As the weeks go on and the league table begins to take shape, favorites begin to emerge and we can start to see trends more clearly. MLS has belonged to Philadelphia and LAFC for the past year, but is that the case anymore? Sure, Denis Bouanga can’t stop scoring, but other teams are finally having their say. After MLS Matchweek 3, here are five things we learned.
Five things we learned from MLS Matchweek 3
#1. Are St. Louis City serious contenders for the Supporters’ Shield?
We truly are witnessing something special this season. After Charlotte FC’s inaugural campaign last year, where a win against Chelsea in a midseason friendly proved to be the highlight, expectations for St. Louis City were understandably low. Better to be realistic than to dream, right?
As it turns out, no it isn’t.
On Saturday night, Apple TV inadvertently created a touching look into what it means to be an MLS fan when the in-studio crew interviewed Taylor Twellman, who was raised in St. Louis and unabashedly cheers for his home side despite being a paid pundit and commentator for the new streaming service.
During Twellman’s interview, the coverage switched to a side-by-side view of the former New England star and the club of his childhood dreams. During this time, seemingly by divine intervention, St. Louis equalized just before the half as Jared Stroud found himself on the end of a cross and sent the ball past a helpless David Bingham in the Portland goal.
Jared Stroud is there to clean it up with the finish.#AllForCITY equalize in Portland on the brink of halftime. pic.twitter.com/M5ikUXhPnx— Major League Soccer (@MLS) March 12, 2023
In real-time, we the viewers were treated to Twellman’s visceral reaction as we saw the 43-year-old regress back into his 10-year-old self on live television.
Later in the match, St. Louis found their winner to become just the second expansion team after the Seattle Sounders in 2009 to go 3-0-0.
St. Louis City has emerged from Week 3 as the only 3-0-0 team. Just like we all expected.— Jeremiah Oshan (@JeremiahOshan) March 12, 2023
This isn’t a club in a vacuum, it’s a movement, and it's bringing an entire city, a soccer-starved community, along with it on this perfect journey. A draw or win in their next game against San Jose would set the record for the best start in MLS expansion team history.
Dream on St. Louis fans, because nothing could possibly be better than reality.
#2. How have Sporting KC, Montreál and Colorado not scored a goal yet?
This is getting ridiculous.
We’re now three weeks into the 2023 MLS season and Sporting Kansas City, Montreál CF and the Colorado Rapids are all still waiting for their first goal of the season, but it’s not for lack of trying.
#Rapids96 are the only team in the top 10 to have not scored yet in the first two matches cc: @DNVR_Rapids— Mitch Peotter (@mitchpeotter) March 5, 2023
Colorado has created great scoring chances in its three matches, accumulating 3.1 Non-Penalty Expected Goals which is fourth in MLS for that metric. And yet, no goals. It’s likely the departure of Gyasi Zardes combined with losing last season’s top-scorer Diego Rubio to injury is taking a toll. Their absences have left Darren Yapi as the main attacking threat and while the 18-year-old is talented, he's not prepared to be the main source of goals just yet. Give him a few months and he could grow into the role, however.
sporting kansas city did not score pic.twitter.com/v6py7qBsfs— J. Sam Jones (@J_SamJones) March 12, 2023
My full game reactions to Sporting KC vs LA Galaxy #SportingKC #LAGalaxy pic.twitter.com/kJb2ocjub7— KEVIÑCHO (@KEVINCHO_TV) March 12, 2023
Sporting KC’s goal drought comes on the back of an injury-riddled preseason, with club captain Johnny Russell headlining the list of afflicted players. As a result, Kansas City has now played three games, looked to be the better side in two matches, but couldn’t find the back of the net against the Timbers or the Galaxy. Oddly enough, the one game where Peter Vermes’ side looked off the pace was against Colorado but fortunately, the Rapids are equally impotent.
Three MLS games this season for CF Montreal…0 points
0 goals scored
Really tough start to the new era.
Positive spin? Still very early in the season and all three games were on the road. But not ideal.
— Tom Bogert (@tombogert) March 12, 2023
Up north in Montreál, the story has been a mass exodus after last year’s surprise success. Ismaël Koné, Djordje Mihailovic, Joaquín Torres, Kei Kamara and even manager Wilfried Nancy left the club for pastures new, and very few replacements have been brought in. The writing was truly on the wall for Montreál, and these mistakes in the off-season have fully come home to roost on the pitch. With fixtures against Philadelphia and New England approaching fast, the goalless streak and resulting losing streak could continue for some time.
#3. Are Inter Miami frauds?
Inter Miami opened its season with a pair of wins against Montreál and Philadelphia, turning lots of heads in the process. The dominant display against the Union especially seemed to cement Miami as a true force to be reckoned with, but just a week on, all that hype has died down and Phil Neville’s side is once again a midtable team.
24,489 at YS last night - great atmosphere in the Bronx.And an own goal for the win.
As heard on the #NYCFC Network & @AppleTVPlus - joined by @mattyjlawrence
"The 1st goal conceded by Inter Miami in 2023 is scored by Inter Miami."⬇️#NYCvMIA #InterMiamiCF #MLSSeasonPass pic.twitter.com/QzcjyuJwb8
— Glenn Crooks (@GlennCrooks) March 12, 2023
A tame loss to NYCFC in week three showed vulnerabilities that had not been exposed prior to Saturday. Defensive lapses, especially on set pieces, doomed Miami while star forward Josef Martínez is still waiting to find the net for his new team.
The season still has the potential to be fruitful in South Beach but the outlook is perhaps not as bright as it was just a week ago. These games on the road against unimpressive sides are what separate the wheat from the chaff. Great teams get results, even when they're not at their best.
#4. Cincinnati might be the real deal this year.
Seattle has grabbed the headlines with a brilliant start after last season’s domestic disaster. With six goals in two games, the Sounders headed to Ohio full of steam and ready to bring a third win back to Washington. Cincinnati, however, proved up to the task when star forward Brenner found the back of the net to grab all three points in front of a second straight sell-out crowd.
Consider this: Seattle arrived in Cincy leading MLS with 17 shots on target in 2 games. Tonight they had ONE. They had six goals in two games. Tonight? NONE.That’s one hell of a team performance by @fccincinnati tonight and as gritty of a win as they come. LFG!! #AllForCincy pic.twitter.com/Ex6zG7W5j6
— Tom Gelehrter (@Tommy_G) March 12, 2023
Pat Noonan’s side frustrated and stopped Seattle’s flying offense even after Nick Hagglund was sent off in the 83rd minute. The Sounders thought they had equalized but VAR ruled it out for a foul in the build-up. Soft? Maybe. But ultimately it doesn’t matter. Cincinnati came to play and was able to do what no team has been able to do this season as they kept Seattle off the scoreboard.
For a side that has flown under the radar a bit, Cincinnati is extremely good. Wins against Houston and now Seattle bookend a tough draw against Orlando City but the important fact is they still haven’t lost. Up next is a trip to the Windy City before back-to-back difficult tests against Nashville SC and Inter Miami.
#5. What teams are prioritizing the CONCACAF Champions League?
Last week’s CONCACAF Champions League first-leg matches were a bit of a mixed bag for MLS sides. Austin FC’s massive loss to Violette AC set Twitter ablaze, while Philadelphia and Orlando City both found solace in 0-0 draws on the road against tough opposition. Vancouver and LAFC earned big results in their ties, especially the latter, who won 3-0 on the road with a staggering 5,000 traveling supporters.
LAFC supporters are incredible
— USMNT Only (@usmntonly) March 10, 2023
This initially confusing set of scores can be explained by each club’s prioritization for this season. Some clubs want to take a stab at continental glory while others are not willing to risk their domestic campaigns to do so. By looking at the starting XIs each team puts out in both the CCL and MLS, we can paint a picture of where each team's priorities lie.
Austin and Philadelphia used heavily rotated squads midweek and while only the former was explicitly punished, the Union now needs to win at home against Alianza, and they’ll likely need to do it without star goalkeeper Andre Blake who left their match against Chicago this weekend with an apparent groin injury.
Philadelphia Union Goalie Andre Blake got injured in the first half & Coach Jim Curtin on the status of the injury #DOOP #MLS #PHIvCHI pic.twitter.com/5Vdq5kfDIr— David Malandra Jr (@DaveMReports) March 12, 2023
Orlando utilized a strong lineup against Tigres midweek and got rewarded with an impressive 0-0 draw away from home. Last year’s U.S. Open Cup champions know a thing or two about winning a knockout tournament so don’t count Óscar Pareja’s side out, even for a second.
Vancouver surprised a lot of people with a 5-0 drubbing of Real España at home. This huge win comes on the back of consecutive poor showings as the Whitecaps lost their two previous MLS matches, both after taking early leads. With a difficult domestic season potentially on the cards, it appears that Vancouver could be eyeing up some continental success.
Finally, LAFC put out the exact same starting XI against both Portland and LD Alajuelense showing serious ambitions for silverware on both fronts. Whether they can keep this up for the entire campaign without sustaining any big injuries is another story.