Week 22 of the 2019 MLS season featured more of the same mediocrity that the league has put out there since its inception. Yes, I said it. Mediocrity. There will be those that argue how much MLS has grown in 23 years, and that’s fair. It’s even fair to say that the quality of the soccer has improved.
However, that doesn’t change the fact that after Week 22, only one club in MLS has won more than 50% of its games. Nearly every club remains in playoff contention, but almost every club struggles to win consistently. Parity dominates MLS, and while that’s great for valuable late-season soccer, it’s horrible for the sport as a whole. The lack of dominant clubs makes it easy for fans to bypass going to a match when given options. Great teams draw crowds. It’s not always about singular stars.
Quite frankly, the consistent mediocrity of the 2019 season makes me long for the return of the Premier League and other top-flight European leagues. It’s great to be a fan of those leagues, but we should be looking forward to seeing our own country’s product from beginning to end.
This weekend gave us plenty of examples of that mediocrity. Don’t get me wrong, I still love this league and my club, but at some point, we should expect more out of the product than what it’s been. MLS doesn’t need to be the world’s best league, but it should be one worth watching every week.
Here are the Week 22 Power Rankings:
(Legend: (W-L-T, LW: last week’s rankings )
1. Los Angeles FC (16-3-4, LW: 1)
LAFC’s 2-0 win over the red-hot New England Revolution exemplified everything I wrote about above. The second-year club remains far and away the best team in the league. LAFC controlled the game from start to finish, with few challenges from a Revolution club that entered the game on an 11-match unbeaten streak. They may drop a match from time-to-time, but no one is close to LAFC right now. It’s them and everyone else.
2. Philadelphia Union (12-7-6, LW: 5)
The Philadelphia Union fell apart last week in a 4-0 drubbing against the Impact. One week later, the Union solidified their place atop the Eastern Conference standings with a 5-1 road destruction of D.C. United. It blows my mind that the Union could be dominated in one match and turn in the performance of the year only days later. Who are the Union? That’s what I’d like to know.
3. Minnesota United (11-7-5, LW: 6)
Minnesota toughed out a 1-0 win over the Portland Timbers with the late penalty kick goal. United finished the week on a seven-game unbeaten streak.
4. San Jose Earthquakes (11-7-5, LW: 2)
San Jose needed the points from a victory over Columbus, but the improving Crew did just enough to earn the draw. If the Earthquakes are going to challenge for the second seed out west, they must win matches like this.
5. Atlanta United FC (12-9-3, LW: 8)
At this point, blowing out the overrated Los Angeles Galaxy is expected. Let’s see if the defending MLS Cup Champions can string together some wins.
6. Seattle Sounders FC (11-7-5, LW: 3)
The Sounders’ lack of depth came back to haunt them in their stunning 3-2 home loss to Sporting Kansas City.
7. New York City FC (9-4-8. LW: 4)
I’m not one to throw shade at NYCFC for losing at Rio Tinto. However, losing a 1-0 lead right before the half had to burn. Playing in altitude is difficult, but it is alarming how much NYCFC tired as the game wore on.
8. Los Angeles Galaxy (12-10-1, LW: 7)
Honestly, I would love to rank the Galaxy lower, but they still deserve some credit for their 12 wins. The Galaxy once dominated the league. Now they’ve allowed the next generation of MLS clubs to pass them by, including their crosstown rivals, LAFC. It’s actually rather sad to see.
9. Real Salt Lake (10-9-4, LW: 13)
Real Salt Lake fell behind NYCFC early, but its legendary grit emerged once again as it wore down its visitors. RSL won’t be a threat come playoff time if it remains lower than fourth place. However, no one wants to travel to Rio Tinto. RSL could become a real challenger if it can go on a streak.
10. New York Red Bulls (11-9-4, LW: 14)
The Red Bulls’ backline came through with a strong 2-0 victory over Toronto. Can it carry it over to its huge match at LAFC next weekend?
11. Portland Timbers (9-9-4, LW: 9)
I’m still rather bullish on the Timbers after their last-second loss at Minnesota. The only question is whether or not they can score consistently.
12. New England Revolution (9-9-6, LW: 10)
New England held its own against several prospective playoff teams, but the Revolution had little to offer LAFC. Manager Bruce Arena quickly turned this club around. Yet matches like this still remind us that there is a talent deficit in New England.
13. D.C. United (9-7-9, LW: 11)
The 2019 season opened with a ton of hope for D.C. United. Now it’s hard to see how this season can get any better after a 5-1 loss at home to Philadelphia and the news that Wayne Rooney is leaving in January.
14. FC Dallas (9-9-6, LW: 12)
FC Dallas needed to earn at least a point at Orlando. Instead, a stunning 2-0 loss left it only two points ahead of Portland. By the way, the Timbers have two games in hand and only one more road match this season
15. Sporting Kansas City (7-9-7, LW: 17)
It’s been a never-ending cycle of solid wins and frustrating performances by SKC this season. I’m not falling for it again, even with the road victory in Seattle.
16. Toronto FC (9-10-5, LW: 16)
Nothing surprising happened in New York for Toronto. It remains an average team that will challenge most clubs at home, but it lacks the consistency to earn the needed points on the road. Toronto’s stalwart veterans Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore can’t carry this team.
17. Montreal Impact (10-12-3, LW: 15)
Seriously Montreal. Six goals? You allowed six goals to Colorado? Are you serious?
18. Orlando City (8-11-5, LW: 19)
Well, maybe I was wrong about manager James O’Connor. Orlando City played one of its best matches of the year in a 2-0 win over Dallas. Can it keep the ball rolling at Toronto?
19. Houston Dynamo (9-11-3, LW: 17)
I’ve got nothing here. Houston’s disappointing season continues.
20. Chicago Fire (6-10-9, LW: 21)
Chicago took advantage of a collapsing Houston club and ended a five-match winless streak.
21. Columbus Crew (7-14-4, LW: 20)
The Crew’s improved play continued with a 1-1 draw at San Jose. Columbus possesses enough talent to compete with anyone in MLS, but it’s likely too late for them to make a run this year. It’s almost the definition of a lost season.
22. Vancouver Whitecaps (5-11-9, LW: 22)
Well, Vancouver proved it wasn’t the worst team in the league.
23. Colorado Rapids (6-12-5, LW: 23)
Kei Kamara earned himself a hat trick in what will go down in MLS history as the plague game. Yes, it’s been that kind of season for the Rapids.
24. FC Cincinnati (5-17-2, LW: 24)
Look at the bright side: “Hell is Real” is coming soon.