Seattle Sounders move to top of MLS Power Rankings as D.C. rises and SKC tumble
There's a rule in writing: Things are always better when they come in threes.
Three weeks into the 2019 MLS regular season, that rule is being put to the test. For a trio of teams, the first three weeks of the campaign have been excellent. For a trio of trios (and a few more), the results are decidedly more mixed. Three weeks didn't seem to help out the defenses much, considering the weekend was riddled with terrible mistakes that gifted teams goals from Orlando to Colorado and several places in between.
Maybe the rule is "funnier," not "better." Yeah, that must be it. Let's go with that.
On to the rankings!
1. Seattle Sounders (3 wins, 0 draw, 0 losses)
Previous ranking: 2
Next MLS match: Saturday, March 30 at Vancouver (10:00 p.m. ET, ESPN+)
Jordan Morris is not only still very fast after a year-long layoff, he looks like a player who improved over that year in a number of areas. The American forward is playing with obvious purpose. If this is the Morris that the Sounders get all season long, he could be a Golden Boot candidate -- if there are enough goals to share with Raul Ruidiaz, that is.
2. D.C. United (2-1-0)
Previous ranking: 3
Next MLS match: Sunday, March 31 at Orlando City (6:30 p.m. ET)
Only one team has yet to concede a goal in 2019, and it's D.C. United. Wayne Rooney's first-ever MLS hat trick is rightly getting the spotlight, but don't look past that defensive stat as the Eastern Conference begins to take shape through the first month of the season. Ben Olsen's team is still disciplined and now has some sexy soccer to go with the defense.
3. LAFC (2-1-0)
Previous ranking: 1
Next MLS match: Saturday, March 23 vs. Salt Lake (10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+)
Two more goals for Carlos Vela, who is already getting buzz as one of the best players in MLS this season. The Mexican superstar even did a little trolling after the first goal, showing off his best home-run swing for the celebration. Who can blame him? Yankee Stadium's short right-field porch always entices lefties to swing for the fences.
4. New York Red Bulls (1-1-0)
Previous ranking: 5
Next MLS match: Saturday, March 23 vs. Orlando City (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+)
No panic in Harrison, where the Red Bulls gave the Earthquakes an early lead before turning up the heat in the second half. As good as a goal scorer as Bradley Wright-Phillips has been in his MLS career, he was deep into a goal-scoring drought when he knocked in the third Red Bull tally. The Englishman hadn't scored in 10 games leading into Saturday.
5. Columbus Crew (2-1-0)
Previous ranking: 6
Next MLS match: Saturday, March 23 at Philadelphia (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+)
The Crew are built to go through the playmaking abilities of Federico Higuain and danger from the wings via players like Pedro Santos. Santos and his work was the story of the early season ahead of the Crew's first home match of the year. Of course, then, it was center-back Gaston Sauro who headed in the only goal of a 1-0 win over FC Dallas.
6. LA Galaxy (2-0-1)
Previous ranking: 11
Next MLS match: Sunday, March 31 vs. Portland (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
For the first time under Guillermo Barros Schelotto, the Galaxy looked like a team to be reckoned with. The midfield was clicking, the goals were coming, and the crowd at Dignity Health Sports Park was happy. That it happened without Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Romain Alessandrini on the field is both a blessing and a curse -- will it be the same when they come back?
7. Houston Dynamo (2-1-0)
Previous ranking: 14
Next MLS match: Saturday, March 30 at Colorado (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN+)
Not many showed up to see it, but the Dynamo's win over Vancouver on Saturday lifted the club into second place in the Western Conference three games into the season. The counterattack is killer, and opposing teams better figure out how to slow down Alberth Elis and company if they don't want to meet a similar fate as the game, but losing, Whitecaps.
8. Sporting Kansas City (1-1-1)
Previous ranking: 4
Next MLS match: Saturday, March 30 vs. Montreal (3:00 p.m. ET, ESPN+)
Playing a near-first choice lineup on the road at altitude, Sporting clawed out a point from a visit to Commerce City on Sunday. Sporting just finished a stretch of seven games in 25 days and will now get a 13-day reprieve; whether the way Peter Vermes pushed his team will come back to haunt them remains to be seen, but the rest will definitely do some good.
9. Atlanta United (0-2-1)
Previous ranking: 7
Next MLS match: Saturday, March 30 at Columbus (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+)
The defending champions dominated the ball against Philadelphia at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, holding a 71-29 advantage in possession percentage at the end of 90 minutes. United dominated nothing else. Dropping points at home again, a week after the disappointment against Cincinnati, won't make Frank de Boer's quickly warming seat any cooler.
10. Minnesota United (2-0-1)
Previous ranking: 8
Next MLS match: Saturday, March 30 at New England (2:00 p.m. ET, ESPN+)
When they stepped on the field against the Galaxy on Saturday, the Loons were playing with house money because of two Western Conference road wins to start the season, so the loss in Los Angeles won't be overly deflating. Jan Gregus scored his first MLS goal and Minnesota showed fight that can keep its fans dreaming about a playoff push in 2019.
11. Toronto FC (2-0-0)
Previous ranking: 16
Next MLS match: Friday, March 29 vs. New York City (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN+)
Jozy Altidore is back. Not only did the striker play in an MLS game for the first time since Oct. 6, he scored the winner. As humbling as TFC's crash out of the CONCACAF Champions League might have been, the club has two wins to start the MLS campaign and can count on reinforcements arriving shortly.
12. Montreal Impact (2-0-1)
Previous ranking: 15
Next MLS match: Saturday, March 30 at Kansas City (3:00 p.m. ET, ESPN+)
Christmas happens the same time in Quebec as it does everywhere else, so it's not clear why Orlando City handed the Impact a pair of gifts that helped the Canadian club secure three points on the road in Florida on Saturday. The Lions boxed up two goals made from handcrafted turnovers that Ignacio Piatti happily unwrapped for his second and third goals of the year.
13. New York City FC (0-3-0)
Previous ranking: 10
Next MLS match: Friday, March 29 at Torotno (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN+)
The New Yorkers in blue dropped more home points after leading on Sunday -- worse, the goals Domenec Torrent's team conceded both came from simple errors that simply shouldn't happen. It's early, sure, but NYCFC look fragile in ways they didn't before Patrick Vieira left for France and the club let David Villa walk away.
14. Portland Timbers (0-1-2)
Previous ranking: 9
Next MLS match: Sunday, March 31 at LA Galaxy (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
While some teams are making the road work for them, Portland is suffering through a disastrous start three games into a 12-game stretch away from home. It was also going to be tough to counter the emotion in the building in Cincinnati's first MLS match at home, but the way FCC split the Timbers means Giovanni Savarese has to pick up the pieces before there's nothing left to salvage.
15. Real Salt Lake (1-1-1)
Previous ranking: 12
Next MLS match: Saturday, March 23 at LAFC (10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+)
Nick Rimando's incredible career was celebrated by D.C. United ahead of the match on Saturday at Audi Field in recognition of his five years played and one MLS Cup won in black and red. If the ceremony counts as a highlight, then Real Salt Lake had exactly one highlight from the proceedings. Jefferson Savarino! Don't kick people in the face!
16. FC Dallas (1-1-1)
Previous ranking: 13
Next MLS match: Saturday, March 23 vs. Colorado (5:30 p.m. ET)
The Hoops had no edge in a road loss at Columbus, managing just two shots on goal in the game. Paxton Pomykal was a bright spot, and after a week in which the Spanish press compared him to Barcelona signing Frenkie de Jong, his performance was noteworthy. Pomykal's immediate future is in Dallas, but with that kind of chatter, it might not be for long.
17. FC Cincinnati (1-1-1)
Previous ranking: 23
Next MLS match: Sunday, March 24 at New England (4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN+)
Last week, the club's first MLS point. This week, the club's first-ever home game, first-ever home goal (nice header, Kendall Waston), first-ever two-goal lead, first-ever three-goal lead, first-ever back-heel goal (go on, Daniel Cruz), first-ever shutout, first-ever win, and first-ever insane march to the match that set the tone for a magical day in the Queen City.
18. Orlando City (0-2-1)
Previous ranking: 20
Next MLS match: Saturday, March 23 at Red Bulls (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+)
The Lions were their own worst enemy on Saturday, playing more like clumsy kittens than kings of the jungle. The mind-bendingly bad turnovers that led to two Montreal goals are, on one hand, easy to identify and address. On the other hand, there's no accounting for sloppy play no matter how strong the game plan is, a frustrating problem for James O'Connor.
19. Philadelphia Union (0-1-2)
Previous ranking: 18
Next MLS match: Saturday, March 23 vs. Columbus (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+)
Brenden Aaronson made the most of his MLS debut, wrong-footing Brad Guzan from outside the box to help the Union steal a point in Atlanta. Philadelphia's homegrown creative midfielder was playing in place of Marco Fabian, so while he's unlikely to start when the Mexico international is available, he likely did earn himself more minutes in the future.
20. New England Revolution (0-1-2)
Previous ranking: 17
Next MLS match: Sunday, March 24 vs. Cincinnati (4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN+)
Carles Gil looks like a hell of a signing for the Revolution, but he can't carry the team on his own. Two more goals for the Spaniard have him tied atop the league leaders with three -- the only three goals New England has scored in three games this season. The Revs might have a beef from the loss in Toronto via an unusual interpretation of the offside rule.
21. Vancouver Whitecaps (0-0-3)
Previous ranking: 19
Next MLS match: Saturday, March 30 vs. Seattle (10:00 p.m. ET, ESPN+)
The Marc Dos Santos Learning Curve Tour hit Houston on Saturday, where the Whitecaps dropped a tough result to the Dynamo. Is there progress? It's hard to say. The club has dropped three one-goal games with two of those games played on the road. The team is still jelling and Dos Santos is a good coach, but with Seattle coming in two weeks, results might have to wait.
22. Colorado Rapids (0-2-1)
Previous ranking: 21
Next MLS match: Saturday, March 23 at Dallas (5:30 p.m. ET)
After capitalizing on an egregious error by Tim Melia and hanging on for 87 minutes, the Rapids somehow managed to drop two points at home against Sporting Kansas City on Sunday night. Playing for the first time at Dick's Sporting Goods Park without a blizzard complicating play, Colorado had a substitute sent off and conceded a free kick goal in the final three minutes. Not ideal.
23. Chicago Fire (0-1-2)
Previous ranking: 22
Next MLS match: Saturday, March 30 vs. Red Bulls (1:00 p.m. ET, ESPN+)
The positive from the Fire's loss to Seattle on Saturday is that the home side showed some fight to bring the game back within a goal with six minutes left. On the list of negatives: the comeback failed, the Fire conceded a killer goal, the designated player striker was taken off, the star midfielder/defender looked old and slow at the back, the crowd was almost non-existent, the ... whoops, out of space.
24. San Jose Earthquakes (0-0-3)
Previous ranking: 24
Next MLS match: Saturday, March 30 vs. LAFC (3.30 p.m. ET)
Zero for three to start the season for Matias Almeyda and the Quakes, who don't seem capable of scoring goals and aren't very good on the defensive side of the ball either. That might be a problem unless significant reinforcements are on their way before the transfer window closes, and with 28 players under contract, reinforcements don't seem likely. San Jose next gets a week-long break before hosting ... LAFC. Woof.