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MLS Power Rankings - Preseason Edition

As the 2022 MLS season quickly approaches, here’s a totally biased and somewhat arbitrary attempt at Power Rankings.

Sean Pollock/WTR

Here’s a countdown of all 28 teams in anticipation of the start of the season on February 26.

Think of this article as a primer for the season, where you can refresh your memory about the squads, or learn about some lesser-known ones.

28. Charlotte FC – Welcome to MLS. Charlotte is an expansion team - what else needs to be said after manager Miguel Ramirez:

Player to Watch: Christian Fuchs – he’ll be busy. Also, he has an e-sports team called “No Fuchs Given”. Well done, sir.

27. FC Cincinnati – This team was bad last season – but managed to beat Toronto FC twice. Cincinnati re-signed Nick Hagglund in the offseason, I really hoped that he would come back to Toronto. Alas, it didn’t happen. Plain and simple – Cincinatti needs to spend money to sign better players, or they risk being Wooden Spoon holders for the fourth season in a row.

Player to Watch: Brenner – He’s young, and pretty good. Don’t be surprised if he scores 15 goals this year.

26. Austin FC – Austin gives up way too many goals. They conceded 56 goals in their inaugural season. Expect much of the same in 2022. The Western Conference is too good for Austin to be successful.

Player to Watch: Max Urruti – I still wonder if he chose the Number 37 to troll Toronto FC after playing a total of 37 minutes for the team. Plus, Urruti bears a striking resemblance to the dude from Chromeo:

25. FC Dallas – This team made a bit of a splash by signing USMNT midfielder Paul Arriola after selling Ricardi Pepi. While Dallas has the potential to score goals, the team traded long-time defender Ryan Hollingsworth to LAFC. This squad will struggle to win by conceding too many goals.

Player to Watch: Alan Velasco – he’s 19 and Argentinian. Let’s see how he adjusts to the league.

24. San Jose Earthquakes – Wondoloski leaves a giant hole in this roster, and lots of questions remain if things will work. The Quakes added Jamiero Montero and Jan Gregus in the midfield. They don’t score enough goals and give up too many in Matias Almeyda’s system. That trend will continue in 2022.

Player to Watch Cade Cowell – take a look at this goal:

23. Chicago Fire – Xeridan Shaqiri is a big signing. Will it be enough to make a difference? Nope. He’s on the wrong side of 30 and not Stoke City Shaqiri. Can he score on a rainy night in Portland?

Player to Watch: C. (Chris) Brady – why not? Actually, Brady might play a big part in the season after Gabriel Slonina is potentially sold in the summer.

22. Houston Dynamo – The Dynamo signed striker Sebastian Ferreria from Libertad in Paraguay. One of the big questions is whether Ferreria will get any type of support from the rest of the team. Houston is an enigmatic team, but probably won’t win too many games this year.

Player to Watch: Fafa Picault – he’ll be able to take some attention away from Ferreria, and score goals. He’ll finish with 10+ goals.

21. Inter Miami - Apparently MLS roster rules are going to be enforced this year. Inter Miami had to loan out a bunch of players, including Rodolfo Pizarro and Leandro Gonzalez, to comply with the Designated Player rule. Also, there are rumours that Blaise Matuidi won’t be playing for Inter Miami in 2022. Expect Miami to struggle this season.

Player to Watch: Gonzalo Higuain – He’s a Higuain, which I’m pretty sure it’s Spanish for “Always scores against Toronto”.

20. LAFC - Lots of questions after Bob Bradley left to run Toronto FC. New coach Seve Cherundolo is using a “defense-first” philosophy – acquiring Maxime Crepeau, Ryan Hollingshead, and Doneil Henry to name a few. LAFC needs ensure their attack is effective, with Carlos Vela almost disappearing in 2020 & 2021 after scoring a 34 goals in 2019.

Player to Watch: Christian Arrango – He scored 14 goals in 17 matches last year. He’s good.

19. Atlanta United – Atlanta signed Dom Dwyer for 2 years. Between Dywer and Josef Martinez, they might have one good knee between them. The Ezequeil Barco experiment is over, and George Bello is now in Germany. Atlanta will compete for the last playoff spot. Also, Atlanta is on Manager #7 since 2016, so there’s that. Consistency is not this team’s strong suit.

Player to Watch: Thiago Almada – It may work, like Miguel Almiron, or it might not, like Pity Martinez and Barco.

18. Toronto FC – Will the Bob Bradley Era start off with a bang? The roster has been completely overhauled and TFC is starting the season with 10 new players. I’m not holding out a lot of hope for a great start – we’ll be waiting for reinforcements like Lorenzo Insigne in the summer to make a difference.

Player to Watch: Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty – his move to Right Back will give him more room to impress us. Let’s hope he sticks around all season to reap the benefits of the summer signings.

17. D.C. United - The loss of Paul Arriola will leave a big hole in the midfield. Hello, Ola Kamara! He tied Castellanos for the Golden Boot in 2021. Without reliable setups for Kamara, goal scoring might present an issue. Rumour has it that D.C. wants to sign 38-year-old Carlos Tevez – I would suggest they look elsewhere. Expect D.C. to battle for the final playoff spot in the East.

Player to Watch: Edison Flores – the Peruvian International midfielder has been injured a lot the past 2 seasons. Expect him to have an impact on the midfield if he stays healthy.

16. New York Red Bulls - As part of the Red Bull Empire, this team emphasizes developing young players to play in the high press system, then selling them on to bigger clubs, usually in Europe. Look at Tyler Adams and Caden Clark as an example. Enigmatically, Clark has been loaned back to New York for the season. This team will make the playoffs in the east.

Player to Watch: John [J.R.R.] Tolken - One does not simply walk into Newark . . . He’s a decent left back and can set up goals.

15. Vancouver Whitecaps – Ryan Gauld was a revelation for the Whitecaps last season. Also, the trade that brought in Brian White carried this team into the playoffs. The big question mark is in net, as Maxime Crepeau has departed for LAFC. With a bunch of offensive weapons

Player to Watch: He’s the coach, but Vanni Sartini is who I want to watch on this team:

14. Real Salt Lake – RSL was one game away from the MLS cup last year, making a bit of improbable run in the playoffs. Their leading scorer, Albert Rusnak, left to join Seattle. They’re trying to fill the void by signing Venezuelan International Sergio Cordova on Loan from FC Augsburg. Any reduction and goal production might present a problem for RSL, as they finished the year with a +1 goal differential. They’ll fight for a playoff spot in the West.

Player to Watch: David Ochoa – At 21 years old, he’s figured out how to use shithousery to his advantage. After beating Seattle in last year’s playoffs, he said, “I enjoy being the villain and I don’t think I’ll ever stop.”

13. Club de Foot Montreal - It pains me to write this, but Montreal will be a decent club this year. Wilfred Nancy had this team playing well in 2021, despite being eliminated from the playoffs by Jozy’s free kick in injury time at BMO on October 23rd. (Side note – that was Jozy’s last goal in a TFC uniform). CF Montreal has a bunch of CMNT players on their roster – including the recent addition of Alastair Johnston from Nashville. Nancy will be able to build the attack from the defense. Look for Montreal to finish Top 5 in the East.

Player to Watch: Romell Quioto – the Honduran forward will score at least 15 goals this year if he stays healthy.

Non-Serious Player to Watch: Rob Thorkelsson’s Armada featuring Herman Menderchuk.

12. Columbus Crew - After winning the 2020 MLS Cup, the 2021 campaign was a huge disappointment, as the Crew didn’t make the playoffs and finished 9th in a pretty weak Eastern Conference. They still have a decent team with the likes of Gyasi Zardes and Darlington Nagbe to score goals. One of the big questions is defense, as the team lost Milton Valenzuela, Harrison Afful, and Vito Wormgoor.

Player to Watch: Lucas Zelarayan. He scores goals, and many of them are really nice.

11. Orlando City - Say goodbye to Daryl Dike and Luís Carlos Almeida da Cunha (Nani). Dike is off to West Brom and Nani is playing for Venezia and their fabulous kits. Orlando has a good defense, and a bunch of young players in the midfield that offer more questions than answers. Orlando’s ceiling is high, and potentially finish top 3 in the East. Expect a bit of a slow start.

Player to Watch: Facundo Torres – the Urugauyan is young and fast. He may take a bit of time to adjust to MLS but watch out for him when he finds his footing. Besides, you won’t miss him in this jersey:

10. LA Galaxy - Greg Vanney is trying to recreate the Toronto FC squad from 2017, having now acquired Victor Vasquez, Raheem Edwards, and Mark(y) Delgado. Chicharito is still here, and the Galaxy added midfielder Douglas Costa from Bayern Munich. Costa will make a difference and provide great service to the strikers. LA will make the playoffs and can be dangerous to go on a run deep into the postseason.

Player to Watch: Kevin Cabral – he’ll compliment Costa nicely and will add a few goals during the season.

9. Minnesota United – This team made the playoffs but didn’t score a lot of goals last season. This team is more than the sum of its parts, without a dominant goal scorer in the squad. “General” Lod, Hunou, and Fragapane offer a balanced attack. The departure of Ozzie Alonso and Jan Gregus in the midfield might mean there will be some uncertainty. Expect Minnesota to finish 5th or 6th in the West.

Player to Watch: Emanuel Reynoso – He sets up goals and adds some himself, the stereotypical Argentinian #10.

8. Sporting KC - Quick – name three Sporting KC players (Graham Zusi doesn’t count)! KC is one of those teams that seem to be good almost without those big-name signings. That consistency is probably due to the Peter Vermes, the long time KC coach. Their DP striker, Alan Pulido, is out for the 2022 season. SKC is still looking for a #9. With a decent replacement, and reliable defense and keeper, SKC will be a playoff team in 2022.

Player to Watch: Scottish Winger Johnny Russell – he was, as we say, “Quality”. Look for more of the same this year as a winger.

7. Nashville - The move to the Western Conference means a lot more time on an airplane. That will have an effect on their on-field performance. Despite losing Alastair Johnston to CF Montreal, they still have a solid defensive core, which they play the out of the back. Expect Nashville to be competitive in the Western Conference and finish around 3rd.

Player to Watch: Hany Mukytar – He scores many goals.

6. Colorado Rapids - They sold Austin Trusty to Arsenal – huh. Kellyn Acosta went to LAFC. However, Colorado is a cohesive team under former TFC assistant Robin Fraser. They seem to score goals and win games despite their lack of big name players. Look for the Rapids to be a top 3 contender in the West.

Player to Watch: Mark Anthony-Kaye – he’s Canadian and a solid box-to-box midfielder. He sets up goals and defends.

5. Seattle Sounders – Seattle’s record, season after season, is like a Sine Wave (look it up). However, there is some consistency about this team as they tend to be in the playoffs all of the time. They added another attacker in Albert Rusnak. This team’s attacking depth is ridiculous, including Raul Ruidiaz, Jordan Morris, and Fredy Montero. The defense, however, is a bit of question mark, which leaves them out of the top spot in the West.

Player to Watch: Christian Roldan – if this whole soccer career doesn’t work out, professional wrestling is an option:

4. NYCFC – So, they won the MLS Cup last year after a luck-filled playoff run – two games that went to penalties and a game that saw a bunch of reserves play. Golden Boot winner Valentin Castellanos is still around – for now. Jesus “Funky Cold” Medina is off to Russia, Ismael Tajouri-Shradi is gone to LA, and James Sands is hungry for European experience and looking to strike while on loan to Rangers. NYCFC will have to find a way to fill these spots to compete for top spot in the East.

Player to watch: Tayvon Gray – He was on fire during the 2021 playoffs. He’s going to be a very good right back for NYCFC.

3. New England Revolution - The 2021 Supporters’ Shield winners were ousted in the playoffs on penalties. MVP Carles Gil is back for the 2022 season, looking to repeat his form. Despite Tajon Buchanan, Matt Turner (in the summer) and potentially Adam Buksa, this team is still very good. Look for New England to challenge for the top spot in the Eastern Conference again.

Player to Watch: Josmer Altidore – will his joints last on the Foxborough turf? Stay tuned . .

2. Portland Timbers – The MLS Cup finalists kept a lot of the same players, like Sebastian Blanco and Diego Chara. Diego Valeri has retired – but he was primarily a sub last season. With a good mix of veterans and young players, expect the Timbers to challenge for the Western Conference and the Supporters’ Shield.

Player to Watch: Felipe Mora – He scored 11 goals in the 2021 regular season. He has the potential to score 20+. Don’t be surprised if Mora is in the Golden Boot discussion by the end of the year.

1. Philadelphia Union – The Union was one game away from the MLS Cup last year without 11 of their players due to COVID. Philly has a good core of players returning, including a strong defense led by keeper Andre Blake. Jim Curtin is big on developing youngsters for the senior team. Although Cacper Przybylko is now in Chicago, Philadephia benefitted from Inter Miami’s fire sale by signing Julian Carranza on loan and signed Mikael Uhre as a DP from Brøndby.

Player to Watch: Paxten Aaronsen – he’s only 18 and has already turned heads. His older brother Brendan Aaronsen, is already playing for RB Salzburg. He’s poised for a strong season and a move to Europe.

This comprehensive and somewhat verbose list gives you an overview of every team and where they stand at the start of the season.

Let us know what you think in the comments.