Week 21 MLS Power Rankings: Revolution rise, Portland plummet

Another double game week in Major League Soccer, with the midweek matches technically counting as their own week.

How the rankings work

These power rankings aren’t a subjective result of one person’s opinion, but use a stats-based model for each team to get a more in-depth look at where clubs actually stand. The model weighs points per game and strength of schedule most heavily, with goal difference and expected goal difference weighted incrementally less. This is an attempt to show not just how teams have done in the table, but how they’ve played on the field. If you’re interested in the methodology, the full model can be viewed here.

These power rankings aren’t an attempt to predict the final table, just to provide readers with a different angle from which to judge teams. A helpful way to think of it is if a team is significantly higher in the rankings than they are in the table, they’re probably underperforming. If they’re significantly lower in the rankings than in the table, they’re overperforming.

Week 21 power rankings

For this week’s edition, I’ve broken teams down into different tiers based on their numerical groupings.

Tier 1

1. Seattle Sounders (↑2)
2. New England Revolution (↑2)
3. NYCFC (↓2)
4. Sporting KC (↓2)
5. Nashville SC (-)

Tier 2

6. Colorado Rapids (-)
7. LA Galaxy (-)
8. Philadelphia Union (↑2)
9. Minnesota United (↑2)
10. Real Salt Lake (↓2)
11. DC United (↓2)
12. Orlando City (-)

Tier 3

13. LAFC (-)
14. New York Red Bulls (↑2)
15. CF Montréal (↓1)
16. Atlanta United (↑1)
17. FC Dallas (↓2)

Tier 4

18. San Jose Earthquakes (↑1)
19. Chicago Fire (↑3)
20. Columbus Crew (↓2)
21. Vancouver Whitecaps (↑1)
22. Austin FC (↓1)
23. Houston Dynamo (↑1)
24. Portland Timbers (↓4)
25. Inter Miami CF (-)

Tier 5

26. FC Cincinnati (↑1)
27. Toronto FC (↓1)

Seattle Sounders are back on top for the first time since Week 13, reclaiming first place with a 2-1 win over Columbus Crew in which they scored two goals in 45 seconds in the final 10 minutes of the match. They’ve been at or near the top without Nico Lodeiro and Jordan Morris for the entire season. Lodeiro is back and Morris looks like he could return from an ACL tear much earlier than expected. This side hasn’t come close to peaking yet.

New England Revolution jump two spots into second place with a tight win over DC United and a 4-1 drubbing of FC Cincinnati. A big reason they’ve taken so long to rise this high is that they give up a good number of chances, but they’re starting to show that it may not matter if a) you finish your own chances consistently and b) you have Matt Turner in goal.

NYCFC and Sporting KC both drop. New York lost to Philadelphia Union midweek, while Sporting drew with both Portland and Minnesota. A draw on the road against a rapidly improving Minnesota side isn’t a bad result, but dropping points at home against a rapidly worsening Portland side is one they’ll want back.

Nashville SC don’t lose points after their midweek draw with Orlando, and have a pretty sizeable lead over Colorado Rapids in sixth. The Rapids have shot up into the upper echelon of MLS, and are close to pushing into that top tier.

At the other end, Portland are plummeting. They’ve been unable to defend for most of the season and have the third-worst expected goal difference in the league. It looks like it’ll be a long three months for Portland.

Projected standings

These projections are created by taking each sides home and away form and factoring them out across their remaining matches.

These projections will change significantly over the course of the season as teams get larger sample sizes at home and on the road (for example, Nashville’s spot in the power rankings is boosted by their home form, while their projections are hampered by projecting their poor road form over the rest of their schedule). And they’re not a concrete attempt to predict the final table, but rather to show each team’s trajectory based on current form.

Nashville dropped points against Orlando, which cost them a chance to move up to fifth in the projections. The real issue is their road form, which has been talked about ad nauseam this season. They’re averaging 0.71 points per game on the road, which is why they’re so low in the projections. Taking just seven points from their remaining 10 away games would be a disaster. One or two wins certainly isn’t unrealistic, and would drastically improve their total.

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