Patterns emerge as MLS Western Conference takes shape

We’re now over one-fourth of the way into the 2022 MLS season, with every team across the league having played either nine or ten matches. Frontrunners have taken position, mid-table sides have coasted and bottom-half competitors are struggling – however, the teams in those positions this year are not who we expected to see.

Every team across the league has played either 9, 10 or 11 matches so far this season besides the Seattle Sounders. The Sounders have only played 8 matches due to their immaculate and ground-breaking run in the Concacaf Champions League. Brian Schmetzer’s side were crowned Concacaf Champions League winners, being the first-ever MLS side to do so.

Breaking things down

  1. LAFC atop the West is no news, even without Bob Bradley at the helm. Competitive and strong, they’ve compiled a roster that can compete with any side across the league. Four goals and three assists from Carlos Vela have them flying, with Chicho Arango not far behind with two and two respectively.
  2. Austin FC sit just three points behind them in second place with 20 points and have proven to be the surprise of the season. Forward Sebastian Driussi is tied with two others for goals scored and winger Diego Fagundez leads in assists for the men in green, however, it’s not just those two players. Austin FC leads the league in assists with 28, while they sit just one goal behind LAFC on the season, with 22 scored in league play. 
Rounding out the top-8 and the rest of the playoff spots are the LA Galaxy, FC Dallas, Real Salt Lake, Minnesota United and the Houston Dynamo.
  1. LA Galaxy fullback Raheem Edwards sits tied for second in assists in the league with five. The Canadian had been one of their brightest players this season, with talisman Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez notching five goals as well.
  2.  FC Dallas forward and USMNT playmaker Jesus Ferreira has 7 goals on the season and is on the way to making his mark as one of the top young DP’s in the league, while getting his name on the flight to Qatar with the U.S. come November.
  3. RSL have only scored one goal in their last four matches, after a hot start to the season. They’ve managed one win in their last seven matches but starting the season with 10 points in their first four matches set them up for a quiet slump in form.
  4. Nashville SC are finally coming together and they just knocked off 5th place RSL 2-0. They’re on a nice run of form, managing to drop points only once in their past six matches. They’re not a goal-scoring machine, but their defensively sound and incredibly composed in the middle of the pitch. If everything comes together… watch out.
  5. In steps Minnesota United: Inconsistent, fun, chaotic and full of surprise. The Loons have dug themselves a bit of a hole following two straight losses, with both game-winners from opposition coming after the 80th minute. Playmaker Emanuel Reynoso has gone missing in games all season, but he shows up with moments of brilliance here and there. Minnesota needs consistency from their best player if they want to keep up. The looming question that remains is who wants to play striker: designated Players Adrien Hunou and Luis Amarilla are in goal-droughts while winger Robin Lod has filled in as a false-nine while the Loons figure out their striker problem.

The bottom of the table: 8-14

My biggest takeaway through the first 10 weeks is that five of the seven teams in the bottom half of the table were 2021 MLS Playoff sides. That… doesn’t feel normal. The Colorado Rapids, Portland Timbers, Sporting Kansas City, the Vancouver Whitecaps and the Seattle Sounders compile that group. 

  1. The Houston Dynamo have lost three-straight matches, and have only managed to accumulate three wins this season, however, three draws along the way have saved their form. The Houston Dynamo are the epitome of a team that may or may not be good. We genuinely do not know. Put them under the “TBD” tab.
  2. The Colorado Rapids made transfer waves acquiring USMNT striker Gyasi Zardes from the Columbus Crew. However, they are coming off a 1-0 loss to the San Jose Earthquakes, who earned just their second win of the year. Putting it blatantly: it’s a bad, bad loss. They’re just two points out from a playoff spot, but you cannot lose points to teams like the Earthquakes if you want to climb the table.
  3.  The Timbers have found the back of the net once in their past four matches, and haven’t won in five (where they were brought to the wire by the Whitecaps). The 2021 MLS Cup participants have been inconsistently fun, but the results need to start coming.
  4. The San Jose Earthquakes are the messiest club in the league right now. The Matias Almeyda saga went on far-too-long and the chemistry on the pitch just doesn’t appear to be there. However, the 1-0 win over the Rapids in week 10 was an impressive win. There might be more of that this season, but it doesn’t seem likely.
  5. Sporting has been the biggest shock so far, with Peter Vermes side struggling to compete week-in and week-out. Their last win came on April 2nd and they’ve played three straight draws in as many weeks. Something needs to change quickly if they want to stay in contention with the best in the West.
  6. The Sounders get an excuse, as their primary focus was CCL through the first fourth of the season. However, now they need to turn up. The heart of their midfield, João Paulo, suffered a season-ending injury in the CCL final and they sit 13th in the West with 7th points.
  7. As disappointing as it is to say, 2021 may have been the Cinderella season for the Whitecaps, who produced magical football over the course of the final half of the season. Through nine matches in 2022, they’ve managed just seven points, with their lone wins coming over Sporting and TFC. However, anything can happen over the final ⅔ of the season.

So, all-in-all, the Western Conference really does not care about your preseason predictions. It’s hectic, uncertain and full of inconsistent performances. However, it’s still incredibly early – nine weeks into the season and we have two clear Western Conference frontrunners, but 3rd-10th still feel up for grabs.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: