Anywho, Matchday 4 is in the books!
Not my fault, voted on by like 15 MLS personalities, editors and writers, etc., etc. Look, y’all get how the Power Rankings work by now, right? Please tell me you get how the Power Rankings work by now. We vote, we compile it all, we do some blurbs and we blame Tom Bogert when questions are raised. You know the drill. It hasn’t changed in like three years.
LAFC survived a scare in Concacaf Champions League midweek, but they’re moving on to bigger games. It kind of feels like the defending MLS Cup/Supporters’ Shield champions might be the favorites to take home the whole thing in 2023. We’ll see how much multiple competitions affect them going forward, but they still earned a point after traveling to Seattle last weekend. That’s a solid result on short rest.
Weird start for Cincy. After a comeback draw at Chicago, they’re existing in a space where you want to applaud them for pulling out results in a manner they didn’t last season. But you also worry about why they’re having to pull out so many results instead of just…getting results. For now, we’ll keep assuming much better things are coming. In the end, Cincy’s taking two points per game early in the season however they can get it.
The best expansion start in MLS history. Can you really add anything beyond that at this point? It’s not Atlanta, it’s not Seattle, it’s not Portland, it’s not LAFC. No, it’s St. Louis. They’re talented, they’re playing for each other, they’re in a helluva positive feedback loop and they may never lose (maybe?).
It’s the kind of situation that’s beyond regular analysis of whether a team is good or bad. They’re the hero of the story right now and that’s all that matters. Also, ya know, they’re pretty damn good. Did I mention they won 3-0 this week despite missing three center backs?
Atlanta United are back, y’all.
No, they haven’t truly been tested by the league’s best so far. However, other teams aren’t putting together these kinds of performances. Even against the league’s worst. They’re pressing effectively and are ruthless in transition in the same way the earliest editions of the club were. Not only that, but the Five Stripes finally worked new DP Giorgos Giakoumakis into the lineup and remembered what it’s like to have an elite striker. The talent and tactics are all there for this team to be among MLS's best in 2023.
Sure, it also helps when Thiago Almada is better than 27 other teams in the league.
I think both Seattle and LAFC came away disappointed with a 0-0 draw over the weekend. Bigger games between these two are on the way, though. This was just the first round where two fighters take some time to feel things out before they start throwing haymakers.
All that really matters is Philly got the job done in CCL. They’re still set for a deep run, possibly toward the club’s second-ever trophy.
They were also set for three points at CF Montréal until things got… strange. Montréal scored twice after the 89th minute with a little help from a “unique” situation that involved a Video Review being Video Review-ed to give Montréal the equalizing goal. In the end, Montréal left with a win and Jim Curtin called it a, um, s--t show.
Take it away, Bruce.
NYCFC put in a very familiar Yankee Stadium performance against D.C. United. They’re already looking sharper with James Sands and Santiago Rodríguez in the starting lineup, and they’ll reportedly soon be adding midfielder Richy Ledezma on loan from PSV Eindhoven. No surprise here, but NYCFC are getting the pieces in place to complete something close to a full reload.
Nashville played a 1-0 game. Can you believe it? I know, shocking.
We can complain about how they don’t regularly thump teams all we want, but ever since head coach Nico Estévez arrived in 2022, Dallas get the job done more often than not. They did just that last weekend to pull out a 2-1 win over Sporting KC. They may not win a title this year, but it seems to be one of the safest bets going that they’ll end up in a decent postseason spot.
The Loons aren’t going to stop hearing about Emanuel Reynoso anytime soon, but all they have to do is keep pointing at the scoreboard and the standings whenever he’s brought up. They have seven points through three games after a comeback win at Colorado.
The Lions got closer to taking down Liga MX powerhouse Tigres than most would have in CCL, then had a league let-off over the weekend against Charlotte. Hard to really fault them for anything this week. You still can’t help but wonder how long it might be before they start finding a higher gear though.
What can you say at this point? Can you really assess anyone having to deal with St. Louis right now? The only real analysis is “regular team isn't better than another team that’s not only talented, but is also drenched in magic pixie dust.”
Energy Drink Soccer gave Columbus fits this week. They had plenty of the ball, they completed plenty of passes, but only put together five shots and 0.3 xG. Not having Cucho Hernández (knee pain) up top probably made everything that much more difficult.
Bad week. Maybe some distance from CCL will get them back on level footing soon, but, for now… real bad week. Arguably one of the worst weeks we’ve seen in a while in MLS. Let’s just move on quickly and give them a moment before we make eye contact.
Toronto overwhelmed an Inter Miami side starting life without Gregore and put together their best performance of the season so far. There are still a lot of questions to answer and tougher games to play, but the Reds have only lost once through four games and are one late blown lead against D.C. from being undefeated. Could be worse, right? Especially with all the early injury issues they’ve had.
Gregore is out for six months (foot injury) and, well, it might be a long six months. Inter Miami are going to have to fight through the bulk of the season without what might be their most critical player. They weren’t great without him against Toronto this weekend and it may be a moment before they find a solution for his absence.
We’re still waiting on something resembling the version of the Galaxy we saw at the end of the last season to show up. They’re still waiting on win No. 1 of 2023 after drawing with Vancouver. For now, some of the biggest concerns about this team heading into the season seem valid.
RSL got the week off. St. Louis are on the way into town for a Saturday night showdown. Probably a good time to get a week off.
Previous: Bye | Next: 3/25 vs. STL
At least they scored their first goal of the year? SKC dropped a 1-0 lead at FC Dallas to lose 2-1 and they’re still looking for their first win of the season. After playing so well down the stretch last season, it’s disappointing to see them struggling to get results. Even if the too-early-to-really-matter-all-that-much underlying numbers have actually been pretty ok.
It’s not unsalvageable. But for now, it’s been underwhelming.
Vancouver eased into the CCL quarterfinals and have a big test waiting for them against LAFC. Now if they can just figure out what’s going on in the league play. They took an early lead (again) and lost it (again). That’s three out of four games so far this season.
Started bad, finished strong against a good NYCFC team at Yankee Stadium. It is what it is.
"You have games where you can’t understand why the performance was so bad," head coach Wayne Rooney said postgame. "I could have taken every player off, to be honest. I was pleased with the reaction in the second half, but the first half cost us the game."
Montréal finally got home and finally got three points. Yeah, it took a double Video Review situation to sort things out at the end, but the call eventually came correct and Montréal earned their first three points of the year (and under head coach Hernan Losada). Progress is progress. Even when you need the late, late show.
Previous: 3-2 win vs. PHI | Next: Bye
That’s more like it. With Kamil Jozwiak and Karol Swiderski out of the starting lineup and Brandt Bronico back in midfield, Charlotte put together their most effective performance of the season so far.
The Crown and Enzo Copetti got past Orlando and earned their first points of the season. It got a little scary there at the end, but credit to them for getting and holding onto a two-goal lead on the road. Now they just need to figure out what to do with Jozwiak and Swiderski going forward.*
(*Keep Jozwiak there, put Swiderski as a 10 like you said you were going to do in the first place when you made the deal for Copetti. Boom, solved it.)
They were missing way too many pieces to really even think about handling a resurgent Atlanta United side in Atlanta. When you’re a team that hasn’t seemed to improve all that much after missing the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs last season, it’s really not ideal to start the year with an injury crisis.
(Timbers Game Type 3.)
Things were going great against FC Cincinnati until they weren’t. Chicago blew a two-goal lead late. Ezra Hendrickson, understandably, got upset.
"When we get in these positions, we have to fight," Hendrickson said postgame. "The mentality has to be better. And it's all about competing. It's all about fighting for the badge."
The Rapids are kind of a bummer right now, to be honest. And that’s not just because news arrived Monday that captain Jack Price is out for the year with an Achilles injury. They have one goal and one point through four games – both are league worsts.
I’m also old enough to remember 2021, when they topped the Western Conference. That feels far away now.