Top 5 Takeaways from MLS Week 15
Written by Thomas Hair
What a time to be a soccer fan. This week saw Charlotte FC formally introduce its first manager, the US national teams advance in the Gold Cup and Olympics, and Season 2 of Ted Lasso arrived. Despite a few notable absences, Major League Soccer ticked on as the backdrop to it all, and was entertaining as ever.
#1: The Youngest Hat Trick Hero in MLS History!
FC Dallas 4-0 LA Galaxy
Get used to hearing the name Ricardo Pepi.
The El Paso native became the first 18-year-old to score an MLS hat trick on Saturday. That’s pretty big, and it wasn’t just one lucky game either. Pepi is now the highest-scoring American in the league this season despite not even getting consistent starts at striker. But when he has been played up top, he has delivered, and Dallas has won -- something they’ve not done a whole lot of this season. No more excuses, Luchi Gonzalez. Anoint Pepi, your #9 if you want to make a run up the table and save your job.
#2 Seattle Sounders or Seattle Sophomores?
Austin FC 0-1 Seattle Sounders FC
Youth continues to be the theme of the week as we look south across the Texas plains to Austin FC’s hostile Q2 Stadium.
With a majority of their Best XI still out due to injury or international duty, the visiting Sounders boldly trotted out a largely academy-based squad. No, Brian Schmetzer didn’t just blood in one or two teenagers – he rotated in six at once. Two of them, midfielders Obed Vargas (15) and Reed Baker-Whiting (16), are the age of literal high school sophomores.
Of course, as with everything the wonderful Sounders attempt, it worked out thanks to a Raúl Ruidiaz wonder-goal. Typical. You feel good for the brave youngsters who tasted victory on their first bite of the apple together.
As for Austin? Well, they still can’t score. Los Verdes now find themselves last in goals in Year 1. Fortunately, the latest reports are that an impressive attacking DP will be arriving soon.
#3: Big results in East, West playoff races… with a grain of salt
Seattle Sounders FC 1-3 Sporting Kansas City
All eyes were on the Sounders again three days later as they dueled challengers SKC with 1st place in the West on the line. Where Austin was unable to punish Seattle for their depleted squad and inexperienced youngsters, MLS bluebloods Kansas City were ruthless. Local favorite Daniel Salloi continues to have a storybook resurgent season on the wing and scored the goal that officially handed Seattle their second loss of the season- just a week after their first. Peter Vermes’ side go top, as quietly as ever. For now. We won’t know which team is truly better until Seattle have their leaders back.
New York City FC 5-0 Orlando City
The less said about this one, the better for Orlando City. Like Seattle, their squad was barely recognizable, with a number of key players missing for various reasons. The result was an NYCFC offensive barrage that produced 14 shots on goal, of which Pedro Gallese saved nine. It was a consequential result for the playoff picture, allowing the Pigeons to narrow the gap behind the Lions to two points… but one gets the feeling things may have been different if Nani or Daryl Dike had anything to say about it.
#4: Revs runnin’ toward Supporters’ Shield
New England Revolution 2-1 CF Montréal
With Seattle’s recent stumbles, the Supporters’ Shield lead is now firmly planted out East. Bruce Arena’s New England Revolution are flying, winning three of their last four to a 10-3-3 record.
As we’ve seen proven in MLS, if your 2-3 Designated Players produce like stars, you will be a contender. That’s certainly happening for the Revs. With 13 assists before the midseason mark, playmaker Carles Gil is actually on pace to edge the single-season record of 26. That mark was set by the legendary blonde afro of Carlos Valderrama in 2000. It would certainly be a monumental record to tumble. No one else has ever produced more than 20!
One of Gil’s 13 assists came in Sunday’s win, teed up for DP counterpart Gustavo Bou – also having a very strong season. The Revs have a tough upcoming slate, starting with a visit to Red Bull Arena on Saturday, so we will have to see if they can sustain their record-breaking and shield-winning pace.
#5: Oh yeah, and a wild Kanye West appeared
Atlanta United 0-1 Columbus Crew
This Atlanta United saga just keeps getting weirder.
After sacking Gabriel Heinze amid swirling accusations of training abuses and having Josef Martinez play damage control to the press, Atlanta’s performance on the pitch continued to be lackluster – to put it mildly. Their 1-0 home loss to Columbus on Saturday was hard to watch.
Luckily for them, perhaps the biggest celebrity sighting ever at an MLS match was able to distract the Atlanta fans from their suffering. One Kanye West in a bright red suit! Hilariously, it surfaced that Kanye is actually living at Mercedes-Benz Stadium to finish his album DONDA because of its “good vibes”?
Mr. West, wherever you’ve found the “good vibes” in the bowels of the Benz, please share them with Atlanta United. They’ve been missing them for some time.