The MLS XI, Week 21: Sensational Giovinco Owns Pirlo; Kamaras Kei, Ola Shine
- Sebastian Giovinco notched more milestones, Sigi Schmid returned to the sideline and Atlanta said farewell to its temporary home in entertaining fashion in MLS Week 21.
This MLS weekend was supposed to be all about the returns. Dom Dwyer, fresh off a blockbuster trade from Sporting Kansas City, returned to the city where he started his run as a consistent goal-scorer. On the other coast, Sigi Schmid made his return as coach of the LA Galaxy after the club fired Curt Onalfo (and minutes before future rival LAFC announced the hiring of Bob Bradley).
As it turned out, most of the action took place away from those two games. Schmid's Galaxy endured a 0–0 draw against his former team, the Seattle Sounders, while Dwyer started but didn't see too much action in a 1–1 draw. Elsewhere, though, there were four (four!) 4–0 games, two (two!) bicycle kicks, and a whole lot of other highlights worth mentioning, including some provided by the league's showpiece talent.
Let's get to this week's MLS XI:
I: Giovinco picks on Pirlo
Sebastian Giovinco and Andrea Pirlo may be on opposite sides now, but the pair have a long history as teammates. The two Italians played together at Juventus for four years, before both left in 2015 to join their respective teams in MLS. They've also shared many games with the Italian national team. None of that, apparently, matters much on the field when the two are playing against one another (Nor should it).
Giovinco gave Pirlo a couple things to think about en route to a two-goal, one-assist game on Sunday, as Toronto FC rolled over NYCFC& 4–0.
For those wondering why Pirlo isn't an automatic choice in NYCFC's first XI these days, check out his defensive effort on Giovinco's beautiful opening strike:
Giovinco didn't stop there. In the second half the diminutive striker became the league's all-time leading goal scorer from direct free kicks, with his 10th, and also scored his 50th MLS goal in the process. Look whose head he shot it over:
Oh, and there was also this:
That's just cold.
II: Sky Kei
Kei Kamara is already well-known as one of the most athletic strikers in MLS. But even by those standards, the goal he scored to open up a 3–0 New England Revolution win over the Philadelphia Union is flat-out ridiculous.
Look at how high up he gets! That guy's foot is at the level of the crossbar! Just look at this photo from Fred Kfoury of Icon Sportswire:
Or this one, from a different photographer (not known, since Kamara isn't quite as good at giving photo credit as he is scoring ridiculous goals):
Maybe it was the socks.
III: Goodbye, Bobby Dodd
Atlanta United hosted its last match at Bobby Dodd Stadium before moving two miles away to the brand new, ultra-modern Mercedes-Benz Stadium. As far as temporary venues go, Bobby Dodd can fairly be counted as one of the best in league history, and the venue got a peach of a sendoff with two fantastic goals in its finale as Atlanta United took on Orlando City in the latest edition of a budding rivalry.
First, Kaka reminded everybody that he is Kaka, and can still do outstanding things with a soccer ball. Just look at the first-time power and precision on this:
Then, with time dying down, Hector Villalba gave Atlanta United fans a reason to go nuts with a clinical finish after some smooth build-up play:
It wasn't a win, but it was certainly a high note to go out on. We'll miss you, Bobby Dodd.
IV: We, too, want this scarf
Minnesota United made one particular SI soccer writer eat a bit of crow by winning their sixth game of the season...and what a win it was. The Loons powered by D.C. United with a 4–0 win, which included goals from Christian Ramirez, Abu Danladi and Miguel Ibarra.
V: Bikes on bikes
Saturday was a good day for bicycle kicks right on the goal line. Nicolas Mezquida had the first one in the Vancouver Whitecaps' dominant (and highly surprising) 4–0 win at FC Dallas. Extra style points for five-holing the goalkeeper:
Sporting KC's Benny Feilhaber had the second close-range bike of the day in an exciting 3–2 win against the Chicago Fire:
VI: Daniel Royer can't stop scoring
Austrian winger Daniel Royer played his first game for the Red Bulls on August 7, 2016. In his first 23 games from that point, Royer scored five goals. Then, somebody must have flipped a switch or something. Royer has six goals in his last four games for New York, including two in Saturday's 4–0 win against Montreal. His first came via PK, but his second had the look of a player sky-high on confidence.
VII: This is one heck of an own goal
It's been a good weekend for amazing own goals, with Inter Milan's Geoffrey Kondogbia scoring one from 40 yards away in the International Champions Cup. Matt Besler's own goal on his return to the Sporting KC lineup after winning the Gold Cup with the United States isn't quite that caliber, but it is nothing if not a truly impressive strike.
To Besler's credit, he turned his own goal into a positive.
VIII: Appropriate name of the week
Juan David Cabezas scored his first goal for the Houston Dynamo in the team's 2–2 draw with Portland on Saturday. What part of his body did he use?
(In case you haven't figured it out by now, "cabeza" is Spanish for "head")
IX: Scorpion pass
Ola Kamara scored both of Columbus Crew SC's goals against Real Salt Lake in a 2–2 draw on Saturday, but I'm not going to show either of those goals.
Why? Because he hit a scorpion pass! And it was a pretty darn good one (even if it led to nothing):
X: Tifo of the week
I pointed out Orlando City's excellent tifo last week, so I'd be remiss not to point out this rather nice response from some Atlanta United supporters after their team ran out 1–0 winner in that game:
XI: A fiery strike
For a while, this threatened to be the most exciting part of Colorado's visit to San Jose:
That is, until Nick Lima did this:
That was the only goal of the game.