With the Gold Cup winding down, MLS sides are slowly returning to full strength. Here’s how the teams stack up as the second half of the season kicks into gear and the games become more meaningful:
1. Toronto FC – A home draw against Colorado was far from TFC’s desired result, but given that they were missing Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore, and Jonathan Morrow to international duty, it’s an understandable lapse. This is still the best team in MLS when they’re at full strength.
2. NYCFC – After they missed a golden opportunity to knock off a short handed Toronto team midweek, the Baby Blues showed their grit by edging out second-place Chicago 2-1, even after going down a man in the 12th minute of play. They’ll have a chance to jump into first in the East if they can knock off TFC on the road next week.
3. Chicago Fire – The Fire will be kicking themselves for not being able to take any points from NYC while up a man for almost the whole game. They’re still a genuine Supporters’ Shield contender, but the road doesn’t get easier—a road date against the second-place team in the West, Sporting KC, awaits.
4. FC Dallas – Dallas snatched back first place in the West with a second half comeback on the road against a scrappy Montreal squad. The West is a fair deal worse than the East for the first time in years, so a team as talented as Dallas has little excuse not to hold on to the top spot.
5. Atlanta United – The expansion club is finally starting to hit its stride, as United edged out Orlando City on the road and have now won four straight league games. No one wants to see AUFC on their side of the playoff bracket.
6. Sporting Kansas City – There’s a bit of a feeling that a team as talented as SKC shouldn’t be stumbling to draws against the likes of Philadelphia and Salt Lake, yet here we are. Sporting will get a chance to retake the West once they’re full strength again, but they’ve not been playing inspiring soccer lately.
7. New York Red Bulls – Just when everyone was set to write them off, the Red Bulls are looking like a team capable of making a deep playoff run again. After defeating Minnesota 3-0, they’ve now won five straight matches.
8. Houston Dynamo – The Dynamo finally got over the hump and got themselves a road win (yes, it was against DC United, but a win is a win). Whether they can keep up that form away from home will go a long way in determining if they can make a run for the MLS Cup.
9. Vancouver Whitecaps – Very quietly, the Whitecaps have been sneaking into playoff position in the mediocre West. They’re only six points out of second place, with three games in hand.
10. Seattle Sounders – If no one else wants to step up in the West, the defending MLS champions will be happy to do so. They’re finally starting to round into form and could be a tough out come playoff time.
11. Columbus Crew – The Crew got a much-needed victory at home against the Union, ending a skid that saw them temporarily drop out of playoff position. They’ll likely be battling with Montreal for the sixth spot until the very end.
12. Montreal Impact – Getting points at home against FC Dallas would have been huge, but the Impact have been playing well lately, and have a pair of games in hand on the sixth-placed Crew.
13. San Jose Earthquakes – It’s doubtful that San Jose packs enough of an offensive punch to do any damage in the playoffs even if they got there, but hey—as it stands, they’re only a point behind the Sounders for the final playoff spot. Western Conference soccer!
14. Orlando City SC – After a blistering start to the season, City have cooled off massively and are on the outside looking in as far as the playoffs go. They’ll need to rediscover their lost form to have any shot at their first postseason berth ever.
15. Portland Timbers – Technically, the Timbers are above the cut for the playoffs as it currently stands. But does anyone have any faith in this team right now? It’s been seven league games since they last managed a win.
16. LA Galaxy – The MLS’ highest-profile team looks dead in the water right now, with a 4-3 loss to New England being the latest in a series of unfortunate events for LA. There’s too much talent on this squad for them not to make a run this season, but will it be too little, too late?
17. Philadelphia Union – The Union have been a team of runs this season. They started off 0-4-4, won four straight matches, then went winless in three matches, won two more matches, and are now winless in three. This last skid might be enough to take them out of the playoff picture.
18. New England Revolution – The Revs’ 4-3 win over LA breathed a bit of life into a season that looked entirely sunk. Still, they’re eight points off the sixth-place pace and have conceded the second-most goals in the East this season.
19. Real Salt Lake – Could it be that RSL is finally finding a rhythm? They’ve thrashed LA and held Sporting KC in their last two matches. The crazy thing? With how weak the West is, they’re not out of the playoff race if they can keep this form up.
20. Colorado Rapids – Colorado’s draw against Toronto was a feel-good moment in a season with very few, but they’ve still managed just 20 goals in 19 games. That sort of production won’t get you very far.
21. Minnesota United – The Loons were a feel-good story for a time as they shrugged off an awful start to make a mini-run at the sixth spot in the West, but their back line is too dreadful for MUFC to escape the cellar this season.
22. DC United – It’s only getting worse for DC. After blowing a 3-0 lead against the Sounders, they got run out of the stadium against Houston, conceding three goals in the game’s first 17 minutes.