Voices: Sam Jones

Power Rankings: Toronto FC surge, Real Salt Lake plunge after Week 22

What a week in MLS. Dejan Joveljic scored a late goal, a team tried to consistently play through the New York Red Bulls’ press and failed, and the team (Toronto FC) that actively worked to sign a bunch of good players turned out to be pretty good at soccer. 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. And, to be fair to all of us, what exactly are we supposed to do with Toronto when they’re still 13th in the East but just did that? Idk, I put them like 16th or something.

Doomed. All of us.

Anyway, LAFC made a trade for Sebastian Mendez this week, thus addressing a need for…uh…their second-string group. Now it really feels like LAFC’s second XI could make an Audi MLS Cup Playoffs run by themselves. Glad they sorted that problem out. 

Previous: 2-0 win at SKC | Next: 7/29 vs. SEA

The Union keep playing elite defense and getting production out of Daniel Gazdag. Everything is going exactly to plan in Philly. Absolutely no one is surprised.

Previous: 1-0 win at ORL | Next: 7/30 vs. HOU

Ok \that\ was actually Taty’s last game. Appropriately, NYCFC overwhelmed Inter Miami and Heber found the net. The Pigeons are going to be just fine. Not better. But still really, really good. 

Previous: 2-0 win vs. MIA | Next: 7/30 at MTL

Austin dove head-first into the Red Bulls’ Wile E. Coyote tunnel painted on the side of a mountain and the Red Bulls were able to laugh their way to an early lead. Then things got a bit less funny as they faded in the Texas heat, but hey, why do things differently from every other Red Bulls team that has consistently faded at the end of games during the summer? It’s not like there’s precedent.

Look, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t sit here and complain about a road win against one of the best teams in the league. What I’m really trying to say is…

Previous: 4-3 win at ATX | Next: 8/2 vs. COL

Congrats to Austin FC on going to the Dr. Tobias Fünke School of Trying To Play Possession-Based Soccer Against the New York Red Bulls.

Austin just dove headfirst into the trap this weekend and, full credit to them, nearly escaped. But they didn’t, so we all get to point and laugh at the new-ish kid for their first Energy Drink Soccer experience.

Previous: 4-3 loss vs. RBNY | Next: 7/30 at SKC

Djordje Mihailovic and Mason Toye both started, but Romell Quioto stole the show in a 2-1 win over D.C. United. CFM are healthy right at the stretch and very, very dangerous. Now they just need to sort out what’s going on with their defense. It’s getting weird. Like historically weird.

Montréal lead the league in expected goals allowed yet have given up 36 goals, the fourth-highest total in the East. Can you imagine how good this group will be if their defense starts regressing to the mean anytime soon?

Previous: 2-1 win at DC | Next: 7/30 vs. NYC


The Loons beat Houston this week too and jumped up to third in the West. Since losing three straight to NYCFC, New England and Inter Miami, they’ve won five of their last six – and that’s not counting a 4-0 beatdown of one of England’s most historic clubs. I keep waiting for them to come back to Earth and just keep staring at an empty sky. Minnesota have saved their season in a few weeks and look like a near-lock for the playoffs. 

What’s maybe most impressive about that is the fact All-Star goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair has statistically regressed as of late. For a while, he looked like he was set to break MLS records. Since then, he’s mellowed out a bit and now registers as just the sixth-best shot-stopper in the league. It doesn’t even matter right now though because Minnesota are averaging about three goals a game.

Previous: 2-1 win at HOU | Next: 7/30 vs. POR

Nashville drew this past weekend. I don’t really have anything to add other than how on-brand it is for a team that has eight wins, seven losses and seven draws on the season with 28 goals scored and 28 goals against. There’s a scenario here where they finish like 11W-12L-11D this season with a goal differential of zero. The most average team of all time. Which in a way would make them extraordinary. Keep it up, Nashville. 

At least USMNT right back Shaq Moore is here to try and push them past that averageness. To the Coyotes’ credit, Moore seems like a perfect fit in the Music City.

Previous: 1-1 draw at CIN | Next: 7/30 vs. VAN

The Crew and Cucho Hernandez couldn’t find a goal against New England, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. They controlled the game from the outset and put up 1.0 xG on 17 shots compared to just 0.2 xG on five shots for New England. A little more creativity in the final third would have gone a long way, but it’s not a bad point from an early six-pointer. 

Previous: 0-0 draw vs. NE | Next: 7/30 at CLT

That’s better. I might have really started worrying when the Rapids went up 1-0 early on Seattle. But the 10-man Sounders responded, earned a big win and are in a comfortable position to jump back over the line. I’m back to 100% confidence in Seattle being there in the playoffs. I had only slipped to like 99.99%, I promise. Since the CCL Final, the Sounders have earned the fourth-most points in the league.

Previous: 2-1 win vs. COL | Next: 7/29 at LAFC

Well, the Galaxy took the post-Player Calls The Team Out In The Media bump in style and outplayed an Atlanta team coming down from the same bump. Even Kevin Cabral found the net. It wasn’t perfect, but it does get LA back on track. And it may come as no surprise that getting back on track comes at the same time LA started all three of their DPs for the first time since May.

That’s all pretty well and good, I guess. But what’s really important is as long as the team is putting itself in a position to allow Joveljic a chance to finish off games at the end, they’re going to get plenty of points down the stretch.

Previous: 2-0 win vs. ATL | Next: 7/30 at DAL

The Quakes gave Portland a scare for a bit, but we’re firmly in the part of the season where the Timbers are borderline invincible. That includes the part where Dairon Asprilla suddenly becomes highly effective at random intervals. 

It also helps that Aljaz Ivacic has been statistically the best goalkeeper in the league this year and feels comfortable enough on the ball to do things like this.

The Timbers are undefeated since the middle of June and have taken 15 points from their last seven games, plus have been sixth in the league in expected goal differential during that time span. 

Previous: 2-1 win vs. SJ | Next: 7/30 at MIN

Jesus Ferreira found the net in the first half and, most importantly, FC Dallas’ defense held onto the lead in a 1-0 win. That’s impressive considering their tendency to drop points from winning positions. And especially impressive considering they were hanging on for dear life for the majority of the game. RSL piled on 25 shots on 70% possession and still couldn’t find an equalizer. Perhaps Dallas’ xHuman spirit was just higher on the night. Either way, Dallas picked up a big three points in their chase for a home playoff spot.

Previous: 1-0 win at RSL | Next: 7/30 vs. LA

This was a weekend where RSL probably wished the stats actually mattered. They put up 2.1 xG on 25 shots against Dallas and lost 1-0. They still finished the weekend in fourth place in the West, but they’ve won just once in their last six games and that came against SKC. The playoff line is creeping up fast on them.

Previous: 1-0 loss vs. DAL | Next: 7/30 at SJ

Brandon Vazquez has 11 goals and four assists on the season now after a 1-1 draw with Nashville. If FC Cincinnati end up missing the playoffs it won’t be because of him. It probably will be because they can’t defend set pieces or defend in transition moments. Seems like a couple of pretty big flaws. In related news, the Knifey Lions haven’t won since June 24 (seven games ago). 

Previous: 1-1 draw vs. NSH | Next: 7/30 at MIA

After their loss to Philly this week, the Lions have just one win in their last seven games. It feels like a team Extratime described as the “worst good team” in the league is regressing a bit. That being said, they’re still relatively comfortably above the playoff line (fifth in the East) and have a huge US Open Cup semifinal this week. It hasn’t been a “fun” season for Orlando. But it might still end up being a highly effective one. With as much firepower as they lost over the offseason, that doesn’t seem like that bad a fate. 

Previous: 1-0 loss vs. PHI | Next: 7/31 at DC

A couple of weeks ago I put forward my theory on the cycle of Chicago Fire FC playoff chances.

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 were at “OH NO. THEY GOT ME AGAIN” after they blew a 2-0 lead against Columbus. Then, the very next week, I totally forgot about my own cycle and started to consider Chicago might in fact be making a run. Now, after their 3-1 win against Vancouver, they’ve won three straight and five of their last eight. They’re just two points below the East’s playoff line. And against my better judgment, I’m right back to “This looks better!” 

I think I know how this is going to end, but their underlying numbers and the quality of the roster have me convinced this might be real. I’m ready to be hurt again.

Previous: 3-1 win at VAN | Next: 7/30 vs. ATL

The Revs escaped Columbus with a point in part due to another excellent game by Djordje Petrovic. Just an update on Matt Turner’s replacement: He’s only played around 800 minutes, but he’s currently second in the league in goals allowed versus the xG he’s faced. If we look at his shot-stopping on a per/96 basis, he’s been the best in the league by a Matt Turner-esque margin. Beyond that really. He’s averaging 4.25 saves a game and may just carry the Revs into the playoffs.

Previous: 0-0 draw at CLB | Next: 7/30 vs. TOR


It turns out signing a whole bunch of really good players is a solid way to remake a bad team midway through the season. Your team could do it too, I promise. But Toronto have already done it and apparently nailed it out of the gate. The swing of emotions in Toronto from last week to this weekend must have been dizzying. 

The pure talent on display overwhelmed Charlotte in this one and sent a warning shot to the rest of the Eastern Conference. It does seem like you might be able to find quality chances against Toronto’s defense in transition moments. But out of the gate, they looked instantly and incomprehensibly terrifying. Like a scrawny kid who got injected with super serum or Compound V and immediately decided to use their new powers to destroy the planet. 

I’m scared and you should be too, especially for next season. I’m still not sure Toronto can dig themselves out of this hole this year. They ended the weekend on 22 points with 22 games played. The East’s playoff line seems to be heading towards somewhere around 43-47 points. That means the Reds will likely need to be somewhere around a two-points-per-game pace over their final 12 games. NYCFC, defending MLS Cup champions, are at 1.95 ppg this season. As good as TFC looked, that’s a big ask.

Previous: 4-0 win vs. CLT | Next: 7/30 at NE

It seemed like Chelsea would be Charlotte’s biggest worry this week. Turns out a fully reloaded Toronto was by far the bigger threat. No one can ever take this away from you though, Carolina.

Previous: 4-0 loss at TOR | Next: 7/30 vs. CLB

Houston couldn’t pull out a win against what might be the best team on the continent, Minnesota United FC. You can’t be mad. It’s now a five-point gap and growing between them and the West’s playoff line though. 

Previous: 2-1 loss vs. MIN | Next: 7/30 at PHI

It is a really bad time for Leo Campana to not be available to start. He’s only day-to-day, but you can’t overstate how critical he is to Inter Miami’s playoff hopes. 

Campana missed their NYCFC game last weekend and, unsurprisingly, the attack lacked a spark. It might have anyway against NYCFC, but they really need him back.

Previous: 2-0 loss at NYC | Next: 7/30 vs. CIN

A six-pointer against Seattle this weekend felt close to a must-win. The Rapids did not win. It might be officially time to concede that a combo of bad luck and the whole “losing good players and arguably not replacing them” thing might not get the job done this season. 

Via American Soccer Analysis, the Rapids have underperformed their expected points total more than any team in the league this year. They haven’t made any moves or put together any performances that suggest they’re going to make up for that any time soon.

Previous: 2-1 loss at SEA | Next: 8/2 at RBNY

We might be at the point where Atlanta United need to be in full “screw it, we’re going to win on talent and vibes” mode from here on out. Just full throttle attacking setups with maybe one actual CM cosplaying as Matt Polster on the 2021 Revs. 

Similar setups kind of worked last year. And it’s really the only thing that’s worked in the past few years for this team. Why not, right?

Previous: 2-0 loss at LA | Next: 7/30 at CHI

Julian Gressel’s debut didn’t quite go to plan. The Whitecaps have some work to do.

Previous: 3-1 loss vs. CHI | Next: 7/30 at NSH

It’s been a noble effort, but I think it might be time to officially hit eject on the Quakes’ playoff chances. They have six teams ahead of them and the gap is up to eight points. They’re tied for the worst defense in the league by goals allowed (43) and it just doesn’t feel like they’re going to put it together in time to make a run. 

It seems like there’s a skeleton of a good team in there somewhere. But that skeleton would be far better off, surely, if it didn’t spend an offseason and a few weeks of the regular season with Matias Almeyda.

Previous: 2-1 loss at POR | Next: 7/30 vs. RSL

The US Open Cup semifinals are on Wednesday night. And all Sporting KC have to do is beat USL Championship side Sacramento Republic! What could go wrong?

Previous: 2-0 loss vs. LAFC | Next: 7/30 vs. ATX

What may have been the last game of the pre-Wayne Rooney era ended in a loss thanks to early mistakes and Romell Quioto. New things are on the way. Who knows if that means better things, but definitely new things. 

Previous: 2-1 loss vs. MTL | Next: 7/31 vs. ORL