Voices: Sam Jones

Power Rankings: FC Cincinnati, Atlanta United take giant step after Week 10

What a week in MLS. Cincinnati won a third-straight game, an MLS team won Concacaf Champions League and…wait, was this actually a week unlike any other? Weird. That’s not how it usually goes.

Anyway, this is not my fault. The Power Rankings are voted on by a collection of MLSsoccer.com editors, writers and personalities. I am technically a part of that group, but you shouldn’t hold that against me. You should hold it against Tom “Former University of Oklahoma head coach, Bob Scoops” Bogert, though.

As always, be sure to tune into the Power Rankings show on Andrew Wiebe’s Twitter Spaces later today at 2 pm ET.

Brian Rodriguez, Eddie Segura, Jesus David Murillo and Ismael Tajouri-Shradi were unavailable for LAFC in Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Philadelphia and it didn’t really even register. Even with that group unavailable, Ryan Hollingshead, Latif Blessing and Danny Musovski were still on the bench. This team is deep. In large part because it continues to seem like they hit on every signing they made this offseason. This weekend’s LAFC offseason addition of the week is Franco Escobar, who started at right back and scored an equalizer in the 82nd minute.

Overall this weekend, they got burned a couple of times by the Union. That will be the norm for most teams this year. But it’s clear LAFC are built well for the long haul of a 34-game season. Especially as Kwadwo Opoku continues to grow into a more prominent role on the wing. He’s scored three times in 651 minutes this year and seems hell-bent on scoring and…pretty much nothing else, but who cares when you’re that fun to watch on the ball. 

Oh, and by the way, did I mention their goal differential per game is at 1.40 right now? That’s the second-best mark since 2013. 2022 LAFC are only 0.07 behind…2019 LAFC. It’s extremely early and the three teams behind 2022 LAFC are also from this season. But it’s just something to keep in mind.

I guess what I’m trying to say is…

Previous: 2-2 draw vs. PHI | Next: 5/14 at COL

That’s a road point against the Supporters’ Shield leaders in MLS. There should be no complaints, but maybe a little general sadness they couldn’t keep LAFC off the board for 10 more minutes or so to take all three points. 

If Philly fans need any more solace, they can take it in the fact Julian Carranza has been a near-perfect signing (4g/3a and insane defensive numbers for a forward) and they earned the draw without their other DP forward, Mikael Uhre, available. 

Either way, Philly’s transformation into the most direct team in the league (yes, even more so than the Red Bulls now) continues to pay off so far. They’re still creating chances at a decent rate and their average chance quality is the best in the league. Meanwhile, their defense sits second in the league in expected goals allowed, per Second Spectrum.

Previous: 2-2 draw at LAFC | Next: 5/14 vs. RBNY

For my vote, winning CCL gets you first place in the Power Rankings, but what do I know. Anyway, I wrote a lot of nice things in The Daily Kickoff after Seattle won CCL and I can only write so many nice things per week. Here are a few of those nice things:

It deserved to be Seattle. It might pain you to hear it or write it, but deep down, in your heart of hearts, you know there's no escaping from the belly of the Rave Green-wearing whale until you concede that no one has been more consistent, more excellent and more worthy of bursting through a ceiling that didn't feel impenetrable as much as it felt cursed to the touch.

It still might be cursed, honestly. It's not like we rode the best possible timeline last Wednesday. There's a multiverse out there that skipped over the injuries to Nouhou and João Paulo, went right to the 3-0 beatdown and ended with a stadium-wide celebratory musical number led by Brian Schmetzer and Nico Lodeiro. Instead, we got a long-term ACL injury to João Paulo and not a single chorus line. At least we still got the beatdown.

Even as confident as I felt going into Wednesday that the Sounders were fated for this – like I said previously, sometimes the plot is the plot – they still had to endure the final flailing moments of danger from a Concacaf curse that died with all the grace of a T-800. Just like in the first leg, down 2-0 in Mexico City rain, they found the Concacaf Uno reverse card no MLS team before them discovered.

That's a mark of a culture years in the making. That's a sign of a team that learned from both their MLS Cup-winning moments in 2016 and 2019, and the mistakes that kept them from similar moments against Columbus in 2020 and against Club León in 2021. It's also the mark of a team filled to the brim with talent led by the most effective manager per capita in league history. Let's not lose sight of the fact that, in addition to needing culture and luck to break a curse, you need a damn good soccer team. What Sounders general manager Garth Lagerwey has accomplished in acquiring talent through nearly every available MLS mechanism and what Brian Schmetzer has done to get the most out of that talent with consistency has now made them the most successful pairing in MLS history. It took six years of growth to get to that point.

The bottom line is that any other team would have been celebrated, but they would have been considered a flash in the pan. "The right team at the right time" instead of just the right team. It wouldn't have felt hollow, but the textures of last night made it special. The sold-out crowd, the sense of scale and scope appropriate for a continental final, and the understanding of the weight of a moment the club had been building towards since they invented soccer back in 2009 coalesced into something historic.

Previous: 2-0 loss at DAL | Next: 5/15 vs. MIN

This won’t be the first time you see this expected goal chart today because MY GOODNESS  MONTRÉAL CALM DOWN, THEY’RE ALREADY DEAD.

Montreal - Power Rankings Week 10

That’s a murderthwomping. After comfortably conceding possession last week against Atlanta United, they controlled this one from start to finish and they did it without Victor Wanyama. It could have been worse than 4-1. This team can win in multiple ways and looks more confident with each game. Since their seven-game unbeaten run began on March 19 against Atlanta, they’ve been the fifth-best team in the league by expected goals and the fourth-best team by expected goals allowed.  

The Eastern Conference feels like there are four teams at the top in Philly, NYCFC, Red Bulls and CF Montréal. Then there’s everyone else. CF Montréal are firmly entrenched in that top tier and I don’t think they’re going to leave it anytime soon.

Previous: 4-1 win vs. ORL | Next: 5/14 at CLT

Not having Taty Castellanos is hard. It makes their 0-0 draw against SKC this weekend understandable at least. Although, this small sample size instance doesn’t exactly make anyone feel great about Castellanos’ potential summer move to Europe.

At least Sean Johnson is playing really well. He’s the second-best shot-stopper in the league, per ASA.

Previous: 0-0 draw vs. SKC | Next: 5/14 vs. CLB

The Galaxy are … kind of boring now? I mean that in the nicest possible way. It’s not exactly The Brand for an LA team to be pragmatic, but the Galaxy are piling up points by grinding out results and playing excellent defense. Maybe the best defense in the entire league.

LA have allowed just two goals from open play and lead the league in open play xG allowed, per Second Spectrum. They’re tied for the fewest total goals allowed so far this season and are third in the league in xG allowed per game. If your plan in MLS is somewhere along the lines of “play elite defense, create chances for Chicharito and take what contributions you can get from everyone else,” you’re going to go pretty far.

Obviously, they’ll want the attack to pick up a little bit. They’re 17th in the league in xG. But the difference between Galaxy being a home playoff contender and a contender for the first seed in the Western Conference isn’t that far off if the attack can improve.

Previous: 1-0 win at ATX | Next: 5/14 vs. DAL

My takeaway this week for the Red Bulls after a 1-1 draw against the Timbers was that they played the Timbers. That’s all I had, honestly. That’s just kind of every game against the Timbers. But Gerhard Struber had a different insight: The Red Bulls need “freedom in the brain.”

I think most people just go to college for that. Or maybe a doctor. Either way, the Red Bulls need to sort that out immediately. There’s not too much to worry about, though, for a team sitting second in the East and a team the underlying numbers continue to love. Even if what they’re doing by winning on the road and dropping points at home goes against every central tenet of this league.

Previous: 1-1 draw vs. POR | Next: 5/14 at PHI

Jesus Ferreira beat his dad. By anime rules, he’s officially a man now.

Ferreira is first in the league in expected goals from open play, per Second Spectrum. He’s been stellar, and so has Paul Arriola. If they can get Alan Velasco up and running at full force, then this is one of the most dangerous front threes in the league. It’s no surprise they took care of a Seattle team wearing sunglasses inside and asking everyone to stop shouting so much. 

There might be some surprise, however, that they’re unbeaten in their last eight. They’ve quietly been one of the hottest teams in the league thanks to the handful of draws scattered throughout that unbeaten run. But they’re one of three teams with just one loss this season. They’re just four points off Supporters’ Shield-leading LAFC. And, on top of that, the crowds at Toyota Stadium have been consistently great so far this year. It’s a big part of why Dallas are unbeaten in their last five at home.

To put it simply…

Previous: 2-0 win vs. SEA | Next: 5/14 at LA

They aren’t the first team to have a tough time finding the net against the Galaxy this year. Even still, Austin FC created a goal worth of xG and could probably consider themselves a bit unlucky not to get a point out of this one. This is why you beat up on bad teams, though. Getting points in MLS is hard. They’ll have a chance to get back on track at Real Salt Lake this weekend (9:30 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+).

Previous: 1-0 loss vs. LA | Next: 5/14 at RSL

GEODIS Park deserved its first win and the Coyotes obliged with a steady performance against RSL. Expect that to be the norm from here on out. Nashville are who they are and we know that they’re going to rack up points at home.

Previous: 2-0 win vs. RSL | Next: 5/14 at HOU

Wait, 11th! A record!! Probably the first time they’ve been in the top half of the Power Rankings…ever!!! And it’s deserved too.

Cincinnati began the week by taking down Toronto for the second time in four days and matching their win total from last season. No, really, they did. Yes, I know it’s only the first week in May.

Then Brandon Vazquez scored his sixth goal of the season in stoppage time to give Cincinnati a 1-0 win over Minnesota and the Stabby Lions suddenly had their first three-game win streak in their MLS history.

This team is fun. I mean it. And I’m really desperate to hammer this home, so I’m going to bring up their underlying numbers for maybe the sixth straight Power Rankings.

FC Cincinnati are fourth in the league in expected goals created per game. The only teams better so far are NYCFC, Austin and LAFC. Then it’s FC Cincinnati. We’re grouping NYCFC and LAFC with FC Cincinnati. Vazquez and Luciano Acosta are seventh and second, respectively, in non-penalty xG+xA. ASA’s “expected points” metric has them third on points in the entire league. What a time to be alive.

The only problem right now really is they’re the unluckiest team in the league. Per ASA, their goal differential is nine goals worse than their expected goal differential. Even still, they’re fifth in the East.

By the way, Roman Celentano made five saves in the win over Minnesota and it’s worth noting Celentano has been fantastic so far. As much as we hyped up Alec Kann’s underlying numbers coming into the season, Kann has had a tough time living up to those and Celentano has probably been too good to take out of the lineup once Kann returns from injury. Sports are mean.

Previous: 1-0 win at MIN | Next: 5/14 at CHI

First and foremost, the Miles Robinson injury is the biggest possible bummer in a long string of early-season bummers for Atlanta so far this season. People are quick to blame the turf for the number of non-contact injuries, but there are plenty of scientific studies out there that don’t share the same conclusions on turf causing these kinds of issues. Essentially, Atlanta are just having one of the worst runs of bad luck…in the history of the sport? It’s improbable, but not impossible.

In addition to all the personal reasons it hurt to watch Robinson go down, his injury comes at exactly the same time Atlanta seemed to figure out some of their issues in attack. Ronaldo Cisneros, in particular, started figuring those issues out with a first-half hat trick against Chicago. And he might be the answer to all the problems in the near future, too. He’s getting into phenomenal positions.

Cisneros is adding an element to the Atlanta attack that’s been seemingly missing for the past two years plus: running. Soccer is hard. But sometimes, it’s not that hard. Be active, move into good positions and you’ll not only set yourself up but allow your teammates some freedom as well. Even when Cisneros’ diagonal runs in behind take him wide, he still ends up in Primary Assist Zones on the sides of the 18-yard-box that allow for chance creation through pullbacks and square balls. Atlanta couldn’t have asked for more from a backup striker. The question now for heretics like me is, once Josef returns, can you really keep Cisneros on the bench?

Previous: 4-1 win vs. CHI | Next: 5/15 vs. NE

They didn’t have Diego Rubio or Jack Price this week, but that shouldn’t make them feel all that much better about losing 1-0 to San Jose. The Rapids have just one win in their last seven games and were shut out on the same day the player they just traded, Andre Shinyashiki, scored a game-winner for Charlotte. Oof. 

Previous: 1-0 loss at SJ | Next: 5/14 vs. LAFC

The Loons were missing Luis Amarilla and Robin Lod in their 1-0 loss to Cincy, but even with that in mind, the attack as a whole just hasn’t been good enough in a lot of ways. The Loons are 22nd in expected goals created from open play, per Second Spectrum, and they’ve only scored multiple times in a game twice this season.

What I’m saying is there’s only so much Dayne St. Clair can do. And he’s doing nearly everything within the limits of human achievement right now. That's not a joke and I'm only kind of doing a bit.

Dayne St. Clair numbers - Power Rankings Week 10

These numbers from ASA have St. Clair as the best shot-stopper in the league by a considerable margin. He’s performing six goals better than the expected goals numbers he’s faced. When you break that down into per-96 numbers, he’s outperforming…literally everyone who’s played 775 minutes in a season since 2013. He’s got about 1,200 minutes less than the best full season by a starter (2019, Matt Turner). Regression is coming. But even when that regression comes, it’s starting to look like there’s a chance he’ll be on par with some of the best seasons in MLS history. Not bad for a guy who didn’t even have the starting job at the beginning of the year.

Previous: 1-0 loss vs. CIN | Next: 5/15 at SEA

Here we have charts from two of Orlando’s last three games.

Orlando City SC - Power Rankings Week 10
Orlando City SC - Power Rankings Week 10 2

I am…not encouraged by the same team being beaten down as badly as any team has been beaten down this season (non-NYCFC division) twice in three games. Even with injuries to their backline, the Lions have some issues to sort through. Potentially anyway. They might just bounce back next week and look fine. This season, they’re the team most likely to cause your brain to hurt if you think about them too much. 

Previous: 4-1 loss at MTL | Next: 5/14 at TOR

I am once again asking everyone to consider DeJuan Jones for consideration as perhaps the best fullback in the league. 

Exhibit A:

Exhibit B:

Dejuan Jones Scouting Report - Power Rankings Week 10

Anyway, the Revs did a lot right in their 2-2 draw against Columbus. Jones continues to be excellent, Adam Buksa scored for the fourth straight game and they continued to give Matt Polster a little help defending in midfield.

But they seem to have gotten the end of the game wrong. They switched out of the 3-5-2 they’d taken the lead with and that lead disappeared quickly after. It’s also maybe not the best sign the lead disappeared shortly after Omar Gonzalez came into the game. Portion your blame how you want, but a nearly excellent night for the Revs quickly turned into a pretty meh one.

Previous: 2-2 draw vs. CLB | Next: 5/15 at ATL

You take a road point against the defending Shield winners however you can get it. The big story of the Crew’s weekend, though (and maybe their season), is Derrick Etienne Jr.

After Marlon Hairston left warmups with an injury, Etienne shifted to right back from his normal wing position. The late change didn’t bother him much. Etienne still delivered two assists to build on an already excellent output so far this season. I know Lucas Zelarayan is the star, but Etienne is fourth in the league in non-penalty xG+xA, per FBref, and now has seven goal contributions on the year. He’s on his way to having the kind of breakout year Columbus desperately needed. And he’s a big reason why Columbus are fifth in the league in expected goals from open play.

I should note the Crew are also sixth in the league in expected goals allowed. It hasn’t been perfect in Columbus so far, but don’t be surprised if they start creeping up the standings. They at least seem better than ninth in the East.

Previous: 2-2 draw at NE | Next: 5/14 at NYC

RSL got Nashville’d on the road. It happens. At least now their schedule will finally calm down and they can move on to preparing for…[checking]...Austin and Montréal?

RSL have played three games this season that weren’t against an Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs team and one of those teams was the Galaxy. I swear it’s almost over, RSL. If you can make it to the end of May, you get Houston, Vancouver and San Jose all in a row. Even if this schedule hasn’t quite been as brutal as it initially seemed, this has still been a difficult road. The fact that they’re still fifth in the West feels like an accomplishment.

Previous: 2-0 loss at NSH | Next: 5/14 vs. ATX

You might be familiar with my theory on Timbers Game Types I’ve been pushing each week in these rankings. After last week’s 2-0 loss broke contain on that theory, this week was a welcome return to form in a 1-1 draw with New York in which neither team generated much more than one goal worth of xG. That, dear reader, is a Timbers Game Type One (TGT1). The twist here is Portland normally generate around 0.8 xG or so. This time, they only generated 0.4. They still got a point, at least. And against one of the better teams in the league. 

Even still, the Timbers have just two wins on the season. That’s tied with a few other teams for the worst mark in the league.

Previous: 1-1 draw at RBNY | Next: 5/14 vs. SKC


Taxi Fountas did it again. That’s four goals and an assist in three starts so far for D.C. United’s new DP. He’s guided D.C. to six points in their first three games in a post-Hernan Losada world. Is it sustainable?

Wellllllll, the underlying numbers suggest maybe not so much. He’s yet to collect a full goal worth of xG. He’s already second in the league in goals scored above xG. His average xG per shot is .05. That’s not necessarily indicative of a player fated to be a Golden Boot presented by Audi contender. 

But he is finding plenty of chances and getting about four shots off per game. He’s actively working to make things happen, and that can be enough to elevate a team and catch a few breaks. And it’s not like he’s stuck in place when it comes to his underlying numbers. Any kind of production in a new league is wholly welcome. If he can couple finding better positions as he grows into the team and the league with his willingness to go for goal, D.C. may have found the kind of player that can alter the trajectory of their season for the better.

Previous: 2-0 win vs. HOU | Next: 5/14 at MIA

Charlotte won at home again this weekend. That’s four straight at Bank of America Stadium and four of their five games at home in club history. In MLS, all you really have to do to be successful is take care of business at home in the league with the largest home-field advantage in the world, and Charlotte are doing exactly that. This win must have felt pretty sweet, considering they got a goal from their brand new forward Andre Shinyashiki almost immediately upon his debut.

We’re 11 games into Charlotte’s inaugural season and their success at home has them on pace to be somewhere around the median of expansion teams we’ve seen in the last few years. In order of points per game in inaugural seasons since 2017 you’ve got:

  1. LAFC - 1.68 ppg
  2. Atlanta United - 1.62 ppg
  3. Nashville SC - 1.39 ppg
  4. Charlotte FC - 1.18 ppg
  5. Minnesota United FC - 1.06 ppg
  6. Inter Miami CF - 1.04 ppg
  7. Austin FC - 0.91 ppg
  8. FC Cincinnati - 0.71 ppg 

Expansion teams tend to trail off as the season goes just because of depth and inexperience, so we’ll see if Charlotte can keep this up. But for now, this is as good a start as you could have hoped for considering how things seemed set to begin. 

Previous: 1-0 win vs. MIA | Next: 5/14 vs. MTL

The Dynamo got Matias Vera back this weekend anndddddddddd it didn’t really help them slow down Taxi Fountas. It’s been a rough stretch for this group. This weekend’s loss is the third straight after back-to-back losses to in-state rivals in the two weeks prior. We’ll see how they respond and how new manager Paulo Nagumara handles his team’s first major bump in the road.

Previous: 2-0 loss at DC | Next: 5/14 vs. NSH

The new manager bounce is a heckuva thing. After taking down Colorado 1-0 over the weekend, that’s three wins in their last four (all competitions) after parting ways with Matias Almeyda. I’m not quite sure what to make of it, but it’s definitely nice to see the Quakes aren’t bottoming out.

Previous: 1-0 win vs. COL | Next: 5/14 at VAN

They had a few clear cut chances against Charlotte, but couldn’t convert. It happens on the road. The good news is it seems like having Indiana Vassilev back on loan from Aston Villa should help in attack going forward, and center back Ryan Sailor performed well in his MLS debut.

Previous: 1-0 loss at CLT | Next: 5/14 vs. DC

Even without Taty Castellanos, keeping NYCFC off the board at home is an accomplishment. It’s an even better outcome for SKC when you look at the young backline they trotted out. Logan Ndenbe (22 years old), Robert Voloder (21) and Cam Duke (21), along with 26-year-old Kortne Ford, got the job done against the league’s best attack despite having just 26% possession. It might be a sign SKC are smartly shifting gears this season to focus on the future.

Previous: 0-0 draw at NYC | Next: 5/14 at POR

Well, that could have gone better. But even with Saturday’s 4-1 loss in Atlanta, they’ve still only given up more than 1.0 xG in two games this year. The other one came against Orlando and they were down a man for an hour. This was by far the worst performance of the year and it came on the road with no Gaston Gimenez and no Rafael Czichos. I’m not ready to completely bail on this defense yet.

The attack, however…well, let’s hope new DP Jairo Torres was worth the wait and Chris Mueller can find his 2020 form. Per Second Spectrum, they’re third-worst in the league in expected goals per game, and you probably could have guessed that if you’ve watched them this year.

Previous: 4-1 loss at ATL | Next: 5/14 vs. CIN

Take it how you can get it, Vancouver. I’m not saying they’re going to be back on track now, but a late-winner against a rival isn’t going to hurt you, especially if you caught a break or two on the way.

Previous: 1-0 win vs. TOR | Next: 5/14 vs. SJ

I’m still extremely low on this Toronto team. They’re the worst defense in MLS by a considerable margin and they’re only 22nd in expected goals scored, largely because they’re putting up fewer shots than anyone else in the league per game.

Per ASA, TFC are actually on pace for the highest xGA in the league going back to 2013. It’s only going back to 2013 because that’s how far their statistics go back. We’re talking about potential history here. It’s still very early, but I just thought it was worth noting.

All that being said, they deserved a little more than their 1-0 loss to Vancouver this weekend. I have my opinions on why that is, and I’ll let Instant Replay take it from here. (Probably should have at least been a point.)

Previous: 1-0 loss at VAN | Next: 5/14 vs. ORL