What a week in MLS.
Atlanta were linked with a big transfer target from Argentina, LAFC dropped points after convincing everyone for a moment they might be back, and a young player from Dallas took another step towards Europe. It was truly a week unlike any other.
As always, you can listen to Matt Doyle, Andrew Wiebe and a range 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.
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 walk to the visitor’s locker room at Mercedes-Benz Stadium and ask Kanye to fill out my ballot and make your team look worse so their confidence would be shaken and they’d lose every game from here on out. He agreed because he didn’t have anything better to do really. I asked him because I’m personally determined to ruin the sanctity of the most sacred tradition in sports: The Power Rankings. Because Tom Bogert cares about the Power Rankings more than anyone and I like to upset him. Anyway, you should really recognize that the stakes have never been lower.
Would you look at that? A new number one. Deservedly so, too. These guys are pretty good if you haven’t noticed. A 5-0 win against Inter Miami and a 2-1 win over Montréal is a solid week. And really I think New England’s depth and tactical flexi--what? What’s that? You absolutely couldn’t care less and just want to watch Gustavo Bou do an absolute madness?
Daniel Salloi rescued SKC in stoppage time with a 94th-minute equalizer against San Jose midweek. That goal got forgotten pretty quickly when his second goal of the week put Sporting up 2-0 on Seattle Sunday night. He’s got nine goals and three assists so far this season and has been the brightest spot on a Kansas City team that’s pretty much just radiating at every spot right now. Or maybe Andreu Fontas’ excellent performance at center back is your preference? And no one would fault you for picking Gianluca Busio here.
This team has talent all over the field and nearly everyone seems to be executing at a high level right now. The only criticism you could really have at this point is they’ve fallen behind too often to start games, but no team this year is better at bringing themselves back from the brink.
Right now, if we’re talking teams that have the combination of talent, points and underlying numbers to make a Supporters’ Shield run, it’s New England, Seattle and SKC. A six-point swing from their big win and Seattle this weekend may mean a lot down the line.
However, and this is important, someone is really going to have to explain what poor Cameron Duke did to score a game-clinching goal against Seattle and still be called “Dinky.”
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. All the way to…[checking]...third place in an extremely arbitrary list with a format supercharged to generate clicks? I guess it could happen to anybody.
But look, I think everyone can agree that right now, at what’s theoretically the height of their roster depletion this season, the two teams ahead of them on that same list have a pretty good case to be ahead of them. I think everyone should just be happy they made it as long and as far as they did before succumbing to a couple of losses. Let’s not forget they pulled off a minor miracle in Austin midweek before SKC rolled in Sunday night. Who else could throw out five teenagers in their lineup and still get a road win?
Even if it takes a moment for this team to steady itself for the first time this season, the Sounders should know as well as anyone that you don’t have to be healthy all the time in this league. Just the right time.
The Golden Boys drew with Columbus midweek, then made short work of FC Cincinnati over the weekend. They jumped all the way to second in the Eastern Conference and they still haven’t thrown Ake Loba into the equation for a full 90 minutes.
The day is coming where their schedule will get significantly harder. The back half of the year may be rough. But they’ve set themselves up to not only survive that run, but push through it. There’s a chance, a chance, this team could host a playoff game. Even with the difficulty spike, they should at least feel they can be in the running for one of those top four spots the rest of the way. In year two, Nashville continue to be the most quietly successful expansion side we’ve maybe ever seen.
Hey. So. That thing we’d been waiting for NYCFC to do? That thing where their growing accumulation of talent and impressive underlying numbers turned into a moment of release where it all comes together and they absolutely crush a very good team? That happened. Because my goodness did they put a thumping on Orlando this weekend. The final xG tally finished at 5 to 0.7 and the actual goal tally ended at 5-0.
Not only that, but they earned a 1-0 win over a good Montréal team midweek. That’s two playoff teams and two big wins over the course of a few days. No one had it better than the folks in the Bronx this week.
I’ve said it before. The Union are a team I don’t like to worry about. They usually prove me wrong. Buuuuuuuuuutttttttttttttttttttttttt………
They have one win in their last six games. Just two in their last eight. And all during a stretch where they’ve been pretty much at full strength compared to some of the other teams in the league. That’s not completely terrible, I just think everyone, including them, expects a little more.
For now, they’re in fourth place in what’s proving to be a very stacked Eastern Conference. But they’re only four points ahead of D.C. United in eighth place. The four teams behind them have all played at least a game fewer. And Columbus are the only team of the four teams behind Philly that the underlying numbers like less.
At least Jim Curtin looks great?
Not the best stretch here for the Lions. In the last five games they’ve beaten Philadelphia, lost to the Red Bulls and Chicago, drawn with Toronto, and OH NO THE BLOOD LOOK AT ALL THE BLOOD.
I….I promised myself this wouldn’t happen again. I thought they had changed. I thought….I just thought. And maybe that was my first mistake.
Once again, I’ve written something nice about LAFC only for them to turn around and drop a bunch of points they shouldn’t have dropped days later. They lost late to Portland midweek and followed it up with an unfocused performance against Vancouver. They should have picked up more than just one point this week, but what else is new I guess.
I’ve once again flipped from “They’re going to make a real push in the West! Here they come!” back to “Maybe they stay near the middle of the Western Conference standings because they’re a team that’s only good enough to be in the middle of the conference??”
I’ve overthought this for over a year now. I’m probably just going to try and stop thinking about LAFC until I know I can trust them again. Gonna let the rest of the MLSsoccer.com editorial staff sort this from here on out.
That’s now 21 points over the last 10 games for the Loons, if you’re keeping track at home. They’ve taken down Seattle and Portland back-to-back, which I didn’t check, but that may be the first time any team has done that, like, ever. And now they get a chance to build on that this week with a midweek trip to LAFC.
The best compliment I can give for the Loons right now is their section is becoming pretty repetitive. What else can you say when they just keep winning?
A mixed bag this week for Colorado. They cruised past Dallas then got thumped by RSL. All in all, they stayed at fourth in the West and the underlying numbers continue to say they’re a team that’s just pretty ok. There are worse fates.
After the Crew’s 1-0 win over Atlanta United on Saturday, Caleb Porter talked at length about the Crew not receiving enough respect or perhaps understanding from the media.
“I don't care what people think, honestly. That's no disrespect to what people think. I respect everybody's opinions and I think it's great for our game that people have opinions. I think it's great that people write articles and do the power rankings and all that. I look at a lot of some of those things and wonder sometimes if anybody actually watches the games and really looks at the lineups and looks [at] who's out,” Porter said.
“When you are the champion the last season, people look for holes in you. Instead of talking about us being the best defensive team and the fact that we've lost one game in 10 and we've got five wins and four draws, instead of talking about that, they'll talk about why we're not scoring more goals. They always look for the negative and that's because when you're good, the tallest tree the wind blows the strongest against. So when you're the tallest tree, people try to chop you down and, yeah, I don't agree with it all. At the end of the day, we have Artur out, Gyasi [Zardes] out, Luis Diaz, we have Josh Williams out, we have Milton Valenzuela. So I don't know if anybody ever even looks at that and I don't care if they do, to be honest with you.
The Crew are missing a lot. That’s true. But they’re not really missing a ton more than other teams. Especially considering they spent the offseason adding depth pieces in case this exact scenario came about. And even when they’ve been close-ish to full health, they haven’t exactly created a ton of chances. On top of that, they’re probably not the best defensive team in the league. They’re tied at the top in goals allowed, but their expected goals allowed numbers indicate that’s due to a little bit of Eloy Room and a decent amount of luck.
That being said, they are getting results. And credit to Porter, this team has found ways to win even if they haven’t been firing on all cylinders. I don’t think it’s crazy by any stretch though to hope for just a little bit more from the team that ran through the league during last year’s playoffs.
Columbus will be fine. Maybe more than fine. But they’ll need to be better to keep getting the kind of results you’d want to see from a contender.
Either way, they really shouldn’t be too worried. Because all of that criticism doesn’t matter. Because, at worst, they get to go home to their shiny, new, MLS Cup trophy each day. That gets you a pass for a couple of years at least.
Man. A lot of teams are missing a lot of players right now. No one has quite had as much separation anxiety as the Galaxy so far, though. They remain third in the West, but their actual goal differential has dropped to -3. Their expected goal differential is about the same.
If you’ve been paying attention to their underlying numbers, you’ve been worried about their defense. It seems without Jonathan dos Santos, Sebastien Lletget, Efrain Alvarez and Chicharito, they don’t have the attack to offset that.
They beat FC Dallas a couple of weeks ago without that group and all seemed like it might be well. Then FC Dallas rolled out a high school senior at striker this weekend and the Galaxy watched as he bagged a hat trick on them in a 4-0 loss. They’ve taken one point from the three games since that win against Dallas and have just four points in their last five games. The rest of the Gold Cup may just be about survival for LA.
At this point, you’ve probably realized Montréal are good, but maybe not quite good enough to break into the top tier in the East. Those thoughts got a little confirmation this week with one-goal losses to NYCFC and New England.
I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it lately, but the underlying numbers love D.C. and the actual numbers are beginning to trend that way as well. They went head-to-head over the weekend with the Red Bulls in the most Murderball of all the Murderball games possible and came out on top with a 1-0 win. Hernan Losada has this team working overtime and players like Julian Gressel are thriving.
Gressel did his best work in Atlanta when that team fired on all cylinders in transition. Now he’s been thrown into a team that exists solely to be in transition and, no surprise, he’s been excellent this season. I mean…
I couldn’t even include his best pass of the night because Ola Kamara, awed so greatly by its beauty, couldn’t get a shot off despite being wide open on goal.
Despite that, D.C. United got the win and are just one spot below the East's playoff line. As this team continues to improve, it might be time to start thinking about Losada as a Coach of the Year candidate.
Felipe Mora scored two outstanding headed goals this week. One gave the Timbers a stoppage-time win over LAFC. The other gave the Timbers an early lead against Minnesota that didn’t hold. Over the last nine games, they’ve earned four wins, four losses and a draw.
A weird up-and-down year in Portland continues.
The Red Bulls picked up a midweek draw against Toronto. That’s kind of all I’ve got here. I guess I can offer some good news and let Red Bulls fans know they’ve got two games in hand on the two teams above them in the playoff race? Or maybe you’re more interested in knowing the team is in fact looking for another center back? Should be able to pull that off as long as no one lets the player know the position seems just a teensy bit cursed right now.
WELL. WELL. WELL. LOOK WHO BEAT A TEAM THAT ISN’T VANCOUVER.
RSL are back in a playoff spot after drawing with the Galaxy and beating up on Colorado in a 3-0 win.
When Chris Armas left the team, everyone did some quick math and figured this team would need about two points per game to have a realistic shot at making the playoffs. So far so good. Through four games, the Reds have eight points. A mistake-prone defense is still a concern, but I’m not putting it past a (healthy) Alejandro Pozuelo and Yeferson Soteldo to drag Toronto to the finish line anyway.
I’m not sure how sustainable having a kid who could still be in high school score a hat trick each game is, but it sure worked wonders for FC Dallas over the weekend. And it made up for a 2-0 loss to Colorado midweek.
Ricardo Pepi, the possible high schooler in question here, is averaging a goal every 105 minutes this season. Looks like we’ve found the next FC Dallas kid ready to study abroad.
The Dynamo had two draws and continue their recent streak of being spectacular, CIA agent-level anonymous. They have six draws in their last seven games and have now tied the league lead for draws. So. Another draw basically. Yay.
You know those scenes in movies you probably liked as a child where the kids rise up against the oppressive adults and use a series of clever tricks and strategies and wacky hijinks to overcome their elders? You know? Like in Spy Kids? The movie about kids who become spies? Or maybe this is Hook? Yeah, let’s go with Hook. Austin were the adults in Hook this week when they lost to multiple teenagers playing for Seattle.
Alright, Atlanta. You’ve found an interim manager the players want to play for. He’s allowing them to play with freedom and energy and you’re creating chances like you haven’t in a couple of years. Now you’ve got to find someone besides Josef Martinez who could theoretically finish those chances. I’m not sure they’re on the roster yet. Maybe a brand new, shiny Thiago Almada can begin to solve those problems?
The Earthquakes' two draws over the week made it four straight stalemates. The upcoming run of games against Seattle, Portland and LAFC might change that, though.
Nine goals allowed over their last three games is less than ideal. Just try and remember the happy times. The hopeful times, Cincy.
I would ask you to remember the happy and hopeful times from a couple of weeks ago, Chicago fans. But I know any real Chicago fan would never allow themselves to be happy or hopeful.
Things could only get better after a 5-0 loss to the Revs, and thankfully they did in a draw with Philly.