Power Rankings

Power Rankings: Orlando City, Vancouver Whitecaps surge in playoff race

Power Rankings - 9.19.23

What a week in MLS. Orlando City SC scored in second-half stoppage time, Minnesota United FC lost at home and Dániel Gazdag converted a penalty. It was truly a week unlike any other.

The Power Rankings are voted on by 15 people (give or take) and the author would really like you to know the order is not entirely his fault even though he does in fact have a vote. Trust us: He wanted to put your team higher.

FC Cincinnati went down 2-0 at the Philadelphia Union and it didn’t matter because of course it didn’t matter. The 2023 regular season belongs to them.

More important than the draw is the fact Aaron Boupendza and Brandon Vazquez found the net. The Garys need them firing on all cylinders come the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs.

Previous: 2-2 draw at PHI | Next: 9/20 at MTL

Win of the season?

The Lions were down 3-1 to an excellent Crew side with 20 minutes remaining. Facundo Torres got Orlando back in the game, then Ramiro Enrique delivered the equalizer and the scene you see above moments later. It’s a remarkable comeback and it might be a critical moment in the playoff race. The Lions jumped to second in the East and put five points between them and the fifth-place Crew.

It seems like having as many home games as possible is going to be critical to surviving the Eastern side of the playoff bracket and Orlando may have just clinched a few. They’ve earned it too. You might have forgotten, but they took down FC Cincinnati right before the international break. They took down St. Louis a couple of games before that. They’re undefeated since Leagues Cup and have taken 13 points from their last five.

Previous: 4-3 win vs. CLB | Next: 9/20 at NYC

St. Louis earned a road point against a good Houston team and got João Klauss back on the scoresheet for the second week in a row. Getting him going as the post-season begins feels huge. His ability to be a match-winner might make or break an MLS Cup run.

Previous: 1-1 draw at HOU | Next: 9/20 vs.LAFC

The Union blew a 2-0 lead to Cincy over the weekend and only came away with a point. They still have a game in hand on everyone fighting for a top-four spot in the East, though. Normally they’d still feel like as safe a bet as any to finish in the top four, but their final seven games are brutal.

Previous: 2-2 draw vs. CIN | Next: 9/20 at CLT

Columbus were on the way to a huge road win over Orlando before 2023 started to feel a little too much like 2022. The Crew lost a 3-1 lead after the 70th minute and missed an opportunity to jump into the top four in the East. It’s a blip in what’s been an outstanding season, but it does hit at what might be the biggest concern for the Crew heading into the postseason. They’re going to score plenty. Do they have the ability to manage games and see them out to the end? They share some features with last year’s Cincinnati team in that way. 

Previous: 4-3 loss at ORL | Next: 9/20 vs. CHI

Road games are hard. Road games without Lionel Messi and Jordi Alba are even harder.

Messi stayed in Miami to eat tomato bread instead of traveling to Atlanta and the Herons looked like a normal MLS team. There’s some calculus happening there by Tata Martino and company, though. They aren’t in a position where dropping points is a death blow and there are bigger games on the way when it comes to the playoff race. Not to mention a US Open Cup Final. If resting Messi helps them win those more critical games, they should be just fine. Still, it felt like a bit of a risk. Fortunately for them, every team they’re chasing in the playoff race dropped points too.

Previous: 5-2 loss at ATL | Next: 9/20 vs. TOR

It took a moment, but LAFC eventually took control of El Tráfico.

In a vacuum, it’s an expected win against a mediocre team. In context, it feels like a minor miracle anytime a good LAFC team doesn’t slip up against the Galaxy. It’s also a much-needed breath of fresh air that breaks LAFC’s three-game losing streak. They’re back to second place in the Western Conference.

Dénis Bouanga led the way, bringing his tally to 14 goals and six assists this MLS season. That, of course, doesn’t count the double-digit goal scoring numbers he’s put up in other competitions this year. There’s been an odd narrative popping up that Bouanga has had a down year or something like it, but he’s tied atop the Golden Boot presented by Audi race and would have potentially run away with it if LAFC’s schedule hadn’t been so condensed.

Previous: 4-2 win vs. LA | Next: 9/20 at STL

This isn’t a new statement, but Atlanta have been a different team since the summer transfer window. And it’s not like Gonzalo Pineda suddenly became good at coaching or some other hilarious narrative that’s been popping up that’s been focused on tactics or ideology. It’s that the team finally has players across the field who have the talent and physical skill set to execute Pineda’s game model at a high level – and that’s making the pieces already in place look even better.

They thumped Inter Miami 5-2 over the weekend because of those improvements and we technically haven’t even seen their best XI together for a full 90. DP winger Saba Lobjanidze came off the bench and immediately started contributing to torching the Herons in transition. Atlanta out-physicaled Miami and took control of the match despite two Leo Campana goals. It was a playoff-worthy performance by a team that has as good a chance as any at making it through the stacked East.

Previous: 5-2 win vs. MIA | Next: 9/20 at DC

I can confidently say we haven’t seen a Houston team like this in a long time.

They didn’t hold onto a 1-0 lead against St. Louis, but they’re still playing some of the league’s best ball. No matter what happens from here on out, 2023 has been a success. They’ll be a favorite to take another step forward next season.

Previous: 1-1 draw vs. STL | Next: 9/20 vs. VAN

The Whitecaps went down 1-0 to Toronto, punched back moments later and then delivered a haymaker moments after that to take a 2-1 win. They jumped into fourth place (West) with the win and have a game in hand on everyone around them. Vancouver have taken 10 points from the first four games of a seven-game road trip. That road trip gets a little harder with Houston and RSL this week, but Vancouver are putting together an impressive stretch at just the right time.

Previous: 2-1 win at TOR | Next: 9/20 at HOU

Off week for Nashville. They’ll take on three straight Western Conference teams over the next couple of weeks without much chance of jumping into a top-four spot and a very slight chance of dropping into a Wild Card spot. Basically, they just need to stay steady the rest of the way without worrying too much about the standings.

Previous: 1-1 draw vs. CLT | Next: 9/20 at SKC

Saturday's loss at the Rapids didn’t exactly stun anyone (at least externally) when it happened. Not after the week the Revs had. There’s just been too much internal turnover to expect them to perform at a high level. It’s fair to wonder if they can pull out of the potential nosedive they seem to be tilting toward.

Previous: 2-1 loss at COL | Next: 9/23 at CHI

Seattle played to a lackluster 1-1 road draw against Dallas this weekend. I’m not sure there’s much more to add besides that. “Lackluster 1-1 road draw against Dallas” kind of feels like an apt representation of the team’s whole season so far. Maybe that will start to change now Cristian Roldan is back. He made his first appearance since July in this one.

Previous: 1-1 draw at DAL | Next: 9/20 at COL

RSL’s winning streak ended at one. They fell to San Jose and have now lost five of their last six in all competitions. Their only win came over Colorado. Plus, this is happening.

It’s bad and not good right now in Salt Lake.

Previous: 2-1 loss at SJ | Next: 9/20 vs. DAL

There’s a long, long way to go for Sporting to pull off a playoff climb. But they’re at least going down fighting. Maybe something remarkable (and very MLS) will happen.

Previous: 1-0 win at MIN | Next: 9/20 vs. NSH


They’re going to do this because of course they are. And because Evander is on a heater. And because they’re actually putting together some genuinely pretty sequences of soccer.

They officially jumped above the line on Sunday and are looking confident in a way we haven’t seen in a while. They still have to hold off a few folks to make it into the postseason, but it seems more likely by the day. It helps four of their final five games are very winnable. Decision Day against Houston could be a different beast, but the rest are against teams hovering around the playoff line, plus Colorado and LA.

Previous: 2-1 win at ATX | Next: 9/20 vs. SJ

The Quakes snapped a four-game winless streak against RSL last weekend. Because they’re in the West, that means they’re suddenly equal on points with fifth-place Houston and three points out of second place. That’s all it takes nowadays!

Previous: 2-1 win vs. RSL | Next: 9/20 at POR


After a 1-0 loss to SKC, only Minnesota and Colorado have fewer than four home wins on the season. There will never be a reasonable explanation for this.

Maybe the Loons have realized that and are aiming for as many road games in the playoffs as possible?

Previous: 1-0 loss vs. SKC | Next: 9/20 at LA

Montréal missed an opportunity to put some distance between themselves and the rest of the bottom half of the East with a 0-0 draw against Chicago. But they stayed three points ahead of the Fire and in eighth place with six games to go.

Previous: 0-0 draw vs. CHI | Next: 9/20 vs. CIN

A 1-1 draw against Seattle wasn’t enough to keep Dallas above the playoff line. The good news is they have two games in hand on ninth-place Portland and a two-point advantage on 12th-place Austin.

Previous: 1-1 draw vs. SEA | Next: 9/20 at RSL

Road points are good points. Road points against a team chasing the final playoff spot you currently occupy are even better. In the end, a 0-0 draw against Charlotte isn’t exactly inspiring, but it could make a big difference down the road. The Black-and-Red are still above the line.

Previous: 0-0 draw at CLT | Next: 9/20 vs. ATL

Nothing doing this weekend in a 0-0 with D.C. United. It’s a point, but it’s also a major missed opportunity to take three key points at home. Instead, D.C. stayed in ninth and Charlotte stayed three points behind D.C. with two games in hand. There are worse positions to be in. There are better ones too.

Previous: 0-0 draw vs. DC | Next: 9/20 vs. PHI

This weekend’s El Tráfico loss didn’t put any nails in LA’s coffin, but it might have closed it. They’re 13th in the West and six points behind ninth place with seven games remaining. To make the playoffs, they’ll have to be one of the league’s best teams from here on out. 

Previous: 4-2 loss at LAFC | Next: 9/20 vs. MIN

Chicago could have really used more than a 0-0 draw against Montréal, but road points are good points and Chicago are still just a couple of points out of a Wild Card spot. There’s still reason to hope this year might turn out differently.

Previous: 0-0 draw at MTL | Next: 9/20 at CLB

They played to a 0-0 draw against the Red Bulls. It might have been the most predictable result of the year.

Previous: 0-0 draw vs. RBNY | Next: 9/20 vs. ORL

Austin haven’t won since July 15. They’ve lost six of their last seven in all competitions and four of five since Leagues Cup. 


Previous: 2-1 loss vs. POR | Next: 9/20 at RBNY

They played to a 0-0 draw against NYCFC. It might have been the most predictable result of the year.

Previous: 0-0 draw at NYC | Next: 9/20 vs. ATX

The Rapids won a home game! Their 2-1 victory over New England (!) is their second home win of the year and their fourth overall. 

Previous: 2-1 win vs. NE | Next: 9/20 vs. SEA

Toronto lost to Vancouver. Long year.

Previous: 2-1 loss vs. VAN | Next: 9/20 at MIA