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MLS Power Rankings: LAFC stay top despite Zlatan's dominating El Trafico

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Nicol: Zlatan proves he's better than Vela when it matters (1:57)

Steve Nicol says Carlos Vela's goals look good for his stats, but Zlatan delivered a win for his team when they needed him most. (1:57)

"I have a lot of respect for [Carlos] Vela," Zlatan Ibrahimovic said after scoring a hat trick and leading the Galaxy to a win over LAFC on Friday. "He's a good player but you made one mistake: You compared him with me. That was your biggest mistake. I believe in myself. People call it arrogant, I call it confidence. Ignorant people call it arrogant, intelligent people call it confidence."

Here at the Power Rankings, we also believe in ourselves. Our rankings are perfect and unimpeachable. Don't compare us to other rankings. That would be a big mistake.

Ignorant people would call it arrogance, but intelligent people know it's confidence. It's ranking time.

Previous rankings: Week 19 | Week 18 | Week 17 | Week 16 | Week 15 | Week 14 | Week 13 | Week 12 | Week 11 | Week 10 | Week 9 | Week 8 | Week 7 | Week 6 | Week 5 | Week 4 | Week 3 | Week 2 | Week 1

1. LAFC (14 wins, 4 draws, 3 losses)

Previous ranking: 1

Next MLS match: Friday vs. Atlanta (10 p.m. ET on ESPN, ESPN Deportes)

Welp. Last week, the narrative was that LAFC was an unstoppable juggernaut charging toward a double haul of trophies on the back of a record-breaking attack led by Vela. This week, the narrative is that LAFC can't win big games and might be in store for a playoff meltdown. El Trafico caused some whiplash.

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Zlatan steals the show with hat trick in El Trafico

Zlatan Ibrahimovic's dominance continued versus Carlos Vela's LAFC as his hat trick lifted LA Galaxy to a 3-2 win in El Trafico.

2. San Jose Earthquakes (10-4-7)

Previous ranking: 3

Next MLS match: Saturday vs. Colorado (10 p.m. ET on ESPN+)

The "New Almeydians" won again, picking up their fifth victory in their last six games. The stats on the Quakes' bombardment of their last two opponents, at LA and Vancouver, is stunning: 32 shots in each game for a two-game combined total of 64. The Galaxy and Whitecaps? They managed 11 shots combined.

3. Philadelphia Union (11-6-6)

Previous ranking: 2

Next MLS match: Saturday at Montreal (8 p.m. ET on ESPN+)

One thing the Union haven't really had during their run and stay at the top of the Eastern Conference is big goals from Marco Fabian. The Mexican DP scored an absolute banger in the win over Chicago on Saturday; if he can do that regularly, it could carry Philly through the balance of the season.

4. New York City FC (8-8-3)

Previous ranking: 4

Next MLS match: Friday vs. Sporting KC (7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN+)

Winning in Colorado is never easy, even when the Rapids are bad and have a man sent off. NYCFC did what was necessary to secure three road points this weekend and can still point to having several games in hand as a reason to believe that big move up the table is still in the offing.

5. Minnesota United (10-4-7)

Previous ranking: 5

Next MLS match: Saturday vs. Vancouver Whitecaps (8 p.m. ET on ESPN+)

A draw in Utah slowed the Loons down a bit, but they remain in impressive flight with a five-game unbeaten streak. Other teams in playoff contention have found the going tough at Rio Tinto and no one in MLS -- much less Minnesota United, striving for a first-ever playoff spot -- will look a road point in the mouth.

6. Atlanta United (11-3-8)

Previous ranking: 11

Next MLS match: Friday at LAFC (10 p.m. ET on ESPN, ESPN Deportes)

It was a very good week for the Five Stripes and not just because they picked up six points and pulled into second place. Sunday's win over DC United featured something rarely seen in 2019: a good game from Pity Martinez. A goal and an assist as a sub against DC might be the spark that lights the fire that changes everything.

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Pity Martinez makes his mark in Atlanta win vs. D.C.

Pity Martinez came off the bench to score a late winner and assist a brilliant Josef Martinez goal as Atlanta United beat D.C. United.

7. New England Revolution (8-6-8)

Previous ranking: 6

Next MLS match: Saturday vs. Orlando (7 p.m. ET on ESPN+)

The Revs ran through the Whitecaps 4-0 in midweek and FC Cincinnati 2-0 on Sunday, extending the post-coaching-change unbeaten run to 10 in the process. Bruce Arena himself is 5-2-0 as New England's boss, taking 17 of a possible 21 points during the stretch. Never doubt The Bruce.

8. LA Galaxy (12-1-8)

Previous ranking: 9

Next MLS match: Saturday at Portland (10:30 p.m. ET)

An admission: Your humble neighborhood power ranker fell victim to one of the classic blunders ahead of the season's first El Trafico. The most well known is "Never get involved in a land war in Asia," but only slightly less well known is "never bet against Zlatan when bragging rights are on the line."

9. Seattle Sounders (10-5-6)

Previous ranking: 7

Next MLS match: Sunday at Houston (8 p.m. ET on ESPN+)

There can't really be any takeaways from the Sounders' home loss to the Timbers. Seattle got beat, but the nature of the rivalry -- physical, ugly and stretching the definition of "soccer" -- makes it tough to draw any conclusions. A couple of misses changed the game.

10. FC Dallas (9-5-8)

Previous ranking: 8

Next MLS match: Saturday vs. Real Salt Lake (8 p.m. ET on ESPN+)

Based on what we know so far, FC Dallas figures to be fighting tooth-and-nail with a handful of other teams in the West for one of the final few playoff spots. That's why wins like this past Saturday's, on the road over Sporting Kansas City, are so important. The time of playoff six-pointers is practically here and next week's tilt against RSL will have that feel.

11. New York Red Bulls (10-4-8)

Previous ranking: 10

Next MLS match: Saturday vs. Columbus (8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN+)

The Red Bulls lost a frustrating game in Toronto in midweek and bounced back with a narrow road win over Orlando on Sunday. Amid the rumors that European clubs are eyeing Aaron Long and the continuing struggles of juggling a busy schedule, the three points in Florida feel big.

12. Portland Timbers (8-4-8)

Previous ranking: 15

Next MLS match: Saturday vs. LA Galaxy (10:30 p.m. ET)

Cascadia belongs to the Timbers. At least for now and thanks to Brian Fernandez. The Argentine rides a fine line between disruptive and irresponsible, but he also scores goals. The two Fernandez scored at CenturyLink Field to lead the Timbers to a win were his seventh and eighth goals in nine games.

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Fernandez double leads Timbers past Sounders

Brian Fernandez found the net twice to lead Portland to a 2-1 win past rival Seattle at CenturyLink Field.

13. D.C. United (9-8-6)

Previous ranking: 12

Next MLS match: Saturday at Chicago (8 p.m. ET on ESPN+)

United won in Cincinnati in midweek, but decide to give Wayne Rooney a rest in Sunday's match against Atlanta. The loss against the champs brought about an event that seemed a long time coming: the Black & Red dropping out of second place in the Eastern Conference.

14. Colorado Rapids (5-5-11)

Previous ranking: 13

Next MLS match: Saturday at San Jose (10 p.m. ET on ESPN+)

Someone hit the brakes on the Rapids after a seven-game unbeaten run that gave them a tiny bit of hope that they could salvage their season. Now winless in three (a draw in Portland was a decent result), reality has settled back in, embodied by the strange debut of teenager Sebastian Anderson, who scored a goal and received a straight red in the first 33 minutes.

15. Real Salt Lake (9-3-9)

Previous ranking: 17

Next MLS match: Saturday at FC Dallas (8 p.m. ET on ESPN+)

RSL followed an impressive win over Philadelphia last week with 1-1 draw against Minnesota this past Saturday. The vagaries of MLS -- what came easily last week was difficult this week -- hit Real Salt Lake harder than most teams. The margins are small each and every time they step on the field.

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Silva salvages point for RSL against Minnesota

Marcelo Silva forced a sharing of the spoils after finding the net late and securing a 1-1 draw for RSL against Minnesota United.

16. Montreal Impact (9-3-11)

Previous ranking: 14

Next MLS match: Saturday vs. Philadelphia (8 p.m. ET on ESPN+)

Playing patsy to the Crew is a bad look these days. Even with the Impact near the top of the Eastern Conference standings, it was hard not to think they were a poor team masquerading as a contender. Saturday's loss sent them tumbling down the standings. Don't expect them to climb back up.

17. Orlando City (7-5-10)

Previous ranking: 16

Next MLS match: Saturday at New England (7 p.m. ET on ESPN+)

The Lions ground out a road result in Portland on Wednesday, then fell to the Red Bulls back in Orlando on Sunday. The latter was just cruel: Orlando City hit the woodwork three different times while chasing the game in the second half. Orlando continues to cycle through wins, losses and draws just enough to stay mired outside of the playoffs spots.

18. Houston Dynamo (9-3-9)

Previous ranking: 18

Next MLS match: Saturday vs. Seattle (8 p.m. ET on ESPN+)

The Dynamo broke an eight-game road losing streak with a win at BMO Field thanks in part to some lineup rotation by the Reds. No one in orange will care much for the hows and whys of the victory; just getting on the right side of the ledger was crucial following a period of six losses in seven games.

19. Toronto FC (8-5-9)

Previous ranking: 20

Next MLS match: Saturday vs. FC Cincinnati (8 p.m. ET on ESPN+)

Greg Vanney's team scored an Eastern Conference win on Wednesday against New York, but dropped three points at home to the Dynamo. The Reds haven't been out of second gear all season and it's almost starting to look like they don't have a higher one to shift to.

20. Sporting Kansas City (6-7-8)

Previous ranking: 19

Next MLS match: Friday at NYCFC (7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN+)

A picture says a thousand words, like Seth Sinovic's hand-to-head moment when his pass back to Gianluca Busio missed the midfielder and ended up allowing Michael Barrios to set up Dominique Badji for FC Dallas's first goal Saturday. Most of the words said by that picture are of the four-letter variety.

21. Chicago Fire (5-8-10)

Previous ranking: 21

Next MLS match: Saturday vs. DC United (8 p.m. ET on ESPN+)

The Fire played in a sauna in Chester and fell to the Union 2-0. Dax McCarty and Nicolas Gaitan missed out, a circumstance that certainly hurt Chicago but saved the two veterans from playing in the greenhouse. Did we mention that it was really hot in Chester?

22. FC Cincinnati (5-2-15)

Previous ranking: 23

Next MLS match: Saturday at Toronto FC (8 p.m. ET on ESPN+)

Last week in this space, we gave FC Cincinnati credit for putting together its second winning streak of the year and wondered if the team could extend it to season-best three games. This week, we must sadly report that FC Cincinnati is back on a losing streak. Ouch.

23. Columbus Crew (6-3-14)

Previous ranking: 24

Next MLS match: Saturday at Red Bulls (8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN+)

An unbeaten two-game week for the Crew is something to celebrate in Columbus, with a weekend win over Montreal breaking an epic winless run. The last time Columbus won a game, bread was 89 cents a loaf and Ace of Base topped the charts. It feels like it, anyway.

24. Vancouver Whitecaps (4-8-11)

Previous ranking: 22

Next MLS match: Saturday at Minnesota (8 p.m. ET on ESPN+)

The 'Caps are still looking for answers in the middle of a tough stretch of games coming one on top of the next. Marc Dos Santos summed it up after Saturday's loss to San Jose by saying, "Right now, we're in a bad moment." Marc Dos Santos is prone to understatement.