The final week before the All-Star Game was lively; here's a few prominent proceedings.
Party on a weeknight
Busy weeks like this one can make midweek action feel like a distant memory by Sunday evening. But don’t sleep: Philadelphia, Seattle, New York City FC and the New York Red Bulls all posted road wins, while the LA teams gave us another El Trafico to remember (more on that later). My colleague Bobby Warshaw penned a good rundown that’s worth your time.
The biggest midweek milestone was marked in Washington, D.C., where Bradley Wright-Phillips scored his 100th league goal, the game-winner in RBNY’s rain-soaked 1-0 Atlantic Cup win over D.C. United, and treated us to an epic celebration. And it took him just 159 games to get there, obliterating the previous record held by Taylor Twellman – who reached the century mark in 174 games and afterwards dropped a tongue-in-cheek "rant" about losing his spot in the history book to BWP.
SoCal deja vu
Remember the first meeting between the LA Galaxy and their new crosstown antagonists LAFC, back in March? It was an instant classic, to put it mildly, highlighted by Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s jaw-dropping introduction to MLS, and it reminded everyone of why the league’s leaders were so keen to get a second team back into soccer-mad Los Angeles.
For most of Thursday night’s rematch at Banc of California Stadium, it looked like the expansion newcomers would exact sweet revenge for the painful late collapse they suffered at StubHub Center that first time around. LAFC were by far the better side over the first 80 minutes, and had a 2-0 lead to show for it … but what do you know, it wasn’t enough – AGAIN…
Black swan Barrios
Heading into Saturday’s visit to Children’s Mercy Park, FC Dallas hadn't won in Kansas City in nearly seven years, and Michael Barrios hadn't scored an MLS goal since Oct. 22 of last year – and he hadn't notched a multi-goal game since Aug. 27, 2016.
Safe to say it was unexpected, then, for the diminutive Colombian winger to bag a scintillating hat trick vs. Sporting KC, spearheading an impressive 3-2 road win for the North Texans, who soaked up pressure and lashed out on the counter with the menace we’ve seen from their top teams of the recent past. FCD have now opened up a six-point gap in the standings between themselves and the rest of the West.
Here come the champs?
The Sounders have made a strange tradition of early- and mid-season doldrums followed by furious stretch-run climbs into the postseason, a formula that reaped an MLS Cup title in 2016 and another trip to the final last year. This season they dug an even deeper hole for themselves, however, and after their 3-2 home loss to rivals Portland on June 30, MLSsoccer’s own Nick Rosano had to note that “Seattle's season looks increasingly lost.”
Well, wouldn’t you know it: They haven't lost since that day, including taking all six points from their two games this week, sparking talk of yet another Lazarus act on Puget Sound.
And their MLS Cup adversaries for two years running, Toronto FC, have renewed their own hopes of pulling off a similar feat by beating the Chicago Fire in back-to-back meetings. Yet it’s not so much those two wins that’s got tails up in The Six, as much as the fact that they were earned with Jozy “Phone Home” Altidore back in the fold...
Who’s hot, who’s not
Stepping back to take in a glimpse of both the forest and the trees, things are looking pretty grim in:
- Chicago, who are now stuck on a five-game losing streak after two losses to TFC in as many weeks;
- KC, who are 0-4-1 since the end of June and have slumped down the table accordingly;
- Houston, 0-2-2 in their last four and winners of only two league matches since late May (at least they're thriving in the U.S. Open Cup!);
- And nowhere more so than Colorado, Orlando and San Jose, who all lost again this week and are lodged in the basement, standings-wise, with focus rapidly shifting towards 2019.
Conversely, Atlanta United are back to all-conquering status with three wins and a draw since the July 4 loss at Dallas that looks increasingly like a blip on their march to the Supporters' Shield. The Galaxy are riding a six-game unbeaten streak, Columbus Crew SC have won two in a row after a slump and NYCFC are 6-2-1 since Memorial Day (and still undefeated at home) despite Sunday’s 3-1 loss to the Sounders.
Rose City curtain call
Sure, El Trafico was lit, Alphonso Davies captivated Vancouver and Wayne Rooney opened his MLS account in style before spouting a river of blood down his face after a clash of heads. But for my money, the best theater of the week unfolded in Portland.
Charismatic striker Fanendo Adi, the leading scorer in Timbers club history and a star of their 2015 MLS Cup championship, has been the odd man out under first-year coach Giovanni Savarese, and reportedly requested a trade in search of more regular playing time. And it appears that he’s getting his wish, in the form of a reported trade to 2019 expansion arrivals FC Cincinnati.
Thankfully, that mooted move didn’t prevent him from getting one last runout at Providence Park. PTFC announced before Saturday’s game vs. Houston that it would be Adi’s last as a Timber, and with the home crowd eager to say goodbye, the tall Nigerian delivered in true Hollywood style, coming off the bench to tap in the game-winner and cue some wonderfully emotional scenes.
Just when it seemed all the Week 22 fireworks had popped off, Ibrahimovic treated us to a late-night spectacle on Sunday, continuing his superb run of scoring efficiency with a hat trick in LA's end-to-end, defense-optional, 4-3 shootout win over Orlando City. If you missed this one, go watch the condensed version on the MLS app at once...