The MLS XI: Atlanta's avalanche in Minnesota, Houston's dynamo, USMNT beef
- Atlanta United more than snowed on Minnesota's home parade, while Cubo Torres and the Houston Dynamo are back and looking like they're for real.
Welcome to another edition of the MLS XI, the 11 things that stood out from the weekend’s MLS action.
Week 2 was all about the weather, with seven of the league’s 10 games kicking off in cities where temperatures were freezing and below (Luckily, Montreal played indoors at the Stade Olympique while temperatures hit five degrees outside). One game, the New England Revolution’s supposed home opener against Orlando City, was canceled due to Mother Nature.
Luckily, the remaining games provided plenty to talk about.
I: Brilliant Orange
Never has the color orange existed in so many different contexts simultaneously within a single frame. In Week 2 of MLS, orange was the color of the ball in Minneapolis, where Minnesota United played their first home game in the most appropriate weather conditions imaginable: A blizzard. The crowd there was better behaved than that of Atlanta’s last week (shout out to supporters’ groups for specifically outlawing the homophobic goal kick chant from its sections), but it was "rewarded" with a humiliating 6–1 loss to its expansion counterpart.
Miguel Almiron made that orange ball do all sorts of wonderful things, many of which are available on the game’s full highlight reel. But the pick of the bunch is definitely this ice-cold volley in the second half:
In much warmer conditions, orange was the color of happier things for a home side. The Houston Dynamo look completely rejuvenated under coach Wilmer Cabrera, and perhaps no player better embodies that turnaround than Erick “Cubo” Torres. After a terrible couple of years, he’s back scoring wonderful goals again, like this last one in Houston’s 3–1 win over Columbus:
That first touch!
II: Robles becomes MLS's ironman
MLS saw a bit more history unfold this weekend, as New York Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles set a new record for consecutive appearances with 142. That’s a hell of an achievement, and full credit to Robles for grabbing the “MLS ironman” mantle for himself. The way he’s been going, it’ll be a long time before it belongs to anyone else.
All that said, let’s take a moment to appreciate who Robles passed on that list: Chris Klein. You may know him now as the president of the LA Galaxy, but in his playing days he was a workhorse right winger for the Kansas City Wizards, Real Salt Lake and Galaxy. That’s right–the owner of the league’s longest consecutive appearances streak was a field player. That’s pretty rare, and it’s made even more so by the fact that Klein has gone on to be one of the most respected and effective club execs in the league. Chris Klein: One of a kind.
III: Godoy–Canada's Public Enemy No. 1
Last week San Jose’s Anibal Godoy won a game against a Canadian team with a brilliant chip over the goalkeeper at the north end of Avaya Stadium. This week, he did the same. Saturday’s strike against Vancouver had just a bit more power on it than last week’s winner vs. Montreal, but still...what a strike.
With a winning chip over Toronto FC, I believe that Godoy will legally be in charge of Canada.
IV: This is an incredible (no) call
MLS referees take their fair share of stick every season. Most of the time, it’s justified. However, this week there was a truly amazing no-call made by Kevin Stott in the first half of the Chicago Fire’s home opener against Real Salt Lake. Just look at this:
Admit it: on first viewing, you thought it was offside, too. But Stott (or his assistant on the sideline) somehow saw that Stephen "Sunny" Sunday was the one who got the touch on the ball, and rightly allowed the play to continue. Real Salt Lake felt hard done by, but it's hard to feel too sorry for the team considering that Stott was waving his arms like a madman as soon as the touch happened, making it as clear as he could that it was a live play. At game speed, that’s an incredibly difficult whistle to swallow, and Stott deserves credit for doing so.
V: Tim Howard is back
Tim Howard is out to prove his fitness not just for the Colorado Rapids, but also for the U.S. national team ahead of its crucial World Cup qualifier against Honduras. It certainly seems like he’s back to his old self, as the goalkeeper made a few eye-catching saves in the Rapids’ 1–0 loss at the New York Red Bulls.
He denied Bradley Wright-Phillips a couple of times early and then again later on:
That’ll make Bruce Arena happy.
VI: Portland's clinical counter
Everything about this goal Diego Chara scored in the Portland Timbers’ 1–0 win over the LA Galaxy Sunday night is great. You can’t see it on this video, but he starts the play in his own six-yard box. Then Chara sprints two-thirds of the field, delivers a perfect header on the run to Diego Valeri, then keeps on chugging to finish off the play with a tap-in.
Often, the hardest workers in a scoring play don’t show up on the score sheet. That’s not the case here.
The win gave Portland its first league road win since Oct. 18, 2015 (also at the Galaxy), while the post-Arena era for LA has started with two straight home losses.
Toronto and Philadelphia battled to a 2–2 draw at Talen Energy Stadium, but the biggest news came on the injury front. Sebastian Giovinco, the league’s best player, went down hard after getting bundled over by Oguchi Onyewu, the league’s worst person to get bundled over by.
Luckily, this shouldn’t be anything serious for Giovinco. TFC coach Greg Vanney said afterward that he suffered a contusion of the IT band–in other words, a charley horse. But a really big one. In a bad spot. Keep an eye on Giovinco’s status for next week.
VIII: The D.C. defense: The bad, the bad, and the also bad
Credit where credit is due: NYCFC played some really good, incisive stuff against D.C. United on Sunday afternoon in a chilly Yankee Stadium. But by the same (subway) token, D.C. looked absolutely horrid in defense.
Nobody tracked Rodney Wallace (who was excellent) on his opener.
David Villa was allowed an uncontested header (which he took exquisitely) for NYCFC’s second.
Nobody tracked Maxi Moralez’s run for the third.
In the second half, when United finally started playing with some sense, David Villa took advantage anyway. Despite pressure from Steve Birnbaum, the positioning of goalkeeper Bill Hamid and a near-impossible angle to work with, the reigning MVP scored anyway.
Sometimes great players do great things, and there’s nothing you can do to stop them.
IX: Mad Online: MLS Edition
Alejandro Bedoya wasn’t pleased with Jozy Altidore (or, at least, sarcastically wasn't):
Bedoya on the foul leading to Toronto's penalty: "Knowing Jozy, he tends to go down easy in the box, so let's just leave it at that."— John Rossi (@RohnJossi) March 12, 2017
So Jozy Altidore wasn’t pleased with Alejandro Bedoya:
In Los Angeles, Jelle Van Damme wasn’t pleased with his red card:
So he let the people know:
It’s just Week 2!
X: This is an extremely literal tifo
XI: Bruin caps a comeback
Silencing Stade Olimpique isn’t a bad way to get off the mark for your new club. The Sounders came from 2–0 down at Montreal to steal a 2–2 draw, thanks to Will Bruin’s stoppage-time strike.
Props to Jordan Morris for a rambunctious knockdown header worthy of any 1990s-era center forward.