We just passed the July 4th weekend and that unofficially means the 2016 MLS regular season is half complete. Because of the uneven schedule, most teams have played more than 17 of their 34 games while some have played as low as 15. But we are literally 17 weeks into this 34 week schedule so it’s an appropriate time to grade each team is as they go into the second half of the season. Starting with the Eastern Conference
1) New York City FC – 27 points – A
Despite a rather embarrassing 7-0 defeat from rival New York Red Bulls in May, NYCFC seemed to get it back and are 10 points shy of matching their full season total in their inaugural season last year. While Frank Lampard and Andrea Pirlo have looked old and inconsistent, it’s made up by Tommy McNamara, Jack Harrison and the great form of DP David Villa. Winning the conference may be a double edged sword for the playoffs since they struggle at home but I’m sure NYCFC would welcome that problem given their issues last season.
2) Philadelphia Union – 26 points – A+
Sacking Nick Sakiewicz as CEO and hiring Earnie Stewart as Sporting Director seems to be the final piece of the puzzle that causes the Union to finally become a contender. Picking up players like Chris Pontius, Roland Alberg as well as Josh Yaro and Keegan Rosenberry in the SuperDraft and this is a new look Union team. This is a team that can win a title.
3) Montreal Impact – 24 points – A-
While the attention has been paid on Didier Drogba, it’s Ignacio Piatti who has been the best player of the Impact this season. Scoring 10 goals and situated 2nd in goals scored, Piatti has taken the bulk of the goals since Drogba has had an injury issue as well as artificial turf issues.
4) New York Red Bulls – 23 points – B
The Red Bulls have been rather inconsistent this season. After being shut out in five of their first six games, the Red Bulls then went on to score 17 goals in their next seven games. The Red Bulls at one stretch won four straight games but they are currently winless in their last four, including a 2-0 loss to NYCFC. They may not be able to repeat their Supporters Shield win but should have a good shot at the playoffs.
5) D.C. United – 21 points – B
Now that Bill Hamid is back, D.C. United should be able to concede fewer goals and consolidate points. On the other end of the roster, United has a plethora of players contributing for goals. Alvaro Saborio, Fabian Espindola, Patrick Nyarko and Lamar Neagle are all with three and four goals, leading the team.
6) Toronto FC – 20 points – C
I don’t know what to think about Toronto. With an eight game road trip to start the season, I would have thought Toronto FC would struggle. Instead, Toronto finished 3-2-3 and a respectable 11 points. But now that they’re at BMO Field, the have been 2-3-3 since with all but two of those games at home.
7) Orlando City SC – 20 points – C+
You could potentially argue that Orlando needs a bit of time to improve, since it’s only their second season. But NYCFC is in a similar situation and they are leading the Eastern Conference so that doesn’t work. Orlando is high scoring but their defense has allowed 29 goals. Defending definitely needs to improve if Orlando wants to make a run.
8) New England Revolution – 19 points – C-
New England has had a recent history of bad runs in the middle of a season. Now that they have Kei Kamara, New England has the pieces and they have the time (for now) to mount a challenge this year. They have proven to make the MLS Cup Final in a season where they didn’t win in almost two months. They may just be playing possum on everyone else in MLS.
9) Columbus Crew SC – 16 points – D
Columbus has had a rather rough go of it since losing the MLS Cup Final. A very public rift between Federico Higuain and Kei Kamara resulted in Kamara being traded to New England and Higuain unrelatedly getting injured. But the move also prompted Ola Kamara to be a starter and he’s scored seven goals since the end of May. So maybe this has worked out for them.
10) Chicago Fire – 14 points – F
There doesn’t seem to be any motivation to improve within the Chicago Fire and they seem destined to stay on the bottom for years to come. Sean Johnson is a great young goalkeeper while David Accam and Kennedy Igbonananike show promise but they overall aren’t good enough.