What a week in MLS.
Nashville allowed one early goal, New England allowed two goals or more, Chicago scored three goals and four people pointed out that this intro always says things that repeatedly happen to create a week that was truly unlike any other. It was truly a week unlike any other.
As always, you can listen to Matt Doyle, Andrew Wiebe and a host of guests from around the league discuss every team on Twitter Spaces each Tuesday at 11 am ET. Listen to this week's discussion below.
To the rankings.
Disclaimer: The Power Rankings are voted on by the entirety of the MLSsoccer.com editorial staff. You should probably be lightly made fun of if you still think the actual rankings are made by just one person. The only thing I personally did was secretly alter the votes on purpose to make your team look worse so their confidence would be shaken and they’d lose every game from here on out. Because I’m personally determined to ruin the sanctity of the most sacred tradition in sports: The Power Rankings. Because I’m Tom Bogert aka @TomBogert on Twitter. And I live for your complaints. Anyway, you should really recognize that the stakes have never been lower.
Just a casual record-breaking start to the season despite missing multiple best XI-caliber players for extended periods. Even I’m finding it hard to muster up the energy to do an “Oh BUT, Look at this minor thing! Maybe they’re actually not an unstoppable buzzsaw slicing through the rest of the league with ease!??!!”
The Sounders remain blogger-resistant. It’s terrifying.
The Revs have given up 11 goals in the last five games. They had Matt Turner in goal for four of them. Meanwhile, Montréal have also given up 11 goals...the entire season. The four teams in the East with a worse expected goals allowed record in the East are Chicago, Atlanta, Cincy and Toronto. For a team with trophy aspirations, they’ll probably need to be a little better than just those four teams. And they’ll also probably need to not give up three goals at home in the first 24 minutes to teams like Toronto, that will help too.
Sporting took the week off. They stayed comfortably second in the Supporters’ Shield race as they stayed home and watched New England and Orlando City mess around with Toronto and Chicago. Only the Galaxy are equal on points per game.
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The Chicharito-less Galaxy came out and took care of business against FC Dallas in a 3-1 win. Ethan Zubak scored in a solid understudy performance and newcomers Rayan Raveloson and Kevin Cabral also found the net. It’s as encouraging an outcome as they could have hoped for. Especially as they lose Jonathan Dos Santos, Efrain Alvarez and Sebastian Lletget to the Gold Cup. A Galaxy team that can rely on depth pieces to get the job done puts a dent in the narrative that the team is simply “Chicharito or die.” And it makes them a whole lot scarier.
Another week, another top team in the East getting ambushed by Chicago. It...it happens?
The Lions gave up three goals for the first time all season against the Fire and have dropped two straight. Probably not too much to worry about though. Probably.
Some help at full back might help lessen some anxiety though.
The Union will be happy with a point against the Red Bulls after going down to 10 men. They’ll be especially happy to keep the Red Bulls from picking up three points against them for the fifth-straight game.
However, the Union have only picked up five points in their last five games and one point over their last three. Their expected goals numbers look more like Dallas’s than anyone else. Five teams in the East are better on points per game.
The Union aren’t a team I like worrying about. They usually prove those concerns wrong. But they need to show a bit more soon if they want to stay among the top teams in the league.
Like Nashville but maybe more so, NYCFC are a team you just keep expecting to take off and you keep saying “Oh boy here they go” each time they get a result and then you say “Just wait” as they drop a point or two and then it’s “Annnny day now” as they lose to Montreal and we’re stuck sitting here waiting for the talent and underlying numbers to start to show themselves on the field.
Now, there’s no real shame in losing to a good Montreal team. However, against Eastern Conference teams that aren’t in the bottom five of Atlanta, Cincy, Chicago, Miami and Toronto, NYCFC have taken just seven points from seven games. You’d expect a bit more from a team that has the ability to be a true contender in the conference. That’s harsh “analysis”, but they’ve got another gear tucked away somewhere here.
Since then, they’ve earned a point against Seattle and easily dispatched resurgent Minnesota United. That doesn’t mean they’re a top-tier team. But I’m thinking we can be increasingly sure they’re not falling out of that second tier anytime soon.
Just when you think Nashville may have turned a corner at the beginning of games, they allow a fifth-minute goal to an Atlanta team that is nearly as bad as Columbus at creating chances. Then, just when you think they’ve retaken the lead for good, they allow an equalizer from a 19-year-old Atlanta homegrown making his third appearance in MLS.
Nashville are wildly frustrating so far. In part because it feels like they’re getting unlucky. Their actual goal differential is almost eight goals below what their expected goal differential indicates. That’s third-worst in the league. In fact, their expected goal differential itself is the highest in the league. That lack of luck is frustrating. But the frustration is also in part because it feels like they’re getting what they deserve.
So many of these goals just feel soft. They switch off for a moment or make an individual error or just suddenly turn into a team that has completely forgotten how to play soccer. That didn’t happen last year. And although they’re not doing considerably worse defensively, it just feels like they could be doing so much better. Especially when it really counts.
The Golden Boys are tied for third in the East on points per game, but all indications are that they could be more than that. Maybe new club-record signing Ake Loba is the answer?
LAFC are settling into the season a bit after taking 10 points from their last five games. They’re still well behind the top teams in the West, but I think we’ve all probably (finally) accepted they just aren’t going to be that team during the regular season.
There are worse things and far worse leagues to do that in though. This team could still clearly make an impact come playoff time. All they have to do is be there. And it seems any doubts about this group being in a playoff spot at the end of the year are dissipating.
Montréal aren’t going away.
Wilfried Nancy and a reworked roster have answered the abundance of questions facing Montréal coming into 2021 better than anyone could have imagined. They’ve transformed from a team that gave up 43 goals in 23 games last season (worst in the East) to a team giving up less than a goal a game. The attack isn’t spectacular. But every now and then, players like Djordje Mihailovic and Romell Quioto combine for something like this.
Nothing here is a fluke either. Despite not playing a true home match all season, Montréal are 11th in the league on expected goal differential. That’s one spot better than the Rapids.
Admittedly, they haven’t faced a gauntlet yet. They’ve largely avoided most of the East’s best teams. But they went punch for punch with NYCFC last week and came out on top. Twelve games in, it’s time to start considering Montréal a legitimate playoff threat.
D.C. took the week off but will be back Saturday. It will be two weeks since they last played. Presumably, D.C. fans have been using each day to watch a different goal from the last time they played. They’ll have seen each goal twice by Saturday.
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It’s been a while since they’ve beaten Philadelphia. They should have done it last week, but got a bit unlucky in a 1-1 draw. Gerhard Struber thinks it was a little more than that.
“The feeling right now is not super positive. We are a young team that gives chances to young players and I am obviously not afraid of the future. But against a top experienced side like Philadelphia we need every player at their personal limit and I did not see that,” Struber said
“I didn’t see the hunger to get the second goal. After the first goal, I saw the team feeling like ‘oh I hope we win’ rather than keep fighting. We did not have the right mindset and Philly felt that. They are an experienced team and they knew how to break up our rhythm by maybe making a foul and we weren’t able to respond to that.”
Again, this was a draw. I know it sounds from the quote like a 7-1 loss, but I double-checked. 1-1 draw. Either way, I for one would be devastated to disappoint Struber like that. I imagine his players feel that way too. They’ll come correct and the Red Bulls are going to be just fine.
Sometimes when you go down 2-0 to Cincinnati and pull out a point anyway to move into eighth place in the Eastern Conference despite having the worst attack in the league, you’ve just got to shush the haters.
The Loons came into the week on a seven-game unbeaten streak. Their last loss came to Colorado on May 8. That unbeaten streak came to an end this week against Colorado. Minnesota seemed to have turned into a pretty good team as long as they’re not playing Colorado.
Maybe anyway. That theory is going to get a pretty big test when they return to play on Sunday against Seattle. Then that’s followed by matchups with Portland and LAFC. Don’t be too surprised if they pull a few points from that run though. The Loons are due to keep winning. Only Toronto have underperformed their expected goals total more this season.
The Timbers took the week off. They really, really needed it. They’ve picked up four points in their last five games. They’ll face Dallas this weekend, but LAFC, Minnesota and the Galaxy are waiting on the other side.
RSL have won twice in their last nine games. Both wins have come against Vancouver.
Houston ran into a Seattle team on the cusp of history. Probably not ideal conditions for a win. They’re still eighth in the West though. That’s pretty good for a team I keep telling y’all is pretty good as I clumsily attempt to block everyone’s view of their expected goal numbers with a big curtain that keeps falling down despite my best attempts to keep it upright that actually end up drawing more attention to a neon sign that says “LAST IN THE LEAGUE” in big blinking comic sans letters.
They weren’t going to stay undefeated at home forever. The good news is that there’s a chance they’ll have new striker Moussa Djitte available for their next game on July 22. The bad news is that game is against Seattle.
They’ll genuinely feel extremely disappointed that they didn’t get all three points against Columbus to move into the top 10 in the East. I can’t think of a better indication of progress than being able to feel genuine disappointment.
Atlanta United have been forced into a Play Your Kids moment. Injuries and international absences continue to deplete an already struggling roster and suddenly this team is putting four homegrowns on the field at a time.
There’s a chance it could be for the better. At least up top. With Josef Martinez unavailable, homegrown Jackson Conway found himself at striker in the second half against Nashville and almost immediately scored. Homegrown Machop Chol joined him up top and, until Atlanta went down a man, the attack at least looked like it had energy. Whether that can translate to anything more, who knows. But if the kids are the only ones willing to make runs in behind and press and...uh...actually try to score, it’s probably best for now if you play them.
On Wednesday, I wrote this:
So maybe, just maybe, the last two games for the Fire weren't a flash in the pan. Perhaps they were an indication of a positive regression back to the team's actual ability. And we shouldn't be surprised if they go on a bit of a run sometime soon. If they shock Orlando tonight, you were warned here first. It may not be a surge, but it could be a changing of the tide.
On Wednesday, Chicago shocked Orlando.
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Not even Ricardo Pepi could save them this week. At least they continue to be the best selling team in the league? Tanner Tessman appears to be on his way to Venezia. I’m sure FC Dallas fans would be a bit more excited if these big sales were turning into big signings, but hey, at least they have a thing. Everyone needs a thing. Like I’m “Actively decreases the MLSsoccer.com readership’s enjoyment of the Power Rankings” guy.
On Wednesday, I wrote this:
So maybe the new manager bump isn't necessarily a thing, but a regression to the mean is. However, let's not lose sight of what forces could truly be at play tonight when Toronto head to New England. Whether or not you believe in the new manager bump, you should be well convinced of MLS' ability to deliver the silliest result possible at any moment. And I can't think of a more appropriate one tonight than Toronto, the league's worst team through 11 games, taking points off the best team in the Eastern Conference.
On Wednesday, Toronto, the league's worst team through 11 games, took points off the best team in the Eastern Conference.
Only one team has a worse expected goal differential. But at least there is one team. And a return home could soon be on the horizon to lift the spirits of everyone at the club.
Any week without a loss is a good one.
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