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The Pitch (Matchday 9): Top Things to Watch in MLS This Week

Defending Champion LAFC Emerges as Last Unbeaten Standing


Courtesy of a 3-2 win over their crosstown rival, the LA Galaxy, the defending MLS Cup champion LAFC emerged from Matchday 8 with a new label: the last remaining unbeaten MLS team in 2023. Only two other teams in MLS history have been the last remaining undefeated team in their title defense season – 2013 LA Galaxy and 1997 D.C. United.

LAFC hopes that a strong start will lead to more silverware, as they look to become just the fourth team to win consecutive MLS Cups and only the second MLS team to emerge victorious in the Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League.

Powered by a star-studded lineup that is headlined by Dénis Bouanga and Carlos Vela, the 2023 edition of LAFC looks even stronger than their predecessors, as the club has dominated in both early-season MLS play with a 5-0-2 record and a stellar performance through two rounds of the Concacaf Champions League. While many previous clubs have struggled to balance success in Concacaf Champions League and MLS play, LAFC has not blinked in either competition, outscoring their CCL opponents by a 10-2 margin in four matches with Bouanga having scored five of those goals and assisting on two others.

Vela, who earned MLS Player of the Matchday honors following his record-setting two-goal performance against the Galaxy on Sunday, has been the club’s leader since its inaugural season and understands the bountiful opportunities ahead for the club.

“When you get the trophy, you feel all those positive things, that energy, the enjoyment to win a trophy. You want more, you want to be in that position again,” said Vela in January 2023. “We’ll have more tournaments, more chances to win trophies, so we’ll prepare to get more.”

LAFC will look to continue their unbeaten run as they travel to GEODIS Park to face reigning Landon Donovan MLS MVP Hany Mukhtar and Nashville SC on Saturday (8:30 p.m. ET, MLS Season Pass).

Bernard Kamungo and the American Dream

The Pitch Week 9_Bernard Kamungo

Scoring your first MLS goal is a special moment, but for FC Dallas’ Bernard Kamungo, his 88th-minute game-winner on Saturday marked another storybook chapter in one of the most incredible journeys in MLS history.

When he was only 14 years old, Kamungo and his family left their home at a refugee camp in Tanzania and landed in Abilene, Texas, in 2016 with the help of the International Rescue Committee. After competing for Abilene High School, Kamungo’s brother signed him up for a 2021 open tryout with MLS NEXT Pro side North Texas SC. Lo and behold, Kamungo made the team and remarkably was selected to the MLS NEXT Pro 2022 Best XI after scoring 16 goals in the league’s inaugural season in 2022.

The milestones only kept coming for Kamungo, who not only inked a first-team contract with FC Dallas in August 2022, but also became an American citizen alongside North Texas SC General Manager Matt Denny. Fast forward to Saturday night, Kamungo added to his incredible rise, scoring the game-winning goal in the waning moments of his second-ever MLS appearance.

Kamungo’s seven-year journey from a Tanzanian refugee camp to scoring in MLS marks one of the best early-season stories of the 2023 season.

Luchi Gonzalez Revitalizing San Jose in Year 1

The Pitch Week 9_Luchi Gonzalez

A former 2002 MLS SuperDraft selection by the Earthquakes, Luchi Gonzalez’s homecoming to San Jose is already proving to be one of the big turnaround stories of 2023. After a convincing 3-0 win on Saturday, the Quakes have quietly produced their best start (4-2-2) to a season in over a decade (6-1-1 in 2012).

One noticeable development under Gonzalez has been his ability to elevate the level of star players Jeremy Ebobisse and Cristian Espinoza. Ebobisse has continued to score goals with four on the season, but he also has expanded on his playmaking, having already created 10 chances in 2023. Meanwhile, Espinoza leads the team with five goals and is only two off his career high after just eight matches.

Gonzalez has the attack clicking, as evidenced by this 25-pass goal over the weekend (HERE), while also remedying some of the defensive issues that plagued San Jose last year. In 2022, the Quakes gave up 69 goals, the second most in MLS. This year, they rank in the top-10 MLS defenses after conceding only eight through as many matches.

The Earthquakes and Gonzalez look to continue their early-season success when they travel to face Real Salt Lake this Saturday (9:30 p.m. ET, MLS Season Pass).

MLS-Led United States Men’s National Team Takes on Mexico


In the first edition of the Allstate Continental Clásico, the United States Men’s National Team, powered by 19 current MLS players from 12 different teams, will take on the Mexican National Team in Glendale, Ariz., on Wednesday, April 19 (10 p.m. ET).

Seven MLS players who competed for the USMNT at the 2022 FIFA World Cup – defenders Aaron Long (LAFC), Shaq Moore (Nashville SC), DeAndre Yedlin (Inter Miami CF), and Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC), midfielder Kellyn Acosta (LAFC), and forwards Jesús Ferreira (FC Dallas) and Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC) – will be joined by three newcomers making their debuts for the United States Men’s National Team.

Two rising stars in the MLS goalkeeping ranks – Inter Miami’s Drake Callender and 22-year-old FC Cincinnati ‘keeper Roman Celentano – will be making their national team debuts. Callender ranks second in MLS with 33 saves this season, while Celentano is tied for the league lead with five clean sheets for an FC Cincinnati squad that is tied atop the Eastern Conference through Matchday 8.

Joining the two new goalkeepers is defender Caleb Wiley, who has been an early-season star for Atlanta United. The 18-year-old Wiley earned his first national team call-up after starting all eight games for the Five Stripes in 2023, scoring three goals and providing two assists across 593 minutes.

A closer look at the USMNT roster by the numbers:

  • 1: Efraín Álvarez of the LA Galaxy will be the lone MLS player on the Mexican National Team’s roster for Wednesday match.
  • 3: Three MLS players received their first national-team caps: Goalkeepers Drake Callender (Inter Miami CF) and Roman Celentano (FC Cincinnati), and defender Caleb Wiley (Atlanta United FC).
  • 7: Seven MLS players called into the USMNT squad have been capped five or fewer times: Drake Callender (Inter Miami CF), Roman Celentano (FC Cincinnati), Cade Cowell (San Jose Earthquakes), Julian Gressel (Vancouver Whitecaps FC), Aidan Morris (Columbus Crew), Paxton Pomykal (FC Dallas), Brandon Vázquez (FC Cincinnati), and Caleb Wiley (Atlanta United).
  • 12: Twelve different MLS teams are represented by the 19 players called in, including at MLS-high three from FC Cincinnati (Roman Celentano, Matt Miazga, Brandon Vázquez).
  • 19: Nineteen current MLS players are on the roster for Wednesday night’s match.

By the Numbers


From explosive offensive performances by St. Louis CITY SC and Atlanta United’s Giorgos Giakoumakis to the dynamic duo of Philadelphia’s Dániel Gazdag and Julián Carranza, below is a sampling of notable stats and figures entering Matchday 9.

  • 4: Atlanta United forward Giorgos Giakoumakis has made his presence felt early and often with his new club, scoring in each of his first four MLS starts for the club. Giakoumakis is only the second different player in club history to score in four consecutive matches, joining Josef Martínez, who accomplished the feat four times.
  • 5: With their 5-1 victory over previously unbeaten FC Cincinnati on Matchday 8, St. Louis CITY SC has scored at least three goals in five of their first eight matches this season. Only two other clubs – the 1998 LA Galaxy (five) and the 2018 New York Red Bulls (six) -- have previously accomplished that feat. Both the ‘98 Galaxy and the ‘18 Red Bulls won the Supporters’ Shield in their respective seasons.
  • 10: Since the start of the 2022 season, the Philadelphia Union duo of Dániel Gazdag and Julián Carranza have scored in the same match on 10 occasions (including playoffs), which is three more than the next-closest pair of teammates – a second pair of Union teammates in Gazdag and Mikael Uhre.
  • 14: With his brace against the LA Galaxy, LAFC’s Carlos Vela recorded his 14th career regular-season multi-goal game, which is tied with Zlatan Ibrahimović for the second-most in MLS since 2018. Only Josef Martínez (16) has more multi-goal games over the span.
  • 17: With a draw against the Columbus Crew on Matchday 8, the New England Revolution moved into a tie for the top position in the Eastern Conference with 17 points (5-1-2). The Revolution have opened a season with 17 or more points just four times in club history with the most recent occurrence happening in their 2021 Supporters’ Shield-winning season.

MLS Season Pass Broadcast Schedule: Matchday 9

Below is the MLS Season Pass broadcast schedule for Matchday 9, including English-language commentators for each match with the play-by-play talent listed first, followed by the match analyst.

Matchday 9 - ENG

How to Cover MLS in 2023

To assist in your coverage of the 2023 MLS season, the MLS Communications staff has provided the following media resources, all of which are available on

  • 2023 MLS Fact and Record Book | Link
  • 2023 MLS Statistics and Standings | Link
  • Weekly Club Game Notes | Link
  • MLS PR on Twitter | Link