Who’s up, who’s down? Each week, Philly Football Daily MLS contributor Noah Barnes ranks Major League Soccer’s ten hottest clubs, based on results, performances, and however else Barnes attempts to justify positioning in his column, In Form.
MLS Power Rankings Matchweek 3
In Form is back, and so am I.
I spent the last week relaxing on Spring Break. Now, after my week long hiatus, I have for you my latest MLS Power Rankings. Spoiler: since Opening Weekend, there have been a few movers and this list features some first-timers, too.
Most clubs have played at least two matches since the first installment of In Form, so don’t be too surprised to see new faces to my Top-10.
Some clubs find themselves relatively unchanged. But, as for the others, early season form is clearly continuing to work its magic, which means plenty of new sides have cracked my Top-10 this week.
Let’s kick off, shall we?
1. New York City FC
Simply put, New York City Football Club look like early MLS Cup contenders. Three games down, three wins in the book. It’s a no-brainer to put NYCFC at the top this week, as the club currently sits at the top of a strong Eastern Conference, too.
NYCFC has the joint-best goal difference in MLS, and it largely has it’s staunch defense to thank. Over three games, Patrick Vieira’s side has conceded just once, and while they might not score as much as other sides, NYCFC clearly knows how to defend.
That said, they are pretty special going forward, too. Goals have been coming from all over the pitch, with only Maximiliano Moralez notching more than one goal so far this campaign.
Regardless, this NYCFC side look like early favorites to hoist MLS Cup in December.
2. Los Angeles FC
While NYCFC might arguably boast the league’s best defense, cross-country opponents Los Angeles Football Club might just have the most prolific attacking side in both league conferences.
MLS’ newest expansion side have scored a ridiculous six goals in just two games, and they sit on top of the Western Conference because of them. Remarkably, they sit top while having played one less game than the four teams below them.
A win next weekend against city rivals LA Galaxy in the first-ever LA Derby would see LAFC jump three points clear and join NYCFC as the only other club to have dropped zero points thus far.
Behind an attack, spearheaded by Uruguayan youngster Diego Rossi and veteran Carlos Vela, expect LAFC to stay perfect. The only thing holding LAFC back at this moment in time is their defense, which has looked fragile, at times, and has yet to keep a clean sheet.
3. Columbus Crew SC
Columbus followed up their impressive victory on Opening Day against Toronto FC with an emphatic win against Eastern Conference foe, Montreal Impact, and a well-deserved draw against the Philadelphia Union.
Crew SC currently sit unbeaten and second in the Eastern conference. A draw might put a slight blemish on their record, but it serves more as a testament to the quality of the Union this year than to the potential collapse of Columbus.
After all, the Crew have scored five times across three games and have posted two convincing wins. Not to mention, one of these wins was against the current MLS Cup holders.
If Columbus can remain consistent, on both sides of the ball, and if Gyasi Zardes and Federico Higuaín can keep up their goal-scoring antics, this side will surely challenge for a top spot this season.
4. Atlanta United
A week-long break in In Form coverage has served Atlanta United well.
A dreadful showing on Matchday 1 looked like an ominous sign that Atlanta might suffer from the dreaded sophomore slump. Fortunately for Gerardo Martino’s team, United have bounced back in convincing fashion, with dominant wins over DC United and Vancouver Whitecaps FC.
Remarkably, after being blanked in their opening match, The Five Stripes have scored seven times in their past two matches. A return to the high flying, attacking ways of last season sees the team sit third in the Eastern Conference.
Budding Venezuelan forward Josef Martinez has sprung to life, scoring four times this season. 4 goals makes Martinez the top-scorer in MLS so far. The Venezuelan’s form can only spell good things for Atlanta.
However, their defense is still a concern. Over three games, United have conceded six goals, and their United States international goalkeeper, Brad Guzan, has yet to keep a clean sheet.
5. Vancouver Whitecaps
Someone forgot to tell the Whitecaps that they are supposed to be the weakest side in Cascadia. While Vancouver have yet to play any of their regional rivals, they currently sit six points and two wins above both the Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers.
An added bonus, one of their two wins to start the new campaign came against their cross-country Canadian rival, Montreal Impact. Vancouver also took care of a strong Houston Dynamo team.
Kei Kamara has been banging in the goals, but the Whitecaps’ leaky defense is the primary reason I have them at No. 5 on this list. It’s a Vancouver side that has let in six goals in three games, and this could spell a problem going forward.
6. Philadelphia Union
In the last edition of In Form, I wrote that I needed to see the Philadelphia Union post convincing results against top sides. Last weekend, they did just that, as the Union earned a fair result, a scoreless draw against a well-coached and quality Columbus side.
Jim Curtin’s Union held Columbus and Zardes in check and without a goal, boasting their second clean sheet in as many games. Yes, the Union only boast four points after two games, but they look one of the stronger sides in the conference, if you ask me.
The Kids are continuing to shine for the Union, as both Homegrown players, Auston Trusty and Anthony Fontana, have chipped in at their respective ends of the pitch. Hopefully, their youth can continue to come through defensively, as goal scoring looks to be a problem going forward for the Union.
Their only two goals to begin the new campaign came against a nine-man New England side. The Union need to find the back of the net more often, if they want to continue to move up this list.
7. Sporting Kansas City
Sporting Kansas City bounced back nicely after a defeat in their home opener, with wins in two successive games against quality opposition.
Last week, SKC capped off a five-goal thriller with a win over a San Jose Earthquakes side that just narrowly misses my list this week. If there is one thing that the Kansas City outfit have going for them, it’s goals.
They have scored seven in their last two, with attacker Felipe Gutierrez leading the charge, and with numerous goals coming from all over the pitch.
But, as with several other clubs on this list, scoring goals isn’t enough. SKC’s defensive record so far is worrisome.
SKC have narrowly won each of their last two games by a goal each, and left it until the 90th minute against lowly Chicago Fire before they found a fourth goal. Seven goals scored may sound good on paper, but seven goals conceded is less than impressive.
8. FC Dallas
Readers of the last issue of In Form know just how highly I rank FC Dallas. Simply put, I see them as one of the most put-together and underrated sides in MLS.
Fans of Dallas will surely agree, and will also contend the club are unlucky not to sit higher in the Western Conference table. I agree; Dallas are unfortunate not to have two wins after two games.
They dominated their opening match against Real Salt Lake and somehow only managed a draw. Dallas then proceeded to batter the Sounders this past weekend. Thus, they sit sixth in the West, but have a game in hand and could shoot up the table with a win next time out.
Forwards Maximiliano Urruti and Roland Lamah are looking really, really explosive, and I expect this team to continue to rout teams with tired legs and shaky backlines.
9. Minnesota United
Minnesota currently sit second in the Western Conference, which may make it surprising to see United sit so low in my Power Rankings. Let me explain.
Yes, the Loons have two wins in three games, but those two victories have not come at the expense of top sides. Instead, they have posted unconvincing wins over Orlando City SC and Chicago, two sides who should not be looking to challenge for much this season.
Now, I don’t want to take too much away from their two wins, but those wins should be expected from Adrian Heath’s team.
When you consider their one defeat is also to a team outside of this Top-10, it hints that maybe this Minnesota side are not as strong as their record looks on paper. Still, 2 and 1 is 2 and 1, so into number nine MNUFC go.
10. Houston Dynamo
Yes, the Houston Dynamo have gone from being No. 1 two weeks ago, to sitting at the bottom of the list this week. Why? They simply have not been as good.
Now sitting at 1-1-1 after three games, the Dynamo have scored just three times since their 4-0 rout of Atlanta United. The goals have not dried up, but they are not being fired in as frequently.
In fact, it is their aforementioned win, along with their only loss being to No. 5 Vancouver, that even keeps them on this list. Expect the Dynamo to be a team that floats in and out of my Power Rankings all season.
Check back at the end of next Matchweek to see who’s up, who’s down, and of course, who’s In Form. In the meantime, let me know what you think of my Top-10 on Twitter. Cheers.