Top 6 Takeaways from MLS Week 6
Written by Thomas Hair
I found the symmetry of last week’s title (“Top 5 Takeaways of Week 5”) so satisfying that I’m giving you a bonus for Week 6. Don’t get used to it though. I may be the biggest MLS Nerd in Charlotte, but I don’t have time to write “Top 27 Takeaways of Week 27”. … As much as I might like to.
#1: OUCH – Horror tackles steal the headlines
Portland Timbers 3-0 LA Galaxy
Tell your children to leave the room. This was a straight-up PG-13 rated tackle by Galaxy defender Derrick Williams that sent Andy Polo careening and, unfortunately, ended his season. It’s the most dangerous red card I’ve seen in MLS in a few years.
The Galaxy deservedly fell apart from there and lost 3-0 at Providence Park, but Greg Vanney will be more concerned about the big picture. Williams (prior to this) had been one of the more reliable guys on a back line already showing some cracks and is now likely facing a lengthy suspension. The Englishman also suffered a head injury minutes before sliding in on Polo, which raises *ahem* additional questions…
New England Revolution 3-1 New York Red Bulls
A mere garden variety card by comparison, this one still made my heart skip a beat nonetheless. 1) Because of the momentum behind Andrés Reyes’ two-footed challenge, and 2) because of who was on the receiving end of it… the best playmaker in MLS.
Fortunately, the Revs’ golden right foot was okay, and instead of bemoaning an excellent start derailed, we’re laughing at Bye saying Bye to Reyes and the RedBulls. Revs remain atop the East!
#2: Austin isn’t the new Atlanta
Nashville SC 1-0 Austin FC
As you may recall from earlier entries, debutants Austin FC enjoyed a fast start to life in MLS, one we all dream of. Unfortunately, they’ve since come back down to the Earthly realities of expansion seasons with three defeats.
In isolation, there’s no shame in not being able to find a goal in Music City. Nashville is one of the toughest defensive teams in MLS. However, it’s another brushstroke in the portrait becoming clearer and clearer: this inaugural roster construction has some notable holes.
Austin play a possession style, and they’re good at it (60%possession this week). Possession doesn’t win you games if you don’t convert it into chances though, and that’s where Austin struggle. Center forward is still a question mark, and Designated Players Cecilio Domínguez and Tomás Pochettino don’t look like the type of giant-impact DPs that can carry a new squad to contention.
Austin might be solid, but they’re not a great expansion team like Atlanta 2017. They don’t have an Almirón. Yet. Will Charlotte??
#3: Ball don’t lie – Zelarayán zingers prove Columbus rename was a bad idea
New York City FC 1-2 Columbus Crew
Columbus SC: 0-0-2.
Columbus Crew: 2-2-0
Need I say more? If there was any doubt as to whether the Crew are better off with or without their historic moniker, the 2020 MLS Cup MVP settled it. Days after the club reversed its much-maligned rename, Lucas Zelarayán sniped two free-kick goals past Sean Johnson days after the club reversed its rename, singlehandedly breaking their two-game curse. That Crew mojo was back. Ball don’t lie. Seriously, check out that game-winning free kick in stoppage time though.
#4: PuliGoal propels SKC up the table
Sporting Kansas City 3-1 San Jose Earthquakes
No, not that PuliGoal. This PuliGoal. Alan Pulido, the Mexico national team forward who has quietly been among the league’s most productive since joining SKC from Chivas Guadalajara. Pulido is in fine form this season, the terrific strike above giving him three goals and an assist in his last two games. For all the talk of how Seattle is on a different level from everyone else right now, Kansas City are now only four points behind in the West after the Sounders let visiting Atlanta steal a point on Sunday afternoon. Sure, KC’s defense is still questionable (they started a 19-year-old center back against San Jose), but if PuliGoal keeps living up to his nickname, it might not matter so much.
#5: Cincinnati and Chicago notch first victories
CF Montréal 1-2 FC Cincinnati
FC Cincinnati’s second half comback win - on the road - was exactly what they needed after christening their new stadium with heartbreak last week. For all their well-chronicled dysfunction, Jaap Staam does have some intriguing pieces at his disposal in Cincy. However, be wary of drawing too many conclusions from “bad team beats another bad team”. I’m starting to worry about Montréal, who have dropped three of their last four following a strong start.
Chicago Fire FC 1-0 Inter Miami CF
Chicago aren’t winless anymore either! Unlike FC Cincinnati’s defensive woes, the Fire simply haven’t been able to buy a goal. That didn’t really change in their win over Miami, as Luka Stojanovic’s free-kick probably should’ve been saved. Prior to that… they’d gone four full games without scoring. Eight halves of goose eggs. Inexcusable for a team with Robert Beric, who looked like a good DP signing last year with 12 goals in 23 matches. The Fire are finally in the win column, but they’ve yet to really set Soldier Field afire.
#6: And the Breakout Player of the Year is… Rubio Rubin?
FC Dallas 2-2 Real Salt Lake
Most preseason projections had RSL near the bottom of the West, and FC Dallas in the playoff picture. But right now, it’s the reverse after FC Dallas had a would-be 83rd-minute winner nullified two minutes later. FC Dallas controlled most of this game, so I wouldn’t expect these clubs’ respective places in the standings to last long, but it’s past due that I mention the great start RSL have had. The main reason is Rubio Rubin.
The journeyman forward, already on his seventh club in his fifth country at age 25, has come out of nowhere to light up the first part of the season. Once a hot prospect for the US youth national teams, Rubin was on the verge of being considered a bust at the senior level. But now he has four goals and two assists – a goal contribution every match. His goals (here’s this week’s) have been really nice too.
I don’t think he’ll maintain this rate of production, but Rubin doesn’t look like a fluke. Keep an eye on him this year because who doesn’t love a good comeback story? These are exactly the types of Diamonds in the Rough that Charlotte FC needs to be scouting for alongside their big signings.