MLS Weekend Recap – Feb. 27 2023

Recap by Jonathan Foster

Photo Credit: Brian Mack

Intro/Weekend Recap by Jonathan Foster

Welcome back MLS! And welcome back winning! You’ve got to love any week where you can start off with three points.

On a personal note, this was my first time being in the Bailey at TQL and it was such a joy to be there for the season opener. I remember still, and I guess I always will, the sights and sounds of the opening sequence as the fireworks lit up the inside of the stadium. 

But this wasn’t the only match that happened this weekend, so let’s peek at what else occurred in MLS.

Upcoming Schedule 

At Bat: Mar. 4 – Orlando City: 3 pts 8th in the East

The rebuild started positively for Orlando City. While the New York Red Bulls outshot them, they were able to execute their style and maintain a possession advantage. However, they couldn’t find a way to score the elusive goal. They eventually broke through after being gifted a handball penalty in the second half, but had to rely on heroics from Pedro Gallese to save the points.

When looking into this upcoming game against FCC, Orlando City manager Oscar Pareja will be left with a tough squad management decision as it has its first round of the CONCACAF Champions League on the Tuesday after. On that winter’s day, they’ll take a westbound flight to Monterrey and play tournament favorites Tigres. The pressure to perform in the continental tournament may force Pareja to rotate his squad and roll out a less-than-full-strength starting eleven against Cincinnati.

On Deck: Mar. 11 – Seattle Sounders: 3 pts, 1st in West

As traveling Rapids fans looked down on the play, their team standing in the rain, they waved goodbye as the win was out of sight. From nearly the first kick, it seemed that Seattle wanted to avenge the embarrassment of becoming the first MLS team to lose in the Club World Cup, and was on a mission to put that match in the rearview mirror. The Sounders scored four goals, two in each half, to dismantle the Colorado Rapids. Christian Roldan and Jordan Morris, who both signed new deals in the offseason, scored in the first half. Ex-NYCFC striker Heber added the third in the second half before Jordan Morris closed it out with the final goal of the game. In a weekend that saw many predicted underdogs in the Western Conference win, Seattle made an emphatic statement to the rest of the conference.

In the Hole: Mar. 18 – Chicago Fire: 0 pts, 9th in the East

The bright lights of the MLS stadiums shone brightly across the country, but for Chicago, they could only see them shining, through the willows and the pines as they were the odd team out this opening weekend. With an odd number of teams now in the league, thanks to St. Louis joining, Chicago had to schedule a friendly with USL team Indy Eleven, who they beat 3-0.

But they did more than just beat up a team down the road, they addressed one of their biggest needs for the team by trading for striker and ex-FCC legend Kei Kamara from the Montreal Impact. The lights of Cincinnati will always remember him, even if his time here was so many miles behind, and I hope he has success in chasing down the MLS goal-scoring record.

Checking in on the West 

After spending a few years in Denmark leading FC Midtjylland to league titles, I’m sure Portland Timbers’ new signee Evander was looking at this first week thinking, “I could build myself a new life, and make it on my own.” But instead, Mother Nature put that start on hold as major storms crashed against the West Coast, forcing multiple games, including Portland v Sporting Kansas City, to be delayed. Most games were able to be rescheduled quickly, but the marquee event of the weekend, an El Traffico to be played in the Rose Bowl, had to be rescheduled to the 4th of July.

As a result, the late window was lighter than the early one, with fans only seeing three games: Minnesota defeating Dallas, RSL defeating Vancouver and St. Louis getting its first MLS win

Things that Made us go oooOOOOooo!!!! (best highlight of the week)

Because of MLS’ parity model, there are always crazy games and goals, and this opening weekend was no different. There were multiple games that saw both an equalizer and a game-winner scored in second-half stoppage time, with the most impressive of the two coming in Atlanta. 

Atlanta United’s World Cup-winning wunderkind Thiago Almada scored both goals in its comeback win over the San Jose Earthquakes, as he netted on an outside-the-box shot in the 93′ minute and a free kick just outside of the box in the 99′.

Similarly, DC United orchestrated its own stoppage time comeback win over Toronto FC with a looping cross that found the head of Christian Benteke in the 91′ minute and a low cross through the box in the 96′ that found the foot of homegrown talent Theodore Ku-Dipietro. It’s a big step forward for DC United, who struggled mightily in recent years and is a familiar tale for Toronto whose offseason defensive acquisitions couldn’t prevent the collapse in week one.

Cincinnati Enquirer’s Pat Brennan made an anthem suggestion on the PostCast podcast that gained some steam around the FCC world last week. He introduced the hosts to “Lights of Cincinnati,” a song by mid-century crooner Scott Walker, and I will argue to anyone in earshot that it should be the new walkout song for gameday. Sure, Cincinnati has tried something like this before, but for me, the lights of Cincinnati will be calling me back home.

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