Didn’t catch every minute of the past week of MLS action? No worries. Here’s a few notable moments and talking points to keep you in tune.
Streaks and spots
Atlanta United have lost twice in a row, the first losing streak in their history. Colorado are stuck in a five-game losing rut. New England are winless in five (0-2-3) and RSL have dropped three straight matches in the last two weeks.
Six teams are still in search of their first away win, while only two – conference leaders Toronto and FC Dallas – have winning records away from home.
As the Armchair Analyst Matt Doyle pointed out earlier in the week, we’ve now played one-fourth of the MLS season. We can now detect and discuss runs of positive and negative form alike. And the teams that can build good, lengthy ones and cut short the bad ones are likely to be tops come fall.
Let’s all admit it: Reports of Minnesota United’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. The Loons won their third game of the year on Sunday – all three of them have come against 2016 playoff teams, by the way – and now sit in a respectable mid-table position, level on points with their much-ballyhooed expansion siblings from Atlanta. And they’re scoring pretty goals, too!
The legend returns
He was feted in the pregame and fans at Rio Tinto Stadium were chanting “We Want Javi” on a night when Javier Morales, a RSL legend thanks to a decade of sterling service to the club, made his first return to Utah after his offseason move to FC Dallas.
Thank you, Javi. pic.twitter.com/k5LUuaO1tE— Real Salt Lake (@RealSaltLake) May 7, 2017
But Dallas manager Oscar Pareja surprisingly left Morales on the bench, and was vindicated by the 3-0 victory which left FCD as the lone undefeated team in MLS. It also left RSL boss Mike Petke plenty heated: “I’m very frustrated right now. I’m very angry right now. I’m very disgusted right now,” he said after the match.
Double-game weeks have arrived in earnest, a perennial challenge that requires roster depth, resilience and savvy tactics to negotiate. The four teams that played on Wednesday went 1-3 on the weekend, with TFC – who produced a masterful display of catenaccio to win 1-0 at Seattle on Saturday – the only ones not to fall in their second game of the week. When legs are a bit heavier than usual, managing minutes and controlling the tempo is key.
Brek’s back, y’all
2017 promises to be a fascinating season for Brek Shea, who is seeking a mid-career resurgence with Vancouver after treading water a bit in the latter stages of his time at Orlando City. A knee injury in CONCACAF Champions League sidelined him for nearly all of April, but he returned with some style on Friday night, coming off the bench to stun the Rapids with a late winner for the Whitecaps at DSG Park. Will the lanky Texan find the form that once made him one of MLS’ most dangerous attackers?
With their winless skid – which dated back to last August – stretching towards historic proportions, the Philadelphia Union were in dire need of a wakeup call this week, and CJ Sapong stepped up to bang the gong. With the Union tied at 0-0 with the visiting New York Red Bulls as time ticked away Saturday night, the strapping striker bagged a hat trick in a space of just 11 minutes, completely turning the game and lifting the gloom over Philly for a while at least.
Wondo: Still out here
Heading into the weekend, the Earthquakes attack was looking pretty punchless. They hadn't scored more than one goal in a game since the second week of the season, a dry spell reflected in a blah run (1-3-3) of results. But thanks to the ageless Chris Wondolowski, things roared back to life with a 3-0 dispatching of the fearsome Portland Timbers, highlighted by this classy curler: