. I’m just not sold that they can keep it up for a second year in a row.
OK, yeah, after complaining about them not being higher than Portland, gonna admit that it wasn’t a phenomenal week for Montréal. They blew a 2-0 lead to Atlanta and then got outplayed by D.C. Now they’ve slipped below the playoff line. And they might just be in a dog fight for the seventh spot the rest of the year.
But at least their underlying numbers are better than Portland.
The Ricardo Pepi Hype Train is already in full effect and the Dallas hype train is gaining steam. The Luchi Gang has 10 points in their last four games and seem to have figured out the formula they need to win games: Play Ricardo Pepi. Per Matt Doyle’s Sunday column: “Dallas are 5-2-3 with a +6 goal differential when he starts at center forward, and 0-5-3 with a -8 goal differential when he doesn't.”
But I feel like we might be missing the bigger picture. And that’s that Dallas haven’t lost since their social media admin, Eddie Koton, got this tattoo.
Yeah. So. Thinking that the team getting consistently middle-of-the-road results for more than a year now is probably middle-of-the-road. Losing Eddie Segura for the year certainly won’t help with that either.
The worst part is, LAFC are second in expected goal differential across the entire league and I don’t even think it matters. They’re just kind of broken right now. Do you see what you’ve done to me, LAFC? Making me doubt the one thing I’ve ever believed in?
I'm not going to bring out the full Caleb Porter quote again. Just know that after his team beat Atlanta United 1-0, Porter called out the media for not respecting his team. Since then, Columbus have lost three straight and been outscored 11-5.
Road games in MLS are hard, ya know? Anyway, someone remind me how this team thumped Colorado 3-0 a couple of weeks ago?
The Quakes are unbeaten in seven! They just added Jeremy Ebobisse! And lo and behold, they’re finally incorporating zonal marking principles in the midfield after years of chasing teams all the way around the field. All of the sudden, San Jose are just two points out of the seventh spot in the West.
I’d been dreading writing this one. But it’s been coming.
I like Gerhard Struber. I think tactically this team was beginning to look far more like Red Bulls than they had in a while. But right now this team is gassed and just not getting results. They’ve won one time in the last nine games and I don’t know how or when it’s going to get better.
A win! And a road win at that! It’s the first win for the Five Stripes in 12 games and the first road win since Oct. 3 of 2020. Ezequiel Barco looked phenomenal in his return and Marcelino Moreno has been on an absolute tear as of late. Moreno is now third in the league in American Soccer Analysis’ goals added metric. And all it seems to have taken for all of this to happen is for interim manager Rob Valentino to allow the players some freedom in attack.
With incoming DP Luiz Araujo arriving this week, things are as optimistic in Atlanta as they’ve been since the beginning of the season.
Plus, there’s this:
That’s just a phenomenal week for the Fire. I’m not sure what else there really is to add except the underlying numbers continue to like what this team does. If there’s ever a world where they can quit making catastrophic mistakes two or three times per game, they might actually have a chance to climb the table.
Toronto are now last in the league in points and points per game. And goal differential. Don’t forget goal differential, too. But there’s hope. They’re not last in expected goal differential. They’re second to last.
Four straight draws! That’s something! So is being unbeaten in five.
And it does seem like their transfer dealings this past window might be able to meaningfully contribute. DP midfielder Ryan Gauld in particular.
Not a single draw this week after seven in their last eight games. We could have been something great, Houston. Instead we’re just 11th in West and 25th in expected goal differential. And by we I mean you.
Los Verdes took round one of their first Texan rivalry game, but not round two. The good news is DP Sebastian Driussi is here and forward Moussa Djitte is finally on his way.
That’s a week good enough to both literally and metaphorically pull you out of last place. And considering they have more wins than three other teams in the conference and have played just 16 games, they may not be back there for a while.
Hello, darkness my old friend. I’ve come to talk with you aga ... OHMYGOD LOOKIT THE BABY! GOOD JOB BABY!
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