Week 8 Power Rankings: Portland on the rise, Nashville falling

Major League Soccer is back from international break and in full swing. 26 of 27 teams were in action this week, which featured a Goal of the Year contender from Jacob Glesnes.

How the rankings work

These power rankings aren’t subjective, 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 heavily, and also factors in goal difference and expected goal difference to show not just how teams have done in the table, but how they’ve played on the field.

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. As the season progresses, we’ll being to incorporate a projected standings table. More on that later.

Week 8 Power Rankings

1: Seattle Sounders (-). The last unbeaten side in MLS. Went to a solid LA Galaxy side and came away with a 2-1 victory thanks to a winner from Raúl Ruidíaz. Their best players consistently show up when it counts. Far and away the best side in the league.

2: New England Revolution (↑1). Beat NYCFC 3-2 in one of the best games of the season to date, featuring three goals after the 75th minute. Bruce Arena has this side playing at a consistently high level every week, and having the best goalkeeper in the league comes in handy in games like this one when they’re under constant pressure.

3: Sporting KC (1). Drew 1-1 with Austin FC before losing 2-1 on the road in Portland. While the dropped points are frustrating, the performances shouldn’t be. In the two games, they outshot their opponents 51-16 and created 5.34 expected goals. Quite possibly the best attack in the league, and they’ve been fairly unlucky defensively.

4: LA Galaxy (↑2). Despite a 2-1 loss to Seattle, this model really liked a close match against the best side in the league.

5: NYCFC (-). Bombarded New England with 18 shots and 3.2 expected goals, and were a Matt Turner performance away from a win. They’re in seventh place in the East, but should rise quickly if they continue these types of performances.

6: Nashville SC (3). Handed their first loss of the season by a very good New York Red Bulls side, and were flat for most of the match. They were missing strikers like Jhonder Cádiz and Daniel Ríos, Hany Mukhtar failed to really impact the game and Randall Leal had his first disappointing performance of the season. Their defense continues to concede soft goals, and the attack is still too inconsistent.

7: Atlanta United (-). Looked like they had three points wrapped up against Philadelphia until the final 10 minutes. For the second consecutive week they’ve blown a two goal lead late at home. Still plenty of work to do for the Five Stripes, who have the talent but haven’t put together many 90 minute performances yet this year.

8: Portland Timbers (↑5). It wasn’t pretty, but they made life miserable for Sporting KC in a low block and were rewarded with a 2-1 win. A better defensive showing than they’ve put on in a long time.

9: Orlando City (). The opening 10 minutes of their match against Toronto were pure chaos, but they came back late for a 3-2 win. They’re still not the dominant force they were in 2020, but Daryl Dike’s return should give them either a boost or a sizeable transfer fee to re-invest.

10: Colorado Rapids (2). Beat Cincinnati on the road 2-0, despite being outshot 22-7. They were lethal on the counter, though, and it was a strong performance overall. Unfortunately, Cincinnati is bad enough that playing them is a hit to any team’s strength of schedule score, and the Rapids drop two spots.

11: Philadelphia Union (1). Their late comeback in Atlanta was something special, and made up for some self-inflicted damage earlier in the match. They’ve been much better with CCL on a break until August, and they’re playing like the elite side they are.

12: New York Red Bulls (↑3). Followed up a dominant win against a good Orlando side with a dominant win against a good Nashville side. Fábio finally broke his duck, and Caden Clark shined as the no. 10. It’s still early in the season, but they look like they’ll prove a lot of people’s preseason predictions wrong, mine included.

13: Real Salt Lake (↑1). Looked destined for a 1-1 draw at home against Vancouver, but scored twice in stoppage time to win 3-1. Sixth in the table, they continue to put in performances that seemingly punch above their weight, and have found value in overlooked players. Bobby Wood will arrive soon, and will help an already high-performing attack. Maybe they’re simply a good side.

14: Columbus Crew (↑1). Said goodbye to Mapfre Stadium with a professional 2-0 win over Chicago, with Gyasi Zardes once again coming up clutch. Their chance creation is still worrying (5.6 expected goals through eight games), but they’ve started stringing together results.

15: San Jose Earthquakes (3). Drew 0-0 against an Austin side playing at home for the first time. Created plenty of chances and conceded plenty. Their finishing has been disappointing, though, and cost them plenty of points.

16: LAFC (5). Drew 1-1 against a Houston Dynamo team that only managed three shots. There’s a lot to like here and their buildup play is exceptional, but they’re just not that scary in the final third, which is a really strange thing to say about LAFC.

17: Houston Dynamo (). Their result in LA went exactly according to plan. They sat deep and looked to hit on the counter, and it worked this time. It may not be a sustainable plan, but it has them in playoff position at the moment.

18: DC United (↑4). It’s hard to read too much into a pair of consecutive wins over Inter Miami, but six points is six points. They were the better side even before Miami imploded, and they’ve put in some really good performance in their last five matches, even when they weren’t rewarded with points. They still have a lot of work to do, but it’s slowly getting better in the capitol.

19: Toronto FC (1). Toronto have plenty of problems, and their 3-2 loss to Orlando was as much down to their poor play as it was due to good work from Orlando. Their opening 10 minutes were disastrous, and they had a chance to equalize in stoppage time, but Dom Dwyer missed a sitter. There’s still way too much talent in this squad to write them off, but they’ve regressed heavily under Chris Armas.

20: Austin FC (1). Austin do a lot of things well, and I really admire their commitment to play an attractive brand of soccer. But unless you’re spending towards the top of the league, that can be a really difficult thing to do as an expansion team. At some point it may behove them to be more pragmatic.

21: CF Montréal (1). Didn’t play this week.

22: Minnesota United (↑1). Picked up a decent road point against Dallas, but they probably should have won, given the quality of chances they created. After a really poor start to the year, they haven’t lost in their last four, and are beginning to look a bit more stable.

23: FC Dallas (1). Has anyone dropped off from 2020 to 2021 as much as Dallas? They always create a couple of goal scoring chances, but their defense has been a liability so far.

24: Vancouver Whitecaps (). Lost 3-1 on the road in Salt Lake, and the result feels about right given their 2021 season to date.

25: Inter Miami CF (). It’s going to be a long season for Miami. They were thoroughly outplayed by DC United for the second week in a row, and finished the game with nine men after a “what are you thinking?” moment from Ryan Shawcross. Gonzalo Higuaín didn’t travel with the squad and stayed behind to “work on his fitness”, never something you want to hear after he had a three week international break to get healthy. Miami has problems. Lots of them.

26: Chicago Fire (). Lost 2-0 in Columbus. But hey, at least their newest crest is good.

27: FC Cincinnati (-). Lost at home again, this time to Colorado. On the plus side they took 22 shots and created 2.27 expected goals. But in typical Cincinnati fashion, they struggled to finish their chances and conceded twice from just 0.54 xG. At least they’re consistent.

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