Commentary

MLS Power Rankings: FC Cincinnati eyes first trophy


It was after 1:30 in the morning when Michael Barrios scored the ultimate after-dark goal, in stoppage time, to give the LA Galaxy a 3-3 draw at Austin FC. Photo: LA Galaxy

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Top-ranked FC Cincinnati has a chance to clinch the Supporters' Shield on Saturday.

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

1. (1) FC Cincinnati (18-4-8)
Last week: 1-1 at CF Montreal; 3-0 vs. Charlotte FC. This week: Saturday, at Toronto FC.

• FC Cincinnati is on the verge of clinching its first Supporters' Shield. All it needs to do is beat Toronto FC on Saturday. It still has a shot at New England's MLS record of 73 points set in 2021, but it would need to win its last four matches.

2. (2) Orlando City (14-7-9)
Last week: 0-2 at NYCFC; 1-1 vs. Inter Miami. This week: Saturday, vs. CF Montréal.

• Duncan McGuire, the 2022 Hermann Trophy winner at Creighton, scored the tying goal against Inter Miami. It was his 11th of the season across all competitions. He has nine goals in regular-season play, but it was his first since July 15. Only five players have scored 10 or more regular-season goals in their first season out of college.

3. (3) Philadelphia (14-8-9)
Last week: 2-2 at Charlotte FC; 0-0 vs. LAFC. This week: Wednesday, vs. FC Dallas; Saturday, at Columbus.

• Midfielder Daniel Gazdag converted his 11th penalty kick goal of the season in the seventh minute of stoppage time to complete the comeback at Charlotte. The Hungarian is 19-for-19 on penalty kicks since joining the Union, and he passed Seattle midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro for the most consecutive penalties converted from the start of an MLS career.

4. (4) St. Louis City (16-10-5)
Last week: 0-0 vs. LAFC; 2-1 at Minnesota United. This week: Saturday, vs. Sporting KC.

• Goals by João Klauss and Njabulo Blom gave St. Louis City the comeback win at Minnesota United, extending its lead in the Western Conference to eight points with three games remaining. The 16 wins tied the MLS record for the most wins by an expansion team in its inaugural season (excluding the shootout era). LAFC had 16 wins in 2018.

5. (5) New England (13-6-10)
Last week: 2-2 at Chicago. This week: Saturday, vs. Charlotte FC.

• The Revs came from behind to draw the Fire at Soldier Field and clinch a berth in the 2023 playoffs, their fourth trip to the postseason in the last five years. Looking ahead ... Saturday's game against Charlotte will be the first at Gillette since head coach and sporting director Bruce Arena's departure and the resulting shakeup.

6. (6) Atlanta United (13-8-10).
Last week: 1-1 at D.C. United; 4-1 vs CF Montreal. This week: bye.

• Thiago Almada will get a lot of consideration for the MLS MVP award with his play in 2023: 10 goals and 16 assists (tops in the league) after adding one each in the playoff-clinching win over Montreal. He became the third player in Atlanta history to record at least 10 goals and 10 assists in a single season, joining Miguel Almiron (2018) and Hector Villalba (2017).

7. (7) LAFC (12-9-9)
Last week: 0-0 at St. Louis City; 0-0 at Philadelphia. This week: Wednesday, vs. Tigres (Leagues Cup), Sunday, vs. Real Salt Lake.

• A record 39 scoreless draws in 434 games puts MLS on a pace for the highest percentage of 0-0 ties in league history (currently 9.0 percent). LAFC's back-to-back scoreless draws last week were its fourth and fifth of the 2023 season. In its first five MLS seasons, only twice did LAFC regular-season games end 0-0, once each in 2018 and 2019.

8. (10) Seattle (12-9-9)
Last week: 2-1 at Colorado. This week: Saturday, at Nashville SC.

• Third-year Brazilian Leo Chu is enjoying his best season with the Sounders. His opening goal against Colorado was his fifth of the season, tied for second on the team with Raul Ruidíaz, to go along with eight assists in MLS play, also second on the team. Of note: Cristian Roldan made his first start since July 22 (concussion protocol) and contributed an assist in the win over the Rapids.

9. (11) Columbus (14-9-7)
Last week: 3-0 vs. Chicago; 1-1 at FC Dallas. This week: Saturday, vs. Philadelphia.

• The Crew punched its ticket to the 2023 playoffs under first-year head coach Wilfried Nancy with its win over Chicago. It seems like ages ago, but the 2020 playoffs when it won MLS Cup was the last time the Crew went to the postseason.

10. (12) Nashville SC (12-9-8)
Last week: 3-0 at Sporting KC; 1-1 at San Jose. This week: Saturday, vs. Seattle.

• Hany Mukhtar, the 2022 MLS MVP winner, is the eighth player in league history to score at least 15 goals in three straight seasons. He has scored 15, 16 and 15 goals in the last three seasons after scoring four goals in the shortened 2020 season, Nashville SC's first in MLS.

11. (9) Houston (12-11-7)
Last week: 4-1 vs. Vancouver; 1-2 at Sporting KC. This week: Wednesday, at Inter Miami (U.S. Open Cup); Saturday, vs. FC Dallas .

The 2-1 loss at Sporting KC ended the Dynamo's unbeaten run of seven matches, its longest in a single season since 2012 when it made its most recent appearance in MLS Cup.

12. (14) FC Dallas (10-10-9)
Last week: 3-1 at Real Salt Lake; 1-1 vs. Columbus. This week: Wednesday, at Philadelphia; Saturday, at Houston.

• Jesus Ferreira’s game-winning penalty kick at RSL was his seventh game-winner in 2023, tying him with Jeff Cunningham (2009) for the Dallas season record. The penalty ended the Dallas streak of 56 games without a penalty, a new league record. Chivas USA previously held the MLS record, going 54 straight matches without attempting a penalty kick.

13. (15) Inter Miami (8-15-5)
Last week: 4-0 vs. Toronto FC; 1-1 at Orlando City. This week: Wednesday, vs. Houston (U.S. Open Cup); Saturday, vs. NYCFC.

Youth movement: Inter Miami's youngsters remain a big part of the story of its turnaround. Homegrown players Noah Allen and David Ruiz went the distance and Benjamin Cremaschi (photo, below) exited in stoppage time of the 1-1 tie at Orlando. Ruiz's goal against Orlando was his second in MLS play in 2023. Against Toronto, Cremaschi and Allen came off the bench to contribute a goal and an assist, respectively.

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14. (19) Portland (11-11-9)
Last week: 2-1 vs. San Jose; 3-2 vs. Colorado. This week: Saturday, at LA Galaxy.

The Timbers added two more wins to give them the longest active winning streak (4 games) and unbeaten streak (6 games) in MLS. Their attack has come alive with multiple goals in all six games during the unbeaten streak.

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15. (17) Real Salt Lake (12-11-7)
Last week: 1-3 vs. FC Dallas; 2-1 vs. Vancouver. This week: Sunday, at LAFC.

Defender Justen Glad scored his fifth goal of the season -- a career high -- to clinch the comeback win over the Whitecaps. His five goals are tied with forwards Danny Musovski and Chicho Arango for second on RSL, one behind DP Jefferson Savarino.

16. (8) Vancouver (11-10-8)
Last week: 1-4 at Houston; 1-2 at Real Salt Lake. This week: Wednesday, at Colorado; Saturday, vs. D.C. United.

• The Whitecaps wrap up their seven-match road swing with a game at Colorado, a makeup of a June match at Dick's Sporting Goods Park postponed due to bad weather. Coach Vanni Sartini credits the four-plus hours the 'Caps waited before the match was called off as a season-changing moment when his players bonded. “We were waiting, waiting, waiting, but in Italian we say the waiting for pleasure is the pleasure itself," he told The Province. "We enjoyed last time … I think it was a big part on our team-building. The fact that we were there and all together and to be honest, our road form changed after that. It was … an accident that helped us cement the group.” (Vancouver went 4-1-1 on the road before its two losses last week.)

17. (13) San Jose (10-10-11)
Last week: 1-2 at Portland; 1-1 vs. Nashville SC. This week: Saturday, at Minnesota United.

• The Quakes, who have made the playoffs only twice in the last decade, are still three points above the playoff line in the Western Conference, sitting in 8th place, but they still must close the deal. They have only three games remaining -- road matches against 11th-place Minnesota United and 9th-place FC Dallas followed by a home game against 12th-place Austin FC in the season finale.

18. (18) Sporting KC (10-13-8)
Last week: 0-3 vs. Nashville SC; 2-1 vs. Houston. This week: Saturday, at St. Louis City.

With Sporting KC playing short-handed after a straight red card to Johnny Russell in the 39th minute, goalkeeper Tim Melia made five saves — including a stop on Corey Baird in second-half stoppage time — to earn a 3-1 win over the Dynamo for his 100th career win in MLS competitions for Sporting.

19. (20) LA Galaxy (8-11-10)
Last week: 4-3 vs. Minnesota United; 3-3 at Austin United. This week: Saturday, vs. Portland.

Subs Dejan Joveljic and Michael Barrios scored in the 89th minute and fourth minute of stoppage time to earn the Galaxy a 3-3 draw at Austin FC. Youth movement: Another sub, 20-year-old Jonny Perez, earned an assist on Barrios' tying goal. "I just tried to get Johnny running hard through the line, and two forwards creating some separation, and put some balls in front of the goal," said Galaxy coach Greg Vanney. "And we had an incredibly number of chances down the stretch. We had two or three chances, like really good chances, before we even scored the goal that got us to 3-2. We had some more good looks after it. I thought all the guys who came on did excellent."

20. (16) Minnesota United (9-11-10)
Last week: 3-4 at LA Galaxy; 1-2 vs. St. Louis City. This week: Saturday, vs. San Jose.

The Loons are in trouble after blowing leads against both the Galaxy and St. Louis City and falling to 11th in the Western Conference standings. After the St. Louis loss, Coach Adrian Heath was strangely positive: "I can’t think of a game in the last seven or eight games where I go, ‘You know what? We’ve been poor tonight.’ I can think of maybe all the games that we’ve played, especially the home games, we’ve been the better team.”



21. (26) NYCFC (8-10-13)
Last week: 2-0 vs. Orlando City; 3-0 vs. Toronto FC. This week: Saturday, at Inter Miami.

Better late than never ... NYCFC won back-to-back games -- only its second and third league wins since April -- to move above the Eastern Conference playoff line. But with 31 games played, more than all but 10th-place D.C. United among the teams below it, its position in 9th place is precarious.

22. (27) NY Red Bulls (8-12-10)
Last week: 1-1 vs. Austin United; 5-3 at D.C. United. This week: Saturday, vs. Chicago .

• Omir Fernandez had the first multi-goal game of his career with the Red Bulls' first two goals, both from the penalty spot, in the win over D.C. United. The Bronx native leads the Red Bulls with six goals in MLS play and eight goals across all competitions.

23. (21) Charlotte FC (7-10-12)
Last week: 2-2 vs. Philadelphia; 0-3 at FC Cincinnati. This week: Saturday, at New England.

• After four straight ties, Charlotte FC lost at FC Cincinnati to fall to 13th place in the Eastern Conference. It has at least one game in hand on all the teams ahead it in the playoff race, but it closes the regular season with back-to-back games against Inter Miami, which has also played only 29 games.

24. (22) CF Montreal (11-15-4)
Last week: 1-1 vs. FC Cincinnati; 1-4 at Atlanta United. This week: Saturday, at Orlando City.

• Montreal is fading. After resuming play after the Leagues Cup break with a pair of wins, it is winless in five straight games. Montreal head coach Hernan Losada was very unhappy with how his players started the second half in Atlanta, conceding the third goal to Giorgos Giakoumakis in the 46th minute. "The message at halftime was to stay focused and stay in the game until the end," he said, "because we know that Atlanta gives you opportunities to score."

25. (23) D.C. United (9-13-9)
Last week: 1-1 vs. Atlanta United; 3-5 vs. NY Red Bulls. This week: Saturday, at Vancouver.

• Christian Benteke scored a hat trick in the first half, and United still lost. It was the ninth time in MLS history that a player scored a hat trick and his team lost.

26. (24) Austin FC (9-13-8)
Last week: 1-1 at NY Red Bulls; 3-3 vs. LA Galaxy. This week: Saturday, at Colorado.

Austin FC snapped a club-record four-match losing streak at home in all competitions with the draw against the Galaxy, but it certainly felt like a loss. Austin FC led 3-1 in the 89th minute and could not hold on for the win. The match started three hours late at 11:30 p.m. local time because a thunderstorm delayed the kickoff.

27. (25) Chicago (8-13-9)
Last week: 0-3 at Columbus; 2-2 vs. New England. This week: Saturday, at NY Red Bulls.

The two goals against the Revs ended a streak of five straight games without a goal scored. But the Fire could still not pull out a win, leaving it with a record of 0-5-2 -- the worst in MLS -- in league play since the Leagues Cup finished.

28. (28) Colorado (4-15-10)
Last week: 1-2 vs. Seattle; 2-3 at Portland. This week: Wednesday, vs. Vancouver; Saturday, vs. Austin FC.

• The Rapids came back from two goals down to tie Portland 2-2 at halftime, but they conceded a third goal, scored by Felipe Mora in 71st minute. The defeat officially eliminated them from playoff contention.

29. (29) Toronto FC (4-16-10)
Last week: 0-4 at Inter Miami; 0-3 at NYCFC. This week: Saturday, vs. FC Cincinnati.

• Thanks to a pair of shutout losses, at Inter Miami and NYCFC, the Reds are the first team in the Eastern Conference to be eliminated from the playoffs. How bad has TFC been on the road? Its winless streak in MLS play is now 19 games, dating back to August 2022.

Photos: Benjamin Cremaschi: Inter Miami, Adrian Heath: Lyndsay Radnedge/ISI Photos

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