The Original MLS Power Rankings – post MLSisBack opening round

It has been a while since we have done these and so much as happened. There was a round of games, but before we could post another set of rankings, things got shut down. Then the league set up the MLS Is Back tournament, except before the games could happen, both Dallas and Nashville were pulled out of the tournament because too many players had been tested positive for COVID-19.

Also, this is a World Cup style tournament rather than regular season games, so take both the results and these rankings with a grain of salt or two as group stage games cause unique results. Take Atlanta – they had two red cards in their first game which made recovery very difficult.

On the other hand, we have actual games and results to look at, and clearly some teams stepped up their play – I’m looking at you, Oscar Pareja and Orlando City – and these games do count as regular-season results.

One other note – let’s give the league a lot of credit for finding a way to make this work. Obviously, it would have been better if Dallas and Nashville could have participated, but the rest of the teams found a way to stay safe and give us live, professional soccer and some great games.

Due to all that happened since our last rankings, we am not going to reference the previous rankings, although we did review all of the games played, including the last round played in March. We also did the best we could with the teams that didn’t play.

1. Toronto FC

Greg Vanney’s side was one of the better ones when the season began, and they maintained that quality in this tournament, winning their group, not on goal difference, but on the goal scored over the Revolution.

Toronto FC rising star Ayo Akinola. (Courtesy MLS)

2. Sporting Kansas City

We had a sense that Peter Vermes would turn things around after last year, and the early season results were promising. In the tournament, SKC won a group including Minnesota, RSL, and Colorado. This is definitely a team to keep an eye on.

3. Seattle Sounders

One of the best teams coming into the season, Seattle came in second behind a surprising San Jose team, although if you listened to the 3rd Degree Podcast, maybe not as surprising to some. The Sounders also know how to win single elimination tournaments, so another team to take very seriously.

4. LAFC

Bob Bradley’s team remains strong and showed its muscle off against their Angel City rivals. They came in second behind Portland, who is another team that took advantage of the tournament to show its quality.

5. Minnesota United

The Loons came in this tournament as one of the better sides and despite not winning the group, they showed they are as good as we thought they were. They really beat up on San Jose in their last regular-season game so a match up there could be interesting.

6. Columbus Crew

Porter had the Crew playing really well at the end of last season and they continued it this year. We hesitate to make too much of their wins in the tournament as they played Cincinnati (who advanced!), a winged Atlanta team, and a Red Bull side that couldn’t beat, well, Cincinnati.

7. Portland Timbers

They won their group that included a decent LA Galaxy side and the very good LAFC team, although it also included the really poor Houston Dynamo. Like all the teams above them, though, they have the talent and depth to challenge and should be interesting to watch in the tournament.

8. Philadelphia Union

A lot of interesting things happened in this group. It was very tight, but Orlando surprised everyone – well, again, other than those podcast guys – by winning the group, and Philadelphia found a way to take second place. Long term, we think NYCFC is going to be fine and Inter Miami will make teams earn their victories.

9. New England Revolution

In a tight group, Bruce Arena’s side came in second because Toronto beat Montreal 4-3 as opposed to New England’s 1-0 win over the Impact. The fact that neither the Revolution nor TFC could beat D.C. might simply have been group play dynamics or a sign of weakness. It will be interesting to watch how the teams in this group play going forward. We have D.C. very low, but that could be unfair.

10. Real Salt Lake

This is a team we had our eye on coming into 2020 in that second tier, and we are not punishing them too much because their group was solid. In our mind, one of the toughest groups in the tournament.

11. New York City FC

It is tough to tell if this team struggled because of the format, or because other teams were more dialed in or prepared, or if the other teams were simply better. Clearly, Orlando came to play and threw everything up in the air, but those results still do not bode well.

12. Orlando City SC

Interestingly, most people thought it might take Oscar Pareja little time to get his team used to his style, and of all the teams, the Lions seem to have taken advantage of the chance to work together and learn their new coach’s style better than anyone else in the league. We will be very interested to see how the elimination rounds go for Orlando.

Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja. (Courtesy Orlando City SC)

13. San Jose Earthquakes

The only reason San Jose isn’t higher is because this is a quick three game tournament, but it is entirely possible that the shorter season will allow the team to play Almeyda’s style with more ferocity and intensity. If so, watch out, MLS.

14. FC Dallas

This is a hard team to rank because they haven’t played, and they also are without their starting goalkeeper for personal reasons. How will the team react when/if they get a chance to play again is very much an open question. They could easily be like Orlando and blossom with the chance to learn to integrate new players, etc., or they could struggle with the lack of a routine. It will definitely be a challenge for the team leadership.

15. Atlanta United

In some ways, we hesitate to move Atlanta down this far, but going 0-fer against Cincinnati and the Red Bulls is just not a good look. They have also had some real ups and downs. If given a chance to get back into a groove, the talent is definitely there, but it ain’t happening in July of 2020. And it ain’t happening with Frank de Boer.

16. Montreal Impact

Thierry Henry seemed to be pushing all the right buttons as the team came into the season, but they fell short against Toronto and New England in another difficult group. This ranking may be harsh, and we will watch other results closely so we can adjust if it turns out they were just in with some strong teams.

17. Los Angeles Galaxy.

Chicharito is not exactly lighting the league on fire, is he? Three games played, two shots on goal? And only one goal – and that one in garbage time against the Timbers who were down a player? Yikes. It’s not exactly Denilson, but it’s also not Zlatan either. This could be a real problem for the team, although it is a small sample size and it is entirely possible that he just needs a little time to adjust to the league as we have seen with other internationals. At least they have Pavon…

18. Colorado Rapids

This is a team that seems like they should be better, especially how they were playing under Connor Casey and Robin Fraser last year. On the other hand, they were in a very difficult group so their results may be just a reflection of that. We will see what happens (hopefully) when (not if) regular league play resumes.

19. FC Cincinnati

Some might say that coming in second in their group deserves a higher ranking, and they might be right, but this is a team that lacked pieces and played a team that had been knee-capped in their first match, then beat an ok Red Bulls team to finish the group. We could be wrong here, but our instincts say no.

20. New York Red Bulls

Chris Armas’ team was up and down last year, and looks like they caught a downdraft in this tournament. Frankly, they might be worse than even this location in the rankings. Seat = hot.

21. Vancouver Whitecaps

This is a team we did not have very high early in the season, and they did not show us much new in this tournament.

22. Inter Miami

This is another team that may not be as bad as their results say, but across five games, they have no points. Yes, LAFC, Philadelphia and NYCFC are good sides. Yes, Orlando came to play in this tournament, but they also lost to D.C. United back in March. The only thing that doesn’t have them lower is they have been very competitive, losing every game by one goal. This could be a player or moment away from breaking out.

23. Chicago Fire

They had such high hopes coming into the season, but the results so far have not been promising. On the other hand, they have had to play Seattle twice, New England, and a resurgent San Jose side, so it is possible they just have had a hard row to hoe.

24. Nashville SC

Like Dallas, they didn’t get to play. They played two really good teams in March and then didn’t get to play in the tournament, so this may not be a fair assessment, but for now, it’s the best we have.

25. D.C. United

Maybe it’s the opponents. Maybe it’s the way they beat Miami earlier in the year. Something tells us that this is a group that has work to do.

26. Houston Dynamo

We imagine that most Dallas fans will enjoy this location for their rivals, but it is well deserved. For a team that had a poor season last year, then a home tie to a poor LA Galaxy team and a road thrashing at Sporting KC, salvaging a tie against LAFC and the Galaxy again just seems like they have a lot of work to do. Admittedly, a lot of this is eye test stuff, especially as compared to a team like Inter Miami, but with this crazy season, this is where we are.    

This level of performance probably wasn’t what James Harden had in mind when he joined the Houston Dynamo ownership group. (Courtesy MLS)

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