MLS Power Rankings: Where Every Team Stand After the Restart
The top teams in the MLS standings do not have hardware to show for their performances yet, but if they keep playing the way they are, they could be in the mix for MLS Cup.
Sporting Kansas City has returned to the form we saw for most of the last decade, as it has taken 15 points from six regular-season contests in the Western Conference.
Columbus was expected to improve in its second year under manager Caleb Porter, but in a short time, it has gone from playoff contender to potential East front-runner.
The Crew and Sporting KC will receive challenges throughout the Major League Soccer restart, which currently plans for each team to play six games up to the second weekend in September, but only a few have emerged so far.
Toronto FC can stake claim to being the best team not in first place, and it could end up there in a few weeks if it takes care of business north of the border.
Elsewhere in MLS, the LA Galaxy and Atlanta United rebounded from brutal runs at the MLS is Back tournament, while Nashville SC and FC Dallas got off to sluggish restarts after long layoffs and withdrawals from central Florida.
Nos. 26-21: Nashville, FC Dallas Struggle to Score in Restart
26. Nashville SC (Previous Ranking: 24)
Not a lot was expected out of Nashville SC going into Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Saturday.
Gary Smith's side had a respectable performance and was beaten by a few moments of brilliance out of Gonzalo "Pity" Martinez.
Nashville does not have a Pity in its squad, but it does have some reliable MLS veterans and some nice attacking pieces who should come together with more time on the field.
Stealing four points from FC Dallas was a nice foundational block for the restart, but it is going to have to rely on its defense to get a decent return from its stretch of games against Orlando City, Inter Miami and Atlanta.
25. Colorado Rapids (Previous Ranking: 22)
Let's say something positive about the Colorado Rapids before we tear into them: Robin Fraser had the smarts to finally start Jonathan Lewis instead of relying on the 23-year-old to be a super-sub.
Okay, now time for the bad.
Five goals were scored at Dick's Sporting Goods Park on Saturday, and none were by Rapids players. Colorado's lone tally was an RSL own goal.
The Rapids have been outscored 6-1 by RSL in their two meetings this season. They have one more shot at their Rocky Mountain Cup rival on Sept. 12.
24. FC Dallas (Previous Ranking: 19)
Calling FC Dallas' offense uninspiring is probably putting it nicely.
In 270 minutes of its restart, Luchi Gonzalez's side has failed to find the back of the net.
That has to be a concerning figure for a team that scored four times in its first two regular-season contests in February and March, which feel like eons ago.
The good news for FC Dallas is it has a chance to correct its form in front of goal against Colorado.
If its scoreless run extends into that game, then it would be time to raise concerns for a squad that is shaking off the rust after five months off.
23. Houston Dynamo (Previous Ranking: 21)
Houston left its home stadium without three points or a goal from its Texas derby clash with FC Dallas, but at least it was more productive in the final third.
The Dynamo put six of their 17 shots on target, compared to one from seven attempts by their top rival.
The attack was not at its best, and it is a bit baffling that a lineup with Alberth Elis, Darwin Quintero and Christian Ramirez can't produce a goal in 90 minutes.
22. D.C. United (Previous Ranking: 20)
A scoreless draw on the road at FC Cincinnati is a satisfactory result if you want to finish in the middle of the pack in the 14-team Eastern Conference.
D.C. United could not produce a goal out of a few dangerous early set pieces off the boot of Julian Gressel and finished with a single shot on target.
Part of that is a credit to what FC Cincinnati has worked on in defense, but the Black and Red have to prove they can break down a defense or they could face tough sledding against New England, Philadelphia and the New York Red Bulls.
21. Vancouver Whitecaps (Previous Ranking: 16)
Thomas Hasal, who stole our attention with his strong performance at MLS is Back, produced 12 saves in a pair of meetings with Toronto FC at BMO Field.
The 21-year-old homegrown goalkeeper kept the Whitecaps in Saturday's contest, which resulted in a 1-0 TFC win.
Vancouver should be able to get better results with three of the next four games against Montreal.
Hasal has played well enough in net to keep the 'Caps in any game, and they have some decent attacking pieces who are beginning to gel.
Nos. 20-16: Atlanta, LA Galaxy Rebound from MLS Is Back Disappointments
20. Chicago Fire (Previous Ranking: 17)
It seems like a long time ago when we were praising Chicago for upsetting Seattle at the start of the MLS is Back group stage.
If you are a Fire fan, that is probably the game you want to talk about right now after they went scoreless for the third consecutive contest.
There is nothing bad about losing to Columbus, which is arguably the best team in the East, but it is frustrating to have an attack that has not gotten going yet and is set to play FC Cincinnati's back-line setup in two of the next three.
19. FC Cincinnati (Previous Ranking: 15)
Jaap Stam has done something no one expected a manager to do with FC Cincinnati: put together a competent back four.
Cincinnati's defensive turnaround has been remarkable under the former Manchester United center back, and it held another opponent scoreless Saturday.
Now that it is clear the second-year side has a respectable defense in place, it needs to work on offensive cohesion to get three points out of games and move up the table.
Adrien Regattin, Yuya Kubo and Jurgen Locadia displayed some chemistry against D.C. United, and if that turns into goals over the next few games, we could be talking about Cincy as a legitimate playoff contender.
18. Inter Miami (Previous Ranking: 26)
The Julian Carranza we expected to see on display at MLS is Back revealed himself in Inter Miami's 3-2 win over Orlando City. The forward powered the expansion side's first victory with two goals in an 11-minute span in the first half.
In addition to Carranza finding confidence in the final third, Rodolfo Pizarro was involved directly in two of the three tallies.
That was a step in the right direction, but now Inter Miami has to focus on cleaning up its defense ahead of a meeting with Atlanta.
17. Atlanta United (Previous Ranking: 23)
There are two ways to approach the analysis of Atlanta's win over Nashville.
The first is that the Five Stripes put the Frank De Boer era behind them and Pity Martinez is going to be the dynamic playmaker we expected him to be.
The second is that Atlanta beat the expansion side because it has better quality and was playing on home soil. Three points against Nashville was an expected result.
Regardless of how you look at Saturday's win, Atlanta finally has momentum on its side.
16. LA Galaxy (Previous Ranking: 25)
In true unpredictable MLS fashion, the LA Galaxy went into Banc of California Stadium and upended LAFC.
The El Trafico victory came with a pair of surprises: a shutout after conceding six to LAFC in Orlando and the performance of Julian Araujo.
Araujo assisted on the goals scored by Ethan Zubak, who himself was a surprise scorer in the high-profile game, and Sebastian Lletget.
Now, the challenge is for Guillermo Barros Schelotto's side to replicate Saturday's performance in an equally difficult match against Seattle.
Nos. 15-11: NYCFC Produces Mixed Results
15. Montreal Impact (Previous Ranking: 14)
Montreal's monthlong layoff concludes Tuesday when it faces off against Vancouver.
The Impact open their six-game Canadian slate with home matches against the Whitecaps and Toronto FC. Due to scheduling quirks for all three teams north of the border, the Impact will play Toronto FC three times in a row after hosting Vancouver.
14. New England Revolution (Previous Ranking: 13)
New England has been consistent with its results over six regular-season games, but four draws are disappointing, to say the least, for a team with its expectations.
Bruce Arena refurbished the Revolution roster during its layoff by adding Tommy McNamara and Kekuta Manneh to Matt Polster in their haul of MLS veterans in midfield.
It will take time for those reinforcements to make their mark in the lineup, but it needs to happen soon so the Revs do not lose too much ground in the East.
In their 0-0 draw with Philadelphia on Thursday, the Revs placed one of their 15 shots on goal, a sign they are missing the injured Carles Gil more than we expected.
13. New York Red Bulls (Previous Ranking: 18)
The New York Red Bulls were gifted the lone goal of Thursday's Hudson River Derby after a blunder by NYCFC goalkeeper Sean Johnson.
Chris Armas' side was more effective with its chances over 90 minutes as it put half its 14 shots on goal while NYCFC struggled to place two of its eight attempts on target.
No matter which way the win occurred, it was a positive boost for the Red Bulls after their unexpected group-stage elimination in central Florida.
12. San Jose Earthquakes (Previous Ranking: 6)
San Jose returns to the pitch Wednesday with an intriguing battle against Portland.
Matias Almeyda's Quakes will have fresher legs than the Timbers, but they will have fewer games to their name after Portland won MLS is Back and played Sunday against Seattle.
11. New York City FC (Previous Ranking: 10)
NYCFC landed on both sides of 1-0 results in its return to play.
Johnson's unfortunate mistake in goal led to the dropping of points against the Red Bulls, and NYCFC rebounded Monday with a victory over Columbus.
Alexander Ring netted the lone tally in the Monday win, which felt a bit odd with NYCFC playing as the home team at Red Bull Arena for the first of many occurrences in 2020 due to the lack of availability at Yankee Stadium.
Nos. 10-6: Real Salt Lake Continues Strong Start
10. Los Angeles FC (Previous Ranking: 4)
LAFC delivered a response to its MLS is Back elimination that was opposite from what many expected. The Black and Gold failed to find the back of the net in a surprising loss to an LA Galaxy side they trounced by four goals in Orlando.
LAFC could have looked like a motivated side after its disappointing MLS is Back exit and with Carlos Vela back in the lineup.
In addition to losing in El Trafico once again, LAFC was instead dealt an injury blow with Vela, who Bob Bradley described as having an "MCL-type situation," per Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times.
9. Minnesota United (Previous Ranking: 3)
Adrian Heath's Minnesota United suffered their first defeat in regular-season play at home Saturday.
The Loons fell to Sporting Kansas City by way of an own goal by Michael Boxall.
Prior to the defeat, the Loons reeled off three victories and two draws in games that counted toward the MLS regular season to put them in decent position near the top of the West.
Minnesota should receive an attacking boost in the coming days as it is expected to announce the signing of Emanuel Reynoso from Boca Juniors. According to the Star Tribune's Jerry Zgoda, Reynoso arrived in Minnesota on Saturday.
8. Orlando City (Previous Ranking: 2)
This may be a new Orlando City team, but it is still susceptible to losing to its rivals.
Instead of falling to Atlanta United, as the Lions have done many times, they dropped their first meeting with Inter Miami on Saturday.
One of the few positives from the loss was the play of Daryl Dike, who notched a goal in his first start after he was selected fifth overall in the 2020 MLS SuperDraft.
7. Real Salt Lake (Previous Ranking: 11)
Real Salt Lake has quietly put up a 2-1-3 record and nine points over its six regular-season matches.
One of the reasons is both of the Claret and Cobalt's wins occurred in Rocky Mountain Cup games with Colorado.
RSL's attack was impressive throughout Saturday's win, but it did not produce a goal until the 57th minute. Maikel Chang, who was signed from the club's USL Championship affiliate in the offseason, was the dynamo in the final third with one goal and two assists.
6. Philadelphia Union (Previous Ranking: 5)
Defense has been the most consistent aspect of Philadelphia's squad this season.
The center-back combination of Mark McKenzie and Jack Elliott absorbed New England's offensive pressure and allowed a single shot on goal at Gillette Stadium.
The one shot that did make its way to Andre Blake was turned away easily by the front-runner for Goalkeeper of the Year.
No. 5: Toronto FC
Previous Ranking: 12
Toronto knocked off Vancouver by a combined 4-0 at BMO Field in its first round of fixtures in the Canadian round robin.
Pablo Piatti was the star of the first contest, as he produced the first two goals against the Whitecaps.
Alejandro Pozuelo and Jonathan Osorio also looked strong by producing a pair of assists apiece.
If Toronto outclasses Montreal and Vancouver over its next four games, it could create an advantage near the top of the East while Columbus, the Red Bulls and others play head-to-head clashes.
No. 4: Portland Timbers
Previous Ranking: 1
Portland’s first game after winning the MLS is Back tournament did not go as planned.
The Timbers fell victim to a three-goal onslaught in the final 18 minutes to lose to Seattle.
Sunday's Cascadia Cup game could have been much different if the Timbers had an early stunner from Chris Duvall allowed.
Instead, a VAR review ruled there was an offside in the buildup before the ball landed to Duvall.
No. 3: Seattle Sounders
Previous Ranking: 9
Seattle's offensive rampage at Providence Park was powered by Raul Ruidiaz.
The Peruvian forward knocked in a pair of goals in an 11-minute span and assisted on the final tally netted by Kelvin Leerdam in the 85th minute.
Ruidiaz's second goal was his 25th in regular-season play for the Sounders. Sunday marked his fourth two-goal performance in rave green.
No. 2: Columbus Crew
Previous Ranking: 7
Caleb Porter’s Crew did what was expected of them Thursday at Mapfre Stadium, as they took care of Chicago 3-0.
The victory was highlighted by a Goal of the Year candidate from Darlington Nagbe, who blasted a volley from almost 30 yards outside the box into the left side of the goal.
Unfortunately for the Crew, they could not win for the fifth time in six games Monday, as they fell 1-0 to NYCFC.
The road loss did not knock them out of first in the East, but it did move them out of the top spot in the power rankings, which it had locked up going into the game.
No. 1: Sporting Kansas City
Previous Ranking: 8
The most unusual combination of midfielders helped Sporting Kansas City power past Minnesota.
Gadi Kinda and Roger Espinoza were key factors in the final third of the 2-1 win over Minnesota. They combined for more shots than Khiry Shelton or Johnny Russell.
Sporting KC’s ability to receive contributions from all over the pitch should scare its future opponents.
Peter Vermes has the team back where it was two years ago, and it may develop into a top contender in the West.
Statistics obtained from MLSSoccer.com.
Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.