The first New York rivalry match highlighted Major League Soccer’s 10th week, as the Red Bulls defeated NYCFC in a match that wasn’t as close as 2-1 suggests. The win shot the Red Bulls into third place in the Eastern Conference with a game in hand on the leaders.
After almost a month off to focus on carrying the league’s flag in the CONCACAF Champions League, the Montreal Impact returned to its status quo in league play with a loss. Montreal remains the only team without a win this season, having played about half as many games as most others.
Elsewhere, Real Salt Lake finally gained some momentum with two positive results in a week, while the LA Galaxy went the opposite direction.
Still, after the East’s short-lived stint atop the table, two Western Conference teams retook the lead in the Supporters’ Shield race as FC Dallas and the Vancouver Whitecaps both won.
Here are some thoughts after the 10th week of the MLS season:
New York derby magnifies differences between teams
Bradley Wright-Phillips scored twice as the Red Bulls turned around its first loss of the season two weeks ago with an emphatic win in the first New York rivalry match. The impressive atmosphere carried onto the field with a high-pressure game in which Matt Miazga earned two quick yellow cards, leaving the Red Bulls a man down.
The game had a little of everything, from goals to a red card to a fracas between teams as they argued over Miagza’s first card. In the end, the match provided an entertaining end to a week of hype in the Big Apple.
It’s probably a good thing the first game between these two happened at one of the best stadiums in the league in Red Bull Arena; Yankee Stadium just wouldn’t have offered as intimate and authentic a setting. For now, the teams could hardly be further apart in terms of the way their seasons have progressed, but Sunday offered a good first chapter to the incipient rivalry.
After a week of build-up that struggled to shake a somewhat fabricated feel—cynics on social media called it “El Plástico,” a match between two promotional vehicles for foreign brands—the players importantly delivered an entertaining 90 minutes on the field. It’s hard to get too excited about a match-up like this with no history, but as brief as it’s been, it now has something tangible to grasp in future meetings.
2014 MLS Cup finalists throw away late leads
The teams that battled for the Philip Anschutz Trophy last year have started 2015 inconsistently, but that shouldn’t undermine any challenge they mount on a return to the playoff final this season. The New England Revolution already lead the East again, and the LA Galaxy still wait for Steven Gerrard to make his first appearance.
Still, blips in both teams’ results have shown how much room they still have to improve. The Revs couldn’t hold a 2-0 lead at Orlando City SC on Friday, succumbing to two goals in the last 15 minutes to settle for a point.
LA had two opportunities to win last week, first with a stoppage-time penalty at RSL and with its own late 2-0 lead at FC Dallas. Juninho was stuffed by a diving Nick Rimando on Wednesday, while two goals in less than 10 minutes sank the Galaxy in Texas.
Things change fast in a week for Real Salt Lake
After a heavy loss to the Revs in his team’s return to a 4-4-2-based system a couple weeks ago, RSL coach Jeff Cassar stuck to it against the Galaxy and Chicago Fire. The team rewarded his faith with solid showings in a scoreless draw and 2-1 win, respectively.
A quick turnaround for a team that talked openly about an identity crisis just a week earlier personified how quickly things can change in MLS. RSL still sits outside the playoff places for now, but a better attacking display in both matches last week should inspire some confidence moving forward.
Before RSL faces the Galaxy again in the penultimate match of a packed seven-game May schedule, it plays Montreal and NYCFC in good opportunities to continue that momentum.
Of course, now it loses Jordan Allen to the FIFA Under-20 World Cup, but playmaker Javier Morales began the concussion-return protocol as his team earned four points during the week.
Eastern Conference stragglers seriously struggling
The Eastern Conference houses both of MLS’s expansion teams as well as one of the league’s traditional strugglers in the Impact. Add to it the unstable Philadelphia Union, and it’s no surprise those four teams sit outside the playoff picture with just four wins among them.
Conversely, in the Western Conference, the non-playoff teams currently split 10 wins among RSL, the Portland Timbers, Houston Dynamo and Colorado Rapids. The Rapids in particular have their own issues, setting the MLS record for home winless streak last week, but the West still looks much better by comparison.
At the same time, the East’s top teams look just as capable as their opposite-coast counterparts.
One of the most interesting matches this week is a cross-conference battle between Dallas and the Red Bulls on Friday, in what could prove to be a Supporters’ Shield or even MLS Cup battle by the time winter rolls around again.
Week 10 Best XI
GOALKEEPER: Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
DEFENDERS: Kemar Lawrence (New York Red Bulls), Clarence Goodson (San Jose Earthquakes), Nat Borchers (Portland Timbers), James Riley (Colorado Rapids)
MIDFIELDERS: Darwin Cerén (Orlando City SC), Jordan Allen (Real Salt Lake), Mauro Díaz (FC Dallas)
FORWARDS: Bradley Wright-Phillips (New York Red Bulls), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders), Kei Kamara (Columbus Crew SC)