Another weekend in Major League Soccer provided entertainment at both ends of the table in both conferences. The biggest talking points of the weekend will surely come from Seattle Sounders FC and Minnesota United FC but other teams were able to make waves too as the league hits the middle of it's Spring schedule.
The Sounders offense blows away the Galaxy
After their previous loss away from home, the Sounders traveled down to Los Angeles and promptly demolished the Los Angeles Galaxy in a scintillating 3-0 win. A start for Will Bruin gave the Sounders an interesting tactical shake up at the top and it paid off as the target man allowed Clint Dempsey, Jordan Morris and Nicolás Lodeiro to operate behind him to great effect. Lodeiro combined with Dempsey in the 29th minute to open the scoring when the Uruguayan got to the byline and found Dempsey unmarked at the far post. Ashley Cole was then guilty of scoring an own goal in the 35th minute when he put in Joevin Jones' cross into his own net. In the 44th minute, Dempsey played Morris through and the young forward finished coolly with his right foot to put Seattle up by three in a 15 minute spell.
It was a horrid day for the Galaxy and Cole and all of their previous weaknesses were exposed by an excellent Sounders offense. Injuries have definitely played their role on the Galaxy so far this season but not even a tactical shift by the new head coach Curt Onalfo found any answers for the home side. Seattle will come away from Los Angeles in high spirits after that performance. Their offense is regarded as one of the best in the league but they had not been able to connect with each other effectively often enough. That was not the case on Sunday and it looks like the Sounders are on the rise again.
Minnesota pick up their first clean sheet of the season
After a very rough start to their MLS adventure, things looked bleak for Minnesota, but this weekend, they came up against a Colorado Rapids side that are in free-fall and the home side made the most of that by grabbing a 1-0 win. After a slow first half, Ibson got onto the end of a corner in the 72nd minute and cracked his effort of the post. Johan Venegas got to the rebound first and nodded the ball goal-ward where Miguel Ibarra was waiting to put the chance away from close range. Both goalkeepers were tested throughout the second half but Minnesota held on to record their second win of the season, much to the joy of their fans.
The Rapids were still without the services of the suspended Tim Howard but it's their offense that continues to let them down. With only five goals to their name this season, they are struggling to make it count in front of goal and that has cost them points so far in their campaign. Someone has to step up and soon before they find themselves staying at the bottom of the table. Minnesota will be delighted with the way they held out to keep the win and will now look to push up the table from their current eighth place position.
Atlanta cannot stop scoring goals
No matter the field or the city, it seems as though Atlanta United FC have no problems scoring goals and this time they found a way past Nick Rimando and Real Salt Lake with a 3-1 away win to end their four-game road trip. Rimando's poor pass to his midfield led to the first goal of the game in the ninth minute as Atlanta pounced on the turnover and proceeded to attack. Carlos Carmona played a ball through that Yamil Asad dummied which allowed Miguel Almirón to take a shot on goal. Rimando made the save but the rebound fell to Héctor Villalba who on the second time of asking, put the ball into the roof of the net. RSL were the victims on their own making again in the 46th minute when Chris Wingert lost out to Almirón, giving Atlanta a three-on-one situation in front of goal. The Atlanta No. 10 squared the ball unselfishly to Asad who tucked it away into the open net. Albert Rusnák got RSL's solitary goal in the 69th minute with a good effort from outside the box but Brandon Vazquez wrapped things up for the away side in injury time when Julian Gressel found him breaking towards goal on the break.
There not many teams more entertaining to watch right now than Atlanta due to their speed of play and aggressive pressing. At the core of that is Almirón who is having an outstanding season so far for the MLS newcomers. His eye for a pass has given him four assists in the season so far and if he continues in the vein of form, will no doubt be in the conversation for player of the season. For RSL, this loss will only be compounded by the fact that both Rimando and Wingert had to be substituted out of the game due to injury. If those injuries are long-term, RSL may have a real issue on their hands in their backline.
Orlando sit on top of the East after an impressive run
Not many would have predicted this outcome eight matchdays in but here we are, with Orlando City SC topping the Eastern conference after a solid 2-1 win away to New York City FC. Cyle Larin was the hero of the day for Orlando as he grabbed a brace in 31st and 51st minutes of the game. Larin and Orlando were good value for their lead as they played some good stuff going forward but also remained resilient at the back, as they have been all season long. David Villa pulled one back for the home side in the 74th minute but Orlando managed to stay ahead until the final whistle to pick up their fifth win in six games.
Three consecutive wins by Orlando sees them pick up an impressive 5-1 record and that is mostly down to how strong they have become at the back. They shut down a quick and tricky NYCFC front line that features the likes of Villa and Jack Harrison all throughout the game and set up a good platform for the likes of Larin to move forward from. NYCFC will look at this game as a missed opportunity as they did create enough opportunities to at least get a draw from the game but they could not find a more clinical edge in front of goal especially in the latter part of the second half.
Chicago come to a halt against Toronto
Chicago Fire had found a way to win over the last few weeks but last Friday, they were soundly beaten away at Toronto FC as Sebastian Giovinco opened his record for the season in a 3-1 win. The Italian started the game full of energy and incisiveness, and got his reward in the 28th minute when his effort from just outside the penalty area beat Fire goalkeeper Jorge Bava low to his right. Four minutes later and Toronto were up by two as Justin Morrow's service was met by Eriq Zavaleta in the box and the defender put away his header well at the far post. Giovinco then scored the pick of the goals in the 82nd minute when his free-kick curled onto the crossbar and in to give Toronto a 3-0 lead with less than ten minutes to go in the second half. Chicago pulled one back in the 88th minute when David Accam scored from Luis Solignac's pull back but it was too little too late from the visitors.
Toronto have now picked up their first win after three games with no wins and a large part of that was due to Giovinco finding form again. When he is on song, he lifts the entire team and if this is a sign of things to come, Toronto will find themselves at the top of the Eastern conference in no time. Chicago may have gone down to a big score line against Toronto and Bastian Schweinsteiger had a quiet night, but they had their chances to stay in the game had they taken them. They are still on an upward curve and this game could end up being a blip in their season when all is said and done.
FC Dallas find a way past Sporting KC's backline
In the battle of two of the best defenses in the league, it was FC Dallas that finished as the victors in a 1-0 win over their opponents this weekend, Sporting Kansas City. Hernán Grana was the architect when his cross found Maynor Figueroa at the far post in the 77th minute and the FCD full back made no mistake form close range. Sporting may have had more of the possession but could not find a way past a Matt Hedges-led backline. In fact, the FCD defense was so good that they limited SPorting KC to just one shot on target all game and considering how good Dom Dwyer has been of late, that is no small feat.
The win places FC Dallas in second place in the West, with two games in hand on conference leaders Portland Timbers FC, and are now the only undefeated team in the MLS. Sporting KC slip down fourth but will look to bounce back next week and find their way back to goal again.
The New York Red Bulls were back at it again this weekend as they picked up a 2-0 home win over a Columbus Crew SC side that have also been a joy to watch as of late. Alex Muyl and Daniel Royer were the goal scorers of the day, getting their goals in the 11th and 38th minutes respectively.
The Timbers marched on with a 2-1 win over Cascadia rivals, Vancouver Whitecaps FC. Goals from Darlington Nagbe and former Whitecaps player Darren Mattocks in the 18th and 40th minutes helped Portland bounce back from last week's defeat. Fredy Montero got the consolation goal for Vancouver in the 59th minute but that was all the visitors could get from the game by the time the final whistle blew.
The Philadelphia Union and the Montreal Impact played out a thrilling 3-3 draw as the Union went ahead only to collapse in the second half and allow Montreal to gain a big point on the road. Roland Alberg in the fifth minute, C.J. Sapong in the 23rd minute and Alberg again with a 39th minute penalty, put the Union ahead by three goals in the first half after Anthony Jackson-Hamel had gotten one back for the Impact in the 41st minute. No one can explain what happened at half-time but it was all downhill for the hosts after that as Ignacio Piatti and Jackson-Hamel scored in the 69th and 87th minutes to complete the come back.
Erick Torres was once again on the scoresheet as the Houston Dynamo beat the San Jose Earthquakes as he scored off a penalty in the ninth minute. Alberth Ellis then put the nail in the coffin for San Jose when scored Houston's second in the 72nd minute and give Houston a win after their disappointing draw in the previous match.
Poor finishing resulted in a 2-2 draw for the New England Revolution against an injury-ridden D.C. United. Lee Nguyen started things off in the fifth minute but Jared Jeffrey and Sebastian Le Touxpushed D.C. back in front with goal sin the 26th and 28th minutes. Sean Franklin then put one in his own net to allow the Revolution to draw level but the hosts will come away from this game knowing they should have won the game with all of the chances they had, just like they had done in the midweek game against the Earthquakes which resulted in a 0-0 game.