What a week in MLS.
Disclaimer: The Power Rankings are voted on by the entirety of the MLSsoccer.com editorial staff. You should probably be gently made fun of if you still think the actual rankings are made by just one person. Except for this week when I rolled a 27-sided die to decide where we put your favorite team, didn’t like where it landed, and actively chose to place them somewhere more upsetting instead. Because I’m personally determined to ruin the sanctity of the most sacred tradition in sports: The MLS Power Rankings. Anyway, you should really recognize that the stakes have never been lower.
New England are still well on pace to do the most historic thing ever involving the word Revolution: Break the MLS points record.
The Revs picked up six points this week, both, of course, by one goal. Like Matt Doyle pointed out in his Sunday column, New England have taken 16 of their 19 wins this season by one goal.
The team that's about to break the league record for points is even on goal differential with the team in second place in the conference, 17 points below them. And I guess at some point you could argue winning nearly every game by one goal isn’t sustainable, but first off, Matt Turner. Second off, we’re 28 games into the Revs’ season, seems like it’s pretty sustainable. Third off, Matt Turner.
GOAL: Carles Gil, New England Revolution - 91st minute
Now they need just 11 points over their last six games to break a record.
Anyone who thought Seattle might experience some kind of hangover after losing to Club Leon in the Leagues Cup Final clearly hasn’t been watching Seattle the last couple of years under Brian Schmetzer. They were never going to let themselves be rattled by that. And they proved it in an important win over Sporting KC on Sunday. Besides, everyone ignored the much better “What’s wrong with Seattle?” bit after losing to Leon. Why worry about the fake “Leagues Cup hangover??” narrative when you could put big money on the even more fake “Have Seattle forgotten how to win finals???” narrative?
Anyway, glad everyone enjoyed the Leagues Cup hangover that lasted zero games, we’re all doomed.
The Sounders are 8-2-2 on the road. SKC played this brilliantly by setting themselves up to get Seattle at home in the playoffs. Peter Vermes’ experience coming into play yet again.
No one should necessarily be ecstatic about a 0-0 draw with Chicago (Nashville’s 12th draw of the season!), but the Golden Boys did gain another point on sputtering NYCFC. Second in the East is their ceiling this year and they got one step closer to that. They’re six points up on the third-place Cityzens with eight games to go.
The Rapids had a chance to potentially jump to the top of the West this weekend. So, naturally, they played to a 0-0 draw with Toronto. The key to success is to make sure people’s expectations don’t get too high.
Anyway, the Rapids haven’t lost in 11 games. They also haven’t won in four games and have only taken nine points from their last six. They remain pretty good, but not necessarily more than that.
Hi y’all. It’s me. The big dumb idiot man who keeps refusing to acknowledge Portland are good and is looking dumber each week for it. The Timbers smackdazzled RSL 6-1 over the weekend. After looking like a borderline playoff team, they’re now one of six teams in the league to reach the 40-point mark this season. They even almost have that goal differential up above zero.
They’ve taken 16 points of a possible 18 and, most importantly, have only allowed four goals in that time. Yep folks, there’s absolutely nothing that’s gonna make me keep questioning this team after a clear 6-1 beatdown of a team above the playoff line. I don’t even care that they’re still one of the worst teams in the league on expected goal differential. They’re totally for real.
I kept saying the Union weren’t a team I liked to worry about and, well, I guess I’m happy to report I’m not worrying as much about the Union these days. It sure seems like their Concacaf Champions League loss to Club America gave them some kind of wake-up call. That’s back-to-back wins now against two playoff-contending teams in the East.
This week’s win against Atlanta came in the best kind of Philadelphia “death by suffocation” kind of way. Instead of letting the Five Stripes play the open freewheeling game of their choice, Philly dragged them into a phone booth and beat up on them for an hour and a half. The Union allowed just 0.2 xG, Jim Curtin looked fantastic and they should have scored more than once.
I’m still not convinced they have enough firepower to make an MLS Cup run. But there’s a world where they make every playoff game so claustrophobic with their relentless midfield pressure that it doesn’t matter.
There’s still work to do of course. They could finish anywhere from second to ninth at this point. But I’m leaning toward them finishing in the top half of that group.
I think now is probably the time to talk about the minuscule amounts of power separating these teams in these rankings.
Besides being the single most important thing in the world, the Power Rankings are flawed because they lack so much context. The difference in ability from teams one to five can be the same distance as teams six to 21 or vice versa and there’s not really a way to signal that. But you’re not here for nuanced discussions of each team’s ability. A tiered ranking of each team would probably be much better for that kind of thing. You’re here for POWAH RANKKIINGGGGS that you can yell on the internet about. And that’s totally OK. It’s fun to do that. Sports are fun.
But I think this time I’ve got to point out the lines between teams YYY and YYY are infinitesimally small and shrinking each week. Because, dear reader, the middle of the MLS standings went supernova a few weeks ago and has been pulling teams deeper into the black hole left in its wake day by day. Is that how black holes work? Who cares. You don’t have time to worry about that when third place in the East is separated by three whole points from eighth place in the East. Any one of these teams could beat the other any given week so trying to accurately put an absolutely accurate ranking on them is like trying to stack cats on each other in that I don’t really know how to explain how difficult it would be because I don’t know how or why anyone would try and do that.
All that being said, it’s probably important to point out NYCFC have four points from their last six games and took just one point from two games against a Red Bulls team they’ve been better than all year except for last week. They’re just three points away from missing the playoffs entirely now.
I’ve been done waiting for NYCFC to turn into one of the league’s elite teams for a while now. But it’s still somewhat frustrating to see how good their underlying numbers still are and how good Taty Castellanos has been and then still have to concede they just don’t have it. They’re a middle-of-the-pack team. Maybe the best of the bunch. But that doesn’t mean they’re not stuck in a very crowded room.
They’ll at least take some solace in the fact they have the easiest remaining schedule of any playoff team by points per game. Their remaining opponents are averaging just 1.16 points per game.
Adrian Heath may not have been ecstatic about it, but three points is three points. The Loons took care of business against Houston for their second straight win and clean sheet and moved up to sixth in the Western Conference standings with a game in hand on both teams in front of them. Hosting a home playoff game is still a very real possibility and the underlying numbers still like the Loons a lot. They’re fifth in expected goal differential this season. Good soccer team.
Atlanta were missing Josef Martinez and rolled out in their “dual false nine” (lol) set up against Philadelphia. That set up worked pretty well when it surprised Orlando. Less so when Philadelphia had a week to prepare for it.
The Five Stripes put up just 0.2 xG and probably need to go back to the drawing board on some things. But they don’t need to panic. Josef will be back soon and none of the teams they have left to play are Philadelphia. Sometimes a team just owns you and that’s the way it is. The Union have become to Atlanta what the 2017-18 Red Bulls were to Atlanta. I can’t decide if that means Atlanta should want to avoid or want to play the Union in the playoffs.
D.C. United have gotten two coaches fired this season. It’s either luck or something to do with the fact that when D.C. really sinks its teeth into you, it makes you look impossibly inept and probably just generally makes you feel bad about yourself.
HIGHLIGHTS: D.C. United vs. FC Cincinnati | September 25, 2021
The Black-and-Red are tied for the second-most wins in the East and are still fourth in the league in expected goal differential.
A loss to Columbus is probably not the best way to start off a run of games that has CF Montréal facing New England, Atlanta, Philadelphia and Orlando over the next four games. If they can survive that stretch in a playoff spot, they should be good the rest of the way. That’s going to take a heckuva effort though.
I genuinely can’t decide whether the Galaxy or Orlando should be slamming the panic button more furiously, but let’s just say it hits a point of diminishing returns and just kind of evens out after like the 50th press. Both teams should be well past that now.
The good news for the Galaxy is they’re not in the East. which is just a little less cluttered than the West. But let’s be real here. They’re still very much in danger of missing the playoffs. They’re five points out of eighth place for now, but Vancouver have a game in hand. If the Whitecaps get within two (a decent possibility at this point) it would be hard to convince me the Galaxy are going to see this out. That’s seven games without a win at this point, and Chicharito has been starting for the past four.
The mean comes for everybody eventually and the Galaxy are regressing hard and fast at just about the worst possible time. They’ll need to correct it immediately. Somehow, someway. They’ll face RSL and LAFC this week. Two losses there and we could be talking about Greg Vanney’s first season in LA very, very differently from the middle of the summer.
I’m running out of ways to say things just really aren’t good in Orlando right now and they feel kind of cursed. This backstretch of their schedule is impossibly difficult and that’s going to be on full display when they go up against Nashville and D.C. this week.
They’re two points out of eighth place right now. My guess is they survive and make the playoffs, but I’m really struggling to see the Lions hosting a playoff game this season. Though maybe in a few weeks we’ll be saying that the return of Jhegson Mendez is all they needed? I don’t really believe that, but I’m just trying to stay optimistic for those who can’t.
I dunno y’all, seems like this whole “buy an effective DP” strategy is a good one that more teams should try. Since Ryan Gauld joined the Whitecaps, they’ve only lost once in nine MLS games. They’ve taken 18 points in that time. In the seven MLS games he’s played 45 minutes or more, they’ve taken 15 points.
Gauld isn’t the only factor of course, but he’s certainly not hurting things. He’s second on the team in goals added this season and he hasn’t been there long. The Whitecaps weren’t completely awful beforehand, but it does go to show you how thin the lines can be at times in MLS. A quality DP can change everything. Now, Gauld and the Whitecaps are one win away from equaling RSL on points and games for seventh in the West.
Jussstttttt gonna drop this in one more time and give a big ole shrug while I’m at it.
The Quakes are even with LAFC and Vancouver on points and still within touching distance of the playoff line. After getting a couple of 4-3 games out of their system, they calmly and collectively kept a clean sheet against LAFC. It’s a big win for believers in catharsis and for San Jose. We’ll see if they can keep that against Seattle and Vancouver over the next week.
It’ll help their chances if Chofis Lopez continues to go absolutely nuclear. He’s got six goals and an assist over the last three games.
The Crew are technically still in this. After a 2-1 win over Montréal thanks to a Gyasi Zardes brace, they’re only three points behind that same Montréal team in seventh. It wouldn’t exactly be an impressive wire-to-wire race, but they could theoretically sprint the last 100 meters of this season and finish in a playoff spot. And Big Soccer Blog (and, ya know, me) would have to concede that they do in fact get some things wrong sometimes.
They've still played a game more than every team they need to pass though and I’m just not convinced this weekend was a turning point. A big week with Campeones Cup and a trip to Philly could definitely change my mind though.
Previous: 2-1 win vs. MTL | Next: Bye
I bet that you, dear reader, were wondering if the LAFC Catastrophic Moment of the Week was back.
GOAL: Chofis, San Jose Earthquakes - 47th minute
After reaching the highest point of their season in the standings and finally convincing Big Soccer Blog to pay attention, Inter Miami CF took the time with all eyes on them to attempt a backflip. I am here to inform you the backflip ended with them somehow landing directly on their neck, affecting the part of their brain that keeps them from screaming out their most embarrassing secrets. Their recent arc is kind of like Icarus except they weren’t aiming for the sun, they were just trying to cross the street and got hit by two separate PT Cruisers, one of which circled back around to give it another go.
Since peaking in the Power Rankings and the hearts and minds of the people, they’ve lost two games by a combined score of 9-1. Their playoff prospects are suddenly not looking so good.
Any week you get four points from your biggest rival with one of those points coming from the latest goal in MLS history is a really, really good week.
They had more possession and more shots on target than Vancouver. That’s something, I guess.
I, for one, will never forget Houston Dynamo FC’s three-game unbeaten streak in the year two-thousand and twenty-one. The dreams it made me believe in have paved the path ahead for me. One day we’ll know why it happened. But for now we just know that it happened. And that should be enough for anyone who dares to show kindness and love towards their fellow man.
Anyway, looking at the rest of their schedule, they have an uphill task just to win another game this season.
No one is better at dragging other teams down to their level. No one. You need to study for that exam tomorrow? Too bad. Chicago just started a game of Edward Four Loko Hands and guess who’s been tagged in to be the control variable in the test of “How much more good is Chicago at Edward Four Loko hands than you?”
This is for science. And Nashville and New England just so happened to be in Chicago this week. Only one powered through enough to get three points, and it was a very close call.
Turns out having a striker is a good thing.
Turns out having a striker who can do things like this is an even better thing.
As disappointing as year one has ended up being, Austin appear to have set themselves up nicely for next season.
Godspeed Jaap Stam. We’ll always have this picture of you.
Still in the Canadian Championship? Four points in their last two games against the second place team in the East and third in the West? No one talking about how bad they’ve been as much as they probably should be?
Toronto are back. And just in time for a Wooden Spoon showdown with FC Cincinnati midweek. Things have never been better.