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. He is not solely liable for these outcomes.
The Supporters’ Shield winners didn’t need to do anything this week. But they still found some time to add another win to their résumé. Álvaro Barreal found a late winner against Inter Miami, negating any potential Lionel Messi problems in the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs. The Herons are eliminated and Cincinnati will be feeling very, very confident about facing whoever comes out of the Wild Card round.
Orlando picked up six points this week against two playoff teams as they confirmed, yet again, how they’re genuine MLS Cup contenders. The Lions became the second team to reach 60 points this season and will be one of the only two teams to reach that mark in 2023 alongside FC Cincinnati.
Over the last 17 games, they’ve averaged 2.00 points per game, by far the best mark in the league. For reference, FC Cincinnati have the second-best mark in the league over that span with 1.75 points per game. No one has been better than Orlando over the last few months.
St. Louis lost this week, but last I checked they’re still going to finish first in the Western Conference in their first season of existence. So, I wouldn’t worry too much about that minor setback.
The Crew earned four points this week after going on the road against New England and Atlanta. That’s an outstanding week in MLS by any measure. But it could have been more. They allowed a stoppage-time set-piece equalizer to Atlanta and missed out on three points that would have pushed them into third place in the East.
You have to wonder if a strange tendency to allow late goals might hint at a fatal flaw come playoff time. Columbus have dropped 10 points in the 90th minute or later this season.
Houston took a road point in Montréal and then clobbered the Rapids. That’s a very solid week, and the Dynamo have shown no real signs of a potential post-US Open Cup hangover. They’ll enter Decision Day with a chance at finishing as high as second in the West.
The Union sure looked a lot like the Union again in the first half against Atlanta United on Wednesday.
Then the second half hit and they were holding on for dear life by the end of the game. Then they played to a totally unremarkable 0-0 draw against Nashville on Saturday. It’s hard to know what to make of this team right now.
Gut call, the Union we saw in the first half against Atlanta is probably something close to what we’ll see in the playoffs. They’ve been playing like a team that’s a little too aware bigger games are on the way. Now they just need to make sure they don’t accidentally miss their alarm when it’s time to wake up.
Atlanta United came into the week needing to pass two tough tests against playoff teams in the East. They passed those tests against Philadelphia and Columbus in the same way I made it through the majority of my college courses: Messing around at the start until panic set in.
They looked good at times, especially when pushing for a late goal while playing from behind. They looked less impressive in the times that led to them playing from behind. They get a D+ grade on those two tests. They only get one point from two games for that. It very likely means they’ll end the year in sixth place in the East.
I bet y’all almost forgot about Dénis Bouanga.
He scored five goals this week as LAFC cruised to two big wins. The math is pretty simple for LAFC at this point. If Bounga is on, LAFC are on. The rest of the West has to be nervous that he’s beginning to thrive at the right time.
Although, to be fair, he’s been thriving the whole year. There have just been a few breaks and multiple competitions that have possibly skewed some perceptions of his season. I mean…
Seattle earned an encouraging 2-1 win over LA midweek and then played to a 0-0 draw against Vancouver. In typical 2023 Seattle fashion, they haven’t lost since their first game back from Leagues Cup and it still feels like they aren’t playing all that well. In related news: They still haven’t quite clinched a top-four spot, but could end Decision Day second in the West.
The Revs started their pre-playoffs gauntlet with one-goal losses to Columbus and Orlando City. That’s not a great sign, but they still have control over where they finish in the final standings. Their two upcoming games against Nashville and Philadelphia loom large.
Nashville earned one point this week in playoff preview matchups against Orlando and Philadelphia. They didn’t score a goal.
It’s getting kind of dire in attack for Gary Smith’s side. They’ve been shut out in their last three games and have scored five goals in their eight games since Leagues Cup. Three of those came against Sporting KC. It’s not clear if it’s post-Leagues Cup fatigue coming through or a sign Sam Surridge hasn’t changed the team like they hoped. But either way, there’s a lot of reason to worry about Nashville’s ability to find the net in the playoffs.
The Whitecaps blew out a St. Louis side with nothing to play for, then earned a point against a Sounders side with a lot to play for. That’s an outstanding week and it has Vancouver in position to jump into the top four with a win and some help on Decision Day.
RSL needed a home win over SKC to stay in the top four out West. They didn’t get it. An early red card from Justen Glad derailed things a bit. The good news is they’re in sixth for now and have a game in hand to play before Decision Day. There’s still a chance they can finish in the top four or even top two in the West. Considering they play LA and Colorado to close the year, they should expect themselves to get the job done.
The Timbers took a road trip to Montréal last weekend. It didn’t go well. They got blasted 4-1 and are heading into a Decision Day matchup with Houston that feels a bit more high stakes than expected. The Timbers could potentially fall out of the playoffs entirely with a few bad breaks. It’s fair to be a bit worried.
Well. That’s that. The Herons got blasted by Chicago midweek, then fell to FC Cincinnati on Saturday despite Lionel Messi coming off the bench. They’re officially eliminated from playoff contention.
That’s a relief for the playoff teams in the East. And there are silver linings for the folks in South Beach. They can start to get healthy, get some rest and restart work on reshaping this roster. The offseason in Miami is going to be fascinating. Their recruitment pitch is the best in the league and they should be busy. Expectations will be sky-high in 2024 no matter what.
Dallas played to a fourth straight draw last weekend. They have six draws in their last seven games. They have two wins in nine games since Leagues Cup. They’re very likely a playoff team, but they aren’t sprinting over the finish line. They need to take care of business against Colorado and LA over their last two games and finally dig themselves out of a Wild Card spot.
SKC are alive. They beat up on 10-man RSL for a bit in a 3-2 win and put themselves in position to potentially squeak into the playoffs on Decision Day. Sporting need to win against Minnesota United to have a chance, but Dallas, San Jose and Portland should all be feeling some serious pressure. That might be all it takes to force a misstep.
NYCFC were doing just fine heading into the weekend… and then they totally faceplanted against a D.C. United team with very little to play for. They’ll enter Decision day needing to jump four teams to make it into the final Wild Card spot. They can jump two of them with a win over Chicago on Decision Day. They’ll need some help to make it past two more.
San Jose, yet again, played to a 1-1 draw this week. They may need a win on Decision Day to stay above the playoff line. Even if they make it in, they haven’t inspired confidence lately.
Whatever monkey’s paw deal the Red Bulls made to make the playoffs every year is coming to fruition again. They beat Cincinnati and Toronto this week. A win on Decision Day doesn’t guarantee them a spot (yet), but it would give them a very, very strong chance at one. From there, they could play spoiler for a couple of teams when they get to the playoffs. Their underlying numbers have been excellent all year. They’ve been the unluckiest team in the league compared to their expected goal differential. Maybe they can start getting lucky at the right time?
After some miserable performances by Road Montréal the past couple of weeks, Home Montréal cleaned up Road Montréal’s mess with a four-point week against two probable playoff teams from the West. Home Montréal drew with Houston midweek and beat up on Portland over the weekend. They jumped into eighth in the East, which means Home Montréal would host the Wild Card round if Road Montréal can hold onto the spot over Decision Day. That means Road Montréal will need to earn a massive result at Columbus. I’m guessing Home Montréal isn’t super confident in their other half right now though.
The Loons had a week.
After getting thumped 5-1 by LAFC on Wednesday, they parted ways with head coach Adrian Heath and technical director Mark Watson. They responded on Saturday by… winning their first home game since August via a four-goal performance from Teemu Pukki and keeping their playoff hopes alive.
How can you not be romantic about MLS?
Minnesota are alive for one more week heading into a Decision Day matchup with an SKC team that also needs a win and some luck to make the playoffs. It’s plausible though. Even without the only manager the team has known in MLS.
Whether they make it or not, it’s not totally clear where they go in the post-Heath/Watson era. They clearly felt like they needed a refresh of some kind though. We’ll see if it pays off in the long run.
Charlotte had a perfect week. They took care of business midweek in a 3-0 win over Toronto, then flustered Chicago in a 2-0 win over the weekend. On top of that, Inter Miami got eliminated from playoff contention. Charlotte will close the season with two games against a Herons side with little to play for. If they win both, they’ll finish eighth in the East. If they win one, they have a decent shot at a Wild Card spot.
D.C.’s season is officially over and so is Wayne Rooney’s time in D.C.
I don’t know where they go from here. On some level, their acquisitions in Rooney’s time felt like “win now” moves. Now, Rooney is gone, the organization needs direction and the roster’s average age is among the highest in the league. They have a lot of work to do.
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Did we just see the most Chicago Fire week of the last few years?
Wednesday: Clobber Inter Miami in front of a record crowd to put themselves into a position for a playoff spot. All they have to do now is get results against two other fringe playoff teams. Anything is possible. Believe in your dreams.
Saturday: Totally brick it against Charlotte. Need a result on Decision Day and some help now. Love is a ghost.
That’s painfully on-brand. It all comes down to Decision Day for Chicago now and I can't imagine anyone is feeling cheery and optimistic heading into this one.
The Galaxy lost to Seattle and then got smacked by Minnesota. They aren’t going to make the playoffs. Once again, there’s a lot of work to do over the offseason. At least they won’t face transfer restrictions in this upcoming window.
That’s a season wrap for Austin. They showed up on Wednesday for a 3-0 win over D.C. United, but LAFC snuffed out any hope they had of a miracle playoff run on the weekend.
Austin and new sporting director Rodolfo Borrell have some work to do this offseason. Clearing a couple of DP spots wouldn’t hurt. Refreshing some spots across the roster wouldn’t hurt, to be honest. They finished 20th in American Soccer Analysis’ expected points metric last season and are 23rd this season. Basically, they caught a ton of breaks last year. Didn’t this year. It would be good to not have to need so many breaks.
The Rapids lost by four goals to Houston. They’re still eliminated from the playoffs.