Voices: Sam Jones

Power Rankings: FC Cincinnati, Columbus Crew soar after Week 24

What a week in MLS. I don’t even want to do the bit where I list things that happen every other week. It was genuinely a week unlike any other.

As always, this is not my fault. The Power Rankings are voted on by a collection of MLSsoccer.com editors, writers and personalities. That group does include me, but I’m only like one-tenth of the problem here. There are like three teams at this point who are actually “good” or “bad.” We’re 24 weeks into this and we know *nothing.*

Five-straight wins, Gareth Bale doing this off the bench, Giorgio Chiellini as a midfield goalkeeper, impending doom, et cetera.

Previous: 4-1 win at RSL | Next: 8/13 vs. CLT

The Union got worked a bit by FC Cincinnati and…it didn’t matter at all because the top four teams in the East failed to win this weekend. The Union are still in first place and looking comfortable there.

Previous: 3-1 loss at CIN | Next: 8/13 vs. CHI

Unsurprisingly, Austin fell into the San Jose chaos trap and left with a 3-3 draw. Honestly, it’s kind of whatever at this point. I’m not saying they should mail in the rest of the season or anything, but they aren’t going to catch LAFC and it’s highly doubtful anyone in the West is going to have the firepower to make up the nine-point gap or larger over the final nine or 10 games.

Any game where Austin stays healthy from here on out should be considered a win all things considered. There are bigger games waiting. The only thing that matters right now really is Sebastian Driussi’s Landon Donovan MLS MVP candidacy and after a brace this weekend, it’s starting to feel like that may just be a lock too.

Previous: 3-3 draw vs SJ | Next: 8/13 vs. SKC

“Worried” is a relative term. In this case the statement “I’m worried about NYCFC” means “Without Taty Castellanos and with a sometimes sporadic defense, I don’t feel overly optimistic about their chances to repeat as MLS Cup winners or to even hold onto the second spot in the East.” For some teams that’s more than enough. For NYCFC, it brings up some questions about the direction they’re heading.

Previous: 3-2 loss at CLB | Next: 8/13 at MIA

A four-point week for CF Montréal thanks to a win over Columbus and a draw with Inter Miami CF. CFM are just two points behind NYCFC right as the Pigeons start to feel very, very catchable. What a year for Wilfried Nancy and company.

Previous: 2-2 draw vs. MIA | Next: 8/13 at HOU

Not a spectacular couple of weeks for the Red Bulls. They followed up a 5-1 loss in the US Open Cup last week to Orlando City by allowing five goals at home in a loss to the Colorado Rapids. Then, in the middle of maybe the most chaotic Saturday in MLS history, they somehow played to a 0-0 draw. Columbus are quietly sneaking up on them in the East’s last home Audi MLS Cup Playoff spot.

Previous: 0-0 draw at DC | Next: 8/13 vs. ORL

FC Dallas didn’t score on their own in a one-point week against Seattle and Portland. But who needs to score on your own when the rest of the West is content to let you keep your home playoff spot and you can just bank the ball in off Diego Chara in the 100th minute?

On a related note, Dallas have scored more than one goal in a game just twice since the international break. That’s 11 games. They’re probably going to need the newly-acquired Sebastian Lletget to start making a difference soon.

Previous: 1-1 draw at POR | Next: 8/13 vs/ SJ

Ok, first thing’s first: I know they did the Dragon Ball Z celebration and everything, but let’s pump the brakes a bit on the Josef-Almiron comparisons for Cucho and Lucas Zelarayan. We’re talking the best goal scorer over a three-year period in MLS history and a transcendent midfielder who did a ton of work defensively as well as in attack.

Let’s not get it twisted either, though. They’re both \outstanding\. Don’t be surprised if we see plenty of scorelines in the future like the one we saw against NYCFC. A Cucho goal and a Zelarayan brace powered Columbus to a massive 3-2 win. Amid the pileup in the middle of the East right now, that pairing has the Crew feeling like the safest bet to make the playoffs.

Previous: 3-2 win vs. NYC | Next: 8/13 at COL

The Loons’ unstoppable march toward being the best soccer team in the world slowed a bit this weekend with a loss at Colorado. It happens. And it certainly wasn’t all bad this week. They added Rayados midfielder Jonathan Gonzalez on loan to gain some needed depth and brought in Colombian striker Mender Garcia on whatever a “restricted DP deal” is.

Previous: 4-3 loss at COL | Next: 8/14 at NSH

Would you look at that? Cincinnati put together their most complete performance of the year and they didn’t even need their new TAM center back Matt Miazga to do it.

A confidence-boosting defensive showing against the best team in the East, paired with another game where Brenner and Brandon Vazquez found the net, is the most ideal way imaginable to come out of the MLS Secondary Transfer Window that everyone agrees went as well as it could have.

If Miazga can truly sort out this defense, then we’re not just talking about making the playoffs. We’re talking about a chance at a win or two once they get there. They have that much firepower.

Previous: 3-1 win vs. PHI | Next: 8/13 vs. ATL

LAFC happens. What’s important is RSL are still above the West’s playoff line. And every week they’re above the line is another good week for RSL. They also made a couple of solid additions in midfield and at fullback before the deadline.

Previous: 4-1 loss vs. LAFC | Next: 8/14 at SEA

If you’ve been reading this year’s Power Rankings, you’ll know the theory behind the three types of Timbers games. We’ve been doing this bit for months. The three types are…

  • Timbers Game Type 1: a 1-0 or 1-1 game where the final xG finishes like 1.1 to 0.8.
  • TGT 2: Mollywhopped by a team from Texas
  • TGT 3: Roman candles lit and attached to a spinning ceiling fan in a crowded but dark room.” 

Somehow, they managed to combine some aspects of all three types into one game.

Portland power rankings Aug 9

This is the one true Timbers game. Nothing will ever top it. 

Previous: 1-1 draw vs. DAL | Next: 8/13 at TOR

I once again ask: Why does Nashville SC dislike Nashville? Yet another home game, yet another overly conservative performance that spiraled and led to dropped points at GEODIS Park. That’s three wins in 11 games at home now. No team in the West has fewer wins at home. No team in the country plays in the largest soccer-specific stadium in the US and Canada. It’s just not good enough and Nashville fans are right to be unhappy.

When you make your whole identity “cagey, defensive team” and you really, really, really lean into it even when you’re at home, then you better not lose your edge. Your success is predicated on winning duels and 50/50 balls and simply being up for the fight more than the other team. Nashville doesn’t have that right now. In part because they keep doubling down on an overly conservative philosophy that’s just not getting the job done at home in the league’s most home field advantage-heavy league.

Previous: 4-3 loss vs. TOR | Next: 8/14 vs. MIN

I regret to inform everybody I’ve talked myself into a Chicago playoff run for the 12th time this season. However, \this time\ feels different! Probably! Look, they’ve taken 13 points from their last 15 available! They’ve taken 19 from their last 30! Over that time span only LAFC, Austin and Philly have been better, and only barely. I know they’re pretty much bizarro-Seattle when it comes to these things, but it really, really might be the year. I’ve never been more confident……..

Previous: 3-2 win at CLT | Next: 8/13 at PHI

It looked like a four-point week for Seattle until a last-minute wonder strike from Andrew Gutman in Atlanta. That makes it five losses in seven games for the Sounders. Even still though, I refuse to be worried. As soon as Raul Ruidiaz came into the game against Atlanta, they looked fantastic. If he’s healthy the rest of the way, they’ll definitely be fine. If he’s not healthy, they’ll still probably be fine.

Since the CCL final, Seattle are tied for the sixth-most points in the league and the eighth-best expected goal differential. It hasn’t been great, but it certainly hasn’t been completely terrible. Don’t let this stretch fool you.

Previous: 2-1 loss at ATL | Next: 8/14 vs. RSL

The Revs took it to Orlando City in a 3-0 win thanks to their classic attacking trio of Matt Polster, Wilfrid Kaptoum and Henry Kessler. That three-headed monster has New England right on the playoff line with a game in hand.

Previous: 3-0 win at ORL | Next: 8/13 vs. DC

That’s certainly one way to get back into the playoff race, Colorado. The Rapids earned a 5-4 win over the Red Bulls midweek before chilling out a bit on Saturday and beating Minnesota 4-3.

Even if Colorado fans are frustrated by the promised signings that never came during the Secondary Transfer Window, they can at least be encouraged head coach Robin Fraser still has this team fighting. It’s tough to regress to the mean when you lose one of your best midfielders (Mark-Anthony Kaye) in the middle of the season, but a deeply unlucky Rapids side seems to at least be giving it a shot.

Previous: 4-3 win vs. MIN | Next: 8/13 vs. CLB

Defense is relatively optional for this group and it feels like they really, really need Mark-Anthony Kaye. But who actually cares when you have the most expensive player in MLS doing stuff like this?

Previous: 4-3 win at NSH | Next: 8/13 vs. POR

Vancouver waited a while to get it, but the 'Caps picked up a massive win against the Houston Dynamo on Friday.

They’re on the bottom of the West’s pileup right now, but they’re just three points below the line.

Previous: 2-1 win vs. HOU | Next: 8/13 at LA

Good. Lord.

LA Power RAnkings Aug 8

I don’t even know what to say here except I’m not sure effectively shipping off Rayan Raveloson in exchange for Riqui Puig is going to solve whatever happened here. The Galaxy have lost five of their last six and are trending towards being in genuine danger of missing the playoffs. Again.

Previous: 4-2 loss at SKC | Next: 8/13 vs. VAN

The Lions got smacked by New England and it finally seems like their place in the standings is beginning to catch up with their underlying numbers. Orlando City are below the playoff line for the first time in a long time and you can’t help but wonder if they’ll be back above it much more this year. The good news is this: A nice, shiny US Open Cup trophy would dull a lot of any potential pain of missing the playoffs in a transition year. Orlando are still very much on track. 

Previous: 3-0 loss vs. NE | Next: 8/13 at RBNY

Are you trying to save your entire season, Atlanta? Because this is a really good way to save your entire season.

Late AT&T 5G Goal of the Year candidates aren’t a sustainable way to go about winning games consistently. But, man, did any team need a break as much as Atlanta United? It’s a much-needed confidence boost and a critical step in the right direction. The Five Stripes have been unlucky in so many ways all season. A little positive reinforcement could go a long, long way.

Previous: 2-1 win vs. SEA | Next: 8/13 at CIN

Charlotte didn’t get the win this weekend against a hot Chicago team but they did take down D.C. United midweek. Maybe more importantly, they crammed a few moves in at the deadline to add some defensive reinforcements and a TAM No. 10.

The attack has struggled at times this year to create chances and a high-quality 10 feels like exactly what Charlotte need. Getting a player of that profile on a TAM deal is even better. Even if Charlotte don’t make the playoffs in year one, it feels like they’re set up well for the second-year bumps we’ve seen from the league’s best expansion teams over the last few years.

Previous: 3-2 loss vs. CHI | Next: 8/13 at LAFC

Leo Campana is missing time with an injury at the worst possible moment right now, but Inter Miami are making do without him. In large part because Gonzalo Higuain seems to have found a groove. His goal against Montréal gave him six goals in his last seven games.

In general, the Herons are playing well, though. They took four points from two road games this week and are only below the line on goal differential.

Previous: 2-2 draw at MTL | Next: 8/13 vs. NYC

I mean, at least they didn’t lose by six this week.

Previous: 2-1 loss at VAN | Next: 8/13 vs. MTL

Just one point over two games for the Quakes this week. But as long as they hold onto Jeremy Ebobisse for next year, it feels like they’ll have a chance to get right. He has 13 goals and two assists this season.

Previous: 3-3 draw at ATX | Next: 8/13 at DAL

Somebody woke up Sporting KC.

It hasn’t been fun for SKC this year, but that Erik Thommy goal and a general thrashing of LA is the kind of moment that can make an unexpected rebuilding year feel a little more palatable.

Previous: 4-2 win vs. LA | Next: 8/13 at ATX

D.C. have been scoreless for a little over 270 minutes of Wayne Rooney’s 280 minutes or so in charge. It seems like this dude might help with that, though.

The rest of the year is a year zero for Rooney and company. Full credit to Lucy Rushton and the rest of the D.C. front office, though. The Black-and-Red seem set up for high expectations in 2023.

Previous: 0-0 draw vs. RBNY | Next: 8/13 at NE