LAFC

Getty Images

MLS 3 things we learned: When playing LAFC, don’t blink

Leave a comment

With nearly the entire league playing on Saturday this weekend, the two Sunday fixtures took center stage. LAFC and the Philadelphia Union played to a wildly entertaining 3-3 draw, while the Portland Timbers topped new boys Nashville S.C. 1-0 on a goal early on.

Still, with just a few games there are plenty of lessons to be taken from the slate of fixtures, with the Philadelphia Union learning maybe the toughest one of the bunch.

1) Don’t blink

The Philadelphia Union learned the hard way that goals only last until your next defensive shift. Three times the Union scored against LAFC, and three times they were undone moments later. The Union took a lead three different times in this match, and led for a combined total of 12 minutes. They were scored on nine minutes after bagging the opener, one minute after taking a 2-1 lead, and two minutes after going ahead 3-2.

It was unfortunate too, because Philadelphia produced some absolute bangers. Take this absurd free-kick from Union defender Jakob Glesnes who delivered from an incredible 40 yards out.

The Union leave Banc of California Stadium with just a single point, their first point of the season after another disappointing result on opening day. Philadelphia should be fine moving forward, but the dropped points represent missed opportunities as other teams start establishing themselves as contenders early on.

2) Diego Rossi might be the best overshadowed player in the league

Carlos Vela’s presence on LAFC does a whole lot more than provide oodles of goals. Just by being on the field, the Mexican takes all the narrative attention away from someone who might be even more important to the squad in Diego Rossi.

The 22-year-old Uruguayan has been electric for LAFC since joining prior to its inaugural 2018 season, with a combined 28 goals and 14 assists through his first two campaigns. He is already up to snuff this season, proving critical again on Sunday with the first goal of the new season, but more importantly he was once again ruthless on the counter. Rossi’s proficiency on the break is one of the most underrated yet valuable skills in the league, giving LAFC a viciously dangerous weapon in the back pocket should they sit back and absorb pressure for a time.

To be completely honest, it’s shocking that Rossi doesn’t get more credit for the success of this expansion side. He has yet to earn an international cap for Uruguay, although with Luis Suarez on the shelf maybe that changes this month. At just 22 years old, it’s likely that Rossi – called the “quarterback” of this LAFC club last season – makes a marquee European move at some point in the near future, so LAFC fans should appreciate him while he’s around. Carlos Vela takes all the spotlights so Rossi can provide the spark.

3) If you feel the need to park the bus, go for it

A year after making the playoffs, the Portland Timbers sat back and defended against new expansion side Nashville SC. It worked. After Valeri scored just 12 minutes in with a scrappy volley that found the inside of the right side-netting, the Timbers had seen enough up front. They generated just three shots all night to Nashville’s 14, but it didn’t matter as the hosts grinded out all three points.

It was a lesson for Nashville above all else that early goals can really hurt, but the Timbers also learned something valuable, and that is they can defend against an offensively inferior side for nearly a full 90 minutes without being breached, something they could take with them moving forward. After capitulating defensively to Minnesota United in a 3-1 opening day loss, the clean sheet is valuable for Portland and will give them confidence moving forward. Early in the season, that can be just as valuable as the three points.

WATCH: Carlos Vela scores 50th MLS goal in divine fashion

Getty Images
Leave a comment

No one in Major League Soccer does it like Carlos Vela. No one.

The Mexican star made Philadelphia Union’s wall look obsolete, as he netted his 50th league goal in just 61 appearances. Vela is the third quickest player to the 50-goal mark in MLS history, and he did it in divine fashion.

To believe that Vela was purchased for a reported $6 million from Real Sociedad is still hard to digest, even almost three years removed. The 31-year-old continues to outdo himself week in and week out. There’s no other player in the league like him. Period.

FOLLOW LIVE: Two games top off MLS Week 2

Getty Images
Leave a comment

With 11 games already in the books, MLS wraps up week 2 of it’s 25th season with two must-see bouts.

[ FOLLOW: MLS scoreboard ]

The defending Landon Donovan MVP award winner, Carlos Vela, and LAFC look to extend their perfect start to the new season against the Philadelphia Union. Sunday’s game is the Supporter’s Shield winners’ last before the first leg of their quarterfinal CONCACAF champions league series against Cruz Azul on Thursday.

Action, however, kicks off in Oregon, as the Portland Timbers look to bounce back after a season-opening loss to Minnesota United. Nashville SC, who dropped three points in their league debut, will experience their first taste of Providence Park’s hostile environment.

Sunday’s MLS schedule

Portland Timbers v. Nashville SC — 7:00 p.m. ET
LAFC v. Philadelphia Union — 10:30 p.m. ET

MLS Week 2 preview: Rapids aim for 2-0; LAFC hosts Philly

MLS preview
Photo by Timothy Nwachukwu/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Major League Soccer’s first week of the 2020 season was low on surprises excluding Colorado’s 2-1 win at DC United.

The Rapids will hope for a surprising 2-0 start after that road triumph, with Orlando City headed to Colorado for Week 2.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

Colorado didn’t win its first match until Week 13 of 2019, when it started a seven-match unbeaten run. The Rapids haven’t started 2-0 since 2012.

Head coach Robin Fraser would love to keep the good times rolling against an Orlando side that didn’t have Nani in a Week 1 draw with Real Salt Lake.

The Rapids announced a new deal for captain Jack Price on Thursday, the former Wolves defender entering his third year with the club and set for two more after that with an option for 2023.

“We like people that don’t fancy us, we’re not really bothered about them,” Price told The Denver Post’s Jake Shapiro. “They can talk, we know that we’ve got a good squad. We’ve added quality, and the players that were here towards the back end of last season. We were one of the best teams form-wise.”

That match, a 9 p.m. ET kickoff, is one of 11 Saturday matches. Other curious encounters including Columbus visiting Seattle and Toronto entertaining NYCFC.

That leaves just a pair of tilt Sunday, with a pair of 0-1 teams colliding when Portland hosts Nashville and a big test for cross-country traveling Philadelphia.

[ MORE: 5 things we learned from Week 1 ]

The Union opened with a loss at FC Dallas, and Sunday gets no easier with a home opener for LAFC.

LAFC now has an international roster slot open because Carlos Vela has an American green card.

Philly has a change of its own, as Alejandro Bedoya has had his Designated Player deal bought down with TAM.

That leaves the Union with only one DP.

MLS Week 2 schedule

Saturday (all times Eastern)
New England v. Chicago — 1:30 p.m.
Real Salt Lake v. New York Red Bulls — 2 p.m.
FC Dallas v. Montrela — 3 p.m.
DC United v. Inter Miami — 3:30 p.m.
Toronto v. NYCFC — 5 p.m.m
Atlanta United v. FC Cincinnati — 7 p.m.
San Jose v. Minnesota — 8 p.m.
Sporting KC v. Houston — 8:30 p.m.
Colorado v. Orlando City — 9 p.m.
Seattle v. Columbus — 10 p.m.
LA Galaxy v. Vancouver — 10 p.m.

Sunday (all times Eastern)
Portland v. Nashville — 7 p.m.
LAFC v. Philadelphia — 10 p.m.

MLS: Five things we learned

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The second day of the 2020 Major League Soccer season was just as enticing as opening day, featuring thrilling goals, a handful of debuts and a late winner.

[ MORE: Vela, LAFC spoil Inter Miami’s MLS debut]

This is what we learned from Sunday’s action:

1) Carlos Vela is the league’s best player, and it’s not even close

Many players, coaches and followers of the league are already onboard with this idea: Carlos Vela is the best player in MLS. He is, and it’s not even close. And if one still had their doubts about the rationale, the Mexican attacker, who turned 31 on Sunday, scored one of his best goals in the league thus far:

These next-level sequences are routine for Vela. Sure, Alejandro Pozuelo quickly assembled a highlight reel of his own in his first season in the league in 2019, but the consistency from the Spaniard pales in comparison. The Cancun native is cut from a different cloth. And, if you ask Bob Bradley, he’d probably tell you that it’s an exclusive cloth.

“I have been a coach for many years and I have been fortunate to train a select group of special players,” Bradley said following Sunday’s game. “Carlos Vela is on that list with Hristo Stoitchkov and Mohamed Salah.”

2) Lucas Zelarayan fits like a glove in Columbus

Lucas Zelarayan’s arrival to the Crew didn’t get the airtime it deserved, but after his debut on Sunday, oblivious onlookers got their first taste of the Argentine’s nifty skills.

In Mexico, Zelarayan got the short end of the stick at Tigres, who boast one of Western Hemisphere’s most lucrative rosters, accumulating more time on the bench, or in club suites than on the field towards the tail-end of his stay. That may never happen under Caleb Porter’s watch, giving Zelarayan the chance to engrave his name into MVP conversation list this season. 

3) Inter Miami didn’t look all that great, offensively 

It’s totally fair game to summon the “it was the first game ever for Inter Miami” one-liner when taking a defensive posture in an anti-Inter Miami debate.

The fact that they made their MLS debut, however, doesn’t save them from being analyzed – for better or for worse. They have both feet in the arena and are fair game.

That said, they didn’t have a productive game on the attacking end.

Rodolfo Pizarro, the player that was purchased for a reported $12 million from Liga MX’s Monterrey, fell really short of the hype surrounding his league debut. The 26-year-old Mexican ended the night with two shots on target, two more than his teammate Robbie Robinson, who offered little goal-scoring threat up top. Matias Pellegrini, too, proposed little from the left flank and was subbed off in the 79th minute.

There’s no doubt that Diego Alonso will eventually figure it out in Miami. After all, David Beckham and company set him up with a decent roster, but don’t be surprised if Inter goes through a long session of growing pains.

4) Atlanta United need a proven striker to fill in for Josef Martinez

On Sunday, Atlanta United revealed that their goal king Josef Martinez tore his ACL against Nashville SC. 

The injury is, undeniably, a major blow to the Five Stripes. To make matters worse, at the moment, Frank De Boer has only one healthy striker to chose from in Adam Jahn. Jahn put together a praiseworthy season with USL Championship side Phoenix Rising in 2019, but has shown the opposite in over 100 MLS appearances.

Luckily, de Boer mentioned the possibility of signing an emergency striker. Atlanta needs to exercise that option, but they can’t afford to execute it mindlessly. In other words, if one wants to fill in the void left by a goal-scoring machine, one needs to do so with a goal-scoring machine.

With the primary transfer window not closing until May 7, the Five Stripes won’t be in a time crunch, but they will have more time to get the ideal signing down (or not). Carlos Bocanegra has done well on player recruitment, but perhaps this is his biggest challenge yet.

5) Jordan Morris needs to start for Sounders moving forward

Like any other coach in a similar situation, Brian Schmetzer had his tactical reasons to start Miguel Ibarra over Jordan Morris. It’s completely understandable.

Moving forward, though, Schmetzer won’t have any reasons to do the same. Morris, who scored two goals off the bench for the Seattle Sounders, handed the defending champions a prized victory over a new-look Chicago Fire, solidifying his place in Seattle’s starting lineup for the pair of weeks to come.

As pointed out by MLS analyst Matt Doyle, Morris, since June 23, has recorded 17 goals and 14 assists for club and country. Morris should be far removed from bench treatment. It’s pretty simple.