You never know what you’re going to get with MLS. Going into Week 8, the popular choice for match of the weekend was Sporting Kansas City’s visit to FC Dallas. In that match you had the last two unbeaten teams in the league squaring off, plenty of attacking characters to watch, charismatic managers and attractive styles of play for both sides. All the ingredients were there for a highlight-filled 90 minutes.
Instead...the match was a bit of a dud. FC Dallas got a deserved victory thanks to a nice back-post header from Maynor Figueroa, but outside of that, there just wasn’t that much to talk about.
Luckily, the weekend’s other games more than made up for the relative disappointment. For more, let’s go to the MLS XI for Week 8:
I: He will not Nag-be denied
Last week against Kansas City, Darlington Nagbe had a potentially brilliant golazo canceled out by an incredible save.
Nagbe more than made up for it on Saturday. Feast your eyes on the Timbers star’s touch, movement away from defenders and lethal shot past David Ousted.
And yes, he knew that was a good one.
That goal gave Portland a 2–1 win over Vancouver, keeping the Timbers atop the West (though they've played two more games than FC Dallas).
II: The Union blew a 3–1 lead
Actually, they did worse. They blew a 3–0 lead. But after Ignacio Piatti made the score 3–1 with a brilliant solo goal, the Union decided to fulfill their utmost meme potential and surrender two more for a highly disappointing draw at home.
Get a full sense of the shift in momentum here (and look out for the aforementioned Piatti goal):
To grasp at the most desperate of straws, at least the Union snapped a four-game losing streak. But on the downside:
III: Giovinco: Still good
Sebastian Giovinco has gotten off to a slow start this season for Toronto, but Friday’s 3–1 win over The Chicago Fire showed that the Italian could be rounding back into his standard stupendous form.
Just look at this free kick (and pay attention to the totally-appropriate reaction of Jozy Altidore, No. 17, in the center):
His first goal wasn’t half-bad either.
IV: Bad vibes at the south end of Gillette
Chris Wondolowski had a chance to break a 0–0 draw between San Jose and New England on Wednesday. He didn’t. It ended scoreless. He looked silly.
A few days later, at the same end of the stadium, Teal Bunbury had a chance to break a 2–2 draw between The Revs and D.C. United. He didn’t. It ended tied. He looked silly.
V: Nobody can tell these teams apart
Good gesture for the planet: Commissioning Earth Day jerseys made from recycled ocean plastic.
Bad gesture for fans: Making those jerseys gray and off-white.
The jerseys were featured in the NYCFC-Orlando and Seattle-LA games on Sunday, and if you happened to be watching either you got the unexpected challenge of constantly trying to figure out which team was which.
At the risk of tooting my own horn…CALLED IT.
VI: Larin is a man on a mission
Rodney Wallace has been having an excellent season for NYCFC thus far. Not only is he contributing on the attacking end, but his burly, physical presence has been an asset on the defensive side of things.
Cyle Larin jumped through him as if he wasn’t there for his second goal in Orlando City’s 2–1 win vs. NYCFC on Sunday.
With six goals, Larin trails just Houston's Erick "Cubo" Torres (seven) for the league lead.
VII: This just about sums up the Galaxy’s 2017 so far
That own goal gave the Sounders a 2–0 lead in what would eventually be a 3–0 win at StubHub Center, with U.S. internationals Clint Dempsey and Jordan Morris providing the other scores. The Galaxy, MLS’s most decorated club, sit second to last in the Western Conference and have the third-worst points-per-game average in the league.
VIII: What’s up with Bingham?
David Bingham has developed into one of MLS’s best goalkeepers in his time with San Jose, but his form in 2017 has been more than a little concerning for the Earthquakes. Saturday marked the third time this season that a Bingham error has cost his team a chance at points, as he came out wildly for a cross and allowed Alberth Elis an easy look at goal:
Goalkeeping is a hard job, and he can easily make up for this run with some good performances down the stretch. But Bingham’s drastic dip is a trend worth watching.
IV: Tifo and photo of the week
We love, love, love the music of Jonathan Richman here at The XI. As such, it’ll be pretty hard to top this as far as MLS tifos go this season:
In other MLS visual highlights, we love this photo of Miguel Ibarra, taken right before he netted the only goal in Minnesota United’s 1–0 win over Colorado. That’s right...the Loons kept a shutout!
X: Sloppy Salt Lake
Atlanta United continued its fine start to life in MLS with a 3–1 away win vs. Real Salt Lake. But as good as Atlanta played, RSL dug its own grave:
That sloppy giveaway was typical of RSL’s performance on Saturday. After a two-game reprieve, the honeymoon is over for new coach Mike Petke.
XI: Stick with what works
The New York Red Bulls have struggled with a new formation so far this season, so on Saturday against Columbus they returned to the 4-2-3-1 look that has worked so well for them the last few seasons.
It worked. The Red Bulls were solid in the back and lethal up front in defeating the Crew 2–0.