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MLS Power Rankings: LAFC, Nashville make statements of intent as Cincinnati stumbles again

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Vela gets the hat trick on opening day (1:13)

Carlos Vela shows out with a hat trick as LAFC picks up the win on opening day. (1:13)

Major League Soccer is back, and it's as unpredictable as ever. The defending MLS Cup champions suffered a heartbreaker of a 90th-minute defeat in Los Angeles, last year's Supporters' Shield winners went to Portland to prove they're no one-hit wonder, and at the bottom of the standings it's maybe not as unpredictable as the rest of the league.

With Week 1 in the books, Jeff Carlisle and Dan Hajducky look at the weekend's results and break down all 28 clubs' starts to the 2022 season -- with a handful of teams in unfamiliar positions in our order.


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1. LAFC

Next MLS match: March 6 vs. Portland Timbers, 10 p.m. ET, ESPN

As managerial debuts go, Steve Cherundolo got about all he could have asked for with a Carlos Vela hat trick, impressive midfield play and a clean sheet in a 3-0 victory. If Vela continues this level of play, with his contract expiring this summer, LAFC might have to break the bank to keep him. -- Carlisle

2. Nashville SC

Next MLS match: March 5 at Minnesota United, 6 p.m. ET, ESPN+

Nashville served notice that it will do just fine in the Western Conference following its 1-0 road win against Seattle. Eyebrows were raised in 2019 when Nashville spent $650,000 in allocation money for Anibal Godoy, but he's been worth every penny and bagged the game-winner on Sunday. -- Carlisle

3. Atlanta United FC

Next MLS match: March 5 at Colorado Rapids, 6 p.m. ET, ESPN+

A crowd of more than 67,000 filled into Mercedes-Benz Stadium to watch Atlanta, in the stadium's first-ever MLS opener, outlast 2021 Western Conference scoring leaders Sporting KC. Atlanta was outpossessed and outshot, but took advantage of its chances with Luiz Araujo, Dom Dwyer and 17-year-old Caleb Wiley all netting. (Oh, and Josef Martinez had two assists.) Atlanta looks fearsome. Again. -- Hajducky

4. LA Galaxy

Next MLS match: March 5 at Charlotte FC, 7:30 p.m. ET

Sunday's 1-0 win over NYCFC warmed Greg Vanney's heart for a few reasons. First was Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez's 90th-minute winner. Perhaps a bigger one was the shutout his side recorded. The Galaxy kept just five clean sheets during all of the 2021 regular season. -- Carlisle

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Chicharito gives the Galaxy the only goal of the match in the 90th minute

Javier Hernandez puts the Galaxy on top with a clutch goal against NYCFC.

5. Columbus Crew

Next MLS match: March 5 at San Jose Earthquakes, 5:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+

Columbus put a shellacking on Vancouver. It was 2-0 25 minutes in, and the chasm only widened, even before the Whitecaps' Jake Nerwinski saw red early in the second half. Columbus didn't concede a shot on goal but managed seven while completing almost 87% of its passes. Hard to be more impressive to start a season. -- Hajducky

6. New England Revolution

Next MLS match: March 5 vs. FC Dallas, 1:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+

The reigning Supporters' Shield winners, fresh off their historic 2021, finished level with MLS Cup runner-up Portland in an instant classic. Carles Gil is still the most dangerous creator in MLS and Sebastian Lletget found the net in his Revs debut. Earl Edwards Jr. filled in admirably for injured and Arsenal-bound Matt Turner in net, but the usually stellar New England defense had some communication issues that need sorting. -- Hajducky

7. Portland Timbers

Next MLS match: March 6 at LAFC, 10 p.m. ET, ESPN2

Yimmi Chara might have wrapped up Goal of the Year in the season's first week thanks to a bicycle kick equalizer in Portland's 2-2 draw with New England. The goal helped distract from -- if only for a moment -- the Timbers' fans' continued ire at the club's handling of the domestic violence allegations against Andy Polo. -- Carlisle

8. New York Red Bulls

Next MLS match: March 5 at Toronto FC, 2 p.m. ET; ESPN+

The Red Bulls certainly took advantage of their chances: three goals off counters. They were massively outpossessed and completed only 57% of their passes, but bruising defense (25 clearances and 22 fouls committed) set the tone. It's a tough few weeks for New York; after Toronto, it has Minnesota, Columbus and New England, respectively. If the Red Bulls emerge successful, they'll be high up these rankings for some time. -- Hajducky

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Tom Barlow pads RBNY lead with goal in 92nd minute

Tom Barlow pads RBNY lead with goal in 92nd minute

9. Orlando City

Next MLS match: March 5 at Chicago Fire, 6 p.m. ET, ESPN+

Orlando City came out the other side of a boxing match with Montreal, both sides down to 10 by the 90th minute. It was the type of grit the Lions could've used more of last November against Nashville in the postseason, but it was a character-building victory to start 2022. -- Hajducky

10. D.C. United

Next MLS match: March 5 at FC Cincinnati, 6 p.m., ESPN+

Early on, it looked like Charlotte had a dream start to its inaugural season. Its mad scramble of a goal less than 20 minutes in was waved off, and it was all D.C. United fortune from there: a controversial PK, a massive deflection on a shot from distance -- both from Michael Estrada -- and a cross parried off Ola Kamara's back. Football can be cruel, but you won't hear D.C. complaining. -- Hajducky

11. Minnesota United

Next MLS match: March 5 vs. Nashville SC, 6 p.m. ET, ESPN+

The Loons hung tough in their season opener, and did well to secure a road draw against the Union, despite missing a trio of starters. For all the talk of DP strikers, Robin Lod's finishing remains impressive. He bagged Minnesota's first goal of the season in a 1-1 draw. -- Carlisle

12. Philadelphia Union

Next MLS match: March 5 at CF Montreal, 4 p.m. ET, ESPN+

The Union squeaked out a point at home, where they only tied three times the entirety of 2021. Minnesota (midfielder Emanuel Reynoso, particularly) looked dangerous in attack and on the road -- both areas they struggled with last season -- but Philly, as it does often, weathered the storm. Philadelphia plays Montreal and San Jose next, looking (and favored) to take full points from each. -- Hajducky

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Philadelphia, Minnesota draw to open MLS campaign

Robin Lod's opening goal is canceled out by Cory Burke's header to split the points between Philadelphia and Minnesota.

13. Austin FC

Next MLS match: March 6 vs. Inter Miami, 4 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN Deportes

Austin won't be able to play a pushover like FC Cincinnati every week, but you still have to beat such teams, and the Verde and Black did their part in a 5-0 thumping. With a year under its belt, an attack featuring Sebastian Driussi, Cecilio Dominguez and Diego Fagundez looks set to do some damage. -- Carlisle

14. New York City FC

Next MLS match: March 5 at Vancouver Whitecaps, 6 p.m. ET; ESPN+

Rarely does an opening-day loss feel positive, but NYCFC were undone by a 90th-minute feat of individual brilliance, courtesy of Chicharito. The reigning MLS Cup champs didn't look quite as dynamic or sharp in attack, but they'll rebound just fine. -- Hajducky

15. Toronto FC

Next MLS match: March 5 vs. New York Red Bulls, 2 p.m. ET ESPN+

The Bob Bradley era has begun in Toronto, not quite as resoundingly as hoped, but after taking only 28 points in 2021 (an average of 0.82 per match), any and all points are welcomed -- especially on the road, a particular point of contention for the Reds a year ago. If their success in the final third (75.1% pass completion) could yield more chances (one shot on target), Toronto could rise quickly. -- Hajducky

16. FC Dallas

Next MLS match: March 5 at New England Revolution, 1:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+

If only Jesus Ferreira's goal had been allowed to stand. Instead of going 2-0 up on Toronto, Dallas' lead stayed at one (rightly so, it should be pointed out) thanks to VAR, and Nico Estevez's side couldn't make it stand up in a 1-1 draw. -- Carlisle

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FC Dallas vs. Toronto FC - Game Highlights

Watch the Game Highlights from FC Dallas vs. Toronto FC, 02/26/2022

17. Seattle Sounders

Next MLS match:March 5 at Real Salt Lake, 6 p.m. ET

The Sounders were part of a CONCACAF Champions League "oh-for" last weekend, as all four MLS sides in the CCL lost. But Seattle was the only one to lose at home -- this after hosting the second leg against Honduran side Motagua -- so that isn't as much of an excuse as you might think. The Sounders will be fine, but it will take some time for their new players to gel. -- Carlisle

18. Chicago Fire

Next MLS match: March 5 vs. Orlando City, 6 p.m. ET, ESPN+

There was concern about Chicago's defense headed into 2022, so keeping Phil Neville's boys (notably Gonzalo Higuain) off the board will feel like a victory. But with the Fire's retooled attack, including former Bayern Munich and Liverpool man Xherdan Shaqiri, a handful of goals to start would've been a clarion call for the Fire faithful. -- Hajducky

19. Inter Miami CF

Next MLS match: March 6 at Austin FC, 4 p.m. ET, ESPN

David Beckham's Inter Miami need to take a huge step forward in 2022, and Saturday wasn't it. Only three shots on goal and little more than 40% possession. Neville will want more from his talented (and expensive) squad. -- Hajducky

20. Real Salt Lake

Next MLS match: March 5 vs. Seattle Sounders, 6 p.m. ET, ESPN2

Expectations are low for RSL in the early going, especially after losing Albert Rusnak to free agency. Sunday's 0-0 road draw with Houston will definitely count as a point gained for Pablo Mastroeni's side. -- Carlisle

21. Houston Dynamo

Next MLS match: March 5 at Sporting Kansas City, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+

Putting fans to sleep is not what the new management team promised, but that's essentially what took place in Houston's home-opening 0-0 draw against RSL. Yes, it's early and help could be on the way, but as first impressions go, not great. -- Carlisle

22. Colorado Rapids

Next MLS match: March 5 vs. Atlanta United, 6 p.m. ET, ESPN+

Did the Rapids overachieve last season? Are they suffering from a CONCACAF Champions League hangover? Or did they just run into a buzzsaw in Carlos Vela? It could be all of the above as Colorado looked second-best in all respects in losing 3-0 to LAFC. -- Carlisle

23. Sporting Kansas City

Next MLS match: March 5 vs. Houston Dynamo, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+

SKC looked vulnerable in transition and were duly punished in a 3-1 loss to Atlanta. Granted, Peter Vermes' side won't go down two goals every week, but the midfield in particular looks like it needs some reinforcements. -- Carlisle

24. CF Montreal

Next MLS match: March 5 vs. Philadelphia Union, 4 p.m. ET, ESPN+

Montreal completed an astounding 90% of its passes, including an amazing 80.8% in the final third, and still not much went right for it offensively. Five of eight shots were off target, and none of Montreal's 15 crosses were completed. For Djordje Mihailovic (16 assists in 2021, second in MLS) & Co., it'll have to improve ... and fast. -- Hajducky

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Orlando downs Montreal in fiery MLS encounter

Two red cards are shown as Orlando City defeats CF Montreal 2-0 on the opening weekend of MLS.

25. San Jose Earthquakes

Next MLS match: March 5 vs. Columbus Crew, 5:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+

Matias Almeyda is officially in the "throw stuff at the wall and see if it works" phase of his tenure, trotting out a three-back formation with Jackson Yueill as a center-back. But no amount of clever tactics is enough to overcome turnovers in midfield, which plagued the Quakes in a 3-1 loss to the Red Bulls. -- Carlisle

26. Vancouver Whitecaps

Next MLS match: March 5 vs. New York City FC, 6 p.m. ET, ESPN+

This one was over early, and not in a good way for the Caps. Vancouver's defense, especially on the right side, looked lost for much of the match, and Nerwinski's 52nd-minute ejection turned the game into a 4-0 runaway for the Crew. -- Carlisle

27. Charlotte FC

Next MLS match: March 5 vs. LA Galaxy, 7:30 p.m. ET

Anyone who watched could attest: This easily could've gone the other way. Charlotte conceded a trio of comically unlucky goals, including a controversial handball PK after having the first goal in franchise history overturned by VAR. Unfortunately, it looks like that bad luck may continue; in succession, Charlotte's upcoming opponents are Douglas Costa and the LA Galaxy, a revived Atlanta United and the record-setting New England Revolution. -- Hajducky

28. FC Cincinnati

Next MLS match: March 5 vs. D.C. United, 6 p.m. ET, ESPN+

FC Cincinnati head coach Pat Noonan didn't get a debut for the ages. Austin, which scored a league-worst 35 goals in 2021, poured five past his Orange and Blue. Cincy is one of two MLS clubs with multiple seasons of 70-plus goals allowed and seem to be angling for a third. -- Hajducky