A week on from international matches and MLS has returned to full strength. The superstars have reappeared, replacing the excuses that swam in their wake and results are once again indicative of each team’s true ability.
5 takeaways from MLS Matchweek 6
#1. Columbus is scoring goals for fun
Life under new manager Wilfried Nancy left a bit to be desired for the Crew. The former CF Montréal boss saw his new side secure just four points from its first four matches, but back-to-back dominant displays have given this marriage a new outlook.
— OptaJack⚽️ (@OptaJack) April 2, 2023
Few could have predicted the Crew’s win over Atlanta in Matchweek 5, or at least the nature of the result. Nancy’s side put six past United, giving Aidan Morris, Philip Quinton and Max Arfsten their first career goals in the process. The following week, it was a further four goals that settled in the back of Real Salt Lake’s net at Lower.com Field.
With superstar Lucas Zelarayán back and playing at his very best, there truly is no limit to what Columbus can achieve in 2023. The Eastern Conference is full of talent, but Philadelphia’s surprisingly poor results go to show that the top spot is very much up for grabs.
#2. Toronto’s defensive woes continue
They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. If this definition is to be believed, then I think I qualify. It’s been three weeks since Toronto FC blew a lead, so it may have been fair to assume they put the troubling habit behind them, but like putting down a cigarette after a decade of smoking, some habits die hard.
5 - Toronto FC is one of six teams to take the lead in five different matches this MLS season, though its gone on to win only once (D3 L1). Slips. pic.twitter.com/CBdAh22jVX— OptaJack⚽️ (@OptaJack) April 2, 2023
The first three matchweeks all ended the same way for Bob Bradley’s side: dropped points from winning positions. A heartbreaking loss to DC United was followed by successive 1-1 draws after leading, and now, after this break that never threatened to continue, Toronto is back to its tying ways.
— Toronto FC (@TorontoFC) April 1, 2023
Despite impressive performances from Federico Bernardeschi, who has scored on three occasions, Toronto has shown that they just are not able to keep a lead safe with any sort of consistency. They’ll need to address this irritating shortcoming and avoid shooting themselves in the foot if they want any hope of taking something from this season.
#3. Cincinnati stays undefeated
I’ve enjoyed watching FC Cincinnati this season and it’s no secret why. The team’s attacking trio of Luciano Acosta, Brenner and Brandon Vazquez has been lighting up the league for a year now and opposing teams still have no answer.
— FC Cincinnati (@fccincinnati) April 2, 2023
They’ve faced several difficult tests including Seattle, Nashville and Inter Miami, and have emerged 1-0 victors on all occasions. The ability to take on a good team, find a breakthrough and keep the opponent off the scoresheet is extremely underrated and could prove massively helpful in the latter stages of the season. Cincinnati is playing under real, serious pressure, a state rarely found with any consistency in MLS, and it’s making them palpably better. Keep an eye on this space.
#4. Vancouver is turning its season around
Cascadia’s northernmost club began its season with two humiliating showings — a pair of losses after leading against both San Jose and Real Salt Lake. Those losses had the potential to doom Vancouver to a dreadful campaign, but a month on, the Whitecaps have yet to taste defeat in the league again.
— Vancouver Whitecaps FC (@WhitecapsFC) April 2, 2023
Since the losses, Vanni Sartini’s side beat Real España in the CONCACAF Champions League, tied three consecutive MLS games and finally got its first win of the season with a comprehensive 5-0 victory over fellow Canadian side CF Montréal.
Vancouver now finds itself on the fringe of the playoffs and in great form, just in time for the first leg of its midweek Champions League match against LAFC. It's a draw that doesn’t look kindly on anyone, but if the Whitecaps could pick the perfect time to face Los Angeles, it’d be right now.
#5. You like ties? Here’s six.
Don’t get me wrong, I love ties. It’s never bothered me when American sports fans ask the age-old question “wait, you can tie?” as their faces swell with anger and disappointment. Draws are a part of the game and they can, in the right circumstances, be just as entertaining as a win.
Take Portland’s match against FC Dallas this weekend. The Texas side took a lead late in the match after a cagey, back-and-forth first 70 minutes of play. But just as it seemed they would take all three points from the match, debutant Franck Boli wrote his name in lights with a stoppage-time equalizer to steal an important point on the road.
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) April 2, 2023
What isn’t exciting is Sporting KC’s third 0-0 draw of the season, this time on the road in Philadelphia. The only airtime this game received on MLS 360 was when one of the pundits realized it’d been a half hour and they hadn’t seen any action, promptly requesting the game be put on before immediately regretting his decision.
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) April 2, 2023
Not all nil-nils are unwatchable. Colorado’s scoreless draw against LAFC was fairly interesting as the Rapids outplayed Los Angeles but couldn’t find the net. Chicago vs. DC United, on the other hand, was a complete snoozefest. Two cellar-dwelling sides competing for essentially nothing somehow turned out worse as both sides failed to score and brought home just one point.
It’s a strange thing when two bad MLS clubs tie. It’s almost as if the game never took place. There’s no emotion tied to it, no upside to a draw. To take inspiration from Seinfeld, ties between bad MLS teams have no feel. There’s nothing on the line and no point in getting worked up as a fan. Columbus’ four-goal performance has a feel, Cincinnati’s hard-fought win has a feel but Chicago’s match against DC United has no feel. It’s just completely void of emotion.
tuesday has no feel pic.twitter.com/ERjKHJCtnp— lopezkeys (@lopezkeys) January 3, 2023
Now if only there was a way to make games between teams at the bottom of the table matter, wouldn’t that be interesting to watch? I guess we’ll never know.