MLS Power Rankings: LAFC remain top, but Wondo is the king
We may never see another player like Chris Wondolowski. Not only is Wondolowski a unique blend of talent, perseverance, humility and guile, he followed a path to an all-time goal-scoring record in Major League Soccer that is practically gone in 2019.
As teams rush to develop players at younger and younger ages, the possibility of a late bloomer in the Wondolowski mold getting a chance to work on his game for multiple years before finally earning a shot to play and grow into an all-time great is almost difficult to imagine.
On the occasion of Wondolowski's record-breaking performance, it's worth repeating that the San Jose player is one of a kind.
1. LAFC (9 wins, 4 draws, 1 loss)
Previous ranking: 1
Next MLS match: Friday, May 24, 10:30 p.m. ET vs. Montreal, ESPN+
It's the old Thursday-Sunday-Friday run for LAFC, who maintain their "best in MLS" status after the Thursday and Saturday legs and four points earned against FC Dallas. Bob Bradley's team was just a little off in front of goal over the two games, but that's admittedly a quibble.
2. Seattle Sounders (7-5-1)
Previous ranking: 2
Next MLS match: Sunday, May 26, 6 p.m. ET at Sporting Kansas City
Wednesday was about winning. Saturday was about not losing. That's the reality for a team crossing the country on short rest to face a quality opponent coming off a week's preparation, so credit Brian Schmetzer and the 63 different players (roughly) he used between the two games.
3. Houston Dynamo (7-2-2)
Previous ranking: 3
Next MLS match: Saturday, May 25, 8 p.m. ET at Minnesota, ESPN+
Good soccer team the Houston Dynamo got a game-winner from Tommy McNamara -- his first goal in two years -- on Saturday to close out a four-point week. Whether good soccer team will be without star attacker Alberth Elis for any length of time, after the Honduran left the D.C. United match early, is a concern.
4. Philadelphia Union (7-3-3)
Previous ranking: 4
Next MLS match: Saturday, May 25, 7:30 p.m. ET vs. Portland, ESPN+
The harsh take is that a true contender should be able to handle a weakened version of a good team at home. The kinder take is that Philly was the better team against Seattle and can take confidence from a goalless draw. Good thing Philly sports fans are known for being reasonable.
5. D.C. United (7-3-4)
Previous ranking: 6
Next MLS match: Saturday, May 25, 7:30 p.m. ET at New England, ESPN+
United somehow managed to survive a Canadian barrage on Wednesday and get a point in Toronto, then collapsed in two minutes on the way to a frustrating loss in Houston on Saturday. It was a "that's so MLS" type of week, with D.C.'s young, rotated team getting the tough result and the first choice side dropping the game in Texas.
6. LA Galaxy (7-1-5)
Previous ranking: 5
Next MLS match: Friday, May 24, 7 p.m. ET at Orlando
No Zlatan Ibrahimovic, no goals and a loss against the worst team in the league. It's hard to see how Sunday could have been any worse for the Galaxy, short of major injury to a crucial player. No Zlatan for the trip to Orlando on Friday either. If LA manages to lose to the Lions, there won't be many good feelings left.
7. New York City FC (4-6-1)
Previous ranking: 7
Next MLS match: Saturday, May 25, 3:30 p.m. ET at Chicago
A week off for the Bronx-dwellers, the kind that can either be a welcome respite from a busy schedule or a brick wall to well-earned momentum.
8. FC Dallas (5-3-5)
Previous ranking: 9
Next MLS match: Saturday, May 25, 7 p.m. ET at Vancouver, ESPN+
Back-to-back matches against LAFC -- one in LA, one in Texas -- revealed FC Dallas to be what we knew them to be: talented, tough but a level below the elite of Major League Soccer. The toughness will be the takeaway, especially considering they played a down a man for most of the second half.
9. Toronto FC (5-2-5)
Previous ranking: 8
Next MLS match: Sunday, May 26, 7:30 p.m. ET vs. San Jose, ESPN+
Zero goals on 45 shots this week from the Reds, who won't want to dwell on the rough results in a pair of games. Alejandro Pozuelo's blistering start in MLS was always going to cool off, but it doesn't appear Toronto was ready to pick up the slack elsewhere. If the defense doesn't get better, Toronto might be in trouble.
10. Montreal Impact (6-3-5)
Previous ranking: 10
Next MLS match: Friday, May 24, 10:30 p.m. at LAFC, ESPN+
Ignacio Piatti is back. After two months out injured, the Argentine returned to the field as a sub in Saturday's draw in New England. No one outside of Carson relies on one player to drive the attack more than the Impact, and he could not have come back at a better time: Friday's trip to LAFC is the toughest match of the year.
11. New York Red Bulls (5-2-5)
Previous ranking: 11
Next MLS match: Wednesday, May 22, 8 p.m. ET vs. Vancouver, ESPN+
No one does emotional, desperation wins like the Red Bulls in 2019. Sunday's 1-0 victory over Atlanta definitely fit that bill, with New York playing the last 55 minutes of the match down a man and the winning goal coming from a player signed from the USL team less than two weeks ago.
12. Atlanta United (6-2-4)
Previous ranking: 12
Next MLS match: Friday, May 24, 9 p.m. ET at Salt Lake
Since we last met, Atlanta squeaked out a win in Vancouver and extended their run without conceding a goal, then saw that streak ended by a 10-man Red Bull team on Sunday. Flat Atlanta -- Flatlanta, if you will -- was back with a (dispiriting) vengeance this week. Over to you, Frank.
13. Minnesota United (5-3-4)
Previous ranking: 13
Next MLS match: Saturday, May 25, 8 p.m. ET vs. Houston, ESPN+
Once upon a time, Ethan Finlay was a red-hot goal-scoring winger for the Columbus Crew. Then the Crew traded him to Minnesota. In early 2018, he tore his ACL and missed the rest of the season. On Saturday, Finlay scored for the first time since coming back from that injury to lead the Loons to a win against the Crew. The end.
14. Real Salt Lake (5-1-6)
Previous ranking: 15
Next MLS match: Friday, May 24, 9 p.m. ET vs. Atlanta
We're officially filing a request with Major League Soccer and Real Salt Lake for Sebastian "Bofo" Saucedo to score more long-range blasts because it's so much fun to yell "BOFO!" It might not be the best nickname in MLS -- there's a guy called "Cobra" in Dallas -- but it's close.
15. Columbus Crew (5-1-8)
Previous ranking: 14
Next MLS match: Saturday, May 25, 9 p.m. ET at Colorado, ESPN+
Not only did the Crew slip below the playoff line in the Eastern Conference this weekend, they're slipping quickly into the "bad" part of the power rankings. Losing seven of your last eight will do that sort of damage to your standing, but it's the lack of goals (six in those eight matches) that should set off alarms.
16. Portland Timbers (3-2-6)
Previous ranking: 17
Next MLS match: Saturday, May 25, 7:30 p.m. ET at Philadelphia, ESPN+
One more road match until the grand reopening of Providence Park, Timbers fans. May your dreams be filled with visions of Sebastian Blanco setting up Brian Fernandez for goals in the Timbers Army end from now until June 1. Here's a tip: Imagine Fernandez's equalizer against Houston, only in Portland.
17. Orlando City (4-3-6)
Previous ranking: 19
Next MLS match: Friday, May 24, 7 p.m. ET vs. LA Galaxy
Nani is OK, Tesho Akindele's feeling fine and the Lions head into a showdown with the Zlatan-less Galaxy next Friday bursting with confidence following a big win. Orlando fought FC Cincinnati, the heat and the quick turnaround after a midweek trip to Seattle and won -- that's worth a some dap.
18. Vancouver Whitecaps (3-4-6)
Previous ranking: 16
Next MLS match: Wednesday, May 22, 8 p.m. ET at RBNY, ESPN+
The Caps are spirited, which is just a nice way to say they're mostly mediocre with an occasional burst of hard-won success. Wednesday's match against Atlanta at BC Place was mediocre, hence a goalless performance and a loss. Saturday's draw in Kansas City was ... spirited.
19. San Jose Earthquakes (4-2-6)
Previous ranking: 20
Next MLS match: Sunday, May 26, 7:30 p.m. ET at Toronto, ESPN+
Wondo did it in Wondo style, popping up at the back post, taking advantage of defensive mistakes and calmly finishing first-time chances. He'll tell you that the win was what mattered -- he celebrated with his teammates on all four goals -- but Saturday was Wondo's day. He earned every bit of it.
20. Chicago Fire (4-4-5)
Previous ranking: 18
Next MLS match: Saturday, May 25, 3:30 p.m. ET vs. NYCFC
The Fire's lamentable performance in San Jose will mercifully get buried by the story of Wondolowski's ascension to the top of the all-time MLS goal-scoring list. It's like being the bar during a world-record high jump: essential to the proceedings but nothing more than a prop.
21. Sporting Kansas City (2-5-4)
Previous ranking: 21
Next MLS match: Sunday, May 26, 6 p.m. ET vs. Seattle
Sporting's injury crisis is so bad that the injuries have injuries. Peter Vermes was forced to use the league roster contingency rules to make up the numbers against Vancouver, a game that saw the club fail to win for the seventh straight match. The gut-punch equalizer scored by the Caps only adds to the cumulative hurt.
22. New England Revolution (3-3-8)
Previous ranking: 23
Next MLS match: Saturday, May 25, 7:30 p.m. ET vs. DC United, ESPN+
The Bruce has arrived in New England. Updates as events warrant. A goalless draw doesn't really count.
23. FC Cincinnati (3-2-8)
Previous ranking: 22
Next MLS match: Saturday, May 25, 7:30 p.m. ET vs. RBNY, ESPN+
Through 125 minutes, Yoann Damet looked like a miracle worker. Then the wheels came off in Orlando. Damet can't be held responsible for Kendall Waston going full Curt Hennig on Lamine Sane, but the eventual 5-1 humiliation against the Lions will take some of the shine off the 29-year-old's start as interim FCC boss.
24. Colorado Rapids (1-2-9)
Previous ranking: 24
Next MLS match: Saturday, May 25, 9 p.m. ET vs. Columbus, ESPN+
THE RAPIDS WON A GAME. It doesn't matter how, or who didn't play for the other team. THE RAPIDS WON A GAME. And on the road!