Daily KO - Benteke

Sign up for The Daily Kickoff in your inbox! The Daily Kickoff is more than an article – it can be delivered to your email account as well.

What you need to know

Atlanta United roll against Chicago

In the final game of Matchday 7, Atlanta United eased their way to a 3-0 win over Chicago Fire FC in Atlanta.

CCC, US Open Cup resume tomorrow

Concacaf Champions Cup returns tomorrow as Columbus host Tigres at 7 pm ET on FS1 and ViX and New England welcome Club América at 9 pm ET on FS1 and TUDN. Meanwhile, multiple MLS NEXT Pro teams will continue their U.S. Open Cup journey. You can check out the full schedule here.

Assorted thoughts from the weekend that was

Most teams are about 17.6% of the way through the regular season. Give it about 27 more games and we might actually learn something. Until then, it’s our duty to share a few thoughts on what we’ve seen so far.

The middle of the East is fascinating

Coming into the year, a small group of teams looked like contenders at the top of the East. Columbus, Inter Miami, FC Cincinnati, Atlanta and Philadelphia have mostly lived up to their end of the bargain. It won’t be surprising if we reach the end of the season and those five have found their way to the top five spots in the standings. But the challengers in the tier below apparently aren’t going to let that happen easily.

After six games, the three teams at the top of American Soccer Analysis’ expected points metric (basically, how many points can you expect to earn based on the chances you create and allow) are Charlotte, D.C. United, and New York Red Bulls. The five previously-mentioned contenders aren’t too far behind them – well, except, uh, Inter Miami – but, even with a small sample size, it’s clear Charlotte, D.C. and New York have come to play this year. And that doesn’t even include CCC-ravaged teams like New England, Nashville and Orlando, and upstarts like CF Montréal and Toronto.

That’s… [checking] ...pretty much the entire conference except NYCFC and Chicago. Not trying to dismiss those teams entirely based on six games but, well……… Anyway, it’s easy to make a case for a handful of the teams in that second tier to break through.

• New York may genuinely be in the first tier already. Other than one game against the Crew, they’ve been the best version of themselves. Lewis Morgan, Emil Forsberg and Dante Vanzeir have revitalized their attack, and there may be another DP attacker on the way eventually.

• D.C. United have been doing their best to bludgeon teams to death with intensity and crosses to Christian Benteke. Everyone who’s played against it so far seems to go out of their way to point out how much of a nightmare that is to handle.

• CF Montréal have passed their early-season road trip test with flying colors and are so, so close to getting back home for the majority of the season.

• Charlotte have the most work to do, but they’ve been impressive defensively and are just beginning to integrate new DP Liel Abada. They still have another open DP spot, too.

• And Orlando, New England and Nashville have stumbled out of the gate but still have the rosters and experience to quickly bring them back into the fold.

We knew coming into the year that the East would be one of the deeper conferences we’ve seen. We didn’t know that D.C., Montréal, Charlotte and even Toronto would have so much to say at the start of the year.

Houston roll out of the fall

After falling out of Concacaf Champions Cup, the Dynamo have responded by winning three straight and easing their way back towards the top of the West. All of the sudden, a pretty miserable start to the year feels like it might be an afterthought.

DP forward Sebas Ferreira, who picked up an injury in the first few minutes of the season, is back and found the net this weekend in Houston’s win over San Jose. And Héctor Herrera is reportedly set to return within the month. That should provide a massive boost in attack. But, in the meantime, the Dynamo will look to keep leaning on what has so far been a league-best defense.

Through five games, Houston are allowing just 0.69 expected goals per game. Small sample size caveats apply of course, but that’s been the best mark in the league. They haven’t generated many chances for themselves in that stretch, but it hasn’t bitten them too hard. When they put Herrera back in the mix as the focal point of their attack, they should be able to solve that problem – maybe not at an elite level, but certainly at a level where earning points in the West won’t be an issue.

That’s not to say they’ll keep up their two-points-per-game pace or anything. But we can probably start to ease any worries about the floor falling out from under them. It doesn’t free them from criticism over their lackluster offseason, but it does make the current situation a little more palatable.

Two Shield contenders keep rising

It’s worth mentioning that the Galaxy and Atlanta United put in the kind of performances that validate their contender status this weekend.

The Galaxy kept a clean sheet – debate among yourselves how impressive that is against Seattle right now – and finally got new DP winger Gabriel Pec involved. Pec had been on a slow integration timeline but seems to be settled now. Adding a fourth high-level attacker to the Galaxy front makes their attack a complete set of whole entire problems to deal with. If they’re going to find ways to grind out 1-0 wins when not everyone is on their A-game, they’ll keep grabbing points at an elite level.

A few hours later on the East Coast, Atlanta United had their full allotment of starters (minus center back Stian Gregersen) in the lineup and bulldozed Chicago. They put up 4.3 xG to Chicago’s 0.7 in this one and moved to 3W-0L-0D on the year at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. What’s scary is they didn’t even look like they were at their sharpest in the final third.

Both teams have looked the part on paper and on the field so far. It seems like two of the biggest clubs on either coast are set to compete at the top again.


Seattle and Dallas should probably start freaking out now. Just saying.

The Reading Rainbow
Full Time

Good luck out there. Celebrate the right way.