Like always, your team's place below is not my fault. The Power Rankings are voted on by a collection of MLSsoccer.com editors, writers and personalities. So just sit back and enjoy a totally subjective placement of teams based on the totally undefined use of the word “power” that has no real bearing on whether your team is actually good at soccer or not. I mean, it’s a totally valid question, but I didn’t need the rankings to tell me that.
There’s a new totally inarguable, definitive No. 1 team in MLS and all they had to do to get there is wait patiently for all the teams in front of them to mess up. It’s perfectly Nashville to stay still at the start of the Mario Kart race and let everyone else beat up on each other before making their move.
It would have been even better if they made their move after picking up another three points this weekend, but they had to settle for one. They scored early, but couldn’t keep Minnesota off the board the rest of the way thanks to a pinballed goalmouth scramble that gave Hassani Dotson a chance to send home an equalizer off a set-piece because of course it was a set piece. Seriously, their inability to defend set-pieces might be the single weirdest team-wide thing in a league filled with weird team-wide things.
Now, they have a chance to reset this weekend as their traveling roadshow heads to Dallas. Maybe Ake Loba will get a chance to be a part of that? Despite preseason whispers that he looked prepared to match his price tag this year, he’s played just 11 minutes in two substitute appearances this year. Obviously, Nashville have been fine without him starting, but you can’t help but keep wondering if they’re missing out on a chance at bumping their heads into their ceiling without him. His chance will come soon enough … right?
The Revs were the Revs and picked up a professional 1-0 win over FC Dallas to make Bruce Arena the winningest manager in MLS history. They really didn’t have a ton of outstanding moments to point out in this one but they were outstandingly wholesome?
Their trip out West is done at least. The MLS Cup 2021 champs won’t go past the central time zone for the rest of the regular season. Their Concacaf Champions League campaign resumes Tuesday night vs. Guatemala’s Comunicaciones FC, and maybe we’ll see the Taty Castellanos show go off again?
New DP striker Mikael Uhre made his debut, but midfielders Alejandro Bedoya and Daniel Gazdag were the ones who found the back of the net within three minutes of each other to take a 2-0 CF Montréal lead from a Video Review call-back to a 2-1 Philly lead. It was extremely Philly of them. As Jim Curtin put it post-game, “There was probably a 15-minute period there in the second half where we really looked like us.”
Perhaps most encouragingly, Julian Carranza fully embraced the Philadelphia sporting spirit by earning the absolute hell out of two yellow cards. The guy just went for it all game.
Just like that LAFC’s xG jumped to 1.8 and they earned a point in the kind of game Portland always seem to survive unscathed. LAFC were the better team and deserved three points except for the fact they forgot to keep Yimmi Chara from shooting the ball with his back turned to the goal. Gotta lock that down at this point.
All the preseason assumptions a lot of Big Soccer Media made about this team seem to be on the nose right now. They seem as creative as ever, but with an added sense of stability. When you’re able to swap out Franco Escobar for Ryan Hollingshead, you’re doing something right. The biggest problem is that we were also right to worry about Carlos Vela. If neutrals are this frustrated watching him go to the bench at halftime due to a potential injury, I can’t imagine what it’s like to be an LAFC fan. It’s exhausting having to worry about his injury status with every step. The floor feels higher than it's been in a while in LA, but the ceiling seems to fluctuate with every Vela news update.
Boy did he.
Full credit to the Galaxy for not being one bit interested in the storybook beginning for Charlotte. Getting the job done with 74,479 people hoping otherwise is no joke. And they did at least give the soccer world at-large one ending worth celebrating.
The Seattle Souhahahahahhahahahhaahahaok, sorry, sorry. I’ll compose myself a bit here.
But just to clarify: Taking a team’s manager and losing to that team in the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs after they didn’t put up a shot, then taking that team’s DP and losing to them in a revenge game after they didn’t even have Damir Kreilach is one of the single funniest things to ever have happened in MLS. No notes.
RSL are now 11 games unbeaten against Seattle at Rio Tinto Stadium. I would say as long as Seattle don’t play there every game they’re going to be fine, but they’re also winless in their last nine MLS games. They rotated a lot of guys this weekend and they’re going to be totally fine, but things are starting to get kind of weird. I can’t imagine this kind of streak keeps going much longer, but something isn’t quite clicking. Maybe their CCL quarterfinal series with Club Leon will give them a shot in the arm. Rotation or not, they’re going to need it after this.
And they nearly got away with it too!
As soon as Claudio Bravo earned a second yellow I thought “Oh LAFC, you beautiful idiots, how could you let them trick you into making them go down to 10 men.” It just seemed like Portland activating a trap card to lure LAFC even further forward before the Timbers burned them on the counter.
It came so close to working. Portland limited LAFC’s chances to tiny little blips on the xG map and it seemed like we were heading towards the kind of game where the Timbers take advantage of every opportunity and laugh as the opposing team misses all of theirs and more. Not quite this time.
That didn’t make it any less fun to watch Yimmi Chara put up an AT&T Goal of the Week nominee for the second week in a row or Dairon Asprilla try and take on the world by himself each time the ball came to his feet on a counter. The Timbers have made it through the toughest early-season tests of any team so far with two points. Their schedule really won’t get much easier till mid-April but, unsurprisingly, they’ve shown they can handle making life difficult for the best teams in the league. Maybe at some point they’ll need to figure out where goals are coming from besides Yimmi Chara overhead kicks, but those are problems for the future.
That’s more like it.
The Rapids didn’t have the ball much, but they made excellent use of it against a patchwork Atlanta side. They found the net three times, in part due to an excellent performance from Diego Rubio, who picked up a goal and an assist on the day. That doesn’t mean I’m ready to forgive them for not signing a DP No. 9 this offseason, but it is a welcome reminder after a miserable start that this team is still excellent from top to bottom. Robin Fraser is too good at this to let this talented of a group play down for long.
From the beginning of August to the end of their 2021 season, the Red Bulls scored more than one goal in a game just two times. They’ve scored seven times in their first two games of the 2022 season. And three of those belong to Lewis Morgan after their new winger earned a first-half hat trick against a Toronto team that had absolutely no answer for what the Red Bulls were doing in transition.
When New York picked up Morgan, it seemed like a perfect marriage of high-effort, high-speed, high-ability, high-generic name compatibility with the Red Bulls’ ethos. I thought it would work well, I just didn’t think it would manifest itself so completely and so quickly. We’ll see if New York can continue finding the back of the net at anything resembling this level but Morgan and a fully recovered Aaron Long are doing a lot to make this version of the team feel different from last year’s group that bullied their way to a playoff spot.
A road point is a road point, and that’s four points to start the year for the Lions. I think everyone knows it might take a moment for this team to really integrate new big-money signings like Ercan Kara and Facundo Torres, so any points you can grab until they can be reasonably expected to start making an impact seem big. It’s probably fair to expect at least one shot on target though. The Lions put up five shots, none of them on frame. Except, well…
Orlando sure would like a Video Review to go their way sometime soon. The Lions had a goal disallowed to a handball that…if there’s an angle that exists where the handball also does, I haven’t seen it.
That’s two points to start the season in just two games. That’s two more points than they had last year through four games. I’d consider that a major improvement.
Especially considering they had to work through two of the league’s most ruthless defensive teams to do it. I assumed after Nasvhille went up early that the Loons would be hard-pressed to find an equalizer. One lightning delay, an increasingly swampy pitch and a goalmouth scramble later, Hassani Dotson evened things up. It’s a solid start to the year for a good team that should keep getting better.
Atlanta went a mile high just to crash back down to Earth.
They were probably doomed as soon as they found out Ozzie Alonso wouldn’t be available to play shortly before the game. The Five Stripes’ makeshift midfield lost their duct tape and Colorado had no issues moving the ball comfortably. That doesn’t necessarily excuse the moments where the backline completely shut off, but it maybe makes a lack of result understandable.
Even still, they looked more assured tactically than at most points in the last two years or so. I’m not sure any team is missing more guys to start the season. They should be worlds better once they can put up a lineup even resembling 100%. They were missing four, maybe five, starters this weekend. The problem is that no one seems to know when that’s going to happen.
For now though, just getting Alonso back in the lineup would work wonders. Hopefully he’s cleared to play soon after the team cardiologist held him out of this weekend’s game for precautionary reasons.
They’ve had a perfect start. However, there’s a caveat. And it’s not their fault, but it still exists. It can be best summed up by a southeastern colloquialism the folks invested in Austin’s local college gridiron football team will have to learn over the next few years. To put it simply: Austin FC ain’t played nobody.
They’ve started the season playing two less-than-stellar squads at home. Again, not their fault, it just makes it hard to truly gauge what this team is.
That being said, how many teams would have put up 10 goals over two games against Cincy and Miami? You can’t deny they’ve been impressive. Especially for a team we spent the majority of last season begging to sign a striker. It shows they’re prepared to take a genuine step forward in year two and it has to be a massive confidence booster to have their preseason tactical tweaks and roster moves pay off so immediately.
We’ll find out soon enough how much these first two games matter when it comes to Austin competing with the West’s best teams. They travel to Portland this weekend before welcoming Seattle to Q2 Stadium. No matter what, they’ve learned they can pile up points and goals against below-average teams. That can take you far in MLS.
I was just about to start writing the “Well hey, maybe the Crew really are about to convince everyone they’re back” blurb and then they forgot to mark an elite goal-scoring talent like Francisco Calvo. Twice. The Crew should have started the year with six points. Instead, another team gets burned by Francisco Cal-goal which is what we’ve always called him. Please do not edit that out.
They played well and won a game they should have won in their home opener. It’s a solid bounce back from a tough week one.
“They’ll be fine, but there are still looming questions about this midfield and at striker,” he wrote for the second time of the 30 different times he’d write that statement this season.
At one point CF Montréal went up 2-0.
And then, suddenly, they were down 2-1.
Philadelphia stunned them for two goals in three minutes after a Video Review pulled back a Djordje Mihailovic wonder goal. This one had to sting. Especially for a team that should be acutely aware of how one or three points can make all the difference at the end of the season.
The year is 2025. The Seattle Sounders have bought the entirety of Real Salt Lake and replaced all their players with a local YMCA team in a move even MLSsoccer.com has called “potentially questionable.” The two teams meet. RSL win 2-0. Seattle head back to the drawing board once again.
D.C. United have started the year with matchups against Charlotte and Cincy. Their next two matchups are against Chicago and Toronto. It wasn’t unreasonable to expect at least nine points from the jump here. After they took the scenic route on their way to their sixth point, it looks like they might get there. It will help though if Julian Gressel can play again soon. He left their 1-0 win over Cincy with an apparent hip injury.
They really looked solid for large portions of their 1-0 loss at New England. But, and you won’t believe this, they struggled to finish chances when it mattered. That includes a 0.43 xG chance in the 90th minute that felt like it should have been higher and a few other chances that would have had high xG numbers if they weren’t flubbed. Those teamwide misses and an irresponsible foul in his own box from Paxton Pomykal – who generally played well and has looked consistently threatening to start the season – made this one frustrating.
I checked with the quants over at American Soccer Analysis and giving up zero goals in a soccer game is much better than giving up four goals.
To think, the answer has been there all along. It’s not the 3-6-1 that’s going to save the Quakes. It’s the 3-5-1 and feeding Francisco Calvo. Calvo scored in the 84th and 96th minutes to give the Quakes a 3-3 draw against Columbus.
As much as I’m not sure this level of sustained chaos has been healthy for anyone involved, I sure am going to miss it when it’s gone.
Two games, no goals and a goal differential of zero for the Fire. Not an exhilarating start, but it seems better than what we’ve come to expect from the Chicago backline over the last few years. Newly-arrived center back Rafael Czichos is receiving praise for helping keep things steady these first two games, and new manager Ezra Hendrickson and ‘keeper Gaga Slonina deserve credit as well.
If I have this right, it’s the first time they’ve had back-to-back clean sheets since September 2020. Maybe this time it really does mean the defense has improved. Now they’ve just got to figure out how to turn Xherdan Shaqiri’s threatening moments into moments that lead to an end product in the final third.
So it kind of seems like all the issues Bob Bradley’s LAFC team had last year have just kind of followed him to a much younger and much less dangerous attacking team in Toronto. That doesn’t seem like a great recipe for success at the start of the year. I think they can turn it around, but man, there might be more work to do here than some of us expected.
It doesn’t quite feel like it's at the level where I need to rebrand last year’s “LAFC Catastrophic Defensive Moment of the Week” and start doing it with Toronto though. I understand that there were multiple teenagers and homegrowns out on the field. So I’ll hold off on that and just start referring to them as L-”Eh”-F-C for now.
So, there are still some things to work on.
But they didn’t get torched or run off the field. They’re still integrating new pieces. And the biggest reinforcement of them all is on his way in July. Sup, HH? Houston’s rise back up the West is going to be a slow, slow burn. They aren’t wallowing at the bottom though. That matters, no really it does.
They scored one more goal than FC Cincinnati did against Austin. I am not sure that’s proof of concept to continue playing Brek Shea at center back, but I’ll get back to y’all when I figure it out.
It didn’t go entirely as planned. Next to perfect is just fine though in this case.
Just when it seemed like they might come away from their home opener with a point, a late handball in the box led to a 90’+8’ penalty conversion from D.C.’s Ola Kamara. I’m not even sure Cincy fans can laugh to keep from crying at this point. Catatonia seems like the more understandable option.
At least Bootsy had fun.