Week 16 in MLS saw all 22 teams return to full strength (or something close to it) as players returned from the international break. The fresh restart brought about some interesting results, including a statement of intent from one of the league’s new elites and an impressive duo of draws from one of the strugglers in the cellar.
With rivalry week set to take center stage in the form of four high-profile matches this weekend, here's a look at how the league currently shapes up, as the "Human Spirit" lifts Colorado from the depths of the despair and the reconstructed Chicago Fire continue their ascent up the standings.
1. Toronto FC
We suspected that Toronto’s 3–0 loss to New England last week was an aberration, and we were correct. TFC came back in Week 16 with a solid 2–0 win over D.C. United at home, with Jozy Altidore scoring and Giovinco setting him up. Toronto are rolling along at a two-points-per-game clip–the best in the league.
2. Chicago Fire
Let Week 16 be known as the week the Chicago Fire progressed fully from “in good form” to “potential MLS Cup Contender.” A win over Atlanta United in the international break, then another one over the New England Revolution on Saturday mean the Fire are now riding an eight-game unbeaten streak and are hot on Toronto’s heels in the East.
3. FC Dallas
Dallas was one of the unlucky teams with a game on the international break, and with key players missing, it fell 2–0 at Portland. Oscar Pareja’s side followed that up with a 1–1 draw at Vancouver in which the equalizer came on a late free kick. Dallas has hit a bit of a rough patch the last few weeks, but Mauro Diaz continues to get minutes after his ruptured Achilles and Maximiliano Urruti is looking like a go-to scorer.
4. New York City FC
A David Villa double gave NYCFC a win at home in rainy conditions over the Seattle Sounders, the club’s second win in a row. The goals gave Villa his 50th and 51st tallies in MLS play, which is a great bit of history for a guy that’s in the running for MLS’s best DP signing ever. The club has yet to win three games in a row this season and hasn’t gone more than three games unbeaten yet. It'll have a chance to end both those marks this weekend against the rival Red Bulls.
5. Sporting Kansas City
Sporting Kansas City drew both of its games since the last rankings–a 1–1 draw vs. Montreal in the truncated Week 15 and a scoreless draw at San Jose. DP winger Gerso Fernandes continued his good form with a goal vs. Montreal, but striker Dom Dwyer hasn’t scored in league play since the beginning of May.
6. Atlanta United FC
Atlanta struggled on the road in Week 15’s loss to Chicago, but rebounded in a big way at home with a 3–1 win over Columbus. Those two results seem to sum things up for Tata Martino’s players right now: Still finding themselves in MLS, but much more of a force at home than on the road.
7. Portland Timbers
Portland earned a solid win at home over FC Dallas in Week 15, but let a 1–0 lead slip in a 2–1 loss to Colorado in Week 16. Scoring goals has been no problem for the Timbers this season, with their goal-scoring record hovering around the top five in the league. Holding leads, though, continues to be an issue.
8. New York Red Bulls
It looked for a while like the Red Bulls would need to settle for a draw away from home, but a quick double from Bradley Wright-Phillips at the death gave Jesse Marsch’s team a 2–0 win against Philadelphia. After struggling for much of the season, BWP has four goals in his last four games–a welcome sight for a team that has been needing those goals lately.
9. Houston Dynamo
Houston was oh-so-close to getting its first road win of the season, but Romain Alessandrini’s (offside) equalizer in the stoppage time put that dream to rest for yet another week as the Dynamo drew the Galaxy 2–2. The Dynamo generally played much better in this one than they have on the road so far this season, but couldn’t shut the door on LA despite numerous chances.
10. LA Galaxy
The Galaxy extended their unbeaten run to seven games but needed a late, controversial winner from Alessandrini to do so at home. LA’s home/road split remains one of the weirder oddities of this MLS season–the team has only won one of seven games at home this season, but is an impressive 4–2–1 on the road.
11. Vancouver Whitecaps
A late, brilliant free kick from Cristian Techera helped the Whitecaps earn a 1–1 draw at home against FC Dallas. Thus far, the Whitecaps have been just about the definition of mediocre–never on a particularly bad run, but never on an especially good one either. The draw is a second straight positive result, though, which they can build on this week at Minnesota.
12. Orlando City SC
Orlando City came dangerously close to losing at its new stadium, but Jonathan Spector rose to head in a stoppage-time corner kick to earn a 3–3 draw against Montreal on Saturday. A draw is better than a loss, obviously, but the Lions really need wins to keep pace in a super-competitive Eastern Conference. The club has only won once in its last nine games.
13. Philadelphia Union
The Philadelphia Union were actually playing pretty well against the New York Red Bulls on Sunday...but then Derrick Jones’ red card happened. The call may have been controversial, but the effect it had on the team was undeniable as a 0–0 deadlock turned into a 2–0 loss at home. After a sudden uptick in form, the Union are right back to where they were at the start of the season. They’ve lost three in a row.
14. New England Revolution
The Revolution welcomed a tough opponent to their home turf on Saturday, and the result was a 2–1 loss to Chicago. That result ends an impressive home unbeaten streak at 11 games. There’s no shame in losing to a team on a run like the one Chicago is on right now, but the schedule doesn’t let up for the Revs this week–they head to Toronto on Friday.
15. Colorado Rapids
Since Pablo Mastroeni railed against advanced stats in favor of “the human spirit,” the Rapids have won three straight games (two in the league, one in the Open Cup) on dramatic late goals. Saturday’s win over Portland came via a late Alan Gordon strike, the second time he’s done so in as many weeks. This doesn’t feel like a sustainable formula, but Mastroeni will take the points however he can get them.
16. Seattle Sounders
The Sounders enjoyed Seattle-like conditions in the Bronx for their game against NYCFC on Saturday, and held the lead thanks to a nice finish from Cristian Roldan. However, defensive mistakes and David Villa’s quality saw that lead slip in a 2–1 loss. The loss of points won’t help the Sounders, but the West is wide-open enough that it may not matter much in the long run.
17. Montreal Impact
Ignacio Piatti’s two goals and and assist led to three goals for Montreal at Orlando, but poor defending surrendered three on the other end in a 3–3 draw. In Week 15, a late goal from Matteo Mancosu salvaged a 1–1 draw at Sporting Kansas City. Two draws ordinarily might not be much to crow about, but two draws at two of the more difficult away environments in the league might be.
18. Columbus Crew SC
Columbus was faced with a tough environment in Atlanta, but didn’t respond well to the challenge in a 3–1 loss. That’s a common refrain for this team–it has now lost seven of its nine games on the road this season and currently sits just inside the playoff spots in the East. They’re running out of time to figure things out before the fight for the postseason will get even harder.
19. Minnesota United FC
The Loons simply didn’t have it on Saturday, as they allowed RSL to take an absurd 29 shots in a 1–0 loss. Goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth was busy, but Minnesota’s attack certainly wasn’t. The club only notched five total shots, one of which was on target, and four of which came from way outside the penalty area. That’s two straight losses for Minnesota.
20. San Jose Earthquakes
The Earthquakes were content to sit back and absorb as much pressure as possible against Sporting Kansas City and the succeeded in keeping the visitors off the scoreboard. However, the Earthquakes also didn’t offer much going forward in a 0–0 draw. At this point, the Quakes have drawn more games than they’ve won at home. They host Real Salt Lake this weekend.
21. Real Salt Lake
It says something about the state of the Western Conference that RSL’s 1–0 win over Minnesota United helps put it back in the conversation for a playoff spot. After losing their previous two games by a combined score of 11-3, RSL got a late goal from Yura Movsisyan (who continues to be given a bench role by Mike Petke) to beat the Loons. If the club is to make a run, it’ll have to continue this Saturday at San Jose.
22. D.C. United
D.C. United falling to Toronto in Toronto isn’t surprising, and neither was the nature of United’s attacking performance in the 2–0 loss. D.C.’s offensive record is simply putrid, having scored just 10 goals in 15 games and with nobody on the roster seemingly ready to fill the role of go-to striker. The club has reportedly signed former Rapids forward Deshorn Brown from the Tampa Bay Rowdies to remedy the problem.