Top. Of. The. East!
Who would have thought we would be here two years ago? Not me!
This is currently FC Cincinnati’s best timeline and I will celebrate the best way I know how!
Enough of that, though. Onto what happened this weekend!
At Bat: April 8 – Philadelphia Union: 7 pts, 8th in the East
Normally a rain-delayed 0-0 draw would feel good, but for the Union, it is a continuation of the early season rut they have found themselves in. They have had flashes of cohesion, but have largely been off-target and not gotten off to the hot start they may have wished they would have.
However, they are still a deep team and will have to test their full squad as they have their first real test in the Concacaf Champions League on Tuesday against Mexican side Atlas. This fixture congestion will likely be in FCC’s favor, as we should see a rotated side come next week. However, Jim Curtin’s side always puts up a fight.
On Deck: April 15 – St. Louis CITY SC: 15 pts, 1st in the West
The All-Caps have tasted defeat for the first time in their MLS careers, and it came in a similar way to how they benefitted in their previous wins, giving away dumb goals. It wasn’t the direct pass to a striker that they have become accustomed to, but they did give up a preventable penalty kick to Minnesota. There still may be those who feel aggrieved to not get a result as there was an apparent kick to Klaus’ face in the waning moments, but the referees didn’t deem it worthy of a penalty.
Ultimately, they are still in a great spot in the league, but are just beginning the hardest part of their early season schedule as they have the Seattle Sounders this upcoming weekend before hosting FCC the following weekend.
In The Hole: April 22 – Portland Timbers: 5 pts, 10th in the West
Hello friends! It’s good to see you! You look better than last week!
It’s wild what a week can do to the atmosphere inside a team. Last week, Portland ended the game seemingly in dissension, with Timbers manager Gio Savarese sniping at players and players refuting his comments.
Considering that, the players seemed to have a point as this week’s draw with Dallas was much more hopeful than the previous draw with the LA Galaxy. The Timbers still have a lot of injuries that are making it hard to be consistent, but the tone leaving Dallas was much more positive. However, that may have been thanks to a 91st minute Franck Boli equalizer.
Checking in on the West
The West continues to see a separation between the two halves of the table. Teams at the top teams like Minnesota and LAFC continued their unbeaten streaks to begin the season and the bottom teams remain winless through the weekend. However, both of those bottom teams might have reasons to feel encouraged after their performances.
For both Colorado and Sporting KC, they were matched up against the reigning MLS Cup finalists (LAFC and Philly respectively) and were able to earn 0-0 draws. Regarding the Rapids, they were able to use the altitude to their advantage and had 14 shots to LA’s 11 and a 52 to 48 percent advantage in possession.
Sporting KC’s 0-0 draw should make the side feel they can see a light on the horizon, as just a week ago they gave up four goals to Seattle’s Jordan Morris. The side was much stouter in this one thanks to starting goalkeeper Tim Melia coming back from injury. They also hope they can build more of an attacking threat as DP attacker Alan Pulido played his first minutes since the 2021 season.
For the LA Galaxy, there remain questions about when they are going to begin the season, as they allowed a first-half blitz from the Seattle Sounders to set the tone of the match. Eventually, they awoke from their slumber and scored a messy goal off of a corner, but were left wanting as a late appeal for a handball was waved off. These poor performances must have gotten to coach Greg Vanney, as he tried to make his appeal in the post game press conference by mimicking a three-year-old who is disappointed in your commitment towards eating their playdoh pies.
Best of the Weekend
Welcome back NWSL!
The league came back from its winter break, and in the first week, it provided banger after banger after banger! (Note that that second goal is a winner from Lynn Williams who may have broken her arm mid-game, but x-rays have been inconclusive thus far) After such a tumultuous past few seasons, it seems that some of the player protection guardrails that were put in place are being tested early this season.
A recent statement from 2023 Kansas City draft pick Mykiaa Miniss has been flagged by the NWSLPA and NWSL Commissioner Jessica Berman was being proactive when the statement first appeared online. This is the first time that the structural changes to the league player treatment system are being tested, and my hope is that there is no lasting harm here and that it can become another growing step for the league. Because if they do, this week may be the light at the end of the tunnel that was hoped for when the first allegations against Paul Riley were reported.
The two players, Mana Shim and Sinead Farrelly, who were the first players to share their stories of abuse within the league, have both been allowed to celebrate major milestones in their lives. Mana Shim was able to announce her engagement to her longtime girlfriend this weekend, and Sinead Farrelly saw her return to the field for Gotham FC for the first time since her retirement in 2016. Both accomplishments were used as tools to manipulate them into abuse, and to see both reclaiming this power for themselves shows the power of their courage.
But it was not just these two women’s success that give hope for the future, but there have been major announcements to allow women in sport to advocate for the removal of some of the natural processes women go through in their life. In 2022, players fought for a change in jersey standards from the league as players expressed concerns with wearing white or light-colored shorts while menstruating and the embarassment and discomfort that would come from leaking during activities. Some teams were more immediately responsive to address their player’s concerns, such as the Orlando Pride switching their away jersey shorts from white to black, but all teams dedicated their designs in 2023 to further assuage players’ comfort. Some of this would not have been possible without the cooperation from clothing manufacturer Nike being a flexible partner, but earlier this week they announced a new line of period leak protection shorts to be introduced this spring.
There is great optimism that NWSL is set up to have an extremely successful season as the opening week’s average attendance set a new league record by nearly 5,000 people (10,150 in 2022 -> 15,002 in 2023), the San Diego Wave set a season opener attendance record of 30,854 and viewership ratings have continued to rise. There will still be bumps in the season, especially as they have to contend with a World Cup falling in the middle of the season, but perhaps this upward momentum of the league will encourage someone to bring #NWSL2Cincy!