For me, the best part of the NFL draft is getting a peek into the calls as players are told they are going to be professional football players. For some, there is extreme joy as the whole gathering erupts in celebration, while others are brought to tears by the moment.
And it must have been a favorite for the referee in the FC Cincinnati v New England Revolution draw, as it seemed as if he tried to make both fan bases cry with every call he made. So baffling were the decisions, that both Pat Noonan and New England coach Bruce Arena expressed frustration with the refereeing processes, even questioning what we even used VAR for.
But the fighting Garys will always take a point in a clash between the two teams at the top of the Eastern Conference, and we will look at what else happened this weekend in MLS.
At Bat: May 6th v. DC United; 14 pts, 7th in the East
DC striker Christian Benteke scored the goal of the weekend in MLS (Goal of the Weekend belongs to Portland Thorns goalie Bella Bixby with a last-second equalizer) thanks to a 75th-minute bicycle kick. It was the final nail in the coffin for Charlotte, who was beaten by the fighting Wayne Rooneys 3-0 over the weekend.
After a window of squad turnover that saw the team bring consistent English Championship players into the squad, the most noteworthy being Lewis O’Brien from Nottingham Forest, and elevated a handful of youth players into the first team, including weekend goalscorer Jacob Greene, it seems D.C. has found a nice bit of momentum. as the side comes to TQL riding a four-game winning streak.
On Deck: May 10th v. New York City FC; 15 pts, 5th in the East (US Open Cup)
NYCFC will enter the US Open Cup to face FC Cincinnati in the Round of 32. Having qualified past the previous round thanks to their league performance, this will be their first foray into the competition.
The team, led by head coach Nick Cushing, has steadily gotten better as their squad has rounded into shape with the additions of US Youth National team player Rickie Ledezma on loan from PSV Eindhoven, Slovenian 18-year-old outside back Mitja Ilenic and US Senior National team player James Sands returning from his loan with Rangers. This has resulted in a hot run of form, as the Pigeons hadn’t lost in the month of April before dropping this past weekend’s result to Toronto FC 1-0.
In the Hole: May 17th v. Montreal Impact; 9 pts, 13th in the East
Montreal was able to pounce on the hapless Sporting Kansas City 2-0, giving them back-to-back victories in MLS. New transfer Bryce Duke opened the scoring early before Mathieu Choiniere put the game away late in first-half stoppage time.
It remains to be seen if this is the team buying into coach Hernan Losada’s high-pressing vision and getting points as a result, or a mirage as both victories have come against the teams holding the bottom spot in their conferences. Regardless, they have shown a willingness to compete and will have two games against rival Toronto FC before playing FC Cincinnati, who will be coming off of their bye week for this game.
Checking in on the West
With LAFC having a bye week to rest up for its return leg against the Philadelphia Union in Concacaf Champions League, Seattle and St. Louis had a chance to put some separation between them and the defending MLS Champs. However, neither was able to take full advantage as Seattle drew 0-0 with RSL and St. Louis lost to the Portland Timbers 2-1.
For Portland, it was a big result as they were the only Western Conference team to win over the weekend and moved from touching distance of the bottom of the table into a playoff position. After three weeks of really good performances, our Western Conference buddies have to be feeling optimistic about their outlook as they have now beaten the two teams at the top of the West and played FCC competitively in between those wins.
However, one of the reasons that Portland was able to move into a playoff position after two wins is that the bottom of the West continues to be poor. One week after the LA Galaxy got their first win of the season, they were outplayed by a struggling Orlando side, and Sporting Kansas City failed to score for the seventh time in 10 games, leading to the first calls from supporters to move on from long time coach Peter Vermes as they have yet to win this season.
Best of the Weekend
The best of the weekend actually happened in the middle of the week. I love the US Open Cup as it was the first chance for FC Cincinnati to prove that the club belonged in MLS. An opportunity for the lower league teams to prove they had what it takes to play with the big boys and inspire the fans to dream big.
But as an MLS side, it was really satisfying to snuff out those thoughts before they even had a chance to grow. We had the chance to revisit old rivalries, and even though it may have taken most of the match, the defeat of Louisville City was never in doubt. The kids and bench players proved their capabilities by holding Louisville to very few chances on offense and were able to raise their game once some of the starters rolled out onto the field as the game ended.
I hope we can continue to see them as a regular opponent in the tournament, as it is always good to see old friends came out for the occasion, and it is always nice to see them in the stands.