Voices: Sacha Kljestan

Stock Up, Stock Down: Bernardeschi carries Toronto FC, Atlanta United are in trouble


The Columbus Crew were on a bye this past weekend and haven't won a league game since March 16, but their stock is soaring after they eliminated CF Monterey last Wednesday in the Concacaf Champions Cup semifinals (5-2 on aggregate).

It wasn't just that they won away against one of the best teams in North America – it was the way they did it. Columbus stuck to their identity and controlled the game in the second half when Monterrey had to attack and try to get back into the game. Cucho Hernández was phenomenal in every phase, holding up the ball when they needed it, dribbling out of pressure and creating chances.

I can't wait to see Columbus perform in the one-off final on June 1 at Pachuca, their third straight Liga MX opponent. A win not only earns Columbus the CCC title, but sees them join Seattle Sounders FC in the 2025 FIFA Club World Cup that's hosted across the United States.

Onto the rest of the weekend in MLS!

Inter Miami CF logo
Inter Miami CF

I know, I know... It's Lionel Messi and Inter Miami every week. Well, what do you expect when they're dominating MLS like this?!

Messi set two records this weekend with one goal and five assists against the New York Red Bulls in a 6-2 demolition. Miami now lead MLS with 32 goals scored, 11 more than their next closest competitor. They have won four straight and it seems nobody can compete with them for 90 minutes. Don't be surprised when they lead my column again next week!

Messi is a magician, the best ever, the GOAT, and every other superlative you can think of to describe him. Enjoy him while we still can – it's art.

Toronto FC logo
Toronto FC

Toronto FC keep defying expectations, and this time it was the Federico Bernardeschi show in a 3-1 win over FC Dallas.

It's amazing how even scoring a goal that gets called offside can do wonders for your confidence. That is exactly what happened when Bernardeschi saw the ball hit the back of the net in the first half, only to be called back. But this would be the catalyst for him. Bernardeschi then finished off a rebound from his own penalty miss and followed that up with an absolute banger from outside the box to the top corner.

That is Toronto's No. 10 at his best and John Herdman will be hoping for more in the weeks ahead, as they're now third in the Eastern Conference on 19 points. It's now three straight wins, all with Lorenzo Insigne still recovering from a hamstring injury.

Minnesota United FC logo
Minnesota United FC

The Loons went on the road... again and won... again. This time, it was 2-1 at Atlanta United.

Winners of four out of five road games this season, Eric Ramsay is getting the best out of his squad. They have quality all over the pitch and can win in different ways. Robin Lod is pulling the strings in midfield, Tani Oluwaseyi has been the biggest revelation in MLS this season, and they have been dangerous on set pieces as well.

Minnesota have won three straight and sit second in the Western Conference on 20 points, trailing only Chicho Arango and Real Salt Lake.

The quietest team in MLS that continues to get three points? FC Cincinnati won tons of games by one goal last year and they're finding ways to do it again in 2024.

Noise from off the field by your DP striker, Aaron Boupendza? It doesn't matter for this club because they have the reigning MVP doing MVP things. This time, Lucho Acosta scored 17 seconds into a 1-0 win at Orlando City SC and then the defense took care of business to keep the clean sheet.

After two straight losses, Cincy have won three straight and are firmly in the mix for a Supporters' Shield repeat.


Atlanta United have too much talent to be below the playoff line, but that is their reality after going winless in their last five matches. Three of those results were at home, including Saturday's 2-1 loss to Minnesota. Mercedes-Benz Stadium is usually a fortress for this club, where it's so intimidating to play.

This team needs accountability, notably in the midfield. I see so much talent between Tristan Muyumba and Thiago Almada, but positionally they run everywhere and take too many touches. Muyumba needs to simplify his game and Almada needs to stay higher on the pitch to receive balls in the final third because that's where the magic needs to happen. It's no surprise Atlanta improve when veteran midfielder Dax McCarty subs on. He simplifies the game for everyone around him and the team plays better.

Gonzalo Pineda needs to sort things out for this squad ASAP.

Orlando City SC logo
Orlando City SC

I must admit I got this one wrong when I picked Orlando as the Supporters' Shield winner this season.

Orlando were so organized and difficult to play against in 2023. I thought that would be the baseline for them to take the next step, but they've done the opposite. Just look at the goal they allowed off the kick-off to FC Cincinnati this weekend – 17 seconds into the game and the ball is in the back of your net. It just shows how unorganized this backline has been. DP striker Luis Muriel has also yet to score since arriving from Atalanta.

Oscar Pareja is known as one of the hardest-working coaches in MLS – I trust him to figure things out for this team. But it has to happen soon before it's too late after back-to-back losses at home.