What a week in MLS. There was drama in Toronto, Inter Miami won a PK shootout and a New England goalkeeper got transferred for an impressive fee to one of England’s biggest clubs. It was truly a week unlike any other.
The Power Rankings are voted on by 15 people (give or take) and the author would really like you to know the order is not entirely his fault. Although he may have shifted one team up one spot because, I dunno, when you blow a team out it just feels rude to be one spot below them the next week in the Power Rankings.
Luciano Acosta picked up two assists, new DP Aaron Boupendza scored and Cincy rolled over NYCFC. That’s probably almost enough to dull the pain of a dramatic loss to Inter Miami in the US Open Cup semifinals midweek. Almost. I’m sure the folks in Cincinnati will get over it when they’re lifting the Supporters’ Shield in a few weeks.
Philadelphia beat up on D.C. United and jumped to second place in the Eastern Conference. It’s not a given, but it seems like we’re in for yet another top-three finish from Philadelphia. They’ve done it every year since 2019. Why change now?
The Crew looked comfortable throughout their 2-0 win over Toronto last weekend. New DP Diego Rossi scored his first goal for Columbus early on and that was pretty much that. Typical stuff at this point. If you include Leagues Cup, Columbus have just one loss in regulation over their last 14 games.
The Herons went on to win yet another penalty shootout because of course they did. We should all know how this works at this point and frankly, I think the writing is getting a little lazy and even derivative.
You might have expected something different Saturday when Inter Miami took the pitch at Red Bull Arena without Messi or Sergio Busquets in the starting XI for Miami’s first MLS game of their new era. Well, turns out, they didn’t really need either of them. They were in control against New York and brought on Messi in the second half to do this. Just for fun.
The odds this team makes the Audi 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs are still incredibly slim. Yet at this point, it almost feels likely.
As always: Soccer is hard, MLS road games are harder. Even still, LAFC should be disappointed to come away empty-handed against Charlotte. They could have gained ground on St. Louis for first place (Western Conference version) on Saturday. Instead, it’s still a four-point gap with nine games remaining.
Another week, another impressive performance for Orlando City. They took down St. Louis on Saturday thanks to a brace from Facundo Torres. Torres has 10 goals and four assists on the season now, and the Lions are equal on points with second-place Philadelphia. Everything has been exceedingly professional from Orlando as of late and they’re as good a bet as any in the crowded East to finish in the top four.
Road games are hard and Orlando are a good team. Losses happen and road games are hard. Fortunately for St. Louis, LAFC had a similar experience in Charlotte and they’re still holding onto a four-point advantage atop the West.
There are always perils to declaring a team “back.” The biggest risk, of course, is getting memed when the team that’s “back” inevitably is very much not “back.” So we’re going to hold off on saying anything too definitive regarding this team’s “backness” for now. However. Uhh….
It’s been a decent two-game stretch for Atlanta post-Leagues Cup. They took down Seattle in Seattle last week and handed Nashville their worst loss in club history this week. New pieces like Tristan Muyumba, Xande Silva and, now, Saba Lobjanidze have clicked immediately and the Five Stripes look like a brand new side. Things are fun in Atlanta again.
Well. Early returns on post-Leagues Cup Nashville have been less than ideal. They were without Walker Zimmerman and Dax McCarty in the starting lineup against Atlanta and that may have been part of the reason they left Atlanta with the worst loss in club history. But only part. They looked overwhelmed at times.
Now they have to reset for a Wednesday matchup against…Inter Miami. Nashville have lost six of their last seven in MLS and there’s a genuine chance they could fall into a Wild Card spot if they don’t turn it around.
Djordje Petrovic is officially gone to Chelsea. It would be hard to overstate how important Matt Turner and Petrovic have been to the Revs' success over the last few years. Unless they’ve somehow found literally the greatest shot-stopper in MLS history for the third time in a row with new signing Tomáš Vaclík, a 34-year-old free agent, it seems very likely New England will take a step backward.
Throw in the continued absence of Bruce Arena and Brandon Bye’s season-ending knee injury, and their weekend loss to Montréal didn’t necessarily come as a surprise. It seems like the Revs will have a tough time rolling safely out of this fall.
Are y’all paying attention?
To recap the last week for Houston:
- A 5-0 win over Portland.
- A 3-1 win over Real Salt Lake in the US Open Cup semifinals.
- A 3-0 win over RSL put the Dynamo in fifth place and just two points behind RSL in third.
Good week, fantastic even. Everything seems to be heading in the right direction and the Dynamo could be a legitimate threat down the stretch, especially if rumors about European interest in Coco Carrasquilla stay rumors as the transfer window comes to a close this week.
Seattle got a road point against Minnesota and, for now, they’re still in a top-four spot in the West. It’s not an ideal result, but they gained ground over the weekend on everyone ahead of them in the West. It’s doubtful they’ll catch St. Louis. but LAFC are within touching distance. Just saying, Seattle with the potential for a bunch of home playoff games is a scary prospect for the rest of the conference.
RSL would very much like to stop playing Houston now, please and thanks. The Dynamo outscored RSL 6-1 this week and RSL have lost their last three by a combined score of 10-1. They’re still third in the West for now, but they need to find the reset button quickly. Maybe it’s going to be a while before they find it without Pablo Ruiz?
The Loons grabbed a point against Seattle, but they’re technically still below the line. You have to wonder where they’d be in the standings if they could put it together at home like a normal MLS team. They’re just 2W-2L-7D at Allianz Field, while they’re 6W-6L-1D on the road. Only the Rapids have a worse home record.
The Whitecaps rebounded from a disappointing loss to San Jose last week with an important win over a reeling Portland side. Vancouver are seventh in the West now and are just three points behind RSL with a game in hand. They could easily finish in the top four if they’re able to find a bit of consistency. Same as it ever was though, right?
Some things feel better than a rout.
Nkosi Tafari’s winner was the latest in FC Dallas history and it just so happened to come in a six-pointer against an in-state rival. With the win, Dallas jumped ahead of Austin in the standings and have a one-point advantage with a game in hand.
The Quakes built off their big win over Vancouver last weekend by faceplanting against Sporting KC. Oops. It’s been a weird year in San Jose.
After George Campbell’s late winner against New England, there are two teams in MLS with more home wins than Montréal. One is FC Cincinnati. The other is Columbus, who have played two more home games. New England and St. Louis are the only other teams with nine home wins.
Basically, Montréal are one of the single best teams in the league…as long as they’re at home. That might very well be enough to earn them one of the two Wild Card spots. There’s a five-point gap between them and 10th-place D.C. United and Montréal have a game in hand. Five of their last nine games are at home.
The Red Bulls caught this version of Inter Miami at about the best possible time last weekend…and it didn’t matter one bit. They should feel extremely disappointed to be outplayed by the Herons, even as Messi and Busquets sat on the bench. It feels like the clock is really starting to tick on their 13-year playoff streak.
SKC clobbered San Jose on Saturday. It’s enough (for now) to keep their playoff hopes alive, but there’s still a long way to go. They’ve played at least one more game than every team they’re chasing and are going to need some help to catch up. Their final eight games are far from gentle too. St. Louis twice, Inter Miami (likely sans Messi at least), Nashville, Houston, RSL, and two critical six-pointers against Minnesota are on the way.
Is there anything to add other than “oof”? Austin have lost four straight across all competitions and this one may have been the most painful of the four. The Verde & Black dropped a six-pointer in stoppage time to FC Dallas.
What a remarkable win for Charlotte last weekend. New midfielder Scott Arfield found the net in the 75th minute to give the Crown three points over LAFC and keep them afloat in the playoff race. There’s still a long road ahead as they stare down a brutal schedule that includes six games against teams above the playoff line over their final 10 games, plus a Decision Day matchup with Inter Miami. But, hey, if they can take down LAFC…
D.C. fell to Philadelphia over the weekend. They’re officially below the playoff line now and it’s tough to envision them playing at a playoff-caliber level at this point. The good news is their remaining schedule sets up about as well as it possibly could. All eight games come against teams currently in sixth place or lower in the standings. The toughest remaining game is…maybe at home against Atlanta? The second toughest is probably at home against San Jose? This is doable, even if they aren’t at their best.
Chicago came out of Leagues Cup with reason for optimism in the playoff race. After a 3-0 loss in LA last weekend, they’ve now lost their first two games by an aggregate score of 6-1. The Fire are still in ninth place, but it’s hard to envision the timeline where this doesn’t end painfully for Fire fans. Everyone has seen this movie before.
It doesn’t seem like it’s going to come together this year in the Bronx, does it? NYCFC are 13th in the East with only eight games remaining and a six-point gap between them and ninth place. They haven't missed the playoffs since 2015 (expansion year).
The new-manager bounce didn’t find Portland in their first match without Gio Savarese. The Timbers fell at home to Vancouver and are now six points below the playoff line.
Colorado are 13 points below the West's playoff line with 10 games to go.
Oh, hey, a new coach. John Herdman, after leading the Canadian men's national team, officially takes over October 1.