MLS RunDown: An Eventful Week 2 As The Season Takes Shape

With hattricks, wonder goals, missed penalties and red cards there was plenty of action in the MLS this weekend and Liam unpicks the best of it.

Sporting Kansas City (1) v (1) Orlando City

Two well taken goals will grab the headlines here but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Orlando dominated the first half but it was the hosts who opened the scoring on the stoke of half time. Pedro Gallese played a suicidal pass out from the back that was picked off by Daniel Salloi. The winger duly squared the ball to Gianluca Busio who placed it in the bottom corner giving Gallese no chance. There were plenty of opportunities for both sides in the second half but neither were able to make them count. With 10 minutes to go Nani backheeled the ball into the net in spectacular fashion to tie the game.

Expectations had been high for KC after an impressive win in New York last week but they were fortunate to get the draw here. Orlando keeper Pedro Gallese gifted Kansas their only goal, and it came against the run of play. Kansas are missing something up top. Two draws from two for Orlando might not look like much, but they’ve held their own against KC and Atlanta so far and there’s plenty to be positive about.

New York City FC (5) v (0) FC Cincinnati

It’s hard to make excuses when you lose by five goals and thankfully Jaap Stam made all the right noises after this “unacceptable” reversal. The truth is, however, Cincy were somewhat unfortunate. Club captain and DP Acosta picked up an injury midweek and starting keeper Przemyslaw Tyton was withdrawn during warmups. The visitors held their own for most of the first half and could have tied things up just before the break but for some strong goaltending from Sean Johnson. The second half implosion will have hurt fans especially after throwing away a 2 goal lead at Nashville last week.

You can only beat what’s in front of you, the old saying goes, and that is what City did here. Tougher tests will come without a doubt but don’t let that take the shine off of this performance. Solid at the back and lethal from set pieces, City are starting to build something. They still lack some creativity but that will come with time.

Two second half meltdowns, seven goals conceded without reply and five goals against from set pieces. Unless results improve soon, Jaap Stam might find himself looking for a new challenge.

Nashville SC (2) v (2) CF Montreal

Another week, another home comeback for Nashville. Yet again, Gary Smith’s men found themselves 0-2 down, and once again they managed to tie the game. The mental fortitude that Nashville show to get back into these games is impressive. However, they cannot keep giving opponents such a head start. If Nashville can open stronger then I can see them going on a run.

Montreal looked sharp in the first half, picking up exactly where they left off in the demolition of Toronto. Two goals conceded again though is a worry. A potent attack can only get you so far. They will need to tighten up at the back if they want to challenge for trophies this season. The good news is they have plenty of time to get that right.  Zachary Brault-Guillard impressed again this week and is becoming a mainstay of this team. Get him into your Fantasy MLS line up before its too late!

Toronto FC (2) v (2) Vancouver Whitecaps

The second SRD BetAlong game of the season was packed full of entertainment. The lead swung over and back in an enthralling game. Toronto burst into the lead after 7 minutes but oddly took their foot off the gas with the score 1-0. They failed to build on their early lead and paid the price at the start of the second half.

Whatever Marc Dos Santos said to his players during the break worked and they stormed out of the blocks in the second half. SRD’s Gaz called the shift in momentum live during the BetAlong stream and not long later Vancouver won a penalty. Cristian Dajome did the needful to tie the game. Andy Rose then put the guests ahead on 70 minutes but that goal only seemed to wake Toronto up. 

Jonathan Osorio tied the game up for the second time with 7 minutes to go after an awful mix up at the back for Vancouver. Maxime Crepeau attempted to clear the ball but only managed to hit teammate Andry Rose in the face. The ball fell kindly to Osorio who shot straight at Crepeau but the keeper was only able to direct the ball into his own goal.

A frustrating end for the Whitecaps but another solid performance. Toronto will need to shore things up at the back. Six goals against in two games is a woeful start to the campaign.

San Jose Earthquakes (3) v (1) FC Dallas

It was a case of home comforts for the Earthquakes as they cruised to a comfortable win over Dallas. Cristian Espinoza missed a penalty for San Jose inside 20 minutes after a clumsy foul, but that did little to save Dallas. A second penalty was awarded just after the half hour mark for a needless handball. After his earlier miss Espinoza was overlooked and this time Oswaldo Alanis took responsibility. He duly obliged and opened the floodgates for the Earthquakes. 30 minutes later the hosts were three goals ahead and the game was over.

This contest had plenty of highlights. Cade Cowell produced a majestic through ball to tee up Espinoza  for his goal just after the restart. Proof you can’t keep a good man down. Cowell then danced through three defenders to score San Jose’s third and put the game to bed. Earlier, Carlos Fierro raced back to clear the ball off his own line, bending the laws of physics and somehow preventing Dallas from equalizing. One lowlight however was the Chris Wondolowski red card at the end of the game. An intentional rake of the achilles left Jose Antonio Martinez in a heap. Ricardo Pepi pulled one back for the visitors but it was too little too late.

San Jose look strong in attack now and will cause teams plenty of problems. Dallas are too blunt up front and need to improve.

Los Angeles FC (1) v (1) Seattle Sounders FC

LA raced in to an early lead when Eduard Atuesta drilled the ball into the bottom corner from a free kick on the edge of the box. Questions must be asked of Stefan Frei in the Seattle goal though. His wall had nobody covering the ground beneath the jumpers and his positioning can be questioned. Atuesta did well to spot the gap and execute the free – but he should never have been given the chance. Early in the second half Brad Smith pulled one back for Seattle with a close range, rebound header.

Not a whole lot else happened in this game. The two big time MLS sluggers traded punches but both looked uninspired in front of goal. LA are missing their dynamic duo of Diego Rossi and Carlos Vela and frankly are not the same team without them. Seattle have work to do.

Atlanta United (3) v (1) Chicago Fire

In terms of pure entertainment this was the game of the weekend. We could have seen ten goals, and that is not an exaggeration. This will be a tough pill for Chicago to swallow. They hit the woodwork three times in the game and forced Brad Guzan into a number of impressive saves. To make matters worse, two of Atlanta’s scores came directly from Fire’s own goalkeeping errors. For a team trying to kick on from a rebuild, games like this will teach them a valuable lesson. Chicago fans might not appreciate that just yet, but the green shoots of recovery are clear to see.

As for Atlanta, this could be the result to kick start their season. Heinze’s men may have been lucky in some moments, but you make your own luck as the old saying goes. Atlanta were relentless. They responded well to Chicago’s equaliser and their opening goal was a thing of beauty. Ezequiel Barco buried the ball into the top corer from outside the box and set the Mercedes-Benz Stadium rocking. 

After underwhelming 2020 seasons, both Atlanta and Chicago look to be back on track. Watch this space.

Minnesota United (1) v (2) Real Salt Lake

Another game where the score line doesn’t tell the whole story. United dominated the opening half an hour but were punished through an exciting RSL counter. Minnesota fullback Romain Metanire fired off a thunderous shot that was blocked inside the box. The rebound landed in a cluster of five Real players who broke with speed. United only had two players back to defend, and with five-on-two the goal felt inevitable. However, Salt Lake managed to lose the ball, then win it straight back, before being fouled and playing on. Anderson Julio pounced on the loose ball and rifled it into the roof of the net. A superb finish, especially for an MLS debutant. 

Ten minutes later a sloppy Minnesota pass set Rubio Rubin free down the right. The winger raced into the box, lured the keeper out and squared the ball for Anderson Julio. He guided it home with the deftest of touches, scoring his and Salt Lake’s second goal of the game. The hosts had dominated the half but found themselves two goals down by the break. 

Minnesota racked up 18 shots and eventually pulled one back through Robin Lod on 86 minutes. However, RSL defended resolutely and managed to hang on for the win. This will taste especially sweet considering they picked up just one road win in all of 2020.

New England Revolution (1) v (0) DC United

This game was low on action and quality. There were 38 fouls, 7 yellow cards and just 3 shots on target. That tells you all you need to know. New England’s goal was an OG when Brendan Hines-Ike turned a cross into his own net. The closest DC came to scoring was when New England defender Andrew Farrell deflected a cross off the woodwork of his own goal. The only way is up, hopefully.

Philadelphia Union (1) v (2) Inter Miami CF

After an uneventful first half this one roared into life after the break. Union opened the scoring when Kacper Przybylko teed up Jamiro Monteiro inside the box to score Philly’s first goal of the season. The hosts had plenty more chances to increase the lead but were left wanton in front of goal.

Just after the hour mark Phil Neville made a bold call, replacing Rodolfo Pizarro with Federico Higuain, older brother of teammate Gonzalo. The change was openly questioned by the match day commentators and seemed to catch fans and opponents off guard. Federico tore into tackles, injected a new lease of life into his team mates and was a constant menace on the ball. On 72 minutes he swung a lovely freekick into the box. His brother knew exactly where the ball was going and managed to direct it back across goal and beyond Andre Blake. Ten minutes later, provider turned scorer as Federico picked up a Jorge Figal pass to give Inter the lead. This was the first time two brothers scored during the same MLS game and just might be the performance to spark Miami’s season into life. 

Colorado Rapids (1) v (3) Austin FC

We told you last week that Austin were better than their result against LA and they proved it here. Andre Shinyashiki put the hosts ahead after some sloppy defending at a corner. However, Austin fought hard to get back into the game and were unlucky to still trail by the hour mark. They created a number of chances and even hit the inside of the crossbar before the breakthrough eventually came. And boy did it come.

Diego Fagundez swept home after a mix up in the box to score the first goal in Austin’s history. Ten minutes later Cecilio Dominguez had the first brace in the club’s history. At 3-1 up Austin never looked like letting the lead slip and they coasted home to their first ever MLS victory. If they can cut out the defensive mistakes this could be a great year for the latest Texan expansion side.
Colorado have barely created a chance from open play in two games and will need to sharpen up if they are to worry teams this season. One point from two winnable games is a poor return for the Rapids and there is plenty of work to be done.

Portland Timbers (2) v (1) Houston Dynamo

The Timbers opened the scoring early through some lovely play. Pablo Bonilla skipped around a tackle on the side-line and crossed into the box. Yimmi Chara dummied, took the defenders with him, and left the ball for Dairon Asprilla to side foot into the net. Cristhian Paredes then scored at both ends. First, he deflected a cross into his own net to tie the game. Later, he give the Portland the win a beautifully taken, outside-of-the-boot half volley. Both sides missed a number of good chances later in the game but the Timbers were good value for the win. I can see Portland scoring plenty in the coming weeks. Dynamo will need to tighten up at the back.

LA Galaxy (3) v (2) New York Red Bulls

We called it on the Saturday night show – Chicharito is back. After a so so 2020 campaign the diminutive Mexican looks back to his best. Javier Hernandez scored a hattrick here to bring his season total to 5 already – he scored 7 during the whole of last season. The first was a real poachers goal, continuing his run into the box and pouncing on a loose ball and poking home with his right boot. His second was an impressive solo effort, pulling the ball down from the air and burying into the bottom corner with his left foot. The the third was an overhead scissors kick into the top corner. Hopefully everyone listened to Gaz who told us to captain Chicharito in our fantasy football teams.

The Red Bulls were not bad here. Gerhard Struber’s men are the only team in the East to have lost twice so far, but don’t expect that run to continue for long. Their style of play is exactly what we predicted. High intensity, hunting in packs, winning the ball back as high up the pitch as possible. There will be plenty more teething issues throughout the season I’m sure, but when this clicks for New York  don’t be surprised by some big wins.