From a narrow win in Portland to a last-second equalizer in Dallas and a barn-burner draw in LA, as well as Kansas City and Minnesota continuing their terrific starts, this week saw plenty of action—and hysteria—in the Western Conference!
The first match featuring a Western Conference team this week was in Sandy, Utah, on Saturday morning and saw RSL continue their poor start to the season with a match they should’ve easily won. Cristian Casseres gave the Red Bulls the lead in the first half before Damir Kreilach equalized late for RSL.
If not for horrible finishing, it could’ve been an easy win for Salt Lake. Several comical misses, two goal-line clearances by New York, missing two absolute sitters—one by Nedumn Onuoha and one by Damir Kreilach—and a spectacular save by RBNY’s keeper David Jensen (not to mention a goal wiped off for a questionable handball), all combined to hand RSL an unlucky draw. It should’ve been three points for the Utah side, and they will surely be disappointed with this result.
Next Match: RSL hits the road and travels to the Columbus Crew next weekend and I’ll bet they continue their poor form in front of goal. They will be lucky to come away with a point if their offensive woes continue.
FC Dallas 2, Montreal Impact 2
Thanks to a stoppage-time equalizer from teenager Ricardo Pepi, FC Dallas drew Thierry Henry’s Montreal 2-2. Maxi Urruti scored a brace against his former club before Dallas stormed back late to tie, with goals from Zdenek Ondrasek and Pepi. FCD didn’t seem like the team we’ve all come to know in previous seasons in this game. They looked slow, uninspired, and most notably, very poor in defense. Montreal’s second goal came from an incredible run by Zachary Brault-Guillard through at least four Dallas defenders before squaring to Urruti, who scored his brace.
Despite the brilliant play by Brault-Guillard, Dallas’ defense was particularly poor on this goal. The Texan team did have some promising moments late in the game, playing with urgency and fight to rally late to draw, but the first 70 minutes or so were not good enough if they hope to make the playoffs. Dallas should feel lucky to come away with a point in this match, as they didn’t necessarily deserve it.
Next Match: Dallas go to New York and face off against Eastern heavyweights NYCFC this upcoming Saturday.
San Jose Earthquakes 2, Minnesota United FC 5
In a rain-soaked Saturday battle between Western Conference foes, Minnesota routed San Jose 5-2. Overall, it was a terrible showing for San Jose who had horrible defending, especially on set pieces. The backline always has been a big issue for the ‘Quakes, and this game seemed to prove that nothing has changed, as not even new defender Oswaldo Alanis played well. Despite the two goals, there are no positives for the Earthquakes to take from this game, but that’s expected when you lose at home 5-2.
As for Minnesota, all aboard the Loons hype train? Two incredible road performances in a row and six points to start 2020 are absolutely massive for MNUFC. Is it too soon to be calling them Cup contenders? Absolutely. But two road wins to start the season against two fellow Western Conference teams is very, very promising. Centerback Ike Opara had a brace, and Jan Gregus, Luis Amarilla, and Robin Lod adding in another goal each. This was Lod’s first MLS goal and Amarilla has scored two goals in two games. They struck on set pieces and on the counter, and completely bamboozled the Earthquakes backline, which seemed to have no answer for them on the counter. San Jose’s set pieces were awful, and they conceded two goals and a penalty off of corner kicks.
Next Match: San Jose travel east to play the Philadelphia Union as they are still searching for their first win of 2020, while the Loons have their home opener against the New York Red Bulls as they look to continue their incredible start to 2020.
Sporting KC 4, Houston Dynamo 0
Just like San Jose against Minnesota, there were very few positives for the Houston Dynamo to take away from this defeat. The defense was bad, but even more so, the offense was nowhere to be seen. Houston barely ever got forward, and in the end, it was an easy clean sheet for Kansas City.
As for SKC, the off-season signings of Alan Pulido and Gadi Kinda continue to impress, as both hit the back of the net, along with Khiry Shelton and Roger Espinoza. Once again, Kinda dominated the midfield for SKC, while multi-million-dollar striker Pulido continues to make himself a nuisance in the penalty area. After last year’s disappointing season, SKC appears to be back to their old ways and are back with vengeance.
Next Match: The Dynamo welcome Seattle Sounders to BBVA Compass Stadium, while SKC face a very tough task on the road in Atlanta. The Atlanta-SKC game is the match I’m most excited to see this upcoming week.
Seattle Sounders 1, Columbus Crew 1
With a late controversial Raul Ruidiaz penalty kick, Seattle managed a one-all draw against Columbus Crew last weekend. I’ve had a hard time deciding whether this result says more about Columbus or Seattle, as playing in Seattle and getting a result is a very difficult task to do, but Seattle definitely weren’t at their best. The Sounders created plenty of chances in the attack but had a few giveaways, and were a little shaky at times in the back, although there were definite improvements from last week.
Columbus executed their game plan very well and sat back, shutting down Seattle’s attack, while striking on the counter. Seattle made themselves opportunities to score, but Columbus were well-organized and a tad unfortunate to only come away with a point. Seattle’s lone goal came from a Ruidiaz penalty that Crew keeper Eloy Room saved before VAR determined he was off his line when the penalty was taken. Ruidiaz got a second try, which he would take advantage of and save the Sounders a point.
Next Match: The Sounders head to Texas to take on the Dynamo and should be able to start 2020 with three straight wins.
Tosaint Ricketts spoiled Chicharito’s LA homecoming, as the Whitecaps managed a tight 1-0 win over the Galaxy. The Galaxy found it hard to create chances in the attack and the score in this match fits the way the game went. Chicharito was very quiet and for the second straight match, had barely any impact. Cristian Pavon was the best attacker again for the Galaxy, but he wasn’t very dangerous, either. Joe Corona saw red in the 75th minute, which pretty much killed off the Galaxy’s chances of equalizing in this one. The Galaxy still seem very poor and inconsistent in defense, their Achilles heel for years.
As for Vancouver, three points on the road is massive, no matter how you do it. Ricketts got the lone goal in this game, after a brilliant run by Ali Adnan found him at the top of the six-yard box. New DP forward Lucas Cavallini had a chance to get his first goal as a Whitecap from the penalty spot but hit it right at David Bingham, so he’ll have to wait longer to get his first. Overall, neither side looked too impressive in this game, as this quote from the LA broadcast team noted: “Both teams aren’t quite as sharp as you’d expect them to be.”
Next Match: The Galaxy look to turn around their mediocre start to the season as they travel to Miami, while the Whitecaps welcome our very own Burgundy Boys to BC Place.
Courtesy of a Diego Valeri volley, Portland managed to narrowly take all three points against the newest team in the Western Conference, Nashville SC. Nashville were definitely the better side in this match and will most likely feel hard done by this result. DP Hany Mukhtar was once again dangerous and was the heartbeat of the Nashville attack. He and Dax McCarty linked up a few times and probably should’ve been rewarded for their efforts in this match. Throughout the game, Nashville created chances for themselves but simply couldn’t finish them off without a big number 9 in the box. When centerback Walker Zimmerman pushed into the attack late, they were much better and more dangerous in the final third. Nashville’s biggest hole is without question the striker position. Dominique Badji isn’t the target forward they need and Daniel Rios just simply isn’t good enough.
As for eventual winners Portland, they looked even worse tonight than they did last week against Minnesota and didn’t deserve the three points. If they were up against a team with a better attack, they definitely wouldn’t have won this match. They only created one good chance all match, and it was put away by Valeri. Only one good chance is not a good sign. The offseason DP signing Jarek Niezgoda is needed more than ever, and personally, I think he will be able to answer their scoring issues. On the bright side for PTFC, the defense was very solid against Nashville, with noticeable improvement compared to the game against Minnesota last weekend. In the end, the defense was solid, but the attack has a lot of work to do. But as head coach Gio Savarese said, “Sometimes these types of games aren’t pretty, but the important thing is that we got the three points.”
Next Match: Nashville travels to take on Toronto FC this weekend, while Portland also heads East to play the New England Revolution. In my eyes, the Timbers’ game against the Revolution next week is as close as you can come to “must-win” this early in the season, as they need to continue to improve their attack.
LAFC 3, Philadelphia Union 3
What an unbelievable game. This is easily the game of the week. If you stayed up late to watch this one, you definitely weren’t disappointed. This match saw thrilling, end-to-end soccer with three world-class goals. The match opened with Sergio Santos curling in a shot, putting the Union in a shock lead, before Carlos Vela equalized with a breathtaking free kick. The second half started with Union center back Jakob Glesnes hammering a free kick from at least 40 yards before Diego Rossi answered almost a minute later. Brenden Aaronson scored to put the Union ahead 3-2, then Eddie Segura tied the game off a scrappy, poorly defended corner kick. Brian Rodriguez could’ve won the game for LAFC in the game’s dying moments, but he once again fluffed his lines, and was stopped by Andre Blake. (Rodriguez is still proving to me he has so far been a massive flop and waste of money from LAFC.)
This is a very important point for Philadelphia, who were able to exploit an LAFC defense that still seems to be missing star center back Walker Zimmerman (who is now with Nashville). LAFC’s backline was all over the place, especially on the third Union goal, but they struggled all night. New veteran keeper Kenneth Vermeer also had a particularly poor game, especially on Glesnes’ goal-of-the-year-candidate free kick. It was an incredible strike, but no keeper should be beaten from 40 yards. This was one of the best MLS games I’ve watched and it was well worth staying up late to see, but there are many issues LAFC need to address—and soon—as they have a Concacaf Champions League tie against Cruz Azul this week.
Next Match: LAFC have their two-leg tie against Cruz Azul before returning back to MLS action on March 22 against Portland.