Voices: Steve Zakuani

27 Takeaways: One observation on every MLS team after Week 12

A massive new manager bounce for Toronto FC, a dramatic Hell is Real clash in Cincinnati and another record for league-leading Seattle Sounders. Week 12 of the 2021 season had plenty to dissect as we look ahead to the return of MLS this weekend. Let's get into it.

The winless streak now stands at seven, but they need to look at the positives wherever they can — fighting back from behind to get a point on the road, and surviving going down a man. Two of the next three are at home and that should be motivation enough for Atlanta to get back to winning ways.

Austin FC logo
Austin FC

They out-possessed and outshot LAFC but Austin's season-long issue of goalscoring reared its ugly head once again. Until they can consistently find goals, the playoff spots will continue to elude them.

Three unbeaten with nine goals during that span should have Fire fans feeling really good right now. However, they dug themselves a very deep hole earlier this season so despite this mini resurgence, they are still well outside a playoff spot and will need to sustain this sort of form to have a realistic chance of making some postseason noise.

Eight points in four games is definitely a good return for a team that couldn’t stop losing not long ago, and despite the disappointing nature of the draw against Columbus, the recent form of Lucho Acosta is giving their fans a lot to smile about.

Colorado Rapids logo
Colorado Rapids

Colorado did what all good teams do after dropping points, they got back to winning ways. A formation change allowed them to be solid at the back while still being able to find their danger men and it paid off as they got the goals they needed and a clean sheet to go with it.

Anytime you can rescue a point, especially after being down two goals and short a man, you will be pleased with the outcome. With that said, the Crew aren’t aiming for a playoff spot — that’s expected — they will want the top seed which means they need to win their two upcoming home games.

FC Dallas logo
FC Dallas

On paper, I’m still surprised by FC Dallas' league position, but in the defeat to the Galaxy, I could see exactly why they are where they are. Simply put, they concede too many goals and never really look like keeping a clean sheet. In fact, they’ve only kept one all season and that was on the opening day of the season.

D.C. United logo
D.C. United

The last time we saw D.C. United, they were busy putting seven past Toronto. Next up is a very tough trip to Philadelphia where we should get a really good idea of exactly how they stack up against the very best teams in the Eastern Conference.

Houston Dynamo FC logo
Houston Dynamo FC

Offensively, they look dangerous at times, but defensively I am not sure Houston have enough to shut out the very best teams. In the defeat to Seattle, as soon as the Sounders turned up a gear, it became a question of not if, but when, and how many would the Sounders score. The playoffs are realistic, but anything beyond that will require a stinger defense against the top teams.

Two wins on the bounce, both away from home, and they kept a clean sheet in both. At some point the offense is going to explode, it’s too good not to. Assuming that does happen, and this defensive trend continues, over the next few weeks this team should start to knock on the door for those top two seeds.

A good win, without Chicharito, is exactly what was needed to further solidify the Galaxy's growing credentials. Would have been great to see a clean sheet, but it was still a great win and perfect preparation for what’s coming up next — three away games on the bounce.

Inter Miami CF logo
Inter Miami CF

It’s time for this club and its players to stand up and be counted. Miami have failed to deliver what was expected of them since entering the league, and if 2021 is to have any chance of being rescued, they are going to have to go on a run and find some results by whatever means they can — starting with the trip to Red Bull Arena.

Minnesota United FC logo
Minnesota United FC

The unbeaten run has come to an end, and while the Loons should be disappointed, the focus now needs to be on starting another one. It won’t be easy as the next two games, even though they are at home, are against two in-conference rivals in the Sounders and the Timbers.

CF Montréal logo
CF Montréal

They are in excellent form and finding different ways to win while getting big performances from several players. If Montréal can beat FC Cincinnati this weekend, that would make it three straight wins and six unbeaten. It’s always a good day when both strikers get on the scoresheet as both Mason Toye and Romell Quioto did in their most recent win.

Nashville SC logo
Nashville SC

In order to gain separation from the teams directly behind them and truly join the race for the top seeds, Nashville will need to turn a few of these draws they always seem to get, into wins. They’ve won four and tied seven this season and if just two of those ties had been wins, they’d be one point out of first, with a game in hand.

New England Revolution logo
New England Revolution

Have hit a rocky patch as of late — winless in three, while conceding at least two in each of the last five. The defeat to Toronto was a shock to all of us and the Revs now need to show the winning mentality they’ve had for most of the year, by getting back to winning ways on the road to Atlanta.

New York City FC logo
New York City FC

There’s no time to dwell on the defeat to Montréal as a tough game awaits NYCFC in Columbus, and the race for the Audi MLS Cup Playoff spots are tighter than ever. After Columbus, they do have three home games which they should feel good about, but they can't afford to overlook the trip to Ohio.

New York Red Bulls logo
New York Red Bulls

Conceding a late goal to drop points always stings and so the locker room would have been a very somber place after the 1-1 draw with Philadelphia. However, they have a home game against Miami to look forward to as they try to extend the unbeaten run to four.

Orlando City SC logo
Orlando City SC

Lost two games in a row for the first time all year. All teams go through bad spells, but the very best ones keep those spells as short as possible. If Orlando's Shield ambitions are legit, they can’t afford to not get three points against what appears to be a reenergized Toronto side.

Philadelphia Union logo
Philadelphia Union

They got the kind of draw against the Red Bulls that feels like a win and hopefully they will be able to turn that momentum into another good run of form. D.C. United are no pushovers, but any time the Union plays at home, three points has to be the expectation.

Portland Timbers logo
Portland Timbers

Historically the Timbers always been a very good home team, and going forward, I think their home form will be the key to really getting their season going. Four of their next six are in Portland, starting with games against Dallas and LAFC in the space of four days — if they get six points from this coming week, they’ll be right back in the mix where they should be.

Real Salt Lake logo
Real Salt Lake

At their very best, RSL can be deadly, just ask the Whitecaps. The issue has been consistency of performance, but now that Albert Rusnak and Player of the Week Damir Kreilach both appear to be playing well at the same time, it should take the whole team's level up a couple of notches.

For a team that concedes as many as San Jose do, two road games at Colorado and Sporting Kansas City, is not exactly what you’d want. However, in both games, they should have plenty of counter attacking opportunities and should be aiming for a win — against the odds — in at least one of those games.

Seattle Sounders FC logo
Seattle Sounders FC

I am running out of words for this club, and more specifically for the form of Raul Ruidiaz. They now own the best ever start in MLS history and they’ve done it while missing several key players — something that mustn’t be overlooked. As for Ruidiaz, he is the type of player every team in the league needs — he understands his role in the team, and he is focused only on executing it at the highest level possible.

Sporting Kansas City logo
Sporting Kansas City

The next time SKC take the pitch, it’ll be against San Jose and they’ll be desperate for the three points for a couple of reasons. First, they want to win every game and keep racking up the points as much as possible. Second, after San Jose, it’s the Sounders who come to town and they’ll want to be in a position where a win over Seattle, takes them into first place on points in the Western Conference.

Toronto FC logo
Toronto FC

They got a win that was as brilliant as it was unexpected. This often happens when a coaching change takes place, and although I’ve seen it a million times, I’m not sure why it does. Regardless, that win, plus the return of Jozy Altidore to the fold, should keep the positive energy flowing as Toronto go to battle against Orlando at the weekend.

Vancouver Whitecaps FC logo
Vancouver Whitecaps FC

Well and truly beaten against Real Salt Lake last time out. The silver lining is that the Whitecaps are actually only a couple of wins out of a playoff spot, but unless that turnaround in form comes quickly, that red line will keep moving further away. This is what makes the game against the Galaxy, a must win. Or, at the bare minimum, a must not lose.