The Chicago Fire were left for dead, but guess who’s back in the playoff race? That’s right: Xherdan Shaqiri & Co. The New England Revolution, too. Now Toronto FC has a pair of superstars that make the Reds look frighteningly good, and all of a sudden the Eastern Conference has way too many teams for way too few playoff spots.
Normally, time is supposed to weed out lesser teams and narrow the playoff race, but right now the fight for the postseason only appears to be getting bigger and messier. That’s just how we like it.
On to the power rankings:
Previous ranking: 1
Next MLS match: July 29 vs. Seattle Sounders FC, 11 p.m. ET
LAFC obviously hope that Gareth Bale does more than come off the bench and hit tired defenses on the counter, but even if that’s all he brings, is there anything stopping this team? On Saturday they were happy to cede possession, but were so comfortable defending, dangerous with Cristian Arango countering and now have Giorgio Chiellini leading a back line with Bale running at tired defenses. It’s how you win easily on the road, like they did against SKC over the weekend, and in the playoffs.
Previous ranking: 2
Things move so quickly that it’s rare players get to be given a proper farewell, but Valentin Castellanos got the one he deserved at Yankee Stadium. Everyone in the building knew he was playing his last match for NYCFC before a move to Girona and he was treated like the club legend he is. A 2-0 win over Miami was just the cherry on top.
Previous ranking: 4
The Union continue to be heroes to youth sports coaches everywhere who strain to get their kids to show the slightest bit of interest in defense by reminding them “if they don’t score, you can’t lose.” Except Philly do it at the professional level and with a defense that is historically good, as Orlando learned in another 1-0 win for Jim Curtain’s boys.
Previous ranking: 5
Next MLS match: Aug. 2 at Colorado Rapids, 7:30 p.m. ET
The Red Bulls are up to seven wins away from New Jersey, with just three coming at home, after a 4-3 thriller in Austin. If they keep this up, they’re going to screw themselves out of a deep playoff run by earning home-field advantage.
Sebastian Driussi crosses it to Washington Corozo, who delivers a bicycle kick assist to Ethan Finlay for the score.
Previous ranking: 3
If you were looking to make the case that Brad Stuver is the league’s best goalkeeper this season, the Verde‘s 4-3 home loss to RBNY without their backstop wouldn’t be a terrible place to start. Fortunately, he should be back soon.
Previous ranking: 7
Next MLS match: July 30 va. LA Galaxy, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN+
FC Dallas pressed its way to an early goal, defended well to keep RSL at a distance and generally looked like it has all season for more than an hour, but what made this game special is that FCD didn’t trip over their own feet in the last 20 minutes and actually won for the first time since May. Congratulations, you did a whole game!
Previous ranking: 6
Another loss, this time to Dallas, that a great striker could have turned. How do we convince owners Ryan Smith and David Blitzer to open up the checkbook for a frontman that can make this team as good as they should be?
Previous ranking: 8
Next MLS match: July 30 vs. New York City FC, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+
Manager Wilfried Nancy mercifully made a goalkeeper change two weeks ago and it paid off in a 2-1 win over D.C. on Saturday. James Pantemis was excellent and all of a sudden Montreal looks like it might be a real contender.
Franco Fragapane gives Minnesota United the advantage with a right-footed shot to the bottom-right corner.
Previous ranking: 11
The headline will be that Minnesota was missing Emanuel Reynoso, but the Loons were missing far more than that. Nearly half the team was out and they still ground out a 2-1 win in Houston. That’s the type of win that fans forget about after a week and managers remember for years.
Previous ranking: 9
An exceedingly competent and also uninspiring 1-1 draw in Cincinnati. “Competent and uninspiring” is coming to define this team, for better and worse.
Previous ranking: 10
Like most every team that plays the Union, Orlando looked out of ideas in a 1-0 loss, so throw this one away and be happy that Joao Moutinho returned in time for this week’s U.S. Open Cup semifinal.
Previous ranking: 12
A draw against Nashville means Cincy has only lost one of its past eight, but it’s also only won one of its past ten. So which team is this: the team that’s hard to beat or the team that struggles to win?
Dániel Gazdag scores a goal in the 39th minute for Philadelphia
Previous ranking: 13
The Crew extended their unbeaten streak to nine with a draw against the Revs, but were plenty unhappy about the result, which speaks volumes. Expectations have risen in Columbus, and for good reason.
Previous ranking: 15
Next MLS match: July 30 at Minnesota United, 3 p.m. ET, ABC
Aljaz Ivacic has never not looked the part in his first season as the Timbers starting goalkeeper, but his play in the past month has been next level, and his first-half performance in Portland’s 2-1 win over San Jose was his best yet. All aboard the Ivacic train.
Previous ranking: 18
Next MLS match: July 29 at LAFC, 11 p.m. ET
There’s been a pretty clear pattern for the Sounders this season: when they’re healthy, they’re still really good, and when they’re not healthy, welp … But still-not-healthy Seattle beat the Rapids, 2-1, in a game that wasn’t as close as the scoreline indicates despite giving up a third-minute goal and picking up a 47th-minute red card. It’s been a year in Seattle.
Previous ranking: 21
Next MLS match: July 30 at FC Dallas, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN+
Dejan Joveljic may not be giving himself enough credit when he said “I am the future of Galaxy” after burying Atlanta on Sunday. He’s the present, too.
In the final moments of play, Dejan Joveljic captures LA Galaxy’s second goal of the night.
Previous ranking: 14
Next MLS match: Aug. 2 at New York Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m. ET
The Rapids played 42 minutes up a man against Seattle and spent most of it on the back foot. That about sums up this team right now.
Previous ranking: 16
Next MLS match: July 30 vs. FC CIncinnati, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN+
Phil Neville surely understands why Miami looked so flat in its 2-0 loss to NYCFC. After all, Inter played a friendl — the biggest match in club history just days before.
Previous ranking: 17
Next MLS match: July 30 vs. Columbus Crew, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN+
It was rude on the part of the league to make Charlotte, an expansion team who has been terrible on the road this season, play in Toronto on the night that Federico Bernardeschi and Lorenzo Insigne debuted. Chalk up that 4-0 scoreline to the schedulers.
Previous ranking: 20
Next MLS match: July 30 vs. Toronto FC, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN+
For all of the mess in New England, the Revs are still right in the playoff race after a draw in Columbus. I’m not betting against Bruce Arena to figure out enough to give themselves a shot in October. Are you?
Christopher Mueller seals the deal with another goal for Chicago
Previous ranking: 25
Hello, Chicago Fire, a team that definitely wasn’t written off … *checks calendar* … 12 days ago. A clinical 3-1 win in Vancouver makes it three in a row and has them in the thick of the playoff fight again.
Previous ranking: 28
Next MLS match: July 30 at New England Revolution, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN+
You can’t throw out an entire season after one game against an expansion team, but adding Federico Bernardeschi and Lorenzo Insigne functionally makes Toronto a completely different team. And what a terrifying team it is, as Charlotte learned while TFC rolled ’em, 4-0. It takes self restraint not to move them further up the rankings right now.
Previous ranking: 19
Next MLS match: July 30 at Nashville SC, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN+
Coach Vanni Sartini said the Whitecaps’ 3-1 loss to Chicago was their worst performance of the season, and it’s hard to disagree, but they’ll forget it if they win the Canadian Championship on Tuesday.
Previous ranking: 22
Next MLS match: July 30 at Chicago Fire, 5 p.m. ET, ESPN+
Atlanta nearly got level against the Galaxy in stoppage time and minutes later Dejan Joveljic was running the other way to bury the Five Stripes. Cold world.
Federico Bernardeschi rockets a shot to the back corner to score in his Toronto FC debut.
Previous ranking: 23
Next MLS match: July 30 at Philadelphia Union, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+
Losing to a Minnesota team missing half of its starters is another lowlight in a season full of them.
Previous ranking: 24
Next MLS match: July 30 vs. Real Salt Lake, 10 p.m. ET, ESPN+
You have to give the Quakes credit for finding so many different ways to lose in Portland over the years. They’ve got range.
Previous ranking: 26
Next MLS match: July 30 vs. Austin FC, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Sporting lost 2-0, but they should be able to file a grievance for LAFC being able to bring Gareth Bale off the bench against them. That has to be some kind of violation.
Previous ranking: 27
Next MLS match: July 31 vs. Orlando City, 5 p.m. ET, ESPN+
United have won just three of 11 home games this season after falling to Montreal. Go burn some sage at Audi Field or something.