- MLS Week 8 was punctuated by a series of goal-of-the-week contenders, high-scoring games and blowouts, while the number of league unbeatens has been reduced to one.
The MLS Goal of the Week contest is going to be something else after a pick-that-one-out pick-em in Week 8.
An attacking onslaught that saw 46 goals scored across 11 games featured some of the best hits of the season. There was Jimmy Medranda's left-footed screamer for Sporting Kansas City vs. Vancouver. Gustav Svensson's blast for the Seattle Sounders against Minnesota. Aleksandar Katai's unreal volley for the Chicago Fire at the Red Bulls. Laurent Ciman(?!)'s wicked free kick for LAFC against his former side, Montreal. Albert Rusnak's precious curling free kick for Real Salt Lake vs. rival Colorado.
On the flip side of all the fireworks were some duds. In addition to four penalty kicks being saved, five clubs were shut out, including NYCFC in its first loss of the season. The LA Galaxy were blanked in Zlatan Ibrahimovic's second start, and the nine-man Vancouver Whitecaps were blitzed throughout a thrashing in Kansas City, which is where we'll start our look at the the best from a true feast-or-famine week in MLS:
I. This is not your older sibling's Sporting Kansas City
Sporting Kansas City started Week 8 with a 6-0 shellacking of the Vancouver Whitecaps Friday night. While the 'Caps having two players sent off in the 40th minute clearly didn't help matters, the night was shaping up to be Sporting's either way. Up 3-0 after 30 minutes, thanks to the first two of Johnny Russell's three goals and an absolute beauty from Medranda, Sporting was dynamic, fluid and downright dangerous–which is not exactly how you'd describe the team throughout its recent stretch of success.
Let's put it this way: Sporting KC has 20 goals in eight games this season. It had 40 goals in 34 games in 2017, 42 in 2016, 48 in 2015 and 2014, 47 in 2013, 42 in 2012 ... you see where we're going with this. Its 2018 attacking numbers are quite uncharacteristic. There were plenty of fears that SKC wouldn't have the end product after entering the season without a star No. 9, but Russell's hat trick continued his impressive start to life in the league, and perhaps those fears were unfounded after all. The numbers would sure suggest as much.
II. The other part of Cascadia pulls through
Welcome to the season, Seattle and Portland! A pair of Sunday home wins from the Pacific Northwest rivals jump-started their sluggish campaigns. Portland's was the most impressive of the two–a clean sheet, 3-0 triumph over previously unbeaten NYCFC. Seattle, meanwhile, finally won its first of the season in handling Minnesota 3-1. Svensson's aforementioned beauty and Will Bruin's finish two minutes later provided the clout Seattle needed, even if the scoreline was a bit flattering for the victors.
For Portland, on the other hand, it's no coincidence that its second straight win came in the second straight match it played at the under-renovation Providence Park after six straight away from home to start the season. What is surprising is that it managed to win despite conceding a staggering 75 percent of possession to NYCFC, resorting to the defend-and-counter method of handling Patrick Vieira's side. Whatever it takes! Let's see if others follow the Timbers' lead. It's one thing to try to mimic a blueprint, it's another to have the horses to pull it off.
As mentioned before, there were plenty of options for the best goal of the weekend, but we'll tilt the scales in favor of the one that took place at Red Bull Arena. What an absolutely perfect rocket from Katai. You won't find a more perfectly struck ball than this, and the ability to hit it, first time, off a clearance displays just astounding technique.
"Que golazo, que golazo, que golazo," indeed!
IV. The LAFC machine is back up and running
Win or lose, LAFC has been must-see TV in its inaugural season. The latest evidence of that was a 5-3 thriller in Montreal, in which former Impact center back Laurent Ciman hit a blinder of a free kick to kickstart a comeback from 2-0 down.
Ignacio Piatti capped his first-half hat trick to restore the two-goal edge, but a four-goal onslaught in the second half gave LAFC the three points it craved in Canada.
LAFC opens its sparkling Banc of California Stadium on Sunday against Seattle, and it's hard to ask for a better start. Through six road games, the club went 4-2-0–but conceding over two goals a game on average is not a sustainable number. There are needs areas in the back for LAFC, but a strong foundation has ultimately been set.
V. Dwyer worth the price Orlando paid
Orlando City's latest entertaining win, a 3-2 triumph over the San Jose Earthquakes, featured the fastest goal in club history (courtesy of rookie Chris Mueller) and also the 100th in Dom Dwyer's career (66 of which have come in MLS). The fact that five of those goals have come in Orlando City's last four matches–all victories–tells you all you need to know about Dwyer's role and importance to the club.
Dwyer's return to Orlando, where he briefly starred for the club in its USL days, didn't come cheaply–it cost OCSC over $1 million in allocation money–and it just about demanded a big return from the forward. After a decent four-goal, four-assist haul in 12 games in purple last season, Dwyer is coming through as anticipated.
VI. Atlanta handles, trolls Zlatan, Galaxy
Zlatan Ibrahimovic made plenty of headlines this week on both Jimmy Kimmel Live and the Dan Patrick Show, likening his entrance in Los Angeles to an earthquake while also being apologetic that he, essentially, could not impregnate America to improve the quality of soccer here. His team, however, stumbled at home against Atlanta United, which overcame a penalty miss en route to an impressive 2-0 win. It's almost like Atlanta's social media coordination, from the club president on down to the communications team, was eager for the result so it could bust out these in all of their choreographed glory.
VII. Frame both of these
Behold, two of the best images this MLS season will produce, both in the same stadium.
(In case you forgot or missed it, Josef Martinez was none too pleased with an Atlanta United Valentine's Day image that wasn't supposed to be published. Cozmo never forgets and if he wasn't afraid of toying with Jose Mourinho, he definitely wasn't going to back away from Martinez.)
VIII. New England gives, New England takes back
You don't see a half like this very often. A wild first 45 minutes in Columbus saw the Revolution score an own goal, equalize, concede again and equalize again all in rapid-fire fashion–before, of course, giving way to a scoreless second half.
IX. Rocky Mountain red and review
Real Salt Lake has been one of the more inconsistent clubs in the league in the opening eight weeks, evidenced by its L-W-L-W-L-W form chart over the last six. But perhaps a Rocky Mountain Cup rivalry bout will put Mike Petke's side on a more steady course, after it steamrolled the Colorado Rapids 3-0 at Rio Tinto Stadium. Of course, the scoreline may be a bit deceiving. A pair of big, correct calls went in RSL's favor–a handball outside the box by Tim Howard 20 minutes in and a VAR-ruled handball inside the box by Tommy Smith in the 82nd.
There was nothing that needed to be reviewed about Rusnak's punctuation mark on the evening, though. What a gorgeous hit.
X. Trending in different ways
FC Dallas's 2-0 win over the Philadelphia Union cemented a pair of early season trends. FCD is perhaps getting back to its Supporters' Shield-level days, as it improved to 3-0-3 on the season and is now the final unbeaten in the league (we'll find out just how real FCD is over the course of its next seven games, as a brutal stretch that includes matches at NYCFC and Toronto and home-and-away clashes with both L.A. sides awaits).
The Union, meanwhile, are winless since opening day, and have scored a paltry three goals in five games for a league-worst total. They spent big to add David Accam and Borek Dockal to spark the attack. The more things change, the more they stay the same. And granted, this was a tremendous effort by FCD goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer to make a double save, but how does this not wind up as a goal?!
It's been that kind of run for Philly.
XI. Toronto F-C-Team, Part II
And you thought last week's lineup was punting on MLS play. This one absorbed a 5-1 thrashing in Houston, but with one more CCL game to go and work to be done to overcome a deficit on the road in Mexico, Greg Vanney wasn't going to start worrying about the league standings now. He'll save that for after the second leg vs. Chivas, when the task at hand turns to making up the ground lost on the Eastern Conference. TFC will ultimately be fine, but at this rate it'd be highly unlikely for the Reds to repeat as Supporters' Shield winner.