Rivalry Week! The long-held MLS tradition used to focus on the California Clásico, but then the Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers got top billing. The Hudson River Derby spent a lot of time highlighting the biannual event, too, while El Trafico has been the star in recent years, but none of those featured this time around.
New rivalries took center stage, with FC Cincinnati/Columbus Crew and St. Louis City/Sporting Kansas City in the spotlight. The Ohio clash already features arguably the league’s best rivalry nickname, Hell Is Real, but the battle for Missouri (with a splash of Kansas) is still nameless. That’s much better than the days of MLS gone by when the league would have given it a sanitized nickname, but it’s time for St. Louis and SKC fans to get cracking. We need a great rivalry name out here.
While we wait on that, let’s rank the teams!
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Previous ranking: 1
The wear and tear of the Champions League, Open Cup and making a run at the Supporters’ Shield has been starting to show lately. They’re still good, but injuries and fatigue pop up, like in a draw with SKC. It also forces them into more rotation than they’d probably prefer, like in sitting Carlos Vela against San Jose. But the thing about that is they could still bring Vela off the bench to play against tired legs, which is really a cheat code and, unsurprisingly, delivered them a win over the Quakes.
Previous ranking: 3
Hell is feeling heavenly after the Garys jumped out early and finished strong to beat Columbus. Throw in a midweek win over Montréal and there’s no doubt who owns Ohio right now.
Previous ranking: 5
Hany Mukhtar is that dude, and that gives NSC cover even when their normally excellent defense is not quite at its best, like against Miami and Charlotte this week. Mukhtar made sure they walked away with six points anyway.
Previous ranking: 4
Giacomo Vrioni is back! But Carles Gil is hurt now and Gustavo Bou still hasn’t returned from injury. The Revs just can’t keep their guys fit, so it’s no wonder they might have a game where they get run out of the building like they did by Philly.
Previous ranking: 2
If you’re desperate for a win, call the Sounders. Kansas City broke its winless streak against Seattle and, this week, Austin and Vancouver both got off the schneid against this team.
Previous ranking: 6
It’s hard to have a bigger swing than going from playing the Galaxy on Wednesday to playing Cincy on Saturday. The Crew are definitely much better than LA, but they aren’t on their Hell Is Real rivals’ level quite yet.
Previous ranking: 7
Sporting might have the history and the trophies, but City have the only victory in this burgeoning rivalry, and it wasn’t a regular ol’ win either. They hammered SKC and, for an added flourish, Nico Gioacchini (born in Kansas City, Missouri) got on the scoresheet. The day could not have gone any better for St. Louis.
Previous ranking: 8
Philly were lucky to draw D.C. on Wednesday, but they needed no such luck in New England. They picked the Revs apart with a really impressive second half to extend their unbeaten streak to six. The Union are back, y’all.
Previous ranking: 10
Wednesday’s win over Colorado was an absolute clinic. Atlanta were the better team, knew it, played like it and walked away 4-0 winners. They could have done the same in Chicago, especially after they went up a man, but instead they looked like a team of amateurs. They conceded an own goal, couldn’t find the ball in their own box and even gave away their man advantage with a red card of their own in a disappointing 3-3 draw. We know how good the Five Stripes can be, but so often they’re just not.
Previous ranking: 9
How much can you believe in a team that remains winless in seven road matches? That is the question in San Jose after falling at LAFC.
Previous ranking: 11
Jesús Ferreira is still cooking after a brace to beat Vancouver midweek, but he and Dallas couldn’t find a way to turn their 1-0 lead and total control into a second goal against Houston. The Dynamo then made them pay with a late equalizer. Not being able to bury teams is a problem that dates back to last season for FCD and they don’t appear particularly close to solving it.
Previous ranking: 12
There’s no better way to end a losing streak than to beat your rival and the Caps absolutely throttled the Sounders. It was a commanding performance for the whole team and another especially good showing for Ali Ahmed, who continues to make an impact on both ends of the pitch.
Previous ranking: 13
A pair of 1-0 wins against Houston and Portland makes for a good week in Minnesota, but they were still a little bereft of options. If only there was a spectacularly creative player adept at breaking down defenses waiting in the wings. Someone like, I don’t know, Emanuel Reynoso?
Previous ranking: 14
Stealing a point away to a rival with guts and a goal on a late corner kick? The Ben Olsen is strong in this team, but some added quality in the summer is a must, as their inability to create in a midweek loss to Minnesota showed.
Previous ranking: 17
DCU have taken 14 points from their last seven matches after drawing in Philly and rolling past the Galaxy. This is a legit playoff team, and who would’ve guessed they could get there this quickly in the middle of last season. Wayne Rooney is working magic.
Previous ranking: 18
The Lions aren’t anywhere near the lofty heights some of us expected for them before the season, but things are getting better. They drew NYCFC then claimed Florida with a win over Miami, in large part thanks to the increasingly excellent play of Ercan Kara.
Previous ranking: 19
180 minutes and no goals for the Timbers. They simply need to get more out of their time on the ball. Part of that is adding some more quality in the summer transfer window, but the system isn’t doing them any favors either. They were lucky to take a point from RSL, but they were not as fortunate against Minnesota.
Previous ranking: 15
The Rapids have churned out points this season primarily by not shooting themselves in the foot, then they spent this whole week just handing the ball and chances to Atlanta and Salt Lake.
Previous ranking: 20
Troy Lesesne has only been in charge of RBNY for three games, but he’s already taken almost half of the club’s points this season. A draw in Toronto and win over Montréal gives him seven points since taking over and it’s not just been a new energy at Red Bull Arena either. They’re keeping the ball better and showing wider range in their game since he took over.
Previous ranking: 21
The Pigeons were in the upper reaches of the East a month ago despite being winless away from home. Then they embarked on four straight away matches, which ended with a draw in Orlando on Wednesday. They are still without a win away from home and now they’re below the playoff line. Some home matches will surely put them back among the playoff teams, but they have to figure out how to play away from New York.
Previous ranking: 23
There were a lot of raised eyebrows when Austin picked up Gyasi Zardes in the offseason. He’s proven himself to be a good MLS striker, but he appeared to be an awkward fit in Austin and the early part of the season bore that out. They may have figured things out, though, with Zardes scoring the winners against Seattle and Toronto this week.
Previous ranking: 16
Draw at home to RBNY, lose in Austin, bottom of the East and Federico Bernardeschi is sick of it. He called out everyone, from the top of the club to the bottom. They still play pretty good soccer, but they can’t turn it into points so what does it matter?
Previous ranking: 24
Charlotte followed up their midweek win over Chicago with a late loss to Nashville, courtesy of Hany Mukhtar. They are hardly the first team to get beaten by the reigning MVP, but considering how little Charlotte have gotten out of their Designated Players, it’s hard not to walk away from that match wondering how good they can be if they hit on someone like Mukhtar.
Previous ranking: 22
This isn’t going to be a season to remember in Chicago, but Saturday’s draw with Atlanta might be. They played a man down for much of the match, fell behind twice and still walked away with a point after Georgios Koutsias’ 89th minute equalizer. That’s a good way to take the sting off the midweek loss in Charlotte.
Previous ranking: 25
Lose six in a row, win three in a row, and now lose two in a row. The whiplash in Miami hit even harder with the second loss of the week coming against Orlando. Inter were completely out of ideas on the ball, which is especially problematic because the defense has never been reliable, even when they won a few.
Previous ranking: 26
Montréal’s four-game win streak is over after losses to Cincy and RBNY this week. That defense that had looked so good in piecing together clean sheets in all four of their wins completely disappeared in these losses, giving up five goals.
Previous ranking: 28
RSL had to settle for a draw against Portland because they still can’t create much, but the Rapids were kind enough to gift them chances so they got to walk away from their Rocky Mountain Cup clash with three points.
Previous ranking: 29
SKC followed up two straight impressive wins with maybe their best showing of the season in a draw at LAFC. Things were looking way up, then they went to St. Louis and got absolutely smoked.
Previous ranking: 27
The Galaxy got played off the field by Columbus and D.C. You might call that rock bottom, but don’t underestimate this club. They continue to prove there is always lower to go.