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LAFC and Philadelphia Union prove they’re the cream of the West and East’s crop


11:57 AM ET

Jeff Carlisle

CloseU.S. soccer correspondentJeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC.

Dan Hajducky

CloseESPNHajducky is a reporter/researcher for ESPN. He has an MFA in creative writing from Fairfield University and played on the men’s soccer teams at Fordham and Southern Connecticut State universities.

Twelve minutes into the lowly Vancouver Whitecaps’ visit to LAFC, it looked as though goal scorer Tristan Blackmon was going to get one over on his former club. Then Ryan Hollingshead scored twice, Carlos Vela netted (as is tradition) and LAFC fought back from an early deficit to maintain their spot at the top of this week’s edition of Power Rankings.

On the opposite coast, the Philadelphia Union traveled to the Bronx for a convincing win over reigning MLS Cup champion New York City FC, demonstrating that Jim Curtin’s club is the cream of the Eastern Conference crop.

With Week 3 in the books, Jeff Carlisle and Dan Hajducky look at the results and break down where all 28 teams stand after a wild weekend of action.

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Previous ranking: 1

Next MLS match: April 2 at Orlando, 7:30 p.m. ET

You know things are going well for manager Steve Cherundolo when his biggest headache is finding minutes for Cristian Arango. Sure, LAFC’s schedule has been a bit home-heavy, but the Black & Gold continue to make the most of the home cooking, overcoming an early goal conceded to prevail over Vancouver 3-1. — Carlisle

Previous ranking: 7

Next MLS match: April 2 vs. Charlotte FC, 7:30 p.m. ET

The Union impressively weathered a storm from the defending MLS Cup champions NYCFC on Saturday, hammering home two quick goals and playing D. They didn’t seem to mind getting out-possessed 74% to 26%. The victory was the Union’s first-ever at Yankee Stadium and backstop Andre Blake hasn’t allowed a goal since the 32nd minute of the Montreal match on March 5. Philly is the team to beat in the East right now. — Hajducky

Previous ranking: 3

Next MLS match: April 2 vs. Nashville SC, 6 p.m. ET

The Crew had a point rescued by a gutsy 95th-minute Darlington Nagbe toe poke past Red Bulls keeper Carlos Coronel over the weekend. As we wrote last week, Lucas Zelarayan is “must-see TV,” but Columbus’ undefeated start feels hollow. After a decisive 4-0 opening-day victory over West basement-dweller Vancouver, Columbus eked out ties against a paltry San Jose and New York bookending a drubbing of rebuilding Toronto. It’s good for the early days of the 2022 season, but come crunch time, Columbus’ sharpness needs honing. — Hajducky

Previous ranking: 2

Next MLS match: April 2 vs. Real Salt Lake, 9 p.m. ET

As draws go, this was a gut punch for the Rapids, with a poor pass from goalkeeper William Yarbrough gifting a late equalizer to Houston and costing Colorado two points. That said, the Rapids have rebounded well from their opening-day thumping at the hands of LAFC, and are now unbeaten in their last three games. — Carlisle

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Watch the Game Highlights from Houston Dynamo FC vs. Colorado Rapids, 03/19/2022

Previous ranking: 10

Next MLS match: March 26 at Kansas City, 7 p.m. ET

Let’s face it. Real Salt Lake isn’t going to out-talent anyone in MLS, especially when Damir Kreilach is sidelined like he was Saturday. And yet Pablo Mastroeni continues to weave his collective-is-all magic, with a 2-1 win over Nashville that puts RSL level on points with LAFC for the top spot in the Western Conference standings. — Carlisle

Previous ranking: 5

Next MLS match: April 2 at Columbus Crew, 6 p.m. ET

Nashville’s eight-game road odyssey to start the season was never going to be easy, and four points from four isn’t the worst mark by any means. But NSC encountered another bump in losing to RSL. Worse, the usually disciplined Dax McCarty succumbed to the red mist, getting sent off, and now he’ll miss next week’s big early-season game at Columbus. — Carlisle

Previous ranking: 8

Next MLS match: April 2 at New England Revolution, 7:30 p.m. ET

New York has had two tough weeks in a row, losing to Minnesota 1-0 and drawing even with Columbus over the weekend. The good news? After managing only 39 goals in 34 games last season, goals haven’t been a problem for the Red Bulls: They’ve posted eight in four games, tied for the second-most in the East. Lewis Morgan and Patryk Klimala have combined for four goals and four assists, Aaron Long looks revitalized and Frankie Amaya (leading MLS in both assists and tackles won) is fearsome. New York may have something brewing down in Harrison. — Hajducky

Previous ranking: 11

Next MLS match: April 2 vs. Seattle Sounders, 8 p.m. ET

The Loons really should have won by a much more comfortable margin over San Jose given the opportunities they had, with poor decision-making in the final third the culprit. Still, Luis Amarilla’s tally was enough to give Minnesota a 1-0 win and third place in the West. — Carlisle

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Minnesota’s Luis Amarilla scores off a cross from Robin Lod to make it 1-0.

Previous ranking: 13

Next MLS match: April 2 at Chicago Fire, 3:30 p.m. ET

Dallas’ revamped side is showing signs that it could be a force in the Western Conference after its 4-1 mauling of Portland. Jesus Ferreira is entering the international break in fine form following his hat trick, while Alan Velasco looks to be the real deal as well. — Carlisle

Previous ranking: 4

Next MLS match: April 2 vs. New York Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m. ET

Coming off that historic 2021 season, New England was always going to take a step back. But after a 3-2 snowsquall loss to Real Salt Lake, the Revs delivered Charlotte FC its first victory in franchise history. Losing 3-1 to an expansion team, one that had managed MLS’ third-worst shot-conversion percentage headed into the weekend (3.6%), is an eye-opener. — Hajducky

Previous ranking: 9

Next MLS match: April 3 at Portland Timbers, 4:30 p.m. ET

The enthusiasm that accompanied two wins has abated following a second consecutive defeat, this one at home to Orlando City. The Galaxy dominated the proceedings but couldn’t find a goal. Oh, and to the surprise of no-one, Douglas Costa went down injured. — Carlisle

Previous ranking: 6

Next MLS match: March 27 vs. Orlando, 4 p.m. ET, ESPN

The Timbers’ first-half performance in a 4-1 defeat to Dallas was every bit the “disaster” manager Gio Savarese said it was, as Portland surrendered three goals. About the only bright spot was the play of Sebastian Blanco, who gave the team a jolt — and an assist — in 45 minutes of play. — Carlisle

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Paul Arriola zips the ball past the goalie in the 77th minute to extend FC Dallas’ lead.

Previous ranking: 12

Next MLS match: April 2 at D.C. United, 7:30 p.m. ET

You don’t want to have to mount a comeback against the side that’s allowed the most goals a month into the MLS season, but that’s what Atlanta did this weekend, drawing after being down 3-1 at halftime and reduced to 10 men in the 67th minute. No Atlanta side has let up more than 44 goals in a season, but it’s on pace for 68 in 2022. But starting April 10, the Five Stripes play Charlotte, FC Cincinnati, Inter Miami CF and Montreal to close out the month. If things go well, they could be atop the East by May. — Hajducky

Previous ranking: 16

Next MLS match: April 2 vs. FC Dallas, 3:30 p.m. ET

Don’t look now but the Fire are … undefeated? After plucky 0-0 draws against both Inter Miami and Orlando City, they silenced D.C. United and Sporting Kansas City 2-0 and 3-1, respectively. Chicago hadn’t even allowed a goal until the 56th minute against Sporting this weekend, a shutout streak of 325 minutes. It leads all of MLS in tackling percentage and is second in interceptions and duel percentage. This Fire squad is sweltering under manager Ezra Hendrickson. — Hajducky

Previous ranking: 15

Next MLS match: April 2 at San Jose Earthquakes, 7:30 p.m. ET

The Verde have cooled off a bit after a scintillating opening two weeks, but Josh Wolff’s side is still looking like a much improved side following its 1-1 tie against Seattle, when it arguably should have come away with more. Diego Fagundez tallied the equalizer and is tied for the league lead in assists with three. — Carlisle

Previous ranking: 17

Next MLS match: April 2 at Minnesota United, 8 p.m. ET

Normally two draws in a week would elicit a collective “meh,” but consider it a case of job done for the Sounders, who took care of the second leg in the CONCACAF Champions League against Leon with a 1-1 score and then secured an identical result away to Austin, with Stefan Cleveland standing tall in goal. Now they’ll head into the international break with a chance to heal up. — Carlisle

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Will Bruin and Diego Fagundez each score in a 1-1 draw between Austin FC and the Seattle Sounders.

Previous ranking: 14

Next MLS match: April 2 at Toronto FC, 4 p.m. ET

An up-and-down week for NYCFC, making it to the 2022 CONCACAF Champions League semis and falling to league rival Philly four days apart. They might have beaten up on Montreal a week ago, but those four goals were, and still are, an exhausted NYCFC’s only ones of the season. Valentin Castellanos, 2021 MLS Golden Boot winner, is still pointless, as is mainstay Maxi Moralez. The arduous trek will be worth it if NYCFC can become the first American club to win a CONCACAF Champions League/Champions’ Cup since the LA Galaxy in 2000, but for now, their league form is suffering. — Hajducky

Previous ranking: 19

Next MLS match: March 27 at Portland, 4 p.m. ET, ESPN

Orlando City has been inconsistent for me; although it’s improved from last year, losing to FC Cincinnati a week before upending the LA Galaxy is tough to reconcile. Orlando has somehow managed to turn four goals into seven points. Is it sustainable? Probably not, but it’s an endlessly enjoyable (and, for fans, likely frustrating) watch every week. — Hajducky

Previous ranking: 21

Next MLS match: April 2 at Inter Miami, 8 p.m. ET

The Dynamo should send Yarbrough a gift basket after the Colorado keeper handed Houston a late equalizer, allowing the home side to salvage a 1-1 draw. The back line looks improved so far, but the attack is still struggling in the early going, with just three goals in four games. — Carlisle

Previous ranking: 22

Next MLS match: April 2 vs. New York City FC, 4 p.m. ET

Bob Bradley got his first win in Toronto over the weekend, but thus far it’s been a slog up north. TFC isn’t creating chances (26, tied second-fewest in the league) or getting shots off (31, league low); when coupled with an MLS-high 25 shots on target allowed, it remains unclear how Toronto can consistently win games this year — especially with a schedule that offers defending MLS Cup champions NYCFC twice, Real Salt Lake, Philadelphia and Cincy in the next five weeks. — Hajducky

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Jonathan Osorio somehow gets his foot on a cross to put Toronto FC up 2-1 on D.C. United.

Previous ranking: 18

Next MLS match: April 2 vs. Atlanta United, 7:30 p.m. ET

D.C. sits squarely mid-table, with decisive victories over Charlotte and Cincy to start the season only to fall to Chicago and Toronto in successive weeks. United are bottom six in MLS in overall passing percentage and percentage in the attacking third, not to mention they lead the league in shots on goal allowed. Fortunes could be a lot worse in D.C., but it’s been lucky. Unfortunately, the upcoming fixtures are Atlanta, Austin, New England and Columbus; said luck may soon run out. — Hajducky

Previous ranking: 20

Next MLS match: March 26 vs. Salt Lake, 7 p.m. ET

With Kansas City’s entire front line out injured, a 3-1 defeat to the improved Chicago Fire wasn’t that big a surprise. But the back line, along with goalkeeper Tim Melia, didn’t acquit themselves well either. Melia’s history would suggest he’ll rebound, but there are still concerns about what the rest of the season has in store for Peter Vermes’ side. — Carlisle

Previous ranking: 24

Next MLS match: April 2 at FC Cincinnati, 4 p.m. ET

Montreal is still winless in 2022, which compounds the sting of dropping points to Atlanta, which was down two goals and reduced to 10 men, over the weekend. Montreal is among the MLS leaders in two truly undesirable categories: goals allowed and fewest prevented. Despite the paltry start, Montreal does still feature Victor Wanyama and Djordje Mihailovic, so it’s worth watching. — Hajducky

Previous ranking: 25

Next MLS match: March 26 at Charlotte, 5 p.m. ET

Hard to imagine that FC Cincinnati would be competing for a playoff berth a month after losing 5-0 to Austin, but it’s rebounded admirably. It’s defeated Inter Miami and Orlando City in the past two weeks by a combined 5-2 margin; the win against Orlando broke a 14-game losing streak, too. Could the club be finding its footing in an increasingly chaotic Eastern Conference? Cincy is seventh in MLS in chances created this season, so it just might be dangerous. Former Atlanta striker Brandon Vazquez is tied with Vela and Zelarayan for the league lead in goals. — Hajducky

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FC Cincinnati’s Brandon Vazquez tallies two goals and an assist to help his team to a 3-1 win over Inter Miami.

Previous ranking: 23

Next MLS match: April 2 vs. Austin FC, 7:30 p.m. ET

Four games into the season, there’s little reason for optimism in San Jose. The defense looked a shade better with Eric Remedi moving to the back, but the Quakes’ mark of 0.9 xG per game is tied for the worst in the league, as is their 6.3 chances created per game. The Matias Almeyda era looks set to finish with a whimper. — Carlisle

Previous ranking: 27

Next MLS match: March 26 vs. Cincinnati, 5 p.m. ET

You read that right: Expansion club Charlotte FC knocked off reigning Supporters’ Shield winners New England Revolution 3-1 this weekend for the first victory in franchise history. Don’t let that fool you. Even with that literally awesome result, Charlotte is still bottom six in shots allowed, shots on goal allowed, expected goals and assists — and it’s 20th of 28 in goals prevented. It’s also got to play Cincy, Philly, Atlanta and a rematch with New England, right before Colorado and Orlando. More than one victory in that slate, which boasts only two home games, would be miraculous. — Hajducky

Previous ranking: 26

Next MLS match: April 2 vs. Sporting Kansas City, 8 p.m. ET

It looked like the Whitecaps had begun recapturing some of last year’s magic when Tristan Blackmon scored on his return to LA, but then Vancouver fell apart in a 3-1 defeat. Vancouver has played just one home game so far, but the Caps have struggled at both ends of the field, with only Miami having a worse goal differential than Vancouver’s mark of minus-7. — Carlisle

Previous ranking: 28

Next MLS match: April 2 vs. Houston Dynamo, 8 p.m. ET

It’s actually stunning that Miami, with as much of an arsenal as it wields, can’t score goals. Going back to Sept. 17, 2021, Phil Neville’s Miami has lost 11 of 15; in that span, it’s only managed 14 goals. Gonzalo Higuain has scored just three goals in his past 12 league matches; that’s simply not good enough for the league’s fourth most expensive player. Miami, with a minus-8 goal differential, looks a long way from playoff contention. — Hajducky

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