What a week in MLS. New York City FC struggled to earn three points, Toronto FC lost despite goals from Federico Bernardeschi and Lorenzo Insigne, and the Philadelphia Union won thanks to goals from Daniel Gazdag, Mikael Uhre and Julian Carranza at various points. It was truly a week unlike any other.
As always, this is not my fault. The Power Rankings presented by Sorare 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, it’s not like the Power Rankings select who does and doesn’t make the Audi 2022 MLS Cup Playoffs … I just had the best idea, let me go talk to some folks. Be right back.
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Something special is happening in Philadelphia. I went up to Chester for their Wednesday night beatdown of Atlanta United, and it’s clear there’s a confidence and energy to everything they do that signals they're more than ready to make a run to MLS Cup 2022. They continued that over the weekend in a win over the Red Bulls with a large Philly contingent in the stands at Red Bull Arena. Everyone involved seems well aware of this team’s ceiling. They’ll need LAFC to keep faltering, but a Shield/Cup double is in play here.
Did I mention they’ve scored three times the amount of goals they’ve allowed?
Well, if you weren’t at least a little concerned about LAFC coming into the week, then their midweek loss at Houston probably changed your mind. That made it three straight losses and it swung the door open for Philadelphia to make a true push for the Supporters’ Shield.
LAFC recovered over the weekend for a solid win over RSL. And they do have a game in hand on the Union. But they’re now equal on points. I know, I know – LAFC are aiming for bigger things than the Shield. It’s not something you want to just throw away though.
The Red Bulls got the better of them midweek and it looked like Toronto might do the same on Sunday. But CF Montréal turned into the skid with style and overcame an early 2-0 deficit by the time the first half ended. CFM picked up their third 4-3 win of the season and practically have the second seed in the East locked up.
Austin could have kept pace with LAFC and Philadelphia in the Shield race this week, but losses to Portland and Nashville realistically ended hopes of a surprise run to a first-ever trophy. Now they’re existing in a strange space where they’re virtually locked in as the second-place team in the West, right? Josh Wolff’s group needs a rebound, quickly, as DP winger Emiliano Rigoni enters the mix.
Nashville, suddenly, are the hottest team in the West. They aren’t just winning, they’re obliterating teams. Good teams. They’ve taken down FC Dallas, Austin, Colorado and Vancouver over the last four games by a combined score of 14-1. They not only look like a playoff team, they finally look the like the kind of MLS Cup-quality group we expected them to be this season.
That’s, of course, in large part thanks to Hany Mukhtar. After his brace on Saturday, he’s now the fifth MLS player to put up 20 goals and 10 assists in a single season. He’s contributed to 32 of Nashville’s 48 goals this season and it’s hard to argue anyone has had a greater impact on their team’s success. The Golden Boot presented by Audi leader might be riding a second-half surge to the Landon Donovan MLS MVP award.
FC Dallas decided it would be easier to get all their work done at once rather than try and space it out.
It’s a huge win for Dallas in what’s been an odd year, where it feels like Dallas alternate between a totally average team and, for moments at a time, look like one of an MLS Cup contender. They’re getting in the gym throwing off 100 reps for one set and calling it a day before saying they need a week off for their muscles to recover. It’s not exactly efficient. But in a weird way, it’s getting the job done.
In the last 16 games (going back to their first game in June), FC Dallas have scored more than one goal in a game just four times. Yet they’re still third in the West. Dallas aren’t locked into a home playoff spot yet, but it’s far more likely they’ll be there after this win. Now we just have to wait and see which version of Dallas shows up in the playoffs. The inconsistent group that goes missing in attack for a month at a time, or the one that explodes for multi-goal wins that remind you just how much firepower they have?
The Red Bulls faced down the toughest week possible in the Eastern Conference and came away with three points. New York took down CF Montréal in Montréal, but couldn’t handle Philadelphia at Red Bull Arena. They now have four wins at home compared to nine on the road. Their loss to Philly opened the door just a little wider for them to fall out of a home playoff spot. I’m just saying, they may want to swing it open themselves and I don’t know how much I’m kidding about that.
It’s a lot. I’m kidding a lot. Unless…yeah, probably kidding. Probably. Maybe.
The bad news is following Minnesota’s 3-0 loss at RSL midweek, they were blitzed by Dallas in a 3-0 loss. The much, much worse news is Emanuel Reynoso left the game with an ankle injury. We don’t know the extent of the injury yet, but Reynoso missing any period of time for Minnesota down the stretch is potentially a critical blow. It could be the difference between losing on the road in Round One or winning at home. Coupled with the loss of center back Bakaye Dibassy for the season, it’s a not-so-great scenario for Minnesota. Let’s hope Reynoso is back soon and at full strength when he returns.
After losses to D.C. United and New England last week, NYCFC have lost six of their last seven games. Even with injuries, it’s hard to excuse that. Fortunately for them, NYCFC were so good before this stretch they’re still in a home playoff spot (fourth in East) and have a +13 goal differential despite their recent form.
This is a deeply broken team right now. They may be rewarded in the end for showing some patience, but there’s no denying things are unraveling in some ways that may not be fixable.
After the Wednesday win, they took the weekend off to prepare for the biggest game in club history. They have a chance to win their first trophy in the US Open Cup final on Wednesday night against Sacramento Republic FC (8 pm ET | ESPN+), where a 2023 Concacaf Champions League spot is on the line too.
It’s been a bit of an odd season for Orlando. But it’s quickly turning into perhaps the best season in club history. Oscar Pareja is a magician.
The Crew are undefeated in their last six but they’ve only picked up two wins. In their draw with Chicago this weekend, Gaga Slonina provided the only barrier between them and three points. And they were able to pick up the win against Inter Miami midweek. But they aren’t exactly overwhelming teams right now. That might be enough to get into the playoffs, but then what?
To be fair, there are worse strategies than making sure you get across the line and hoping Lucas Zelarayan and Cucho Hernandez get hot enough to carry you to a championship. It’s basically worked before.
Chicharito’s brace was the only reason LA had a chance to win in the first place. But. Man. Panenkas should always be reserved for ruthless kill shots that cap off a win, not potentially playoff-deciding game-winners.
The Galaxy picked up two points this week in games against Toronto and Sporting KC. They’re now three points behind seventh-place Portland with two games in hand. They still control their own destiny as much as playing in MLS will allow you to. You just can’t help but wonder how much that Panenka might matter in the end though.
The Timbers took down Austin and Atlanta this week while all the teams around them in the playoff race dropped points. They’re still far from safe, but they’ve set themselves up about as well as they can to make it over the line heading into the last four games of the season.
Good timing, too. Those last four games are brutal. Portland face Minnesota, Columbus, LAFC and RSL to close the season.
Cincy, on points per game at least, are above the East’s playoff line. But they sit eighth in the East with six games to go, and now it’s about finishing the job to make the postseason for the first time in club history. This team certainly is good enough.
A mixed bag for RSL this week. They thumped Minnesota then understandably fell to LAFC over the weekend. Three points from that kind of week isn’t bad at all, though. And it’s enough to keep them above the line and within touching distance of a home playoff spot with five games to go.
My advice would be to take care of business over the next three. The final two games could be as pressure-packed as they come. RSL face the Galaxy in the penultimate game of the year and host the Timbers on Decision Day (Oct. 9). Those will either be an opportunity to deliver a fatal blow to one or both teams, or a last gasp to stay alive.
They didn’t find the net against Chicago on Wednesday but the attack roared to life over the weekend thanks to their premier attackers Jon Bell, Noel Buck and….Tommy McNamara? Ok, maybe not the most traditional Revs game, but they picked up a huge 3-0 win over NYCFC all the same. They’re making due despite Giacomo Vrioni, Dylan Borrero and Ismael Tajouri-Shradi still being sidelined due to injury.
New England ended the weekend above the line (seventh in East).
Not out yet! Although it almost seemed that way after their midweek loss at Orlando. And it really seemed that way once they went down early to Houston on Sunday. But Seattle came back to take all three points against the Dynamo thanks, in part, to a great moment in MLS history.
Seattle still have a long way to go. They’re six points out of seventh place in the West with five games to go, although they do have a game in hand on Portland. But just seeing the Sounders in the rearview can be an unsettling thing. We’ll just have to see how the teams ahead of them handle that kind of pressure. And if Seattle can win enough to keep inching closer.
The good news is three of their final five games come against Vancouver, Sporting KC and San Jose – teams that, on paper, they should likely beat.
The Herons came up short against Columbus midweek in a 1-0 loss. It would have helped to have a creative and influential midfielder available in attack, but Alejandro Pozuelo was suspended due to his red card against New York. The Herons are now ninth in the East and two points behind New England and Cincinnati.
Toronto surrendered a 2-1 lead to LA in their first game of the week, then highlighted their flaws even further in a 4-3 loss to Montréal. If you’re trying to explain the second half of Toronto’s season to an outsider, all you have to do is show them the first half against Montréal. They immediately took a 2-0 lead thanks to Federico Bernardeschi and Lorenzo Insigne, then almost just as immediately lost that lead and then the game.
There’s still a lot of work to do to sort out their midfield and backline. And they’ve almost officially run out of time to do that in 2022.
Atlanta United went on the road twice this week. They were overwhelmed by Philadelphia and never really threatened against Portland. The Five Stripes have won just one road game all season. On a related note, their playoff hopes are but a flickering flame.
Here are SKC’s last five results: W-L-W-W-T. That’s objectively solid form, even though they dropped leads at Austin and LA in there.
But weighed down by the first two-thirds of their season, they’re 12th in the West and not out of the woods yet when it comes to potentially winning the Wooden Spoon. At least SKC are giving themselves something to build on for 2023.
The Rapids went on the road to get thumped by Nashville midweek and then failed to score against D.C. United. They have just one road win on the season and just one win in their last seven games. A year after earning a Round One bye atop the West, that should about wrap things up for Colorado’s playoff hopes.
Chicago needed a win or two last week to keep their increasingly-faint playoff hopes alive. The defense and Gaga Slonina did their jobs, keeping two clean sheets against New England and Columbus. But the Fire failed to score in either game. Barring something bordering five-straight wins, that may be that.
A 2-0 loss at FC Cincinnati this weekend may unofficially wrap up 2022 for Charlotte. It’s been a totally acceptable Year One for an expansion side. Now it’s time to start thinking about how to get their attack prepared to take a Year Two jump.
The Earthquakes played spoiler and took down Vancouver on Saturday. It’s a good win and it gives us another opportunity to take a step back and appreciate how good Jeremy Ebobisse has been on a struggling team. After scoring against the Whitecaps, Ebobisse has 15 goals this year and he’s been involved with nearly every good moment San Jose have had in 2022.
A 2-0 loss to San Jose this weekend probably wraps things up for 2022 Vancouver. Especially with their final four games coming up against LA, Seattle, Austin and Minnesota. They’re eight points back of seventh-place Portland.
The Paulo Nagamura era lasted 29 league games.
A four-point week! D.C. took down NYCFC and then outplayed Colorado in a 0-0 draw. They might just catch Houston and avoid the Wooden Spoon if they can keep it up. It’s a three-point gap between them and the Dynamo.