There's like five too many things happening tonight. It's as stressful as it is entertaining trying to keep up with it all. So let's take a deep breath and try to focus your attention on a few key moments and narratives.
Editor's Note: This piece was published originally as a part of Wednesday's Daily Kickoff. To subscribe to that, or any other MLS newsletter, click here.
The Red Bulls have taken down undefeated teams in the last two games. Their wins against Nashville and Orlando City were altogether pretty convincing. However, New England seem to be just one step above where those teams were. I say were because Orlando may have just fully awakened last night, but we'll see how that plays out against non-San Jose teams.
Either way, New England are just one point behind Seattle, the team we've all been hailing as the de facto Supporters' Shield winners for a few weeks now. And honestly, Seattle still probably are that, but New England have the depth and match-winning players to make it interesting. Carles Gil has probably been the best outfield player in the league. Matt Turner is definitely the best goalkeeper in the league. Both can win you a game single-handedly.
The Red Bulls may be the team with the most underdog energy and upside right now. But New England feel like the kind of team eager to stamp out the hopes and dreams of young dreamers. We'll have a much better idea of just how legitimate this New York team is by the end of the night.
You can honestly take a lot of what I wrote about the Red Bulls in the last section and put it here. The Crew have been performing well lately. They've beaten NYCFC, Toronto and Chicago in succession. However, I'm worried we're jumping the gun a bit on declaring them one of the league's best teams again. I feel like they've got to earn it a bit more. And that maybe some confirmation bias is coming through when people are jumping quickly to get back on the bandwagon.
The NYCFC win came after they got smacked around for most of the game before Lucas Zelarayan saved them with a pair of free kicks. If you took Chicago and Toronto and combined them into one team, they'd have enough points to be 11th in the Eastern Conference.
However, to their credit, the Crew do in fact have the sixth-best points per game in the league after a miserable start. They still aren't creating the way they'd like, but the defense is largely holding as one of the best in the league. Key offseason signing Kevin Molino is being slowly integrated into the team. Things in general are certainly looking up for Columbus. But can they come out and beat one of the league's best teams without a Lucas Zelarayan masterclass? We'll find out tonight (7:30 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+) against Philadelphia.
We're saying it a lot around these parts: "NYCFC are really good, they've just been really unlucky the last few games." Tonight (7:30 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+) we may find out just how true that is.
NYCFC have been creating an absurd amount of chances, but have only picked up one win in their last five thanks to the abilities of the aforementioned Matt Turner and Lucas Zelarayan. Tonight, the level of competition admittedly drops. Atlanta don't have that kind of match-winning ability. They do have a solid defense up until about the 80th minute of soccer games. But not a player capable of taking over an entire game and directly altering the outcome. If NYCFC are going to be among the best in the Eastern Conference, they have to beat mid-level teams like Atlanta.
Ctrl+C then Ctrl+V is how you copy and paste things on a computer. Basically, just take everything I said about teams getting a chance to prove themselves tonight and apply it to a Colorado team that have started off hot (against a favorable schedule that has put them up against exactly one team currently in a playoff spot and that team happens to be in the last playoff spot).
They face SKC tonight (8:30 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+). Then Seattle on July 4. Should be fun.
All the dust and matter in the world to ever exist has coalesced and worked together to bring us to this moment. Think about how lucky you are to exist in a world where something far greater than humanity has allowed humanity to create something far greater than itself. There is pain, there is destruction, there is sadness, but in those moments there are moments of light. Perhaps they're on purpose. Perhaps not. No matter the intention, we know that those involved will be rewarded for their creation. And in the midst of the pain, destruction and sadness, that might just be the one thing that can truly bring us joy.
We aren't worthy. Yet, we still get to reap the benefits of existence from time to time.
Cincinnati and Chicago kick off at 8 pm ET (MLS LIVE on ESPN+). Neither team can afford to lose. Both really need to win. Expect the unexpected.