MLS Power Rankings: LAFC leapfrog Inter Miami into top spot

It’s Monday, and another week of MLS action is in the books, which means it’s time for ESPN’s Power Rankings.

Our Power Rankings are derived from a combination of key season statistics (points per game, goal differential, expected goal differential), recent performance, the Opta computer ratings, and the observations of our writers.

Who’s climbing the table? Who’s in free fall? We’ve ranked all 29 clubs in the league after Matchday 18. Let’s dive in.

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Previous ranking: 2

It’s oh-so-easy to love LAFC. Steve Cherundolo’s team is tactically flexible, they have a strong core group of players, and Denis Bouanga is one of the league’s premier attackers. Bouanga was involved in all three of LAFC’s goals in their 3-1 road win over Orlando City. Life is good.

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Previous ranking: 1

No Lionel Messi? No Luis Suarez? Down to nine men in the final minutes of their clash with Philadelphia Union? No problem. There’s an inevitable feeling about Inter Miami in MLS play this season. Still, red cards to Tomas Aviles and David Ruiz make an already thin squad even thinner heading into a midweek meeting with Columbus.

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Previous ranking: 3

I have so much time for Yuya Kubo. The dude has played like 27 different positions for Pat Noonan this season and has been crucial for the reigning Supporters’ Shield winners. Kubo entered in the second half for Cincy on Saturday, snagged a hat trick, and sealed three points.

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Previous ranking: 5

Things aren’t exactly stable for the Crew — they’ve had four front office exits this season as other organizations pilfer them for talent, and it looks like they’re about to lose Aidan Morris to England. But on the field? They picked up a big three points at NYCFC on Friday. It’s going to take more than a handful of exits to truly knock them out.

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Previous ranking: 4

RSL wanted more than a single point on the road in Montreal over the weekend. They certainly weren’t at their best, but that they can comfortably coast to a result on a long away trip says pretty much everything you need to know about this year’s Real Salt Lake team.

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Previous ranking: 9

Is a home game against SKC about the easiest weekend you could ask for in MLS right now? Mm-hmm. Am I still impressed that the Galaxy pushed past SKC with just two of their preferred starting attackers in the starting lineup? Yep. It wasn’t seamless, but job done.

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Previous ranking: 7

A red card to Mitja Ilenic changed the whole balance of NYCFC’s faceoff with the Columbus Crew to kick off the weekend. Still, this team is playing some really, really good ball — and didn’t let the train come all the way off the track even at a disadvantage against a great Eastern foe.



Cucho Hernández slots home penalty goal vs. NYCFC

Cucho Hernández slots home penalty goal vs. NYCFC

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Previous ranking: 6

I talked it over with everyone and we all agreed: We should never speak of the Red Bulls’ clash with Nashville SC again after this paragraph (and Nashville’s down below, I suppose). Missing Lewis Morgan at the Euros and Emil Forsberg with an injury, RBNY weren’t at their best in Saturday’s 0-0 draw.

Minnesota United logo

Previous ranking: 8

Speaking of absences, the Loons played without breakout star Tani Oluwaseyi, who will be suiting up for Canada at the Copa America, and Teemu Pukki, who was out with an injury, in their loss to Seattle. Minnesota is a scary team at full strength but can be undone by a few absences.

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Previous ranking: 11

After conceding goals to the Red Bulls and Atlanta United in their two most recent games prior to this weekend, Charlotte FC got back to their clean sheet-filled ways in a 1-0 win over DC United. That marks six shutouts in the past eight games for Dean Smith’s team.

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Previous ranking: 13

The Colorado Rapids were the better team by a mile in their 2-0 win against Austin FC. That might say more about Austin than it does about Colorado, but there’s nothing not to like about picking up three points against a Western Conference rival.

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Previous ranking: 10

The Union imploded against Inter Miami, conceding at the death even with a two-man advantage. With Julian Carranza heading out the door and little hope that the club will replace his scoring output, left-back Kai Wagner laid into the club after the final whistle. Things, uh, aren’t great in Philly.

Seattle Sounders logo

Previous ranking: 14

With Jordan Morris finally back playing as their No. 9, the Sounders put together a sharp (and much needed) 2-0 win over Minnesota. With Raul Ruidiaz relegated to the bench, Morris was sharp running in behind the opposing backline. That’s progress for Seattle.

Houston Dynamo logo

Previous ranking: 17

With reports of a new DP, Ezequiel Ponce, joining once the summer window opens, and a two-goal outing on the road in Atlanta, things are looking up for the Dynamo’s attack. You can bet Ben Olsen is smiling at the idea of putting some quality ahead of Hector Herrera and Coco Carrasquilla.

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Previous ranking: 12

Losing to the Revs is out of style these days, but the Caps went and did it anyway. Ryan Gauld’s brace wasn’t enough to help Vancouver earn an exceedingly getable road point.

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Previous ranking: 19

The Timbers enjoyed a bye week ahead of a couple of Western Conference fights against San Jose and Vancouver.

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Previous ranking: 15

There’s no shame in coming up empty in the attack against Charlotte FC. Still, consistency is an issue for Troy Lesesne & Co. as they now begin the second half of their schedule. To climb up the East, they can’t afford to leave Christian Benteke on an island.

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Previous ranking: 16

A few weeks ago, Toronto FC would’ve looked at the schedule, seen the name “Chicago Fire”, and breathed a sigh of relief. Now as we sit in the middle of June? The Fire aren’t a pushover anymore. Toronto missed starting goalkeeper Sean Johnson, who’s in camp with the USMNT.

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Previous ranking: 22

A point on the road under an interim manager is a good thing. Very little else about Nashville’s 0-0 draw against the New York Red Bulls was good. They failed to test Ryan Meara and will be eager to move swiftly onto the rest of their schedule.

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Previous ranking: 18

This weekend, the Five Stripes played their first game since Gonzalo Pineda was let go — and dropped points at home to the Dynamo. Also this weekend, starting striker Giorgos Giakoumakis officially completed his move to Cruz Azul. Things are about as unsettled as it gets in Atlanta.

Orlando City logo

Previous ranking: 20

Don’t look now, but Orlando City is sitting second-to-last in the East, only ahead of the New England Revolution. Oscar Pareja’s shift back to a 4-4-2 didn’t work against LAFC. Back to the drawing board.

St. Louis City SC logo

Previous ranking: 21

For St. Louis, it’s hard to look past the brutal leg injury that Celio Pompeu suffered in the first half of their 2-0 loss to Dallas. The injury was so brutal that I’m not even linking it here. Get well soon, Celio.

Chicago Fire logo

Previous ranking: 26

Make that two straight wins and four straight results for the Chicago Fire. Their 4-1 victory over Toronto is a step in the right direction for a team desperate to leave the Xherdan Shaqiri era behind.

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Previous ranking: 28

The Revs are still on the bottom of the East, but they’ve now won three straight. With goals from teenagers Noel Buck and Esmir Bajraktarevic, New England fans should be feeling some optimism right now.

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Previous ranking: 24

FC Dallas snagged all three points against St. Louis in their first match after parting ways with Nico Estevez. It wasn’t flashy — both goals came from dead balls. But Dallas can’t afford to turn up its nose at points.

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Previous ranking: 23

According to FBref, the team with the worst expected goal differential per 90 minutes in the West is … Austin FC. Their possession play was slow, ponderous and fruitless against Colorado.

CF Montreal logo

Previous ranking: 25

Laurent Courtois’ team hung in there against Real Salt Lake but couldn’t turn any of their pretty left-sided moves into goals. A single point at home isn’t enough to move the needle.

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Previous ranking: 27

The Quakes have allowed nine goals in their past two games. This team straight up can’t defend.

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Previous ranking: 29

They found some rare attacking joy against the LA Galaxy, but that’s not a particularly impressive feat these days. More concerning on Saturday was SKC’s porous defense.