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While we’re well past the midway point of the 2022 Major League Soccer regular season, the All-Star break (watch LIVE on ESPN, Wednesday 8:30 pm ET) affords us the perfect opportunity to evaluate whether or not the 28 clubs are living up to expectations. While the league’s best will be lapping up the adoration in Minneapolis this week, taking on the All-Stars from Liga MX, we’re shining a light on the performance of every team — good and bad.
The campaign to this point has been full of surprises. Some good, some less so. So which clubs have been revelations and who’s shocked us with their subpar play?
ESPN asked Jeff Carlisle, Kyle Bonagura, Dan Hajducky, Danny Guerra and Austin Lindberg to think back to the start of the year, consider each team’s expectations, and deliver a mid-term letter grade for all 28 sides.
Standing: 12th in East, 28 points
It’s a bummer that a thriller win over Seattle on Saturday, just Atlanta’s second in nine matches, keeps them mired in the East’s lower tier. (Admittedly, they’ve played two fewer matches than several other teams, but the point remains.) Ever since the 2018 MLS Cup title lift, it’s been a struggle for the Five Stripes. In the club’s history — and in full, non-COVID seasons — they’ve never finished below fifth in the conference. That could change this year.
Atlanta are also one of only three MLS teams without a win when conceding first; 22 of their 28 total points have come from games win which they’ve opened the scoring. The scoring (not to mention a baffling stretch of bad injury luck) is the issue. Over Atlanta’s first three seasons — ’17, ’18 and ’19 — they averaged 1.94 goals a game; since 2021, they’re averaging 1.33. — Hajducky
Standing: 2nd in West, 45 points
Year 2 into the Los Verdes project and it’s safe to say the Texas side has progressed very well. Josh Wolff’s crew has the MVP frontrunner and current Golden Boot leader in Sebastian Driussi (16 goals) and look primed to host at least one match come playoff time. To say that Austin have an entertaining offense would be an understatement: 50 goals and 56 assists, both tops in MLS. But they allow many for being an elite side (30) when compared to fellow title challengers such as LAFC (24), NYCFC (18), and Philadelphia (18). — Guerra
Standing: 11th in East, 29 points
No team in the Eastern Conference has won more games at home (eight) than Charlotte. Considering how important it is to make a strong first impression on the home fans in Year 1, that’s a massive achievement. At the same time, that home success makes where Charlotte sits in the standings underwhelming. The club is in 11th place and only two teams — Toronto and D.C. — have fewer points per game in the conference, which is tightly bunched (only four points separate fifth-place Columbus and Charlotte).
If Charlotte can solve its road issues, a playoff spot is obtainable, which would be a fantastic in a debut season. — Bonagura
Standing: 7th in East, 30 points
On June 1, Chicago were tied for the fewest goals scored, fewest points and the third-worst goal differential in MLS. Since, Chicago have improved (10th in goals scored, third in points, sixth in goal differential). Club-record signing Xherdan Shaqiri is tied for fourth in MLS in assists with 10 and 13 different Chicago players have scored. For a team that was held scoreless in 14 of 34 league matches in 2021, that’s a really promising truth.
They’ve turned the corner from a rough start and could be dangerous down the stretch, especially if keeper and new Chelsea signing Gabriel Slonina finds consistency. If they hadn’t been so milquetoast early on, they’d grade a whole lot higher. Now in the playoff chase, it’s been a startling about-face. — Hajducky
Standing: 9th in East, 29 points
Yes, after three seasons of finishing with the league’s worst record, FCC are being graded on a curve. And why not? Brandon Vazquez has been fantastic up top with 13 goals, with Brenner showing signs of heating up as well. Luciano Acosta has reprised the form from his D.C. United days with 11 assists.
Defensively, Cincinnati still needs lots of help — only D.C. and San Jose have conceded more — but with Matt Miazga now onboard, FCC may yet sneak into the playoffs. That would far exceed the expectations the team and its fans had heading into the season. — Carlisle
Standing: 10th in West, 30 points
The top seed in the West last season after a late string of strong performances, this year’s squad had a tough act to follow. The Rapids had key departures (Kellyn Acosta, Auston Trusty, Mark-Anthony Kaye), but Gyasi Zardes (six goals) and Diego Rubio (11 goals) have formed a great tandem up front. They scored nine goals in their two wins before the break, but gave up seven. And despite a six-game winless streak earlier this season, Robin Fraser’s team is firmly in the hunt for a playoff spot. Can they once again finish strong? — Guerra
Standing: 5th in East, 33 points
Columbus posted one win from March 13 to May 27 in league play. Since then, they’ve only lost once. The 2020 MLS Cup winners were a bottom half squad for a spell, but they’ve found their way into the top five in the East and just knocked off NYCFC. Cucho Hernandez has been a revelation (five goals) since signing from Watford in June for a reported club-record fee of $10 million.
It was looking grim for a bit, but the Crew are in the thick of the playoff race despite offloading Gyasi Zardes to Colorado — one of only three players in Crew history to net 60-plus goals — in late April. — Hajducky
Standing: 14th in East, 21 points
This was supposed to be the year D.C. established itself as a playoff contender. Then it traded Paul Arriola to Dallas, transferred Edison Flores to Atlas in Mexico and shocked Julian Gressel by dealing him to Vancouver. Oh, and amid all that, the club fired coach Hernan Losada. This is Wayne Rooney’s team now, and while his touchline presence inspired his side to a a rousing stoppage-time comeback win over Orlando on the manager’s debut from the dugout, the subsequent blanking by Charlotte confirms that this is in all probability a lost season for United. — Lindberg
Standing: 3rd in West, 36 points
FCD appears rejuvenated ($20 million in the bank after Ricardo Pepi‘s transfer helps) and are a bonafide playoff team under first-year coach Nico Estevez. The front office has backed him up by signing Argentine playmaker Alan Velasco, acquiring Paul Arriola in a league GAM-record deal, and recently trading for Sebastian Lletget. Not to mention already having Jesus Fereira, who has 12 goals and is in the hunt for the Golden Boot.
However, the team has struggled a bit after starting strong. One loss in 11 games to start the season, they now just won three in their last 14. But the talent and team identity is there to keep the buzz growing in Frisco. — Guerra
Standing: 12th in West, 25 points
Expectations entering the season were low and they’ve stayed there, even with the arrival of Mexico international Hector Herrera. Granted, it’s still the first year of Pat Onstad’s reign as GM and Paulo Nagamura’s tenure as manager, but there’s been little in the way of discernable progress. DP signing Sebastian Ferreira has delivered seven goals, but he needs consistent service to be even more effective.
Is newly acquired winger Nelson Quinones the answer? It seems a heavy burden to lay on a 19-year-old, although his one-on-one ability should help. But it reveals the extent to which the Dynamo are still very much a work in progress. — Carlisle
Standing: 9th in East, 30 points
More important than anything Inter Miami accomplished on the field in the first half of the season was the green light from the city for its new stadium. Miami Freedom Park can give the club a chance to grow into the type of club that can attract better talent and build a fanbase in a way playing in Fort Lauderdale wouldn’t have allowed. On the field … eh. Miami is right on the playoff bubble, but has the second-worst goal differential in the Eastern Conference.
This is not a good team and a playoff berth would be a surprise. — Bonagura
Standing: 1st in West, 48 points
After missing the playoffs last year, and with a new manager in Steve Cherundolo coming on board, plus a significantly retooled roster, expectations were rather modest around Banc of California Stadium, but LAFC have blown those sentiments out of the water. This year’s edition of the Black and Gold is everything last year’s wasn’t: consistent and defensively sound. Combined with a balanced attack and a healthier Carlos Vela, LAFC have been the class of MLS. And it hasn’t been just stars getting it done. Ilie Sanchez and Jose Cifuentes have been stellar in midfield.
Standing: 9th in West, 30 points
It wasn’t too long ago when the Galaxy was the premier franchise in MLS. Now, after missing the playoffs in four of the last five seasons, it has transformed into an also-ran that needs a top-down restructure in order to tap into the potential that exists from simply being in Los Angeles. What makes the Galaxy’s extended run of irrelevance even more concerning is that during the same time, across town, LAFC has sprouted and grown into the most enviable team in North America. Ricard Puig‘s arrival from Barcelona is an interesting signing and the playoffs are still in play, but it’s hard to see this playing out as anything other than another forgettable season. — Bonagura
Standing: 4th in West, 35 points
Firmly in the middle of the playoff pack in the Western Conference, Minnesota has to feel good about its first half of the season. Only LAFC and Austin have averaged more points per game than the Loons (1.46), which are looking to qualify for the playoffs for the fourth straight year after missing out in their first two seasons.
Emanuel Reynoso remains the key to what Minnesota does in attack but Luis Amarilla has been productive (8 goals) and attacker Mender Garcia joined as the third Designated Player to provide a boost down the stretch. — Bonagura
Standing: 3rd in East, 39 points
Montreal was another team that had low expectations heading into the season, mostly because it didn’t do a whole lot to reinforce its roster. But the Quebecois have been hovering near the top of the Eastern Conference all season, with manager Wilfried Nancy squeezing the most out of his modest roster. It has certainly helped that Djordje Mihailovic has been in stellar form — when not injured — and Victor Wanyama has been a force in midfield. Romell Quioto‘s nine goals have provided some punch up front.
So now the big question: Can Montreal keep it up? Nine of its last 12 games are against teams outside the playoff places, so the schedule is somewhat forgiving, but health, as it so often does, will play a key role. — Carlisle
Standing: 6th in West, 33 points
What Nashville really needed for 2022 to be a success was to weather the storm of the first two months of the season. After kicking off the campaign with an eight-game road trip, GEODIS Park would open and NSC would have a home-heavy schedule — they were unbeaten in the Tennessee capital in 2021 — the rest of the way, clearing a path for a run at the top of the Western Conference. Instead, Nashville has won just four of eleven matches at its sparkling new stadium, and a road-heavy route to MLS Cup now looms. — Lindberg
Standing: 11th in East, 27 points
To try to build on the record-setting Supporters’ Shield campaign of 2021 was always going to be a tall order, but even with that context in mind, this season has been an utter failure for the Revs. Bruce Arena recruited veterans of the U.S. men’s national team in Sebastian Lletget, Jozy Altidore and Omar Gonzalez. Lletget’s now in Dallas, Altidore is with Puebla in Mexico and Gonzalez hasn’t seen the field since June 12.
The losses of Matt Turner to Arsenal and Adam Buksa to Lens are indeed gut punches, but they were also extremely predictable, and New England’s inability to offset their losses has resulted in arguably the most disappointing season of any MLS team. — Lindberg
Standing: 2nd in East, 42 points
Losing 23-year-old Valentin Castellanos to newly-promoted LaLiga side (and City Football Group sister club) Girona hurts. No MLS player has scored more goals (29 in 36 league games) or posted a higher shooting goals added total (4.02; second-place Daniel Gazdag of Philadelphia has 3.02) over the last twelve months. While 2021 Golden Boot winner absconds on a one-year loan to Spain, the reigning MLS Cup champs haven’t lost since June 26 and have coped well with Castellanos’ departure.
NYCFC have displayed trademark consistency and efficiency halfway through 2022 despite the loss of Castellanos and the offseason loan of James Sands to Scottish side Rangers. NYCFC is ruthless at home — 8-3-1, 27 points, second best home record in MLS — and rarely squander a lead (9 wins from 10 when ahead at the half, second-most). They also came a heartbeat away from the CONCACAF Champions League final. Carry on, Bronx Blues. — Hajducky
Standing: 4th in East, 36 points
Eyebrows were raised with the Red Bulls sent $1.2m in allocation money to Miami for Lewis Morgan, after a 2021 season that saw him contribute just two goals and four assists in more than 2,800 minutes of action, but he’s been worth every penny. No one in the team can better his nine goals, and he’s second in assists with four, proving himself to be a clinical finisher in what is surely the most dangerous counterattack in MLS. What is a concern, though, is the once-stout defense: New York has conceded 13 goals in its past three competitive matches, and its mark of 30 goals against is fourth worst among clubs in playoff positions. — Lindberg
Standing: 5th in East, 30 points
The Lions seemed poised to push on to greater heights after breaking their transfer record in the offseason with the signing of forward Facundo Torres for $7.5m, possibly rising to $9m. And yet Orlando has been kind of meh this season, especially with an attack that is firmly in the bottom half of the league with 27 goals. Sure, it’s in fifth place in the East, but just three points above ninth-place Chicago.
Perhaps the arrivals of U.S. men’s national team forward Nicholas Gioacchini and Ivan Angulo from Corinthians can bolster the offense, but Orlando needs some kind of spark to avoid getting dragged into the playoff line chaos. — Carlisle
Standing: 1st in East, 45 points
The Union has the fewest losses of any team in MLS (three), sits atop the Eastern Conference standings and is tied for second in the Supporters’ Shield race. They did all that despite letting four players — Paxten Aaronson, Jack McGlynn, Brandan Craig and Quinn Sullivan — leave to help the United States U-20s win the CONCACAF U-20 Championship, qualifying for the Olympics in the process.
Let’s be clear: this is the model MLS club at the moment. Daniel Gazdag (11 goals), Julian Carranza (8) and Mikkel Uhre (8) are the only trio of teammates in MLS with at least eight goals apiece. With Valentin Castellanos’ departure from NYCFC, the Union should be the heavy favorites to stay on top in the East. — Bonagura
Standing: 7th in West, 33 points
Are the Timbers going to stalemate their way into the playoffs? With a league-leading 12 draws, Portland have found every which way to settle for one point. A 4-4 tie with the fastest goal scored in team history? Check. A 1-1 result that saw a stoppage-time PK and own-goal? That as well.
Overall, last season’s MLS Cup runner-up have straightened the ship after the expected early season struggles (currently riding a 10-game unbeaten streak). But Portland is going to rue all these dropped points if it costs them playoff positioning or even an actual berth. — Guerra
Standing: 5th in West, 34 points
After RSL’s odyssey from 7th place in the West to conference finals in 2021 MLS Cup playoffs, it was anyone’s guess what would happen in 2022. Would they regress with new ownership? Would Pablo Mastroeni get as much out of his men out from under the interim head coaching tag? Would Damir Kreilach parlay his 2021 form into another stellar campaign?
No, for the most part, and (Kreilach has been devastated by injury) no. Salt Lake are one of the league’s best home clubs (7-1-3) but wield a pedestrian offense. They lack a consistent goalscorer and struggle finding the net; Jefferson Savarino, who signed from Brazil’s Atletico Mineiro in May, is their leading goalscorer with five of Salt Lake’s thirty total goals … in nine matches. But they’re defensively stingy: They’re one of only eight MLS teams with less than 30 goals allowed, not to mention one of five teams yet to lose after taking a lead. They’re positioned to grit and grind. — Hajducky
Standing: 13th in West, 24 points
A dividing line can easily be drawn between the team with former manager Matias Almeyda and without. With him they were 0-4-3. Following his April 16 firing they’ve gone 5-6-6. Better, but not quite good enough to really haul the Quakes back toward the playoff places. It’s a team with some dangerous attacking pieces, be it Jeremy Ebobisse up top with 12 goals, Cristian Espinoza out wide and Jamiro Monteiro in midfield, but defensively this team is still a disaster. There’s also the question of who the full-time manager will be. At this point, San Jose looks to be writing off the 2022 season, forging ahead with interim Alex Covelo for this campaign and then getting behind the new coach for 2023. — Carlisle
Standing: 7th in West, 32 points
How do you give the only team in MLS to win the CONCACAF Champions League — in its current guise — an unremarkable B- grade? Lifting that silverware was a high-water mark not only for the Sounders but for all of MLS. Domestically, though, 2022 has been underwhelming for the league’s model club. Injuries have certainly played a part in that: star midfielder Joao Paulo was ruled out for the season in May after tearing his ACL, while Raul Ruidiaz has missed 13 games with a series of muscle ailments. There’s really no replacing someone of Paulo’s ilk, but Seattle’s tremendous depth has allowed it to remain in playoff contention despite challenges that would sink most teams’ seasons. — Lindberg
Standing: 14th in West, 23 points
A team has to finish last in the standings (it won’t be Cincinnati this time), and the dubious Wooden Spoon will likely be heading to the Cauldron. An injury-riddled, snake-bit season that started with DP duo Alan Pulido and Gadi Kinda ruled out with knee surgeries hasn’t gotten any better. There has been the league-worst 23 goals scored, the epic U.S. Open Cup semifinal loss to Sacramento Republic (granted, the third MLS team that fell to the USL side), and uncertainty over Daniel Salloi‘s contract. Peter Vermes and Co. appear to heading toward a major roster overhaul this offseason. — Guerra
Standing: 13th in East, 23 points
Toronto is a team that needs to be graded individually on multiple different criteria. The season, on the pitch, up to a week or two ago? An F. The front-office maneuvering all year to sign Lorenzo Insigne, Federico Bernardeschi and Mark-Anthony Kaye? An A+. The Reds have been enormously disappointing this season, but with those three big-name additions (plus Domenico Criscito, who may not get the pulse racing but brings significant experience and stability to a back line that’s conceded the fifth-most goals in MLS) there is the potential for an engrossing comeback story in the campaign’s closing two months. — Lindberg
Standing: 11th in West, 30 points
Vancouver’s current campaign can be deemed a success after beating Toronto in the Canadian Cup final and booking a coveted CONCACAF Champions League spot. But as for the MLS side of things, its shaping up to be a disappointment after last season’s playoff appearance. Vanni Sartini’s side recently acquired coveted wingback Julian Gressel, but 27 goals (only Kansas City has fewer) won’t cut for a team that has a solid stable of midfielders and forwards. Lucas Cavallini (eight goals) and Brian White (six goals) should benefit from Gressel’s service, and perhaps push Vancouver into the playoff fold. — Guerra