The third iteration of OaM's Power Rankings starts with a difficult decision...
1. New York City FC (up eight places)
- 24 points, 2nd in East
- 6th in Shield race
- Last result: Seattle 0-2 NYCFC
It causes Once A Metro no small amount of discomfort to put NYCFC at the top of a power ranking, but if we start finding ways to suppress our slapstick neighbors' occasional coincidences with success, there can be no great joy taken from their regular pratfalls into failure.
The longest unbeaten streak in the league belongs to Colorado Rapids - not coincidentally, the best team in the league at the moment. The Rapids are now unbeaten in 11 straight league games, and that is considerable power. But they drew 0-0 this week, and you can't have a team which just drew 0-0 at the top of a power ranking.
Instead, we are forced to concede that the honors must go to NYCFC. The team beat (and blanked, 2-0) Seattle in Seattle this week: one of the more impressive road wins an Eastern Conference side can bring home, even when the Sounders are bad - as they are at the moment.
That win adds power to last week's, 3-2, home win over Philadelphia (the Union is still the best team in the East). And those back-to-back wins count for the longest active winning streak in the league right now (parity is everywhere this season).
So, yes: NYCFC, a team that has won just six of its 17 league games and has a -4 goal difference, is the hottest team in the league right now. Take it up with the MLS Parity Department.
2. Colorado Rapids (down one place)
- 32 points, 1st in West
- 1st in Shield race
- Last result: LA 0-0 Colorado
The 11-game unbeaten streak doesn't count for nothing in these rankings. It just counts for second because a 0-0 draw- albeit on the road - against LA Galaxy (a team now winless in its last seven, for whom the draw with Colorado was its third consecutive game without a goal) simply cannot be a sign of league-best form.
Still, 11 games unbeaten is no joke. The Rapids are the best in MLS right now, and they don't need league-leading power to prove it.
3. FC Dallas (remains the same)
- 31 points, 2nd in West
- 2nd in Shield race
- Last result: FCD 2-0 RSL
FCD was robbed in Kansas City last week, and that 2-0 loss put an end to a solid five-game unbeaten streak. Dallas is back to winning ways now, grabbing a 2-0 home win over Real Salt Lake - the team immediately behind it in the Western Conference and Supporters' Shield standings.
Currently, last week's loss looks like an anomalous result for the team that appears best equipped to challenge Colorado's run for this season's league title. Beating RSL was FCD's first win in MLS since May 21, but it was a good one.
4. Portland Timbers (up eight places)
- 23 points, 5th in West
- 8th in Shield race
- Last result: Portland 3-2 Houston
The Timbers battled back from two goals down to beat Houston Dynamo at home this week, 3-2. They got a helping hand from two penalties in the last 10 minutes, but winning the referee's favor is a measure of power. The result pushed Portland to five games since it last tasted defeat in MLS. That's second only to Colorado's current streak (and tied with Orlando's). Throw in the fact that last week Portland was the first team to take points off RSL at home this season - and it seems the Timbers deserve a little recognition for their recent work.
5. Real Salt Lake (down one place)
- 27 points, 3rd in West
- 3rd in Shield race
- Last result: FCD 2-0 RSL
RSL may have lost to FCD this weekend, but the team cut down the red-hot Red Bulls just three days earlier. In midweek, RBNY came to Utah with a four-game streak of wins and shutouts. As the game ticked into its final 30 minutes, RBNY was winning, 1-0, and looking well capable of continuing its streak. But RSL grabbed two goals to stop the Red Bulls' momentum and preserve its own record of not having lost at home to date this season.
6. Orlando City SC (up nine places)
- 20 points, 6th in East
- 14th in the Shield race
- Last result: OCSC 3-2 Toronto
OCSC is not great at defending: it has one clean sheet in MLS so far this season, and has managed to tie 2-2 on six occasions already in the league this year. A streak of three consecutive 2-2 draws was snapped this week by a late penalty, after Toronto FC had tied the score (at 2-2, of course) in the 90th minute. Somehow, despite this defensive fragility, Orlando is unbeaten in its last five and has only lost one of its last eight league games.
7. Philadelphia Union (down one place)
- 26 points, 1st in East
- 4th in Shield race
- Last result: Union 2-3 Vancouver
The Union had two home games in Week 16, managing to win one and lose one - which is merely OK. Philly is looking like a team on the slide: it has now lost two of its last four games, and all four have been shootouts (two 3-2 losses, one 3-2 win, and this week's 4-3 win over Chicago). If a team has to score three or more goals to get a win, it is likely to win progressively less often.
Nonetheless, the Union remains top of the East. That does not speak necessarily to current power, but it certainly carries some weight.
8. Montreal Impact (remains the same)
- 21 points, 4th in East
- 12th in Shield race
- Last result: Montreal 2-2 Kansas City
9. Vancouver Whitecaps (up two places)
- 24 points, 4th in West
- 5th in Shield race
- Last result: Philly 2-3 Vancouver
The 'Caps steered out of a three-game winless skid (just one point from nine available in that run) with a 3-2 road win over the Eastern Conference leader - and it would have been 3-1 but for an injury-time goal from Chris Pontius. The Union had a lot of pressure, and will consider itself unlucky to have lost, but Vancouver should take confidence from the result. The win puts the 'Caps at the head of the pack chasing the top three in the Western Conference.
10. Sporting Kansas City (up four places)
- 22 points, 7th in West
- 10th in Shield race
- Last result: Montreal 2-2 KC
Has KC shaken itself out of the epic slump that saw it win just once (and lose seven times) in the league in 10 games from mid-April to the end of May? Maybe, maybe not. The team did just complete an unbeaten June, capping a draw in LA and a (questionable) win over Dallas with a hard-won tie in Montreal.
This is still a team that has only won three of its last 15 matches in MLS, but it also now unbeaten in its last three league matches.
11. New York Red Bulls (down nine places)
- 23 points, 3rd in East
- 7th in the Shield race
- Last result: Columbus 1-1 RBNY
RBNY had a bad week. Two road games were always going to be tough, so no need to exaggerate the impact of one point from two matches. But the Red Bulls made things hard on themselves by trying to make things a little easier. It appears head coach Jesse Marsch's plan for keeping his squad from collapsing under the burden of a busy schedule is to ease off on the team's signature high press if there is a lead to defend in the second half.
Three times in the last three games, Marsch has elected to send in a fifth defender some time between the 60th and 70th minutes, and instructed his players to sit back a bit. This tactic worked very well against Seattle in Red Bull Arena. This week, RBNY twice lost 1-0 leads on the road while trying to defend them with a five-man back line. The fact the team had 1-0 leads to defend in these games is testament to the fact it can trouble any opponent in the league. The fact it has no wins to show for its work this week suggests the Red Bulls have a little more work to do on the training ground if the current game plan is to have a long-term future.
12. Columbus Crew (up five places)
- 16 points, 9th in East
- 18th in Shield race
- Last result: Crew 1-1 RBNY
The last-minute equalizer against RBNY preserved the Crew's slow recovery from a dreadful start. Winless in its first five games of the year, Columbus still doesn't win enough (just three of its last 10) matches, but it has only lost twice in MLS since beating NYCFC on April 16.
The tie with RBNY means the Crew went winless in June, so perhaps it is overvalued in this ranking. But it has made itself harder to beat than it was at the start of the year, and still has games in hand over most of the teams above it in the Eastern Conference.
13. D.C. United (up six places)
- 20 points, 5th in East
- 13th in Shield race
- Last result: DC 2-0 Revs
This ranking is about power, and DC stopped New England's steadily gathering momentum (three wins in its last four games before running into DCU) with a 2-0 home win in Week 16. A modest victory, since the Revolution has had its own problems this season, but sufficient to at least DC stake a plausible claim to being a little hotter than New England right now.
14. New England Revolution (down one place)
- 19 points, 8th in East
- 16th in Shield race
- Last result: DC 2-0 Revs
If they had beat or even tied DC, the Revs would be riding high in these rankings. A 2-0 loss in RFK sparked RBNY's brief transformation into the hottest team in MLS, so perhaps it will have the same effect on the Revolution.
For now, however, this is a stop-start team that can't seem to summon the consistency to either be good or bad for any great length of time.
15. San Jose Earthquakes (down five places)
- 22 points, 8th in West
- 11th in Shield race
- Last result: Quakes 1-1 LA
This is a long way down the rankings for a team that has only lost one of its last six, but it's hard to make a case for a team's power when its last result was a come-from-behind home draw against currently lamentable LA.
16. Toronto FC (down nine places)
- 19 points, 7th in East
- 15th in Shield race
- Last result: Orlando 3-2 TFC
TFC deserves a lot of credit for opening the season with an eight-game road trip and coming out of that with a 3-2-3 record. Its home form isn't terrible - two wins, two draws, and a loss in front of its own fans this season - but this week's 3-2 loss in Orlando was the team's third consecutive loss on the road.
TFC has drifted below the red line in the East for a reason: it is good but not great at home and has taken to leaving all the points behind on the road.
17. LA Galaxy (down 12 places)
- 23 points, 6th in West
- 9th in Shield race
- Last result: SJ 1-1 LA
Until it wins a game, LA should keep sliding down these rankings. Two draws isn't a terrible return from a two-game week, particularly when one was against the best team in the league (0-0 vs. Colorado) and the other was a derby match (1-1 at San Jose). But the Galaxy has the longest winless streak in MLS at the moment: seven games since its last win. And the goal scored against the Quakes was the only league goal LA scored in June.
The Galaxy doesn't lose often (it has only lost three of its first 16 league matches in 2016), but it needs some more goals and wins to shake the perception that this is a team that cooling down fast.
18. Houston Dynamo (up two places)
- 14 points, 10th in West
- 19th in Shield race
- Last result: Timbers 3-2 Dynamo
Houston is in the conversation about the worst team in MLS right now. The reason it's not closer to the bottom of this ranking is mostly out of sympathy for the fact that it lost in Portland this week thanks to the home team winning two late penalties.
Until this week's loss, Houston had been unbeaten since parting company with coach Owen Coyle, suggesting the team has found a little more spirit under new management. But it has yet to win a league game under interim head coach Wade Barrett, so any improvement is yet to make a profound impact on results.
19. Chicago Fire (down one place)
- 11 points, 10th in East
- 20th in Shield race
- Last result: Union 4-3 Fire
The Fire has now lost five of its last seven and won just once in its last 10 league games. Hope for a turnaround in form must be pinned on the fact that all five of the most recent losses have been on the road, and the team is unbeaten in its last three home games (two draws and a win).
20. Seattle Sounders (down four places)
- 16 points, 9th in West
- 17th in Shield race
- Last result: Sounders 0-2 NYCFC
Seattle has now lost five of its last six games, and the lone win in that stretch was at home over D.C. United - hardly the most daunting opponent in the league.
Once could make the case for Seattle's recent string of losses being simply unfortunate: it lost on the road to FCD - a good team; it lost at home to Colorado - the best team in MLS right now; it lost on the road in New England and New York - long journeys. But now it has lost at home to NYCFC.
And in those five losses, the Sounders have scored just one goal.
There are only two teams in MLS whose most recent form comprises back-to-back losses: Seattle and Chicago. And the Fire has at least managed to pick up four points in its last six games, while the Sounders have gathered three in the same stretch.
The sense is the Sounders have too much talent in their squad to sustain this woeful form. But there isn't a team in MLS with less power in recent games than Seattle.