An eight-game Saturday saw mixed fortunes for the Supporters' Shield race frontrunners, a much-needed home win for Inter Miami CF and plenty more besides. Let's get into the major talking points.
All three of the frontrunners in the Supporters' Shield race fell behind on Saturday, with only one able to come back to take all three points. And now, after taking the lead in the standings last week, the New England Revolution have a healthy four-point lead over second-placed Seattle Sounders and a five-point advantage over Sporting Kansas City, who do have a game in hand.
There were plenty of similarities in the performances of the Revs and Sounders. New England had plenty of chances in the first half but found themselves unable to convert against a New York Red Bulls side doing plenty to disrupt their rhythm. But it was a different story in the second half, with the Revs' in-form attacking trio once again doing the damage.
Gustavo Bou netted a ninth goal in 10 games, Adam Buksa grabbed his fourth goal in five games and MVP frontrunner Carles Gil notched a 14th assist of what remains on course to be a record-breaking season. When those three are on form, few teams can match Bruce Arena's side.
HIGHLIGHTS: New York Red Bulls vs. New England Revolution | July 31, 2021
Last season, the Sounders had their own attacking trio to strike fear across MLS but, with Jordan Morris and Nicolas Lodeiro still sidelined, Raul Ruidiaz was again the only one of the three on the field at home to the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday. So often this season, that has been enough but there is a heavy dependency on the Peruvian assassin with a lineup still missing so many key names.
And on this day, the Golden Boot presented by Audi leader was unusually profligate in front of the net, missing the game's best chance that would have set the Sounders on their way on to a likely win.
With that and other clear chances going begging in the opening half, Seattle never recovered after going behind right before the half-time interval. And it's now three defeats in four games for the previously unbeaten Sounders. There's no reason to panic but Brian Schmetzer will be counting the days until his long list of absentees – which also includes Cristian Roldan, Stefan Frei, Nouhou, Brad Smith and others – begins to subside. Schmetzer has worked miracles for much of the first half of the season, but it was too much to expect those to continue for 34 games.
HIGHLIGHTS: Seattle Sounders FC vs. San Jose Earthquakes | July 31, 2021
As for Sporting KC, it's a sharp letdown after the high of winning in Seattle a week ago. And the kind of letdown that captain Johnny Russell warned of following that statement victory. This time, the comeback kings left themselves too much to do after falling 2-0 down to FC Dallas (more on them later), even though Russell's late strike prompted hope that SKC could claim yet more points from a losing position.
The good news is that both Alan Pulido and Gianluca Busio could be back in the lineup when Sporting KC return to action follow the climax of the Gold Cup, when the US and Mexico meet in Sunday's final.
Hands up: Who predicted only one home winner on Saturday night and, oh, for the only home team to win to be Inter Miami? Thought as much. In a league where home advantage counts for a lot, there won't be many Saturdays where there are four times as many road to home wins.
That it was an Inter Miami side who had yet to win at home all season makes that stat all the more remarkable. Miami's 2-1 come-from-behind triumph over CF Montréal was also their first victory anywhere in eight games, dating back to May 16. While there may have been an element of fortune in Gonzalo Higuain's winner, Phil Neville and his side deserve credit for bouncing back from the deepest low of a 5-0 humbling at home to New England by taking four points from two games following a hard-fought draw last time out with the Philadelphia Union.
The home struggles go on for two other recent expansion teams, however. FC Cincinnati were unable to beat a D.C. United team that was down to 10 men for most of the second half and down to nine men for the last few minutes of stoppage time. Jaap Stam's side has clearly improved in recent weeks and the atmosphere created by 25,000 fans at TQL Stadium continues to impress, but they've failed to win in their first six games at the state-of-the-art venue.
For that record to improve, Cincinnati surely need to get more out of their club-record signing. Brazilian forward Brenner arrived with a big reputation in the offseason, yet has scored just three times in 15 games and failed to record a single shot on Saturday. It's far too early to write him off and there's clearly talent there, but Cincy need to get him firing.
Austin FC have at least given their passionate home support at Q2 Stadium a win with a memorable 4-1 victory over Portland on July 1. But they've lost all three home games since then, failing to score a single goal in the process. A debut for new Designated Player forward Sebastian Driussi can't come quickly enough.
The kids are still alright in Dallas
After two wins in 14 games to start the season, Dallas have now recorded back-to-back wins as they followed up their thumping 4-0 triumph over the LA Galaxy with Saturday's impressive victory over high-flying Sporting KC. And after Ricardo Pepi stole the show against LA to become the youngest hat-trick scorer in MLS history, it was two more young homegrowns who made their mark on Saturday.
Both Paxton Pomykal and Jesus Ferreira know what it's liked to be talked of as the next big thing, but have battled injuries in recent times. And so it was particularly welcome to see them each hit stunning efforts to record their first goals of the season. If they can keep up that form, it'll be very good news for Dallas and, down the line, the US men's national team as well.
HIGHLIGHTS: Austin FC vs. Colorado Rapids | July 31, 2021
They may not get many headlines, but the Colorado Rapids are now up to fourth place in the Western Conference following their 1-0 win over Austin and have played at least one game fewer than all three teams above them. Robin Fraser deserves immense credit for the work he's doing with a team that lacks the star names of many of their rivals at the top of the standings. The Rapids are there on merit and will only get stronger with the arrival of Mark-Anthony Kaye following the midfielder's trade this week from LAFC.