Voices: Sam Jones

Power Rankings: FC Dallas, Vancouver Whitecaps big movers after Week 23

What a week in MLS. The Portland Timbers played one of the wildest games of the year, Sebastian Driussi scored for Austin FC and Nashville SC dropped points at home. It was truly 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. And let’s be real, what are we supposed to do when there are about 20 interchangeable teams of nearly equal quality? The top and bottom is pretty clear, but then it’s a big ol’ toss-up.

LAFC took care of Seattle as their imminent march to a Supporters’ Shield continues and there’s nothing we can do to stop it. 

On a more important note, have I mentioned lately that I love Mahala Opoku?

He’s one of the best pure energy guys in the league and has the skill in attack to produce moments like the one above at any time. He’s constantly flitting around, looking to get involved and go directly for goal. Just a perfect LAFC player, and he’s only 21 years old! He’ll be one of the unsung heroes of whatever star-studded LAFC accomplish this year. Maybe a couple of years down the line he’ll be one of those big names. 

Previous: 2-1 win vs. SEA | Next: 8/6 at RSL

The boys of summer aren’t messing around.

Philadelphia are atop the Eastern Conference standings and with NYCFC stumbling out of the blocks without Taty Castellanos, it’s starting to seem like they’re going to stay there for the second time in three years. I think we can legitimately start asking if they’re going to give LAFC a run for their money down the stretch. They’re just three points behind right now and have the fewest losses (2) of any team in the league. That’s two fewer than LAFC and NYCFC. And it doesn’t really seem like we should be all that worried about their attack right now. 

Mikael Uhre, Julián Carranza and Daniel Gazdag have 27 goals and 12 assists between them, quietly turning into one of the best attacking trios in the league. And the Union defense is exactly as suffocating as you would expect at this point. Oh, and the Union midfielder laboratory is producing stuff like this these days…

Philly are as good as they’ve ever been. 

Previous: 6-0 win vs. HOU | Next: 8/6 at CIN

Driussi found the net again to keep padding his already unanimous lead in our Landon Donovan MLS MVP Power Rankings. His 14 goals lead the league and his seven assists give him the most goal contributions of anyone in MLS this season.

With Driussi and Alex Ring finding the net in a 2-0 win over SKC, the Verde & Black are growing increasingly assured of a home Audi MLS Cup Playoffs game. For one, I can’t wait to see that atmosphere at Q2 Stadium.

Previous: 2-0 win at SKC | Next: 8/6 vs. SJ

The post-Taty Castellanos era has officially begun and…uh…

NYCFC - PR 8.2.22

So, yeah. There might be some work to do.

Previous: 0-0 draw at MTL | Next: 8/6 at CLB

Things could have gone better midweek against Orlando in the US Open Cup semifinals, allowing five unanswered goals at Exploria Stadium. This club may be legitimately cursed in cup competitions.

RBNY can at least take solace in what’s truly important though.

Previous: 4-3 win at ATX | Next: 8/2 vs. COL

Last week I wondered what exactly was going on with Montréal’s league-best defense by expected goals allowed that was absolutely not the league-best defense by actual goals allowed. This week, they went out and allowed just two shots to NYCFC and kept a clean sheet. The only problem is that none of the 13 shots they put up themselves found the net. But hey, keeping NYCFC that quiet, even without Castellanos, is a positive sign that they might be regressing to the mean defensively at the right time.

Previous: 0-0 draw vs. NYC | Next: 8/6 vs. MIA

Are we worried about Dayne St. Clair yet? When Minnesota’s hot streak began with a win against LA on June 29, he checked in as the second-best shotstopper in the league relative to his xG faced. Since then, he’s been the 21st-best shotstopper in the league.

I point that out just to wonder what’s happened since then and to say Minnesota have been so good they haven’t needed DSC to stand on his head the way they needed him to previously. Even with a blown 3-1 lead against Portland, they’ve taken 17 points from their last 21 available. But DSC getting back to his early-season form may make them a true contender once this hot streak starts to wear off… if it ever wears off.

Previous: 4-4 draw vs. POR | Next: 8/6 at COL

Franco Jara??? Franco Jara!!!

It didn’t come from the most likely suspect, but FC Dallas needed just one goal to get by the LA Galaxy for the second time this season. For now, they’re in a home playoff spot and keeping pace with the rest of the crowded West.

Previous: 1-0 win vs. LA | Next: 8/2 at SEA


Portland - PR - 8.2.22

That’s the real deal right there. Just a reminder that the third of three kinds of Timbers games is “TGT 3: Roman candles lit and attached to a spinning ceiling fan in a crowded but dark room.” They gave us exactly that on Saturday and I can’t thank them enough for it. You could kind of tell we were getting one right from the jump.

Anyway, Portland are still hovering above the playoff line and continuing a second-half run. They haven’t lost since May. They’re nothing if not inevitable at this point.

Previous: 4-4 draw at MIN | Next: 8/3 vs. NSH

xHuman Spirit lives!

I mean, you probably don’t want to go down 2-1 to the Quakes in the first place, but a draw is better than a loss. And it’s enough to keep RSL within striking distance of a home playoff spot. It’s still a bit concerning they’ve won just once in their last seven, but that doesn’t take away from moments like Jefferson Savarino’s late equalizer.

Previous: 2-2 draw at SJ | Next: 8/6 vs. LAFC

I’ll pass it off to Ben to sum up how things are going in Nashville.

It’s hard not to feel like Nashville aren’t living up to their potential, especially at home. It doesn’t make sense how a team this good can struggle like they do in their own stadium. Nashville have just three wins in 10 games at GEODIS Park. That’s not how it’s supposed to work.

The good news is Shaq Moore is officially in the Music City and he should help fill the void Alistair Johnston left behind after his wintertime trade to CF Montréal. Nashville are almost certainly a playoff team, but Moore could potentially help them take the step forward we’ve been waiting on.

Previous: 1-1 draw vs. VAN | Next: 8/3 at POR

If there was anything to take away from the Crew’s 17 minutes of play against Charlotte before a weather-forced postponement, I did not see it.

Previous: Postponed at CLT | Next: 8/3 vs. MTL

When’s the last time we saw Seattle lose four of five? Things are, uh, not great for a team that’s flirting with a 13-year playoff streak ending. I don’t think the CCL champs are in too much danger, but still.

Shifting Cristian Roldan back to midfield seems to be a decent way to handle missing Joao Paulo and Obed Vargas, but missing Raul Ruidiaz at striker continues to feel a little too critical. He could potentially be back in full this week though.

Previous: 2-1 loss at LAFC | Next: 8/2 vs. DAL

It seems like FC Dallas just have LA’s number this year. It happens.

What shouldn’t happen if you’re the Galaxy is losing four of your last five games. It’s starting to feel like LA will at least avoid last year’s Decision Day heartbreak … right?

Previous: 1-0 loss at DAL | Next: 8/6 at SKC

A few months ago, Orlando put together one of the worst performances of the season in a loss to the Red Bulls. This week…

The Lions are one game away from a CCL spot and their first trophy in club history. Say what you want about their overall performance this year – and I sure have – but Oscar Pareja has got them into a cup final and has steadily kept them above the East’s playoff line, even if they haven’t overwhelmed too many teams this year. 

With so much turnover from last season to this one, it’s hard to call 2022 anything but a success for the Lions. Especially if they end Sacramento’s Cinderella run in the USOC.

Let’s…let’s not talk about what happened in D.C. on Sunday.

Previous: 2-1 loss at DC | Next: 8/6 vs. NE

The Brennersaince continues. Brenner grabbed a brace against Inter Miami for his sixth and seventh goals of the year and Brandon Vazquez added a brace of his own to bring his season total to 13. Those numbers are great and a little easier to reach when you have Luciano Acosta around to play balls like this.

Cincy’s three-headed Knifey Lion monster was as terrifying as ever on Saturday. And it didn’t matter because their defense isn’t good enough. They’re the fifth-worst road defense in the league by expected goals allowed, right up there with SKC, San Jose, Vancouver, Toronto and…uh…Austin. Historically significant statistical anomalies aside, that’s not good company. If Cincy miss the playoffs, then this defense will have wasted one of the best attacking trios in the league. 

Previous: 4-4 draw at MIA | Next: 8/6 vs. PHI

The Revs went toe-to-toe with Toronto in a battle between two of the worst transition defenses in the league and somehow it ended 0-0. It’s an accomplishment of some kind. And it’s in part thanks to Djordje Petrovic, who continues to be maybe the best goalkeeper in the league. He might just be good enough to carry them into the playoffs. 

Previous: 0-0 draw vs. TOR | Next: 8/6 at ORL

Chicago came within a few inches of breaking through against Atlanta multiple times, but couldn’t find the net in a 0-0 draw. All considered, the draw keeps them within two points of FC Cincinnati in the playoff race and they’ve taken 10 points from their last 15 available. 

The attack isn’t always clicking right now, but they seem to be tilting back towards their early-season defensive form. A big part of that? Reportedly soon-to-be Chelsea (!) goalkeeper Gaga Slonina.

Previous: 0-0 draw vs. ATL | Next: 8/6 at CLT

Congrats to the Canadian Championship champions. The Whitecaps will be in the 2023 Concacaf Champions League and that alone makes it a successful season.

Meanwhile in MLS, a point on the road in Nashville is…well, it’s honestly something that’s happening a lot lately. But any road point in MLS is generally a good one. Especially if you can do it via a late goal from a player that had never scored before for Vancouver.

Previous: 1-1 draw at NSH | Next: 8/5 vs. HOU

So…uh…Gonzalo Higuain has scored five times in the last four games and had a hat-trick this past weekend. Before this stretch, he hadn’t scored since April 2. I don’t know what it means, but it sure feels timely for Inter Miami to get Higuain hot down the playoff stretch.

Next step? To get that defense patched up after allowing four against Cincy. A win would have put them above the playoff line.

Previous: 4-4 draw vs. CIN | Next: 8/3 at SJ

If there was anything to take away from Charlotte’s 17 minutes of play against Columbus before a weather-forced postponement, I did not see it.

Previous: Postponed vs. CLB | Next: 8/3 vs. DC

Colorado took the week off to try and figure out what higher power they angered so much that that power would cause them to underperform their expected points total by nine points.

Previous: 2-1 loss at SEA | Next: 8/2 at RBNY

Well, after blowing the doors off Charlotte, Mark-Anthony Kaye missed two games and Toronto suddenly looked a lot less like the full-on buzzsaw that showed up at BMO Field two weekends ago. They’re still a little thin in spots. They’ll almost definitely need Kaye back to make that implausible playoff run that seemed possible just a week ago.

Previous: 0-0 draw at NE | Next: 8/6 at NSH

At Chicago, the Five Stripes went with something resembling the most attacking lineup they could and still were shut out while creating a minimal amount of clear-cut chances and looking incohesive in the final third. They aren’t buried, but the rest of the schedule is difficult. There’s a long road ahead and maybe another interesting offseason looming on the horizon for Atlanta. 

In summation…

Previous: 0-0 draw at CHI | Next: 8/6 vs. SEA

And let that be a lesson. No one, and especially not Philadelphia, beats Houston 7-0. Who are they, D.C. United? 

Anyway, Houston are six points below the playoff line.

Previous: 6-0 loss at PHI | Next: 8/6 at VAN

They couldn’t hold a lead against RSL and I think that probably just about wraps things up for the Quakes in 2022. It will be interesting to see what direction they go heading forward. It feels like there are decent pieces across this roster. They just need to shake all the chaos out of them still. 

Previous: 2-2 draw vs. RSL | Next: 8/3 vs. MIA

Wayne Rooney’s D.C. managerial debut went…far, far better than anyone could have expected.

There’s a long road ahead for D.C., but at least they’re actively trying to move forward on it. Think of this half of the season as Year Zero for everyone involved. Any progress from this point on is very, very good progress towards what should, in theory, be a better 2023. Ya know, if all these moves they’re making actually hit. 

Previous: 2-1 win vs. ORL | Next: 8/3 at CLT

Not a good week.

Previous: 2-0 loss vs. ATX | Next: 8/6 vs. LA