Voices: Sam Jones

Power Rankings: Philadelphia Union leapfrog NYCFC after Week 16

What a week in MLS. Philadelphia and NYCFC traded shoves and hold-me-backs, LAFC added a former World XI-caliber player, and Hany Mukhtar scored twice for Nashville. 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. Nine-tenths is Tom Bogert, who sends me emails that say things like “It's always ‘here's this week's power rankings ballot’ and never ‘here's a survey to tell me how you're feeling inside.’”

To the rankings.

Quick programming note: Week 16's Power Rankings Show can be seen below.

LAFC are first in the league and handled an excellent Red Bulls team with ease this past weekend. The scary part? They’ve retained Carlos Vela on a new contract, are adding Gareth Bale and Giorgio Chiellini, and are pursuing another Designated Player.

Previous: 2-0 win vs. RBNY | Next: 6/29 vs. DAL

You may not like it, but this is what a peak Philadelphia Union performance looks like.

A beautiful and perfect soccer team. This is the only logical conclusion.

They’re also unbeaten in their last nine league games and in first place in the Eastern Conference standings, plus they finally got Mikael Uhre on the board. So, yeah, in addition to embodying their city in a way few teams are capable of, they also happen to be really good. Things are sunny around the Union right now.

Previous: 2-1 win vs. NYC | Next: 6/29 at CHI

The Sounders picked up another frustrating injury this week. Obed Vargas has a stress fracture in his back and will be out for a while. We wish him well, of course, but the good news is that Vargas and Raul Ruidiaz, and anyone else who might exit this Seattle lineup, don’t have to worry about rushing to get back. The Sounders just plug and play at this point. And for them, plug and play means “resoundingly beat Sporting Kansas City.”

They’re officially above the Western Conference’s Audi MLS Cup Playoffs line now and it won’t be long until they’re challenging Real Salt Lake for the second spot in the West. That first spot might be a little tough to ask considering the Death Star: Part Two that John Thorrington has constructed in LA. But are you really going to count out the Sounders?

Previous: 3-0 win vs. SKC| Next: 6/29 vs. MTL

Well, the first game of the week (Open Cup quarterfinal at New York Red Bulls) didn’t go so well and then the second game of the week (MLS Week 16 at Philadelphia) didn’t get much better. NYCFC played two big games and came up well short in the first against their biggest rival and then came up agonizingly short against their second (?) biggest rival. It all could have gone better and it’s a not-so-great start for interim manager Nick Cushing. 

To be wholly fair, going up against the Red Bulls and the Union on the road back-to-back in one week is about as brutal a task in MLS. But that’s certainly three interesting games to start an era with. NYCFC will be fine of course, it’s just not quite what anyone expected. 

Some good news? Anton Tinnerholm is back.

Previous: 2-1 loss at PHI | Next: 6/29 at CIN

It looked dire for a moment there but it’s Austin. It’s a bad idea to consider them down and out because we might need to consider that Austin are the protagonist this year. 

Los Verdes came back from a 2-0 deficit vs. FC Dallas thanks to late goals from Sebastian Driussi and Danny Hoesen. Austin had their backs against the wall and got everything right for a classic moment in the club’s early history.

We’re now 16 games into Austin’s season and they’re fourth in the league in points per game. Progress.

Previous: 2-2 draw vs. DAL | Next: 6/30 at CLT

No real RSL magic to report this week, but I’m sure it will be back soon. Even without it this weekend they’re sitting second in the West…with the exact same goals scored and goals allowed as Houston. Maybe the magic is just always running at full capacity? 

Previous: 0-0 draw vs. CLB | Next: 7/3 at MIN

The Red Bulls put in a stellar performance midweek in the US Open Cup, winning 3-0 over NYCFC in a mostly full-strength, mostly full-intensity quarterfinal matchup. Asking for a win over LAFC on the weekend was a little too much after that, especially without Aaron Long and Luquinhas

RBNY are in a great position to win the USOC though and continue to look like a clear top-tier team when they’re on their game and out of the sun. Luquinhas and Lewis Morgan continue to be outstanding signings.

Previous: 2-0 loss at LAFC | Next: 6/30 vs. ATL

From a distance, it looks like a road point against an in-state rival, but dropping two points against your pesky neighbor had to hurt. FC Dallas looked primed to jump to second place in the West but blew a 2-0 lead with under 20 minutes to go in the game.

The good news is that Paul Arriola continues to be on a tear. He’s scored eight times in his last eight MLS starts and now has a career-high eight goals on the season. There’s a good argument to make that he’s been the trade acquisition of the season, not only because of his output but because of the chaos his work rate causes for backlines as well. Per Second Spectrum, he makes the second-most attacking runs per game among wingers, with only SKC's Daniel Salloi making more. The runs he makes along with Jesus Ferreira’s work rate (third among strikers in attacking runs) are a big reason why FCD’s attack continues to be one of the most effective and aesthetically enjoyable groups in MLS.

That can only take you so far though, I guess. FC Dallas have allowed two goals in four of their last five games and have taken just four points from their last five games. It’s just not clicking from top to bottom right now.

Previous: 2-2 draw at ATX | Next: 6/29 at LAFC

In the end, it’s a win without Djordje Mihailovic. But CF Montréal failed to create much at home against a Charlotte side missing half of their team, and the underlying numbers suggest they were lucky to grab all three points. If it’s a sign of what’s to come without Mihailovic, the next few weeks may present some struggles for CFM.

Previous: 2-1 win vs. CLT | Next: 6/29 at SEA

Nashville responded well after last week’s loss, picking up a 3-1 win at D.C. United. But are you really all that surprised?

Previous: 3-1 win at DC | Next: 7/3 vs. POR

No game for the Galaxy this week. 


Because I mean…

Well, there was this one other game…

But you knowwwww…

…The Galaxy did not play an MLS game this week and they’d really like it if you didn’t look any further than that as to what games they may or may not have played this week against Sacramento Republic in the US Open Cup quarterfinals.

Previous: 1-1 draw vs. POR | Next: 6/29 vs. MIN

The Revs picked up a road point this weekend in large part thanks to Djordje Petrovic. He made six saves and continues to look like a capable Matt Turner replacement. The sample size is microscopic at this point, but, per American Soccer Analysis’ goals added metric, Petrovic’s per-game numbers are slightly above a Dayne St. Clair level. It’s a good start and a good sign for the rest of the Revs’ season. 

Previous: 0-0 draw at VAN | Next: 7/3 vs. CIN

Brenner scored! Brenner! 

Not only did Brenner score, but Brenner scored to give FC Cincinnati a home win at TQL Stadium! A home win! At TQL Stadium!

I don’t think I need to elaborate on Brenner but I will go a step further on why a home win is a big deal for the Knifey Lions. I wrote a piece for Backheeled last week that rated the toughest places to play in MLS. One of my metrics involved taking a team’s home winning percentage and comparing it to their away winning percentage. Cincy were the only team in the league to actually win a smaller percentage of their games at home than on the road. That’s impressively cruel to Cincy fans. I’m glad to see them be rewarded.

Previous: 1-0 win vs. ORL | Next: 6/29 vs. NYC

A loss to Cincy isn’t great but road games are hard in MLS and, quite frankly, it gives me another reason to stall before I have to decide on whether or not this Orlando team is good or not. Thank goodness.

They’re sitting in fifth place in the East with a negative-three goal differential. What am I supposed to do with that? I guess maybe segue into telling you that, per American Soccer Analysis’ expected points metric, the Lions are outperforming their underlying numbers by more than any team that isn’t Austin. But hey, they could not be getting points at all. The sooner Orlando City escape analytical purgatory, the better for all of us.

Previous: 1-0 loss at CIN | Next: 7/4 vs. DC

Going back to the offseason, it just kind of felt like things were trending in the wrong direction for Colorado. Quality players, crucial to their first-place performance last year, were leaving and quality players weren’t being brought in and it all just kind of started to seem a bit off. But you, like me, may have held out hope that the Rapids would do what they’ve normally done under Robin Fraser the last two seasons and piece it together anyway. That’s not happening yet.

The Rapids are 10th in the West with a negative-4 goal differential and were thumped by Portland last weekend. But there is a slight reason for optimism. At least a little. Per American Soccer Analysis, only two teams (Cincy and SKC) have underperformed their expected goal differential by more. In theory, Colorado would have four, maybe five, more points all things equal. But the West’s hierarchy is really starting to show itself and the Rapids are five points behind sixth-place LA and four behind seventh-place Seattle. When those are your sixth and seventh-place teams, the rest of the West is going to be tough to play catch up with.

Previous: 3-0 loss at POR | Next: 7/4 vs. ATX

Just when it seemed like Atlanta United might finally be past whatever curses from a higher power were put upon them, this happened.

Brooks Lennon’s likely replacement for the next 6-8 weeks, Aiden McFadden, did well in a surprise start but it’s another big blow to Atlanta. I genuinely don’t think they’ve had the same lineup in any three games this season. It’s almost remarkable they haven’t cratered completely. Which…well…if there were a time for injuries to really start taking their toll, this next stretch would be it. They face both the Red Bulls and NYCFC this week (yes, this week) and nine of their next 10 games come against teams currently in playoff position. 

Previous: 2-1 loss at TOR | Next: 6/30 at RBNY

Houston have just gone through a six-game stretch where they’ve picked up three points each against Nashville, LA and Chicago while missing out on points to Seattle, RSL and Orlando. All told, nine points from that run is something I would have happily taken from the start if I were them. Every game gets them closer to Hector Herrera’s official arrival and every win sets them up to make a genuine playoff push once he makes his debut.

Previous: 2-0 win vs. CHI | Next: 6/29 at POR


It’s the first time anyone named Indiana has ever successfully stolen anything notable and a huge win for an Inter Miami team that is far from perfect for numerous reasons but has clear tenacity.

Neville is right in my opinion. Again, a long way to go. But there are building blocks here for a team in its inaugur…there are building blocks here.

Previous: 2-1 win vs. MIN | Next: 7/4 at DAL

Portland looked a bit like themselves this weekend. Sebastian Blanco scored, Jaroslaw Niezgoda picked up a brace and the Timbers romped to a 3-0 home win. Amid their challenges, this isn’t one you overanalyze. You just sit back and enjoy it.

Previous: 3-0 win vs. COL | Next: 6/29 vs. HOU

Despite missing a ton of players due to health and safety protocols, Charlotte collected a couple of big chances but only one goal in a 2-1 loss to Montréal. It’s Christian Lattanzio’s first loss in charge but each day is another day closer to seeing Karol Swiderski, Andre Shinyashki and Kamil Jozwiak on the field at the same time. It has to happen at some point this year. Right?

Previous: 2-1 loss at MTL | Next: 6/30 vs. ATX

Not much to report from a 0-0 draw against New England. But it’s still worth pointing out that, even with Vancouver’s miserable start, they’re still in ninth place and just two points back of the West’s playoff line. It’s starting to feel like the top seven in the West is pretty well-defined, but the Caps are going to be right there the rest of the way. 

Previous: 0-0 draw vs. NE | Next: 7/2 vs. LAFC

The Crew did play a soccer game or whatever but that’s not what’s important here. What’s important here is throwing club-changing money around.

That’s a reported $10 million right there to leave Watford and join Columbus. That’s a 23-year-old forward with Premier League and LaLiga experience. That’s a player who finished in the 84th percentile in goals per 90 among attacking midfielders and wingers in 1147 minutes played last season, per FBref. That’s…uh…well, he may not be the answer to a lot of problems that aren’t his fault, but it can’t hurt!

At the very least, it’s an exciting and forward-thinking move for a team that desperately needed something exciting and forward-thinking.

Previous: 0-0 draw at RSL | Next: 6/29 at TOR

For a moment, it seemed like the Loons were heading towards a week of positivity. Luis Amarilla struggled a bit at times against Inter Miami but finally found the back of the net and sent Minnesota United up 1-0. They were even up 1-0 as deep as the 86th minute. By the end of the game, not so much. 

The Loons are now 12th in the West with 18 points through 16 games. Per American Soccer Analysis, they’re 23rd in the league in expected goal differential. The clouds are getting dark over Minnesota United right now.

Previous: 2-1 loss at MIA | Next: 6/29 at LA

Toronto haven’t fully turned the corner yet, but you get the sense they’re in the beginning steps of turning things around. They weren’t outstanding in their 2-1 win over Atlanta this weekend, but they were largely in control. 

In fact, they’ve stopped some of the defensive death spiraling they seemed prone to in the initial part of the year. Since their 5-4 (!) loss to NYCFC on April 24, they’ve yet to give up more than two goals in a game. They’re healthy now too. 

Oh, and this guy showed up this week…

I don’t know if he’s going to solve everything. And yeah, there’s still plenty to keep worrying about defensively. But if Toronto have to win 3-2 the rest of the way to make a playoff push, Insigne’s the guy to get it done.

Previous: 2-1 win vs. ATL | Next: 6/29 vs. CLB

No game for San Jose this weekend. Their game with the Galaxy was postponed until September. I hope everyone is safe and well in Northern California.

Previous: 2-0 loss at RSL | Next: 7/3 vs. CHI

Not sure what else anyone could have expected from this weekend, but hey, it’s definitely not all bad. SKC are into the semifinals of the US Open Cup, plus they’re bringing in a few much-needed reinforcements.

They brought in Stuttgart midfielder Erik Thommy this week, as well as young striker William Agada. It’s a step in the right direction.

Previous: 3-0 loss at SEA | Next: 7/3 vs. RBNY

I keep waiting for this team to turn a corner but every time it seems like they’re about to do it they turn face-first into a Wile E. Coyote painting. They’ve improved and improved, and the universe just doesn’t let it get better. They put up 1.7 xG worth of chances this week compared to Houston’s 1.6 xG and lost 2-0. Per American Soccer Analysis’ expected points metric, they’ve underperformed their expected points totals more than any other team in the league. This is just their existence right now. And existence is pain. 

Previous: 2-0 loss at HOU | Next: 6/29 vs. PHI

Amid the struggles, is there reason for hope?

D.C. United jettisoned Edison Flores to Liga MX’s Atlas this week and immediately replaced him with DP winger Martin Rodriguez from Turkish Super Lig club Altay SK. If Rodriguez can perform in some of the ways Taxi Fountas has immediately performed, it will certainly be a huge step in the right direction. And it seems like more moves may be on the way. They have two open DP spots and things can change quickly in MLS.

Previous: 3-1 loss vs. NSH | Next: 7/4 at ORL