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Thoughts on every game from MLS MD1
No El Trafico, but still lots to talk about
The MLS season is off and running, with almost a full slate of games (El Trafico was wiped out by terrible SoCal weather).
Time to overreact! Let’s catch up on every game that happened this past weekend, and my thoughts on them.
Nashville 2, New York City 0
Nashville playing well and creating for 75 Hanyless minutes is a good sign. My biggest worry about them, as was the case for most people, is their need for him to do everything.
He was still the star of the day. Nashville already had the lead, true. But his gravity drew four Pigeon defenders and he still found the space to put the perfect pass in for Jacob Shaffelburg, who made no mistake.
I still need to see more of this NYC team, but I’m worried about that attack even once Santi Rodríguez officially returns. There is no natural center forward on this roster, and Talles Magno just feels wasted there.
Maybe Taty joins James Sands in returning after a European loan spell? Just spitballing…
Atlanta United 2, San Jose Earthquakes 1
The Quakes looked a lot better than last year’s exercise in nihilistic football, and I have the feeling they’ll be a pretty popular hipster pick on Season Pass. Seriously, a midfield of Jamiro Monteiro, Carlos Gruezo, and Jackson Yueill feeding a front three of Cade Cowell, Jeremy Ebobisse, and Cristian Espinoza? That’s pretty solid!
However, they basically flatlined in the second half, and Thiago Almada took over in stoppage time.
Sometimes you just lose to one guy going Super Saiyan. Almada did that. But San Jose can’t have zero shots after the 53rd minute with a one goal lead and expect to hold on, and they were even let off the hook a bit by Luiz Araújo’s missed penalty.
As for Atlanta, Almada inshallah might not be the most sustainable practice. But 3 points is 3 points, especially when your new striker is still dealing with paperwork, and it’s nice to see Miles Robinson back.
New England Revolution 1, Charlotte 0
A somber night in North Carolina, as the Crown paid their respects to the gone-too-soon Anton Walkes.
The game itself was pretty tight throughout without a ton of real action, but the Revs have to be encouraged at nicking three points despite Carles Gil being kept quiet. I’ll be keeping an eye on Noel Buck, who was impressive and shows signs of being the first good Revs homegrown since Diego Fagúndez and Scott Caldwell a decade ago.
Charlotte has drawn a combined 143,824 to their two home openers despite some of the most expensive tickets on the planet. They have scored zero goals. Most of their better chances in this one came in stoppage time after they were already behind.
Cincinnati 2, Houston Dynamo 1
Signs of hope for both these teams, frankly.
Ben Olsen’s hiring by Houston drew a lot of mockery from the MLS fanbase. While I concede he isn’t the sexiest manager, his teams tend to be motivated and organized, and many of his DC teams were greater than the sum of their parts. On the road against a tough team, they put up a strong fight and fell short of a point on an unlucky deflection. I don’t think they’ll be nearly as bad as many think this season.
Last season a quiet Brandon Vázquez, a quiet Lucho Acosta, and no Brenner usually meant a loss or draw for Cincy. That they were able to eke it out on goals from other parts of the roster is a good sign.
DC United 3, Toronto 2
Toronto is like… you go to make a sandwich. You break out the best bread you can find, only to open your lunchmeat drawer, only to realize you forgot to grocery shop, you have moldy limburger as your only cheese and the meat dried up three weeks ago.
The bread is the Italians plus the offseason adds in the back, and the meat is this TFC midfield. Michael Bradley doesn’t have the energy he once did, Mark-Anthony Kaye hasn’t been reliable in years, and while I like Jonathan Osorio he’s not defensive enough to cover for those guys.
The result is this. DC capitalized on the Reds midfield’s lack of quality and defensive teeth on all three goals. If Toronto, a team clearly in win-or-bust mode, doesn’t want to bust, they need to fix this ASAP or this will be Bloody Big Deal levels of disappointment. They need their own Brujo Martínez, Diego Chará etc.
DC got production out of their DPs, homegrowns, and newcomers alike. Clean up some of the messiness in the back (which should come with health) and this team might not be so bad.
Inter Miami 2, Montréal 0
A couple debut goals for a Miami team playing without Leonardo Campana, and a much needed strong start to the season.
They weren’t sexy goals - Shanyder Borgelin’s goal in particular was after a fair few failed clearances - but for a team trying to integrate a few new pieces into the attack (Josef, the returning Rodolfo Pizarro) you take what you can get.
Montréal didn’t look as bad as many people expected, but they were just missing that extra bit of quality in the final third. Going up against an excellent shot-stopper in Drake Callender does not help.
Orlando 1, Red Bull New York 0
Not much happened in this game (beyond some great adventures in goalkeeping from Pedro Gallese), so I’ll use this space to ask: is the handball law about to become football’s equivalent to the catch in gridiron or goalie interference in hockey? What I mean by that is it’s a rule that seems cut and dry but nobody watching actually knows what it is.
Sean Nealis got bopped for one in this game, and Columbus got bopped for two in the next game.
In terms of the teams, Red Bull was probably the better one, but they looked like a team missing a DP #9. Let’s see if Dante Vanzeir is BWP’s heir or Klimala 2.0.
Philadelphia 4, Columbus 1
I already complained about the handballs in the last bit, so for actual game stuff…
How much does Joaquín Torres potentially change the game for Philadelphia off the bench? That was really the only thing this team didn’t really have last season - a guy who can boss off the dribble. An heir to Ilsinho, if you will.
Torres comes in, immediately dunks on both Philip Quinton and Darlington Nagbe with a dazzling spin move, then drops an absolute peach of a ball for a flashy assist to Julián Carranza. That kind of dribbler is something Philadelphia hasn’t had since the Brazilian’s dazzling 2019, and makes them even more of a matchup nightmare in the midfield.
The game got away from Columbus in the second half, but they had some signs of life. This was probably Alexandru Mățan’s best performance for the Crew, and Columbus was on the front foot in the first half.
However, Philadelphia at home is practically inevitable.
St. Louis City 3, Austin 2
Kipp Keller must’ve wanted the ground to open up beneath him at McKalla Place after this one.
The second overall pick in the 2022 SuperDraft started his sophomore season pretty auspiciously. While I won’t roast him too bad on the first goal (Brad Stuver did him no favors), the backpass right to Jared Stroud on the second might be one of the worst backpasses I’ve ever seen, and he got Preki chopped by Klauss on the winner.
With Julio Cascante appearing out for a while, he’s gotta bounce back, fast. Austin’s depth at that position was already shaky to begin with.
As for the visitors, they looked good. Not good for an expansion team. Good. And they got production from their DPs on opening night, with Klauss’s goal and Eduard Löwen bossing the midfield. They went to Austin and limited a very talented attacking team to just two shots on target (though they scored both…Roman Bürki, buddy, be better.)
I think people might underestimate St. Louis’s choice to have the 2 team play last year and bringing in some of their signings to help them get acclimated early.
Minnesota United 1, Dallas 0
Ugly win for Minnesota, but a win nonetheless. I’m not sure this will be sustainable without Reynoso, but the guys out there battled and grinded, and perhaps these guys see an opportunity in this bizarre episode: the chance to prove that yes, the Loons are more than just one guy. Ménder García sure did, scoring the lone goal on a rebound and having a second grade-A chance ended via a (very risky, could-have-maybe-been-DOGSO) tackle by Sebastian Ibeagha.
Brutal loss for the Toros, though. Did they decide to honor the late-stage Dallas Burn (who finished dead last in the West their last two seasons pre-rebrand, including a 2003 Wooden Spoon) by being bad in their first game in retro-inspired kits?
Real Salt Lake 2, Vancouver Whitecaps 1
A lot of what I said about the Quakes also applies to Vancouver. I think this roster, at least in terms of the starting eleven, is very balanced and very strong (assuming that Yohei Takaoka is as good as his 2022 J.League Best XI nod implies). And for the first 45 minutes, they looked every bit that good and struck first off a set piece.
Then they just…never found a second and stopped playing. Especially with the marking on Justen Glad’s opener where he got his own area code and, shell-shocked, they conceded again after. Dread it, run from it, the xDAWG boys arrive all the same. Vancouver’s dog took a nap and RSL’s DAWG went attack mode.
On the RSL end, I’m glad to see the ever-underappreciated Damir Kreilach has still got it after missing last season with injury. Now let’s see if they can cope with no Jasper Löffelsend for a couple games.
Seattle Sounders 4, Colorado Rapids 0
The advantages of having to prepare earlier than everyone else, I guess? Also the advantages of having your best XI actually healthy. Well, almost (Raúl Ruidíaz was out).
Seattle got going early and never really let off the gas, seemingly capitalizing on every Colorado miscue. Roldan and Morris owned the wings. Ruidíaz isn’t missed as much when the guy replacing him is a very good MLS forward in Héber and not an aging, declining Will Bruin. João Paulo proved why he was an MVP finalist his last healthy season. Even Léo Chú played well. This was a ruthless performance.
The Rapids didn’t help themselves. Lalas Abubakar is lucky Keller had his shocker in Austin, because he would’ve been the worst defender of the week if not for him (a poor defensive header allowing Seattle to retain possession on the second goal, and a perfect lay-off to Héber on the third). I did like the looks of Darren Yapi and Connor Ronan, though.
Portland Timbers 1, Sporting Kansas City 0
Honestly not a lot to talk about from this one. Somehow a match between two backup keepers on a Tuesday night with the winning goal scored by a fullback wasn’t actually as chaotic as it sounds.
Portland needs Evander to be better than he was on his debut (which was very, very forgettable), and also to hope that Yimmi Chará injury isn’t serious. Three points at home is still three points at home, but it wasn’t convincing.
For KC, with the hype of “full season of William Agada and Erik Thommy”…they didn’t create much at all, and I once again fail to see the purpose of Khiry Shelton (though him at wing is much less egregious than him at center forward).
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