MLS Power Rankings — Week 3

Week 3 sure was a wild one. From Cincinnati’s echoing victory at home, to DC United’s 5 – 0 blow out over RSL, to Seattle winning big on the road… this season of MLS is heating up and looking to be a wild one. 

The biggest climber this week: FC Cincinnati. Biggest fall: Portland Timbers.

The Leaders

1. DC United

Change: +3 — Form: WDW
Rooney bags a hat trick. RSL did themselves no favors this game but they were unquestionably outmatched and DC did not show any mercy. Turns out that Rooney kid is good at soccer. I wonder if we’ll see him snapped up by some European club?

2. New York Red Bulls

Change: +1 — Form: WD
Coming back from their off week, they earned the win over San Jose. I have to imagine there was a twinge of panic when San Jose went up early, but Red Bulls made it look easy as they started scoring and didn’t stop.

3. Seattle Sounders FC

Change: ‑1 — Form: WWW
Winning 4 – 2 on the road? Seems good. Sounders fans deserve to be excited about the team this season. But there should also be a bit of skepticism as we have not yet had to face a top team. The two goals Chicago scored left questions about the defense. Can they shore it up and be the complete package?

4. Los Angeles FC

Change: ‑3 — Form: DWW
A draw on the road is nothing to sniff at, but it is also not enough to hold your top spot when the three teams below you all earned the W. LAFC and Carlos Vela look like a good team that will contend for the top spot this season.

The Pack

5. Toronto FC

Change: +3 — Form: WW
They come back from their CCL attempt and get the win at home. Toronto are off to a solid start in their post Giovinco era.

6. Columbus Crew

Change: +0 — Form: WWD
A win at home over FC Dallas, as much as they are struggling, is still a win. It was not a dominant performance, but it was enough to keep them atop the pack.

7. Atlanta United

Change: ‑2 — Form: DDL
Atlanta fans are frustrated. Being the league champions and then waking up and discovering that you aren’t hot shit anymore is a tough pill to swallow. Can De Boer shake off Atlanta’s champion slump?

8. Sporting KC

Change: ‑1 — Form: DWL
SKC held out for the draw, and now will likely turn their focus to advancing in the CCL. The only MLS team to advance to the semi finals. Power rankings shouldn’t concern them or their fans until that saga plays out.

9. Houston Dynamo

Change: +2 — Form: WWD
Houston looks solid. Love their counter attacking offense and we will have to see if they can continue this early season form.

10. LA Galaxy

Change: +3 — Form: WLW
Zlatan out and LA Galaxy looked phenomenal anyways. That’s what Galaxy fans have been waiting for. LA Galaxy could make their way back to the top of the pack if this form continues.

11. Minnesota United

Change: ‑2 — Form: LWW
Losing on the road is a part of the MLS. Minnesota fans might have hoped for more but they can’t leave that game too angry, they looked solid more than not and just couldn’t score an equalizer.

12. NYCFC

Change: +2 — Form: DDD
Another week, another draw. NYCFC have some truly excellent players but what I saw of their game against LAFC felt like the old Sounders when the team relied too heavily on Clint & Oba to score and if they were successfully neutralized the team struggled. I think NYCFC can break free of that, but we’ll have to wait and see.

13. Montréal Impact

Change: +2 — Form: WLW
A road win is a big thing for teams in the MLS, the home team has a rather sizable advantage. Montréal should feel good about their 3 – 1 victory, even if it was over Orlando.

14. FC Cincinnati

Change: +6 — Form: WDL
FCC is exceeding my expectations by a large margin. I tweeted last week that I was thinking FCC would win at home this weekend, and they proved me right. From the home stadium energy, to FCC looking competent, and Portland’s struggling form. Kudos to Alan Koch and the whole squad.

The Chase

15. FC Dallas

Change: ‑3 — Form: LWD
Pareja leaving to go to Mexico was a big hit to the organization. He did a lot of work building the squad and the strategy. Dallas is playing their kids and trying things out, both things I heartily support. Losses happen, the game goes on.

16. Colorado Rapids

Change: +1 — Form: DLD
A draw at home against a, theoretically, better SKC. They would have had the win had Johnny Russell not managed to snag the late equalizer.

17. Real Salt Lake

Change: ‑1 — Form: LWD
This week they collapsed in the worst possible way. Two red cards and five goals. It gave me flashbacks to the Sounders vs. Portland “Red Card Wedding.”

18. Chicago Fire

Change: +0 — Form: LDL
Chicago should not feel destroyed by the Sounders win. Sure, they lost. But their offense looked solid and had a lot of shots. Similar to the Sounders last season, having a lot of shots means that eventually they are going to start to fall. Hang in there.

19. Philadelphia Union

Change: +4 — Form: DLL
The Union managed a draw against Atlanta. In a vacuum that’s a very good result.

20. Portland FC

Change: ‑8 — Form: LLD
They are in a tail spin. They need to figure their formation and tactics out, all while going on an extended long road trip. The good news for them, as mentioned elsewhere, is teams on extended road trips in the start of the season have never failed to qualify for the post-season. 

21. New England Revolution

Change: ‑2 — Form: LLD
New England Revolution have an amazing talent in Carles Gil. The question is, can they form a plan that utilizes, supports, and defends against all opponents.

The Basement

22. Orlando City

Change: ‑1 — Form: LDD
Orlando fans should be worried. I don’t want to mince words or give false hope but nothing I’ve seen from Orlando has given me any real hope of them turning their form. I hope I’m wrong and have to eat my words, but that’s my feeling.

23. Vancouver Whitecaps

Change: ‑1 — Form: LLL
I feel like Vancouver shows flashes of competence and solid attack. But their defense is too porous and they can’t score enough goals to overcome it.

24. San Jose Earthquakes

Change: +0 — Form: LLL
Being a bad soccer team is never fun. They had hoped they could turn it around after last season but so far they are only showing us how to lose games.

Header image posted to reddit by /u/thelost2010

Watch These — Week of Mar. 18

As we head into the international break, most leagues in the world go on break.

Thursday, Mar. 21

  • Belgium vs. Russia (UEFA Euro Qualifiers) — Russia crashed out of the Euros during the group stage in 2016, Belgium made it to the knockouts before being defeated 3 – 1 by Wales. Belgium is #1 in the world right now. This should be an entertaining match as they vie for another go in the Euros.

Friday, Mar. 22

  • England vs. Czech Republic (UEFA Euro Qualifiers) — England sits at #6 in the world, but they are very much a team in transition as the next generation of players take over.

Saturday, Mar. 23

  • Spain vs. Norway (UEFA Euro Qualifiers) - Spain are among my favorite international teams to watch, for obvious reasons. Who doesn’t want to see them face-off against #46 in the FIFA rankings?
  • Dallas vs. Colorado Rapids (MLS) — The MLS limps along in the international break. Both of these teams need a win to help them rise in the standings.
  • Saint Louis vs. Tampa Bay Rowdies (USL) - Two of the three remaining undefeated teams in USL meet. Saint Louis with dreams of coming to MLS. Rowdies living in the shadow of Orlando and the soon to arrive Miami.

Sunday, Mar. 24

  • Netherlands vs. Germany (UEFA Euro Qualifiers) - Unquestionably the biggest of the Euro qualifier matches this week. Netherlands need to recover after not qualifying for the World Cup. Germany were disgraced at the World Cup after not making it out of the group stages. Two teams looking to make a comeback.

Seattle Extinguish Fire 4 – 2

This week Brian Schmetzer let out that he is eyeing a very high bar for the start of this season: Starting this season with a 10 – 0 run. It certainly would be something amazing if the Sounders managed to do it. And Saturday in Chicago was another step on that path, matching their best start ever from their first MLS season, 2009.

While the match ended with a 4 – 2 Sounders win, it could easily have ended 7 – 6. Lots of dangerous shots for both sides with both goalkeepers playing well. Ousted had a few notable saves and Frei had two which actually made me say ‘wow.’

Graphic taken from MLSSoccer.com

I could focus on the delightful goals the Sounders scored but I’ll be honest. It was our defense which held my attention this game. Chicago had 25 shots during the game, 12 of them on target. The Sounders defense had a few poor moments and looked relatively porous. As surgical and threatening as the Sounders look on the ball offensively, and as easy as it is to feel we are impervious and unbeatable… watching this game makes me nervous for April when we travel to LAFC. How does this team do when faced with a powerfully offensive team? Can we hold them back? Can we out race them? I don’t know.

That defensive nervousness was my core takeaway from the game. Seattle has an offensive package unlike anything we’ve ever had before. Scoring ten goals in the first three games is excellent. We have two players tied at 3 goals (Ruidiaz and Morris), competing for the golden boot in the league. I mean, the Sounders are very scary offensively. We can score from anywhere by any of our offensive players.

But other teams have to be looking at us and zeroing in on our defensive weakness; the chink in our armor. That is what would keep me up this week were I on the coaching staff for the Sounders. How do we strengthen our defenses?

I think every player on our defense had a few concerning plays against Chicago, but the one I noticed most was Svensson seemed a bit off. Even when we shifted to five in the back we didn’t end up looking more defensively solid.

In the 72nd minute, Schmetzer pulled Lodeiro off and subbed on Panamanian center back, Roman Torres. This was a clear sign that we were settling in to defend our lead 3 – 1, as we shifted to a 5 – 3‑2 or 5 – 4‑1 structure. I don’t hate the strategy, we have three of the best CBs in the league. But it is not as convincing a tactic as I would hope. We looked just as vulnerable and perhaps more confused when the transition took place. It was twelve minutes later when Fabian Herbers managed to get on the loose ball in the box and bring Chicago up trail 2 – 3. Suddenly we had to be scared Chicago might find the third goal.

And look, I’m not saying anything the team doesn’t already know. Schmetzer himself in his postgame interview called out Frei’s big performance because “they could have scored a few more.” I trust in the coaching staff to look at the replay footage and figure out who messed up and how. And I expect the next two weeks will be a lot of defensive drills, and further tinkering with the five in the back.

Don’t let all this defense focus make you feel bad about our win. We are 3 – 0 so far in the season. We have a goal differential of +7. We have scored with five different players so far this season. We are having a hell of a start to the season and the Sounders are showing everyone who we are.

The Good

  • Rodriguez is a man on a mission. He has been tagged as a DP by the club and he wants to show us all what he is capable of when fully healthy.
  • Lodeiro looked great and was all over the field. He had a fortuitous bounce from his penalty kick, but a goal is a goal.
  • Morris continues to be goal dangerous, and he scored one which could be voted as goal of the week.
  • Raul Ruidiaz didn’t have a lot of time on the ball, but that’s not a bad thing. He continues to keep defenders occupied and help maneuver formations to expose them. Combine that with his current goal scoring streak and he’s doing great.
  • Brad Smith looked strong offensively, pairing excellently with Rodriguez.
  • Stefan Frei says the Keeper of the Year award doesn’t matter to him, and that’s a reasonable response to not getting it last year. But I contend that him not getting it last year has left him more determined to be undeniably great this season.

The Bad

  • Our two CDMs, Gustav Svensson and Cristian Roldan didn’t look like themselves, they seemed sluggish and off.
  • Roman Torres didn’t look great when he subbed on.
  • Bastian Schweinsteiger didn’t have a good game.
  • Chicago Fire attendance was depressingly abysmal.

MLS Power Rankings — Week 2

After week 2’s results, the power rankings are starting to come into focus. We are watching the teams as they fall through the league’s plinko machine until everything settles. It’s already been a wild two weeks in the league, and I cannot wait to see how week three goes. Biggest climbers: Minnesota United and… FC Cincinnati? Biggest fall: Philadelphia Union.

The Leaders

1. Los Angeles FC

Change: +1
As much as my Sounders fan self wants to put the Sounders up top, LAFC looks to be the complete package. Carlos Vela is a superstar on par with Lodeiro and I can’t wait to see how they do for this season.

2. Seattle Sounders FC

Change: +1
Two goals in the first eight minutes of play. It was a hell of a way to start a match. And then it slowed down with the Sounders dominating but not able to get their third. Had we gotten that third I’d put them atop the league in my power rankings. Still, top of the league after two. How will they do on the road next week in Chicago?

3. New York Red Bulls

Change: ‑2
Off due to their CCL competition, I suspect they are still pretty good.

4. DC United

Change: +0
Rooney and Acosta are shaping up to have an amazing season, leading DC United back into contention as one of the top teams in the league. That said, they were unimpressive offensively against NYCFC.

The Pack

5. Atlanta United

Change: +0
A loss and a draw. Not a good look for the reigning champions. But, it’s also not unusual. They lost their key playmaker and changed coaches. Atlanta is in transition, give them a few weeks to settle into their new era. They still have the talent to do great in this league.

6. Columbus Crew

Change: +1
#SaveTheCrew might have worked too well. The Crew look to be true contenders in the league this season.

7. Sporting KC

Change: ‑1
A win’s a win. I am going to enjoy seeing how Kansas does this season, and see if Gedion comes in to make an impact for the team.

8. Toronto FC

Change: +2
As with New York, Toronto had this week off given the Concacaf Champions League. Unlike New York though, they get a bump as other teams fall around them.

9. Minnesota United

Change: +4
I would not have expected to give Minnesota a top 10 ranking this early in the season, but here we are. They are undefeated after opening their league on the road for two games. Now, granted their wins were against a rebuilding Vancouver, and the perennial struggling San Jose.

10. Portland FC

Change: ‑2
Thrashed in LA, Portland looked quite poor. But it doesn’t strike me as systemic issues, and more about early season wrinkles as they get their season going.

11. Houston Dynamo

Change: +1
Despite playing mid-week for CCL, Houston managed a 2 – 1 win over Montréal. They could be the real deal this season.

12. FC Dallas

Change: +2
A win over the Zlatan-less Galaxy is a win all the same, but they sure didn’t look convincing. Could be a rough season for Dallas fans.

13. LA Galaxy

Change: ‑4
Zlatan is already missing a game in week 2 of his “all the records” season. LA are on an upward trend compared to last season, even with this loss, but boy does it appear like they still have work to do.

14. NYCFC

Change: ‑3
Week 2 was a snorefest.

The Chase

15. Montréal Impact

Change: +1
Remi Garde. Piatti. And a loss against Houston. Montréal has promising flashes, they just need to hold onto it.

16. Real Salt Lake

Change: +3
RSL got the win this week, but it was not a comprehensive victory. I feel like RSL can do better, but they aren’t there yet.

17. Colorado Rapids

Change: +1
It’s a rough start to their season. First they drew vs Portland in the coldest MLS game in history, then they go on the road to Seattle and go down 2 – 0 in 8 minutes. Colorado had moments in Seattle where they got dangerous but they weren’t able to find the net.

18. Chicago Fire

Change: ‑1
Chicago got an equalizer at the death of the match to preserve a point at home. They need to get some fire and some threat, otherwise Seattle is going to run them over this weekend.

19. New England Revolution

Change: +1
A draw against Dallas, then a loss to Columbus. In both cases this team is outgunned. New England could sure use some reinforcements or a strategy change.

20. FC Cincinnati

Change: +4
A draw on the road against Atlanta is nothing to sniff at. Is this the start of Cincinnati warming up or a blip of false hope?

21. Orlando City

Change: +0
Two weeks, two draws. Orlando wants and needs to be better.

The Basement

22. Vancouver Whitecaps

Change: +0
Not good. Can Fredy Montero pick up and be the offensive weapon to pull the Whitecaps out of the basement?

23. Philadelphia Union

Change: ‑8
Did I mention how dreadful and boring that NYCFC match was? I had Philadelphia in the middle of the table but they looked so dreadful I am correcting immediately and dumping them into the basement.

24. San Jose Earthquakes

Change: ‑1
Almeyda took on quite the challenge with San Jose. This team needs a deep reboot and a wake-up call.

Watch These — Week of Mar. 11

MLS’s features for this week aren’t complete, but I don’t think any of those outcomes are going to change my top matches to see for the coming week. Here we go!

My Top 3

So you’ve only got time for a few soccer games, these are the three I most recommend you watch if you’re able:

  • Milan vs. Inter (Sunday, 12:30pm Pacific — ESPN+) — The Milan derby is this weekend, broadcast online over ESPN+ for those of us in the States.
  • Juventus vs. Atletico Madrid (Tuesday, 1pm Pacific — Univision/FuboTV) — Can Juventus mount the comeback? Or will Atletico advance further than their cross-city rival?
  • Chicago Fire vs. Seattle Sounders (Saturday, 10am Pacific — ESPN+) — Perhaps my homerism is peeking through, but it feels like the Sounders might be about to do something special in this league. This game will be a true test of how they perform away from home with their fully healthy squad.

See my full listing of games to see, after the break.

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