Now that we're two months into the MLS season, here are our takeaways from Week 8:
Brad RempelBrad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
The Union can’t get out of their own way
How does a team blow a 3-0 lead? Just ask the Philadelphia Union. Or ask the Montreal Impact, who came back to score three unanswered goals against the Union in Saturday’s 3-3 draw.
It was almost as if the 3-0 lead caught the Union by surprise and they were scared to lose it. They came out in the second half looking shaky and gun-shy — lacking in confidence for a team that just crushed the first 45 minutes. The Union’s struggles may not be all coach Jim Curtin’s fault, but given the poor mentality of the team these days, it’s not hard to imagine a coaching change sooner rather than later. Alejandro Bedoya did look better as a No. 8, and the first half was encouraging, but it just wasn’t enough.
Bill StreicherBill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Nagbe is stepping up, and it’s a lot of fun
Everyone can pretty much agree that Darlington Nagbe has the attributes to be a big-time player. He has great vision, he’s a force in transition and he’s incredibly adaptable from roles all over the field. But the lingering criticism has been his unwillingness to take chances — to step up, take matters into his own hands and do the high-risk/high-reward thing.
That’s been changing slowly this season. It could be that coach Caleb Porter has put him on the left wing, the spot he identified as his best. It could be that Bruce Arena has put confidence in Nagbe with the U.S. national team. It could be anything else, like Celtic’s efforts to sign Nagbe that fell through. Something has Nagbe looking more confident and more aggressive, and it’s fun to watch. His stunning goal on Saturday in the Timbers’ 2-1 win over the Whitecaps was the perfect summation of it.
Troy WayrynenTroy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports
Morris looks like he belongs on the wing
When Jordan Morris was thrust into the role of leading man after the Seattle Sounders were left short-handed last season, it was as a central striker. He was forced to carry the goal-scoring burden when Clint Dempsey went out injured, Obafemi Martins was traded, and Nelson Valdez went through some sort of curse.
But where Morris actually plays best is on the wing, when he can race in behind back lines, cross the ball or cut in centrally — and we saw that on Sunday in the Sounders’ dominant 3-0 win over the LA Galaxy. Morris had a goal and he looked dangerous all day. If the Sounders look to make moves in the summer transfer window, they should add a striker and let Morris shine on the flank.
Jayne Kamin-OnceaJayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Spor
MacMath is just as good as Howard in goal
It happens in soccer, but it was one of the injustices of last season: Zac MacMath had been playing great for the Colorado Rapids in goal, but the moment Tim Howard arrived, the young goalkeeper was relegated to a backup role. It didn’t matter how well he performed — Howard was the star.
But on Sunday, MacMath reminded us just how good he is. With Howard suspended for three games for “inappropriate fan interactions,” MacMath was tasked with resuming his starting role, and he did well. He made a couple big-time saves and there was almost nothing he could’ve done on the goal he conceded in Colorado’s 1-0 loss.
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY SporIsaiah J. Downing
There’s blame to go around in the Howard ban, but no obvious next steps
Tim Howard waited a week before weighing in on his three-game suspension for using profanity at a fan and allegedly grabbing a fan’s arm, but when he did finally speak out, he weighed in strongly. He, like the MLS Players Union did last week, called for MLS to hold fans accountable for their behavior and improve security at matches.
Howard may have a point, and yet there is still no absolving Howard of his share of the blame, which he conceded. So where does the situation go from here? Howard and the MLS Players Union can continue to push it, but it’s unclear what they specifically expect to be done differently than what happened in Kansas City during the incidents.
Peter AikenPeter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
Ibarra finally makes his mark as the Loons win
Miguel Ibarra looked poised to be one of Minnesota United’s biggest stars. He had been featuring for the U.S. national team not that long ago and he’s a proven goal-scorer. But coach Adrian Heath has seemed hesitant to give the midfielder a starting job.
He got the chance on Sunday in his first start in four games, and he made the most of it, scoring his first goal for the MLS version of the Loons. His diving header was the difference as Minnesota beat the Colorado Rapids and got their second win of the season. Now, a Loons team that started the season looking very shaky sits a mere point out of the current playoff picture.
Thomas SheaThomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports
Could Cubo work his way back into El Tri?
Another week, another goal for Erick "Cubo" Torres. This week's, as part of a 2-0 Houston Dynamo win over the San Jose Earthquakes, was only a penalty kick — but the fact remains that he keeps on scoring and playing well.
Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio said recently he is aware of Cubo's success lately, and he's also keenly aware of how Cubo seems to play better for Wilmer Cabrera. It will be tough for Cubo to break through for Mexico, but if he can stay dangerous and up his goal tally, a phone call from Osorio to Cabrera wouldn't be out of the question.
Thomas SheaThomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports
Orlando City look like a new team, and Kreis is behind it
Don’t look now but the team at the top of the Eastern Conference is Orlando City. Who had that mapped out in their preseason predictions? Although Jason Kreis took the reins of the team last year in a midseason coaching change, only now do the Lions really look like a Jason Kreis team. That, along with some offseason upgrades, have played a big role in helping Orlando stay so strong early on this season.
We dug into that more and had a few other takeaways about the Lions’ huge 2-1 away win over New York City FC, which you can read here.