Voices: Steve Zakuani

27 Takeaways: One observation on every MLS team after Week 19

It was another jam-packed slate in MLS Week 19 and there's plenty to digest, with Josef Martinez's vintage game-winner against LAFC and the Seattle Sounders' explosive victory in Portland chief among the storylines.

Here's this week's edition of 27 Takeaways, one observation on every MLS team as the season churns onward.

A new head coach, a big win vs. LAFC and Josef Martinez is back among the goals – the sun is slowly emerging from the dark clouds in Atlanta. They stand just a couple of wins from really being back in playoff contention and are riding a three-game unbeaten streak while looking as good as they’ve looked all year.

Austin FC logo
Austin FC

Goal-scoring is Austin FC's issue, as they've been held scoreless in five of their last six games and are the league's lowest scorers. Do they have anyone on the roster who can step up and solve that problem? They better hope so otherwise they’re in for a long second half of the season.

Luka Stojanovic will get the plaudits – and rightly so following three goals in two games – but this four-game unbeaten streak has been a team effort, especially defensively. After conceding nine goals in the three games before this run, they’ve only allowed two in four. That’s been the catalyst for Chicago's good form.

Cincinnati have improved significantly on the defensive side in recent weeks, posting two clean sheets in their past three games. However, they're winless in eight with six draws and two defeats. If there's to be any hope of a late-season playoff surge, winning at home against Montreal is a good place to start.

Colorado Rapids logo
Colorado Rapids

Colorado continue to impress following their latest win away to Houston, and surely the goal must now be to break into the top three. Two of their next three are on the road against teams currently above them – the perfect motivation for Robin Fraser’s men.

What’s even more shocking than four straight defeats is the sheer amount of goals Columbus have conceded (12) during this downturn. For a team built on a solid defense that kept clean sheets for fun, that has to be the most concerning thing for Crew fans, especially given their relative lack of goals.

FC Dallas logo
FC Dallas

Fans shouldn’t overreact to the defeat against Sporting Kansas City. Good recent results against the Galaxy, Sounders and Sporting have shown us the potential FC Dallas possesses. They get a chance to bounce back, as a big week awaits when the Sounders come to town before they lock horns with rivals Houston.

D.C. United logo
D.C. United

D.C. United's recent good run came crashing down with a heavy defeat over the weekend. But the big picture still looks good and they sit in a playoff spot. The key will be how they respond to such a setback, and they’ll try to bounce back against the East's premier team when they visit New England midweek.

Houston Dynamo FC logo
Houston Dynamo FC

Their last win came against the Whitecaps back in May. Now Houston are enduring a 12-game winless streak, a tough stretch for a group that had much higher expectations to start the year. Hope is not lost, though, as just a couple of wins will have them right back in the playoff hunt.

Six games without a win is alarming for a team of this caliber. What once made LAFC stand out from the pack was their ability to score at any time in any way – and also their ability to recover the ball high up the pitch. All of those traits are currently eluding them as they slip below the West's playoff line.

With his second goal in as many games, Kevin Cabral is proving to be a good return on investment so far. Elsewhere, the clean sheet is a welcome sight for Galaxy fans. It was their second in three games and included a stellar performance from backup goalkeeper Jonathan Klinsmann.

Inter Miami CF logo
Inter Miami CF

In all fairness, getting a win away to NYCFC was always going to be a tough ask, even for a Miami team that's improved slightly recently. Their next two games, both at home, are must-wins if they want to be serious about postseason ambitions.

Minnesota United FC logo
Minnesota United FC

Minnesota can consider themselves unlucky to not have gotten anything from the Galaxy game. I believe they have it in them to go on another run, but they’ll have to do it the hard way since four of their next five are away from home.

CF Montréal logo
CF Montréal

Montréal got a much-needed win after their recent poor run. Aside from his late game-winning penalty, Victor Wanyama really put his stamp on the game and continues to have a strong individual season.

Nashville SC logo
Nashville SC

For the second time this season, Nashville scored five goals in a game (they’ve also scored three on two occasions). This is the biggest difference between 2020 and 2021 – defensively they’re still sound, but their attacking potential is night and day. That combination could give them a real chance at doing something special this season.

New England Revolution logo
New England Revolution

New England are probably the best team in the league at the moment, although it’s very hard to compare teams across conferences because we simply don’t have many direct matchups. In Gustavo Bou and Carles Gil, they have two Landon Donovan MLS MVP candidates. When will the latter return from injury, though?

New York City FC logo
New York City FC

Home form and clean sheets are behind this great run that's catapulted NYCFC to second place in the East. Four clean sheets in the last six games, to go with four straight home wins in which they’ve averaged three goals a game. A big test away to Philly awaits this weekend.

New York Red Bulls logo
New York Red Bulls

The Red Bulls were beaten in heartbreaking fashion at the weekend, but their recent form is still a cause for concern as is their inability to shut teams out. Gerhard Struber's team has just one shutout in eight games.

Orlando City SC logo
Orlando City SC

Orlando play three of their next four at home, which gives them a real chance at solidifying themselves in the East's No. 2 seed for now. Nani is having a brilliant season with nine goals and six assists. I expect him to keep sparking the Lions over the next few weeks.

Philadelphia Union logo
Philadelphia Union

Philadelphia have experienced mixed form as of late, and I suspect the match against NYCFC is the perfect chance to recalibrate things. The chance for a big home win against a team they’ll likely battle for seeding should be all the motivation needed for Wednesday.

Portland Timbers logo
Portland Timbers

I don’t believe in overreacting to heavy defeats, but it’s hard not to do that when you consider the 6-2 loss to Cascadia rivals Seattle. There's lots for head coach Giovanni Savarese to fix if Portland want to climb up the table, starting with their defending; they’re too good of a club to be conceding nearly two goals per game.

Real Salt Lake logo
Real Salt Lake

The goal going forward must be to keep putting daylight between themselves and those outside the red line. The best way to ensure that is to be very good at home, which RSL have been for the most part. If they can also start snagging away results, they should finish as a playoff side.

The positives are that San Jose haven’t lost in eight games and Javier "Chofis" Lopez is in good form with three goals in recent weeks. A tough stretch is coming when they face Minnesota, the Galaxy and Colorado, from which at least four points are required to stay in the playoff conversation.

Seattle Sounders FC logo
Seattle Sounders FC

The sensational win at Portland was much-needed for a team that had been sputtering as of late. With Nicolas Lodeiro back in the mix, and Nouhou and Stefan Frei hopefully not too far behind, Seattle probably still have their best football ahead of them.

Sporting Kansas City logo
Sporting Kansas City

Daniel Salloi continued his remarkable season by scoring his 11th goal of the campaign. Sporting hold the thinnest of leads over the Sounders, but with five of their next seven games at home, they have an ideal chance to open up the gap.

Toronto FC logo
Toronto FC

Toronto FC's next four games are all away from home, a stretch that will absolutely determine if they have any hope of a late-season rally to make the postseason. Last weekend's defeat to New England will be tough to take, but the silver lining is that they were competitive against the best team in the East.

Vancouver Whitecaps FC logo
Vancouver Whitecaps FC

I just don’t see enough goals being scored by Vancouver to really believe they can climb up the table. A lack of chances isn’t the problem since they often create really well from the wide areas through Cristian Dajome and Deiber Caicedo, but the end product has been missing all year. And it doesn't help that Lucas Cavallini is out injured.