With 12 games on tap, including 2017’s first midweek contest, there was no shortage of MLS action to be had in Week 8, including some hard-earned away wins and big results for the league’s two expansion teams. Here’s your primer if you missed the big stories from the week that was:
Kreis gets his revenge
Jason Kreis made his much-awaited return to Yankee Stadium on Sunday afternoon, approximately a year and a half after he was dismissed as New York City FC‘s head coach. And even if he would’t say as much after the match, it’s hard to imagine he wasn’t feeling at least a little vindicated leaving the Bronx with a 2-1 win in hand. There’s also the not-so-small matter of his Orlando City side, who seem to be very much for real after earning their first away win of 2017. They’ve taken 15 points from a possible 18 to start the year and look a strong early bet to earn a first MLS playoff appearance in club history.
Seattle feel at home, but LA? Not so much
The StubHub Center has traditionally been a house of horrors for the Seattle Sounders, who were on an eight-game winless run there before September 2016. In the two games since, they have walloped the LA Galaxy twice there by a combined scoreline of 7-2 in a pair of wins, the most recent coming on Sunday afternoon courtesy of a 3-0 decision to the visitors. It was a much-needed second win of the season for the defending champs, but another horrid afternoon at home for the Galaxy. Curt Onalfo’s men have now dropped all three of their home games against Western Conference opposition – an easy recipe for a November spent watching MLS from the comfort of your living room.
Sporting’s wall is breached
Sporting Kansas City’s defense had conceded just two goals in six games entering Saturday’s clash of undefeateds vs. FC Dallas. So the simple fact that Matt Besler, Ike Opara & Co. leaked one at Toyota Stadium is headline material unto itself. Unfortunately for the boys in light blue, it was the game’s only tally, arriving via the head of Maynor Figueroa in the 77th minute. That makes FCD the only MLS team yet to taste defeat this season.
ATL blitz wobbly RSL
Those with early bedtimes might’ve missed out on one of the most fascinating results of the weekend, Atlanta United’s impressive 3-1 away win over Real Salt Lake on Saturday night. Sure, the home side suffered several self-inflicted wounds in this one, but much of RSL’s wobbliness was caused by the ATLiens’ relentless pressing and speedy transitions into attack. Even injury-time substitute Brandon Vazquez, making his MLS debut, got on the scoresheet – scoring the game’s final goal in just one minute on the pitch.
Atlanta’s impressive exploits on their journeys outside the South are all the more impressive given how hard life has been for road teams thus far this year. The expansion newcomers are now one of only two teams across MLS (along with the league-leading Portland Timbers) with a winning record away from home. It’s a longstanding truism in this league: Home form is crucial for fulfilling playoff ambitions (LA Galaxy, take note).
Editor’s note: Home teams went 6-3-3 league-wide in Week 8.
Rocky road in Philly
Another intriguing affair unfolded to the visitors’ liking at Talen Energy Stadium in Chester, Pennsylvania, where Montreal staged a dramatic three-goal comeback to draw 3-3 with the Philadelphia Union. Philly were rampantly dominant over the first 40 minutes. But their fragile confidence was exposed as they allowed the Impact to climb back into this one and keep them winless on the year – the only such side left in the league.
Sebas go HAM
Sebastian Giovinco’s relatively quiet start to 2017 exploded on Friday night in a trademark scintillating two-goal outing for Toronto FC. The Chicago Fire started this one at BMO Field on the front foot, but only until the Italian grabbed the game by the scruff of its proverbial neck. The Atomic Ant was so hyped for this one, he even smacked a rope stand in frustration at being subbed off in the final minutes.
He wasn’t the only Seba to shine this weekend, though. Veteran Sebastien Le Toux stepped up big-time for a shorthanded D.C. United side, scoring a cold-bloodedly clinical strike to earn the Black-and-Red a road point in New England.
RBNY get their groove back
Credit to New York Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch for trying to keep ahead of the curve by instituting a new-look 4-2-2-2 formation at the dawn of 2017. And equal credit to him for recognizing that for whatever reason, it just wasn’t working, and returning to their more familiar 4-2-3-1 in recent weeks. With Saturday’s 2-0 defeat of Columbus, the Red Bulls have won two straight and look a lot more like their fierce old selves again.
Dynamo lock it down
Wilmer Cabrera’s rebuilding project in Houston has been impressive in a 3-2-1 start to the campaign. But the open nature of their games – and the eight goals conceded in those three non-wins – left many observers wondering about the Orange’s defensive chops. The Dynamo took a big step in that regard by shifting to a 4-4-2 diamond midfield and shutting down the San Jose Earthquakes2-0 on Saturday, Houston’s first clean sheet of the year.
Mattocks burns his old team
Portland and Vancouver played out another passionate Cascadia Cup encounter at Providence Park, and it was a familiar face who sank the Whitecaps in the end. The second overall pick in the 2012 SuperDraft, Jamaican international Darren Mattocks spent the first four years of his career in ‘Caps colors. His frustrating inconsistency left many Vancouver fans unbothered when he was traded south last season – though they were certainly gritting their teeth when he blasted home the game-winner this week.
Loons take flight
In the first four games their inaugural MLS season, Minnesota United looked destined for the record books – and not in a good way, going 0-3-1 and conceding a whopping 18 goals. They’ve improved markedly in the four games since, including Sunday’s 1-0 win over the Colorado Rapids, going 2-1-1 and conceding six. The win over Colorado also marked the Loons’ first MLS clean sheet, and while no one’s going to tell you that they’re now a playoff team, it’s an accomplishment that will have fans, players and coaches alike sleeping a little easier in the Twin Cities. As for Colorado? They haven’t won since the opening weekend of the season and risk being left in the dust at the bottom of the Western Conference.