Voices: Sacha Kljestan

Stock Up, Stock Down: Denis Bouanga heats up, Seattle are beating themselves


Another crazy weekend, another chance to take stock of the good and the bad in Major League Soccer.

Matchday 11 is in the books!

Inter Miami CF logo
Inter Miami CF

Lionel Messi's season thus far: nine goals and seven assists. For any player on planet Earth, that would be considered a pretty good year. Messi has done it in seven games! It's hard to describe how ridiculous that is.

Imagine being the center of attention in every game you play, the one player on the field who the opposing coach is trying to shut down… and still putting up those numbers. For context: In 2008, I made the MLS Best XI with five goals and seven assists in 22 games.

Sit back and enjoy watching Messi play every week here in MLS – we are lucky to witness this. The fans who have been coming out to see Messi play are getting their money's worth. To top it all off, he's leading Miami to wins as they sit atop the Supporters' Shield race with 21 points (6W-2L-3D).

Denis Bouanga, the reigning Golden Boot presented by Audi winner, started the season slow and went scoreless in his first four games in 2024. In his six games since then, he has scored six goals, including the stoppage-time game-winner in Saturday's 3-2 win over Portland. He is heating up and so are LAFC, who are unbeaten in their last four matches.

Bouanga has also hit the goal-post eight times this season! I texted an LAFC player afterwards who knows I picked Atlanta United's Giorgos Giakoumakis to win the Golden Boot this season, and his response on Bouanga was this: "He's a freak! Please switch your Golden Boot pick now!" He might be right.

Bouanga is getting in the right spots consistently, and nobody in MLS does a better job of making runs behind the defense and getting into the right spots to score goals than No. 99.

Austin FC have quietly won four of their last five matches, but their biggest result of the season came this weekend against the West-leading LA Galaxy.

They had a smart game plan and attacked the Galaxy in transition, taking an early 2-0 lead via goals from Diego Rubio and Jáder Obrian. Then they defended deep at Q2 Stadium and didn't give the Galaxy space to attack.

After a bad start to the season, it was a mature performance and a good sign that Austin FC can win in different ways. A big test against another West leader comes this Saturday at Vancouver Whitecaps FC (10:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass).

Real Salt Lake logo
Real Salt Lake

Away to Philadelphia is always a tough match, where the Union had only lost once since 2022. But Real Salt Lake went to Subaru Park and took all three points and first place in the Western Conference.

Pablo Mastroeni's men were in my Stock Up column last week and they backed it up with one of their biggest results of the season. It wasn't a perfect match, but winning on the road in MLS is never easy.

Chicho Arango picked up another assist and Alex Katranis scored a banger for the 2-1 winner. RSL are buzzing right now, having won back-to-back road games and going six unbeaten.


Remember when we all thought Seattle would be contending for the West crown? Well, after one win in nine games, I think it's officially time to be worried about this team.

Here's the main reason: Seattle are making awful mistakes at the back and being punished for it. That was something we never said about the Sounders in the past five years. They were the team that never shot themselves in the foot. Now it seems to be happening weekly – just in their last two games, the Sounders have seen three players sent off. In Saturday's 2-1 loss at D.C. United, it was goalkeeper Stefan Frei seeing red.

I trust head coach Brian Schmetzer to do whatever he needs to get this team right. There is too much talent on the roster to be near the bottom of the West.

Nashville SC logo
Nashville SC

What are Nashville usually known for? Organized at the back, hard to break down and tough to score on.

Not this season, and the goal they gave up in Saturday's 1-1 draw with San Jose was probably the easiest goal I've seen given up in 2024 by any team. Nashville allowed Earthquakes center back Rodrigues to just walk the ball into midfield and play a simple chip over the backline to Jack Skahan, who waltzed in 1-on-1 with Joe Willis. Criminal team defending! And now one win in nine games to start the season.

Head coach Gary Smith must find a way to get Nashville back to being tough to play against and organized defensively. Getting Walker Zimmerman back healthy and in the starting lineup will help. And, on the bright side, Hany Mukhtar returned to the score sheet this weekend.