MLS Power Rankings: FC Cincinnati maintains top spot

Despite being short-handed, FC Cincinnati earned a 2-2 tie at Philadelphia in a clash of last week's top two ranked teams. Photo: Philadelphia Union

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Reminder: Only results in MLS play (regular season) count in determining the Power Rankings.

1. (1) FC Cincinnati (17-4-7)
Last week: 2-2 at Philadelphia. This week: Wednesday, at CF Montreal; Saturday, vs. Charlotte FC.

The 2-2 tie at Philadelphia felt like a victory, all things considered. The Supporters' Shield leaders were playing without MVP contender Lucho Acosta (one-match suspension for yellow-card accumulation). They fell behind 2-0 in the first half only to recover thanks to summer DP signing Aaron Boupendza, who came off the bench in the second half to score one goal and set up Brandon Vazquez for the equalizer. Even a Yerson Mosquera red card in the 83rd minute couldn't prevent FCC from getting out of Chester with a point.

2. (4) Orlando City (14-6-8)
Last week: 4-3 vs. Columbus. This week: Wednesday, at NYCFC; Sunday, vs. Inter Miami.

The Lions trailed Columbus 3-1 before getting a goal from Facundo Torres with his team-leading 12th goal of the season in the 73rd minute and two from Ramiro Enrique to win, 4-3. Enrique, an Argentine signed under MLS's U-22 Initiative, became the first player in Orlando history to score both a game-tying and game-winning goal in the 85th minute or later of a match. The victory extended the Lions' unbeaten streak to five games and moved them into second place in the Eastern Conference.

3. (2) Philadelphia (14-8-5)
Last week: 2-2 vs. FC Cincinnati. This week: Wednesday, at Charlotte FC; Saturday, vs. LAFC.

The Union has often been using a 3-5-2 formation with Damion Lowe joining Jakob Glesnes and Jack Elliott at center back, but its limitations were apparent when FC Cincinnati came back from 2-0 down to earn a 2-2 tie. The 4-4-2 formation with a diamond midfield is still Jim Curtin's favored lineup but, as he said after Saturday's draw, "when all of our players are here, which they weren’t tonight." Alejandro Bedoya was suspended (yellow-card accumulation), Leon Flach was out due to a hernia injury, and Jose Martinez left the match with a back injury.

4. (5) St. Louis City (15-10-4)
Last week: 1-1 at Houston. This week: Wednesday, vs. LAFC; Saturday, at Minnesota United.

Wednesday's match against LAFC will be a top-of-the-table clash. City SC can open up a nine-point lead in the Western Conference with a win at CityPark, where it has won its last four games. The St. Louis attack has gotten a boost with the return of Brazilian Joao Klauss, who has scored in back-to-back starts, his first two since being injured in late April.

5. (3) New England (13-6-9)
Last week: 1-2 at at Colorado. This week: Saturday, at Chicago.

The game at Colorado was the first under interim head coach Clint Peay, who was celebrating his 50th birthday. Youth Movement: The three substitutes he brought on in midfield were all Homegrown Players in midfielders Esmir Bajraktarevic, Noel Buck and Damian Rivera. Buck was making his first appearance since returning from international duty with England's U-19s.

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6. (7) Atlanta United (12-8-9)
Last week: 5-2 vs. Inter Miami. This week: Wednesday, at D.C. United; Saturday, vs CF Montreal.

Summer signings have made the Five Stripes legitimate contenders. Frenchman Tristan Muyumba (photo) drew them even against Miami, Portuguese Xande Silva had an assist on Atlanta's third goal, just before halftime, while Georgian international Saba Lobjanidze came off the bench to assist on the fourth and fifth goals. Crowd count: The Miami match (sin Lionel Messi) drew 71,635 fans, the largest MLS crowd at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in more than five years.

7. (8) LAFC (12-9-7)
Last week: 4-2 LA Galaxy. This week: Wednesday, at St. Louis City; Saturday, at Philadelphia.

Denis Bouanga scored twice against the Galaxy to move into a tie for first in the MLS Golden Boot race with Nashville SC’s Hany Mukhtar and Atlanta United’s Giorgos Giakoumakis with 14 goals. He had opened the MLS season with 10 goals in 11 games before cooling down after LAFC's Concacaf Champions League run.

8. (9) Vancouver (11-8-8)
Last week: 2-1 at Toronto FC. This week: Wednesday, at Houston; Saturday, at Real Salt Lake.

The Whitecaps moved into fourth place in the Western Conference with the win over Toronto FC. The winning goal was scored by Brian White on an assist by Ryan Gauld, the the sixth goal they have combined for in 2023. They have scored or assisted on 28 of Vancouver's 45 goals.

9. (6) Houston (11-10-7)
Last week: 1-1 vs. St. Louis City. This week:  Wednesday, at Vancouver; Saturday, at Sporting KC.

Klauss’ goal for St. Louis in the 87th minute ended Houston’s streak of 540 minutes without conceding a goal, the second longest streak in its history after a streak of 727 minutes in 2007. “Looking back at it, it was a good run," said goalkeeper Steve Clark. "Obviously, we're disappointed to concede in the last minutes. But I think you saw a team today that played on our front foot. It was an even game, but I think we were unlucky to not get out of there with two more points.”

10. (11) Seattle (11-9-9)
Last week: 1-1 at FC Dallas. This week: Wednesday, at Colorado.

Youth movement: Reed Baker-Whiting, 18, recorded his first career MLS assist, on Alex Roldan’s goal against Dallas. He started at left back in place of Nouhou following the latter's late return from international duty in Cameroon. Baker-Whiting's start was his seventh in three seasons with the first team.

11. (10) Columbus (13-9-6)
Last week: 3-4 at Orlando City. This week: Wednesday, vs. Chicago; Saturday, at FC Dallas.

The Crew's three goals in Orlando upped its league-leading total to 57 in 28 games. It has not been a fluke, Columbus leads all MLS teams in many other other offensive categories: expected goals, non-penalty expected goals, progressive carries and progressive passes.

12. (12) Nashville SC (11-9-7)
Last week: bye. This week: Wednesday, at Sporting KC; Saturday, at San Jose.

Down on the farm: Huntsville City FC, Nashville FC's first-year team in MLS Next Pro, heads into the final day of the regular season with a shot at making the playoffs. It sits in ninth place, two points below the playoff line, in the Eastern Conference. (The top seven teams in each conference will advance to the playoffs.)

13. (15) San Jose (10-9-10)
Last week
: 2-1 vs. Real Salt Lake. This week: Wednesday, at Portland; Saturday, vs. Nashville SC.

Cristian Espinoza provided the assists on goals by Jeremy Ebobisse and defender Rodrigues in the win over Real Salt Lake, giving him a total of 10 assists to go along with 12 goals in 2023. He became just the fourth Quakes player in the club’s history to contribute at least 10 goals and 10 assists in a single season. The others: Eric Wynalda (1996), Ronald Cerritos (1997, 1998) and Lawrence Lozzano (1997).

14. (16)  FC Dallas (9-10-8)
Last week: 1-1 vs. Seattle. This week: Wednesday, at Real Salt Lake; Saturday, vs. Columbus.

Crowd count: FC Dallas drew 19,096 fans for the match against the Sounders, marking the ninth sellout in 14 games at Toyota Stadium this season.

15. (17) Inter Miami (8-15-4)
Last week: 2-5 at Atlanta United. This week: Wednesday, vs. Toronto FC; Sunday, vs. at Orlando City.

Leonardo Campana (photo) scored both goals in the loss at Atlanta -- the first after he sombreroed Atlanta defender Miles Robinson with a touch of his left foot and volleyed the ball into the goal with the same foot -- to give him five goals in his last three MLS games. He leads Inter Miami with nine MLS goals. The only other Miami player who has scored more than two goals is Josef Martinez with six.

16. (13) Minnesota United (9-9-10)
Last week: 0-1 vs. Sporting KC.  This week: Wednesday, at LA Galaxy; Saturday, vs. Saint Louis City.

The loss to Sporting KC changed the Loons' playoff outlook dramatically. They are in eighth place, just two points above the playoff line, ahead of Sporting KC and FC Dallas tied on points. “It would have made it extremely difficult for Kansas had we won," Loons coach Adrian Heath said afterward. "We would’ve gone eight points clear with a game in hand to them. Now we’ve probably thrown that initiative away."

17. (14) Real Salt Lake (11-10-7)
Last week: 1-2 at San Jose. This week: Wednesday, vs. FC Dallas; Saturday, vs. Vancouver.

RSL was tied for second place in the Western Conference at the Leagues Cup break but has dropped into a tie for sixth place with Houston and San Jose after losing three of its last four games. It is only three points shy of second-place LAFC but just five points above the playoff line. Down on the farm: Luca Moisa, who played for the USA when it won the Concacaf U-15 Championship this summer, made his pro debut for Real Monarchs in MLS Next Pro in a 3-0 loss to Tacoma. The Monarchs signed the Las Vegas product to a pro contract in late 2022.

18. (21) Sporting KC (9-12-8)
Last week: 1-0 at Minnesota United. This week: Wednesday, Nashville SC; Saturday, vs. Houston.

• Peter Vermes was very unhappy when Gadi Kinda went off on international duty with Israel despite being injured. All was forgotten after Kinda, an unused sub in two Euro 2024 qualifiers, returned and scored the late winner at Minnesota United that has revived Sporting's playoff hopes. "We talked about it when he got back," Vermes said after the game. "I've always maintained that, in my profession and who I am, I have got a big heart and a short memory. So I told Gadi, ‘It's behind us, let's move on. And when you play, you need to go give it your all.’ And he did that. It's obvious. He went and did what he had to do. He knows where we stand -- and it's all good."

19. (24) Portland (9-11-9)
Last week: 2-1 at Austin United. This week: Wednesday, vs. San Jose; Saturday, vs. Colorado.

The Timbers' attack has finally come alive, scoring multiple goals in each of their last five matches. Portland has compiled a 3-1-1 record to move into ninth place in the Western Conference. Felipe Mora and Evander, who both scored in the win at Austin FC, have each recorded three goals and one assist over Portland’s last five matches.

20. (18) LA Galaxy (7-11-9)
Last week: 2-4 at LAFC. This week: Wednesday, vs. Minnesota United; Sunday, at Austin United.

Jalen Neal, who earned six caps for the USMNT in 2023, underwent successful surgery for a sports hernia. The 20-year-old defender has not played since a Leagues Cup game on July 30. Already lost for the season were four other Galaxy starters: Javier Hernandez, Gaston Brugman, Martin Caceres and Lucas Caligari.

21. (20) Charlotte FC (7-9-11)
Last week: 0-0 vs. D.C. United. This week: Wednesday, vs. Philadelphia; Saturday, at FC Cincinnati.

Charlotte FC has gone undefeated in all four games -- one win and three ties -- since returning from the Leagues Cup break, but it missed a chance to pull even on points with ninth-place D.C. United when they played to a scoreless draw. The good news: Charlotte FC has two games in hand on D.C. United. Its season -- and that of Inter Miami -- will likely come down to the final week when they meet twice, first in a makeup game, a day after the international break ends, and then on Decision Day.

22. (22) CF Montreal (11-14-3)
Last week: 0-0 vs. Chicago. This week: Wednesday, vs. FC Cincinnati; Saturday, at Atlanta United.

The tie with struggling Chicago was a disappointment for CF Montreal, which has been generally very good at Stade Saputo this season (9-4-1 record). “When we play at home, the team feels good," Coach Hernan Losada said ahead of Wednesday's game against Supporters' Shield leader FC Cincinnati. "The crowd gets behind us and we have an incredible atmosphere, which gives a massive boost to the players.”

23. (23) D.C. United (9-12-8)
Last week: 0-0 at Charlotte FC. This week: Wednesday, vs. Atlanta United; Saturday, vs NY Red Bulls.

After two losses to begin league play after the Leagues Cup break, D.C. United is undefeated and unscored upon in its last three games -- 4-0 win and two 0-0 ties -- to hold down ninth place -- and the last playoff spot -- in the Eastern Conference.

24. (19) Austin FC (9-13-6)
Last week: 1-2 vs. Portland. This week: Wednesday, at NY Red Bulls; Sunday, vs. LA Galaxy.

It's now been more than two months since Austin FC has won a game with losses to a pair of Liga MX opponents in the Leagues Cup and four losses and one tie -- thanks to a 94th-minute equalizer at New England -- in MLS play.

25. (25) Chicago (8-11-9)
Last week: 0-0 at CF Montreal. This week: Wednesday, at Columbus; Saturday, vs. New England.

Just as bad has been Chicago. The 0-0 tie at Montreal (photo) ended a four-game losing streak since the resumption of league play. But thanks to the expansion of the conference playoff fields from seven to nine teams, the Fire is just two points below the playoff line in the Eastern Conference. If only seven teams went to the postseason, the Fire would be looking at seven-point deficit with one more game played. A big difference.

26. (26) NYCFC (6-10-13)
Last week: 0-0 vs. NY Red Bulls. This week: Wednesday, vs. Orlando City; Saturday, vs. Toronto FC.

NYCFC is a shadow of the team that won MLS Cup 2021. The 0-0 tie against the Red Bulls gives the Cityzens just two wins in their last 20 games and dropped their goals-per-game average to 0.97. Only twice during the 20-game span has NYCFC scored as many as two goals.

27. (27) NY Red Bulls (7-12-9)
Last week: 0-0 at NYCFC. This week: Wednesday, vs. Austin United; Saturday, vs.  D.C. United.

Just what MLS doesn't need: two New York teams whose attacks are both inept. The Red Bulls have averaged even fewer goals per game than NYCFC: 0.86.

28. (29) Colorado (4-13-10)
Last week: 2-1 vs. New England. This week: Wednesday, vs. Seattle; Saturday, at Portland.

For offensive futility, no one matches the Rapids, who have scored just 18 goals in 27 games. The win over New England, which came in Chris Little's first game as interim coach, ended a streak of five straight MLS games without a goal.

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29. (28) Toronto FC (4-14-10)
Last week: 1-2 vs. Vancouver. This week:  Wednesday, at Inter Miami; Saturday, at NYCFC.

The MLS roster deadline -- different from the transfer window -- closed on Friday without Toronto signing Sebastian Giovinco, the star when it won MLS Cup 2017 and finished second in the 2018 Concacaf Champions League. Interim coach Terry Dunfield said Giovinco will continue to train with the Reds ahead of new head coach John Herdman's arrival at the beginning of October.

Photos: Atlanta United, Inter Miami, Chicago Fire.

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