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Inter Miami CF's Lionel Messi named Player of the Matchday

Lionel Messi's brilliant display for Inter Miami CF in front of a historic Arrowhead Stadium crowd has earned the Argentine legend Player of the Matchday honors for Matchday 9. A total of 72,610 fans – the fourth-largest standalone attendance for an MLS game – watched Messi log 1g/1a as the Herons topped Sporting Kansas City, 3-2, to reclaim first place in the Supporters Shield standings (4W-2L-3D, 15 points).

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Ranking the first-year MLS coaches

There are nine coaches in their first year with a new team. Some are having a better time than others. Let’s check in on how each team is doing in a transition year.

Caleb Porter - New England Revolution

It… uh… could be going better.

The Revs are last in the East after picking up four points in seven games, and their underlying numbers don’t suggest a major upswing coming anytime soon. Their situation might improve a bit now that Concacaf Champions Cup is out of the way, but it’s already difficult to envision New England catching up with the pack in a stacked conference.

It’s not clear how they fix things. Porter is in no trouble in year one of a job, especially after New England’s strange end to 2023. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the roster get a facelift or even outright renovation. That could begin as soon as this summer. A DP No. 9 who fits into the puzzle a little more cleanly than Giacomo Vrioni would be a start.

Unfortunately for the Revs, a more effective No. 9 won’t bring Matt Turner or Djordje Petrovic back. It’s a lot tougher to win games when you don’t have two of the best shot stoppers in league history coming to the rescue.

Eric Ramsay - Minnesota United

Ramsay is ahead of Porter, but he won’t move any higher on the list until we have a few more data points on what the Loons look like with him in charge. Frankly, he won’t move any higher on the list until Minnesota start winning home games. That shouldn’t be too difficult, but the Loons have made a chore of it the last couple of years.

It won’t help that Ramsay has already been thrown a strikeout-inducing curveball. Bebelo Reynoso isn’t with the team, and it’s not clear when (or if) he’ll be back. There aren’t many managers in MLS who can succeed with their elite No. 10 missing from the lineup. Ramsay, in his first-ever season in charge of a club, is facing an uphill battle from the jump.

Phil Neville - Portland Timbers

The Timbers are tough to figure out right now. They are interesting, though. It’s like they’ve entered a rebellious phase after years of 1-1 draws under Gio Savarese. Portland have scored the second-most goals in the West and allowed the second-most goals in the West. That doesn’t mean they’re good, but it does mean they’re entertaining. To me, personally, that’s progress.

Still, it’s clear they have work to do. They have an open DP spot, and they need to sort out what’s happening defensively. Neville can only do so much about the personnel right now, but a game model that has you playing 3-3 games each week is no way to live.

John Herdman - Toronto FC

Nearly everyone came into the year expecting Toronto to finish last in the East. It wouldn’t be surprising if some folks in Toronto thought of a second-straight last-place finish as a distinct possibility, too. So it’s fair to say Herdman entered the year with a gentler grading curve than everyone else on this list. And it’s fair to say he’s earned more than just a passing grade so far.

This year is about progress rather than results for Toronto. The results have started to slip away from the Reds after they lost Lorenzo Insigne to injury for an extended period, but they don’t seem like a last-place team right now. They’re getting contributions from young players, and they were getting contributions from Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi.

Before their current three-game losing streak, they had 10 points in five games. They earned 22 points all of last season.

Clear improvements are happening. That’s all you can ask for with a roster that’s going to need a few windows to get back to where Toronto wants.

Chris Armas - Colorado Rapids

Armas arrived this offseason alongside a significant roster upgrade for the Rapids. It’s paid off pretty well.

No one expected them to suddenly turn into contenders, but a playoff appearance seemed possible. They’ve looked the part so far. Colorado have a respectable 12 points through their first eight games and are sitting fifth in the West. After finishing last in the West in 2023, that's genuine progress.

Maybe most importantly, they appear to be getting better with time. In the last three games they’ve beaten LAFC, 3-2, tied Inter Miami on the road and thumped San Jose, 3-0. If they keep climbing they could easily be the team with the biggest turnaround from 2023.

Sandro Schwarz - New York Red Bulls

Schwarz gets docked a bit here for degree of difficulty. He took over a Red Bulls team that already had elite underlying numbers in 2023 despite missing Lewis Morgan in attack. The club added DP attacker Emil Forsberg to the mix this offseason, in addition to getting Morgan back from injury, and that’s all this team has really needed to thrive.

We have to give credit where it’s due, though. The Red Bulls are using the ball a little more often this year and don’t seem set to face the summer setbacks they’ve typically faced with Energy Drink Soccer. At least for now. Big tests are on the way for Schwarz. If they make it through the summer heat and travel without fading, he’ll have accomplished what others couldn’t.

Dean Smith - Charlotte FC

Smith inherited a roster with three DPs that weren’t working, pushed to get rid of two of them, set up a game model that solidified the team defensively and now, in an instant, Charlotte look like a team with upside. New DP Liel Abada got on the board for the first time this weekend as The Crown won their third home game and moved to seventh in the East.

They’re more than the sum of their parts right now with room to grow and, this early into their third manager’s tenure, that’s an accomplishment. If they can add a couple more productive pieces in attack, Charlotte could be setting up for the kind of sustainable success they haven’t found in their early days of existence.

Troy Lesesne - D.C. United

Lesesne took over a team that missed the playoffs last season and flipped their game model to a more direct, pressing style of play. It immediately paid off. D.C. have turned into underlying numbers darlings right from the jump and have been playing the kind of soccer indicative of a playoff team. The only problem is that they haven’t figured out how to hold onto leads.

Lesesne is still getting a ton out of this group right now, though. They’re one step away from consistently earning points and being one of the turnaround stories of the season. All they need to do is learn how to close out games. That might just mean they get a little more lucky. Did we mention their underlying numbers are among the best in the league?

Laurent Courtois - CF Montréal

Courtois’ first managerial job in MLS began with a six-game road trip. You wouldn’t have blamed him if Montréal had taken a beating over that stretch, especially after the whiplash-inducing tactical swings the team has had the last couple of years. Remember, they’ve gone from Wilfried Nancy’s high-possession model to Hernan Losada’s Diet Energy Drink Soccer model back to Courtois’ Nancy-esque setup.

But Montréal earned seven points from the trip and were unlucky to not earn more. When they got back home this weekend, they took down FC Cincinnati, last year's Shield winners. They’ve done all this without a ton of high-profile changes to their roster and without Mahala Opoku, who picked up an injury in the second game of the year.

They have a ton of home games left and should have plenty of confidence after their start to the season. It’s a start that’s provided immediate proof of concept for Courtois and this roster. If they can avoid being slowed too much by injury, they could easily be back in the playoffs after missing out last season.

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Good luck out there. Keep important dates in mind.