The Original MLS Power Rankings – Week One 2021

Opening Weekend had a variety of surprises, and while the number maybe wasn’t larger than expected, the extent of the surprises was.

We definitely have a major change on at least one team – the LA Galaxy. The halftime changes they made? Seems pretty clear that they are definitely not the team we have seen struggle over the last few years. Granted, it was only against Inter Miami, but it was also a very clear difference.

There were a lot of ties, which is to be expected, especially as it appears all teams are either behind on match fitness relative to past seasons or have been playing international matches and therefore juggling rosters.

As has always been our practice, we will rarely knee-jerk and move teams significantly based on just one result, but you will see movement and a marker on teams like the Galaxy and Montreal. You can also add teams like D.C. and Vancouver to that list, too. Maybe Cincinnati?

Just bear in mind that things like schedule congestion and venue do make a difference in MLS, so often a home win against a poor team isn’t as impressive as a road tie against a quality team.

There is one major change – a lot of teams that had been in the bottom tier moved up because they got results that indicate they have figured enough out.

Top Shelf

1. Columbus Crew (Previously 1)

A home tie v. Philadelphia is not a bad way to start the season, and certainly not enough to move them barring other things.

2. Los Angeles FC (2)

A top team v. an expansion side at home should be a 2-0 win, so not really a reason to move them ahead of the Crew.

3. Philadelphia Union (3)

Time will tell if the roster changes will impact their ability to stay in the top tier but a tie at Columbus is definitely not a negative result.

Union and the Crew battelled week one in MLS 2021. (Courtesy Philadelphia Union)

4. Seattle Sounders (5)

Last week we said, “This team is a perennial playoff master, often making the MLS Cup final. There is no reason to think 2021 will be any different.” Some doubted this placement, and over time they could be proven right. Not this week, though. A 4-0 win over Minnesota is a salty result for any team.

5. Toronto FC (4)

Danger, Will Robinson, Danger! Yes, it was on the road. Yes, it was against a team with lots of changes. Yes, it was a depleted lineup because of international play. But still, it has to be concerning to lose 4-2 to Montreal.

6. Portland Timbers (6)

Last week we said, “The talent is there. The battles with Seattle are epic. They just happen to stumble a little more often than the Sounders.” And while Seattle shellacked Minnesota, Portland lost at Vancouver. *shrug*

Quality

7. Sporting Kansas City (10)

A road win against the New York Red Bulls is not a bad result at all, and a sign that Vermes has things going in the right direction.

8. Atlanta United (7)

With all the changes they have, a road tie against Orlando is not a bad way to start the season. They only drop because SKC had a better result.

9. Minnesota United (8)

A 4-0 loss to start the season has to be worrying, no matter the opponent or venue, for a team as good as The Loons. They still have quality, so we hesitate to drop them too much based on one result, but is it possible they have been figured out?

10. New York City FC (9)

We worried about NYC a little coming into the season, and a road loss to D.C. doesn’t instill confidence. It *is* possible that D.C. is just that good, but let’s just say we will not be watching NYC’s next game for good reasons.

11. New England Revolution (12)

A dash of controversy and a road tie means the Revs don’t move much.

12. Colorado Rapids (13)

An early adjustment led to regaining balance in the game against Dallas, and Fraser walked away with a road tie. They will need to do more as the season goes on if they want to get into the top tier, but that certainly is a good day’s work in MLS.

FCD v Colorado 186
Johnny Nelson takes on Michael Barrios and the Colorado Rapids, April 17, 2021. (Matt Visinsky, 3rd Degree)

13. Nashville SC (11)

A tie against Cincinnati is definitely one of those that it is hard to read too much into until we know more about both teams. FCC could very easily have turned things around. Definitely a “watch this space” team.

14.  LA Galaxy (17)

Last week we wrote, “This team has been, frankly, a joke relative to its talent level for a number of years now. Can they break out of that? Maybe. Maybe they can.” It is possible we can point to the exact moment this happened – when they stepped on the field for the second half this weekend. Wow, what a difference. This is definitely a team we will be watching to see if this was a real change or just beating Inter Miami.

Solid

15. Orlando City (15)

Its tough to read too much into a game between Orlando and Atlanta that ends in a 0-0 tie, especially for the first game of the season. Definitely a typical opening day result that doesn’t help us bracket teams.

16. FC Dallas (16)

Lots of good news here as the wingers were dynamic, Joes Martinez is the real deal, Maurer made some big saves and you could tell how Dallas wanted to play. The problem? Against a good but not great Colorado team they couldn’t find the back of the net? This is not “Danger Will Robinson” territory as a good bit of the disconnect was probably familiarity, but it also is not the impressive showing this team has had from time to time that give us reason to believe in their potential.

17. New York Red Bulls (14)

Mid-season coaching changes often lead to anomalies, and it is possible we saw that with NYRB last year. Or SKC could just be a better team. The body of work from last year weighs on New York here some, but this weekend gives them a chance to show us differently.

18. Vancouver Whitecaps (19)

Well, hello there. While the actual shift in these rankings is slight, the perception of the team is not. If they can be consistent about what they did to Portland on Sunday, this is a team that will move up.

19. D.C. United (20)

“Have they done enough to retool? It’s doubtful.” A 2-1 home win over New York City is definitely contrary to our initial assessment. Let’s see if they can follow up on it and show it wasn’t just the excitement of the opening weekend.

20. San Jose Earthquakes (18)

“This team will probably be what they have been under Almeyda – unique, dangerous at times, but usually running themselves into the ground, especially against top tier teams.” Its concerning that they lost to Houston, unless the Dynamo are significantly better, which is possible. We just need more data.

21. CF Montreal (26)

In some ways, probably the most surprising result of the weekend even though TFC had played less than their best. If Montreal can do this on a regular basis, then they may very well have turned things around.

22. Houston Dynamo (24)

A home win against a decent San Jose side has our attention. Maybe Ramos really has turned things around.

23. Chicago Fire (21)

Some controversy doesn’t change the fact that this team couldn’t win at home against a good but not fantastic Revs side.

Chicago Fire vs New England Revolution. (Courtesy Chicago Fire FC)

24. FC Cincinnati (27)

“Third time is a charm? Maybe. They made moves. Did they work?” A 2-2 tie at Nashville makes us think maybe they did, and they definitely deserve closer observation.

Lots of Questions and/or Concerns

25. Austin FC (22)

“Josh Wolff leads the expansion side into the 2021 season and seems to have put together something that might catch some teams by surprise.” Certainly not LAFC. Better luck this week.

26. Real Salt Lake (25)

With no match, no real comment to make.

27. Inter Miami (23)

“This is probably too low for their talent level…” Nope. It was too high. Now, 27 might be too low, but they are going to have to prove it.

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