Voices: Sam Jones

Power Rankings: NYCFC, FC Dallas zoom into top spots after Week 11

What a week in MLS. Adam Buksa, Taxi Fountas, Leo Campana and Jesus Ferreira all scored. Jeremy Ebobisse bagged a brace, Toronto gave up a stoppage-time winner and San Jose played a wild 3-3 game. It was truly a week unlike any other.

Like always, this is not my fault. The Power Rankings are voted on by a collection of MLSsoccer.com editors, writers and personalities. You can trust the world’s longest-standing cornerstone of democracy, The Power Rankings, with your whole heart. Probably.

This week’s Power Rankings show, with Andrew Wiebe, Matt Doyle and an assortment of guests, can be seen below.

They might just be bored at this point. Start 20-year-old Gabriel Pereira in your incredibly young and talented attacking front four instead of the 21-year-old U22 Initiative player with four goals you normally play with? Sure. Put Maxi Moralez, one of the best chance creators in MLS history, as a regista-esque no. 6? Yeah. Totally. What are you going to do about it besides stand there and watch?

Power Rankings – NYC 5.17.22

NYCFC went 4W-0L-1D in their post-CCL homestand and have looked like the most dangerous team in the league over that timespan, outscoring their opponents 16-4. It will get a bit more difficult from here, with four of their next six games coming on the road, but it’s hard to imagine them doing anything but pulverizing teams right now. 

Previous: 2-0 win vs. CLB | Next: 5/18 at DC

Whoooooo boy Dallas did not mess around one bit this weekend.

That’s the third of three goals Dallas ambushed the Galaxy with in the first 23 minutes of a 3-1 win that sent Dallas to the second spot in the Supporters’ Shield standings. 

Now, I think we probably need to be a little careful about where we project their ceiling the rest of the way. They’re outperforming their xG at a per-game rate that would be the highest in MLS since 2013 if it weren’t for Austin. However, we can absolutely be sure this team’s floor is very, very high right now. I feel like I’m repeating myself each week, but a front three of Jesus Ferreira, Paul Arriola and Alan Velasco is a problem and a half to deal with over 90 minutes. The midfield is effective in nearly every phase. And the backline has this team ninth in the league in expected goals allowed. This team is excellent. 

Plus, and I think you’ll agree this is the most compelling evidence of Dallas as a surefire playoff team…

I don’t know if we’re talking about a Shield-winning team here. But we’re definitely talking about a team that could host a playoff game or two and make a run. And we’re definitely talking about every possible individual trophy going to Ferreira. He’s leading the league in goals and is tied for the league lead in goal contributions and only seems to be getting better. 

Previous: 3-1 win at LA | Next: 5/18 at VAN

Another weekend, another win for CF Montréal. Would you expect anything less at this point? They’re on a club-record eight-game unbeaten run and, per Opta, they’ve reached the 20-point mark quicker than all but the 2013 edition of the team. Djordje Mihailovic has been a major part of that of course, adding goal number six in this one to go along with his four assists on the year. But it’s important to note that the crippling giveaways that contributed to their rough start to the regular season (and to some extent their CCL exit) have disappeared.

CF Montréal are deservedly at the top of the East. 

Previous: 2-0 win at CLT | Next: 5/18 at NSH

It’s the first time all year it feels like LAFC were truly outplayed. If you look at their game-by-game xG, it’s definitely the first time LAFC were even remotely outplayed. If you’re only doing that once every 11 games, you’re going to be fine. They’re still on top of the league and people aren’t exactly walking into Commerce City and coming away with easy points as of late. There’s just not a lot to worry about here. Although…

The loss to the Rapids is the first game all year Ilie Sanchez didn’t start. He’s 31 with a whole lot of minutes on his legs. If he wears down throughout the season or needs to be rotated in and out with some consistency throughout the year there might be some questions to ask about how LAFC’s midfield will hold up. Not saying there will be. Just that there might be. If anything, Saturday showed us how critical he’s been.

Previous: 2-0 loss at COL | Next: 5/18 vs. ATX

Yes, Seattle actually dropped after a 3-1 win. Let’s call it a possible course correction after previously being in the Western Conference’s basement while prioritizing Concacaf Champions League. And that other teams’ movement impacts their spot.

Seattle finally got to put out a fully-focused, fully-rested best XI and looked a lot like the team that just won CCL. Obed Vargas continued to hold his own in place of the injured Joao Paulo and while this team definitely won’t be the same in any way without him, they won’t be totally lost without him either. Which all means Seattle are about to start piling up points and climbing their way up the standings. It’s only a matter of time before they’re back in a home playoff spot. The hole is probably too deep for much more than that, but why would we waste time counting the best team in Concacaf out?

Previous: 3-1 win vs. MIN | Next: 5/18 at HOU

The Union are skidding all of a sudden. They haven’t won since April 9. I mean, they’ve only lost once in that time period, but they definitely haven’t won either. And that one loss came at Toronto.

To be fair, that stretch has also included games against CF Montréal, Nashville, LAFC and Red Bulls. There won’t be many stretches in MLS this season on that level. Coming up with a point in each isn’t the worst possible outcome. But the Union’s problems have remained the same over that stretch and haven’t really shown signs of improving. You can’t help but wonder what their results would have been like with a forward finishing consistently.

Previous: 1-1 draw vs. RBNY | Next: 5/18 vs. MIA

No one would have blamed them for struggling the rest of the way against Philadelphia after Dylan Nealis’ 55th-minute red card. Instead, they responded and Luquinhas delivered one of the best road points in MLS this season.

The Red Bulls are 7W-0L-1D on the road in all competitions this year, Luquinhas is one of the best signings they’ve made in a long while and they were able to swipe a point from a rival who seemed pretty intent on not letting them do that.

Anyway, the Red Bulls are third in the East on points per game and second in the league in expected goal differential. Things are going well. Maybe one day they’ll even win a home game.

Previous: 1-1 draw at PHI | Next: 5/18 vs. CHI

Cincy aren’t just good now, they’re starting to be lucky too. Past versions of this team would have absolutely folded after Chicago’s second-half equalizer. This group kept pushing and eventually caught a break while having the talent to capitalize on it. Gaga Slonina’s misstep allowed a chance for Luciano Acosta to do damage and he finished the drill. 

The 2-1 win gave them their fourth straight MLS win and their fourth road win in seven tries this year. And after an unlucky start relative to their underlying numbers, it seems like they’re starting to regress to the mean a bit. Cincy are 10th in the league on points per game and probably deserve to be a little better. This timeline rules. 

Acosta has a lot to do with that. He’s a legitimate MVP candidate right now in a crowded field. He has eight goal contributions on the season and sits third in the league in non-penalty xG+xA, just behind Jesus Ferreira and Taty Castellanos.

Previous: 2-1 win at CHI | Next: 5/21 vs. NE

The Galaxy entered the weekend as the league leader in open-play xG allowed. They are no longer the league leader in open-play xG allowed.

So, if they aren’t an uber-elite defense and they’re 19th in the league in total xG for, then…it seems like they’re just kind of ok? I’d imagine they’ll be fine defensively and maybe among the league’s best. I’m not sure when and how this attack will start thriving though. Don’t sell all your stock in the Galaxy or anything. But keep in mind the attack doesn’t seem to be improving, the defense just got carved open and they don’t have a recent history of earning points with more consistency as the season goes on. There’s some reason to worry here.

Previous: 3-1 loss vs. DAL | Next: 5/18 at MIN

Congrats to Orlando on officially being this year’s team none of us will ever figure out and should really just give up on trying to assess. In the last four weeks, they’ve put up two of the single worst performances of the season in miserable losses and won the week after. I don't know what to make of it. But I do know American Soccer Analysis’ expected points model has them as the 20th-best team in the league while the actual points model (aka the standings) has them on 20 points and tied for first in the East.  

I think we should just let Orlando exist for a few weeks without making any more assumptions and circle back a couple of months from now to see if anyone’s figured out what’s actually going on.

Previous: 1-0 win at TOR | Next: 5/22 at ATX

Things were going just fine until a Daniel Pereira DOGSO sent Austin down to 10 men and into retreat. Their 1-0 lead evaporated, RSL piled on chances and Los Verdes took their second loss in as many games. It’s a tough blow. And they’re not even the best team on points per game in Texas anymore. And they’re still outperforming their underlying numbers at a historic rate. And Daniel Pereira will miss the next game. And everyone keeps using Matthew McConaughey clips to dunk on them every time they lose now. But at least Austin can take some time and regroup for…[checking]...LAFC on Wednesday.

Dang. Kind of tough out here right now, huh? 

Previous: 2-1 loss at RSL | Next: 5/18 at LAFC

What a weekend for the Rapids.

Just 48 hours or so after playing a weather-delayed USOC game against Minnesota, Colorado took on the early season Supporters’ Shield leaders and outplayed them from start to finish. Diego Rubio and Gyasi Zardes bagged penalties, Auston Trusty/Lalas Abubakar played a major role in keeping LAFC’s attack quiet and the Rapids are now unbeaten in their last 22 (regular season) games at home. Besides NYCFC, they probably have the best home-field advantage in the league and, full credit to them, they’ve taken full advantage of it.

Overall, their 2-0 win is a heckuva response after getting run off the field against LAFC at the start of the season. The fact they did it on short rest and without Jack Price in the starting lineup makes it even more remarkable. I’ll defer to Robin Fraser to sum it all up…

“I am so f---ing proud of this team. The amount of adversity we've had to deal with this week, the extremely, extremely challenging circumstances," Fraser said. "And on the heels of what we've done – I mean, we were playing 48 hours ago. That's unprecedented."

Previous: 2-0 win vs. LAFC | Next: 5/18 at SKC

Uh oh.

So yeah, that could have gone better. Nashville were up a man on Houston for 55 minutes and things got worse for the Coyotes. They put just two shots on frame and lost the single-game xG battle. 

Afterward, manager Gary Smith seemed less than thrilled about…literally everything. Nashville’s squad depth got called into question, he called players out for not performing up to the level he expects of them – he just kind of generally went in on everything. It was remarkably honest. And probably pretty well-deserved considering the general consensus from Nashville fans is that Saturday marked the team’s worst-ever performance in MLS. 

In theory, Nashville probably have some allocation money to play with this summer. Considering the fact it doesn’t seem like Ake Loba is going to become a star anytime soon and players like Alistair Johnston haven’t really been replaced since they were traded and, ya know, the whole “Gary Smith actively calling for improved squad depth in a press conference” thing, it feels like squad depth might be a major focus in the Secondary Transfer Window. At least it seems like they’ll probably have a chance to make a few moves. There are worse strategies than loading up on GAM and addressing your needs in the summer.

Previous: 2-0 loss at HOU | Next: 5/18 vs. MTL

After their 2-1 win over Austin, RSL are fifth in the West. Damir Kreilach has started three games. Not to go full Pablo Mastroeni here, but you really can throw stats out the window when you’re getting those kinds of results while missing one of the league’s best and most productive players. In a post-Albert Rusnak world, this is as good a first third of the season as they could have asked for. So let’s not focus on anything else and just watch Andrew Body ping the hell out of this ball into the top corner.

Previous: 2-1 win vs. ATX | Next: 5/22 at MTL

It’s increasingly clear things are starting to click for Atlanta in attack in a way they haven’t since the end of 2019. They’re currently sixth in the league in expected goals from open play and have been climbing up that list for the last month or so. After putting up four goals against Chicago last week, they scored twice this weekend against the Revs after piling on 26 shots. Moving Luiz Araujo to the left wing seemed to add some needed balance to the attack and it was no surprise when he found the back of the net in this one. After scoring against Nashville in the USOC midweek, it seems like he’s starting to find his footing. That’s a scary sign for the rest of the East.

That being said, there’s not too much to worry about if Atlanta can’t sort things out defensively. There’s a worrying trend with the Five Stripes now where individual errors or team-wide momentary shutdowns are allowing for easy goals. With Miles Robinson gone, they have even less of a safety blanket for these kinds of situations. Their attack is starting to look like an “Atlanta United” team again. Now they have to stop undercutting themselves defensively and they may just be fine.

Previous: 2-2 draw vs. NE | Next: 5/21 at NSH

The Revs are 3W-1L-2D in their last six games in all competitions and it feels like they’re finally about to wake up in full from a miserable, injury-laden start to the season. In particular, Adam Buksa and Carles Gil are slicing teams apart as of late. Buksa has eight goals in his last six games and Gil has six assists in his last five games. It’s probably not fair to expect them to keep carrying the load like this, but who’s going to stop them from doing it? Two of the best players in the league are thriving right now, the Revs have finally figured out how to give Matt Polster a little more help and they’ve got Matt Turner back. At least for a while. 

They earned a point on the road in Atlanta this weekend and I’d expect them to keep picking up points as we move along. Especially once they get past their next two against Cincy and Philadelphia.

Previous: 2-2 draw at ATL | Next: 5/21 at CIN

Houston signed Coco Carrasquilla to a permanent deal last week. They took down Nashville 2-0 despite going down to 10 men in the 35th minute and snapped a three-game losing streak last weekend. And Hector Herrera will be arriving sooner rather than later. It is a really, really good time to start buying into what’s happening in H-Town. 

Previous: 2-0 win vs. NSH | Next: 5/18 vs. SEA

To recap, my working theory on the three kinds of Timbers games is:

  • Timbers Game Type (TGT) 1: Final xG finishes like 1.1-0.8 and the game ends 1-0 or 1-1 or no one scores.
  • TGT 2: Mollywhopped by a team from Texas.
  • TGT 3: Roman candles lit and attached to a spinning ceiling fan in a crowded but dark room.

“But JSam, what does a TGT 3 really look like?” you ask. 


Power Rankings - Portland 5.17.22

No notes. We’ve reached the platonic ideal. I’m so happy to share this moment with y’all. 

I’d like to say it’s a moment that’s a catalyst for this Timbers attack and we see them truly pick things up from here on out. But I’m hesitant. Largely because this SKC team is simply that bad right now. It can’t hurt though. Especially if Nathan Fogaca can really be a key piece of the attack going forward.

We’ll see how they handle an interesting week with matches against San Jose and the Union before we jump to any conclusions though. Kind of seems like a TGT 3 and a TGT 1 are on the way, but you never know with this team. 

Previous: 7-2 win vs. SKC | Next: 5/18 at SJ

I’m not sure anyone is going to win again in New York against NYCFC this season. They’re practically unstoppable on a smaller field. But considering that the field is a bit smaller than most, you think it would be both easier and more critical to keep track of the best forward in the league.

On a very related note, Columbus have won just once in their last eight games and have yet to win a road game this year.

Previous: 2-0 loss at NYC | Next: 5/21 vs. LAFC

Minnesota United played Seattle this weekend. And, yeah, that went about how that normally goes. 

It doesn’t seem like it was for lack of effort or complacency though. Adrian Heath is definitely making tactical and personnel tweaks and it’s not like this group is spiraling. It’s just that this group may not be all that good. 

The Loons are the fourth-worst team in the league by expected goal differential per American Soccer Analysis. They would be third-worst, but that spot currently belongs to Seattle, who they just lost to and were focused on other things their first eight games. I’m not sure I see many reasons for optimism in Minnesota right now. Other than the fact that I just gave them bulletin board material.

Previous: 3-1 loss at SEA | Next: 5/18 vs. LA

I spent a decent chunk of words last week pumping the brakes on Taxi Fountas’s hot start. And even now, I can pull up Second Spectrum and see he’s averaging 0.57 goals above his xG per game. That’s almost more than double the next closest player. But after he picked up another goal (his fifth) and an assist (his second) in a 2-2 draw against Miami and realizing he’s contributed to all seven of D.C.’s goals over the last four games, I’ve taken into an account an element I didn’t previously consider: Taxi Fountas might be the greatest soccer player of all time. 

So. Yeah. Tough to argue with that. Can’t see him slowing down any time soon. He’s a part of why D.C. are currently eighth in the East in points per game and the biggest reason why we might have put D.C.’s season to bed far too early.

Previous: 2-2 draw at MIA | Next: 5/18 vs. NYC

Charlotte’s home magic ran out this weekend and they picked up their first loss at Bank of America Stadium since their opener against the Galaxy. A lot of teams have run out of magic against CF Montréal lately though. The biggest concern for The Crown continues to be their ability to create in the final third. They’ve scored the second-fewest goals in the East and DP forward Karol Swiderski hasn’t scored since March. A large part of it seems to be down to the lack of service he’s getting. He’s eighth in the league in shots from open play and 60th in the league in expected goals. Quality chances just aren’t there even if the effort is.

In fact, the team as a whole is last in the league in xG per shot. They’re lacking the kind of creative instincts and personnel they need to find the clear-cut chances consistently and, as an expansion team, that might just kind of be who they are this year. It happens. And it could be far worse. At least it feels like there’s a tactical structure in place.

Previous: 2-0 loss vs. MTL | Next: 5/22 vs. VAN

They should be genuinely upset about blowing a 2-0 lead at home but at least Leo Campana scored his sixth goal of the season and continues to look like a legitimate start and at least someone besides Leo Campana scored. Damion Lowe’s goal is the first Inter Miami goal in MLS belonging to someone besides Campana since late April.

Previous: 2-2 draw vs. DC | Next: 5/18 at PHI

The Quakes are the kind of person who tells you as soon as you meet them, immediately and without prompting, that they hate drama. And, actually, they broke up recently because their significant other was too much drama. Then they do this.

San Jose - Power Rankings 5.17.22

So, yeah, doesn’t seem like San Jose have changed their ways all that much. Even without Matias Almeyda. But they are getting results without him. Alex Covelo is 2W-1L-1D in MLS since taking over and the Quakes are onto the Round of 16 in the USOC. Plus, Jeremy Ebobisse is turning into an attacking force. He’s scored seven times in his last seven games and has three braces in his last six games.  

The Quakes may not be devoid of chaos anymore, but they’re already reaping a few rewards from the managerial change.

Previous: 3-3 draw at VAN | Next: 5/18 vs. POR

Well. Chicago got Rafael Czichos back after his one-game suspension and I guess Chicago’s backline did technically improve from last week’s 4-1 loss to Atlanta. But also, this happened.

Couple that with a critical mistake from Gaga Slonina late in the game and you get a 2-1 loss to Cincy and five losses and two draws in your last seven games. The Fire haven’t won since March 19 and now one of the players that felt like a cornerstone set to hold everything together is riding the struggle bus.

In the 400 minutes Slonina played through March 19, he was the second-best ‘keeper in the league when it came to shot-stopping. His goals allowed compared to the expected goals numbers he faced were only behind Dayne St. Clair. Since March 19, Slonina has been the second \worst\ shot-stopper in the league, just barely ahead of Tim Melia.

I don’t quite know how to explain it other than to say he just turned 18 and he’ll be fine long-term. He’s far and away from the biggest problem Chicago have. But he’s not lessening the impact of those problems right now like we thought he would.

Previous: 2-1 loss vs. CIN | Next: 5/18 at RBNY

They were missing Ryan Gauld and Caio Alexandre in midfield and got dragged into the gravity of the chaos Quakes. It happens. But they at least still got a result. In small part due to Erik Godoy’s 90th-minute equalizer and large part due to Vanni Sartini’s lucky sweater.

The Caps could probably use a little more luck as of late. But things might get better once new DP midfielder Andres Cubas officially arrives.

Previous: 3-3 draw vs. SJ | Next: 5/18 vs. DAL

Toronto played a lineup that included two 21-year-olds and four 19-year-olds in their 1-0 loss to Orlando. That’s back-to-back weeks with a 1-0 loss from a stoppage-time goal and five straight weeks with a loss. It’s not going well. But it feels important to keep in mind how young these lineups have been and that they’ve somewhat regularly been missing half a team worth of starters. Or more.

It’s bad, but it could get better. And I really hope it does for poor Alex Bono’s sake.

Previous: 1-0 loss vs. ORL | Next: 5/21 at DC

We’ll let Johnny Russell take the mic here. Their captain, um, wasn’t happy after a 7-2 loss at Portland.

“To concede six goals in one half of a game is, I’m trying to choose my words carefully here, it’s not even embarrassing. It’s so far beyond that. It’s just a complete disgrace as a professional, individually and as a team,” Russell said.

“That second half is so unacceptable on so many levels. I don’t even know what to say honestly. I’ve never been as embarrassed in my whole career. I’ve had some low times in my career but this is number one. Already this season hasn’t been acceptable. Just pathetic really in the second half. Not good enough. Actually, I’m embarrassed to call ourselves professionals.”

Previous: 7-2 loss at POR | Next: 5/18 vs. COL