Every team in MLS has now played double-digit games and we are in the thick of the season. Here is what we learned in Week 12:
Brett DavisBrett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
The Union have embarked on a stunning turnaround
This is MLS, so what’s down will probably be up at some point, and what’s up will be down. The perfect example of this comes from the Philadelphia Union. They started this season with a miserable 15-game winless streak that stretched all the way back to August, a whopping 252 days.
But the Union flipped a switch and now are enjoying their longest winning streak in club history after their 2-1 win over the Colorado Rapids on Saturday. The Union have won four in a row, and a big reason for it is C.J. Sapong’s continued run of form – he’s got eight goals, good enough for third in the league, and he has the most goals of any American. Add in Fafa Picault finally contributing and the defense looking better, and suddenly the Union don’t resemble the rock-bottom team they were for the start of the season.
Bill StreicherBill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
The Timbers have officially hit a rough patch
There were no excuses coming into Saturday’s match in Montreal for the Portland Timbers. They finally had their entire first-choice starting lineup back and the Montreal Impact have been struggling this season. But after a dubious penalty put the Timbers behind, their frustration got the best of them. A silly red card from Diego Chara put them down to 10 men for most of the match, and a worrying trend continued as they collapsed, 4-1.
After a red-hot start this season of three straight wins, the Timbers have gone onto a 2-4-3 record with a -5 goal differential. They are winless in four straight matches and they’ve conceded first in their last three games. While their attack is killer, it has faltered with injuries to Diego Valeri and Darlington Nagbe. Worse, their defense has looked more vulnerable as its been tested – the Timbers have conceded 20 goals in 12 games now, third-worst in MLS.
Jean-Yves AhernJean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports
Dallas finally lost (to the Quakes!), but they're still one of the best
Remember how we said MLS is unpredictable (because we just said it in the previous takeaway)? FC Dallas, the lone remaining undefeated team in MLS, were going to have to lose at some point. The fact that it came against the San Jose Earthquakes is the surprising part, but there's enough parity in MLS that if one good team (FC Dallas) has an off night and one struggling team (San Jose) has a good night, anything is possible. FC Dallas still have one of the best XIs in the league and the most consistency, along with Toronto FC.
But credit where it's due: Dom Kinnear and the Earthquakes put together a plan that worked. New additions Jahmir Hyka and Florian Jungwirth played particularly well, and the Quakes did well to clog up the midfield and cut out meaningful service up top for FC Dallas. The real question for the Quakes is whether they can repeat it, because they've been far from consistent this season.
Tim HeitmanTim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Schweinsteiger continues to be a difference-maker
For anyone who was doubting how much Bastian Schweinsteiger would be able to make an impact for the Chicago Fire, it’s time to put those questions to rest. He was again effective in Chicago’s win over D.C. United and he arguably should’ve had one of the nicest assists of the MLS season, if not for some poor finishing on the final ball.
It’s not just Schweinsteiger alone – it helps that he’s got Dax McCarty with him in the midfield and MLS goal-leader Nemanja Nikolic in front of him – but there’s little doubt Schweinsteiger indeed makes the Fire better. That was the question, particularly given the high price the Fire paid for him, but Chicago sits second in an increasingly strong Eastern Conference, which speaks for itself.
Dos Santos might be ready to take back the Galaxy
The leader of the LA Galaxy is Romain Alessandrini right now. It would've been fair to expect that person would be Giovani dos Santos, Jermaine Jones or Jelle Van Damme. Yet, of the team's 14 goals this season, 11 have been scored or assisted by Alessandrini. The problem? That hasn't been enough for the Galaxy, who have struggled even as Alessandrini has been dependable.
The good news? Dos Santos looks like he is finally finding his footing this season now that he's got more freedom in his attacking role. He scored a sensational goal on Sunday, assisted by Alessandrini, and it was the kind of strike that could easily build some momentum for Dos Santos to latch onto. The goal is very much worth re-watching, but if it signals that we're going to see dos Santos and Alessandrini work together more, the Galaxy should be much tougher to beat.
Gary A. VasquezGary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Are Atlanta United breaking through?
Along with their big-name signings, Atlanta had something else going for them when they joined MLS this season: mystery. No one really knew what to expect from them and it helped them get off to a strong start. Now, teams have started to figure them out – but maybe they won't let it stop them?
Atlanta hosted Houston and managed an emphatic 4-1 win. In some ways, the Dynamo are a good opponent for Atlanta because both teams like to fling themselves forward in transition, which can open things up. Atlanta clearly took advantage, with Miguel Almiron scoring his first MLS hat trick (which you can re-watch here), but the win was revealing in one important way: Just because teams know what Atlanta is going to do doesn't always mean they will be able to stop it.
Jason GetzJason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
New York City FC are road warriors
The team that has the most regular season wins on the road over the last two seasons is NYCFC at 10. That's pretty impressive in a league where winning on the road is tough, and it's especially impressive given only one other team (Toronto FC) has more than seven regular season road wins in that time. NYCFC continued their excellent run of away form on Sunday, walloping Orlando City 3-0, handing the Lions their loss in their new stadium. It was New York City's largest winning margin on the road ever.
It's early, but NYCFC look like a playoff team, and they will probably get there on account of their road form. (You can read the rest of our takeaways from the NYCFC vs. Orlando City match here.)