Voices: Sam Jones

Power Rankings: New York Red Bulls, Nashville SC rebound in Week 26


What a week in MLS. The New York Red Bulls beat Atlanta United, a Toronto FC player scored an AT&T 5G Goal of the Year candidate, and the Philadelphia Union beat D.C. United by an absurd amount. It was truly a week unlike any other.

As always, this is not my fault. The Power Rankings 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, there are like three teams at this point who are actually “good” and like three teams who are actually “bad”. We’re hilariously deep into this to not know much of anything about which teams are better than the other, but that’s where we’re at.

LAFC took just three points from six available against D.C. United and San Jose this week. They’re probably washed.

Then again, this was inevitable:

Previous: 2-1 loss at SJ | Next: 8/26 at ATX

Winning the season series against a rival with a 13-0 aggregate score is about the most satisfying result possible. Things could have gone better on Wednesday at FC Dallas, but the Union will always have their 7-0 and 6-0 wins over D.C. United from this season.

The expectations have never been higher for this group. Considering how well they’re playing right now and the fact they nearly made it to MLS Cup last year, anything less may even feel like a disappointment.

Previous: 6-0 win at DC | Next: 8/27 vs. COL

Well, it finally happened. Djordje Mihailovic appears to be on his way to Europe. Without Mihailovic, CF Montréal go from a great team to a really, really good te…wait, wait...hold on…[finger to ear]...Oh, well, never mind. It looks like Mihailovic is going to be able to see out the rest of the season in Montréal before moving on to AZ Alkmaar in the Eredivisie.

Phew, they scared me for a moment there. Yeah, they can totally win MLS Cup. 

Previous: 4-0 win vs. NE | Next: 8/27 at CHI

Everyone stayed healthy, even if Sebastian Driussi did give us all a scare there for a moment. That’s kind of all you really need to know at this point with Austin. There aren’t many timelines where they finish anywhere but second in the West.

However, you should probably know they welcome LAFC to Q2 Stadium on Friday night for a potential Western Conference Final preview. The Verde and Black got the better of LAFC in Los Angeles earlier this season. They’ll be looking to keep a possible psychological edge with a win in this one. Mostly though, it should just be a really fun game of soccer.

Also, Emiliano Rigoni is here:

Previous: 2-1 loss at MIN | Next: 8/26 vs. LAFC

The Pigeons got back on track with a 2-0 win on Sunday at Chicago. But that win came after they got thumped by Charlotte 3-1 in Red Bull Arena midweek. They’ve won just once in their last five games and have taken just four points from a possible 15. 

The win over Chicago is a step in the right direction, but they only have eight games remaining to truly sort themselves out. Otherwise, 2022 might end with a dull thud for the reigning MLS champs.

Previous: 2-0 win at CHI | Next: 8/28 at ORL

Another week, another huge Minnesota United win. This time over Austin FC. 

The Loons are a legitimate MLS Cup contender. And there probably won’t be much more to say than that the rest of the way. Especially if they take care of business and end up with a home playoff spot. With the way they’ve been playing – and with Franco Fragapane in the kind of form that nets you four goals in five games – it seems a little more than likely.

Previous: 2-1 win vs. ATX | Next: 8/27 vs. HOU

The Red Bulls had looked a little shaky as of late. Fortunately, their biannual beatdown of Atlanta United came at a perfect time and they took a point from FC Cincinnati as well. That’s a solid four-point week that doesn’t totally put them in the clear as far as a home playoff spot goes, but should make everyone on the red half of New York feel a little better.

Those results, plus the play of 19-year-old homegrown midfielder and US U-20 co-captain Daniel Edelman, are even more reasons for optimism for the Red Bulls as the weather starts to cool down.

Previous: 1-1 draw vs. CIN | Next: 8/27 vs. MIA

Dallas beat Philadelphia midweek then got absolutely thumped by Nashville on Sunday. What does it mean?

I don’t really know, but all that matters is they’re still in third place (West) for now. We at least know they can knock off one of the best teams in the league at any time. It just kind of depends on which version of Dallas you get that day.

Previous: 4-0 loss at NSH | Next: 8/27 vs. RSL

A 1-0 lead against Vancouver ended with an 87th-minute equalizer by Vancouver. RSL should be kicking themselves for that one. Even still, they’re pretty comfortably above the line right now. Two extra points would have been nice though.

Previous: 1-1 draw vs. VAN | Next: 8/27 at DAL

That’s more like it, y’all.

It seems Nashville heard Dax McCarty loud and clear. Not only did they get three points, but they also got goals from three different players, only one of whom happened to be Hany Mukhtar. It’s a perfect result for Nashville and a much-needed one. Now they obviously have to keep it going, but their win this week is much closer to what we’ve expected from them all year. Maybe they really did turn the corner on Sunday. And if that’s the case, then they’re a serious contender to do damage in the playoffs. 

Most importantly, they’re still on track to potentially finish with the same number of wins, draws and losses and zero goal differential. They have nine wins, draws and losses, and a +2 goal differential right now. Make us dream, Nashville.

Previous: 4-0 win vs. DAL | Next: 8/27 at VAN

The Crew were sloppy, slow and generally apathetic for large chunks of time on Sunday. Fortunately for them, Cucho Hernandez is The Truth.

He might just be good enough to carry Columbus to something special the rest of the way. And if it doesn’t happen this year, don’t be surprised if it happens next year. Or the next. Did I mention he’s only 23?

Previous: 2-2 draw vs. ATL | Next: 8/27 at CIN

Bad news.

With Pato possibly unavailable the rest of the way, the Lions will be without one of their most effective attacking forces. Pato had three goals and six assists on the season, often looking like one of the most effective players in an attack that hasn’t often been all that effective in 2022. 

Even still Orlando were able to pull out a late win against Charlotte and jump above the playoff line. Their entire MO has been finding points when other teams wouldn’t, so what’s another obstacle? Full credit to this group and to Oscar Pareja. It’s rarely, if ever, been pretty. But they keep getting the job done. Even without Pato, don’t be surprised if they keep doing enough to get by.

Previous: 2-1 win at CLT | Next: 8/28 vs. NYC

What a dang win for Inter Miami. They went up early, took an immediate counter-punch from Lorenzo Insigne right on the jaw and then took the lead back just before halftime. It certainly wasn’t perfect, but they ground out yet another win, their third in four games, and are making a genuine case to stay in the East’s playoff field. For a third-year club that’s got a nearly entirely-reworked roster, that’s a massive accomplishment. And they’re doing it right now without Leo Campana.

Fortunately for them, Alejandro Pozuelo and Gonzalo Higuain have been solid. Solid enough that if you can get Pozuelo back on a DP deal and Higuain back on a max-TAM deal, for 2023, you probably do it. Maybe. There’s a lot to consider there, but the fact that we’re even talking about it feels like a win.

Previous: 2-1 win vs. TOR | Next: 8/27 at RBNY

The Galaxy had Seattle right where they wanted them as they went up 2-0 early thanks to a Chicharito opener and a Victor Vazquez shross that found the net…and then things got weird. Especially for Chicharito, who didn’t necessarily appreciate being subbed off in the second half of what had suddenly turned into a 2-2 game. The Galaxy eventually lucked into a stoppage-time penalty and equalized late in a 3-3 game.

It’s not ideal, but it is a needed point against direct competition for one of the six remaining playoff spots in the West. The Galaxy ended the weekend in seventh place with a game in hand on the rest of the conference.

Previous: 3-3 draw vs. SEA | Next: 8/28 at NE

The public opinion on Seattle this weekend went from “Seattle are washed” to “Seattle are back” to “Let’s wait just a little while longer before jumping to conclusions on Seattle.” 

In all, they probably would have liked to have made things much easier on themselves than going down 2-0 to the Galaxy. But they did come back to earn a road point in one of their toughest remaining games, and ended the weekend still keeping pace for one of the final playoff spots in the West.

I’m not throwing dirt on Seattle until they’ve been officially pronounced out, and neither should you.

Previous: 3-3 draw at LA | Next: 8/26 at POR

Just a point for the Knifey Lions this week after a 1-1 draw at the Red Bulls. There are worse results. But it might not be a surprise they gave up their lone goal on a penalty. Cincinnati have allowed more goals from penalties than any team in the league, with seven conversions on a league-worst nine penalties allowed.

It will also help, in general down the stretch here, if they can sort out whatever’s been going on with their set-piece defense so far this season. Cincy are the worst defense in the league by xG allowed on set pieces, and the second-worst by goals allowed.

They’ll need to limit mistakes like that the rest of the way, and they’ll need to spend the rest of the week getting prepared for Saturday’s game vs. Columbus, the single-most-important edition of the Hell is Real Derby.

Previous: 1-1 draw at RBNY | Next: 8/27 vs. CLB

The Revs kept pace with Toronto midweek before they got absolutely boomed by CF Montréal on Saturday. Not ideal for a team chasing the playoffs. 

To be fair, this isn’t a full-strength Revolution side right now. They were missing Gustavo Bou, Dylan Borrero, Giacomo Vrioni, Maciel and more against Montréal due to injury. And starting center back Henry Kessler didn’t travel. 

The Revs are hoping to get everyone back soon. Hopefully, it’s not too late.

Previous: 4-0 loss at MTL | Next: 8/28 vs. LA

Behind more brilliance from Ryan Gauld, and a first-ever ‘Caps goal from midseason trade acquisition Julian Gressel, Vancouver had a near-perfect week (four of six points). There’s still a lot of work to do though. Their final seven games are against some of the West’s top teams. But who am I to count out a Vanni Sartini-led group down the stretch?

Previous: 1-1 draw at RSL | Next: 8/27 vs. NSH

Portland. What?

Did they get trap-gamed? Were they looking forward to Friday against Seattle a little too much? I can’t understand what happened for them to go into a critical game like this and self-immolate.

Whatever it was, Portland got blown out in their easiest remaining game on their schedule while they’re chasing a playoff spot. Up next: Seattle, Austin, Atlanta, Minnesota, Columbus, LAFC and RSL. It’s impossible to sugarcoat how tough that result was. 

So of course, naturally, that means Portland will cruise through the rest of their schedule and easily make the playoffs. I know how this works. I’ve seen MLS before.

Previous: 4-1 loss at SKC | Next: 8/26 vs. SEA

Bad week.

Ryan Gauld bagged a brace as the Rapids lost a crucial six-pointer to Vancouver and then, with a 1-0 lead on Houston, this happened.

Colorado’s playoff hopes are fading.

Previous: 1-1 draw vs. HOU | Next: 8/27 at PHI

Objectively bad week for the Reds. They took one point from New England and Inter Miami when it kind of felt like they need at least four, maybe six. With just seven games remaining, they’re going to need a few breaks and a handful of wins to salvage this season. The good news though is that you have guys on the roster now that can do this.

If it doesn’t happen this year for Toronto, they’ll be just fine thinking about what next year might be.

Previous: 2-1 loss at MIA | Next: 8/27 at CLT

A late goal from Tesho Akindele and a 2-1 Orlando win put a dent in Charlotte’s playoff hopes, but a massive 3-1 win over NYCFC midweek kept them within striking distance when the dust settled on Week 26.

Charlotte have strung together two consecutive wins just once this year. That might be their ultimate undoing in an up-and-down expansion year.

Previous: 2-1 loss vs. ORL | Next: 8/27 vs. TOR

After receiving their regularly scheduled beating from the Red Bulls midweek, Atlanta United played one of their best games of the season against Columbus. Of course, the entire thing got derailed by two critical moments where they shut off defensively, but, hey, they still looked good going forward. 

This team isn’t quite on that level, but I can’t help but think about last year’s LAFC team with this group in the sense that any moments of joy are immediately ruined by them stepping on a rake defensively. There are definitely plenty of things to fix with this group, but they aren’t that far away from leveling up. Their two attacking performances against Cincinnati and Columbus with a mostly-healthy XI have shown that.

But it may be too little too late on Atlanta United’s 2022 playoff hopes.

Previous: 2-2 draw at CLB | Next: 8/28 vs. DC

Let’s check where we’re at in the process.

I can see it → Oh, no → Oh, yikes, no → Well, maybe → Nope → But let’s just… → Oh, ok immediate no on that → But what if they tweak this → This looks better! → OH NO. THEY GOT ME AGAIN → No. → I’m not falling for that → No, forever. → Offseason → I can see it.

Ah, looks like we’re steering into either “No.” or “No, forever.” We’ll see if Chicago can get another win or two before the end of the year to drag us back into “I’m not falling for that'' one last time. But it seems like we’re nearing the end here. Chicago are five points and a game out of hand from the playoff line with eight games left.

Previous: 2-0 loss vs. NYC | Next: 8/27 vs. MTL

Hang the banner.

Anyway, congrats to whoever is the proud owner of Paul Marie’s shorts now.

Previous: 2-1 win vs. LAFC | Next: 8/27 at SKC

SKC suddenly look a lot more like SKC, getting a healthy dose of optimism for 2023. 

Even more encouraging, they’re getting serious production from two of their new signings. William Agada’s brace against Portland gave him five goals in four starts since joining SKC, and Erik Thommy now has a pair of goals in his first four starts. They both happen to be bangers.

Previous: 4-1 win vs. POR | Next: 8/27 vs. SJ

Houston earned a late point against Colorado and got to play spoiler a little bit. Those are the kinds of things that can keep you going at the end of a season.

Previous: 1-1 draw at COL | Next: 8/27 at MIN

One goal better against Philadelphia than last time!

D.C. United have not scored in five games. At least Christian Benteke may debut this weekend?

Previous: 6-0 loss vs. PHI | Next: 8/28 at ATL