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MLS Power Rankings: LAFC top during international break, NYCFC into second

Major League Soccer doesn't do international breaks. Not fully, anyway. Like the workaholic half of a committed couple, MLS can never seem to pull itself away when a great opportunity for a little rest and relaxation is presented.

Always checking email poolside. Put the Blackberry down. It's supposed to be a vacation!

This week's limited schedule means there's not a lot of movement in the Power Rankings, but we did get a chance to reset, reboot and reassess the playoff situation just ahead of the final four or five games for most of the contenders.

It's a little like that moment of weightlessness at the top of the roller coaster, before gravity kicks in and everyone goes bonkers while the car rushes down at 250 mph ... AHHHHHHHHHHHH THIS WAS A TERRIBLE IDEA WHY DID I DO THIS LET'S GET TO THE RANKINGSSSSSS!!!

Previous rankings: Week 26Week 25 | Week 24 | Week 23Week 22Week 21Week 20Week 19Week 18Week 17Week 16Week 15Week 14 | Week 13Week 12Week 11 | Week 10Week 9Week 8Week 7 | Week 6Week 5 | Week 4 | Week 3 | Week 2 | Week 1

1. LAFC (19 wins, 6 draws, 4 losses)

Previous ranking: 1

Next MLS match: Saturday at Philadelphia, 7:30 p.m. ET, stream live on ESPN+

The fair take is that LAFC was lucky to escape Florida with a point, especially down five starters including Carlos Vela. Leaving Vela out, which coach Bob Bradley may do next week against Philadelphia, is probably prudent but risks the chase for all of the regular-season records.

2. New York City FC (15-8-5)

Previous ranking: 3 

Next MLS match:Wednesday vs. Toronto, 7 p.m. ET, stream live on ESPN+

You know you forgot about Jesus Medina. We all forgot about Jesus Medina. Luckily for NYCFC, who was without the injured Heber against the Revs, Dome Torrent didn't forget about Jesus Medina. NYCFC's ascension into first in the East is complete and feels permanent.

3. Philadelphia Union (15-6-8)

Previous ranking: 2 

Next MLS match: Saturday vs. LAFC, 7:30 p.m. ET, stream live on ESPN+

LAFC comes to Chester next week. According to the red-hot Kacper Przybylko, the Union are ready. "LAFC, I wish you a lot of luck," Przybylko said last week after beating Atlanta. "This is our house. This is our stadium. We're waiting for you guys."

4. Minnesota United (13-6-9)

Previous ranking: 4 

Next MLS match: Wednesday at Houston Dynamo, 8:30 p.m. ET, stream live on ESPN+

The Loons migrate south to Houston in midweek with a chance to bag three points against a team with zero energy left. If it's going to be #LoonSeason come October, Adrian Heath's team needs to avoid any potential bird traps and claim what should be an easy win.

5. Atlanta United (15-3-10)

Previous ranking: 5 

Next MLS match: Saturday vs. Columbus Crew, 7 p.m. ET, stream live on ESPN+

The champs restart the defense of their title against the Crew. In the meantime, they can celebrate Josef Martinez winning Goal of the Week for his clever take against the Union. It came in a losing cause, but still.

6. San Jose Earthquakes (13-5-10)

Previous ranking: 6 

Next MLS match: Wednesday at Real Salt Lake, 9:30 p.m. ET, stream live on ESPN+

We don't know about you, but we have the distinct feeling that Matias Almeyda spent his suspension breaking cinder blocks in half with his bare hands and plotting the trail of destruction the Quakes intend to blaze through the Western Conference on their way to the playoffs. Watch out, Bob.

7. Portland Timbers (13-4-11)

Previous ranking: 8 

Next MLS match: Sunday vs. D.C. United

Brian Fernandez's flu game pushed the Timbers to a massive, massive home win over Sporting Kansas City on Saturday. The Timbers would still have the inside track on a playoff spot even with a draw, but the win greatly improves their chances of claiming a home game when they get there.

8. Seattle Sounders (13-7-9)

Previous ranking: 7 

Next MLS match: Sunday vs. New York Red Bulls, 6 p.m. ET, stream live on ESPN

Sometimes knockoff versions of name-brand products have weird spellings that make them look like the high-quality stuff even when they're not. In other news, the Seattle Zounders lost to the Colorado Rapids in Commerce City on Saturday.

9. New England Revolution (10-9-10)

Previous ranking: 9 

Next MLS match: Saturday at Orlando, 7:30 p.m. ET, stream live on ESPN+

The Bruce-a-lution has stalled at a bad time, as one win in six has the club's playoff chances approaching coin-flip territory. Bad for the Revs, but good for neutrals when New England head to Orlando next week to play a desperate Lions team with any shot at the postseason on the line.

10. LA Galaxy (13-3-12)

Previous ranking: 10 

Next MLS match: Wednesday at Colorado Rapids, 9 p.m. ET, stream live on ESPN+

As if the loss to the Sounders last week weren't bad enough, the Timbers' win on Saturday pushed the Galaxy out of the playoffs spots in the Western Conference. A Wednesday night trip to Colorado gives LA the chance to pull themselves back into the top seven.

11. Real Salt Lake (13-4-11)

Previous ranking: 11 

Next MLS match: Wednesday vs. San Jose Earthquakes, 9:30 p.m. ET, stream live on ESPN+

What comes next for RSL is a brutal two-game week that starts Wednesday against all-action San Jose at home (minus nine international call-ups) and finishes Sunday with a trip to Allianz Field to play Minnesota United. "It all comes down to this" feels both overly dramatic and right on the button.

12. FC Dallas (12-7-10)

Previous ranking: 12 

Next MLS match: Saturday at Chicago Fire, 3:30 p.m. ET

Seventh-place FC Dallas finishes a trio of games against lesser MLS lights with a trip to Chicago on Saturday. The first two (against Houston and Cincinnati) were resounding wins. Luchi Gonzalez must get three points, in whatever fashion, to keep pace for the playoffs.

13. Toronto FC (11-8-10)

Previous ranking: 14 

Next MLS match: Wednesday at NYCFC, 7 p.m. ET, stream live on ESPN+

The Reds won a must-win game in confidence-building fashion on the road. From that perspective, the weekend couldn't have gone better for Greg Vanney's team. It gets a little tougher midweek, when the quest for the playoffs takes TFC to Yankee Stadium.

14. D.C. United (11-9-10)

Previous ranking: 15 

Next MLS match: Sunday at Portland Timbers, 3:30 p.m. ET

United used a Wednesday night friendly against Puebla to get Wayne Rooney reintegrated into the team following his two-match suspension. Whether Rooney is sharp and completely committed may determine if the Black and Red get a chance to play for a championship before he leaves for home in the offseason.

15. Colorado Rapids (9-6-14)

Previous ranking: 16  

Next MLS match: Wednesday vs. LA Galaxy, 9 p.m. ET, stream live on ESPN+

BREAK UP RAPIDS. OK, so the Sounders (whoops, Zounders) were so short-handed that they only brought 16 players, two of them emergency call-ups from the Tacoma Defiance, and Colorado still doesn't have any chance at the postseason, but Robin Fraser has two wins in two games. That's worth a tip of the Power Rankings cap (it's a fedora).

16. Sporting Kansas City (10-7-12)

Previous ranking: 13 

Next MLS match: Sunday at LA Galaxy, 10 p.m. ET, stream live on ESPN+

A poor clearance + Diego Valeri magic + poor marking at the back post = sad baby blue trombones for Sporting in Portland. Will those trombones also play a dirge for the club's season? Or maybe a New Orleans-style jazz funeral song? That sounds like more fun.

17. Orlando City (9-8-13)

Previous ranking: 18 

Next MLS match: Saturday vs. New England, 7:30 p.m. ET, stream live on ESPN+

Thus, Orlando City: "I can't describe it," James O'Connor said after the 2-2 draw with LAFC. "It's so far past disappointment, I can't even begin to tell you. I thought our performance was excellent. When you look at how good LAFC are, you look at how we managed the game and you look at the problems we caused them, on another night we would have won the game."

18. New York Red Bulls (12-5-12)

Previous ranking: 18 

Next MLS match: Sunday at Seattle, 6 p.m. ET, stream live on ESPN

It's never good when your fan base spends a week arguing if your head coach should be in danger of losing his job, just ahead of a stretch run that includes four out of five games against teams currently in the playoff positions. Never good at all.

19. Chicago Fire (8-10-12)

Previous ranking: 19 

Next MLS match: Saturday vs. FC Dallas, 3:30 p.m. ET

A fire is made up of oxygen, fuel and heat. The Chicago Fire are missing at least two of those.

20. Columbus Crew (8-7-15)

Previous ranking: 20 

Next MLS match: Saturday at Atlanta United, 7 p.m. ET, stream live on ESPN+

The Crew are solely in spoiler mode the rest of the way, with an eye on 2020. On Saturday they have a chance to stun the champs in Atlanta, potentially dealing a blow to United's quest for a high seed and home playoff games.

21. Montreal Impact (11-4-15)

Previous ranking: 21 

Next MLS match: Saturday vs. FC Cincinnati,  7:30 p.m. ET, stream live on ESPN+

The Impact's playoff chances have dwindled dramatically despite the fact that they sit just two points back of seventh-place New England. Playing at home against FC Cincinnati on Saturday might just be the "get healthy" game that jump-starts the push for the postseason.

22. Vancouver Whitecaps (6-9-15)

Previous ranking: 22 

Next MLS match:  Saturday vs. Houston Dynamo, 10 p.m. ET, stream live on ESPN+

There's currently more interest in Vancouver in playing a game called "Who's fault is it?" than anything happening on the field. Four games left until winter comes to British Columbia.

23. Houston Dynamo (9-4-15)

Previous ranking: 23 

Next MLS match: Wednesday vs. Minnesota United, 8:30 p.m. ET, stream live on ESPN+

Orange is a nice color. We really like orange. It's a great color for autumn.

24. FC Cincinnati (5-3-21)

Previous ranking: 24 

Next MLS match: Saturday at Montreal, 7:30 p.m. ET, stream live on ESPN+

... Orange is a nice color? We really like orange? It's a great color for autumn?


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