This week of MLS was as much about who was not playing as who was. Thanks to the league’s decision to play through the international break, teams were missing as many as seven players due to national team duties alone. Toss in regular injuries and you had a lot of depleted squads.
Argue all you want about whether Major League Soccer should be playing on international breaks, the reality is they do and will continue to do so, especially with the Leagues Cup eating up a whole month of dates now. The regular season isn’t just the ugly stepchild of MLS, the league seems intent on making it uglier.
Fortunately, teams will be back at full strength next week, so let’s see how they stack up heading into the fully loaded week that awaits us.
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Previous ranking: 2
Fun fact: The Sounders are undefeated all time when Jordan Morris scores four goals and Leo Chu picks up four assists, as they did in beating SKC.
Previous ranking: 1
There have been Designated Players in league history who have had little interest in actually playing for their teams. Then you have Denis Bouanga, who played 90 minutes for Gabon on Thursday, left his national team halfway through the international window to return to Los Angeles, landed mere hours before kickoff, then came off the bench to score an 84th-minute winner against FC Dallas.
Previous ranking: 5
Make STL five-for-five in pressing teams into oblivion after making RSL look like an amateur side in Utah.
Previous ranking: 4
Brandon Vazquez’s first goal of the season propelled Cincy to a win in Nashville, which reminds you that the Garys have been getting it done without Vazquez finding the back of the net until now. If he gets going, watch out, top three.
Previous ranking: 7
Nashville aren’t doing much to quell the concerns that they will struggle to play from behind. They managed just two shots after falling behind Cincy in the 48th minute en route to a loss. Fortunately, they will continue to be excellent in most games, which they’ll control.
Previous ranking: 6
Frankly, the Union should probably be lower than this after seeing their 24-match home unbeaten streak snapped against Orlando to continue their shaky start to the season, but none of the teams after the top four look overly impressive, most of them dropped points over the weekend and it’s still early enough in the campaign that Philly’s excellence last season isn’t being totally thrown out the window yet.
Previous ranking: 3
There is not a single decent thing to take from their shellacking at the hands of Columbus other than the knowledge that Thiago Almada and the rest of their international contingent will be back next week.
Previous ranking: 8
Dallas have to meet VAR outside the stadium after it ruled out a goal and got them sent down to 10 men all before halftime in a loss at LAFC.
Previous ranking: 9
What’s a good remedy for playing without seven players? Playing a team missing seven of their own. However they got there, Orlando winning in Philly is a statement that they are moving on from their CONCACAF Champions League heartbreak./p>
Previous ranking: 13
You would think that with a new manager instilling a new and very different system, the Crew’s cracks would show when forced to tap into their depth. That sure wasn’t the case when injuries and the international break made them dig deep on Saturday, only to see them smash Atlanta 6-1. Wilfried Nancy has Columbus well ahead of schedule.
Previous ranking: 18
What to make of the Revs after another win, this time over D.C., kept them top of the East? They’re racking up points, but three of their four wins have come by one goal, they got smoked in their only loss and the advanced stats are not screaming “great team,” to be kind. Maybe you believe that winning close games in which the team doesn’t really outplay their opponents over 90 minutes is a real skill, in which case hop on board the New England bandwagon, but more often than not, that’s proven to be more luck than anything else and it evens out over time.
Previous ranking: 10
A home loss to Colorado is another uninspiring result for Austin, but Owen Wolff scored a great goal, this time for the U.S. U20s, so it wasn’t all bad news this weekend.
Previous ranking: 11
The Red Bulls spent some money to supplement their usual young and ultra-running approach with some more experienced, skillful players. While they’ve done a good job maintaining their identity, they haven’t gotten the extra oomph that they were hoping for yet, with their 1-1 draw in Charlotte being the latest example.
Previous ranking: 12
TFC are still making strides despite Lorenzo Insigne not playing since the season’s first 34 minutes. That’s hardly exciting after their scoreless draw with San Jose, but it does portend well for the Reds.
Previous ranking: 15
The Quakes had almost no central midfielders available against Toronto and still managed a draw. It’s been a long time since we could say that San Jose had the foundation to overcome much of anything for a result, but this team does.
Previous ranking: 16
The Loons have done a great job compensating for the missing Emanuel Reynoso this season, but the toothless attack in their draw with Vancouver really highlighted his absence.
Previous ranking: 14
When the press doesn’t work, the Pigeons are a little light. It didn’t work in their loss to Houston.
Previous ranking: 23
The Dynamo looked pretty good early in the season, but they didn’t have the results to match their play. Now, they just beat NYCFC for back-to-back clean sheets, back-to-back wins and the results to back up some underlying numbers that have them squarely in the middle of the league. The early returns on the Ben Olsen tenure are certainly encouraging.
Previous ranking: 19
Even Wayne Rooney was out with an illness, to go along with players missing through international duty and injuries as D.C. played another encouraging match in a loss, this time to New England. Eventually they’re going to have to get some wins, but things feel relatively good around Audi Field.
Previous ranking: 17
The Gregore-sized hole in their midfield was apparent once again in their loss to Chicago.
Previous ranking: 22
The ‘Caps left it until late, but there’s no doubt they deserved their draw with Minnesota. Hell, they probably deserved a win. This Vancouver team might be a lot like last season’s, where you never really see enough to believe, but they also continue to do enough to hang around and give their fans hope.
Previous ranking: 20
The first 20 minutes in Portland said the Galaxy had a stew going, the middle 50 minutes said things could definitely be worse and the final 20 minutes said oh no, this team is in big trouble. Their third draw of the season felt about right.
Previous ranking: 21
The good news over the weekend was Johnny Russell making his season debut. The bad news was everything else because they got completely waxed by Seattle, 4-1. It’s getting harder and harder to believe that the solutions are on the injury list and just a couple weeks away.
Previous ranking: 24
A home draw with RBNY is not going to have anyone riding the Charlotte bandwagon, but after their defensive struggles early in the season, a second straight match with a solid performance at the back is worth taking note of.
Previous ranking: 26
Kei Kamara’s winner in Miami marked a record 10th club he has scored for and earned the Fire a win that is a couple weeks overdue because they have looked pretty good.
Previous ranking: 27
The Timbers’ injury list is long so there’s a clear avenue for improvement, but they haven’t shown much on the field yet to be optimistic about, and that was the case once more in their scoreless home draw with the Galaxy.
Previous ranking: 29
What if Kevin Cabral can finish now? One goal isn’t going to erase the memories of his many misses with the Galaxy, but he got one to earn the Rapids a draw in Austin. If there’s something there with Cabral then Colorado might have more juice than we previously thought.
Previous ranking: 25
One of RSL’s best built-in advantages is they play at altitude and should be able to out-run teams in the thin air, so how did they let St. Louis come into town and run them off the pitch?
Previous ranking: 28
A week off was probably for the best.