MLS Power Rankings: DPs dictate results, and Hany Mukhtar has Nashville climbing up the order

ByRyan Rosenblatt ESPN logo
Monday, May 1, 2023

When teams break the bank for players, and hand over a coveted designated player spot, it's imperative that those players perform as expected. The MLS roster rules simply make it too hard to win consistently with underachieving DPs.

This weekend proved to be a big one for designated players. You have some of the bigger names such as Christian Benteke leading the way with a fabulous bicycle kick goal, dependable stars like Hany Mukhtar putting in another great match and then some who have struggled to find their footing, such as Evander, have their best match yet. Toss in a Cucho Hernández, who returned from injury with a goal, and it was a good week for DPs.

What did that mean for all 29 teams? Let's find out and rank 'em:

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Previous ranking: 1

The Black and Gold got a week off for the CONCACAF Champions League.

2. Seattle Sounders

Previous ranking: 2

The Sounders won't be particularly happy about leaving Salt Lake with just one point and no goals, but they did record their sixth clean sheet of the season. That's as many as they had all of last year.

3. FC Cincinnati

Previous ranking: 4

The Garys' attack is finally starting to find a little juice and, although they've been leaky of late, their defense should be fine. A draw in New England is a solid result and there's reason to believe Cincy is moving in the right direction.

4. New England Revolution

Previous ranking: 5

Gillette Stadium was rocking and the Revs were probably a little unlucky to have to settle for a draw with Cincy, but Dylan Borrero's injury could present a very big problem for New England. Fingers crossed it looked worse than it is.

5. Nashville SC

Previous ranking: 8

Score early, choke teams out defensively and get the ball to Mukhtar on the break to put the match away with counterattacks. Atlanta was the latest victim of the Nashville blueprint.

6. St. Louis City SC

Previous ranking: 3

Saturday's loss to Portland was its worst performance of the season, but it wasn't the first time we saw a team concede possession then hit St. Louis with quick, direct play. Teams are starting to adjust to City's preferred style of play and exploit weaknesses. That was bound to happen eventually and now we'll wait to see what response Bradley Carnell has.

7. Columbus Crew

Previous ranking: 6

The Crew's bad stretch continued with a loss to a skidding Miami team, but Hernández did return and score. Now it's time to regain their form.

8. Atlanta United FC

Previous ranking: 7

The Five Stripes are a good team, but they didn't look it in Nashville and they remain too dependent on striker Giorgos Giakoumakis, who was out hurt. With attacking midfield dynamo Thiago Almada likely leaving in the summer, they need to find more ways to create chances.

9. San Jose Earthquakes

Previous ranking: 9

The Quakes didn't look particularly good in Austin, but they still managed a point. That's the type of base-level competence that this team has shown all season and is setting it up to be the club's best in a decade.

10. FC Dallas

Previous ranking: 10

Go to Minnesota and take a point? Job done. That's the type of work that has Dallas rightfully fourth in the West.

11. Minnesota United

Previous ranking: 11

What do you make of the Loons? They drew Dallas, but probably should have won. They still haven't won a match at home this season, but their win in St. Louis is one of the most impressive by any team this season. They can't break down teams and Emanuel Reynoso would solve that, but the tales of trying to get him back to St. Paul get weirder by the report. Everything about MNUFC makes you think that they could rush up to the top of the league or plummet out of a playoff spot depending on how you frame it. Just a bizarre team thus far.

12. Houston Dynamo

Previous ranking: 12

The Dynamo got to take the weekend off. Hopefully, they treated themselves to some good food.

13. Vancouver Whitecaps

Previous ranking: 13

Vancouver carried the play and created chances against Colorado, as they have often this season, but they still didn't quite make it count enough and that's why they had to rely on a Yohei Takaoka penalty save to preserve the draw.

14. Orlando City

Previous ranking: 15

The plan in Orlando was for Facundo Torres, Ercan Kara and Martín Ojeda to spearhead the attack. They finally did that Saturday, and if the win over the Galaxy was a sign of what's to come, watch out.

15. Philadelphia Union

Previous ranking: 14

All eyes on the CONCACAF Champions League in Philly.

16. Toronto FC

Previous ranking: 17

C.J. Sapong won it for the Reds against NYCFC in his TFC debut. How's that for making a big first impression?

17. New York City FC

Previous ranking: 16

NYCFC had enough of the ball and moved it around just fine, but they didn't really ever get it forward in their loss to TFC. They are still winless on the road this season and they have three more away from home coming up.

18. Chicago Fire

Previous ranking: 18

Once again, the Fire finished poorly and gave away points late, this time drawing with the Red Bulls. Chicago has to petition for matches to end after 75 minutes.

19. Colorado Rapids

Previous ranking: 19

The Rapids will rue Diego Rubio's saved penalty. They nearly walked away from Vancouver with a snatched three points, but one will have to do.

20. D.C. United

Previous ranking: 20

What's a good performance in a 3-0 win that gets overshadowed by an unreal Benteke bicycle kick? A great night for D.C.

21. New York Red Bulls

Previous ranking: 21

A late equalizer and a road point is always going to send a team home happy, but RBNY's draw in Chicago still leaves them with just one win on the season and bottom of the East.

22. Portland Timbers

Previous ranking: 25

The Timbers have now put in three straight good matches and, after winning in St. Louis, have moved above the playoff line. This team is much better than the one we saw early in the season.

23. Austin FC

Previous ranking: 23

Emiliano Rigoni scored a goal! And Sebastián Driussi, too! Too bad it was only good enough for a draw with San Jose.

24. Real Salt Lake

Previous ranking: 26

RSL looked like a mess early in the season, but a scoreless draw with Seattle now gives them seven points from their past three home matches. Taking care of business at home is a good blueprint for making your way into the mid-table.

25. LA Galaxy

Previous ranking: 22

We got a look at the Galaxy minus Riqui Puig. It was as bad as the 2-0 scoreline in Orlando indicated.

26. Inter Miami CF

Previous ranking: 27

Hallelujah, a win! And not just their first points since March 4, but a solid showing against a good Crew team in front of the Inter fans who deserved a good night.

27. Charlotte FC

Previous ranking: 24

Lots of crosses with no success. Forwards unable to complete a single pass. A mess in their own box. Charlotte's thumping in D.C. was a burn-the-tape game.

28. CF Montréal

Previous ranking: 28

A comfortable away win is a good week for CFM regardless of opponent. Now they just need to figure out a way to play Sporting every week.

29. Sporting Kansas City

Previous ranking: 29

An MLS without Peter Vermes coaching Kansas City will be weird, but it seems to be creeping ever closer after Sporting were soundly beaten at home by Montréal. The fans, who have shown a lot of patience with the club through their ongoing 10-match winless streak after last season's struggles, finally broke and began chanting against their longtime manager in a match that felt like a breaking point for many.