Six weeks in and some patterns are beginning to emerge in Major League Soccer. The boost that has arrived with Bastian Schweinsteiger's foray into the US continues to gain ground, Atlanta United FC continues to score goals for fun and the LA Galaxy are on the rise again.
The Chicago Fire are on the up
A good draw last time out and now a 1-0 win this weekend against Columbus Crew has seen the Fire move up to fourth in the Eastern conference table. Schweinsteiger's arrival cannot be understated as not only does the team seem to have upped their game to another level. Although the midfielder did not add to his debut goal, his teammates have responded to his addition to the team. This time around, Dax McCarty was the creator of a goal as he played Nemanja Nikolic through with a good ball from midfield in the 22nd minute. The striker was clinical in his finishing and gave the game the only goal on the day.
Columbus were a fairly decimated side due to injuries but credit must go to Chicago for beginning to find some form again after a slow start to the season. The hosts on the day will want to continue to fly under everyone's radar for the rest of the season as they look to finish higher than their consecutive last-place finishes, two seasons in a row.
Jermaine Jones takes the headlines in LA
Jermaine Jones was at the center of a big 2-0 win for the Galaxy against Montreal Impact for all the right, and wrong reasons. The good from Jones was his impact from midfield. He got forward to great effect all throughout the game and got the goal his performance had deserved in the 74th minute. The negative from Jones was his role in getting Marco Donadel a straight red card late in the first half. There did not appear to be much in the contact between Jones and Donadel but Jones made the most of it and clutched his face in what appeared to be agony. The referee decided that Donadel must have elbowed the Galaxy man and Montreal was down to 10 men for the entirety of the second half. Upon further replays, it does seem like the red card was harsh and that Jones made the most of the minimal contact so Impact fans have a right to be angry over that decision.
Apart from Jones, Romain Alessandrini was also dangerous throughout the game and actually opened the scoring in the 15th minute. The French winger had a slow start to his MLS career but he is beginning to find form now and that has helped the Galaxy find some balance in their attack again. Montreal is on a downward spiral at the moment and cannot seem to find a win anywhere at the moment. That has to change quickly or they will find themselves rooted to the bottom of the Eastern conference and out of playoff contention early in the season.
No Martínez, no problem for Atlanta
After Josef Martínez went down with an injury before Atlanta United began their long away run in the last round of MLS matches, many thought that Kenwyn Jones would be the starting forward in his place but Héctor Villalba has gotten the nod over Jones and has not disappointed. The Argentine was the scoresheet again this weekend as he helped Atlanta earn a thrilling 2-2 draw away at Toronto FC. Villalba now has three goals in two games and has seemingly put Atlanta's goal scoring concerns aside while Martínez continues to try and rehabilitate from his injury. With at least another two or three games still left to play in the near future away from their home, Atlanta will need Villalba to continue this form for as long as possible.
Toronto FC can also score goals, as evidenced by the performance of Sebastian Giovinco once again, and the addition of Victor Vázquez is beginning to pay off, but their inability to turn draws into wins is what has left the 2016 MLS Cup finalists in ninth place right now in the Eastern conference. TFC head coach Greg Vanney seems unconcerned right now but the draws will have to become three points soon if Toronto want to get back to the MLS Cup final again this year.
Sporting find their goal-scoring touch at last
Coming into this home game against the Colorado Rapids, Sporting Kansas City had only managed to find the back of the net twice all season long. That changed last night as they romped to a 3-1 win over the Rapids in some style as well. At the heart of this performance was Dom Dwyer who not only held up the ball well for Roger Espinoza and Gerso Fernandes to combine for Sporting's second goal of the night in the 13th minute, but also got on the scoresheet himself in the 85th minute when he got his head to a Seth Sinovic cross. Sinovic also bagged a goal for himself with the opener in the sixth minute as he scored his first ever MLS goal in the regular season. All in all, Sporting were brilliant and bar a late penalty, contained the Rapids well throughout the match.
Throughout their first few games, the Sporting defense has been the story of the season for them and they were once again very solid against the Rapids. Kevin Doyle's penalty was the only blemish of the night as the defense once again stood tall. The win moves Sporting into fourth in the Western conference while Colorado is in ninth and not faring well at the moment even with recent acquisitions to try and improve their attack.
The snow causes no problems for Real Salt Lake
In a heavy blizzard, Real Salt Lake picked up their first win of the season with an impressive 3-0 win over Vancouver Whitecaps FC. New head coach Mike Petke will be delighted with not only the way his team performed but the impact that Albert Rusnák had on the game as the Slovakian scored and assisted in all of the three goals. RSL adjusted to the orange ball and the weather much better than the Whitecaps did and were on the front foot right from the start. Rusnák scored his first ever MLS goal in the 54th minute after dribbling by a few Whitecaps defenders and finishing at the near post after a good run. The attacking midfielder then played a long ball that found Yura Movsisyan in the 74th minute who juked by Kendall Waston and put away his goal clinically for RSL's second. Rusnák then aided RSL to their third when his corner-kick found Luke Mulholland who finished with ease inside the box.
It was a great performance from RSL as they begin a new era under Petke and will no doubt have their fans looking forward to the next game after this. Vancouver on the other hand, are not doing as well. With only one win this season, a home match against Seattle Sounders FC next week is not what the Whitecaps would have wanted at this point in their season where they are struggling for goals and attacking fluidity.
Carrasco seals a big win for Orlando
The New York Red Bulls score goals for fun but on this occasion, it was Orlando City and Servando Carrasco who found the goal and earned all three points in a 1-0 win on Sunday. Carrasco came into the game in the 17th minute for an injured Antonio Nocerino and got his first MLS goal in open play when he found some space in the box in the 34th minute to nod home a corner from close range. That was enough for Orlando as they held firm against the Red Bulls and even though Bradley Wright-Phillips had his chances in front of goal, it was Carrasco that had the finishing touch on the day.
The Red Bulls are faltering and now have three losses and one draw since their opening two wins. A large part of that is due to their struggles in finishing which have been epitomized by Wright-Phillips. They are creating chances but the ruthlessness in front of goal has disappeared and the Red Bulls are unable to find a win now due to this. Orlando is on a different trajectory, thanks to the strength of their defense as they now sit in second in the Eastern conference table. Their solidity throughout the spine of the team has made them very difficult to beat and pushed them to where they are now.
A 90th-minute goal by Chris Wondolowski gave the San Jose Earthquakes a 1-1 draw against the Seattle Sounders, leaving them unbeaten at home after a scrappy, defensive affair. Nicolás Lodeiro will grab all the headlines though as his wonder-strike in the 84th minute, a first-time volley curled away from the goalkeeper and into the far corner, has probably put him in the running for goal of the season.
A great defensive display not only gave the New England Revolution their first clean sheet of the season but also stopped Eric Torres from continuing his red-hot form as the Revs beat the Houston Dynamo by two goals to nil. Kei Kamara latched onto a great pass by Lee Nguyen in the 52nd minute and finished his rebound after his initial shot was saved. Juan Agudelo then wrapped things up in the 72nd minute after a diving save by Houston's Tyler Deric allowed the ball to fall at Agudelo's feet inside the box.
Portland Timbers kept their good start to the season going with a 3-1 win over the Philadelphia Union. Goals by Darlington Nagbe, Roy Miller. and Fanendo Adi helped Portland come back from going 1-0 down in the 26th minute after Richie Marquez had given the Union the lead. The win leaves the Timbers at the top of the MLS while the Union, who lost at home, are still looking for their first win of the season.
FC Dallas kept up their chase of the Timbers as they picked up a 2-0 win over Minnesota United FC. The home side gave their fans some joy after their exit from the CONCACAF Champions League as Javier Morales and Michael Barrios picked up the goals in the 43rd and 49th minutes to seal the three points for FC Dallas. This may have been a better defensive performance by Minnesota but with 22 goals conceded after just six games, this is shaping up to be a very tough season for the league newcomers.
D.C. United managed a 2-1 win over New York City FC with Lloyd Sam, Luciano Acosta, and David Villa all getting on the scoresheet. This was a much-needed win by D.C. after they had been beaten soundly by NYCFC earlier in the season in a 4-0 romp but this time, the home side found a way to keep a potent NYCFC attack quiet and find a way to win.