MLS Power Rankings: Can Rooney save rock-bottom D.C.?

If it was up to D.C. United, we would be on the verge of flipping the calendar to January, and the year 2022 could be nothing more than a memory. That’s how bad it has gotten in the nation’s capital.

Maybe we should’ve seen it coming. After all, trading a locker-room leader and the face of the team in Paul Arriola doesn’t suggest that the club’s front office expected this team to contend this season.

Few could’ve predicted how poorly Hernan Losada’s tenure would end, though. Fewer still would’ve expected it to conclude just six games into the Major League Soccer season. The manager reportedly had a strained relationship with the club’s hierarchy, and an even more fractious bond with his players.

D.C. is 3W-2D-6L in the 11 matches since Losada’s firing. The nadir came on Friday, when United lost by a touchdown and an extra point to the Philadelphia Union — 7-0. In the wake of such an embarrassment, the club has lined up a replacement for Chad Ashton, the interim boss who was expected to see out the rest of the season when he was installed in April, with sources telling ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle that Wayne Rooney will be the club’s next manager.

There’s nowhere for him to go but up, right?

With Week 19 in the books, Austin Lindberg looks at the results, breaks down where all 28 teams stand after a wild weekend of action and brings you the latest edition of the MLS Power Rankings.

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Previous ranking: 1

Next MLS match: July 17 at Nashville SC, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+

The Galaxy knocked LAFC out of the U.S. Open Cup in May, so consider this a little bit of payback for the Supporters’ Shield leaders, but the 3-2 El Trafico win on Friday night was a little bit closer than the Black and Gold would’ve liked against their Los Angeles rivals who sit a whopping 12 points behind in the ultra-tight Western Conference.

Previous ranking: 2

Next MLS match: July 12 at Houston Dynamo FC, 9 p.m. ET

Austin’s 3-0 win over Atlanta perfectly encapsulates the second-year club: The Verde were out-chanced 15-5 and yet they doubled up their hosts in expected goals (xG) 2.42 to 1.21. The Texan capital club continues to win, oftentimes in spite of the numbers, and that persistence has Austin comfortably second in the Supporters’ Shield standings.

Previous ranking: 4

Next MLS match: July 13 at FC Dallas, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN+

With his brace in the 4-2 win over New England, 2021 MLS Golden Boot winner Valentin Castellanos is back on top of the league’s goal-scoring leaderboard with 12 in 15 appearances. Unfortunately for NYCFC, it wasn’t their performance that made headlines around the league after the victory, but rather Revs coach Bruce Arena’s criticisms of Yankee Stadium. This is Year Eight for the Manchester City-owned outfit, and there’s still no soccer-specific stadium in sight.

Previous ranking: 3

Next MLS match: July 17 vs. New York City FC, 5 p.m. ET, ESPN

This isn’t years past when dropping points to Cincinnati was reason enough for mild panic, but considering their hosts were down to ten men for more than a half hour — and actually played with nine in the closing moments of second-half stoppage time — it’s fair to ask whether the Red Bulls should’ve taken better advantage of a wounded opponent than they did in a 1-1 draw.

Previous ranking: 6

Next MLS match: July 13 at Inter Miami CF, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN+

Julian Carranza netted a hat trick and didn’t even account for half of Philadelphia’s goals in its 7-0 win over D.C. Alejandro Bedoya. Mikael Uhre also had braces as the Union scored the most goals in a single game in their history.

Previous ranking: 5

Next MLS match: July 17 vs. Sporting Kansas City, 9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+

RSL and the Rapids will have to share the Rocky Mountain Cup for the time being, after their 2-2 draw, but Salt Lake fans should be reveling in the return of Jefferson Savarino. Nearly three years after leaving the club, the 25-year-old Venezuela forward is back, and has started each of his side’s past four games, averaging a goal or an assist every 69 minutes in that time.

Previous ranking: 9

Next MLS match: July 13 vs. New York City FC, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN+

Rivalry Week is a relatively new concept, so it’s only natural to question its authenticity. Arriola yelling into the Houston crowd, while being pelted with cups and bottles, gesturing for them to bring it on; Jesus Ferreira, scoring at that time the go-ahead goal, stood with arms outstretched, drinking in the hate and whatever beverages FCD fans threw his way. These are the instances when we’re reminded that Rivalry Week is more than a marketing exercise. This was a thriller, end-to-end action, and a 2-2 scoreline that will leave everyone wanting that little bit more.

(But seriously, though, if you’re a fan throwing objects at players, what’s wrong with you? Go home, and don’t come back.)

Previous ranking: 7

Next MLS match: July 16 vs. Toronto FC, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+

The 2-1 loss to Sporting KC came despite Montreal having more than three times the chances created and more than four times the xG. The Quebecois have lost three of five since losing Djordje Mihailovic to an ankle injury.

Previous ranking: 8

Next MLS match: July 13 vs. Seattle Sounders FC, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+

A 4-1 defeat at the hands of Charlotte is very un-Nashville-like. One of the stingiest defenses in MLS, the Walker Zimmerman-led back line allowed the expansion team to complete 86.7% of its passes in the attacking third, the joint-second-worst across the league over the weekend.

Previous ranking: 14

Next MLS match: July 13 at Colorado Rapids, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN+

If not for Damion Lowe‘s calamitous own-goal in the second minute of second-half stoppage time, Orlando would be staring down a seven-game stretch in which it earned just one win in the league. This was a vital three points for a Lions team that is suddenly struggling to keep pace in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

Previous ranking: 12

Next MLS match: July 13 vs. Vancouver Whitecaps, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN+

In its past five games, Cincinnati has faced Philadelphia, Orlando, NYCFC, New England and most recently, the Red Bulls, earning four draws and a win (over Orlando) against the presumed playoff sides. Cincy’s postseason push is for real.

Previous ranking: 11

Next MLS match: July 13 vs. San Jose Earthquakes, 10 p.m. ET

The heat is on in Carson, California. The Galaxy fought valiantly against their league-leading rivals, but the 3-2 defeat to LAFC sees Greg Vanney’s team conclude a five-game stretch in which it has lost to Los Angeles and Minnesota, dropped points to Portland and was knocked out of the U.S. Open Cup by second-division Sacramento Republic. That pressure won’t let up, either, not with teams around the league finding creative ways to bolster their rosters with in-their-prime European stars while Javier Hernandez is left to carry a overpriced and underperforming squad.

Previous ranking: 15

Next MLS match: July 13 vs. Sporting Kansas City, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN

Minnesota turned 0.91 xG into a 3-1 win in Vancouver. That’s three wins in a row for the Loons, who scored three goals in all three victories, yet their 19 goals in eight wins this season outperforms their xG by 8.12.

Previous ranking: 10

Next MLS match: July 13 at Nashville SC, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+

Even playing down a man for 44 minutes, the Sounders deserved more than a 3-0 defeat at home, but that’s no consolation when that loss comes at the hands of fierce rivals the Portland Timbers.

Previous ranking: 18

Next MLS match: July 16 at Inter Miami CF, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN+

Is Andre Shinyashiki one of the best super-subs in MLS? In his seven starts since coming to Charlotte in a trade with Colorado on May 3, the 25-year-old has registered a goal or an assist every 135 minutes. In his four substitute appearances, he’s scoring a goal himself every 24 minutes, including one in Queen City’s 4-1 win over Nashville.

Previous ranking: 13

Next MLS match: July 16 at Philadelphia Union, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+

Regardless of whether it was down to playing on a baseball field or the midday kickoff, two plausible explanations for New England’s 4-2 loss at NYCFC put forward by manager Bruce Arena, the result marks the first time the Revs have been beaten in league play since April 23.

Previous ranking: 17

Next MLS match: July 13 vs. Philadelphia Union, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN+

No Miami player had more touches, more attempted passes or more completed passes than Damion Lowe, which makes it all the more difficult to stomach that the 29-year-old Jamaica international conceded the 92nd-minute own-goal that gifted Orlando a 1-0 win.

Previous ranking: 20

Next MLS match: July 17 vs. Vancouver Whitecaps, 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+

Two goals in the closing eight minutes flattered the Timbers in their 3-0 win over 10-man Seattle, but there’s no arguing with the form Portland has rounded into in the past five games: three wins, two draws, eleven goals scored, four conceded. Not only is the team just one point out of a playoff place, it’s two points away from being able to host a postseason game at Providence Park, such is the congestion in the Western Conference.

Previous ranking: 19

Next MLS match: July 13 at D.C. United, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN+

Entering Saturday’s match at Chicago, Columbus had won just three times in its past 15 games, but things have been picking up, going unbeaten in five before the weekend. The 3-2 win was the Crew’s third win in their past six games, and with new Designated Player Cucho Hernandez netting an 83rd-minute winner on his debut, this victory has the potential to be a turning point for Caleb Porter’s club.

Previous ranking: 16

Next MLS match: July 13 at FC Cincinnati, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN+

Ahead of hosting Minnesota, Vancouver had won five of its past eight, and with Lucas Cavallini giving the hosts a 1-0 lead in the 66th minute, it looked like the ‘Caps would make it six wins in nine. Then the Loons scored three goals in 17 minutes.

Previous ranking: 22

Next MLS match: July 13 vs. Orlando City SC, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN+

Since trading for Gyasi Zardes on April 22, the Rapids are averaging 1.08 goals per game. Prior to that, they’d been scoring 1.25 a game. The 2-2 draw equaled the most goals Colorado has scored in a game since the trade (accomplished three times prior), but Robin Fraser will be left wanting more considering Zardes couldn’t convert any of his seven shots with a cumulative value of 1.16 xG.

Previous ranking: 23

Next MLS match: July 12 at Austin FC, 9 p.m. ET

The Hector Herrera era has begun in Houston. The Mexico international gave the Dynamo fresh impetus on his debut, the team scoring twice in his 35-minute cameo, including setting up their first goal with a beautifully chipped cross.

The 2-2 draw was no less than Houston deserved against rival Dallas, and Teenage Hadebe‘s 11th-minute equalizer was worth the price of admission, but the objects thrown at FCD players in the game’s closing stages made for an ugly scene. Not a good look, H-Town.

Previous ranking: 21

Next MLS match: July 13 vs. Real Salt Lake, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+

Atlanta lost 3-0 to Austin. At home. It was its third loss in its past four. Josef Martinez has had enough.

“What happened today? What happened [is] what has been happening for the past three months or so,” he said. “We play because we have to play, but in training some players don’t have that energy, [players] don’t know what we have to do or they don’t recognize or appreciate the jersey and what [we’ve been] doing for a long time. Probably that’s the problem, because the injuries are not the problem.”

Then the 2018 MVP hinted that “it could be my last season here.” So that’s how things are going in Atlanta.

Previous ranking: 24

Next MLS match: July 13 at Chicago Fire FC, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN+

After a 2-2 draw with San Jose, Toronto is now seven points off the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, and just two points above the foot of the table. Bob Bradley undoubtedly will be pacing around the club’s treatment room anxiously awaiting Lorenzo Insigne‘s recovery from a calf injury, because the Reds need the Italy star’s quality ASAP. Getting Mark-Anthony Kaye integrated and completing the signing of Federico Bernardeschi won’t hurt, either.

Previous ranking: 25

Next MLS match: July 13 at LA Galaxy, 10 p.m. ET

No one has fewer wins than the Quakes’ four, but after their 2-2 draw in Toronto, only Philadelphia and Portland have shared the spoils more often than San Jose in 2022.

Previous ranking: 28

Next MLS match: July 13 at Minnesota United, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN

No one in MLS has a worse goal differential than Sporting, and only Chicago has a worse points-per-game rate, yet somehow, despite being decidedly second best in practically every meaningful category in Montreal, SKC found a way to eke out a 2-1 win.

Previous ranking: 27

Next MLS match: July 13 vs. Toronto FC, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN+

Letting a two-goal first-half lead slip, en route to a 3-2 defeat at the hands of midtable Columbus, is precisely why Chicago is mired at the bottom of the Eastern Conference.

Previous ranking: 26

Next MLS match: July 13 vs. Columbus Crew, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN+

I can think of at least 32 teams who would be proud of their defensive performance in a 7-0 defeat. Unfortunately for D.C., they’re all in the NFL. Wayne Rooney escapes the frying pan that is Derby County — relegated to the third tier of English football following two separate points deductions for going into administration and breaking financial fair play rules — and walks into the fire of a United team that’s lost seven of its past eleven.

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