I hope you had your head on a swivel Wednesday night. Either that, or a multi-box viewing setup and a keen sense of when to look where. No matter what you’ve got, you undoubtedly missed some of the action to start MLS Week 12.
That’s what the extended highlights and matchcenters are for! MLSsoccer.com and the MLS app have you covered in that regard. I’m here to walk you through the three biggest headlines from the night, but first here's a bullet-point list of quick thoughts before we get to the main course.
- Name a way Damir Kreilach can’t score. You can’t. The 32-year-old might be the most natural, well-rounded finisher in MLS. I don’t even think that’s hyperbole. The Real Salt Lake midfielder is up to seven on the year, and his team is back above the playoff line.
- Kevin Cabral is off the mark. At some point, for all the pretty play, the Galaxy were going to have to diversify their attack. That was apparent against Sporting Kansas City, in which they created but didn’t finish their chances and lost at home. Cabral had one assist coming into Wednesday night. Here’s hoping that tidy finish is a sign of more to come.
- In non-MLS action, Steve Birnbaum, who is recovering from two offseason ankle surgeries, played 45 minutes in an exhibition in his first return to action since Oct. 3, 2020. That’s big news for a D.C. United side that’s increasingly bringing Hernan Losada’s vision to life and rising up the Eastern Conference standings in the process.
Alright, here are my three thoughts from Wednesday night. Let’s do it all over again Thursday and Friday before the Gold Cup halts league play for a week.
It’s quite the “mini record,” as manager Brian Schmetzer put it postgame. Five other teams got to 12, but none did what Seattle have done and may continue doing. Speaking of Schmetzer, someone ought to send him this tweet from Extratime producer Anders Aarhus. Oh to be a fly on that wall.
Hey, 13 down and 21 to go, I guess!
If the Sounders fans in your life are bordering on unbearable, welcome to the club. Just know there is no end in sight, because as good as this team has been to start 2021 – you already know who sits atop the Supporters’ Shield standings, shattering the “Seattle starts slow” narrative – they are likely to get even better (much better, somehow?) as their debilitating (you would think, at least) injury list slowly clears.
I mean, just look at this…
That’s three BEST XI-CALIBER PLAYERS out long term in Nico Lodeiro, Jordan Morris and Stefan Frei! Again, not just starters. BEST XI-CALIBER PLAYERS AND FREQUENT MATCH-WINNERS. Not to mention one of the best defenders in the league (Nouhou), three steady veteran reserves and, for this one, Cristian Roldan, who probably belongs in the 2021 Best XI and will be gone, the US men’s national team hopes, until at least Aug. 1 at the Gold Cup. His brother, Alex, is off to join El Salvador, too.
The Roldans might miss even more history, and not of the “mini” variety.
And you thought it was just 13 games! Next five up, to tie and then break the record: at Minnesota, at Austin, vs. Kansas City, vs. San Jose and vs. Dallas. The odds aren’t with Seattle, but that’s doable, even if they’ll likely be without the elder Roldan for the first four matches.
Credit where credit is due. For the time being, the Sounders are invincibles.
How can you compare the Toronto FC we saw in the first half hour in New England – three goals to the good – to the one we saw get run over 7-1 at Audi Field last weekend?
If I didn’t know better, I’d say it wasn’t the same team. Couldn’t be, given the way Toronto laid down, rolled over and submitted in D.C. The only difference was the manager, of course, as Chris Armas paid for a six-game losing streak, possession of the Wooden Spoon and downright humiliation with his job. Same players, different result on Wednesday.
Three points is nice, but there is much more work to do to have any chance of clawing their way back up the table, and the timing of the Gold Cup won’t make it easy. Jonathan Osorio, Richie Laryea and Ayo Akinola all hope to make a deep run with Canada, and Kemar Lawrence and Jamaica have a good shot at the knockout stage, too. The good news is Alejandro Pozuelo and Jeferson Soteldo are back, and that gives the Reds hope in any game. They need hope.
Because I was curious about the age-old “new manager bump” trope and thought you might be as well, here are the first-game results of teams who changed coaches during the season since 2018:
- 2021 Toronto FC (Chris Armas --> Javier Perez): Win, 3-2 @ NE
- 2020 D.C. United (Ben Olsen --> Chad Ashton): Loss, 2-1 @ CHI
- 2020 LA Galaxy (Guillermo Barros Schelotto --> Dominic Kinnear): Win, 2-1 vs. RSL
- 2020 New York Red Bulls (Chris Armas --> Bradley Carnell): Loss, 3-0 vs. PHI
- 2020 Atlanta United (Frank de Boer --> Stephen Glass): Win, 2-0 vs. NASH
- 2019 FC Cincinnati (Alan Koch --> Yoann Damet): Win, 2-1 vs. MTL
- 2019 Colorado Rapids (Anthony Hudson --> Conor Casey): Loss, 3-2 vs. VAN
- 2019 Houston Dynamo (Wilmer Cabrera --> Davy Arnaud): Draw, 2-2 vs. COL
- 2019 New England Revolution (Brad Friedel --> Mike Lapper): Win, 3-1 vs. SJ
- 2019 Real Salt Lake (Mike Petke --> Freddy Juarez): Win, 3-0 vs. SEA
- 2018 LA Galaxy (Sigi Schmid --> Dominic Kinnear): Loss, 5-3 @ TOR
- 2018 Orlando City (Jason Kreis --> Bobby Murphy): Win, 1-1 (4-2 in PKs) in USOC
That’s 7 wins, four losses and a draw. I’d call that a bump.
Have the Fire turned a corner? Thanks to an impressive, come-from-behind home win against Orlando City, the answer is clearly yes, though it’s still fair to wonder what’s around that corner and whether their recent run of form is sustainable or just a blip in a sea of misery.
That’s now seven points from nine in the past two weeks for Raphael Wicky’s men, the first time all year Chicago have put together back-to-back results, let alone won two straight. After last weekend’s victory against an Atlanta United team missing fully six starters, I suggested to the Fire faithful in my mentions that they pump the breaks a little bit and wait for more data points.
Well, Wednesday night was another decent data point. Orlando weren’t exactly full strength, but I’m trying my best not to nitpick given there’s been so little positivity in the Windy City for more than a decade. The Fire needed something, and this is something, even if there remain very real warning signs…
- Orlando didn’t start their four best attacking players and still generated a ton of quality chances
- Orlando put nine shots on target to the Fire’s four and won the xG battle (2.8 to 2.3)
- Home wins are good and necessary, but the Fire don’t have a single point on the road so far
I don’t mean to be a Debbie Downer here, but I don’t believe this is a playoff team, no matter the recent injection of good vibes.
We’re celebrating two wins because the alternative has been, well, you know. Yes, Alvaro Medran is a magician with the ball at his feet and looks much more engaged and active on both sides of the ball. Yes, the attack is coming to life (finally). No, they haven’t dropped a defensive anvil on their foot the past couple of games.
Yes, they’ve turned a corner. No, we don’t know what lies around the bend. Let’s be safe and pump the brakes.