Top Takeaways from MLS Week 2
Written by Thomas Hair
With the buzz of Opening Week in the rearview mirror, Major League Soccer continues in earnest! This is when a season’s narratives actually start to take shape. One good or bad performance is just that… but string together two? That’s the beginning of a pattern. Patterns that, over the course of the year, will determine which clubs achieve their 2021 goals.
If you haven’t followed MLS closely before, first of all, it’s still a perfect time to start. Second, you’re in for a heck of a ride. The league is never short on interesting storylines, and I’ve already done the legwork of condensing this week's for you!
Read Week 1’s Top 5 takeaways here.
#1: CHICHARITO (Again)
Los Angeles Galaxy 3-2 New York Red Bulls
Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez was #4 on my list last week. His two-goal jump off the blocks was a great moment, but I was still a little skeptical. This week? There is no other choice but to talk about the diminutive striker FIRST after a hat trick and a triumphant return to LA.
His second goal was pure class, and the third sent supporters into a frenzy, evoking shades of Zlatan’s LA debut. That’s the type of star power the Galaxy thrives on. Chicharito already has five goals in two games and, if he can sustain the momentum, he will have Greg Vanney’s reboot of America’s most storied club far ahead of schedule.
#2: Misery in Cincy
New York City FC 5-0 FC Cincinnati
Recent MLS history is rife with expansion teams covering the full spectrum of possible outcomes. For Charlotte, aspirational comparisons to the paradigm-shifting success of Atlanta United will be inevitable, but over in the Other Queen City, there’s a far more cautionary tale.
FC Cincinnati has a tremendous fanbase, but their actual team has been the worst in MLS history since joining in 2019. The worst. Let this week’s brutal scoreline up at Yankee Stadium sink in, then imagine two – going on three – years of that level of ineptitude. It’s a scary thought, Charlotteans.
What makes this particular drubbing even more brutal is that Cincy finally had some real optimism for this year with the arrival of expensive Brazilian forward Brenner and former DC United playmaker Lucho Acosta. It’s too soon for panic, but it sure seems as if Cincy’s initial mangled roster build still has them in a hole, and that’s disheartening.
#3: Higuain to Higuain! Brotherly Connection in the City of Brotherly Love
Philadelphia Union 1-2 Inter Miami CF
For a more feel-good story, two brothers scored in the same match for the first time in MLS history. And what a duo to do it!
Most soccer aficionados know Gonzalo Higuaín (33), the longtime Argentina striker who arrived in Miami from Juventus last summer. Fewer know that his elder brother, Federico Higuaín (38), is one of MLS’s all-time great #10s. Federico had become synonymous with the Columbus Crew during his seven stellar years there, but few could begrudge him an end-of-career move to Miami to team up with lil’ bro.
Unsurprisingly, it took less than two games for Hermanos Higuaín to sync up for a goal. Federico, the prodigious passer, assisted Gonzalo, the prolific scorer, on a 73rd minute free kick delivery to draw Inter Miami level 1-1 in Philly. Ten minutes later, Federico scored a rare headed goal of his own for the WIN against the Supporter’s Shield holders! These are moments the bald-headed brothers will surely cherish as Federico plays likely his final season.
#4: Alright, Alright, Alright: Three goals in historic first win for Austin
Colorado Rapids 1-3 Austin FC
First Goal, First Brace, First Win… these are moments you dream of as a supporter of a brand new club. Austin FC experienced all three milestones on Saturday night in Colorado. I don’t know how it will hit me when it’s our club writing its first bits of history, but I’m living vicariously through Austin right now.
After three promising but scoreless halves, it was Diego Fagundez who finally delivered that special moment – to be immortalized for decades. The former New England Revolution teen prodigy, somehow still only 26, crashed the back post to turn in a blocked shot and immediately sprinted to the corner flag to celebrate with the jubilant Verde away support. Chills.
That Cecilio Dominguez added two more goals in the ensuing ten minutes for a major statement road win only makes the occasion feel all the more momentous. I told y’all last week. Look out for Austin.
#5: The MLS Youth Movement is Real
I was texting a friend while watching Seattle @ LAFC on Sunday, and he was impressed when LA subbed on a 20-year-old midfielder. Little did he know, Week 2 had already witnessed a nice goal by 18-year-old Gianluca Busio and an eye-poppingMan of the Match performance by 17-year-old Cade Cowell.
Suffice to say, the youth movement is booming. People with outdated perceptions may still label MLS “Retirement League”, but the average age has been steadily decreasing as investment in academies has soared. High-potential MLSers are being bought by big European clubs, seemingly every transfer window now. This week’s performances show there’s plenty more talent coming down the pipeline.
Busio and Cowell are two of the biggest prospects, as well as the Red Bulls’ Caden Clark and RSL goalkeeper David Ochoa, who kept a massive clean sheet in Minnesota this week. But almost every MLS club has a homegrown star or two these days. How can you watch that Cowell pass and not be excited to watch these guys prove themselves this year?
On a related note, Charlotte FC’s academy is taking the right steps to keep pace with this movement. In a couple of years, we may have our own hometown kid lighting it up and garnering US National Team attention!