MLS Playoff Preview: Ranking the 14 teams year-over-over

The 2019 MLS playoffs start this weekend with four games on Saturday and two on Sunday, all knockout games in the new single-game format.

Here's a ranking of the 14 teams in terms of how they did year-over-over and a look at the new players who impacted their seasons.

Eight teams qualified finished with more points than they had in 2018, including four teams that did not make the 2018 playoffs: Minnesota United Toronto FC, New England and the LA Galaxy.

Of the six teams that finished with fewer points in 2019, the New York Red Bulls, last year's Supporters' Shield winners, experienced the biggest drop.

1. Minnesota United (15-11-8, 4th place, vs. 11-20-3, 10th place, +17 points, +31 GD)
2018 MLS Playoffs: Did not qualify.
2019 vs. 2018:
Sporting director Manny Lagos engineered one of greatest makeovers in MLS history. Five newcomers started 27 or more games: goalkeeper Vito Mannone, MLS Defender of the Year Ike Opara, Romain Metanire, arguably the best right back in MLS, and midfielders Osvaldo Alonso and Jan Gregus. In addition, Hassani Dotson and Chase Gasper ranked among the top six rookies in minutes.



2. LAFC (21-4-9, 1st place vs. 16-9-9, 3rd place, +15 points +32 GD).
2018 MLS Playoffs: Lost in Western Conference knockout round.
2019 vs. 2018:
LAFC finished with the best offense and best defense en route to setting an MLS record for the most points in a single season (broken for the third year in a row). Bob Bradley had largely the same team. The one newcomer in the starting lineup, Eddie Segura, finished fifth in voting for MLS Defender of the Year. Major contributions from a pair of young mid-season signings, Brian Rodriguez and Diego Palacios, might not come until next season.

3. Toronto FC (13-10-11, 4th place vs. 10-18-6, 9th place, +14 points, +10 GD)
2018 MLS Playoffs: Did not qualify.
2019 vs. 2018: From MLS champion to ninth in the Eastern Conference, Toronto FC needed an overhaul after the 2018 season. Alejandro Pozuelo never quite made Toronto fans forget Sebastian Giovinco, but he led Reds in goals and assists with 12 apiece. TFC finished the regular season with three first-year players in the starting lineup: Quentin Westberg in goal, Omar Gonzalez at center back, plus Pozuelo. (Tsubasa Endoh, who started the last four games and scored twice, is on his second tour with TFC after spending 2018 under contract to TFC II.)

4. NYCFC (18-6-10, 1st place vs. 16-10-8, 3rd place, +8 points, +7 GD)
2018 MLS Playoffs: Lost in Eastern Conference semifinals.
2019 vs. 2018: David Villa led NYCFC for four seasons. Its attack is now led by Brazilian Heber and Romanian Alexandru Mitrita. Not necessarily big names for a big-market team, but they combined for 27 goals. Heber, second in voting of MLS Newcomer of the Year,  scored 15 goals and would have had more but for a quad injury picked up late in the season. American Keaton Parks, on loan from Benfica, was outstanding in midfield in NYCFC's late-summer run to claim first place in the Eastern Conference.



5. Philadelphia (16-11-7, 3rd place vs. 15-14-5, 6th place vs. +5 points, +9 GD)
2018 MLS Playoffs: Lost in Eastern Conference knockout round.
2019 vs. 2018: In his first offseason in charge of the Philadelphia Union, sporting director Ernst Tanner unearthed left back Kai Wagner at German third division Wurzburger Kickers and midfielder Jamiro Monteiro, on loan from French second division club Metz. Brenden Aaronson, 18, finished second in MLS Rookie of the Year voting, and often kept Mexican World Cup midfielder Marco Fabian out of the starting lineup.

6. Real Salt Lake (16-13-5, 3rd place vs. 14-13-7, 6th place, +4 points, +8 GD)
2018 MLS Playoffs: Lost in Western Conference semifinals.
2019 vs. 2018: RSL parted ways with general manager Craig Waibel late in the season, but not before he pulled off one of the season's top signings in Everton Luiz, acquired on loan from Italian Serie A club SPAL. The Brazilian was a huge presence in midfield for RSL, which surged from borderline playoff team to third-place finisher with a late run.

6. New England (11-11-12, 7th place vs. 10-13-11, 8th place +4 points, -1 GD)
2018 MLS Playoffs: Did not qualify.
2019 vs. 2018: Spaniard Carles Gil (10 goals, 15 assists) was named the 2019 Newcomer of the Year, the first Revolution player to win the award. Argentine Gustavo Bou (9 goals) was the league's best mid-season signing. Quite a haul of DPs for a team with a history of not pursuing them. Edgar Castillo and DeJuan Jones shared duties at left back for much of the season.

8. LA Galaxy (16-15-3, 5th place vs. 13-12-9, 7th place, +3 points, -3 GD)
2018 MLS Playoffs: Did not qualify.
2019 vs. 2018: After failing to make the playoffs in the last two seasons, the Galaxy hired a high-profile executive, Dennis te Kloese, to take over as general manager, and he brought an assortment of accomplished foreign players: Cristian Pavon, who played for Argentina at the 2018 World Cup, Giancarlo Gonzalez, a veteran of two World Cups with Costa Rica, and Uriel Antuna, who started for Mexico at the 2019 Gold Cup. Also brought in were Diego Polenta and Joe Corona, who both started more than 25 games. Despite all the moves, the Galaxy struggled for consistency and had to settle for fifth place in the Western Conference.

9. Seattle (16-10-8, 2nd place vs. 18-11-5, 3nd place, -3 points, -12 GD)
2018 MLS Playoffs: Lost in Western Conference semifinals.
2019 vs. 2018: The Sounders brought in Xavier Arreaga and Joevin Jones right before the primary transfer window closed in May. Arreaga had to step in at center back after Chad Marshall retired and Roman Torres was suspended for 10 games. In his second stint with the Sounders, Jones has been playing on the left side in midfield. That was about it for the Sounders, who didn't make any big summer signings like Clint Dempsey, Nicolas Lodeiro or Raul Ruidiaz in years past.

10. D.C. United (13-10-11, 5th place, vs. 14-11-9, 4th place, -1 points, -6 GD)
2018 MLS Playoffs: Lost in Eastern Conference knockout round.
2019 vs. 2018:  D.C. United never duplicated its amazing run at home at the end of the 2018 season and had to settle for fifth place, sending it on the road for the Eastern Conference quarterfinals. Big things were expected of Lucas Rodriguez, and while he finished with only six goals, he was recently called up to Argentina's U-23 team. Ola Kamara is finally at full strength for the first time since his transfer from China and could be a big factor off the bench in the postseason. The most influential signing has been Felipe, who arrived in August from Vancouver and settled the midfield, helping United run off an MLS-record tying five straight shutouts to end the season.

11. Portland (14-13-7, 6th place vs. 15-10-9, 5th place, -5 points, -3 GD)
2018 MLS Playoffs: MLS Cup runner-up.
2019 vs. 2018: The Timbers paid a club-record transfer fee to acquire Brian Fernandez in May. The 25-year-old Argentine scored in his first five games and tallied 11 goals in 19 games. But he did not score in Portland's last six games and voluntarily entered MLS’s Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program. He'll likely miss all the playoffs. Frenchman Claude Dielna and Paraguayan Jorge Moreira have been assets on the Portland backline.

12. FC Dallas (13-12-9, 7th place vs. 16-9-9, 4th place -9 points, 0 GD)
2018 MLS Playoffs: Lost in Western Conference knockout round.
2019 vs. 2018: Zdenek Ondrasek, the hero of  the Czech Republic's 2-1 win over England in his international debut, didn't score his first goal until Aug. 17 but finished with seven in his last seven games. Young Honduran Bryan Acosta's role in the FCD midfield increased when Carlos Gruezo was sold to Augsburg and Paxton Pomykal's form dipped late in the season. Edwin Cerrillo was probably the best rookie for the first two months of the season, earning a U.S. call-up for the U-20 World Cup, but played one game in the second half of the season.

13. Atlanta United (18-12-4, 2nd place vs. 21-7-6, 2nd place, -11 points, -11 GD)
2018 MLS Playoffs: MLS Cup champion.
2019 vs. 2018: The Five Stripes didn't duplicate their regular-season form of a year ago, but they again finished in second place in the Eastern Conference with the third best record in MLS and could be a formidable postseason team. Pity Martinez (5 goals, 9 assists) wasn't a like-for-like replacement for Miguel Almiron, but he certainly didn't make Atlanta fans miss the Paraguayan, who was sold to Newcastle United. The acquisition of Justin Meram (4 goals) in May and Emerson Hyndman (1 goal, 3 assists) in July bolstered Atlanta United's midfield.



14. NY Red Bulls (14-14-6, 6th place vs. 22-7-5, 1st place, -23 points, -27 GD)

2018 MLS Playoffs: Lost in Eastern Conference final.
2019 vs. 2018: No playoff team slumped further than the Red Bulls, who set an MLS record for points in a season with their 2018 Supporters' Shield run. The Red Bulls' one transfer signing, Danish teenager Mathias Jorgensen, has spent the season with the Red Bulls II. Homegrown signing Omir Fernandez out of Wake Forest showed promise, getting a call-up to the U.S. U-23s.

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1 comment about "MLS Playoff Preview: Ranking the 14 teams year-over-over".
  1. Michael Featherstone, October 21, 2019 at 10:49 a.m.

    I can assure you that every ATL UTD fan in our circle of friends definitely miss Miggy VERY MUCH.

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