ROUNDBALL DAILY

MLS Power Rankings: Real Salt Lake cracks Top 10; who’s No. 1?

Damir Kreilach and RSL crack the top-10 after two scintillating performances.

The MLS season is coming to the stretch run, and here at Roundball Daily, we (suddenly) couldn’t be more pumped. (Seriously, I–I don’t know what happened).

We’ve reached the international break, so what better time to stop and take a look at where things stand?

Here are our power rankings as of 9/8:

1. Atlanta United–Is it the system? Venezuelan lightning bolt Josef Martinez has run right by the all-time single season MLS goals record, scoring his 28th at Orlando last week. He’s the unquestioned MVP of the league, and has been the most exciting thing in domestic soccer this season. But if his stock soars such that he decides to cash in and move to a more lucrative league next year, could ATL get along without him?

There’s no doubt that Atlanta’s style of play lends itself to goals, and the success of speedy midfielder Miguel Amiron (9 goals this season) hints that maybe this club could survive without their explosive leader. For now though, Martinez and Atlanta United are the most fun team in the league to watch, and maybe the favorite to capture the Supporter’s Shield and get to the MLS Cup.

2. New York Red Bulls– We thought about giving the Red Bulls wings and flying them up to the top spot, but an out-of-character 3-0 embarrassment up north at Montreal keeps them in the second spot for now. New York leads Atlanta by a point in the standings, but AU has a game in hand. The Red Bulls have struggled to score goals lately (just three in their last four games), and couldn’t find the net despite a two-man advantage for much of the second half a few weeks ago in the Hudson River Derby against NYC FC.

Still, this might be the most talented and well-balanced team in the league, led by MLS legend and striker Bradley Wright-Phillips, who’s put together another admirable season (16 goals). Midfielder Daniel Royer (10 goals) has emerged as an offensive threat, and defenders Michael Murillo and Aaron Long were selected as All-Stars. Goalkeeper Luis Robles has been solid, and midfielder Tyler Adams has made noise with his improvement as well. They’ve crashed like Flugtag vehicles in the playoffs before, but it feels like this could finally be the year this franchise hoists the Cup.

It’s not just about Wright-Phillips; the Red Bulls have a talented squad around their star.

3. Sporting Kansas City– SKC ranks behind the Red Bulls as the second-best offensive team in the league this season, with 48 goals through 26 games played so far (Red Bull have 50). They’re deep, as four guys have tallied at least five goals, with forwards Johnny Russell and Diego Rubio leading the way with eight apiece. SKC has fared well against some of the league’s top squads, and have been hot at the right time–with a recent four-game winning streak coming to an end at the only team hotter–the streaking Seattle Sounders (see below). Though they currently sit third in the West and two points back of leader FC Dallas, we think Kansas City has been the more consistent side, and we’d sooner bet on them when things get real.

4. Seattle Sounders–What’s that sound you hear? (Sorry, it was too easy) It’s the two-time defending Western Conference champs, cruising back into the playoff hunt after an historic 10-game unbeaten streak. Seattle has run off an MLS-record eight straight wins and hasn’t lost since June 30. The Sounders are the league’s best defensive team, and have really clamped down during their run. They haven’t allowed more than 1 goal since June 30, either (a 3-2 loss to Portland). Sounders great Clint Dempsey’s retirement should only buoy this club. We wouldn’t want to play them this fall.

5. FC Dallas–Yes, FC Dallas has set the pace in the Western Conference most of the season, but their surprising lead is getting tenuous.

Los Toros were swept by the last-place San Jose Earthquakes in two August matches, giving up a ridiculous 7 goals in the process. They’ve also won just two of their last six matches overall. Is this the beginning of the end?

FC Dallas still has a three-point lead on LAFC for the top spot in the West, and has weathered rough patches before. They’ve also got a balanced scoring attack, with Roland Lamah (he just scored 2 goals on me in FIFA), Maxi Urriti and Michael Barrios (8, 7, and 6 goals in real life, respectively).

Michael Barrios and FC Dallas have been the best in the West all season long.

6. NYC FC– The Blue and White have struggled of late, as they’re winless in their last four matches. Still, with David Villa back and scoring goals, this is one of the most talented sides in the league. They showed plenty of heart and guts in that 1-1 Derby draw against the Red Bulls at Yankee Stadium a few weeks back, despite some atrocious red cards given out that left them with nine men. The 1-0 loss to New England on Wednesday was concerning, but there’s no shame in losing to a hot Philadelphia squad, or drawing D.C. United. We expect NYC FC to get things straightened out soon. They’ll be ready for the playoffs.

7. LAFC–Losing captain Laurent Ciman to French 1 club Dijon hurts this club, which is in the midst of a Vegas Golden Knights-like inaugural season. Still, despite his sale, LAFC has won four straight, and has stolen a good portion of the city’s fans (it’s still a Galaxy city though). High-scoring Carlos Vela (11 goals), Diego Rossi (9) and Amanda Diomande (9) have led the way. This team is a real threat, but we need to see how they get along without Cimant before we place them any higher.

8. Real Salt Lake–This team has been unreal of late, running around and scoring goals like the field’s on fire. They put up six goals in BACK TO BACK GAMES, including a 6-0 dissertation of god-awful Colorado and a 6-2 rout of the flat-embarrassingly porous L.A. Galaxy. L.A. has played so badly in recent weeks that I’m pretty confident their performance is the biggest reason why Zlatan Ibrahimovic reportedly wants to move to Egypt.

Damir Kreilach was named MLS Player of the Week after a hat trick against L.A., and he and Albert Rusnak each have 10 goals on the season. RSL has won four straight and hasn’t lost since July 14. If this group makes the playoffs, watch out.

9. Vancouver Whitecaps– We’re calling it now: the Whitecaps will be playing postseason soccer. We’ve thought this for a while, and with Portland struggling mightily and the Galaxy imploding on itself like a dying star, we feel more confident in this pick than ever. 17-year-old Alphonso Davies has been a revelation, and he wants big things for this club before he moves on to Bayern Munich.

Underrated forward Kei Kamara leads the way with 11 goals, and midfielder Christian Techera has been solid, with eight. This team has a terrific home field advantage, as they showed in a hard-fought draw with the Red Bulls a few weeks ago. They also went to Yankee Stadium and forced a draw with NYC FC before the Pigeons started bumbling.

Watch out for this club.

10. Philadelphia Union–Philly hasn’t lost in its last six games, and has made a run from middling Eastern Conference team to legitimate playoff threat. Can they follow the Eagles and Villanova’s lead, and embark on a triumphant run that leads them to the MLS Cup? Probably not. Still, Corey Burke, Fafa Picault and company have done enough to crash these rankings, and could have enough to make some noise come playoff time.

Also see:

Josef Martinez is lighting up MLS like few players in history

 

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