FC Cincinnati has had plenty of reasons to celebrate so far this season. (Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports)
Here are the major winners and losers from another dramatic week in Major League Soccer …
This team used to be synonymous with agony, struggling and living at the bottom of the standings. The turnaround has been nothing short of spectacular in Ohio as FC Cincy is currently the best team in Major League Soccer.
Despite being without Brandon Vazquez and Matt Miazga due to international duties, Cincy was able to salvage a 2-2 draw Saturday against the Revs, remaining undefeated at home this season. While it did fall short of a historic 11th straight win at TQL Stadium, it still remains in the driver’s seat for the Supporters’ Shield. For a team that’s only used to winning Wooden Spoons, that trophy should be high on the priority list. It is also in the semifinals of the U.S. Open Cup and is only going to keep improving once new signing Aaron Boupendza joins the mix.
Give all the credit to Pat Noonan and his coaching staff for what they’ve been able to accomplish in this first half of the season.
Just a little over a month ago we had no clue what was going on with Emanuel Reynoso. Now he’s back in Minnesota and already delivering as he bagged a brace Saturday in the Loons’ 4-1 rout of Portland. The Argentine designated player is this team’s motor, and it’s no surprise that form has drastically changed with his return. Minnesota is right on the cusp of that playoff line and will be receiving a massive boost from its latest signing and Finland’s all-time leading scorer, Teemu Pukki.
Simply put: look out for the Loons.
Real Salt Lake
RSL is a top-five team in the West, both in standings and quality, so if you haven’t been paying attention, now might be a great time to do so.
It took a stoppage time goal from Anderson Julio to steal the 1-0 win in Toronto, but those 3 points continue to prove the resilience Real Salt Lake has shown away from home this season, improving to a league best 6-3-2 on the road.
The club has struggled at home with only two wins, but that adds to the impressiveness that has catapulted it to a No. 4 spot in the table. If it starts picking up points at America First Field, RSL is going to be a headache and will start solidifying itself as a legit contender.
RSL’s next match is at home versus Orlando City, and it holds even more importance as Cristian “Chicho” Arango will be making his debut. The squad also has another Colombian newcomer, Nelson Palacio, who is getting up to speed and will be on the field soon. RSL is not only good, it boasts an array of attacking weapons. With a little time this could become the most dangerous front in MLS.
It’s a perfect setup for a team that is also in the U.S. Open Cup semis and has a chance to test itself in the upcoming Leagues Cup. RSL wants to win hardware and seems equipped to do so.
Streaks are meant to be broken, and NYCFC surely is thrilled to snap this one. The 1-0 victory at Montreal ended an 11-match winless stretch that spanned 10 weeks for the Cityzens. Thanks to a stunning goal by Matias Pellegrini, NYCFC is back in the win column for the first time since April.
Nick Cushing isn’t naive enough to brush aside the slump his team was in, but a weight was certainly lifted by snatching 3 points in a stadium where Montreal had recorded a shutout in its last six games. New York even had to endure a rain delay.
“It means nothing if we don’t win against Charlotte,” Cushing said of the club’s next opponent, whom they just happen to be tied with in the standings with 24 points.
St. Louis City
Beating the worst team in MLS isn’t that impressive. Being an expansion team atop of the West is very much so.
We are far removed from the doubts and skepticism surrounding St. Louis’ start. One thing that was obvious from the beginning was CITYPARK being a tough place for visitors, and St. Louis improved to 7-3-1 at home following the 2-0 victory over Colorado. SLC is getting contributions from every part of its roster and putting numbers on the board even without João Klauss. While he was integral to the early success, everyone else has picked it up in his absence. They’re the second-highest scoring team in MLS right now only behind Columbus. And while it might seem like Cincy is trying to run away with the Shield, there’s still a lot of road ahead in that race.
Bradley Carnell and Co. deserve a shout because they’ve built something special and have their foot on the gas.
Texas has not been a kind place for the Black and Gold. So far this season in the Lone Star State, it is 0-2 and has given up six combined goals while scoring none. Last season it was a clean sweep as Austin, Houston and Dallas all beat LAFC at home in late August and early September. You have to go back to October 2021 for the last time the Black and Gold got a win in Texas. Aside from that, frustration is mounting for the reigning champs, who have not been able to find consistent form amid an extremely congested schedule. While teams and coaches hate to use fatigue as an excuse, it’s clearly a factor for Steve Cherundolo’s squad.
“That was our 29th game of the season,” he said after the 2-0 loss to Dallas. “I’m not sure any other club has had that many games in the history of MLS up to July 1.”
And the road ahead doesn’t get easier with a quick turnaround for an anticipated El Trafico on Tuesday at the Rose Bowl.
At some point Wayne Rooney has to realize that his tactics aren’t working. In fact, they are the reason why teams are scoring against D.C. United and putting goalkeeper Tyler Miller on highlight reels for the wrong reasons. The idea of setting a high defensive line and having Miller play sweeper keeper is a respectable one, but the back line and keeper don’t seem to have grasped it. Attackers are slipping easy passes near midfield (when they aren’t trying to chip Miller from 60 yards out) and essentially off to the races with defenders hopelessly trying to track back. The crazy part about it is Rooney himself acknowledges the vulnerabilities of this setup yet is sticking to it. And when you’re up against players of the quality of Hany Mukhtar and Randall Leal, they’re going to feast.
Somebody please tell Rooney this is not it. And to make matters worse, D.C. will be without DP striker Christian Benteke next week in Dallas due to yellow card accumulation. One step forward, three steps back — the D.C. United motto and seemingly its defensive game plan, too.