Top 5 Takeaways from MLS Week 3
Written by Thomas Hair
If you saw the last two installments, you know the drill now. Week 3 is in the books, and it’s time for me to synthesize 13 matches-worth of play into five storylines I find most relevant and/or interesting for the casual MLS observer.
If you’re new to this space, feel free to scroll through the links below and come back or dive straight in. The 2021 season remains in its amorphous early phase, so hop aboard now for what will surely be a wild ride!
#1: Sounders sound off
Seattle Sounders FC 3-0 LA Galaxy
If the last decade has a defining dynasty, it’s the Sounders. This club remains the gold standard for consistent excellence – regardless of circumstances.
“Oh, USMNT winger Jordan Morris tore his ACL? Our captain Nico Lodeiro is out? And we’re facing a Chicharito Hernández with five goals already? Sure. No problem. Seattle gonna Seattle.” – Head Coach Brian Schmetzer.
In all seriousness, it’s impressive that Schmetzer has plugged holes with MLS journeymen like Kelyn Rowe and teenagers like Danny Leyva and Josh Atencio and still dominated big games like this one. It helps that they do have one star player healthy… arguably the best striker in the league right now.
“Chicharito who?” – Raúl Ruidiaz
#2 A 17-year-old MVP?
San Jose Earthquakes 4-1 DC United
If the season ended now, we’d have a 17-year-old leading in Goals + Assists. A pointless statement so early, perhaps, but it’s hard not to buy into the hype around sudden San Jose sensation Cade Cowell.
He’s the youngest starter in MLS, and he just gashed DC’s veteran defense for a goal and two assists. One week after a similar line against Dallas. MLS has seen high-potential young forwards before, but this degree of actual production at such a tender young age (he’ll still be a teenager in 2023) feels new.
The scary thing is… it also feels sustainable. Cowell always had raw, explosive athleticism, and now he’s spent an offseason working on final product with all-time goalscorer Chris Wondolowski. Matias Almeyda also explicitly trusts Cowell, challenging him to set his sights on the season’s awards.
If Cowell doesn’t, fellow 17-year-old Caden Clark might have something to say about it.
#3: Sumptuous Skills
Who doesn’t love a good sizzle reel? Week 3 had some filth worth featuring:
Nasty Nani (Orlando City SC 3-0 FC Cincinnati)
Cristiano Ronaldo’s former Portugal running mate, Luis Nani, receives at the top of the box and dances this way and that before striking to the top corner. The real filth is that second chop that sits Cincy’s Yuya Kubo down. Oof. That’s FC Cincinnati in a nutshell.
Gliding Gil (New England Revolution 2-1 Atlanta United FC)
We always love Atlanta losses here! What made this one even sweeter was this play by Carles Gil. Listen to the crowd go “ooooh” as he brings down a long ball with an absolutely sublime first touch. That close control is one of the most difficult things to do. Gil makes it look easy and turns it into an assist. That’s why he’s one of the top MLS playmakers.
Hotheaded Hollingshead (FC Dallas 4-1 Portland Timbers)
Er, does this count? FCD fullback Ryan Hollingshead was apparently fed up with Giovanni Savarese’s jawing and, in the middle of a throw-in, suddenly juked towards the Timbers coach. Immaculate technique on the pump-fake, I must say. Equally filthy by Savarese to take it stone-cold without a flinch.Hilarious and peak MLS!
#4: What’s wrong with Minnesota?
Minnesota United FC 0-1 Austin FC
The only club without a point still is… defending conference finalists Minnesota? The Loons have yet to look the part in 2021. At 0-0-3, they’ve been outscored 7-1 this season. Being blanked by an expansion team at home set off further crisis alarms. Adrian Heath can’t distract us by lashing out at opposing players anymore.
So what’s the problem? Minny doesn’t have the Champions’ League excuse that other slow-starting contenders do. “Bebelo” Reynoso still oozes quality at the #10, but their attack misses the cutting edge of Kevin Molino - now with champions Columbus. Their interior defense wasn’t the strongest last year, and now defensive midfield stalwart Ozzie Alonso seems to be slowing down.
The good news? Help is on the way. The Loons just need to make sure the bottom doesn’t fall out completely until then.
#5: Get Ready for Rivalry Week!
Derbies, Clásicos, Rivalries… these most emotional matches are the pulse of global soccer. MLS packages its rivalries on designated Rivalry Weeks throughout the season - the firt starting Saturday!
The following fixtures should make for a nice little sample platter of MLS Rivalries:
El Tráfico: LA Galaxy vs. Los Angeles FC
Saturday at 8:00! The two clubs in closest proximity grapple for control of LA, each with a Mexican superstar. Will Chicharito get back to scoring? Will Carlos Vela return and dazzle us with his 2019 form?
Inter Miami CF vs. Atlanta United FC
Sunday at 1:00! Southern Soccer is on the ascendancy! Atlanta will be Charlotte’s fiercest rivals, but we will also become well-acquainted with Miami, Orlando, and Nashville. If you have season tickets, you can come watch this match on the pitch with us!
Portland Timbers vs. Seattle Sounders FC
Sunday at 3:00! The crown jewel. With a history spanning many decades and pre-MLS leagues, the Timbers-Sounders rivalry has an unspoiled authenticity and familiarity-bred contempt to it that is unlike any other here. It’s truly a treasure of American soccer to behold both passionate fanbases rally for these Cascadia clashes.
Barbecue Battle: Sporting Kansas City vs. Austin FC?
Sunday at 7:30! Okay, okay, this isn’t a real rivalry. But as a Texan-Carolinian and BBQ savant, I had to put this out into the universe. Just imagine. Charlotte FC joins next season to make this a three-way cup for Best BBQ Bragging Rights… Yum.