MLS regular season and MLS is Back Tournament games are reflected in this week's rankings. Rankings are voted on by MLSsoccer.com editorial staff; words by Jonathan Sigal.
BIGGEST MOVERS: NSH +5; LA, SEA, TOR -3
HIGH: 1 | LOW: 3
A shootout and fatigued performance sent LAFC packing at MLS is Back, but the defending Supporters’ Shield champions were mighty impressive. Their midfield trio hummed like expected, and Diego Rossi won the Golden Boot presented by Audi and Young Player of the Tournament presented by AT&T 5G. That all came without MLS MVP Carlos Vela, too.
HIGH: 2 | LOW: 14
Sweet, sweet victory. Portland outlasted all comers to lift the MLS is Back trophy, relying on veteran wherewithal (see: the ageless Diego Chara and Diego Valeri), the Player of the Tournament presented by adidas (see: Sebastian Blanco) and young bucks (see: Jeremy Ebobisse and Eryk Williamson) to earn the club’s second piece of silverware in MLS.
HIGH: 3 | LOW: 11
Will midfielder Brenden Aaronson and/or center back Mark McKenzie get sold? That Homegrown-centric question frames much of Philly’s national discourse right now, but don’t lose sight of their linear progression under head coach Jim Curtin. They’re coming off an MLS is Back semifinal appearance.
HIGH: 2 | LOW: 9
Columbus were the group-stage darlings down in Orlando, only to lose against Minnesota in the Round of 16 in penalty kicks. Lest you forget: The Crew hold a four-point lead atop the Eastern Conference standings (13 points) as the season restarts, and they’ve got some guys named Darlington Nagbe and Lucas Zelarayan. Life could be much worse.
HIGH: 4 | LOW: 8
Does having Minnesota in fifth place feed into the underdog storyline? We’ll let head coach Adrian Heath decide. He fueled that narrative during their MLS is Back run, which concluded in the semifinals without two key starters in the XI: midfielder Kevin Molino and center back Ike Opara.
HIGH: 3 | LOW: 6
There’s a massive TBD around whether or not Ayo Akinola and Jozy Altidore will partner together up top for Toronto. Should that be the case, it’ll form an exciting striker duo that could carry the 2019 MLS Cup runners-up quite far. And in one of 2020’s least-surprising statlines, Alejandro Pozuelo has a league-leading five assists.
HIGH: 7 | LOW: 23
Few (if any) observers thought Orlando would turn matters around this quickly under head coach Oscar Pareja. But here they are, fresh off an appearance in the MLS is Back Tournament Final presented by Wells Fargo. Nani was electric all tournament, as were outside backs Joao Moutinho and Ruan – three placements on the Best XI presented by BODYARMOR.
HIGH: 1 | LOW: 8
The last time we saw the Sounders, they were ripped apart by LAFC in the MLS is Back Round of 16. But they look set to debut a midfield that includes Nicolas Lodeiro and Joao Paulo, an experienced duo that should set the tempo. Opponents beware should the defending MLS Cup champions get Jordan Morris and Raul Ruidiaz firing, too.
HIGH: 6 | LOW: 18
Peter Vermes didn’t hold back after Sporting’s quarterfinal exit from MLS is Back, bluntly saying: “To come out and play the way we did in the first half, it was embarrassing.” If we had to guess, that’s lit a fire under their veteran core. They also sit atop the Western Conference (12 points) in this most-irregular 2020 season.
HIGH: 10 | LOW: 23
The Earthquakes, with head coach Matias Almeyda’s man-marking scheme and some dynamic winger play, overwhelmed opponents at times in Orlando. But then they got rope-a-doped by Minnesota in the quarterfinals. The fact nonetheless remains: On their day, San Jose can score in bunches and entertain like few others in MLS.
HIGH: 11 | LOW: 18
The Revs have a Carles Gil-sized hole in midfield, which places even more creative pressure on Gustavo Bou. But Bruce Arena’s been wheeling and dealing, recognizing that they need some reinforcements to recapture 2019’s magic. There’s also the sense that they’re waiting for DP forward Adam Buksa to heat up.
HIGH: 3 | LOW: 13
NYCFC are still figuring things out under head coach Ronny Deila, who inherited nearly the exact-same group that topped the Eastern Conference in 2019. With the likes of Maxi Moralez, Heber, Alexandru Mitrita and others, there’s too much talent not to succeed, right? One would think so.
HIGH: 13 | LOW: 16
As Matthew Doyle addressed in his “One big question” column, who’s going to seize the center forward role long-term? RSL need some answers, as they have a Western Conference-low three goals scored so far this season.
HIGH: 7 | LOW: 14
Reggie Cannon seems destined for a move overseas, while fellow Homegrown Paxton Pomykal feasibly could follow suit this summer. Beyond those two big stories, Dallas are still searching for their first victory after missing out on the MLS is Back Tournament. They’re hoping that DP forward Franco Jara finds the scoresheet soon, too.
HIGH: 7 | LOW: 16
Colorado started 2020 with a pair of wins, then went 0-2-1 at the MLS is Back Tournament. There’s excitement around what head coach Robin Fraser is building, though, with winger Jonathan Lewis coming up clutch and a forward Kei Kamara continuing to turn back time. They also need DP midfielder Younes Namli to start producing more.
HIGH: 14 | LOW: 21
Will the Impact settle on one formation and starting XI? Some consistency on those fronts from Montreal head coach Thierry Henry could do wonders. Some clarity on who’s the go-to creative midfielder and No. 9 would is also needed.
HIGH: 1 | LOW: 17
Well, that wasn’t how Atlanta drew it up. The Five Stripes left Orlando with zero points and zero goals scored, resulting in Frank de Boer’s ouster as head coach. Veteran midfielder Jeff Larentowicz has called it “one of the lowest points” for Atlanta, giving a sense of where their heads were at.
HIGH: 18 | LOW: 26
When you think of Dutch head coaches, odds are bunkerball doesn’t vault atop the tactics list. But that’s exactly what Jaap Stam has pragmatically employed early into his FC Cincy days, leaning on defensive solitude to grind out results. Getting DP striker Jurgen Locadia back healthy could fuel a tactical exploration.
HIGH: 12 | LOW: 19
The Red Bulls already have some new faces in midfielder Dru Yearwood and forward Samuel Tetteh, so they’re bound to look different during this six-game stretch. They need a boost after a disappointing MLS is Back showing, with the 2019 roster exodus still framing matters.
HIGH: 20 | LOW: 23
The Fire, certainly finding their way under head coach Raphael Wicky, seemed to inch forward while in Orlando. But then they unravelled in their third group-stage game against Vancouver, showing Chicago have several steps to take before becoming a playoff contender.
HIGH: 21 | LOW: 26
Four points in two games since returning to play in mid-August is a great return for Nashville. It’s been a long time coming for the expansion club, which didn’t feature at the MLS is Back Tournament. However, the need for a dependable No. 9 looms large in Music City.
HIGH: 19 | LOW: 25
It’s an interesting time for Vancouver, who’ve only twice played with DP forward Lucas Cavallini and recently transferred DP midfielder Inbeom Hwang to Russian Premier League club FC Rubin Kazan. They made wide-ranging additions this past offseason, too, so we’re waiting for the true Whitecaps to step up.
HIGH: 14 | LOW: 23
Edison Flores and Julian Gressel, this past winter’s two high-profile additions, seem stuck in first gear. Their most impactful player has actually been Federico Higuain, a 35-year-old maestro who’s coming off a torn ACL. D.C. United have some enticing pieces, but the end product isn’t there right now.
HIGH: 6 | LOW: 24
It’s been covered at length, and odds are it will be covered at length all season: Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, signed to replace Zlatan Ibrahmovic, is struggling to replace those massive shoes in LA. He has one goal so far, though LA’s laboring across the board as evidenced by an MLS-low minus-six goal differential and winless record (0-3-2).
HIGH: 20 | LOW: 25
The Dynamo still await their first win under head coach Tab Ramos. In the meantime, the evolution of Memo Rodriguez as a No. 10 is exciting to watch. He was on the periphery several years back, and now can be a legit game-changer when finding his groove.
HIGH: 19 | LOW: 26
As you've probably heard, Miami signed World Cup-winning and ex-Juventus midfielder Blaise Matuidi to a TAM deal late last week. That leaves open the club’s precious third DP slot, with the expansion side clearly not afraid to splash the cash. Who could it be?