Voices: Sam Jones

Power Rankings: NYCFC, Inter Miami, Vancouver skyrocket after Weeks 31 & 32


What a week in MLS. Sebastian Driussi and Hany Mukhtar scored, Andre Blake kept a team from doing the same despite their repeated attempts to do so, and Chicago Fire FC were eliminated from Audi MLS Cup Playoffs contention. It was truly a week unlike any other.

As always, this is not my fault. The Power Rankings presented by Sorare 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. The real problem is the preseason MLSsoccer.com predictions, which unfairly gave teams bulletin board material that powered them to postseason berths. Predict every team last next time you cowards and maybe everyone will have a fair shot at this.

Collect, play and win with your favorite MLS stars in global fantasy soccer at Sorare.com.

Philadelphia failed to put a shot on target at Atlanta and put up just five shots in total. The thing is though, that’s not that big a deal when you have Andre Blake.

The Union are now even on league-leading points (64) with LAFC after their 0-0 draw this weekend, but LAFC have the tiebreaker thanks to two extra wins this season (20 vs. 18). They’ll need a break or two to take home the Supporters’ Shield. Fortunately for them, LAFC face Portland and Nashville while the Union get Charlotte and Toronto.

Previous: 0-0 draw at ATL | Next: 10/1 at CLT

After a four-point week, they’re back on top of the Supporters’ Shield race. With two games left, they’re equal on points and games with Philly, but ahead on wins. All they have to do to clinch a trophy is…beat Portland and Nashville, teams playing for their playoff lives. They’ve still got plenty of work to do, but it feels like they’re finding a sense of stability heading into the final few weeks of the season.

Previous: 3-1 win vs. HOU | Next: 10/2 at POR

A six-point week for CF Montréal has second place in the Eastern Conference locked up. This team has lost just once since mid-July (9W-1L-3D stretch). Good luck to whoever meets them in the playoffs – you’ll likely need it.

Previous: 1-0 win at NE | Next: 10/1 vs. DC

Austin picked up four points this week against two playoff teams and seem locked into second place in the Western Conference, like they have been for about two months now. It is interesting, at least, to see them try to integrate DP attacker Emiliano Rigoni into the fold with just a few games remaining. The Argentine winger is still looking for his first goal contribution after 200 minutes of play. 

They don’t have all that much time to figure out if Rigoni’s truly an upgrade this season on the options they already had in Diego Fagundez (6 goals, 15 assists) and Ethan Finlay (5 goals, 6 assists). When the playoffs come, are they really going to give him the start over more proven options?

Previous: 1-1 draw vs. NSH | Next: 10/1 at VAN

FC Dallas are officially a playoff team. Full credit to Nico Estevez and company for an outstanding year one. And they’ve done it largely with academy guys and proven MLS guys like Paul Arriola. They’ve gotten so much right and will probably go ahead and wrap up a home playoff spot soon as well. 

Also: It’s nice to be No. 1 (again).

Previous: 1-1 draw at SJ | Next: 10/1 at COL

NYCFC back?

They had a chance at a trophy last week against Liga MX’s Atlas in the Campeones Cup, and it seems like that gave them a shot in the arm. They not only won Campeones Cup in one of their best performances in weeks, but immediately took it to the Red Bulls in the Hudson River Derby on Saturday. 

Suddenly, it seems like NYCFC are heading in the right direction for the first time in months. We’ll see if the international break stunts that momentum or solidifies the adjustments they’ve made, but at least we learned NYCFC still have some fight in them to go along with all that talent. 

And we also learned that Nick Cushing is a man of the people.

Previous: 2-0 win vs. RBNY | Next: 10/2 vs. ORL

They got caught by NYCFC, but they went ahead and locked down a playoff spot anyway. They’re one point ahead of NYCFC with two games left to go and five points ahead of Orlando, who have a game in hand. They would have rather taken the derby win, but things are far from bad in Harrison.

Previous: 2-0 loss at NYC | Next: 10/1 at CLB

Nashville head into our final international break sitting in a home playoff spot after their draw at Austin. If they take care of business against Houston, they’ll head into Decision Day against LAFC with a clear path to hosting a playoff game at GEODIS Park.

Should they get there, well, it’s hard not to see Nashville as one of the lower-seeded teams most primed to make a run. They’ve allowed just three goals over their last six games and are looking a lot more like the best versions of Nashville we’ve seen over the last couple of years.

Previous: 1-1 draw at ATX | Next: 10/2 vs. HOU

The Timbers ended the weekend fifth in the West and three points clear of the line with two games to go. It’s not perfect, but it could have been much more interesting without Santiago Moreno’s stoppage-time stunner last weekend at Columbus.

Portland still have a ton of work to do though. LAFC and RSL are waiting for them to close the year.

Previous: 1-1 draw at CLB | Next: 10/2 vs. LAFC

Playoff. Cincy. Brenner-ssaince. Yes. All of it. Yes.

Brenner’s brace at RSL extended their undefeated streak all the way back to July 17. That’s 10 games without a loss and it’s now three wins in their last four. They’re three points ahead of seventh-place Inter Miami and close the year with Seattle, Chicago and D.C. United. This feels like a lock. It’s all happening, folks.

Previous: 2-1 win at RSL | Next: 9/27 at SEA

A midweek loss at Vancouver put the Galaxy on the ropes and they responded by pummeling Colorado at home. They’re in seventh place (West) with a game in hand on every team in their vicinity and could jump to fifth place with a win in the Cali Clasico on Saturday. LA, home of highs and lows.

Also: Riqui Puig.

Previous: 4-1 win vs. COL | Next: 9/24 at SJ

There may have been a brief moment of worry for Orlando City after their midweek loss to Atlanta, but the Lions quickly ended most of the anxiety surrounding their playoff hopes with a 4-0 mollywhopping of Toronto this weekend. 

Orlando are fully recovered from their US Open Cup celebration and with new additions like Wilder Cartagena and Ivan Angulo playing well, they’ve all but locked themselves into a playoff spot with three games to go. And an Oscar Pareja-coached team is dangerous in the playoffs no matter what.

Previous: 4-0 win vs. TOR | Next: 10/2 at NYC

The Herons won’t say die. Or maybe they were dead and Gonzalo Higuain is performing acts of Audubon-based necromancy.

Two late goals from Higuain couldn’t have come at a better time and neither could the return of Leo Campana, who contributed a brace against D.C. United in his first start since Aug. 3 and just his second start since July 16. Higuain has 11 goals in his last 13 appearances and Inter Miami are above the line heading into their final three games of the season thanks to holding the tiebreaker (wins) over Columbus (12 vs. 9). 

They have already-eliminated Toronto, Orlando City, and “already locked into second place and ready to rest on Decision Day” CF Montréal left on the schedule. This just might be happening. That’s commendable for a team that lost three straight games coming into the week and a team that had everything in the past two years-plus happen coming into this season overall.

Previous: 3-2 win at DC | Next: 9/30 at TOR

Uh oh.

If you’re keeping track, the Loons have taken exactly one point from their last five games (0W-4L-1D stretch). They’re nosediving. Fast. 

They picked up a point against LAFC midweek then got scathed down by SKC on Saturday – and the injury to center back Bakaye Dibassy is looming very large right now. That five-game stretch began with his season-ending injury and Minnesota have allowed 12 goals since then. They’re two points ahead of eighth-place RSL with two games remaining and trending in the wrong direction.

Previous: 4-1 loss at SKC | Next: 10/1 at SJ

Part one…

Part two…

It’s really like parts 14 and 15 all things considered, but those two goals are a nice, tidy way to tie up everything that happened to the Crew this week and the trend that’s going to define their season. Per Matt Doyle’s Sunday column: “They have now conceded 15 goals when leading or tied after the 75th minute, and just 21 in all other scenarios.”

On a highly-related note, Columbus are now eighth in the East with three games to go. They’ve won just three games in their last 13 and face Red Bulls, Charlotte and Orlando City to close the year. It’s going to be tough.

Previous: 1-1 draw vs. POR | Next: 10/1 vs. RBNY

RSL dropped below the line after losses to Austin and Cincy this week. They’ve won just twice in their last 11 games and three times in their last 16. 

But they’re not dead yet. RSL’s schedule is going to give them every opportunity to safely roll out of this free fall. Their final two games come against the Galaxy and Portland.

Previous: 2-1 loss vs. CIN | Next: 10/1 at LA

The Whitecaps won’t die. That’s a heckuva week from Vancouver there. 

They blasted the Galaxy 3-0 midweek and followed that up with a 2-1 win over Seattle, and they’ve put themselves in position to at least have some hope come Decision Day. They’re three points below the line and have played one game more than the Galaxy, but they’ve stayed alive longer than expected at this point. Might as well keep going.

Vancouver face an Austin team that’s coasting toward the end of the season and then travel to a flailing Minnesota team on Decision Day. Two wins and 46 points to end the season just might improbably get them into the postseason.

Previous: 2-1 win vs. SEA | Next: 10/1 vs. ATX

If (when) Atlanta miss out on the playoffs, add this to the top of the highlight reel of “Moments that could have saved the season if they went the other way.”

Atlanta are playing their best ball of the season a little too late. After a win at Orlando and a 0-0 draw against Philadelphia where they wholly outplayed the Union, they’re two points below Inter Miami and Columbus with two games to play. 

Atlanta need a handful of breaks to go their way and they’ll almost definitely need to win out to make the playoffs. The last part isn’t all that implausible considering an extended period of health and consistency has finally started to give us the version of Atlanta we expected to see at the beginning of the season.

They’ve at least shown proof of concept that this roster and Gonzalo Pineda’s tactics aren’t far from being competitive with the league’s best teams. After all that’s happened to them this year, reason for optimism in 2023 is a decent consolation prize.

Previous: 0-0 draw vs. PHI | Next: 10/1 at NE

Are they…I mean was that…are the Sounders going to miss the playoffs? Like, actually? 

I’ve said over and over you shouldn’t believe the Sounders are dead until the “E” is officially next to their name in the standings. But after their 2-1 loss at Vancouver, they have just three games left to make up a four-point gap between them and the Galaxy. Plus, they have to get past Vancouver and RSL now, although they do have a game in hand. 

It’s not all the way over, but folks are scrambling to get an obituary together now. They’ve got Cincy, SKC and San Jose left this season. The Cincy and SKC games are a tough, tough three points to find. But with San Jose on Decision Day, the rest of the West better make very, very sure Seattle aren’t within touching distance. The universe has a way of turning rave green in these situations.

Previous: 2-1 loss at VAN | Next: 9/27 vs. CIN

Charlotte likely aren’t going to make it across the line, but dang-it they’re hanging on until the very end. They came from behind to earn a 3-2 win at Chicago thanks to a brace from Karol Swiderski and they may even technically be alive on Decision Day. 

Considering where Charlotte’s roster started and the whole Miguel Angel Ramirez era (for its good and bad), it feels like you can call 2022 a success. They have a lot of work to do to earn the second-year bump other expansion teams have found over the last few years, but it’s plausible.

Previous: 3-2 win at CHI | Next: 10/1 vs. PHI

Do you really have to say anything beyond this?

SKC picked up six points this week thanks to a 3-0 win over D.C. United and a 4-1 win over Minnesota. Erik Thommy scored and Willy Agada added a brace against the Loons. They still ended up being eliminated from playoff contention, but there’s reason to believe 2023 will be much, much better.

Previous: 4-1 win vs. MIN | Next: 10/2 vs. SEA

The Rapids aren’t all the way dead, but the Galaxy nearly buried them this weekend. LA took it to Colorado in a 4-1 whooping. With FC Dallas and Austin up next to close the season, and four points between them and seventh-place LA, they’ll need a miracle.

Previous: 4-1 loss at LA | Next: 10/1 vs. DAL

There’s no way to sugarcoat it: What a disaster of an ending for the Revs. It seemed they were heading in the right direction midseason and then they stuck the landing. With their face. Into, like, a cartoonishly large and out-of-place collection of cacti. 

They’ve won once in their last eight games and lost three in a row, including setbacks to Houston and Montréal this week. I’ll defer to Carles Gil to sum up my feelings on that kind of performance from a team with their backs against the wall. 

"I think maybe we don't deserve to be in the playoffs because I think we are not now a competitive team,” Gil said after the Houston loss.

Or head coach/sporting director Bruce Arena.

“If you go through the season, the number of games we’ve actually blown, just screwed up, is incredible,” Arena said after the Montréal loss. “ … So, we’ve shot ourselves in the foot.”

Previous: 1-0 loss vs. MTL | Next: 10/1 vs. ATL

One last time, let’s check in on our Fire timeline…

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.

We’re officially at “No, forever.” The Fire are officially eliminated from the playoffs and we don’t have to worry about slipping back into “OH NO. THEY GOT ME AGAIN” anytime soon. 

There’s a big offseason ahead and plenty of self-convincing to do when it comes to the 2023 edition of this team. Some pieces are there, but so are big challenges.

Previous: 3-2 loss vs. CLT | Next: 10/1 at CIN

The Reds, almost mercifully, are done.

Toronto are officially eliminated from playoff contention. Which means they (we) don’t have to continue thinking about the “what ifs” of a Toronto team that solves any of their problems defensively this season. Now they face an offseason that at least seems straightforward. Solve the backline, reinforce the midfield, address the goalkeeper spot and let their attack have enough security to truly cook next year as they ride the year-two bump under Bob Bradley.

I think Toronto could have done that to some extent this year if Mark-Anthony Kaye and Jonathan Osorio had been healthy for the majority of the second half. But alas.

Previous: 4-0 loss at ORL | Next: 9/30 vs. MIA

Houston’s win over New England midweek is going to keep them from the Wooden Spoon it looks like. And they at least gave us this over the weekend.

(They did not win.)

Previous: 3-1 loss at LAFC | Next: 10/2 at NSH

The Quakes are at the bottom of the West.

Previous: 1-1 draw vs. DAL | Next: 9/24 vs. LA

Does the Wooden Spoon beckon for D.C. United? The answer, dear reader, seems to be yes.

Previous: 3-2 loss vs. MIA | Next: 10/1 at MTL