MLS Power Rankings: Atlanta tucks into second behind Toronto FC

The busiest week of the season -- 18 games -- produced some big scores and a few playoff fates decided.

Top-ranked Toronto FC clinched the Supporters’ Shield for best overall record and amazing expansion club Atlanta United kept rolling to take over second place. RSL moved up another notch, into sixth place, with another gutty result.

A good week for the Fire edged it into the top half of the rankings but the troubles continue for the Red Bulls and Montreal, which have sunk into the bottom third.
 
MLS Results, Week 30

Sept. 27
Atlanta 3, Philadelphia 0. Highlights
Montreal 0, New York City FC 1. Highlights
New York Red Bulls 3, D.C. United 3. Highlights
Orlando City 6, New England 1. Highlights
FC Dallas 2, Colorado 0. Highlights
Houston 3, L.A. Galaxy 3. Highlights
San Jose 1, Chicago 4. Highlights
Seattle 3, Vancouver 0. Highlights
Sept. 30
Orlando City 0, FC Dallas 0. Highlights
Toronto FC 4, New York Red Bulls 2. Highlights
Columbus 2, D.C. United 0. Highlights
New England 0, Atlanta United 0. Highlights
Chicago 1, New York City FC 1. Highlights
Houston 2, Minnesota United 1. Highlights
Colorado 2, Montreal 1. Highlights
Sporting Kansas City 0, Vancouver 1. Highlights
L.A. Galaxy 1, Real Salt Lake 1. Highlights
San Jose 2, Portland 1. Highlights
Oct. 1
Philadelphia 2, Seattle 0. Highlights
 
Only MLS results are factored into the Power Rankings, which include a team’s record in parentheses and rank last week.
 
1. TORONTO FC (19-5-8), 1. Supporters’ Shield winners have won only two MLS Cups in the last 10 seasons (Crew 2008, Galaxy 2011). But nobody clinched said Shield with a hat trick from a wingback, as netted by Justin Morrow, and TFC is also within one of the league record for wins in the post-shootout era (Sounders, 2014). Bet against the Reds at your peril.

2. ATLANTA UNITED (15-8-8), 4. No upstart has shown this much upside this late in the season. Rookie Julian Gressel, goal machine Josef Martinez (his 18th), and veteran Jacob Petersonhit the net in the 12th game this season AUFC has scored at least three goals. The whitewash of the Revs was its fourth straight shutout. Not just good. Scary good.

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3. VANCOUVER (15-10-6), 3. The resilience praised by head coach Carl Robinson enabled the ‘Caps to deal SKC its first home loss of the season after they took their lumps in Seattle. And both the ball floated by Jordan Harvey and the finish applied by Erik Hurtado were outstanding.

4.  SPORTING KC (12-7-11), 2. A penalty kick off the post by Diego Rubio might not have been the best chance squandered by SKC, which completed 88 percent of its passes and controlled 73.5 percent of possession but lost at home for the first time this season. Wake-up call or dire omen? We shall see.

5. NEW YORK CITY FC (16-8-8), 6. He specializes in majestic serves and with one such ball Maxi Moralez earned his eighth assist and set up David Villa’s 20th goal. The pass atoned somewhat for a Moralez giveaway the Fire converted into its goal. Three ties in the last four games is a bit unnerving but it’s hard not to like a team that has lost just twice since the Fourth of July.

6. REAL SALT LAKE (12-14-6), 7. On the basis of this game alone, RSL deserves a playoff spot. It battled a man down for more than 80 minutes (counting stoppage time) before equalizing in the final seconds when Kyle Beckerman pounced on the rebound of a saved Joao Plata free kick and slammed a left-footed shot into the top far corner.

7. SEATTLE (12-9-11), 8. It’s a very familiar scenario for West Coast teams in MLS; win impressively at home midweek, fly across the country, and fizzle in the Eastern time zone. In the victory Victor Rodriguez sharpened his case for top midseason arrival by scoring the first goal; Nicolas Lodeiro and Clint Dempsey netted seven minutes apart. The loss ended a seven-game unbeaten run.

8. COLUMBUS (15-12-5), 9. Crew SC, MLS Cup finalist two years ago, completed its comeback from a very rough 2016 by nailing down a playoff spot with goals by Josh Williams and Justin Meram. Also of note is a franchise-record 12th home victory and eight-game unbeaten run as the playoffs loom.

9. PORTLAND (13-11-8), 5. A sluggish first half tilted the Timbers towards their second straight road loss and ninth of the season away from home. They scored right after a very tight offside decision -- that was not reviewed -- nullified a goal. In his first MLS season scorer Sebastian Blanco has played the most games (31), is third on the team in goals (6) and second in road goals (5), and is second in assists (7).

10. HOUSTON (11-10-10), 11. A very productive week of four points included a tremendous rally from 3-1 down to tie the Galaxy, thanks to a pair of late goals by Alberth Elis that followed a first MLS tally for Tomas Martinez. Elis scored again against the Loons and when Romell Quito followed suit the Dynamo had halted a six-game winless slide. Both goals were products of assists from ex-Rapid Vicente Sanchez, who might just be the unknown variable if playoff soccer happens.

11. CHICAGO (15-10-7), 15. Okay, beware: Nemanja Nikolic is officially out of his funk. Two goals in San Jose and one more at home ups his take to five in the last four games and regains the league lead with 21. David Accam and Bastian Schweinsteiger have returned from injury, but a ruptured ACL suffered by Michael de Leeuw in a collision against NYCFC is just plain terrible luck.

12. MINNESOTA UNITED (9-16-5), 12. Midseason signing Sam Nicholson scored his first MLS goal in stoppage time; the Loons had played more than an hour at 0-0 before wilting. They are hanging tough in the final portion of their first season at 3-4-1 in the last eight games and are one of only two teams with four games left to play.

13. FC DALLAS (10-9-12), 19. Finally the 10-game skid is over yet FCD didn’t dazzle while accruing four very valuable points. It held firm after striking twice early through Maynor Figueroa and Roland Lamah, and then carved out another shutout on the road against a potent foe.

14. SAN JOSE (12-14-6), 13. A terrible effort against the Fire and a sharp showing three days later shows what the Quakes have become in three months under head coach Chris Leitch; more dynamic going forward, more porous in the back, and barely a playoff contender. Vako assisted in both games and against Portland scored his fourth goal since joining the team just before Leitch took command.

15. PHILADELPHIA (10-13-9), 18. Quite often in MLS to the desperate go the points, and that is most definitely the Union right now. The goals came from rookie Marcus Epps and substitute Roland Alberg but the hero, as usual, was keeper Andre Blake (seven saves).

16. NY RED BULLS (12-12-7), 10. As a rising tide floats all boats or so goes the old saying, a sinking ship like NYRB keeps afloat the hopes of teams just below the playoff line. The Red Bulls are winless in their last eight yet still four points clear of seventh place.

17. ORLANDO CITY (10-13-9), 20. The Lions scored all six of their goals after the Revs went down a man in the 11th minute, and four teammates tallied before and after Kaka connected twice. Yoshimar Yotun scored in the final minute after registering two assists. Joe Bendik did the business with five saves against FCD.

18. D.C. UNITED (9-18-5), 16. United wiped out a 1-0 deficit with goals by Zoltan Stieber and Patrick Mullins, and after falling behind again, grabbed a stoppage-time, own-goal equalizer.

19. NEW ENGLAND (11-15-6), 17. The Revs rebounded from a shellacking with a solid offensive effort (82 percent passing accuracy, 60.2 percent of possession) despite not scoring. As for going down to 10 men, Xavier Kouassi's VAR red card just didn't seem right and was rescinded in time for him to play in Orlando, about six goals too late.

20. COLORADO (8-18-5), 21. Old reliable Alan Gordon got the late winner for just the Rapids’ second victory in the last 14 games. He has scored three gamewinners off the bench after the 80th minute this season.

21. MONTREAL (11-15-6), 14. Two more discouraging defeats has reduced the playoff flame to a flicker. Matteo Mancosu’s equalizer did not stand up against Colorado, and the Impact was outshot, 22-10, by NYCFC at Stade Saputo. The ledger is seven losses in the last eight matches.

22. LA GALAXY (7-17-8), 22. A reeling Galaxy is also entertaining, in the wrong fashion. It blew a 3-1 lead in Houston and conceded a 95th minute equalizer against RSL to lower the home record to 2-9-5.

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