MLS Power Rankings: Columbus cements itself as title contender

Behind a defense putting up numbers not seen in MLS for a decade, Columbus is cementing itself as a true title contender and tops this week’s edition of Power Rankings. At the other end of the spectrum, Atlanta is looking for something positive amid the storm clouds stretching across Georgia.

Previous ranking: 3

Next MLS match: Saturday at Chicago, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+

Columbus has a five-point gap to its closest challengers in the Supporters’ Shield race, a 99% chance of reaching playoffs (according to FiveThirtyEight’s Soccer Power Index) and its defensive record through 10 matches (two goals conceded, eight clean sheets) is unmatched in MLS since the Galaxy in 2010.

Previous ranking: 4

Next MLS match: Saturday vs. New England, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+

Brenden Aaronson scored an absolutely beauty in the Union’s 3-0 dismantling of the Red Bulls on Sunday, which is sure to raise his asking price by a few hundred grand as ever-bigger European clubs begin to circle.

Bonagura: Aaronson thriving in Philly, but destined for Europe

Previous ranking: 2

Next MLS match: Thursday vs. San Jose, 10 p.m. ET

The road team’s odd edge in this Cascadia Derby continued, with Seattle losing its third straight at home to the Timbers. And this after winning in Portland two weeks ago. After improving defensively since the end of MLS is Back, the Sounders didn’t look sharp in this one.

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Previous ranking: 5

Next MLS match: Saturday vs. Miami, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+

Benji Michel scored Orlando’s only goals in a pair of 1-1 draws with Nashville and Atlanta, giving him two goals and an assist in his past three appearances. Add him to Nani and Chris Mueller, and Orlando now boasts devastating depth from wide areas

Previous ranking: 1

Next MLS match: Wednesday at Montreal, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN+

That Toronto lost twice in the span of four days and remains in the thick of the Supporters’ Shield race demonstrates just how strong TFC is. More contributions from Jozy Altidore and Pablo Piatti wouldn’t go amiss, though.

Previous ranking: 10

Next MLS match: Sunday at San Jose, 11 p.m. ET, ESPN+

The Galaxy looked a shambles during MLS is Back, but four straight wins have LA back to its best, with Cristian Pavon and Sebastian Lletget lighting up the team’s attack. After winning twice in two weeks against LAFC, the Galaxy have regained the upper hand in “El Trafico,” too.

Previous ranking: 23

Next MLS match: Wednesday at Colorado, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN+

Saturday’s win over Kansas City makes it three in a row for the suddenly streaking Dynamo. Even better was the sight of Mauro Manotas, who has struggled with injuries, getting back to his goal-getting ways.

Previous ranking: 16

Next MLS match: Wednesday vs.. Toronto, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN+

Montreal will surely savor the fact that its 1-0 win ended its Canadian rival Toronto’s bid for the longest unbeaten streak in MLS history.

Previous ranking: 9

Next MLS match: Saturday at Philadelphia, 7:30 p.m. ET

Wednesday’s 2-0 loss to New York City FC was the Revs’ first game decided by more than a goal in all of 2020.

Previous ranking: 11

Next MLS match: Wednesday at Real Salt Lake, 9:30 p.m. ET

So much for the momentum created by the midweek win over San Jose. LAFC has now lost two straight to its SoCal rivals, and has lost three of its past four. The balance that was the team’s hallmark last year has evaporated. Carlos Vela can’t return soon enough.

Previous ranking: 8

Next MLS match: Sunday at LAFC, 11 p.m. ET, ESPN+

Eryk Williamson continued his breakout season with a goal and an assist in the 2-1 win over Seattle, but the focus for the Timbers will be on the injuries suffered by core players Sebastian Blanco and Larrys Mabiala.

Previous ranking: 6

Next MLS match: Sunday vs. Minnesota, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+

One can point to any number of reasons for SKC’s loss to Houston, which pushed their winless streak to four games. Five games in 16 days, no Alan Pulido — the list goes on. The league doesn’t care, though, and the team needs to figure out a way to collectively arrest this slide.

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Mauro Manotas comes off the bench to notch Houston Dynamo’s winner vs. Sporting KC. Watch MLS on ESPN+.

Previous ranking: 7

Next MLS match: Wednesday vs. Dallas 8 p.m. ET, ESPN+

After three straight losses, a 4-0 home win over Real Salt Lake was precisely what was needed. Emanuel Reynoso settled in quickly as well, recording an assist on his debut with the club. Getting Ike Opara back on the field remains the team’s biggest priority.

Previous ranking: 14

Next MLS match: Saturday vs. Cincinnati, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN+

NYCFC’s three-game winning streak was halted by a scoreless draw against D.C., but not before City could cement themselves in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

Previous ranking: 15

Next MLS match: Wednesday vs. LAFC, 9:30 p.m. ET

RSL started brightly enough against Minnesota, and Giuseppe Rossi’s 13th-minute strike looked like it should have counted. It was practically all downhill after a couple of second-half breakdowns with RSL crumbling 4-0.

Previous ranking: 13

Next MLS match: Saturday at D.C. United, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+

No Chris Armas, no … change in the Red Bulls’ fortunes. The manager was relieved of his duties on Friday and on Sunday the club fell to its heaviest defeat of the season, a 3-0 loss to Philadelphia.

Previous ranking: 19

Next MLS match: Saturday vs. Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+

Chris Seitz made eight saves and kept two clean sheets to earn D.C. four points in matches that saw Ben Olsen’s men largely outplayed.

Previous ranking: 12

Next MLS match: Thursday at Seattle, 10 p.m. ET, ESPN+

The Quakes are struggling in several areas, but none more so than defending set pieces, where they’ve conceded a league-worst eight goals (xG on set pieces is just 3.22). The latest was on Kei Kamara’s late equalizer in a disappointing 1-1 home draw against Colorado.

Previous ranking: 17

Next MLS match: Wednesday at Miami, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN+

If the reported figures are to be believed, Atlanta made a profit on the underwhelming Pity Martinez, who’s on his way to Al-Nassr FC. So that’s some good news in a week in which the Five Stripes dropped four points.

Previous ranking: 24

Next MLS match: Wednesday at Minnesota, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN+

A road draw at Kansas City in midweek, as well as Franco Jara’s first goal for the team, should have helped ease the pain of losing playmaker and budding USMNT star Paxton Pomykal for the rest of the season due to hip surgery. But this was a game that was there for the taking and FCD didn’t. The search for Jesus Ferreira’s best position also continues.

Previous ranking: 20

Next MLS match: Saturday vs. Atlanta, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+

With headline after headline written about expansion cousins Inter Miami’s ability to attract international superstars, Nashville can take some small comfort in a scoreless draw on the debut of Blaise Matuidi.

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Plenty of chances go by the wayside as Inter Miami and Nashville SC finish scoreless. Watch MLS on ESPN+.

Previous ranking: 18

Next MLS match: Saturday at NYCFC, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN+

Cincinnati hasn’t scored since MLS is Back, and while three clean sheets in the span of five games is a promising sign of a turnaround under Jaap Stam, a pair of 3-0 losses in that time is a reminder of how far Cincy still has to go.

Previous ranking: 22

Next MLS match: Saturday vs. Columbus, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+

Only Miami has fewer points and only Cincinnati and Vancouver have a worse goal differential. Chicago has a new badge, a new home, a new coach and new players, but the same old results.

Previous ranking: 26

Next MLS match: Sunday vs. Montreal, 9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+

It was a long time between home games — 189 days to be exact — for Vancouver, and it made it count with a 3-2 win over Toronto. Lucas Cavallini scored his first for the ‘Caps, and Thomas Hasal continues to dazzle in goal.

Previous ranking: 25

Next MLS match: Wednesday vs. Houston, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN+

Given that Kei Kamara has played for seven different MLS teams, scoring against his former club isn’t as difficult as it is for most players. He did it again in Colorado’s road draw with San Jose.

Previous ranking: 21

Next MLS match: Wednesday vs. Atlanta, 8 p.m. ET

Miami hasn’t scored a goal in 312 minutes. Gonzalo Higuain can’t get to South Beach fast enough.

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