It’s matchday 2/3 of the MLS season and we’re already learning plenty about the season to come. Some teams are dealing with major injuries, others are dealing with squad incohesiveness, and still others are powering through low expectations.
Whatever the adversity, some teams have been able to push through while others are struggling to cope.
1) The reign of Pity Martinez has begun
You knew this already, but with Josef Martinez out long-term, Atlanta United will be leaning heavily on Pity Martinez. While Pity was always important to this Atlanta United side even with Josef in the picture, his stature in the squad is now greater than ever. That was all too present in Atlanta United’s win over FC Cincinnati, which isn’t exactly a top test of his ability to carry this team, but it’s a start.
Pity, Pity good.
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) March 8, 2020
Unfortunately, after that moment and through the rest of the first half, Pity hardly saw a sniff of the ball and Atlanta’s attack suffered as a result. They managed just five total shots in the first half and none after the 25-minute mark, with just two shots after that point the rest of the game. Credit Cincinnati, who was able to match Atlanta’s tempo and go stride-for-stride in midfield through the first 45 minutes. While the possession numbers were 60-40 in favor of Atlanta and Cincy didn’t create much of anything in front of net, they still were able to get the midfield going.
Thankfully for Atlanta, Emerson Hyndman stepped up and created for himself as Atlanta won 2-1, but Pity Martinez will need to carry this team better down the road because tonight he did not have a full 90 minute performance.
2) Inter Miami has a long way to go
Inter Miami looked solid early at Audi Field, but it began to disintegrate as the first half went on, and then the wheels fell apart after the Torres red card. They have shown promise, and should be able to compete as the season rolls on and they become more in tune with each other, but at this point there’s significant strides to be made on a fluidity level.
It doesn’t help that playmaker Robbie Robinson may have suffered a long-term injury, which would further sap an attack that has been spotty at best thus far.
Speaking of which…
3) Ban injuries
Ugh. First Josef Martinez is cut down by a torn ACL, and now Robbie Robinson comes off with what looks to be a nasty one less than an hour after dazzling on Inter Miami’s first-ever goal. One can only hope that it’s not too serious, but if it’s indeed a long-term issue, this season has been brutal on early injuries sapping the league of its best and most electric talent. Nobody wins when the league loses star power. Thankfully that seems to be it for killer injuries so far, but with a few other guys like Miles Robinson and Nicolas Lodeiro dealing with some nagging things while Michael Bradley sits out the first few months, hopefully the league doesn’t suffer too many more big-name body blows going forward.
4) If at first you don’t succeed, keep shooting
Toronto FC was battering NYCFC all day long at BMO Field, but couldn’t find a breakthrough. Justin Morrow should have won a penalty, but VAR somehow said no and the hosts were still searching. Finally, after ripping off 16 shots with half of them on target, they found the breakthrough.
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) March 7, 2020
For Toronto, it was a deserved lead and a deserved win against a disappointing road performance. Toronto looks primed to be a force in the East, and they pushed ahead to seven points through three matches on the young campaign. Keep shooting boys, it’ll find a way through.
5) So like…Minnesota United?
Only two of the four PST writers picked Minnesota United to finish in a playoff position this season, and nobody had them higher than fifth in the Western Conference. And yet here they are scoring goals at will. After topping Portland 3-1 on the road, Minnesota only went and did it again on the road at San Jose with a 5-goal bonanza.
Minnesota found lots of joy down the left through Robin Lod who was a force both distributing in the final third and defensively, completing all five tackles he attempted including three in the opposition half. Lod also scored Minnesota’s fourth goal in first-half stoppage time to push Minnesota into a 4-1 lead. On the other flank, Ethan Finlay wasn’t as dangerous in the build-up but he was also spot-on tackling, with a 5/5 performance of his own. The defense has conceded a few soft goals but if they shore that up, this team can capitalize on opposition mistakes with venom.