What a week in MLS.
Disclaimer: The Power Rankings are voted on by the entirety of the MLSsoccer.com editorial staff. The rankings are not created by me. I did not personally do this. You should probably be lightly made fun of if you still think the actual rankings are made by just one person. Unless it’s your team specifically that you’re mad about. I did that on purpose. Just ruined the sanctity of the most sacred tradition in sports: The Power Rankings. Anyway, you should really recognize that the stakes have never been lower.
Seattle finally gave up a goal from open play last weekend. No, really, they did. In late June. They even needed a late goal from Jimmy Medranda to get a point from Vancouver. It’s growing increasingly possible they might actually lose a game or two by the end of the season, especially as the absences of Nicolas Lodeiro and Stefan Frei become more apparent over time.
I mean, don’t hold your breath or anything. But it could happen.
The Revs had an opportunity to take the top spot in the Supporters’ Shield standings with a win over a struggling FC Dallas side on Sunday. Instead, Ricardo Pepi scored twice and New England picked up their second loss of the season. It’s their third straight game allowing two goals. It’s an out-of-character stretch for a really good team that probably understands how needing to score three times a game is unsustainable.
Well, it’s only sorta out of character. They’re really not in the spectacular company when it comes to giving up chances. The Revs are 10th in the East when it comes to expected goals allowed. Atlanta United, CF Montréal, Toronto FC and FC Cincinnati are the only worse teams. That will need to improve if the Revs are going to challenge Seattle for the Shield, even if Gustavo Bou is gonna score in every game like he has in their last four.
Daryl Dike looks like he might actually be crashing on Orlando’s couch longer than expected and the Lions are finally looking like the attacking force we knew they could be coming into the year. They whooped San Jose 5-0 on Tuesday and then found two late goals against Inter Miami CF to complete an absolutely phenomenal week. They’ve won three straight and are breathing heavily and menacingly behind New England for the East’s top spot. They’re two points behind the Revs with a game in hand and are just four points off Seattle with a game in hand. The Lions could very well be a genuine threat for a trophy if they (Nani) don’t fade down the stretch.
A pair of one-goal wins over Atlanta and D.C. United in the last week have pushed NYCFC up the ladder. It’s hard to not be impressed by how Ronny Deila's team has played and how they appear to be improving. The addition of Thiago Andrade has already paid dividends, and the young Brazillian offers a lot of promise for the future. He has two goals in his first two appearances, and one of those goals just happens to be this.
So, yeah. That and a whole bunch of positive underlying numbers – like the fact that they’re first in the league in expected goal differential – have NYCFC here.
Gianluca Busio is an absolute star. Daniel Salloi is the best comeback story in MLS (non-Chicharito division). And few teams in the league react to blood in the water like Sporting. As soon as LAFC went down a man over the weekend, you could feel SKC shift into gear. They were at least going to find an equalizer, maybe a winner. They found that winner thanks to Salloi, who has seven goals and three assists this season after only having one goal and one assist over the last two seasons. He scored three of those goals in the last week. SKC have five wins from losing positions this season and Salloi has played a huge role.
Now they just need to make sure Alan Pulido heals from his literal wounds.*
*Not. For. The squeamish.
Somewhat of a mixed bag recently for the Union. They started with a comeback 2-2 draw against Atlanta, snuck a 1-0 win over Columbus in the middle and played a frenetic and entertaining 3-3 draw against Chicago where they needed Chicago to punch the ball of their own player and into their own net to get a point. That’s not bad news, I’m just not sure it’s great news.
The good news is that Philadelphia’s top scientists grow closer every day to creating an entire team of 15-year-old midfielders who are Best XI-quality and are also really close to figuring out the scientifically-defined “perfect” Wawa order. Oh, and 17-year-old Quinn Sullivan did this:
Apparently, Sullivan’s little brother also does things like this for the Union academy. There are also apparently multiple Sullivan “brothers” in the Union academy. I’m increasingly less sure the “created in a lab” thing is a bit.
Chicharito is the first player to score 10 goals in 2021 and the Galaxy are one of five teams with at least 21 points. It’s been a strong start by almost any measure. By Galaxy measures, it’s a little more than that. They took 20 games to do that in 2020. In less than half the time, they’ve nearly matched last year’s 22-game point total. I’m still personally wary of the expected goals allowed numbers, as well as the actual goals allowed numbers.
The Crew have created the least amount of expected goals of any team in MLS. They were shut out twice last week. You keep expecting them to improve and when it seems like they’re heading that way, they have a week like that. Yet they’re still sitting just fine in the standings. The defense is still stellar, even if the attack isn’t taking the defending MLS Cup champions to the potential heights we thought they’d reach before the season began.
I wrote in last week’s Power Rankings that Colorado are a good team. I also wrote that they hadn’t played a definite playoff-level team yet. They played a definite playoff-level team. Sporting KC won 3-1. Seattle are up next.
A week after beating Sporting at home, the Timbers stumbled a bit. They drew with a pretty good Houston team, then took a loss to a resurgent Minnesota team. At the very least, both Diegos are playing and Sebastian Blanco, who missed Saturday for precautionary reasons, should be back on Thursday against Austin.
Minnesota are unbeaten in six games. They’re in fifth place in the Western Conference, all after losing their first four games. They picked up six points total against Austin and Portland last week.
However, the win over Portland was marred by an allegation that a racist comment was directed toward a Portland player. Per an MLS statement, "an investigation into this matter has already begun."
RBNY stalled a bit this week. They went down 3-0 to New England before making a late push, then drew 0-0 at Atlanta. We’ll have to give them the benefit of the doubt, though. This team just runs a little differently with RB Leipzig-bound midfielder Caden Clark in the lineup. He missed both games due to an appendectomy. He’s listed as week-to-week.
Zombie Nashville is an apex predator kind of zombie. Like the cool ones in “I Am Legend.” Not like the lame ones that barely move and unathletic people can escape from. Also like the ones in “I Am Legend,” they can only come out when it’s late. Luke Haakenson scored in the 83rd and 92nd minutes to send the Golden Boys past Toronto, then Abu Danladi scored in the 94th to get Nashville a point against CF Montréal.
Just when you think they’re dead, they become stronger than ever. But maybe one day they’ll go to a place where they can feel safe all the time. Where they don’t have to worry about becoming a zombie and can just win a game from the beginning. Like those people at the end of “I Am Legend,” which came out in 2007. Starring Will Smith. And has a 7.2 on IMDb. $585.3 million. This is a reference you’re understanding and is totally acceptable to make. Come on y’all, it was on TNT like every day from 2009-15. I’m not saying it’s a great movie, but you know this movie. I promise you know this movie. Just like you know that Nashville are going to score an equalizer or worse if you let them get close at the end of the game.
To quote from The Daily Kickoff, the daily MLSsoccer.com newsletter:
Man. Once again it seemed like things were going right for LAFC. Yet even still there was … something. There's just this feeling you get right now watching this team that there's about to be a moment of darkness at any second. Like people who can feel rain coming in their joints. And as soon as Tristan Blackmon misplayed a pass in his own third that ended at the feet of Gianluca Busio, you could feel a sudden weight crash into you that signaled a major shift.
Busio played the ball into the space behind Blackmon. Blackmon dragged an SKC player down outside the box. A red card came out. And from that point, you knew LAFC had no chance to win this game. They were still up 1-0 at this point, but you knew.
The stats back up the feeling. They've now dropped 12 points from winning positions in just 10 games. Every now and then for chunks at a time, a team just feels like something's broken. That's kind of what it feels like right now. It's a strangely self-destructive existence for LAFC. Small mistakes are compounding and turning into big ones. And I don't know how it corrects itself except to say something vague like "They need more confidence!" and "Wait till they believe in themselves!"
It may just be one of those things that simply evens out over time. Every team is going to drop points, every team is going to have moments where they make small mistakes. LAFC's could just be clustering right now. All I really know is that they remain as confusing as ever.
OK, 15 teams in I’m realizing there were maybe like three teams that actually had stretches better than what could accurately be described as “meh.” Real Salt Lake were not one of them. They lost to Seattle midweek and tied Houston over the weekend. They’re still eighth in the West, but they’ve only won once in their last seven games.
D.C. United were so close to picking up their second win of the season against NYCFC. Like inches. Before Thiago Andrade ran the length of the field to find the back of the net, they nearly scored themselves. At least they can take solace in the fact that Moses Nyeman and Nigel Robertha apparently have this in their tool kit.
Pretty good team got two pretty good draws because they’re exactly pretty good. Oh and because Maxi Urruti has six goals this season. That’s helping, too.
We’ll see if new DP signing Teenage Hadebe, a Zimbabwe national team defender, can help take them past being pretty good.
One more game until the Secondary Transfer Window opens up. There need to be changes and the front office needs a win. There’s just not a whole lot of confidence around the team and throughout the fan base right now. The fact that they’re second-to-last in non-penalty expected goals is a major part of that. And the current roster isn’t going to change that as constructed.
It was always going to be some form of a “Year Zero” for Gabrel Heinze. No one realistically expected Atlanta to challenge for trophies in 2021. Maybe optimistically, but not realistically. However, no one expected things to be quite so challenging. Atlanta need to continue reshaping this team. It’s in desperate need of optimism and sometimes change is the only way to create that.
Montréal have an unfortunate habit of dropping points late. Off the top of my head, they’ve allowed a late winner or an equalizer four times this season. It comes out to 10 points dropped after the 70th minute this season. Add 10 points to this team and they’re tied with New England. For now, they’re just tied for a playoff spot after two draws this week. It could definitely be far worse. It could definitely be better.
Yeah, you gotta start Ricardo Pepi.
“Now it's working with Claudio and certainly our scouting department on trying to identify targets,” head coach Josh Wolff said last week. “We do need a striker. We don't have a striker and that's an area that we can certainly make some additions, as well as some other places.”
Austin FC need a striker. This is going to be the blurb until they score again. And I really need them to score in front of that Q2 Stadium crowd. The world needs it.
Cincy have given up just four goals in their last five games. They’ve won three of their last five games. If they can be a team that frustrates more talented teams defensively and maybe grabs a set-piece or a banger from Luciano Acosta every now and then, they can get some results and they can keep building. More importantly, they can maybe even move into the Top 20.
“Possible Top 20 Power Rankings Candidate.” Hang the banner, Cincy.
Matias Almeyda got a yellow card and it was by far the most fun thing that happened to San Jose this week.
They gave Seattle more of a scare than any other team so far. They even scored from open play. Twice! Seattle hadn’t allowed that to happen this year and Vancouver spent like six weeks of the season before they actually did that themselves. This is the moral victory of the season so far.
If it weren’t for an own goal where they, ya know, punched the ball of their own player and into their own net, Chicago would have gotten three points against Philly. Oh, and Alvaro Medran was very good. More of that, please.
Inter Miami played once last week and blew a 1-0 lead to their biggest rival. Only two teams have fewer points. Not great.
Yeah, it’s sort of like that right now for Toronto FC.