Voices: Sacha Kljestan

Stock Up, Stock Down: Real Salt Lake & Chicho Arango find cruise control


It was another double matchweek in MLS, and we learned plenty before the June international window.

As a player, I loved when we played two games in a week. There’s less time on the training pitch and more time under the lights with the pressure of having to win. If we won midweek, we could carry that momentum into the weekend match just a few days later. If we lost midweek, we quickly got a chance to make things right.

Let's look at who that especially applies to after Matchdays 17 and 18!

Real Salt Lake logo
Real Salt Lake

Chicho Arango led the way for RSL... again! Salt Lake visited Seattle and stole a point very late before demolishing visiting Austin FC on Saturday night.

Against Austin, Chicho scored his second hat trick of the season while scoring one of the best goals we've seen in MLS this season. He shot from the halfway line and caught Brad Stuver out with a perfectly driven long ball, almost reminiscent of David Beckham's goal for Manchester United against Wimbledon all those years ago. It was audacious and inventive from the Colombian striker, who has been among the best players in the league this year.

RSL are now on a 13-game unbeaten run and are showing no signs of slowing down. They haven't lost an MLS match in nearly three months!

The Black & Gold are picking up steam!

With two home games this week against Western Conference opponents Dallas and Minnesota, LAFC took home all six points. They are now on a seven-game winning streak across all competitions, with five coming in league play and two in the US Open Cup. Not only do LAFC look like favorites to win the Open Cup, but I have them pegged as one of the favorites for the Supporters' Shield as well.

During this stretch, they have given up only one goal! That is insane. I had question marks about the team's defense at the beginning of the season, but LAFC have figured it out at the back by getting consistent play out of center backs Aaron Long, Jesús Murillo and Maxime Chanot. Oh yeah, World Cup-winning goalkeeper Hugo Lloris has also been his magnificent self.

On the attacking side, Denis Bouanga is heating up. The reigning Golden Boot winner has four goals and three assists in the last six, giving him 10 league goals on the season.

New York City FC logo
New York City FC

RSL are consistent and LAFC are heating up… but NYCFC might be the hottest team in MLS.

Winners of five straight and eight of their last nine games, the Pigeons are simply in the zone. They dismantled San Jose during the last 15 minutes on Friday night to stay firmly in the Supporters' Shield race.

Alonso Martínez got the second-half hat trick and deserves some love, but the best moment of the 5-1 rout was seeing Maxi Moralez step back onto the pitch after recovering from last season's ACL injury. The game immediately changed when Moralez subbed on. He is the creator, the quarterback who always picks out the right pass at the right time. His return could prove massive for a team that is already humming.

New York Red Bulls logo
New York Red Bulls

The Red Bulls had a six-point week after taking care of business at home against Charlotte and Orlando. These are the games they are expected to win and they did just that.

RBNY have now won four of their last five after being spanked by Inter Miami a month ago. Emil Forsberg led the way against Charlotte and John Tolkin was the difference-maker against Orlando – star players are stepping up.

Fans in New York should be excited to see the Red Bulls and NYCFC locked into a battle for a top-four spot in the Eastern Conference.

Sporting Kansas City logo
Sporting Kansas City

Oof. Remember last season when Sporting started with just three points in their first 10 games? That was bad... this is worse.

SKC have lost seven straight matches and have no wins in their last 10, taking just two points during that span. That is dreadful. Peter Vermes is just throwing anything at the wall right now to see what will stick, including benching his usual starting front three of Alan Pulido, Dániel Sallói and Johnny Russell. This team is a shell of itself and I don't see anything changing from week to week. That is disheartening if you're a SKC fan.

Can they find the magic they discovered in the second half of last season and make another push towards the playoffs? Right now it seems doubtful to me.

Austin were on a good run of form, but this past week was tough.

Portland came to town Wednesday, and in a tight game decided by the battle between Sebastián Driussi and Evander, the former missed a penalty and the latter scored a free-kick banger for the visitors.

Then Austin went on the road without Driussi and got annihilated by Real Salt Lake, 5-1. By the 30th minute, the match was 3-0 and in the books for the hosts.

It's back-to-back losses in four days, and now Austin have a tough schedule for the next three games. I think we will get the answer as to whether this team is for real or not. I'm not ready to write them off, but this is a different team when they don't have Driussi in the lineup.