After a light Week 4 due to the international window, MLS roared back to full speed over the weekend with a packed slate of 10 games in three days. If you couldn’t quite drink up everything from the firehose in real time, here’s a quick rundown.
Fool me once
Saturday wasn't just a busy day of seven MLS matches, it was also the first day of April, which has become something of an official holiday in locker rooms across the league. Two of Sporting KC's veterans had some fun with a rookie, while the April Fools' frolicking in Portland fell on the shoulders of Jack Barmby, or more specifically, his car.
Free haircuts and grumbling Galaxians
Vancouver played host to one of the week’s wildest affairs. The Whitecaps’ 4-2 comeback win over LA not only ran the Galaxy to an underwhelming 1-3 start to the season, it also ensured that the ‘Caps faithful will look sharp and sip in style this week.
You see, when Vancouver score three or more goals at home this year, everyone in attendance gets a free haircut. And when a substitute scores, as Fredy Montero did on Saturday, fans can get a free smoothie. It’s a sweet deal compared to the frustration bubbling among LA’s supporters.
Another shootout unfolded in Minneapolis, where Minnesota United banked their first-ever MLS victory with a therapeutic, and well-deserved, 4-2 dispatching of Real Salt Lake. The big takeaway from this one? Christian Ramirez – who bagged a brace to run his season goal total to four – just keeps proving the doubters wrong. First the Loons hitman climbed from overlooked obscurity to NASL MVP, and now he’s making a smooth transition to MLS, scoring at a clip of nearly a goal per 90 minutes.
It wasn’t a great weekend for the guys in gloves. Sean Johnson and David Bingham both conceded soft goals in New York City FC’s 2-1 win over San Jose, Nick Rimando gifted Ramirez his second with a doozy of a mistake in Minny and Clement Diop had enough of a howler in Vancouver that he took full responsibility for his Galaxy’s loss. To add injury to insult, Toronto FC starter Clint Irwin picked up a hamstring injury making a save in Friday’s 0-0 draw with Sporting KC and will miss a month or so of action.
ATL go toe to toe
CenturyLink Field’s big, loud crowds and fast turf have inflicted plenty of misery on visiting teams in the past. Yet Atlanta United handled their inaugural visit to the Seattle cauldron just fine on Friday, matching the Sounders step for step and nearly snatching a late winner before settling for a scoreless draw. “The Five Stripes” are for real, y’all – not just up front, but on the backline, too.
A toast to TFC’s flinty faithful
Friday night’s other occasion was also a 0-0, with KC and Toronto continuing their rugged 2017 defensive work – as well as their finishing difficulties. But we’re here to raise a glass to the Reds supporters, who turned out in noisy droves for their team’s home opener despite miserable lakeside conditions – temperatures in the 30s (Fahrenheit) made nastier by wind and rain. Maybe sip some chicken soup, too.
Crew SC clicking
Do you know who your current Eastern Conference leaders are? The fabled Yellow Football Team, that’s who. After an 0-1-1 start, Columbus Crew SC have reeled off three straight victories. And they certainly looked the part in Saturday’s win over Orlando City, showing an ability to pass and move but also sit deep and lash out on the break. Red-hot winger Justin Meram can’t stop scoring – and he even found time to pay tribute to the beloved “#SALTBAE” meme…
Schweini slices and dices
You’ve probably gotten word of Bastian Schweinsteiger’s promising Chicago Fire debut, as he patrolled the midfield well and scored a goal in the 2-2 draw with Montreal. But the longer-term concern for the Men in Red is whether Basti can consistently conjure up scoring chances in an advanced midfield role. Saturday’s glimpses of coldly surgical passing suggest that he certainly can:
D.C.’s drought dies while Philly fret
On Saturday night RFK Stadium played host to two teams carrying more than a faint whiff of desperation after winless starts. D.C. United hadn’t even scored a goal in their first three games, a barren skid that finally ended at the feet of Jose Guillermo Ortiz (his first MLS strike) and Luciano Acosta (from the penalty spot). Meanwhile the Philadelphia Union – despite their tenacious late fightback – are now 0-2-2 and facing some uncomfortable questions.
We’ve sung the praises of El Guaje before, but David Villa’s latest exploits deserve another verse or two. At age 35, NYCFC’s spearhead is aging like a fine Spanish Rioja:
Witness his two visionary backheel passes to set up both of his team’s goals against the Earthquakes. Even when you keep him from scoring, you’re still unlikely to keep him off the scoresheet, and for the Gotham gang, that’s worth shouting about.