August is winding towards its end, children across North America are trickling back to school and the standings are posing some blunt truths for MLS teams. Week 25 is in the books; here’s some points to highlight.
A very good week in D.C.
The mistakes of the spring and early summer can blight hopes at this time of year. But no team is better positioned to erase past shortcomings than D.C. United, who are as hot as anyone in the league after reeling off three wins in three home games over the past eight days to build a five-game unbeaten run.
The Black-and-Red wore down a highly physical New England side 2-0 at Audi Field on Sunday night and are increasingly optimistic that they can sustain enough momentum to surge into the postseason with a full head of steam this fall. Of the nine total goals they scored over the week, Wayne Rooney’s two goals and two assists got most of the praise, but don’t sleep on Darren Mattocks’ excellent solo effort against his old team the Portland Timbers:
A very bad week for Portland
...speaking of the Rose City side, theirs was the funhouse reflection of D.C.’s – three games, three losses, nine goals conceded, thanks in large part to two tired-looking road performances in Washington and Kansas City.
Their 15-game unbeaten run is fading in the rearview mirror and coach Giovanni Savarese must find a way to rally his troops ahead of Sunday’s massive Cascadia Cup visit by their fierce rivals from Seattle (9:30 pm ET | FS1 — Full TV and streaming info).
An extremely good month on Puget Sound
The Sounders won their 6th straight and put up 5 against a depleted LA Galaxy team yesterday. pic.twitter.com/E1Ona92GXX— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) August 19, 2018
Over the past three years Seattle have made such a habit of Jekyll-and-Hyde late-summer turnarounds that they’ve had to deny the idea that it’s their master plan to play possum for the season’s first half. Either way, a road win at Providence Park this weekend would see them leapfrog their hated southern antagonists and seize possession of the Western Conference’s sixth and final playoff slot.
An extremely hard summer in Chicago
Kanye West once waxed poetic about the enduring gorgeousness of "summertime Chi," yet alas, it's been a painful time for the Chicago Fire, who've now lost eight straight after losing 2-1 at the Montreal Impact and have clanged to the foot of the Eastern Conference table. How painful? I'll let coach Veljko Paunovic tell you:
The Josef chronicles
Unless you were off the grid and/or under a rock, you probably had a hard time missing this one: Atlanta United’s Josef Martinez kept up his relentless goalscoring pace with a fine effort in Sunday’s win over Columbus, his 27th of the year:
That, of course, draws him level with the three iconic strikers who share the league’s single-season scoring record. With nine games left for Atlanta, the Venezuelan will almost certainly demolish that mark in the coming weeks, and leave a gaudy new number for others – and perhaps himself, too – to chase in the years to come.
Recovery and bravery in DTLA
At the beginning of this month LAFC experienced perhaps the roughest stretch of their brief existence: After blowing a 2-0 lead at home in July 26's 2-2 draw with the Galaxy, then slumped to consecutive league losses on either side of that agonizing U.S. Open Cup semifinal loss via penalty-kick shootout at Houston on Aug. 8.
The Black-and-Gold seem to have bounced back this week, making the most of two winnable home games with back-to-back 2-0 victories. First Real Salt Lake were comfortably dispatched at midweek, and late Sunday night they rode a strong outing from Lee Nguyen to a defeat of the Colorado Rapids:
As I pondered on Twitter, LAFC seem to have responded to Mark-Anthony Kaye’s season-ending ankle injury by turning even more aggressive, packing their XI with skilful, attack-minded players like Nguyen and doing without an orthodox No. 6. It’s a mighty bold move by Bob Bradley and bears watching down the stretch.
Red Bulls and Five Stripes
There’s plenty of time left for someone else to make a run at them, yet Atlanta and the New York Red Bulls appear to be putting a bit of distance between themselves and the chasing pack in the Supporters’ Shield race. Both are racking up points at a pace of 2 ppg or better, and it’s going to take some work for FC Dallas, Sporting KC or (slumping) New York City FC to catch up.
ATLUTD have lost just once since Memorial Day and the Red Bulls snatched another road point with Saturday’s dramatic last-minute leveler at Vancouver, where Daniel Royer’s hot streak (5 goals/1 assist in his last four games) continued:
You’re hearing the term “statement game” a lot around the Philadelphia Union’s impressive 2-0 defeat of NYCFC, as the DOOP squad put an elite team to the sword in style to underline their recent rise to legit East contenders. And that’s all well and good and deserved.
But I just want you to savor the latest flamethrowing extravagance from Ilsinho, the saucy Brazilian who personifies the soccer cliché “mercurial genius” with his glorious, albeit all too occasional, feats of audacious individual skill. This. Is. Delicious: