The first three weeks of the MLS season have been intriguing and have provided some interesting results. Aside from regular season play, the CONCACAF Champions League has been a major disappointment for MLS sides. Liga MX teams delivered a swift kick to the jaw of Atlanta United, Houston Dynamo and New York Red Bulls, knocking all three clubs out of the competition. Houston and New York rebounded with victories over Vancouver and San Jose respectively.
Out west, the battle between the Seattle Sounders and Los Angeles FC will be one to watch all season. This past weekend, the Seattle Sounders took a step ahead of LAFC after the Sounders went on the road and knocked off the Chicago Fire. Seattle was led by the usual suspects. Raul Ruidiaz, Jordan Morris, Victor Rodriguez and Nico Lodeiro carried the Sounders to a dominant win in Chicago, keeping them perfect so far this season.
LAFC had to come back twice on the road to draw New York City FC, 2-2, at Yankee Stadium. Carlos Vela scored twice to rescue the point for LAFC, continuing to add to his early case for MLS MVP. Once again, NYCFC was held to a draw in a match where it gave up the lead multiple times.
The Save the Crew movement was critical in keeping the Crew in Columbus, but the fans are back to not showing up at MAPFRE Stadium. A crowd of only 9,687 were on hand to witness the Crew knock off FC Dallas, 1-0, for their second win in as many matches. So the question is if nobody is there to watch a Crew win, did it really happen? The standings would say yes, as the Crew sit atop the East in a tie with DC United.
Minnesota United, a team that had turned a few heads to start the season, suffered defeat to the Zlatan-less LA Galaxy. The Loons saw success on the road to start the season, knocking off Vancouver and San Jose with relative ease. Darwin Quintero had seen a fantastic start to the season but was unable to get anything going in this match. If Minnesota United hopes to make a lot of noise in the Western Conference, Quintero will need to be a consistent force in each match.
Atlanta United has been the talk of the league, mainly for its incredibly poor start to the season. Since the start of the MLS season on March 3, manager Frank de Boer and Atlanta have only one win in five matches. Ezequiel Barco rescued a point for the Five Stripes with a goal in the 70th minute, just three minutes after coming on. The defending MLS Cup champions are sitting with two points in three matches. A defeat to DC United to start the season and draws with FC Cincinnati and the Philadelphia Union are making things very uncomfortable for de Boer in Atlanta.
At the other end of the standings, DC United’s 5-1 massacre of Real Salt Lake showed why they are one of the best teams in the east. Wayne Rooney collected a hat trick in just 30 minutes of play, bagging two before the half and one just after the break. DC United has yet to concede a goal this season, and strong defensive play will be crucial for them moving forward.
FC Cincinnati came into MLS with a reputation of incredible crowds. The Queen City once again did not disappoint in its first home match at Nippert Stadium. The supporters caught the eye of the soccer world with their unbelievable march to the stadium. FC Cincinnati opened the eyes of the league with their 3-0 dismantling of last seasons MLS Cup finalist, Portland Timbers.
Here come @fccincinnati Supporters.
— Ken Hoetker (Hötker) (@khoetker) March 17, 2019
This week is a FIFA international break, which will see the United States Men’s National Team continue its buildup to the Gold Cup with matches against Ecuador and Chile. Gregg Berhalter has called in 24 players from around the world, featuring a mix of MLS and European players. Christian Pulisic is back in the squad that will face two quality CONMEBOL opponents.
Below is the schedule for MLS clubs in action this week.
United States vs. Ecuador – 8 p.m. (International Friendly)
FC Dallas vs. Colorado Rapids – 5:30 p.m.
Canada vs. French Guiana – 6 p.m (Concacaf Nations League Qualifier)
Philadelphia Union vs. Columbus Crew – 7:30 p.m.
New York Red Bulls vs. Orlando City SC – 7:30 p.m.
Los Angeles FC vs. Real Salt Lake – 10:30 p.m.
New England Revolution vs. FC Cincinnati – 4 p.m.
As always, stay tuned to Cincinnati Soccer Talk for all things FC Cincinnati as it heads east to face the New England Revolution.