LAFC has been the class of the league from the very start of the season. It's been months since there was a real discussion about who the best team in Major League Soccer is, but is it time to have that conversation?
It's not just that the Black and Gold have lost two in a row. It's that one came against the lowly San Jose Earthquakes and the second was Austin FC absolutely obliterating LAFC. It's that the Philadelphia Union, with a defense that ranks among the best in league history, are racking up six-goal wins. It's that Austin and CF Montreal really aren't that far back.
The playoff race is always beautiful chaos, but the top of the league is looking awfully tasty now, too.
So how do the teams stack up? Let's rank them.
Previous ranking: 1
Next MLS match: Wednesday at Houston Dynamo, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+
Following up a loss to San Jose by getting smoked in Austin is usually cause for concern, but the Black and Gold have built up enough trust in their first 25 games to look past it ... to a point. If their back line wanted to look like they had any sense of direction next game, that'd probably be a good move because if not, they'll just miss Philly, Austin and Montreal passing them by.
Previous ranking: 3
Next MLS match: Wednesday vs. Atlanta United FC, 7 p.m. ET
A 6-0 thumping of Colorado makes it four wins of at least six goals since last month. And this from a team with a historically great defense. Have mercy, Philly.
3. Austin FC
Previous ranking: 4
Consider the confidence required to look at presumptive MVP Sebastian Driussi and say, "Nah, bro. This is my free kick." And after Diego Fagundez hit that beautiful curler for Austin's first goal en route to a dominating 4-1 win over LAFC, there's no doubt that confidence is well earned.
4. CF Montreal
Previous ranking: 2
Montreal is good. We've known that. But with three more points from the Fire to its name, it's only five points back of Philly for first in the Eastern Conference and it has a match in hand. Are we still underselling just how good Montreal is?
Previous ranking: 5
The Loons would trade the three points they picked up against the Dynamo in exchange for Bakaye Dibassy to have not suffered a season-ending injury. Unfortunately, no amount of general allocation money can make that happen.
6. FC Dallas
Previous ranking: 6
Next MLS match: Saturday vs. Minnesota United, 3:30 p.m. ET
We're nearing the end of August and we still have the same question about Dallas: is this the team who mostly controls games or the team that can't string together the results to reflect the quality of its play? The draw against RSL was just like the rest.
Previous ranking: 8
Next MLS match: Wednesday at CF Montreal, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+
Hopefully everyone pitched in to get Andres Reyes something nice for taking some studs to the chest so that the Red Bulls could go a man up on Miami. It worked for another comfortable win.
Previous ranking: 7
Next MLS match: Wednesday vs. Minnesota United, 9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+
Pretty? No. Effective? Yes. A come-from-behind draw in Dallas was more of the same for an RSL team that is simply no fun to play against.
9. Nashville SC
Previous ranking: 11
Say what you want about the Whitecaps, but going to Vancouver and completely dominating is no joke. NSC may be figuring it out and that makes the West a whole lot spicier.
10. Orlando City
Previous ranking: 13
Tesho Akindele came off the bench to score the winner for the second straight week. Fresh legs and aerodynamics is a hell of a combination.
11. Toronto FC
Previous ranking: 15
12. Columbus Crew
Previous ranking: 12
As if it was possible to love Cucho Hernandez any more, he caught and pounded a beer thrown to him from the away Crew fans after their comeback draw in Cincinnati. Get this man into the playoffs, Columbus.
13. FC Cincinnati
Previous ranking: 10
A Hell is Real derby win was in their hands, until it wasn't. Cincy has to figure out how to finish games because the late equalizer it gave up to Columbus is the fourth time in its past eight games it's conceded in the last 10 minutes.
14. New York City FC
Previous ranking: 9
How many different ways can you say that NYCFC miss their MLS Cup-winning manager and reigning MVP? At least they built up enough of a cushion before the two left that they'll still get into the playoffs despite losses like on Sunday against Orlando.
15. LA Galaxy
Previous ranking: 20
Next MLS match: Wednesday at Toronto FC, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+
Beating the Revs is good and changing up the formation mostly worked. OK, we've gotten through that so now we can post a video of Riqui Puig's pass because these words are taking up time that can be spent watching that pass for the 100th and 101st and 102nd time.
16. Inter Miami CF
Previous ranking: 14
Next MLS match: Wednesday at Columbus Crew, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+
Someone needs to check Gonzalo Higuain for hiding a rocket in his boot.
Fortunately, Alejandro Pozuelo did not have a rocket in his boot when he put it through Andres Reyes' chest, got sent off and doomed Inter to a loss in New Jersey.
Previous ranking: 17
Losing to the Galaxy stings and every point matters in a playoff race, but it's hard to worry about the Revs with Gustavo Bou back on the field again, the rest of the team creeping toward fitness and a finishing schedule that will only see them play the Red Bulls, Dynamo and Fire away from home. They should be fine.
18. Portland Timbers
Previous ranking: 22
Next MLS match: Wednesday at Austin FC, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN+
Gio Savarese surprised most everyone by going three at the back against Seattle. How'd it work? Well, the Timbers only beat their rivals, clinched the Cascadia Cup and leapt ahead of both Seattle and Vancouver in the race for a playoff spot. Not a bad night of work for the boss.
Previous ranking: 18
Next MLS match: Sunday at San Jose Earthquakes, 9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+
Little about the 'Caps says "playoff team." Not their no-show at home against Nashville, not their two wins in the past 10, not the way they are so often outplayed in both boxes. But they are, against all odds, still in the playoff race. It'd be nice if they started playing like it.
20. Seattle Sounders
Previous ranking: 19
Next MLS match: Wednesday at Orlando City, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
The Sounders failed to beat the Timbers in the regular season for the first time since 1981, when Dolly Parton had just released 9 to 5, Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark was in theaters and Suriname's S.V. Transvaal were the champions of CONCACAF.
21. Charlotte FC
Previous ranking: 21
Next MLS match: Saturday at FC Cincinnati, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+
The problem with being abysmal away from home is you can't really afford even the smallest of slip-ups at home, and Charlotte slipped up with Toronto in town.
22. Colorado Rapids
Previous ranking: 16
Next MLS match: Wednesday at Nashville SC, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+
If you're going to have your playoff hopes extinguished, you might as well do it spectacularly. Losing 6-0 to Philly qualifies as spectacular.
Previous ranking: 23
Next MLS match: Wednesday at Philadelphia Union, 7 p.m. ET
So you beat D.C. Now go play away to Philly and Portland this week with your season on the line. Good luck!
Previous ranking: 24
Next MLS match: Sunday at LA Galaxy, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN+
Previous ranking: 25
Next MLS match: Sunday vs. Vancouver Whitecaps, 9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+
San Jose lost in Kansas City, keeping its road win total at one on the season. But that one away win did come against the Galaxy and those three points might still be what keeps the Quakes' California Clasico rivals out of the playoffs, which wouldn't be a bad consolation prize in a lost season.
26. Chicago Fire
Previous ranking: 26
Next MLS match: Wednesday at New England Revolution, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+
27. Houston Dynamo
Previous ranking: 27
Next MLS match: Wednesday vs. LAFC, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+
We're at the "at least it was competitive" stage of the Dynamo's season, and their loss in Minnesota was definitely competitive.
28. D.C. United
Previous ranking: 28
Next MLS match: Wednesday at New York City FC, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN+
Some D.C. fans might be upset that the Black and Red blew two different leads in a loss to Atlanta, but look on the bright side: at least they had two leads.