MLS Power Rankings: Cucho Hernandez is making Columbus a problem for the rest of the league

Bale: LAFC debut felt amazing (1:37)

Gareth Bale reflects on his MLS debut after helping LAFC to a 2-1 win vs. Nashville. (1:37)

The summer transfer window is full steam ahead. Every day there's a few more players in, a few more out, and some new hot gossip.

How exactly do you make sense a league and its teams in the midst of all that? With a smile.

We saw a couple of superstars make their Major League Soccer debuts last week, with Gareth Bale and Giorgio Chiellini pulling on LAFC shirts for the first time. Federico Bernardeschi also arrived in Toronto, with a debut surely not too far off. Then you have summer signings like Cucho Hernandez, who needed all of three games to make clear that the Columbus Crew are going to be a problem with him up top. And none of that even touches on the moves yet to come.

What does that all mean for the MLS Power Rankings? Let's dive in.

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Previous ranking: 1

Next MLS match: July 23 at Sporting Kansas City, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+

Imagine being able to treat Bale and Chiellini like little cherries on top. LAFC basically get to do that, and while the superstars' debuts were a little underwhelming in Nashville, Cristian Arango was anything but. Another win, another great goal by Chicho and the Black and Gold keep humming.

2. New York City FC

Previous ranking: 3

Next MLS match: July 23 vs. Inter Miami CF, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN+

The Pigeons are kings of New York thanks to Valentin Castellanos, scoring the winner over the Red Bulls, but will he pull on an NYCFC shirt again? He wants a European move and there are reports of an imminent switch to Girona in LaLiga. Losing him would obviously be a major shakeup to the team, so they're second ... for now.

3. Austin FC

Previous ranking: 2

Next MLS match: July 24 vs. New York Red Bulls, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN+

Pulling off a Texas sweep in one week would have been sweet, but after a win over Houston and a draw against Dallas, not to mention a glance at the table, there's no doubt who the best team in the state is. There are a lot of reasons for that, but one is Brad Stuver. From journeyman to, analytically, the best goalkeeper in the league.

4. Philadelphia Union

Previous ranking: 5

Next MLS match: July 23 at Orlando City SC, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+

Top of the East and tied for the league lead in goal difference is impressive. Now imagine what Philly will look like when it starts clicking. Two more wins, against Miami and New England, Mikael Uhre making an impact again and Jim Curtain's crew looks to be building toward something special.

5. New York Red Bulls

Previous ranking: 4

Next MLS match: July 24 at Austin FC, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN

Maybe the Red Bulls were just playing 4D chess in losing to NYCFC? Drop the three points on a Castellanos winner to push the reigning MVP on to Europe, thus clearing the path to the top of the city and conference in the second half of the season. Playing the long game.

6. Real Salt Lake

Previous ranking: 6

Next MLS match: July 23 vs. FC Dallas, 10 p.m. ET, ESPN+

Justen Glad returns from injury and RSL snap their losing streak with a dominant win over Sporting KC. Amazing how that happens, isn't it?

7. FC Dallas

Previous ranking: 7

Next MLS match: July 23 at Real Salt Lake, 10 p.m. ET, ESPN+

Is Dallas the good team that keeps taking leads, or is it the iffy team that keeps blowing those leads? At some point FCD can't keep allowing late goals and settling for draws like they did again against Austin, but you generally want to bet on the team that plays well for 70-plus minutes most nights.

8. CF Montreal

Previous ranking: 8

Next MLS match: July 23 at D.C. United, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN+

It's always good to beat your rival so that was job done in topping Toronto, but most importantly for Montreal, Djordje Mihailovic returned from injury. Let's see where this team goes now.

9. Nashville SC

Previous ranking: 9

Next MLS match: July 23 at FC Cincinnati, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+

Nobody wants to drop points at home, but can you really be that mad when it's because Cristian Arango scored the absurd goal that he did? Sometimes you have to tip your hat and remember that you beat Seattle just a few days earlier.

10. Orlando City

Previous ranking: 10

Next MLS match: July 23 vs. Philadelphia Union, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+

Two more points in road games is a solid showing, but both draws last week (at Colorado and Atlanta) came from winning positions. Orlando is in the same boat as Dallas -- you love what they can do for most of the game, but they have to figure out how to finish.

11. Minnesota United

Previous ranking: 13

Next MLS match: July 23 at Houston Dynamo FC, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

Adrian Heath teams are somewhat unremarkable by design, but Emanuel Reynoso is certainly remarkable right now. He is playing as well as anyone in the league and the Loons' four points last week (a draw with SKC, a win over D.C.) stretched their unbeaten streak to five.

12. FC Cincinnati

Previous ranking: 11

Next MLS match: July 23 vs. Nashville SC, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+

The loss to the Crew will certainly sting more, but the draw with the Whitecaps earlier in the week was the bigger problem. Cincy has won just three of 10 home games this season.

13. Columbus Crew

Previous ranking: 19

Next MLS match: July 23 vs. New England Revolution, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+

Lucas Zelarayan was good enough on his own, but now you give him Cucho Hernandez? Good luck to the rest of the league. The duo has combined for five goals and five assists in their past three games and made hell entirely too real for Cincy on Sunday.

14. Colorado Rapids

Previous ranking: 21

Next MLS match: July 23 at Seattle Sounders FC, 10 p.m. ET, ESPN+

Gyasi Zardes has two goals and an assist in three games against the Galaxy since the club traded him away in 2017, and the Rapids were happy to ride the revenge wave to snap their winless streak on Saturday. Colorado is also only three points back of L.A. for the final playoff spot now.

15. Portland Timbers

Previous ranking: 18

Next MLS match: July 23 vs. San Jose Earthquakes, 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+

A draw against the Whitecaps and now the three Cascadia teams hold the eighth, ninth and tenth places in the West, because what this rivalry needed was a playoff spot on the line. Let's get wild, Cascadia.

16. Inter Miami CF

Previous ranking: 17

Next MLS match: July 23 at New York City FC, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN+

Gonzalo Higuain scored in both of Inter's matches last week, a loss to Philadelphia and a win over Charlotte, but what really stood out was the defensive work he put in to help create Miami's stoppage-time winner against Charlotte. The Industrious Higuain, as we all expected.

17. Charlotte FC

Previous ranking: 15

Next MLS match: July 23 at Toronto FC, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+

The best part of Yordy Reyna's goal in Miami wasn't that it was perfectly curled into the top corner, it's that he was running away to celebrate it as soon as it came off his foot. The audacity. Unfortunately, Charlotte couldn't make the lead hold up.

18. Seattle Sounders

Previous ranking: 14

Next MLS match: July 23 vs. Colorado Rapids, 10 p.m. ET, ESPN+

It's been 300 minutes since the Sounders scored a goal, including 1-0 defeats to Nashville and Chicago. I'm no mathematician, but that's not very good.

19. Vancouver Whitecaps

Previous ranking: 20

Next MLS match: July 23 vs. Chicago Fire FC, 10 p.m. ET, ESPN+

The Whitecaps have been dreadful away from BC Place this season, so a pair of road draws in Cincinnati and Portland is reason to celebrate.

20. New England Revolution

Previous ranking: 16

Next MLS match: July 23 at Columbus Crew, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+

Another blown lead, this time against Philly, brings the Revs' points-dropped-from-winning-positions total to 24. Twenty-four!

21. LA Galaxy

Previous ranking: 12

Next MLS match: July 24 vs. Atlanta United, 9:30 p.m. ET

The Galaxy are starting to look like, well, the Galaxy. New managers, new players, same results, but last week their losses came to two of the bottom three teams in the West in San Jose and Colorado. You don't sound the alarm in July, but maybe wave a little distress flag or something?

22. Atlanta United FC

Previous ranking: 23

Next MLS match: July 24 at LA Galaxy, 9:30 p.m. ET

Beat RSL, draw Orlando and you'd think Atlanta was starting to find some stability, but eyes were not on the pitch. They were in the boardroom, where Darren Eales no longer sits at the head of the table after leaving to run Newcastle United. Who knows what's next for the Five Stripes now?

23. Houston Dynamo

Previous ranking: 22

Next MLS match: July 23 vs. Minnesota United, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+

After beating San Jose, the Dynamo are undefeated in games that Hector Herrera starts! Small sample sizes are fun.

24. San Jose Earthquakes

Previous ranking: 25

Next MLS match: July 23 at Portland Timbers, 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+

You'd think a team playing three games in eight days would rotate, but San Jose did as little of it as possible and barely went to its bench. Can someone please get Alex Covelo some more players?

25. Chicago Fire

Previous ranking: 27

Next MLS match: July 23 at Vancouver Whitecaps, 10 p.m. ET, ESPN+

The Fire have picked up 33% of their wins this season in the past five days, beating Toronto and Seattle. Those faint noises you hear in the distance are people thinking about putting the Chicago bandwagon back together.

26. Sporting Kansas City

Previous ranking: 26

Next MLS match: July 23 vs. LAFC, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

Roger Espinoza was not in the referee's good graces and Peter Vermes was screaming from the sideline in Salt Lake, so it was kind of like the Sporting days of old. Unfortunately the soccer still doesn't resemble the old SKC, nor do the results.

27. D.C. United

Previous ranking: 28

Next MLS match: July 23 vs. CF Montreal, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN+

It doesn't take Wayne Rooney to recognize that the D.C. defense is a mess. Add absences to Ola Kamara and Taxiarchis Fountas up front and you get an expected winless week with a draw vs. Columbus and a loss in Minnesota.

28. Toronto FC

Previous ranking: 24

Next MLS match: July 23 vs. Charlotte FC, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+

The problem with TFC signing Federico Bernardeschi is there's only one of him and, after losses to Chicago and Montreal, Toronto may need three more.