MLS Power Rankings: LAFC hold top spot, Portland Timbers hit rock-bottom
It took just six weeks for a consensus top team to emerge from the pack in the 2019 MLS season. Though several teams can claim to be among the league's elite, just one is undefeated and has a double-digit goal differential. Bob Bradley's LAFC is playing attractive, attacking soccer while showing a ruthlessness that should scare everyone else in the league.
LAFC deserves to crow a bit. Or maybe it "deserves to shriek," because that's what falcons do?
It doesn't quite have the same ring to it, but oh well. Go on and shriek, LAFC.
1. LAFC (5 wins, 1 draw, 0 losses)
Previous ranking: 1
Next MLS match: Saturday, April 13, vs. FC Cincinnati (10.30 p.m. ET, live on ESPN+)
If "Vela & Rossi" sounds like a fancy aperitif or the makers of bespoke suits to you, good, because it's that sort of class that the pair of attackers provides whenever they step on the field for LAFC. Carlos Vela and Diego Rossi combined early and often for the visitors in a massive, statement-making win in D.C.
2. Seattle Sounders (4-1-0)
Previous ranking: 2
Next MLS match: Wednesday, April 10, at Colorado (9 p.m. ET, live on ESPN+)
The Sounders aren't in first, but they are just three points back of LAFC with one fewer game played and remain one of four unbeaten teams across MLS. Holding onto a win over Real Salt Lake proved to be tougher than it looked on paper and Seattle's high-flying attack has slowed down dramatically over the last two weeks.
3. LA Galaxy (4-0-1)
Previous ranking: 4
Next MLS match: Saturday, April 13, vs. Philadelphia (10:30 p.m. ET, live on ESPN+)
Zlatan Ibrahimovic really did play on turf and the Galaxy parlayed his presence into a win over the Whitecaps on the road in Vancouver. That's three consecutive wins for the Galaxy, a run they managed just once in 2018. If Ibrahimovic is committed to playing whenever healthy, regardless of surface, the Galaxy will be in much better shape to improve on that total.
4. Columbus Crew (4-1-1)
Previous ranking: 5
Next MLS match: Saturday, April 13, at Montreal (1 p.m. ET, live on ESPN+)
There's a ticking clock on the Crew season, counting down to the day goalkeeper Zack Steffen leaves the club to make his European move. Every game Columbus has Steffen on the field is precious because he can help turn a single goal into three points. With the Crew's finishing wanting at the moment, Steffen is saving the Crew.
5. D.C. United (3-1-1)
Previous ranking: 3
Next MLS match: Tuesday, April 9, vs. Montreal (8 p.m. ET, live on ESPN+)
LAFC are good enough to beat you on their own, but when you make a habit of turning the ball over in midfield, it's practically like putting the ball in the net for them. The Black & Red's rough home showing against LAFC was made even rougher by Wayne Rooney's red card.
6. Houston Dynamo (3-1-0)
Previous ranking: 6
Next MLS match: Saturday, April 13, vs. San Jose
The Dynamo fell to fourth in the West while sitting idle thanks to wins from the Seattle Sounders and the LA Galaxy. Next week they'll welcome in a San Jose team fresh off its first win of the season.
7. Sporting Kansas City (2-2-1)
Previous ranking: 7
Next MLS match: Sunday, April 14, vs. New York Red Bulls
Peter Vermes rotated his lineup for a visit to Cincinnati and left with a point. That's a fine result considering the youth on the field for Sporting -- youth that garnered a confidence boost with the draw. Sporting's goal scorer, Gianluca Busio, became the youngest player in league history to score in back-to-back games.
8. Toronto FC (3-1-0)
Previous ranking: 8
Next MLS match: Saturday, April 13, at Seattle (4 p.m. ET, live on ESPN+)
The bad news is that the Reds needed a goal from Jonathan Osorio in the final 15 minutes of the match to secure a point at home against Chicago. The good news is that Alejandro Pozuelo and Jozy Altidore connected for a goal for the second time, entrenching a relationship TFC hopes will prove productive all year long.
9. Philadelphia Union (3-1-2)
Previous ranking: 14
Next MLS match: Saturday, April 13, at LA Galaxy (10:30 p.m. ET, live on ESPN+)
The Union climbed into a tie for second on points in the East with a comeback win against FC Dallas. Credit to Cory Burke for following up Marco Fabian's penalty kick, but it's worth pointing out that Fabian now has two penalty kick misses on the season. Should the obvious choice for penalty taker in Philly be replaced?
10. FC Dallas (3-1-2)
Previous ranking: 10
Next MLS match: Saturday, April 13, vs. Portland (8 p.m., live on ESPN+)
Short-handed and playing another gaggle of youngsters, FC Dallas was a bit unlucky not to grab at least a point on the road in Philadelphia. It's hard to blame the inexperience for the failure to see out at least a draw because it was Matt Hedges who committed the penalty that gave the Union a goal, but youth does sometimes have its drawbacks.
11. Minnesota United (3-0-2)
Previous ranking: 12
Next MLS match: Saturday, April 13, vs. NYCFC (5 p.m., live on ESPN2)
What a way to finish out the long season-opening road trip ahead of next weekend's debut of Allianz Field. The Loons had no interest in backing their way into the first game in their permanent home, tripping up the Red Bulls in the usually tough environs of Red Bulls Arena. And they did it without Darwin Quintero.
12. New York Red Bulls (1-1-3)
Previous ranking: 9
Next MLS match: Sunday, April 14, at Sporting Kansas City
Red Bull Arena has officially been downgraded from "fortress" to "that spaceship-looking thing you can see from I-95" after yet another Red Bulls defeat at home. They lost just twice at home in all of 2018 and didn't lose the second game until July. Whatever confidence the Red Bulls had in themselves and their system has gone missing.
13. Montreal Impact (2-1-2)
Previous ranking: 13
Next MLS match: Tuesday, April 9, at D.C. United (8 p.m. ET, live on ESPN+)
Call it a bounce-back draw if you like, because anything short of another six-goal thrashing would have been an improvement for Remi Garde's team. Navigating another road date without Ignacio Piatti in the lineup, the Impact face a quick turnaround to Tuesday's match in D.C. before finally opening up the home schedule next weekend.
14. FC Cincinnati (2-2-2)
Previous ranking: 15
Next MLS match: Saturday, April 13, at LAFC (10:30 p.m. ET, live on ESPN+)
Cincy can still be positive with a home draw against Sporting Kansas City, though the obvious problems with depth up front were on stark display. FCC just didn't finish well enough to win and can't count on a Fanendo Adi return anytime in the near future. Nevertheless, eight points through six games is overachieving for Cincinnati.
15. Orlando City (2-2-2)
Previous ranking: 17
Next MLS match: Saturday, April 13, at Real Salt Lake (9 p.m. ET, live on ESPN+)
The Lions only play wild games. Saturday's 4-3 double-comeback win over Colorado might not be the ideal way to go about getting the first home win over the year, but the journey sure was fun. Orlando City should market itself as the most entertaining product in Central Florida. What in the area could possibly be better?
16. New York City FC (0-4-1)
Previous ranking: 16
Next MLS match: Saturday, April 13, at Minnesota (5 p.m. ET, live on ESPN2)
Dome Torrent did himself no favors with a fruitless, goalless home draw against Montreal on Saturday. Failing to win at home again -- NYCFC now has draws in all three games at Yankee Stadium this season -- would have been bad enough. Drawing at home against a team without its best player that just got walloped 7-1 last week? Like the Yankee Stadium turf, it's a disaster.
17. Atlanta United (0-2-2)
Previous ranking: 11
Next MLS match: Saturday, April 13, at New England (7:30 p.m. ET, live on ESPN+)
We're all waiting to see if Atlanta United spent the bye week working on Frank de Boer's as-of-yet ineffective system, or if it was back to the lab for the Dutch boss. A trip to New England awaits.
18. Real Salt Lake (1-1-4)
Previous ranking: 19
Next MLS match: Saturday, April 13, vs. Orlando City (9 p.m. ET, live on ESPN+)
Mike Petke's team fought and clawed and scrapped and nearly scored, but it wasn't to be in Seattle. At least RSL finished the game with the full complement of 11 players -- something they weren't able do in the three games prior to the visit to CenturyLink Field. Sam Johnson's first start was promising but ultimately goalless.
19. Chicago Fire (1-2-2)
Previous ranking: 20
Next MLS match: Friday, April 12, vs. Vancouver (8:30 p.m. ET, live on ESPN+)
The Fire got themselves a fighter in forward C.J. Sapong. He might not be the flashiest player in the league and there was some doubt as to how he would fit in alongside former Golden Boot winner Nemanja Nikolic, but Sapong's determination -- combined with confident finishing -- will earn the Fire some extra points in 2019.
20. New England Revolution (1-1-4)
Previous ranking: 21
Next MLS match: Saturday, April 13, vs. Atlanta (7:30 p.m. ET, live on ESPN+)
The Revs were a marginal offside call away from grabbing a point on the road in Columbus. Any improvement is worth celebrating for New England and it's interesting to note the change in tone from head coach Brad Friedel in recent weeks. Time will tell if the Revs are on the right track, but at least the boss is saying nice things.
21. Vancouver Whitecaps (0-1-4)
Previous ranking: 21
Next MLS match: Friday, April 12, at Chicago (8:30 p.m. ET, live on ESPN+)
The Caps can really only blame themselves for not getting at least a point against the Galaxy. Ali Adnan's nightmares are going to be booked for a while after he scuffed his penalty chance early in a match. Taking a panenka is always risky -- to do it on turf in your second game with a new club is eye-watering.
22. San Jose Earthquakes (1-0-4)
Previous ranking: 24
Next MLS match: Saturday, April 13, at Houston
Maybe it was the supporters' protest that shook up the Quakes and pushed them to their first points of any kind in 2019. Maybe Portland is just that bad and we shouldn't draw any conclusions from San Jose's win. Maybe Matias Almeyda's message is finally getting through. Maybe we should wait to see what happens next week.
23. Colorado Rapids (0-2-4)
Previous ranking: 23
Next MLS match: Wednesday, April 10, vs. Seattle (9 p.m. ET, live on ESPN+)
The Rapids have conceded four goals two weeks in a row, hardly the type of defensive record that leads to points. This week's loss has to be especially galling for Anthony Hudson considering his team was up on Orlando with under 20 minutes to go. With both Seattle and D.C. United coming to town this week, shoring up that back line will have to be the focus.
24. Portland Timbers (0-1-4)
Previous ranking: 18
Next MLS match: Saturday, April 13, at FC Dallas (8 p.m. ET, live on ESPN+)
The Timbers allowed more goals to San Jose in one half (three) than the Quakes had scored in their previous four games combined (two). The loss drops Portland to the bottom of the Western Conference standings and to the bottom of the Power Rankings. No worries, just seven games left until the Timbers get their first home game of the season.