Another week down and the Eastern Conference picture is starting to come into focus. Two teams are the clear front runners while others continue a surprising fall toward the bottom. We are reaching that point in the season where middle-of-the-road teams need to make a change or risk an uphill battle just to make a playoff spot later in the year. We break down the week eight matches below.
Charlotte Independence vs. New York Red Bulls II 5-1
The first game of the week was full of surprises. The last place Independence took a big step forward knocking off New York with a slew of goals. Charlotte looked amazing and their players were having genuine fun all match. Smiles were contagious as the game grew more and more out of reach for New York. The Baby Bulls did strike first in the 21st minute and held on for about ten more before Charlotte came alive. The other Queen City could have beat anyone on this night as the team whole team brought their A game. It is not often you see a full squad in sync, and that was the true beauty of this match. Charlotte rises from the bottom and will make other eastern teams pause before marking their calendar with a free three points.
Ottawa Fury FC vs. Pittsburgh Riverhounds 0-1
With tired legs, Ottawa failed to defend their home against the visiting Riverhounds. Fury FC played (and won) a midweek match vs NASL’s FC Edmonton in a Canadian tournament. That match did seem to have influenced this one as Fury players could not get their shots on target. Ottawa vastly outshot the Riverhounds but Pittsburgh was far more accurate with their few chances. Four of their six shots were on goal with Hertzog landing the sole goal in the 54th minute. Infamous Romeo Parkes made is debut in the second half and took one shot. It will be interesting to see how the utilize Romeo on a team already stacked with goal scoring potential. Pittsburgh continues their rising trend up the eastern standings.
FC Cincinnati vs. Orlando City B 0-2
Cincinnati falls at home and fans left with many questions and frustrated at PRO officials and the team. I think it is time to admit that FC Cincinnati is nowhere near as good as expected going into this year. In fact, FC Cincy is running out of time to turn their season around. It is looking more and more like Cincinnati will be fighting for a playoff spot instead of home playoff game. Orlando City B, on the other hand, gets a defining win gaining three needed points as they were in 8th spot going into this match. The calls mostly went against Cincinnati (8 total yellow cards) in this game and fans were left wondering if this is due to the previous red card situation. Not helping matters, Dacres made a dumb tackle in the box to give Orlando a PK which they easily put away. Questionable yellow cards aside, FC Cincinnati still struggles to find goals despite being second in the east on shots taken. This team needs to find a way to get points while it waits for Djiby and Walker to get back to the pitch. FC Cincinnati falls to 12th and plays twice this week at home with Wednesday being a US Open Cup match.
One takeaway from @fccincinnati loss is theyre too reckless. 72.2% tackle accuracy for season, 58.3% in game. Cant pin that on refs #CINvORL
— Iron Pony Chef (@IronPonyChef) May 14, 2017
Toronto FC II vs. Bethlehem Steel FC 0-1
Steel FC lands their first win against a team not named FC Cincinnati. The scoreline in this battle of MLS two teams is a bit misleading. Toronto was the more aggressive team, firing sixteen total shots from inside the box, with a few outside of it. None of the goals could find the net. Steel FC was gifted an early penalty kick, and it worked out well. Bethlehem did not generate a ton of offense after the score and chose instead to hold onto the lead and weather the storm. The Pennsylvania club is a very patient one, and that mindset may start paying dividends as the season continues. Steel FC play FC Cincinnati for the third time on Saturday, but this time it will be on opposing turf. If they can squash Cincinnati for a third time, people will take notice.
Richmond Kickers vs. Harrisburg City Islanders 0-0
For a moment I thought I was watching a tennis match. The ball during this game went back and forth and back and forth. A couple almost goals could have seen either team steal this game away in what was otherwise a pretty even match. Possession was not dominated by either teams and both were held to a limited number of opportunities. The majority of this match was played just right and left of midfield. Both Richmond and Harrisburg needed three points to climb but will take the one and move on to next week.
Charleston Battery vs. Saint Louis FC 0-0
Rough night. #STLFC won the possession game but couldn't figure out what to do. Charleston made the most of their limited chances. #CHSvSTL pic.twitter.com/LLoviHozlY
— Boone's Brigade ⚽️🇫🇷 (@boonesbrigade) May 14, 2017
The graphic above perfectly describes the Battery way. The Battery continue to mislead teams by lacking possession and destroying their opposition on the counter. The Battery have one of the top defenses in the league and no-one seems to have an answer when it comes to stopping it. Lasso was the hero again this week for Battery fans, landing his goal in the 62nd minute. Saint Louis falls after missing a week due to a flooded home field while Charleston holds onto their first place spot. Saint Louis FC will get another week off before playing second place Tampa.
Tampa Bay Rowdies vs. Louisville City FC 2-0
This was the marquee match of the week. Louisville seems to play better on the road while the Rowdies play better at home. Louisville City had no answer for Al Lang stadium. Tampa did play a different style compared to previous weeks. Passing and shots dropped off as they wandered off Louisville possession and settled for a more defensive game. The Rowdies rival the Battery when it comes to defense and the northern visitors could not find a way through the wall. The battle of the hoops ended with Louisville only shooting one shot on goal. Tampa Bay is the clear number two with this statement win.
New York Red Bulls II vs. LA Galaxy II 1-2
A rare battle of the east and west occurred late Sunday night. The west put this one away giving New York their second loss on the week. This is even more surprising as New York started to surge after a bad start to the season. The question now is, which New York team will show up on any given week?