ExtraTime Radio Podcast
LISTEN: Your US Open Cup final preview is here. Which team has more at stake? Plus, Atlanta's setting records and playing some of the most entertaining soccer in MLS. Andrew was among the 70,000-plus on hand to see Orlando batter for a 3-3 draw, and the guys wade in on all the action in the East, where the top six seem set. Meanwhile, the West may not be best, but it sure is fun now that the playoff race is a full-on free-for-all.
Another whirlwind week of MLS action has given us plenty to chew on. Here's a rundown.
Head and shoulders above the crowd
The Reds continue to churn out commanding victories, even when without major contributors, and are a shoo-in for the Supporters’ Shield. Saturday’s 4-0 thumping of the LA Galaxy was achieved with Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore watching from back home due to injury and fatigue concerns, and underlined how the league’s center of gravity has shifted from SoCal to The Six, to the chagrin of Sigi Schmid and the once-mighty Galaxy:
#LAGalaxy moves reporters away from locker room door because Sigi is blistering team and they don't want the media to hear him— Kevin Baxter (@kbaxter11) September 17, 2017
(Goal) King of the South
Meanwhile Martinez is scoring at a rate that no one in MLS – and hardly anyone in MLS history – can touch. The Venezuelan bagged two hat tricks this week and has hit seven goals in his last three games, pumping his goals per 90 minutes number up to 1.39. (None of the league’s other top scorers have a number above 1.00.) Three days after his high-octane Five Stripes' record-breaking 7-0 rout of New England, he was at it again in a wild throwdown with Orlando City:
Saves by Dre
Awkward ex interactions
There’s just something about playing your former team. It can bring out the best, or the worst, in any player. This weekend saw a host of such reunions. Kekuta Manneh and Tony Tchani stung their old clubs in Vancouver (but didn’t celebrate it)...
...while New England’s ex-Sporting Kansas City stars Teal Bunbury (scored!), Krisztian Nemeth (red-carded!) and Kei Kamara (making his first return to KC since his 2013 departure!) were key protagonists in SKC’s 3-1 win over the Revolution, as was ex-Rev Benny Feilhaber, who was centrally involved in two of his team’s goals.
The MLS Cup Playoffs have been effectively out of reach for Colorado and Minnesota for months – nonetheless they got to weigh in on the postseason race this weekend. The Rapids landed a late punch to hold New York City FC to a 1-1 draw, and the Loons stunned Montreal with a 3-2 road win that rips a big hole in the Impact’s fading prospects. Speaking of stunner, feast your eyes upon Abu Danladi’s sumptuous game-winner:
...but don’t sleep on NYCFC cult icon Tommy McNamara’s long-range stunner out in Commerce City, either:
Soul searching at Stade Saputo
The Impact soared on a four-game winning streak, only to plunge downward on a four-game losing skid immediately afterwards. That roller-coaster ride leaves them with faint hope of crashing the playoff party like they did a year ago ... and club owner Joey Saputo made his frustrations known in an open statement to fans.
While the top six in the Eastern Conference appear to be pulling away, it’s a bit more muddled out West, where it looks like four teams are racing for the final two playoff spots.
Houston and FC Dallas have the edge on San Jose and Real Salt Lake in terms of points-per-game average and games in hand, but have gone cold in recent weeks, leaving both in real danger of frittering away what once appeared to be highly promising seasons. If both Texas clubs manage to miss out, it would mark the first time that’s happened since the Dynamo were born in 2006.
Back in June, after his RSL side lost back-to-back blowouts to Houston (5-1) and Dallas (6-2) that left them dead last in MLS with the most goals allowed in the league, coach Mike Petke said he was "appalled" by his team's displays and planned to have them "fighting like dogs" for playing time after the international break.
Since that warning, Real are 7-4-3 and have refused to give up their playoff dreams thanks to results like Saturday’s win over Portland, made possible by this firecracker from the supremely talented Jefferson Savarino: