The return of our soccer with the MLS is Back Tournament has been fun, and even better, it has become more engrossing by the day.
Of course, not every team is conjuring soccer poetry, drama and thrills at the same rate. Some clubs have just been entertaining at a level above the crowd to this point in the tournament, and we're here to salute them for bringing the soccer fun back.
5. San Jose Earthquakes
The San Jose Earthquakes came out in top 4-3 against the Vancouver Whitecaps in one of the most entertaining matches of the MLS is Back Tournament thus far on July 15 | USA Today Sports
We all know the Quakes' primary modus operandi by now. They will man mark nearly everyone you've got, regardless of field location. In part because of this and in part despite it, San Jose matches are habitually 90+ minutes of fun. On occasion, they are downright barnburners.
Even though they try to mark foes into oblivion, the Earthquakes are certainly not immune to errors in their half. This naturally gives attack license to opposing side, and that naturally leads to some nice goals.And then, just when you think San Jose is dead and buried, the Goonies (who have some captivating cogs of their own, to be sure) come out to play. Oh good heavens, never assume they're dead!
4. New England Revolution
At this point, you may start detecting a sensible trend. Any team that can score high on both the attack showmanship and defensive collapsibility scales is by extension going to finish high on the entertainment value chart.
The Revs fit that description. At one end of the field, they have an array of attackers that are consistently worth watching in Gustavo Bou, Teal Bunbury, Carles Gil, Cristian Penilla and friends. At the other end, they have a defense prone to random napping. Even better, that not always so reliable group is backed by arguably the league's most exciting shot stopper.
And when the match concludes, we can all look forward to New England boss Bruce Arena dismissing the essence of a reporter's question with a bored sneer right before he gives it a thoughtful answer that totally makes sense.
LAFC still managed to score three goals in their MLS is Back Tournament opener against the Houston Dynamo, despite playing without superstar Carlos Vela | USA Today Sports
It will take a lot more than the genuinely large absence of Carlos Vela to pull this rollicking club off the list. The multitude of reasons for that were on spotlight display in their wild tournament-opening draw against Houston.
The industrious LAFC midfield trio is worth the price of admission (which for the moment amounts to turning on your TV/computer/phone) on its own, and that's even before they unleash defense ruiners Brian Rodriguez and Diego Rossi several times a game. Apparently, they now also have a Bradley Wright-Phillips that's fit to pester.
Meanwhile, the offseason trade of Walker Zimmerman has given them an issue to solve at the back. Eddie Segura needs a dependable partner, and until they find or establish one, some of their games may end up as two-way track meets (not that Bob Bradley cares, mind you).
2. Columbus Crew SC
As any member of the original study group on Community would surely say: duh-doy. Caleb Porter's boys shredded derby rival FC Cincinnati for fun and then pretty much shut down a solid Red Bulls side in an efficient manner.
The well-balanced Crew like to have the ball basically anywhere on the field. Artur and Darlington Nagbe ensure that they can boot it around, lead playmaker Lucas Zelarayan is quickly making himself at home in MLS and Gyasi Zardes is the league's most reliable final touch striker fit enough to play in Orlando.
1. Toronto FC
When you've been to three of the last four MLS Cups thanks to an upbeat style and can still put four on your arch-nemesis without the services of Jozy Altidore, your team is a real charmer.
The explosive breakout of Altidore stand-in Ayo Akinola is enthralling. Watching Pablo Piatti run game alongside Alejandro Pozuelo is a fresh delight (You get a no-look pass! You get a no-look pass!). Richie Laryea turns fullbacking into a drag race. We haven't even got a first tournament glimpse of Reds final-third Energizer bunny Jonathan Osorio yet.
And yes, like the three teams directly above, Toronto FC can both miraculously pull points back or let them slip with problems at the back, depending on the night. It all makes for some classic contests.