Week 9 is in the books and we got some returns from injury, some fun goals and some expected score lines. Here are nine takeaways from the week's action:
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The coaching hot seats in Philly and LA are unchanged after this week
Coming into this weekend’s matches, the two coaches who looked to be most in the hot seat were the LA Galaxy’s Curt Onalfo and the Philadelphia Union’s Jim Curtin. So when the two sides faced off on Saturday, both had plenty to gain from a big win. That, however, didn’t happen as a scoreless draw prolongs the questions about whether either coach could face a midseason upheaval.
For the Galaxy, the 0-0 tie at home is the worse result. Onalfo made some much-needed changes to the Galaxy back line and tweaked the team’s formation too. They looked a bit better in defense, but still disjointed overall and unable to click in the attack in a game they should’ve been able to control. For the Union, a draw on the road is the least of their worries lately, but it certainly doesn’t take any pressure off Curtin.
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FC Dallas and Portland look poised to duke it out in the West
If you ignore the standings for a moment and just look at the teams on the field, there’s a darn good case to be made that the Portland Timbers and FC Dallas are the two best teams in MLS right now.
The Timbers have had their depth tested considerably early on in this season, and they’ve shown they can still maintain their identity and impose themselves, even without players like Diego Valeri. Meanwhile, FC Dallas remain the only unbeaten team in MLS right now and they are picking up where they left off last season, when they won the Supporters Shield.
Their 2-2 draw on Saturday felt right — these two teams look poised to stay close and duke it out in the Western Conference standing all season long. And it should be a fun time.
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Minnesota United may finally be settling in
Through the first couple months of the MLS season, the Loons have been one of the most entertaining teams to watch. When they weren’t conceding goals by the bucketload, they were scoring goals at a pretty decent clip. But on Saturday, they changed things up: They conceded just one goal and were shut out for the first time.
Despite the final results, it’s been clear for the past couple weeks that Minnesota United are getting better and, despite the loss, Saturday’s 1-0 finish to San Jose just may prove it. The Earthquakes aren’t a great team, but they have been pretty consistent in scoring goals every single week. Seeing the Loons keep them to one goal is the surest sign things are getting on track.
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The Whitecaps are clawing their way back
It’s been a slow start for the Vancouver Whitecaps this season, but a come-from-behind win against a rival isn’t a bad boost. The Caps came back from a goal deficit to beat the Montreal Impact, 2-1, and they now have three wins in their last five games. It was their first road win of the season and things are looking up.
The Whitecaps earned their win in Montreal — they shut down the ever-dynamic Ignacio Piatti and they stayed organized defensively. It was the sort of win that had to be grinded out, and it should give the team confidence going forward.
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Are Giovinco and Altidore finally getting revved up?
When Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore start clicking, Toronto FC are a tough team to stop. But it’s happened only in rare flashes in this season so far. It’s certainly nothing for TFC fans to be concerned about — there’s something to be said for peaking at the right time. But is the attacking duo getting warmed up?
Maybe. They combined for a beautiful give-and-go this week that is the stuff of highlight reels. If they can repeat that a few more times throughout this season, TFC will be on their way to another playoffs.
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Everyone loves a comeback, and the Sounders delivered
Last week, the Montreal pulled off a shocking comeback when they erased a 3-0 deficit to draw the Philadelphia Union 3-3. It felt like a flukey sort of match, but then the Seattle Sounders did something similar this week. The New England Revolution scored three in a row and the Sounders didn’t start answering back until the 75th minute, but they crammed three goals into the span of 12 minutes to finish 3-3.
One of the goals the Sounders conceded came off a horrendous Stefan Frei mistake and, after the match, the goalkeeper admitted as much. He said he turned to his teammates and asked them to bail him out. They did that, and it was a thriller.
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Orlando City keep getting better, and they've got Kaka back
With the benefit of some offseason moves and the time to implement his style of play, Jason Kreis has the Lions looking like the team to beat in the Eastern Conference. And yet, the Lions seemed very beatable coming into this weekend — their run of five wins in six matches had been marked exclusively by tight, one-goal differential score lines. On Saturday, they pulled out their first two-goal win of the season and it looks like they are poised to get even better now that Kaka is back.
The New York Red Bulls and Jesse Marsch might want to say goodbye to the 4-2-2-2 forever. In their return to a 4-2-3-1, not only do the players just look more comfortable and sure of where they belong, but it also allows them to play better. The Red Bulls have an easier time of building out the back and finding outlets up the field with the 4-2-3-1 and they proved it again with a solid win over the Chicago Fire on Saturday.
Ex-Red Bulls midfielder Dax McCarty figured to be a prominent component of the Red Bulls matchup with the Fire, and he was. But New York stuck to their high press style in the 4-2-3-1 and managed to control midfield much of the game.
Stop Atlanta United in transition and stop Atlanta United
For anyone who watched the Atlanta-D.C. game on Sunday, the 3-1 D.C. win was a surprise. Heck, for anyone who didn’t watch but followed the stats, the result was a surprise. But a large part of D.C.’s success was in figuring out that they needed to limit Atlanta from being able to counterattack. Without that, Atlanta has much less attacking bite.