April showers bring May flowers … and set up wild MLS seasons chock-full of surprising results and consensus-smashing results.
It took a while to get here, but it feels like MLS is finally the league we all know and mostly wring our hands about. A league that provides more than its fair share of chaos. A league that tests our patience with a round of results that confounds as much as it clarifies.
Who’s good? Who’s bad? These are our weekly MLS Power Rankings.
1. LAFC (7 wins, 1 draw, 1 loss)
Previous ranking: 1
Next MLS match: Sunday, April 28, at Seattle (3.30 p.m. ET, live on ESPN and ESPN Deportes)
OK, so LAFC lost on the road to Vancouver on Wednesday, but Bob Bradley’s club also made a statement against Seattle on Sunday night, busting up the second-best team in the league with a strong performance at Banc of California Stadium. How good is LAFC? Good enough to remain the best team in MLS. See you all next week.
Previous ranking: 2
Next MLS match: Wednesday, April 24, vs. San Jose Earthquakes (10.30 p.m. ET, live on ESPN+)
There’s this: The Sounders were the last unbeaten team in MLS when the whistle blew in L.A. on Sunday night. That won’t make them feel better about the performance, a big loss to LAFC, but there’s hope that the season will bend toward Seattle across 34 games. Good team, bad night.
Previous ranking: 3
Next MLS match: Wednesday, April 24, at Minnesota (8 p.m. ET, live on ESPN+)
Zlatan Ibrahimovic won himself (another) penalty, Diego Polenta scored his first MLS goal and the Galaxy knocked the Dynamo from the ranks of the unbeaten. The real show on Friday was the battle between Ibrahimovic and AJ DeLaGarza. Back in his old stomping grounds, DeLaGarza decided to fight a lion. He did not win.
Previous ranking: 4
Next MLS match: Saturday, April 27, vs. Columbus Crew (8.30 p.m. ET, live on ESPN+)
The unbeaten run was always going to end at some point. Friday’s loss wasn’t inevitable — the Dynamo went toe-to-toe with the Galaxy on the road — but we can’t downgrade Houston dramatically because of it. Wilmer Cabrera’s team looks to be the real deal and will be in the mix for the top spot in the West all year. If it can hold on to Alberth Elis.
Previous ranking: 8
Next MLS match: Saturday, April 27, vs. San Jose (3.30 p.m. ET)
First, the facts: Atlanta is not very good right now and beating it isn’t all that unique anymore. That being said, walking into Mercedes-Benz Stadium and taking down the champions is no small feat for a young side like FC Dallas. Take note of the goal scorers for the Hoops: 18-year academy product Jesus Ferreira and offseason DP signing Bryan Acosta.
NYCFC put an end to their six-game winless streak with a victory against Wayne Rooney and D.C. United.
Previous ranking: 5
Next MLS match: Wednesday, April 24, at Columbus Crew (7.30 p.m. ET, live on ESPN+)
Held against Montreal and then beaten at home by NYCFC — it was not the best week for United in terms of results. The strangeness of the schedule keeps United at the top of the table in the East, but there’s a teetering feeling about that status for the Black and Red. This is not a team that can afford for Wayne Rooney and Luciano Acosta to go missing.
Previous ranking: 9
Next MLS match: Saturday, April 27, vs. Portland (3 p.m. ET, live on ESPN+)
The Reds bounced back from last week’s loss in Seattle with a wild win over Minnesota United, but the real drama came after the game. Jozy Altidore‘s frustration over another hamstring injury prompted an outburst at team president Bill Manning, not a good look for a club that was the model of harmony not that long ago.
Previous ranking: 6
Next MLS match: Wednesday, April 24, vs. D.C. United (7.30 p.m. ET, live on ESPN+)
On the whole, the start to life under Caleb Porter hasn’t been too bad in Columbus — the Crew did sit second in the East before the weekend matches, after all. But the struggle to score goals is becoming a real problem for Porter’s team. Every team is susceptible to poor finishing, but there doesn’t seem to be an obvious fix in Ohio.
Previous ranking: 10
Next MLS match: Saturday, April 27, at Vancouver (5 p.m. ET, live on ESPN+)
Easy stuff for the Union on Saturday against Montreal. One problem: Andre Blake left the game with a groin injury. That’s trouble for Jim Curtin’s team: Blake is a former MLS Goalkeeper of the Year for good reason and consistently keeps his teams in games all by himself.
Previous ranking: 11
Next MLS match: Wednesday, April 24, at LA Galaxy (8 p.m. ET, live on ESPN+)
The Loons showed energy, fight, grit, passion, joy, skill and any number of other positive traits in a wild loss to Toronto on Friday. That’s the good. The bad is that Minnesota’s defending is still distressingly bad and both Jan Gregus and Francisco Calvo were sent off late in the match. Neither will be available against LA in midweek.
Jamiro Monteiro was instrumental in his debut for Philadelphia Union, scoring his first goal for the club in a rout of Montreal Impact.
Previous ranking: 12
Next MLS match: Wednesday, April 24, at New England (7.30 p.m. ET, live on ESPN+)
The most inconsistent team in the league (and this is MLS, so that’s saying a lot) dropped a 3-0 result in Philadelphia on Saturday. It’s tough to know how to judge the Impact while Ignacio Piatti remains missing in action, though the defensive struggles of the club can’t be explained away by Piatti’s absence.
Previous ranking: 15
Next MLS match: Saturday, April 28, vs. New York City FC (1 p.m. ET, live on ESPN+)
By no means was the 1-0 win over Vancouver comfortable, but the Lions can’t really afford to be picky at this point. Orlando outshot, out-possessed and outplayed Vancouver in the win, but it’s almost as if the lucky deflection off of Nani from Sacha Kljestan was just desserts for Orlando in a must-win game.
Previous ranking: 17
Next MLS match: Sunday, April 28, at Cincinnati (8 p.m. ET, live on ESPN+)
RSL executed a statement in a hostile environment in Cincinnati and should feel good about a 3-0 win. That doesn’t mean Mike Petke will sit happy back in Utah, especially considering that his side has a different test against the Galaxy coming next weekend. By the way, Albert Rusnak is pretty good.
Previous ranking: 7
Next MLS match: Saturday, April 27, vs. New England (8.30 p.m. ET, live on ESPN+)
Things got out of hand quickly for Sporting in San Jose. Could it have been different if Krisztian Nemeth had converted a penalty in the 26th minute? Maybe, but Nemeth’s shot ended up following the flight path from the planes at nearby San Jose International Airport instead. For now, SKC is what their record says.
Previous ranking: 19
Next MLS match: Wednesday, April 24, at New York City FC (7 p.m. ET, live on ESPN+)
The Fire dropped four on Colorado, and though it was only Colorado, that number is a big step forward. The full influence of Nicolas Gaitan is now evident, and the Argentine is making his presence felt in Bridgeview. The pair of assists Gaitan provided to the Fire effort should be just the first taste of what he can do.
Previous ranking: 18
Next MLS match: Wednesday, April 24, vs. Chicago (7 p.m. ET, live on ESPN+)
Alexandru Mitrita and Heber are pretty good. Both scored in a big win over D.C., a game that changes the feeling in the Eastern Conference thanks to NYCFC’s slow start. There are lots of questions in the East, not the least of which is “who’s good?” considering the reasonable doubts about a number of teams at the top of the conference.
Following his failure in Monaco, the FC guys discuss what Thierry Henry could offer the New York Red Bulls should he be named head coach.
Previous ranking: 13
Next MLS match: Saturday, April 27, vs. Cincinnati (7 p.m. ET, live on ESPN+)
It’s not getting better for the Red Bulls, who are now more than halfway to their loss total from 2018. This being MLS, nothing is lost, but the clouds over the team are thick and dark. Saturday’s performance in New England wasn’t just disappointing because of the loss, but also because New York never really threatened to score.
Previous ranking: 14
Next MLS match: Saturday, April 27, at New York Red Bulls (7 p.m. ET, live on ESPN+)
FCC are crashing back to earth after a start that caught most of the league off guard. It would help to have Fanendo Adi in the lineup, but it’s hard to escape the feeling that much of that start was more shock and awe than a result of real quality. Is this expansion year already a success?
Previous ranking: 16
Next MLS match: Saturday, April 27, vs. Colorado (6 p.m. ET, live on ESPN+)
A lot is made of Arthur Blank’s commitment to his soccer team and his willingness to spend money to make that team successful. It’s worth wondering now, six games into United’s 2019 season, if that willingness to spend money extends to a willingness to pay a buyout on a contract for a head coach when things obviously aren’t working.
Previous ranking: 20
Next MLS match: Saturday, April 27, vs. Philadelphia (5 p.m. ET, live on ESPN+)
Wednesday delivered Marc Dos Santos his first MLS win and Vancouver a reason to be hopeful. Of course, the league rewarded the Whitecaps with a trip across the continent and a match against Orlando on short rest. Should we throw out the result in Florida or ding Vancouver for losing a tough game on a tough road trip?
Previous ranking: 21
Next MLS match: Wednesday, April 24, vs. Montreal (7.30 p.m. ET, live on ESPN+)
The margins are small for the Revs. Whatever progress Brad Friedel’s team makes, there seems to be a setback around the corner. Saturday’s win over the Red Bulls is a big deal, but it’s hard to see it as a prelude to a massive step forward for the club. If there’s something more coming, Wednesday’s match against the Impact might tell the tale.
Previous ranking: 22
Next MLS match: Wednesday, April 24, at Seattle (10:30 p.m. ET)
The Quakes are still near the bottom of the standings, but the performances — and results — are improving. Saturday’s 4-1 win over Sporting was emphatic, encouraging and potentially worrying for the rest of the West, especially since coach Matias Almeyda appears to finally have a sense of what his best lineup looks like.
Previous ranking: 24
Next MLS match: Saturday, April 27, at Toronto (3 p.m. ET, live on ESPN+)
Cue the choir singing “Hallelujah.” The Timbers got themselves a lead with the first goal of the game — something they hadn’t done this season — and rode it to a win in Columbus. It serves no purpose for a club as desperate as Portland to look a gift win in the mouth, so we won’t either.
Previous ranking: 23
Next MLS match: Saturday, April 27, at Atlanta (6 p.m. ET, live on ESPN+)
Colorado’s ugly loss in Chicago sets up a very interesting game next week in Atlanta: the winless Rapids versus a desperate Atlanta United team. Who will come out on top in a match between two bad teams? Can Colorado heap more misery on the miserable Five Stripes? Will Atlanta win a game that will make everyone say “Yeah, but it’s the Rapids”?