MLS Power Rankings: Bale, LAFC stay top ahead of All-Star break as Orlando, Galaxy tumble
3: 52 PM ET
Goals, goals, goals. There were 76 goals in 20 Major League Soccer games as we head into the All-Star break (watch MLS All-Stars vs. Liga MX All-Stars on Wednesday, LIVE on ESPN), good for an astounding 3.8 goals per game.
In a stunning turn of events, when nearly every game features both teams banging in goals, be it from superstars or defenders with long distance rockets, it’s a hell of a week to be a fan. Underlying all those goals is how each one impacts the playoff race.
After all, we are into the final two months of the season and with surges from the Colorado Rapids and New England Revolution, the playoff race is getting bigger by the week. So on top of the amazement that comes with a substitute defender annihilating a ball from 30 yards to win a match in stoppage time (hello, Andrew Gutman), there is also the knowledge that it may completely alter multiple teams’ seasons.
That is agonizing and, frankly, beautiful. How do the teams stack up after all those goals? Let’s dive in.
Previous ranking: 1
Next MLS match: Saturday vs. Charlotte FC, 7: 30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Was the highlight of LAFC’s win in Salt Lake Gareth Bale turning back the clock with a defense-eviscerating run, Christian Arango scoring two more, Giorgio Chiellini‘s hilarious handball, or that they did it with Denis Bouanga waiting in the wings? The Black and Gold keep humming.
Previous ranking: 3
Next MLS match: Saturday at Inter Miami CF, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
You’re not going to blame a team for losing in Columbus and NYCFC did score twice against the Crew, but that hole left by Valentin Castellanos looks bigger by the day.
Previous ranking: 2
Next MLS match: Saturday vs. Chicago Fire FC, 7: 30 p.m. ET, ESPN
After getting smoked by Cincinnati, the Union have won only one of their last seven in Ohio. Lay off the “chili,” boys.
4. Austin FC
Previous ranking: 4
Next MLS match: Saturday vs. Sporting Kansas City, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN
Some might see Sebastian Driussi having to score two more goals just to draw San Jose, 3-3, at home as cause for concern, but others might see putting your superstar in position to be heroic as a gift to the adoring public. Thank you, Austin.
Paul Marie goal 20th minute Austin FC 1-2 San Jose Earthquakes
Previous ranking: 5
Next MLS match: Saturday vs. Orlando City SC, 6 p.m. ET, ESPN
The Red Bulls lost a wild 5-4 contest to the Rapids and then went lame in a scoreless draw against D.C. Nobody disappoints in a multitude of ways quite like RBNY.
6. CF Montreal
Previous ranking: 7
Next MLS match: Saturday at Houston Dynamo FC, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN
A home draw against Miami can be forgotten when you win in Columbus just a few days earlier. Montreal simply has to figure out how to keep James Pantemis‘ head on his shoulders.
7. FC Dallas
Previous ranking: 6
Next MLS match: Saturday vs. San Jose Earthquakes, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
FCD took just one point from their trip to Seattle and Portland, but finally getting to see someone else put together a good performance, only to blow it with a late capitulation? It had to be a dream for Dallas watching the Timbers put the ball in their own net 10 minutes into stoppage time and hand them a draw.
Portland’s Diego Chara scores his own goal in the 100th minute, giving Dallas the equalizer.
Previous ranking: 9
Next MLS match: Sunday at Seattle Sounders FC, 10 p.m. ET, ESPN
For fairness’ sake, losses to LAFC don’t count. Congratulations on your week off, RSL.
Previous ranking: 8
Next MLS match: Sunday at Nashville SC, 9 p.m. ET
The Loons’ 4-3 loss to Colorado wasn’t pretty, but it was their first loss since June, Emanuel Reynoso didn’t play and they returned to a pristine 78 degree Minnesota summer day. Nobody is allowed to stress out in the Twin Cities.
10. FC Cincinnati
Previous ranking: 12
Next MLS match: Saturday vs. Atlanta United FC, 7: 30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Cincy took on one of the best teams in MLS, anchored by an all-time great defense, and absolutely annihilated the Union, 3-1. That game makes up 17% of the goals Philly has given up all season. It was an appropriate way to celebrate Brandon Vazquez making the All-Star team.
11. Columbus Crew
Previous ranking: 14
Next MLS match: Saturday at Colorado Rapids, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN
12. Nashville SC
Previous ranking: 10
Next MLS match: Sunday vs. Minnesota United FC, 9 p.m. ET
After a 1-1 draw in Portland and a 4-3 loss to Toronto, Nashville has already given up more goals than they did all of last season.
13. Colorado Rapids
Previous ranking: 18
Next MLS match: Saturday vs. Columbus Crew, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN
After scoring nine goals in wins over the Red Bulls and Minnesota, the Rapids are only three points back of a playoff spot with two matches in hand. If they continue to average 4.5 goals per game, you have to like their chances.
14. Portland Timbers
Previous ranking: 11
Next MLS match: Sunday at Toronto FC, 7: 30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Turning wins into draws, especially at home, is a good way to miss the playoffs. While the Nashville draw isn’t too bad, conceding an own goal in the 10th minute of stoppage time against Dallas is lurking as the moment that could haunt the Timbers all winter.
15. Seattle Sounders
Previous ranking: 15
Next MLS match: Saturday vs. Real Salt Lake, 10 p.m. ET, ESPN
Beat Dallas, lose to Atlanta. Who would’ve guessed that Seattle would become this season’s biggest shrug emoji team?
16. Orlando City
Previous ranking: 13
Next MLS match: Saturday at New York Red Bulls, 6 p.m. ET, ESPN
With every loss, this time 3-0 at home against a New England team ravaged by injuries up front, it becomes more and more important that Orlando wins the U.S. Open Cup.
17. Toronto FC
Previous ranking: 20
Next MLS match: Saturday vs. Portland Timbers, 4: 30 p.m. ET, ESPN
You know what’s even better for a neutral than TFC flying high with Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi? Toronto having a defense that will force them to pour in the goals in order to win, like they did in a 4-3 victory over Nashville.
Lorenzo Insigne goal 77th minute Nashville SC 2-4 Toronto FC
18. Inter Miami CF
Previous ranking: 17
Next MLS match: Saturday vs. New York City FC, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
The schedule makers sent them to San Jose midweek and Montreal on the weekend. They were asking Miami to lose, but they walked away winners on the west coast and with a draw up north. Take that, fancy computer that decides the schedule.
Previous ranking: 21
Next MLS match: Saturday vs. D.C. United, 7: 30 p.m. ET, ESPN
A dominant win in Orlando despite no Gustavo Bou and look who is probably the favorite for the final playoff spot in the East now. I’d say “uh oh, the Revs are pretty damn good now,” but Bruce Arena probably wouldn’t like word to get around so *whisper”uh oh, the Revs are pretty damn good now.”
20. Charlotte FC
Previous ranking: 19
Next MLS match: Saturday at LAFC, 7: 30 p.m. ET, ESPN
A win over D.C. and loss to Chicago — which direction is Charlotte going? Well their next two games are away to LAFC and NYCFC. Good luck, buds.
21. Chicago Fire
Previous ranking: 23
Next MLS match: Saturday at Philadelphia Union, 7: 30 p.m. ET, ESPN
If the Fire got 10 cents for every dime Xherdan Shaqiri dropped, they might be able to buy a playoff spot. After two more assists from Shaqiri in a win at Charlotte, they’re trying to do just that.
22. LA Galaxy
Previous ranking: 16
Next MLS match: Saturday vs. Vancouver Whitecaps, 10 p.m. ET, ESPN
When a 4-2 scoreline against SKC, one of the worst teams in the league, flatters you, you’re still the same club that missed the playoffs in five of the last six seasons no matter how many millions you spend.
Previous ranking: 22
Next MLS match: Saturday at LA Galaxy, 10 p.m. ET, ESPN
Down half a team due to health and safety protocols and trailing in the waning minutes, the Whitecaps were supposed to fall out of the playoff race, but they called upon the ancient soccer tactics of flying elbows, launched long balls, deflections and a helping hand from a bad Dynamo team to steal three points. The playoff push continues.
Previous ranking: 24
Next MLS match: Saturday at FC Cincinnati, 7: 30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Andrew Gutman said “why not me?” And despite plenty of evidence to the contrary, he was right and the Five Stripes won.
Andrew Gutman’s goal in the 94th minute gives Atlanta United a victory over Seattle Sounders.
Previous ranking: 26
Next MLS match: Saturday at FC Dallas, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN
Among the very best goals a player can score is going “corner? I don’t need to hit the corner. I’m just going to hit the everloving you know what out of this ball.” But doing that from 35 yards? That’s perfection. Paul Marie achieved perfection in a draw against Austin and such perfection cancels out a putrid loss to Miami midweek.
Previous ranking: 28
Next MLS match: Saturday vs. LA Galaxy, 8: 30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Sporting were better than the Galaxy in attack, midfield, defense and the VAR booth. That’s how you increase your goals scored on the season by 21% in one evening.
27. D.C. United
Previous ranking: 27
Next MLS match: Saturday at New England Revolution, 7: 30 p.m. ET, ESPN
D.C. lost to Charlotte, but what really matters in a rough season is hurting the Red Bulls. Mission accomplished, with a 0-0 draw. It was United’s first clean sheet in 13 games and probably inspired by the tidy trim work on Wayne Rooney’s beard.
28. Houston Dynamo
Previous ranking: 26
Next MLS match: Saturday vs. CF Montreal, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN
When you get to play a Whitecaps team that had half its team in health and safety protocols and take a lead into the 88th minute, but still go full Sideshow Bob? Ughhhhh.
The author of 5 books, 3 of which are New York Times bestsellers. I’ve been published in more than 100 newspapers and magazines and am a frequent commentator on NPR.