Voices: Kevin Egan

360 View: Three must-watch teams at the season's midway point

Egan - MD20 column - 360 view

The June international window meant a week off for our studio team, so I’m buzzing to return to the MLS 360 host chair for Matchday 20! It brings 13 matches on Saturday night.

We may have been off your screens, but our squad hasn’t exactly been sitting twiddling our thumbs. Sacha Kljestan was down at The Soccer Tournament (TST), sparring with his old teammate Nani. I can’t wait to grill him about that feud! And what about Kaylyn Kyle dominating the midfield over at Soccer Aid? Kaylyn did her part in helping to raise just shy of $20 million for UNICEF, while also passing at 100% accuracy. Boss mode!

As the second half of this 2024 season gets underway, let’s dust ourselves off and get stuck in. Here are three teams that intrigue me the most.


Watch out, LAFC are coming for the gold. This team is for real, and according to my MLS 360 bud Sacha Kljestan, they’ll win the Supporters’ Shield. Saturday sees the Black & Gold travel to downtown Orlando to tackle the Lions (7:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass). They’re five points off the Supporters’ Shield lead with two games in hand.

This group is also on the precipice of becoming the first team to win six straight MLS matches without conceding. Yes, LAFC have become a defensive juggernaut. Hugo Lloris has to be in consideration for MLS Newcomer of the Year. The World Cup winner was always going to bring more than his expertise on the pitch. A winner. A leader. A world-class competitor. And now, a recruiter!

Lloris surely played a role in luring long-time friend and France teammate Olivier Giroud to Los Angeles. Giroud is set to lead the line for Les Bleus at Euro 2024, and then team up with LAFC. What a mouthwatering prospect it is, with Giroud, Denis Bouanga and Cristian Olivera as a front three. Don’t forget about Mateusz Bogusz either.

LAFC were crowned champions in 2022, and now, with a vastly different team, look set to challenge again. For me, Steve Cherundolo’s men are box office. Electric soccer, with a raucous fan base. What’s not to love?

Atlanta United

On June 3, Atlanta United parted ways with Gonzalo Pineda after a fifth-straight home loss. And it’s a statistic I can’t wrap my head around.

The Five Stripes losing five on the bounce at Mercedes-Benz Stadium never felt possible, especially after winning their opening three games at home this year. I don’t know how or why Atlanta fell off the rails, but I know they have the potential to rediscover themselves… and I know interim coach Rob Valentino is the man who can make it all happen.

Valentino ended his other ‘interim’ reign by winning four straight games back in 2021. Many at the time felt Valentino was the man to lead Atlanta forward, and those voices will be heard once more if he steers Atlanta back to winning ways. As someone who used to call Atlanta United games, and is quite close to the club, I’ll tell you this: Valentino is absolutely loved, respected and admired. Everyone in that organization is rooting for him. In saying that, a turnaround won’t be easy.

The squad is, yet again, decimated. Saba Lobjanidze and Bartosz Slisz are on international duty at the Euros, Luis Abram is with Peru at Copa América, Stian Gregersen has a hamstring injury, and then there’s a headline absentee in Giorgos Giakoumakis. GG is reportedly on his way to Cruz Azul in Liga MX, so his time with the Five Stripes may already be over. How do you seamlessly replace an MLS Newcomer of the Year and Best XI striker? This may be club president and CEO Garth Lagerway’s biggest test.

All eyes are on Atlanta United this Saturday against Houston Dynamo FC (7:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass). Life’s never boring at the Benz.

Columbus Crew

Last, but certainly not least, the defending champs!

What a fascinating few weeks it’s been in Columbus. Some may find recent trends concerning: Concacaf Champions Cup final loss, followed by the departure of president and general manager Tim Bezbatchenko, and the rumored transfer of key midfielder Aidan Morris to Middlesbrough in England’s Championship. Yet I’m not concerned. Are you?

With Wilfried Nancy as the head coach, I believe in this team. It’s as simple as that. He's proven to have an outrageous ability to coach up young talent. Look at Max Arfsten, Mo Farsi and Sean Zawadzki as prime examples of what makes Nancy arguably the best coach in MLS.

The Crew were seventh in the Eastern Conference heading into Friday night’s clash at rampant New York City FC, and made a statement with a 3-2 win.

Suddenly, there’s a feeling Columbus have taken a collective breath and are ready to make a run. Actually, forget the feeling – they’re already making a run. It’s four straight road wins with 11 goals scored, 12 points gained and one squad that understands “impossible is an opinion.”

When looking at the months ahead, there's games in hand, the fact Columbus aren’t losing too many stars to international duty, and throw in a Leagues Cup Group Stage bye, you start to wonder if this team can be stopped anytime soon. Nancy’s men are must-see TV!