Grading all 20 MLS clubs through the first three months of 2016 season
With Major League Soccer set to go on a two-week hiatus as the Copa America kicks off, ESPN FC asked Graham Parker to evaluate all 20 clubs and the players who've been instrumental to their success through the first three months of the 2016 season.
Chicago Fire | 11 points | 10th in Eastern Conference | D-minus
Lost a wild opening-day home game to New York City FC and have spent the weeks since making sure they're hard to beat rather than looking like they're trying to win. Too many draws and they're adrift again.
Key player: David Accam
Colorado Rapids | 28 points | First in Western Conference | A-minus
The surprise package of the year, Colorado works a simple recipe of keeping games tight, lulling opponents to overcommit and then scoring late. By the time everyone took the Rapids seriously, they'd crept to the top of the Supporters' Shield standings and grown in confidence.
Key player: Jermaine Jones
Columbus Crew SC | 14 points | Ninth in Eastern Conference | C-minus
Beginning to stabilize after an awful start that culminated in the bizarre sight of Kei Kamara and Federico Higuain falling out publicly over who should take a penalty. Kamara was shipped to New England, Columbus began to vary its attack and results have slowly improved. Long way back to last season's heights, though.
Key player: Federico Higuain
FC Dallas | 27 points | Second in Western Conference | B-minus
A traditionally strong start, interspersed with their traditional habit of providing bizarre results, such as a 5-0 defeat to Houston Dynamo and a 4-0 loss to a then-slumping New York Red Bulls. This was meant to be Dallas' year, but while the club is in a decent position, consistency is still a problem.
Key player: Fabian Castillo
D.C. United | 16 points | Fifth in Eastern Conference | C-minus
A couple of nice results going into the break have belied the expectations around an aging side being hit by injuries. No doubting D.C.'s spirit again this year, but United are yet to truly go on a run.
Key player: Marcelo Sarvas
Houston Dynamo | 12 points | 10th in Western Conference | D
Burst out of the gates with goals galore but fizzled quickly as the defense struggled. Manager Owen Coyle's second year soon looked no more likely to end in the playoffs than the first, and now he's gone and the Dynamo are in limbo.
Key player: Will Bruin
LA Galaxy | 20 points | Fifth in Western Conference | B-plus
The significantly overhauled Galaxy took a little while to settle, but with Giovani Dos Santos hitting his groove, they've been moving into form in recent weeks. Still the league's best team on paper, but still prone to the odd slip-up as they learn how all the parts fit together.
Key player: Giovani Dos Santos
Montreal Impact | 19 points | Third in Eastern Conference | C-plus
Capable of some exhilarating counterattacking, but also equally likely to cough up the sort of goals and results that saw them go on a six-game winless run before a late win against LA took them into the break in better form.
Key player: Dominic Oduro
New England Revolution | 16 points | Eighth in Eastern Conference | C
The Revs can be slow starters, and this year they started with the loss of Jermaine Jones' directness. It meant that they seemed to have plenty of attacking options but few ruthless finishers, at least until the sudden and costly arrival of Kei Kamara.
Key player: Kei Kamara
New York City FC | 18 points | Fourth in Eastern Conference | C-plus
Will the real New York City please stand up? Indifferent to terrible at home, where they've still not solved how to turn Yankee Stadium into a fortress, NYCFC have been better on the road, where they've picked up the points that keep them bound for the playoffs. But too many steps back for every one forward.
Key player: David Villa
New York Red Bulls | 19 points | Second in Eastern Conference | B-minus
After six losses in their opening seven games, Bradley Wright-Phillips struggling for goals and injuries piling up, the Red Bulls have regrouped in spectacular fashion. They briefly led the East on the final weekend before the break, with Wright-Phillips now one off the top of the scoring charts with five goals in the past two games.
Key player: Sacha Kljestan
Orlando City SC | 16 points | Seventh in Eastern Conference | C
Offseason turmoil had left manager Adrian Heath on unprecedentedly shaky ground in Orlando coming into the season. He has done his best to develop the team as planned in its second year, and Cyle Larin has picked up where his Rookie of the Year debut left off, but new signing Antonio Nocerino has been poor and results have been mixed.
Key player: Cyle Larin
Philadelphia Union | 20 points | First in Eastern Conference | A-minus
The offseason appointment of Earnie Stewart as sporting director has imposed order on the technical side of a Philadelphia organization historically lacking it. Manager Jim Curtin has taken advantage to shape a spirited, purposeful team that leads the East on merit.
Key player: C.J.Sapong
Portland Timbers | 16 points | Eighth in Western Conference | C
Portland's solidity was its virtue last season, making a habit of not losing consecutive games before rounding into MLS Cup-winning momentum in November. That consistency has been absent this year. Capable of beating anyone on their day, the Timbers need those days to come more frequently now.
Key player: Diego Valeri
Real Salt Lake | 20 points | Fourth in Western Conference | B-minus
RSL started the season strongly, with the longest unbeaten streak of any team, but have slipped up going head-to-head with near rivals at times. Still positioned well headed into summer, and have added bonus of goalkeeper Nick Rimando not being called up for Copa America.
Key player: Joao Plata
San Jose Earthquakes | 20 points | Sixth in Western Conference | B-minus
Strong home form at Avaya Stadium has helped San Jose to a good start, along with the perennial poaching abilities of Chris Wondolowski. The Earthquakes' road form has been a little more variable, though.
Key player: Chris Wondolowski
Seattle Sounders | 13 points | Ninth in Western Conference | D-minus
Seattle's poor start has picked up where a slumping 2015 left off, though this year there's no hope that Obafemi Martins will save the day. With Martins now in the Chinese Super League, Jordan Morris has been thrust into an accelerated apprenticeship. He has responded well, but the team need more in every area.
Key player: Clint Dempsey
Sporting Kansas City | 17 points | Seventh in Western Conf. | C-minus
Just as with Portland, it's unusual to see a Peter Vermes team struggle to gain traction, especially when it started with four wins in their first five games. But a home loss to Colorado started a three-game skid that Sporting have yet to pull out of. One win in 10 and four losses in their past five games tells its own story.
Key player: Dom Dwyer
Toronto FC | 16 points | Sixth in Eastern Conference | B-minus
Toronto's grade would have been higher were it not for a credible extended road trip to start the season turning into something of a poor homestand when they got back to BMO Field. Still too much of a one-man team when it comes to scoring.
Key player: Sebastian Giovinco
Vancouver Whitecaps | 21 points | Third in Western Conference | C
Frustratingly inconsistent. David Ousted has made more saves than any other goalkeeper in the league, which is testimony to his underestimated virtues, but also to the defensive issues Vancouver struggles with. Currently on a seven-game run without a clean sheet.
Key player: David Ousted
Graham Parker writes for ESPN FC, FourFourTwo and Howler. He covers MLS and the U.S. national teams. Follow him on Twitter @grahamparkerfc.