Voices: Sam Jones

Power Rankings: LA Galaxy, Inter Miami CF thrive after Week 25

What a week in MLS. The New York Red Bulls lost at home, Austin FC pulled off a stunning comeback and Brandon Vazquez scored for FC Cincinnati. 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. Besides, there are like four teams at this point who are actually “good” and like four teams who are actually “bad”. We’re 25 weeks into this and we definitively know so little. This whole thing is the “Stonks” meme right now.

Doom, unescapable destruction, a behemoth, et cetera.

LAFC are currently on a 2.25 points per game pace. Last year’s record-breaking Revs side finished on 2.15 points per game. LAFC are on track to one-up the points record (73) once again. That almost feels boring at this point. If you really want to make this interesting, let’s see if they can become the first team to break 80 points. They need 26 from their final 10 games. That’s eight wins and two draws or nine wins and a draw. 

You might say, ‘They already have the Supporters’ Shield locked up, so won’t they start resting their starters?’ And I might remind you their second team is somewhere around the third to fifth best team in the Western Conference, and I don’t think I’m kidding about that.

Previous: 5-0 win vs. CLT | Next: 8/16 vs. DC

Somewhere along the way, the Union have gone from a scrappy, grind-it-out defensive powerhouse to a total buzzsaw. They slammed Chicago 4-1 last weekend and Daniel Gazdag is out here doing this.

The Union’s front three have come into their own over the last couple of months and it’s truly terrifying considering the Union are by far the best defensive team in the league by goals allowed (19). The few chances you do get against them are swatted away by Andre Blake, anyways.

Right now, we’re seeing the best-case scenario version of Philly’s preseason predictions. The midfield was always going to be a terror, and they were always going to have an excellent backline. But the question, as always, was whether the front three could click in a way that past Union fronts haven’t. The answer has been yes and then some. The Union have a +26 (!!) goal differential right now and seem to be cruising towards their second first-place finish in the East over the last three years. They’ll be the easy favorites out of the East to make it to MLS Cup.

Previous: 4-1 win vs. CHI | Next: 8/17 at DAL

When you’re this season’s protagonists, moments like this just come easily.

Austin came back from a 3-1 deficit against Sporting KC with three second-half goals. That was just to remind us how they’ve got plot armor, and to give Sebastian Driussi yet another moment for his Landon Donovan MLS MVP frontrunning status. 

Their second-place spot in the West seems sorta locked down. Might as well make it fun the rest of the way.

Previous: 4-3 win vs. SKC | Next: 8/20 at MIN

It may have taken a little more work than necessary, but Montréal pulled out a 3-2 road win over the ailing Dynamo. I don’t know if you noticed, but that win put them second in the Eastern Conference standings. That’s in a CCL year too. What Wilfried Nancy and company have done is remarkable. 

I know it’s tough for some to buy into what Montréal are doing when you look at the standings and see 41 goals allowed and just a +2 goal differential. But this team is second in the league in expected goals allowed and is only behind Philadelphia, LAFC and NYCFC when it comes to expected goal differential. Their spot in the standings isn’t a fluke. The only thing that’s a fluke is their incredibly unlucky defensive record. 

Well, part unlucky, part not-so-great goalkeeping. Sebastian Breza struggled mightily for most of the year, then James Pantemis has been a slight upgrade since taking over the starting role. A slight upgrade there could be all Montréal need to become a true contender.

Previous: 3-2 win at HOU | Next: 8/20 vs. NE

Emanuel Reynoso picked up two assists in another outstanding performance as Minnesota United earned a 2-1 win in Nashville. On top of the three points, Dayne St. Clair looked a lot more like early-season Dayne St. Clair in this one, making seven saves. If Minnesota can get him going again, we can maybe start to think about bumping them up another tier. 

For now, they’re playing crisp attacking soccer, good enough defense and are tactically set up to succeed. What Adrian Heath has done with this team without significant personnel changes is one of the league’s biggest success stories this season. They’ve taken 20 points from their last nine games and are five points above the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs line with a game in hand.

Previous: 2-1 win at NSH | Next: 8/20 vs. ATX

FC Dallas read the script on how to handle San Jose and executed it to perfection. A first-half brace from Jesus Ferreira led the way as Dallas cruised to a 4-1 win. It’s tough to put them in the same tier as the rest of the league’s elite teams, but this is a very good team that seems to have a bit of a grip on a home playoff spot right now. Only three teams in the West have positive double-digit goal differentials and Dallas are one of them.

Previous: 4-1 win vs. SJ | Next: 8/17 vs. PHI

Still a playoff team, still definitely getting a home playoff game, still talented in a ton of positions. But something’s off.  It might be as simple as missing Keaton Parks, Alex Callens and Taty Castellanos. That would be enough to derail a large percentage of teams. It’s not like they’re trotting out below-replacement-level guys now though. The entire team seems to be fading at a bad time and I don’t know what the correction is other than to just yell at guys to play harder and to not pass the ball to Alejandro Pozuelo in your penalty area. 

It’s not like the sky is falling on NYCFC. It’s just that they haven’t played up to their potential. And with things trending in the wrong direction, they’re now winless in three straight.

Previous: 3-2 loss at MIA | Next: 8/17 vs. CLT

It feels like RSL are going to gleefully exist as a thorn in Seattle’s side for the next decade or so. They took a punch from the Sounders in the second half and immediately responded with a goal of their own in a 2-1 win at Lumen Field. Like they just wanted to give the Sounders and their fans that little bit of hope this time.

Anyway, this win was their first in four games and their first on the road since May 22. Seems like they just needed to face Seattle to give them a jump. They’re now four points above the line with a game in hand and just nine games left to play. We’re one day closer to their inevitable win over LAFC in the playoffs.

Previous: 2-1 win at SEA | Next: 8/20 vs. VAN

The Crew went to Colorado and earned a point. That’s not an easy task. They’ve lost just one time in their last 12 games and, with Cucho Hernandez and Lucas Zelarayan playing the way they are, it’s increasingly difficult to see them missing out on the playoffs.

A Crew team, hot at the right time with Zelarayan on a heater entering the playoffs? We’ve seen that before, right? I’m just pointing out there’s precedent here (cough, 2020, cough) if they can keep it up.

Previous: 1-1 draw at COL | Next: 8/21 vs. ATL

Well then. 

LA bulldozed Vancouver in the first half, got a brace from Samuel Grandsir, cruised to a 5-2 win and did it all with Riqui Puig looking on from the stands. For a team that had lost five of their last six, let’s just say it all felt unexpected. Then again, before they lost five of six, they beat CF Montréal 4-0. I don’t quite know what to make of it. But for now, there’s a chance a little momentum and Puig are reason enough for optimism.

Previous: 5-2 win vs. VAN | Next: 8/19 vs. SEA

We’ve complained a ton about Nashville’s home form this season, but the only team who’s been worse is New York. They have three wins at home this year (3W-5L-4D) and have slipped so far in the summer months that it’s starting to seem like being left out of a home playoff spot or even the playoffs entirely is a genuine possibility. They’re only four points ahead of ninth-place Cincinnati at this point. 

RBNY typically surge later in the season once the weather cools down a bit, but it’s not insane to be a bit worried right now. Primarily because they just don’t seem to have the firepower in attack they need to consistently get points when their press alone won’t do it for them. It would feel a bit disastrous for the best Red Bulls team since 2018 to have their playoff hopes come down to Decision Day all because they can’t win at Red Bull Arena.

Previous: 1-0 loss vs. ORL | Next: 8/17 at ATL

That’s 15 goals for Brandon Vazquez now.

You can’t overstate how good he’s been this season. You can easily overstate how good their defense has been, though Matt Miazga debuted this past weekend and should provide a lift there. With him and Obinna Nwobodo, that’s a solid defensive spine being constructed by Cincy’s new brass.

Previous: 2-2 draw vs. ATL | Next: 8/20 at RBNY

It only took one goal to get past D.C. United, and it’s pretty easy to win games when you have a goalkeeper as good as Djordje Petrovic. The Revs have been floating around the playoff line with a game in hand for a while now and feel as likely as any team to finish above it simply because Petrovic makes them so hard to beat. We’re talking Matt Turner-plus levels of performance. 

Among goalkeepers who have played 1,000 minutes in a season since 2013, Petrovic is outperforming every single one of them when it comes to shot-stopping. Every single one. Including 2019 and 2020 Matt Turner. Right now, Petrovic is saving more than half a goal per game compared to the xG he’s facing. No one else has done that in at least the last decade.

Previous: 1-0 win vs. DC | Next: 8/17 at TOR

They piled shots onto Portland for most of the game, hilariously allowed a goal in the 73rd minute on the Timbers’ third and final shot of the game, then got mad and punched back immediately with goals from Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi. The final tally was a 3-1 win from 23 shots and 2.5 xG. They’re imperfect but they’re still a force.

The Reds will probably need about 16 points over their last nine games to be at or above the playoff line when all is said and done. It seems very doable right now.

Previous: 3-1 win vs. POR | Next: 8/17 vs. NE

Folks…the sounds and stylings of Raymond Wilfred "Rocky" Hudson.

Pozuelo’s gift-wrapped brace provided Inter Miami with one of their biggest moments and wins in club history. The Herons jumped to seventh in the East with the win and have taken 11 points from their last six games. The rest of the schedule isn’t gentle, but they’re playing decent ball right now even without Leo Campana. All things considered, this team even being close to the line is a major accomplishment. Chris Henderson will have pulled off a magic trick if this team makes the playoffs.

Previous: 3-2 win vs. NYC | Next: 8/20 vs. TOR

Some weekend, someday soon, in some part of the world, this Orlando team will make sense. Last weekend was not that weekend.

The Lions picked up a road win against the Red Bulls after taking just two (2!!!) shots. They are currently sixth in the East on a -8 goal differential and a whole bunch of underlying numbers that are bad, but don’t matter because this Orlando team is 40 different things depending on which way you tilt your head when you’re looking at the picture.

Previous: 1-0 win at RBNY | Next: 8/21 at CLT

I could keep saying the same stuff, but I think I’ll just let Dax McCarty do it this time.

Previous: 2-1 loss vs. MIN | Next: 8/21 vs. DAL

It uh…could have been worse?

Power Rankings - POR - 8.16.22

Just two teams in the West have fewer wins than the Timbers. Which sounds bad until you realize they’re still hovering around the playoff line. It all could have been worse for Portland.

Previous: 3-1 loss at TOR | Next: 8/21 at SKC

I’m not going to believe Seattle are out of the playoffs until every single playoff game in both conferences has kicked off. But I think we can officially start Worrying About The Sounders. It’d be more irrational not to at this point after six losses in eight games. 

They can still jump into a playoff spot with a win or two here, but a home playoff game in Seattle doesn’t seem to be in the cards this year. They’re six points back with nine games to play and they’ve suddenly forgotten how to win in the normal Seattle ways they find to win. I mean, they’re straight-up shutting off after scoring goals now.

That goes against everything we tend to think about this team. They aren’t even doing the little things right at this point. And even with Raul Ruidiaz healthy, that will make getting points very, very difficult.

Again though, we’re only Worrying About The Sounders. Not panicking. Not yet.

Previous: 2-1 loss vs. RSL | Next: 8/19 at LA

It looked for a moment like the Crew and Cucho Hernandez were going to take the Rapids to the woodshed. But they dug in after the first 15 minutes or so, caught a few breaks and picked up a 1-1 draw. 

Colorado are 3W-1L-3D in their last seven games. Plus they’ve got a relatively gentle schedule down the stretch here. Half of their final 10 games will come against teams with negative, double-digit goal differentials.

Previous: 1-1 draw vs. CLB | Next: 8/17 at VAN

With Andrew Gutman in the lineup along with Caleb Wiley, and Santiago Sosa at the base of a single pivot, Atlanta United legitimately played some of their best ball of the season for about 25 minutes against Cincinnati. Then they reverted hard back to their worst habits, gave up a pair of soft goals and decided that passing and moving off the ball is actually for losers. 

Fortunately for Atlanta United, a late Gutman goal saved them for the second-straight week. They’re still technically in the playoff race. And their form is decent right now (and maybe even good). But defensive mistakes are going to doom this team in the end if they don’t somehow correct them down the stretch.

Previous: 2-2 draw at CIN | Next: 8/17 vs. RBNY

Chicago are still within striking distance of the East’s last playoff spot and the good news is they only have to play NYCFC and CF Montréal next…

Ok, somehow Chicago got stuck playing the first, third and second-place teams in the East in sequence. But the good news is that every game from here on out is against a team either above the playoff line or tied on points with the line except for one so…

Y’all, who did this to Chicago?

Previous: 4-1 loss at PHI | Next: 8/21 vs. NYC

The Whitecaps got clobbered by the Galaxy and are now at the bottom of the pileup in the middle of the West. They’ve got four teams in front of them for a playoff spot and it’s getting harder to believe they’ll see this through. The Caps have won just once in their last seven games.

Previous: 5-2 loss at LA | Next: 8/17 vs. COL

LAFC did LAFC things to Charlotte last weekend and a first-season playoff appearance is looking less and less likely for The Crown. That’s totally understandable in Year One. What’s concerning though is the lack of any kind of production from their Designated Players. If we’re looking forward to next season for Charlotte and a potential Year Two bump that we’ve seen from other expansion teams, then they may need to do some clear-eyed assessments of the top of their roster. 

Karol Swiderski has scored three times since March. Jordy Alcivar isn’t starting right now. And Kamil Jozwiak has the same amount of goal contributions as you and me since arriving in MLS in late April.

Previous: 5-0 loss at LAFC | Next: 8/17 at NYC

Here’s Houston’s form since Hector Herrera arrived: DLWLLLL.

He has perhaps not rescued the season in the manner some had hoped. The Dynamo are likely going to miss the playoffs for the fifth consecutive year.

Previous: 3-2 loss vs. MTL | Next: 8/20 at COL

Jeremy Ebobisse scored as the Quakes dropped points” feels like the boilerplate headline for San Jose this year. He’s got 14 goals now and the Quakes haven’t won in a month. Time to start figuring out ways to build around him for 2023.

Previous: 4-1 loss at DAL | Next: 8/20 vs. LAFC

D.C. United are working on themselves right now. Let’s not bother them. 

Previous: 1-0 loss at NE | Next: 8/16 at LAFC

I can’t post it in its entirety because of “profanity”, but I’m gonna keep deferring to the SKC FAN TV dude for all SKC analysis. Just know he missed the first half, but got his stream up and running just in time for the second.

Previous: 4-3 loss at ATX | Next: 8/21 vs. POR