Since MLS started back after the Gold Cup break on Wednesday, some things seem to have changed a bit in the league. There is still a long time until the playoffs, the transfer window is still open, and several teams were missing players due to the tournament, but this week might indicate how the rest of the season could play out.
Atlanta United has learned how to play bad soccer
One of the charms of MLS is that the soccer is not always at the highest level. This is a kind way to say - the play is often bad. The salary cap, the unique burdens of travel, and an odd mix of extremely well paid superstars and players who might not deserve being on the same field as them make the play have the delightful quality of being both breathtakingly skillful and exasperatingly second-rate. Strangely, the parity often overwhelms the skill and bad teams beat teams they normally wouldn’t stand a chance against.
This has happened to Atlanta United a few times this year - notably against DC United and the Vancouver Whitecaps. At times Atlanta has looked too good to beat these teams. In those matches, United possessed the ball, passed it around their opponent’s box, but the potato didn’t end up in the spud sack. No more. Rather than pushing forward like an army of Warboys hellbent on self-slaughter, in the last two road matches, Tata Martino has the Five Stripes pensively playing less aggressive soccer.
Being slightly tactically adaptable will be crucial for Atlanta United down the stretch and will be especially important in August when the team plays three straight away from home.
Minnesota United forgot how to play soccer
It’s one thing that Minnesota’s front office forgot to put together an MLS team in the years between being awarded an franchise in the league and starting play, it’s another that the players they do have managed to forget to play soccer the past four weeks. The other-other United has scored a total of one goal in their last four games, has been shutout at home in the past three matches, and didn’t manage to venture far enough forward to misjudge the defensive line against the NY Red Bulls. The Loons looked like they were headed in the right direction until the past three games.
There is a new question about the Red Bulls
Are they good or did they just play two awful teams and get good results against them? The Red Bulls have not been very good. For most of the year it looked like trading Dax McCarty turned a team that had contended for the Supporters Shield and looked like a threat to make it to the MLS Cup into a squad destined to miss the playoffs. That was until this week. With a 5-2 drubbing of the San Jose Earthquakes and a 3-0 road win against Minnesota United, the Red Bulls are in 5th place in the Eastern Conference.
So, is this a case of taking advantage of the Gold Cup break to figure out what had been wrong with the team for the first half of the year? Perhaps, hanging eight goals in 180 minutes is hard to argue with. But playing against an Earthquakes team that just fired their coach and has subsequently lost their once stout defensive form midweek and then stomping a sleepwalking Minnesota team makes me think that maybe the broken clock that is the Red Bulls season was right twice in the past two games. This is still a talented team and getting some wins might be enough to keep them playing at a high level for the rest of the year.
OCSC is below the playoffs redline
Orlando City must have passionate fans. The team rewarded the fire alarm pulling and billboard removing barra boring fans of central Florida by throwing their hot start to the bottom of the Kali River. The Columbus Crew won this weekend which means that OCSC will come to town hoping not to fall closer to the Montreal Impacts and Philadelphia Unions of the world. Their season is like watching Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress in reverse.
No lead is safe against Seattle
Don’t score 3 goals on the Seattle Sounders at home, they will come back on you. Earlier this year the New England Revolution went up 3-0 at Century Link Field only to come away with a 3-3 draw. This time the Sounders went down three goals and beat a DC United team that will be looking forward to Atlanta coming to town in a few weeks. Seattle still has some work to do to solidify their place in the playoffs but coming back from a 3 goal deficit without Clint Dempsey and Jordan Morris shows that the team can still be explosive without two of their best players.