LAFC and the LA Galaxy continued their winning ways, while New York’s duo struggled to find success yet again in an MLS weekend that showed the differing fortunes in the early going on the two coasts.
The clubs on opposite coasts endured quite different fortunes in MLS’s Week 6.
While LAFC and the LA Galaxy (and even the San Jose Earthquakes!) found success, the New York Red Bulls, NYCFC and D.C. United were among the sides that found the toughest sledding over the weekend. D.C.’s struggle at home vs. LAFC, in particular, was the most surprising, given Ben Olsen’s side entered unbeaten with only one goal conceded all season prior to Saturday’s high-profile matinee.
It’s early still, which in MLS parlance means it’s tough to read too much into anything just yet. San Jose’s win after a series of hopeless performances doesn’t necessarily turn the work-in-progress team’s direction around for good, and for D.C., the big loss was likely just a blip, not the sign of a further downfall. Those polar opposite starts for the L.A. teams and the New York ones, though, make for a glaring theme a month into the new season.
In addition to the bicoastal exploits, the weekend in MLS featured more Zlatan, one of the worst Panenka PKs you’ll ever see and a breakthrough for Orlando City’s new DP. Here’s a look back at the most notable of the bunch:
I. The supposed MLS Cup preview in April was not much of a contest
Let’s dispel one thing: There’s no such thing as an MLS Cup preview in April. That’s just not really how MLS works. That said, the much-anticipated match between in-form Eastern Conference power D.C. United and Western Conference leader LAFC was surprisingly lopsided.
Buoyed by Diego Rossi’s hat trick, another Carlos Vela goal and a VAR-assisted Wayne Rooney red card, LAFC blew the doors off D.C. with a 4-0 result at Audi Field. It didn’t look like it’d be LAFC’s day when Bill Hamid denied Vela from the penalty spot, but that was just delaying the inevitable. LAFC, simply put, was fantastic in every facet, while D.C. was entirely too sloppy on its own home field. That’s a recipe for disaster.
Given how the schedule plays out, the only time they can meet again is in MLS Cup, but there’s a long way to go for both sides, and apparently D.C.’s road is the longer of the two. Resurfaced reports of a potential summer exit for Luciano Acosta are also cause for concern in the nation’s capital, where United was otherwise enjoying a bright start to the season. MLS campaigns are rarely linear, though, and not having Rooney available for Tuesday’s clash vs. the Montreal Impact won’t help matters, either.
II. Nani uses his head
Rooney’s former Man United teammate, Nani, enjoyed a first taste of MLS heroics with his two-goal performance vs. Colorado.
While Kei Kamara was busy cracking MLS’s top-five all-time scorers with his 115th career goal on one side, Nani opened his league account with his header and game-winning penalty kick on the other, beating Tim Howard for the first time since the 2014 World Cup twice in a weather-delayed, 4-3 thriller.
Should he have even been on the field for the winner, though? It was another use of his head, multiple apparent headbutt attempts of Kellyn Acosta in the 74th minute, that could have ended his night prematurely and put a different spin on the evening. It was never properly flagged, though, leaving Colorado languishing without a win in six games and the Portuguese veteran on the field for his breakthrough showing in MLS.
III. Zlatan graces Vancouver with his presence
After a goal and an assist in a rare appearance on turf, Zlatan Ibrahimovic was gracious enough to leave the people of Vancouver with a parting message like only he can.
IV. When the Panenka goes wrong
Last week, Alejandro Pozuelo and Ibrahimovic exhibited the beauty of a well-executed Panenka penalty kick, scoring in style for their teams. Friday night, Ali Adnan displayed the other end of the spectrum–and it wasn’t pretty. Given a chance to put the Whitecaps up in the second minute, Adnan instead did this:
Notice Zlatan’s presence behind Adnan before his attempt. He’s locked in even when you think he doesn’t need to be.
V. When it all goes wrong
Portland Timbers, what exactly is going on? It’s well documented that the Timbers are away from home for the first 12 games of the season while Providence Park’s renovations are completed, and it’s not groundbreaking that winning on the road is hard, but given a chance to face a San Jose Earthquakes side that had yet to earn a point–and hadn’t won a league game since August 29–figured to be the chance Giovanni Savarese’s club needed to get things right.
Instead, it was a catastrophe.
Three goals 34 minutes in–including two within a minute–lifted San Jose to the first win of the Matias Almeyda era. Portland, meanwhile, has conceded multiple goals in all five of its matches, including at least three in four of those. There are still seven more road matches to come, the next three of which are against FC Dallas, Columbus and Toronto FC. It could be getting a lot worse for the Timbers before they have the chance to make it any better.
VI. The “old” man walks it off
The Philadelphia Union-FC Dallas clash was as much a U-20 contest as an MLS match in some ways. FCD started five Homegrown Players who were 20 or younger. The Union featured 20-year-old center back Auston Trusty and 18-year-old playmaker Brenden Aaronson. Yet it was the 31-year-old Alejandro Bedoya who had the ultimate say, with a classy stoppage-time winner to give the Union their third straight victory.
MLS is becoming a young man’s league in many facets, which is generally a good thing, but the old-timers can still hack it.
VII. A very expansion goal to concede
FC Cincinnati has endured some highs and lows early on in MLS, but this one registers with the latter. Indecision between Greg Garza and Spencer Richey allowed Sporting KC’s 16-year-old rising star Gianluca Busio to waltz in with an equalizer in a 1-1 draw–an uplifting moment for a club that really didn’t want to follow a 5-0 embarrassment in the first leg of the CCL semifinals at Monterrey with a league loss to an expansion team.
VIII. Lodeiro with the fadeaway
The lefty fadeaway volley is definitely an unusual one, but Nicolas Lodeiro played it off like a champ with the only goal in Seattle’s 1-0 win over Real Salt Lake.
The win kept notoriously slow-starting Seattle unbeaten on the young season while dealing RSL its fourth straight loss. As for RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando, at least he can find a silver lining after three straight weeks in which RSL lost at least one player to a red card.
IX. Pozuelo, Altidore connect again
The Sebastian Giovinco-Jozy Altidore connection made Toronto FC so dangerous, so it must be a relief for TFC fans to see Altidore healthy and connecting with regularity with Pozuelo immediately after the new DP’s arrival. Their latest combination opened the scoring in a 2-2 draw vs. the Chicago Fire and should have the league on notice that TFC has another dynamic duo in the making.
X. Don’t look now, but Columbus is in first place
Josh Williams certainly didn’t need to look to come up with the Crew’s game-winning goal vs. New England.
As a result, Caleb Porter’s Columbus side sits atop the Eastern Conference after a fourth win in six games–all of which have come via the clean sheet.
XI. Struggle City
Much has been made of Portland and Atlanta United’s post-MLS Cup woes, and it’s true that both sit in last place of their respective conferences. But what about the two New York sides, who have just one win in 10 games between them?
NYCFC has picked up where it left off under Domenec Torrent, which is not a good thing. The lack of dynamism and consistent firepower, displayed again in a 0-0 draw against an Ignacio Piatti-less Montreal, has made for a rather punchless side, one that now has to be the guest of honor as Minnesota United opens its new stadium next weekend.
The Loons will do so fresh off a win over the New York Red Bulls, who have also found it hard to replicate its past success. Chris Armas’s tweaks haven’t taken hold just yet, with only a comfortable win over lowly San Jose salvaging the club’s start from being a total disaster.