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.
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.
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.
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'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.
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.
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.
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 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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.