Top 5 Takeaways from MLS Week 4
Written by Thomas Hair
Here we are, one month into the 2021 season! A lot can (and will) change before the MLS Cup Playoffs in November, but by now, we at least have a pretty good idea of which clubs were prepared to compete in the first leg of the season.
Need to catch up on what the league landscape looks like as we hit the one-month marker? Keep scrolling!
#1: Wondo Forever!
Real Salt Lake 1-2 San Jose Earthquakes
If you’re starting to dip your toe into American soccer lore, it won’t be long before you learn about Chris Wondolowski. His rise from unheralded prospect out of Chico State (where?) to all-time leading MLS goalscorer is Hollywood material, especially since he didn’t get his chance as a starter until age 27.
Now 38, his infamous late-game poaching instincts are still serving San Jose well. They were down 1-0 when the grizzled vet came on and scored two quick goals to lift the Quakes (3-0-1) behind only Seattle in the Western Conference. Flashbacks to last year’s playoffs. Wondo… never stop.
Side Note: I love that San Jose has both the oldest and youngest forward in the league and that both are playing a big part this season. Let’s start calling them Obi-Wan and Luke.
#2: It Gets Worse for Minnesota… a lot Worse
Colorado Rapids 3-2 Minnesota United
Last week, I wrote that 0-0-3 Minnesota just needed to not completely collapse until their new signings arrive. I guess they didn’t hear me because “completely collapse” is exactly what they did in Denver.
Early on, the Loons were finally starting to take flight... Bebelo Reynoso struck this sweet free kick, and then they were cruising 2-0 a few minutes later. However, their soaring was short-lived. A dramatic crash-and-burn ensued in the second half. Kellyn Acosta’s even sweeter volley turned the tide for Colorado, who scored three unanswered for a 3-2 comeback win.
Very few teams have ever started 0-0-4 and made the playoffs. For Adrian Heath and Minnesota, this season is teetering on the edge of being over before it really began.
#3: El Tráfico Never Disappoints!
LA Galaxy 2-1 Los Angeles FC
The two LA clubs have had wildly contrasting fortunes since LAFC entered the league in 2018. The flashy new boys were immediately successful, winning trophies and breaking records. MLS originals Galaxy, meanwhile, have suffered the worst few years in club history. Yet, despite their struggles, they’ve always been able to get up for these local “El Tráfico” match-ups, resulting in some must-watch entertainment. In the past, it has been Zlatan putting LAFC back in their place. Now, it’s Chicharito and Jonathan Dos Santos with a late winner!
For Galaxy, who sit near the top of the West after one month, this win is further affirmation that Chicharito 2.0 is for real and that they’re really back under Greg Vanney. For LAFC, it’s frustrating to come up short in this derby once again, but the slow start to the season is no reason to panic. Queue Carlos Vela’s entrance music!
#4: The Return of (Atlanta’s) King
Inter Miami CF 1-1 Atlanta United
On Mother’s Day, Charlotte FC season ticket holders gathered on the Bank of America pitch to watch Inter Miami equalize late against the loathed Five Stripes. Seeing that was nice, but long-term… this game was about Atlanta’s 9th minute goal.
Why? That goal was scored by former Golden Boot striker Josef Martinez, his first since 2019 (he tore his ACL in last season’s opener). It was a clinical Josef finish, finding space on the turn and firing towards the corner. He still doesn’t look like the aggressive Josef we knew before, but seeing that one go in should help him rebuild his confidence in his body.
I know, I know, Josef Martinez will be a villain here, but it’s hard not to root for a player after such a devastating setback. Besides, the Charlotte-Atlanta rivalry will be more fun with Josef back at his swaggering best.
#5: Columbus Bombshell Overshadows First Win
Columbus Crew SC 3-1 DC United
Now that they’re out of the Champions’ League, the Crew turn their focus to home. Look out MLS! The defending champs picked up their first win on Saturday with a bit of Lucas Zelarayan magic and help from a couple DC own-goals. But, as you can tell from the title, that’s now what we’re really here for.
24 hours later, news leaked that the first MLS club would be rebranding with a new badge and name, dropping “Crew” to become… Columbus SC.
The decision was met with reactions ranging from mystification to outrage. Some merely questioned why the club felt the need for change when everything else seemed to be going right, between the championship and the new downtown stadium opening this summer. The club’s passionate supporters, meanwhile, are understandably furious that ownership would dare undermine the “Crew” identity they fought so hard to save during the #SaveTheCrew relocation movement. Hashtags such as “SaveTheCrewAgain are now trending on Soccer Twitter.
Personally, I don’t mind the new logo, but the name change feels like an ill-advised PR catastrophe. It will be interesting to observe how the drama unfolds over the coming months. Rumor has it that many Crew players were against the change as well. Will the distraction impact the team’s play on the pitch?