MLS Power Rankings: Seattle Sounders Remain Unbeaten at the Top Spot

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistMay 18, 2021

MLS Power Rankings: Seattle Sounders Remain Unbeaten at the Top Spot

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    Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

    Five weeks into the Major League Soccer season we have a clear picture of who the team to beat is and which squads will be beaten a lot in 2021.

    The Seattle Sounders blitzed a 16-point start through six games, with the only blemish being a 1-1 draw with Los Angeles FC.

    Brian Schmetzer's men reaffirmed their spot on top of MLS with a win over Bob Bradley's LAFC on Sunday to finish off the Week 5 slate.

    Life on the other side of the Supporters' Shield table is bleak for the Chicago Fire and FC Cincinnati, who have one point each.

    Each of the other 25 clubs in MLS has at least five points, including expansion side Austin FC, which has performed well on the road while it waits to open up its new stadium this summer.

    Our MLS power rankings take into account the recent form of the 27 MLS teams, as well as where they are in the standings as of Monday morning.

Nos. 27-21: Chicago, FC Cincinnati Struggling

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    Danny Karnik/Associated Press

    27. FC Cincinnati (0-3-1; 1 point)

    Well, at least the brand-new TQL Stadium looks nice and FC Cincinnati fans can enjoy the matchday experience.

    That's the only positive we can dish out regarding FC Cincinnati at the moment.

    FC Cincy is still a mess at the back with 13 goals allowed and a minus-9 goal differential, both of which are league worsts.

    The club's attack looked decent in the pair of two-goal performances against Nashville SC and Inter Miami CF, but it was thoroughly outclassed by two of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. New York City and Orlando City outscored Cincinnati by a combined 8-0.

    26. Chicago Fire (0-4-1; 1 point)

    It is hard to avoid the dumpster fire pun when talking about the early performances from the Chicago Fire.

    Chicago is second to FC Cincinnati in goals conceded and goal differential and is in the middle of a three-game scoreless streak.

    Raphael Wicky's side last scored in the 46th minute of its 3-1 loss to Atlanta United on April 24. Since then, it has suffered defeats to the New York Red Bulls, Philadelphia Union and D.C. United.

    25. D.C. United (2-4-0; 6 points)

    At least D.C. United can say that they beat Chicago.

    The Black-and-Red knocked off Chicago on May 13, which is why they are one rung higher on the MLS pecking order.

    Hernan Losada's men failed to capitalize on that result, though, suffering a 1-0 loss to Orlando City at Audi Field on Sunday.

    Life does not get any easier for D.C. in Week 6, as the Philadelphia Union, who are rounding into league form, come to the United States capital.

    24. Columbus (1-2-2; 5 points)

    So what is exactly wrong with the Columbus Crew...errr Columbus SC...just kidding they are the Crew again. 

    Some will joke around and say the two losses suffered to Toronto FC and New England Revolution were karma for the club changing its crest and name. The club reverted back to the Crew moniker after a meeting between ownership and supporters. 

    All joking aside, the Crew just have not been as lethal in front of the net as we expected them to be with Lucas Zelarayan and Gyasi Zardes leading the charge.

    All three of the club's goals came against D.C., which is not much of an accomplishment since United dealt with a depleted roster due to injuries and does not have the same quality in talent.

    Maybe the Crew are just going through an extended MLS Cup and CONCACAF Champions League hangover, but whatever is plaguing them, it needs to be fixed soon or they could be chasing points throughout the summer.

    23. Toronto FC (1-2-2; 5 points)

    One of D.C.'s two wins is over Chicago, Columbus beat D.C. and Toronto earned its lone league win over the Crew.

    That is how simple it was to determine the back end of this week's power rankings.

    In the long run, Toronto FC should be much higher in the standings. The Reds added attacking midfielder Yeferson Soteldo to the roster last week and will have their full focus on MLS play after dealing with the CCL to start the season.

    Toronto closes out May with a trip to Orlando and another clash with Columbus. If it loses both games, it would not be a sign for panic since it would then have two weeks off to get healthy and let Soteldo adapt more to his new teammates.

    If you look ahead to late June and early July, TFC has a three-game stretch against Nashville SC, FC Cincinnati and D.C. United in which it can surge up the standings.

    22. FC Dallas (1-2-2; 5 points)

    FC Dallas' record is buoyed by a 4-1 win over the Portland Timbers in which their opponent rested a majority of its starters between CCL matches.

    Luchi Gonzalez's side earned its other two points through draws with the Colorado Rapids and Houston Dynamo, who look like playoff contenders early on.

    The one positive for FC Dallas at the moment is their defensive form. Three of the six goals they conceded came in a single game against the San Jose Earthquakes. They allowed one each in the last three contests.

    21. Vancouver Whitecaps (2-3-1; 7 points)

    The Vancouver Whitecaps took advantage of the CCL focus that their first two opponents had in order to pick up four points.

    Vancouver opened with a win over Portland and a tie with Toronto while both squads were working on advancing out of the CCL round of 16.

    In the last four games, the Whitecaps have been shut out three times and have a win over CF Montreal at their current home site of Rio Tinto Stadium.

    Vancouver's lack of offensive quality against Colorado, Minnesota and Sporting Kansas City gives us the feeling that it will drop further down the standings as the weeks go on.

Nos. 20-16: No Reason for LAFC to Panic

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    Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

    20. New York Red Bulls (2-3-0; 6 points)

    If we based our power rankings solely on United States men's national team prospect hype, the New York Red Bulls would be in the top five thanks to Caden Clark.

    The 17-year-old struck a few terrific goals early on in the campaign. He has three goals and one assist.

    The Red Bulls also have the league's assist leader in Fabio, who has four helpers, but neither player was impressive in Saturday's loss to the Union.

    New York has a pair of victories, but they came against Chicago and a Toronto team that was eliminated from the CCL a few days prior.

    While the attacking play has been promising, the Red Bulls suffered a huge blow on Saturday, when USMNT center back Aaron Long suffered an Achilles tear. 

    19. Austin FC (2-3-0; 5 points)

    Austin FC deserves credit for playing solid soccer during the start of its eight-game road swing.

    The expansion side picked up wins over Colorado and Minnesota and fell to LAFC, Sporting Kansas City and the L.A. Galaxy.

    The three losses look much better than any set of defeats suffered across MLS since SKC and the Galaxy are second and third in the Western Conference and LAFC is a perennial MLS Cup contender.

    Austin finishes its road trip with Nashville, Seattle and another jaunt to Kansas City before it hosts San Jose on June 19.

    18. Real Salt Lake (2-1-1; 7 points)

    Real Salt Lake's biggest claim to fame in 2021 is the Goal of the Year candidate Rubio Rubin delivered in the back-and-forth 2-1 loss to San Jose on May 7.

    Unfortunately, the bicycle kick golazo did not count toward a home victory, as the Quakes stole three points at the death through Chris Wondolowski.

    RSL followed up that loss with a scoreless home draw against Nashville SC. The Claret and Cobalt have two nice wins over Minnesota and Sporting KC, but the home loss to the Quakes is weighing them down.

    17. Minnesota United (2-4-0; 6 points)

    Minnesota United turned a corner in its last two matches after a dreadful start.

    The Loons picked up 1-0 victories over the Whitecaps and FC Dallas at Allianz Field. That helped them recover from the poor beginning in which they dropped home results to Austin and RSL.

    Minnesota can avenge the early-season defeat to RSL on May 29 at Rio Tinto Stadium. They will sit out Week 6 due to the imbalance of teams in the league.

    16. Los Angeles FC (1-2-2; 5 points)

    LAFC is the toughest team to evaluate in terms of its current place in the standings compared to where it should be by the end of the regular season.

    The Black and Gold sit at the bottom of the Western Conference, but they have dealt with injury issues to Carlos Vela, who appeared as a substitute in Sunday's match with the Sounders.

    LAFC's poor start can be credited to Vela's injury status, as well as its difficult schedule that featured two clashes with Seattle, a rivalry game with the Galaxy and a trip to Houston.

    With four home games in a row ahead, LAFC should bounce back from their current position, which is why there should not be too much concern about their status right now.

Nos. 15-11: Higuain Brothers Thriving for Inter Miami

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    15. Portland Timbers (2-3-0; 6 points)

    Portland dealt with the balance of starting a league campaign while attempting to advance in the CCL.

    The Timbers fared better than others in their spot, as they picked up a win in Week 2 over the Dynamo.

    Since then, the Timbers have a single victory, which came over the Quakes on Saturday. That was a step in the right direction as they look to climb up the West table.

    Portland faces one of the most difficult stretches over the next three games versus the Galaxy, Union and Sporting KC.

    If the Timbers survive that gauntlet, they should be in good shape ahead of the busy summer schedule.

    14. Inter Miami CF (2-2-2; 8 points)

    Inter Miami may have to start building a statue for the Higuain brothers if they continue to score goals at their current pace.

    Gonzalo and Federico Higuain combined for five goals and three assists. The rest of the squad has three goals and three assists.

    On Sunday, Gonzalo Higuain stole the show by scoring a brace and spoiling FC Cincinnati's new stadium debut.

    Miami's defense has not been perfect since it has a minus-1 goal differential, but it should be in almost every game this season because of its top-notch attacking firepower.

    13. Nashville SC (1-0-4; 5 points)

    Nashville SC has not been great through five games.

    The second-year side earned four draws and picked up a home win over the New England Revolution.

    The scoreless road draw at RSL was a promising sign for a squad that suffered home draws against FC Cincinnati, CF Montreal and Inter Miami.

    Nashville's schedule is frontloaded with home games. It has seven between now and the end of July and two in the final seven contests.

    For Gary Smith's side to be in the playoff discussion, it has to be more successful inside Nissan Stadium.

    12. Houston Dynamo FC (2-2-2; 6 points)

    Tab Ramos' Houston Dynamo squad has been one of the pleasant surprises in the Western Conference.

    Houston picked up a pair of home wins over San Jose and Sporting KC and fought to a 1-1 draw with LAFC.

    The latter two of those results are most notable since Sporting KC and LAFC should be near or at the top of the West come playoff time.

    Houston gets to test itself on the road against those two squads on the two ends of the June break. The Dynamo visit Sporting KC on May 29 and take on LAFC on June 19.

    11. San Jose Earthquakes (3-3-0; 9 points)

    Most San Jose games in 2021 have lived up to the promise that Quakes matches under Matias Almeyda are never boring.

    Each of the first four San Jose contests featured three or more goals. The last two results, losses to Seattle and Portland, struck down that trend.

    For the most part, San Jose games will be played at a frenetic attacking pace because of the man-marking system employed by Almeyda that can throw off some of the best teams.

Nos.10-6: NYCFC, Orlando, Philly in Good Shape in East

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    10. CF Montreal (2-2-2; 6 points)

    CF Montreal was a minute away from leaving Mercedes-Benz Stadium with a point on Saturday.

    Unfortunately, they were beaten by a Marcelino Moreno game-winning goal in stoppage time.

    Each of the last four Montreal games have been low-scoring, which may be a sign of the club's style of play. It failed to find the back of the net in two of its last three road games and held Miami and Columbus without a tally.

    CF Montreal should remain in the East playoff positions into late June since it faces Chicago, Cincinnati and D.C. in its next three games.

    9. Atlanta United (2-1-2; 8 points)

    The expectation for Atlanta United is that eventually, everything will work itself out under new manager Gabriel Heinze.

    An improvement in form could also come with more minutes for Josef Martinez, who is working back to the player he was in 2019 after an ACL tear took away the 2020 campaign from him.

    Moreno's late game-winner helped ease some nerves in Georgia on Saturday, but when you look at the club's start, it isn't bad considering how busy the schedule has been.

    Atlanta came out of its first five games with eight points with four CCL matches mixed in between.

    8. Philadelphia Union (2-2-2; 8 points)

    The team that beat Atlanta United in the CCL quarterfinals has shaken off the continental hangover that leaked into league play.

    Philadelphia earned two wins and a draw after it secured advancement to the CCL semifinals, where it will take on Club America in August and September.

    Jim Curtin's side commanded its wins over Chicago and the Red Bulls through its defense. It allowed five goals in six league matches.

    The defense should get even better in the coming weeks, as defensive midfielder Jose Martinez returns from a three-game red-card suspension. The Venezuelan was regarded as one of the top newcomers in 2020.

    7. New York City FC (2-1-2; 8 points)

    NYCFC took advantage of Philadelphia's lack of focus on league play to pick up a road win on May 1 that may help it in playoff tiebreakers.

    NYCFC also picked up a point in Orlando through a 1-1 draw, and if it can do the same at LAFC on May 29, it will bode well for its overall record.

    The Pigeons are expected to win a bulk of their home games since they are used to the condensed conditions at Yankee Stadium.

    Columbus, New England, Atlanta and D.C. all have to come to the Bronx before the end of June, and that could help NYCFC gain an advantage at the top of the East.

    6. Orlando City (2-0-3; 9 points)

    Orlando City extended its unbeaten streak to start the season to five games with a road win over D.C. on Sunday.

    The Lions beat D.C. and Cincinnati, two teams they were supposed to defeat, and took three points away from draws with Atlanta, Sporting KC and NYCFC. That is a very respectable total to come from three matches against difficult sides.

    On the pitch, Oscar Pareja's side has five matches between now and the end of June, but that may not get the most attention since the potential sale of Daryl Dike is looming large.

    Dike has thrived on loan with Barnsley in the English Championship, and the new owners, the Wilf family, will make their first big decision on whether to sell him.

5. Colorado Rapids (3-1-1; 10 Points)

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    Bart Young/Associated Press

    The Colorado Rapids scored seven goals during their three-game winning streak.

    Colorado took down Vancouver, Minnesota and Houston, which is not the most daunting run of opponents, but it is still worth noting that the Rapids thrived in the final third while disposing of those opponents.

    Six different players have already found the back of the net for the Rapids, with Cole Bassett and Diego Rubio the only ones with multiple tallies.

    Colorado's early presence near the top of the West will be tested by road trips to LAFC on May 22 and Sporting KC on June 23. If the Rapids get points from both of those matches, we could be talking about them as the surprise contender for a top spot in the conference.

4. Sporting Kansas City (3-2-1; 10 Points)

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    Sporting Kansas City restored order to their typical strong home record by beating Austin FC and Vancouver by a combined score of 5-1. Those results came after SKC drew with Orlando City in its home opener.

    Although Peter Vermes' side has not been as successful on the road, it has scored in all but one of its contests with Alan Pulido leading the line.

    The Mexican striker has three goals to his name and is one of three SKC players with multiple tallies. Gadi Kinda and Daniel Salloi both have two.

    Sporting KC's next three matches come on the road in San Jose and at home versus Houston and Austin, which leads us to believe they could be one of the first team to reach 20 points.

3. LA Galaxy (4-1-0; 12 Points)

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    The L.A. Galaxy's 2021 story will be determined by the goal-scoring prowess of Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez.

    Chicharito leads MLS with seven goals and is responsible for over two-thirds of the club's tallies in five matches.

    Chicharito and the entire Galaxy squad look reinvigorated under new head coach Greg Vanney, who led Toronto FC to three MLS Cup appearances.

    The Galaxy scored multiple goals in each of their four victories and have only been thwarted by Seattle's back line.

    L.A. will have a chance to reverse the 3-0 loss from May 2 at home on June 19. Before that, it has to worry about a match against another Cascadia team, the Portland Timbers, whom it faces at Providence Park on Saturday.

2. New England Revolution (3-1-2; 11 Points)

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    Kathryn Riley/Associated Press

    Bruce Arena's Revolution have established themselves as the early team to beat in the East.

    The Revs own wins over Atlanta and Columbus and picked up a road point against Philadelphia in their first six games.

    Carles Gil is once again engineering the Revs attack, and he has 27 key passes and three assists.

    The Spanish midfielder has become one of the best players in MLS during his time with the Revs, and he has been hard for any defense to contain for 90 minutes.

    If Gil continues to pump out attacking chances, the Revs will be one of the most dangerous teams in front of goal for most of the season.

    Gil has the potential to earn quite a few more assists to finish up May with the Red Bulls and Cincinnati on the docket.

1. Seattle Sounders (5-0-1; 16 Points)

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    Steve Dykes/Associated Press

    Seattle has not won MLS Cup with its undefeated start, but it has earned the tag of favorite to hoist the trophy in December.

    The Sounders are 5-0-1 with a goal differential of 11 from 13 goals scored and only two conceded.

    The only slip-up suffered by Brian Schmetzer’s team came on the road against LAFC in a 1-1 draw. It already avenged that on Sunday with a 2-0 victory.

    Only LAFC and Portland have been able to score on the Sounders defense. Seattle held Minnesota, San Jose and the Galaxy without a tally.

    Raul Ruidiaz has been on fire with five goals and left-back Brad Smith added three to the early totals, but the most impressive player in the squad may be Nouhou Tolo, who has seamlessly transitioned into a center back role after playing as an outside back in the last few years.


    Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

    Statistics obtained from