The group stage is over for the MLS is Back Tournament and it’s safe to say it was a success. After the slow start and losing two teams to COVID-19 cases, MLS is Back really picked up in Orlando with games full of goals, upsets, drama and much more.
Plenty of teams simply did not turn up in the humidity of Florida, while others played with passion to prove a point heading into the knockout rounds. Here are the power rankings of each team’s group stage performance as the tournament heads into the Round of 16.
24. Atlanta United (0 pts)
“A” doesn’t stand for Atlanta. It stands for Awful. The Five Stripes looked hopeless and uninterested all tournament long and couldn’t muster a goal in the absence of striker Josef Martinez. A truly embarrassing showing from the 2018 MLS Cup champions that cost Frank de Boer his job as manager.
23. Inter Miami CF (0 pts)
Miami made history on Monday with the team’s 1-0 loss to New York City. Inter became the first MLS expansion side to lose five straight to start its inaugural season. Miami’s best moment of the tournament was Juan Agudelo’s goal that kickstarted MLS is Back.
22. LA Galaxy (1 pt)
Simply put, the Galaxy did not turn up in Florida. The team salvaged one point in the last minutes of the final group game from a controversial penalty kick. Other than that, a 6-2 defeat against LAFC defines their tournament. LA needs help.
21. New York Red Bulls (3 pts)
The Red Bulls’ high-press style showed its effectiveness against Atlanta. Then against Columbus and Cincinnati, that style showed when it doesn’t work, it really doesn’t work. The performance against FC Cincinnati was particularly shocking for New York.
20. Houston Dynamo (2 pts)
Even though Houston had one less point than the Red Bulls, the team ranks higher simply because of how exceptional it looked in the first half against LAFC. Plus the Dynamo were expected by many to finish last in Group F. They didn’t. Houston performed above expectations. The Red Bulls performed below.
19. Chicago Fire (3 pts)
When Chicago moved to Group B, many felt the team wouldn’t advance. The Fire was so close to getting out of the group and people thought the team had a shot after upsetting Seattle 2-1. But losses to San Jose and Vancouver sent the Fire home to the Windy City as the best last-place team.
18. D.C. United (2 pts)
Both of D.C.’s points stemmed from comebacks. The one who started those comebacks was super-sub Federico Higuain. The former Crew star was the focal point of a very “meh” tournament for United.
17. Colorado Rapids (1 pt)
There is not a whole lot you can say about the Rapids in MLS is Back. Defensively they had plenty of issues but they rank above D.C., mainly since they picked up the pieces offensively and were able to get some goals, unlike United, who had only one goal from a starter.
16. Montreal Impact (3 pts)
Montreal comes in as the worst-performing team that advanced to the knockout rounds. The Impact were played off the park by Toronto, didn’t turn up against New England and was rescued by Saphir Taider and some help from other teams to advance.
15. New York City Football Club (3 pts)
New York City had the shakiest of starts to 2020. The reigning Eastern Conference regular season champions didn’t score the team’s first goal of the year until Game 4. Even that match was in a 3-1 loss to Orlando City. NYCFC was saved by Ismael Tajouri-Shradi and a Cristian Pavon penalty to send the team through.
14. Vancouver Whitecaps (3 pts)
Vancouver had a roller coaster MLS is Back group stage. The team blew a 3-1 lead against San Jose, got smacked around by Seattle 3-0 and then took down Chicago 2-0 to advance on goal difference. The Whitecaps looked ecstatic when the final whistle blew signifying their advancement.
13. FC Cincinnati (6 pts)
You can say all you want about the Jaap Stam “tactical masterclass” but FC Cincinnati capitalized on the team’s minimum opportunities to beat two Eastern Conference contenders and enter the Round of 16 as the Cinderella story. While not having any truly great performances, two wins are still two wins.
12. Real Salt Lake (4 pts)
RSL was average at MLS is Back with a couple of goals here and two clean sheets there. While the group might not be the most exciting team going forward, defensively they are strong and with much better overall team performances, rank above FC Cincinnati.
11. Minnesota United (5 pts)
Minnesota’s performance was also in the middle. The team wasn’t jaw-dropping but not ghastly. The comeback win against Kansas City was the signature moment of the group stage for the Loons. Columbus does have a challenge ahead for Tuesday.
10. Seattle Sounders (4 pts)
The defending MLS Cup champions had two very rocky games against San Jose and Chicago. The 3-0 thrashing of Vancouver saved the team and ensured a knockout stage spot. The Sounders have work to do but they have some momentum going into their clash with LAFC.
9. New England Revolution (5 pts)
While Cincinnati is the most unexpected team to advance, the New England Revolution is probably next in regards to overall team performances. The Revs went unbeaten in a tough group and were the only team to hold Toronto’s lethal attack in check.
8. Philadelphia Union (7 pts)
The Union had a good group stage in Orlando. Jim Curtin’s side played confidently in all three games and got results in each: a solid win against NYCFC, a comeback over Miami and a comfortable draw versus Orlando. No doubt the Union is a dark horse entering the bracket.
7. Sporting Kansas City (6 pts)
After blowing the chance at three points against Minnesota, Kansas City bounced back with a late win of its own against Colorado and a dominant victory against Salt Lake. If not for those two stoppage time goals by the Loons, SKC would have finished the group stage with a perfect record.
6. Orlando City SC (7 pts)
The hosts built a lot of momentum going forward in this tournament when Nani got the late winner in the opening game against Miami. A dominant victory against NYCFC was the match to confirm Orlando as a contender at MLS is Back. Don’t be surprised if this team continues this run.
5. Los Angeles Football Club (5 pts)
Even without Carlos Vela, LAFC scored a group stage high 11 goals and went unbeaten. The offense showed up in the comeback draw against Houston and the six-goal barrage on the LA Galaxy in El Trafico. Diego Rossi proved he can be the main man and he might be the one to take LAFC all the way.
4. San Jose Earthquakes (7 pts)
The Earthquakes were exceptional in the group stage and that comeback against Vancouver was the defining performance of Group B. Holding Seattle and getting a 2-0 win against the Fire isn’t too shabby either. These guys have a fighting chance to get to the final.
3. Portland Timbers (7 pts)
Portland was so close to finishing Group F with a perfect record but came up short. One draw against LAFC is the lone half-blemish of the Timbers group stage performance. The team had no issues against Houston or the Galaxy and no doubt could have a field day against Cincinnati this upcoming Tuesday.
2. Toronto FC (5 pts)
Why is Toronto ahead of Portland? Because the team’s offense has been explosive despite having only one win. Ako Akinola and Alejandro Pozuelo have been incredible entertainment for this tournament and put Toronto as a favorite to win MLS is Back. The top goalscorer and assister of the group stage have a tough road to the final, however.
1. Columbus Crew SC (9 pts)
Who else could this be? Columbus was the only team at MLS is Back to finish with a perfect record and has yet to concede a goal. The Crew showed off its depth, how lethal the group is, attacking in a variety of ways and how well-coached the Black & Gold are by Caleb Porter. The Crew enter the knockout rounds as the favorites to win after three dominant performances in Group E. Let’s see if the Black & Gold can add a trophy to the case.