Voices: Steve Zakuani

27 Takeaways: One observation on every MLS team after Week 22

Week 22 had some thrilling games as Heineken Rivalry Week closed, with El Trafico and FC Dallas' blitz past Austin FC standing out.

Here's this week's edition of 27 Takeaways, one observation on every MLS team as the season's final third comes into view.

Atlanta’s four-match winning streak was snapped by a very good Nashville side. But with four of their next five games at home, Gonzalo Pineda’s men have a great opportunity to make a real run at solidifying a playoff spot. The quartet of Ezequiel Barco, Josef Martinez, Luiz Araujo and Marcelino Moreno will need to come up big to make that happen.

Austin FC logo
Austin FC

The good news is they’ve started to score goals – six in the last two games alone. Unfortunately, they’ve also been leaking them at the other end. Diego Fagundez and Alex Ring have been in good form, and Austin FC will need them at their best to pick up points when they visit Vancouver this weekend.

Chicago enjoyed a bounce back (and historic) win last weekend, one made even better by how it was away from home. That’s where they’ll spend their next three games. It’s no secret Robert Beric has struggled for goals this season so seeing his name return to the scoresheet was a sigh of relief for Fire fans. If he can hit form in the next few weeks, Raphael Wicky’s team can keep harboring playoff hopes.

FC Cincinnati’s old defensive frailties are beginning to rear their ugly heads, as they’ve now conceded seven goals in their last two games. They were unlucky in Columbus in a lot of ways, but we’re at the stage of the season where only results matter. And three points is something they’ve been unable to get in 11 games.

Colorado Rapids logo
Colorado Rapids

If Colorado win their two games in hand, they’ll go to first place in the West. They’re having a truly remarkable season and showed they can dig deep and withstand a storm by getting a point away at Sporting KC. There’s a titanic clash against the LA Galaxy on the horizon, but they can’t overlook the challenge San Jose will possess on Saturday.

Columbus needed a win in the worst way possible, and they got it via a double from second-half substitute Miguel Berry. For a team that has struggled to score goals all season, it was encouraging to see how they attacked and the number of chances created. For the first time in weeks, they looked something like their best selves.

FC Dallas logo
FC Dallas

Homegrown attackers Ricardo Pepi and Jesus Ferreira each got a brace as FC Dallas exploded offensively over the weekend in a win over Austin FC. It was the perfect preparation for their upcoming games against San Jose and RSL — true six-pointers — because they have to win to potentially get back above the red line.

D.C. United logo
D.C. United

It was important D.C. United got back to winning ways, and they did it in style against a strong Philadelphia team. They excelled defensively, only allowing the Union to register two shots on target. And Yordy Reyna continues to find the night, giving them another scoring option to take the burden off Ola Kamara.

Houston Dynamo FC logo
Houston Dynamo FC

It’s hard to find silver linings with Houston at the moment, but they do play three of their next four at home. If they can go a run – and it’d have to be a special run – then the playoffs are not yet out of the question. That should be motivation enough.

Brian Rodriguez stole the headlines with a virtuoso performance capped by a stunning solo goal. This is a player who looks like he is ready to go from potential to regular impact — a transition that would be most welcome for an LAFC team that has fallen short of their own high standards this season.

With three goals in his last four games, Kevin Cabral is the man in form – and his latest strike rescued them a much-needed point against their biggest rivals. But it’s three games without a win, and the LA Galaxy are still leaking goals at a much higher rate than those around them. They’re still in the mix for pretty much everything in play, but they must tighten up defensively.

Inter Miami CF logo
Inter Miami CF

Inter Miami got a point from a game they probably would have lost a few months ago. With just one defeat in eight games, they have definitely made progress and are slowly headed in the right direction, but this run needs to be sustained if playoff aspirations are to be met since they’re still seven points beneath where they want to be.

Minnesota United FC logo
Minnesota United FC

Minnesota got a good come-from-behind win to hold onto the No. 5 spot in the Western Conference. Adrien Hunou, after some frustrations around the box, was back among the goals when his team needed him most. The Loons’ next two matchups — against Sporting KC and the LA Galaxy — are massive if they want to break into that top three or four.

CF Montréal logo
CF Montréal

CF Montréal took full advantage of playing with an extra man after Toronto’s early red card to solidify their spot in the East’s playoff race. Romell Quioto marked his return with a goal, a welcome sight after the Honduran international hadn't featured since an early July game before the Gold Cup.

Nashville SC logo
Nashville SC

Nashville scored two timely goals to go with yet another great defensive outing. Despite being out-possessed, they outshot Atlanta and never really looked in danger of losing this game. Friday’s test against in-form NYCFC will give us a really good idea of just how formidable this team — that’s only been beaten twice — really is.

New England Revolution logo
New England Revolution

After nine without defeat, a loss was bound to happen at some point. New England’s Eastern Conference lead is sizable enough for the 1-0 defeat at NYCFC not to matter, but they’ll still be eager to send a message in their next two games against strong Philadelphia and NYCFC sides. And with Carles Gil back in training, it’s not far-fetched to think they can go on another run to wrap up the Supporters’ Shield.

New York City FC logo
New York City FC

A statement win against the league’s best team will do wonders for confidence. NYCFC are a group that seem to get better by the week – only one defeat in eight. The highlight of the night was the link-up between Maxi Moralez and Taty Castellanos, who twice connected to find the back of the net.

New York Red Bulls logo
New York Red Bulls

Most of RBNY’s games during this tough stretch have been close – they aren’t getting blown out or run off the park – but they do need to up their goal output to turn some of these closer games in their favor. They’ve only scored more than one goal once in the last nine games.

Orlando City SC logo
Orlando City SC

Orlando fans should be a little concerned that the goals have dried up, as they’ve only scored four in their last five – despite not losing in that stretch. But they should take comfort from how they sit second in the East and can make up for the two dropped points when Columbus come to town this weekend.

Philadelphia Union logo
Philadelphia Union

Philadelphia were well-beaten by D.C. United, and now we’ll see how they stack up against the top team in the East. The Union need to figure things out offensively if they’re going to get the job done as they try to climb back up the table. The CCL return leg against Club America is looming, too.

Portland Timbers logo
Portland Timbers

Felipe Mora stole the show with a goal and an assist, but the 2-0 win at Seattle was a real team effort. Portland were humiliated the last time they faced their heated rivals, and to bounce back in this way deserves to be commended. They need to use this win, which was worth much more than three points, as their catalyst to close out the season strongly.

Real Salt Lake logo
Real Salt Lake

RSL were beaten comprehensively by the Whitecaps Sunday, but they have no time to dwell on that loss as they move past the Freddy Juarez era. Beating the teams below them is the surest way to ensure their playoff position. And since their next three games are against teams beneath them, they need to seize this chance to put some daylight between them and those chasing them.

Up next, San Jose face one of the best teams in the West (Colorado) and will be hoping to extend their 10-match unbeaten run. Defensively, they’ve been much improved and haven’t allowed more than a single goal in a game since a 2-2 draw against Minnesota on July 3.

Seattle Sounders FC logo
Seattle Sounders FC

There’s no need to overreact to the defeat against Portland, as Seattle still hold a two-point lead atop the West. As strong a year as the Sounders are having, the alarming amount of home losses is very uncharacteristic for a club that usually makes Lumen Field a fortress.

Sporting Kansas City logo
Sporting Kansas City

It was very much a case of two points dropped for Peter Vermes’ men, as Sporting KC dominated the Rapids after falling behind. On another day, it was a game they could have won by two goals. It’ll be interesting to see how their offense looks with MVP chaser Daniel Salloi set to represent Hungary during World Cup Qualifiers.

Toronto FC logo
Toronto FC

Toronto FC’s mini-resurgence was truly short-lived, as they’re winless in seven and have suffered two straight 3-1 losses. For the club, it might be time to start looking to next year. For the players, it’s time to play the remaining games as if their jobs depend on them – because they do.

Vancouver Whitecaps FC logo
Vancouver Whitecaps FC

Vancouver’s offense finally exploded, putting RSL to the sword behind four goals. All season they’ve created chances and looked dangerous without converting with frequency. If they can keep up this kind of form (nine games unbeaten), it won’t be surprising to see them leapfrog one or two teams above them.