MLS. World Cup. Gold Cup. Copa America. African Cup of Nations. US Open Cup. Transfer windows opening-- We're lined in the middle of a pure, uncut, rush of soccer. It's delightful and maybe a little exhausting.
League play ramped back up this weekend, the first full slate of games since MLS took a slight halt to accommodate the beginning of the Gold Cup and two rounds of Open Cup play. With Week 17 now over, we're halfway done with regular season gameweeks. Only two teams in the league have played less than half their season schedule, too.
As ever, there was a ton to sift through this weekend. With the dust settled: Who's rising and who's falling?
Part of San Jose's revival that's been particularly thrilling is how every week, it seems they have a new match-winner. Danny Hoesen, Shea Salinas, Cristian Espinoza, Chris Wondolowski and Magnus Eriksson have passed the mantle week-by-week. This time, it's Vako.
In the Quakes two-win week, beating two teams firmly above the playoff line in the process, Vako was the maestro. He had three goals and an assist between the two games.
Prior to Meram's brace against Montreal on Saturday, he had scored twice in his previous 39 games between Orlando City, Columbus and Atlanta. It was a peak Meram performance, one we haven't seen in a while.
It was a great time for him to step up. With Josef Martinez still gone, injuries keeping Ezequiel Barco and Tito Villalba out of the team while Pity Martinez still struggles to find form, Meram went out and won Atlanta three points on Saturday.
Quietly, Castellanos is up to five goals and two assists in 644 MLS minutes this season. He scored a brace and drew a pair of penalties against Philadelphia, thus contributing to all four of NYCFC's goals.
In NYCFC's crowded attacking ranks, Castellanos keeps earning minutes.
Is this the first time since Ibrahimovic joined MLS that he is the subject of legitimate criticism that lasted more than one day? Sure, there was the debacle with him and Nedum Onuoha but that seemed to dissipate pretty quickly once he was suspended.
Teammates aren't outright throwing him under the bus for his demanding antics (in which he demonstratively throws them into oncoming traffic), but they haven't dodged the questions, either. Winning fixes a lot of little issues. Getting screamed at when a pass is half a yard miscued is all the more frustrating in a 3-0 rivalry loss.
Even worse: Ibrahimovic hasn't scored in two whole games! Gasps
The story of the Chicago Fire's 2019 season cannot be told without individual mistakes, be it an error leading to goal or big chances that go missing. Against the Red Bulls, it was Kronholm's, as his heavy touch gave Kaku a tap-in for the opening goal in an eventual 3-1 loss.
Kronholm has been fine since signing and taking the starting job from David Ousted and mistakes happen. It's just been too often for Chicago all season.
Easy decisions for Instant Replay
Andrew Wiebe and Bobby Warshaw recap the weekend's most controversial calls on Instant Replay at the end of each gameweek. Inevitably, some weeks are a bit heavier than others.
Week 17 gave them no shortage of content to dive through. From Danny Leyva's disallowed golazo, to both penalties Castellanos won, to a big non-call in Toronto FC's 1-1 draw with D.C. United and everything in between, producer Rich had his hands full.