Minnesota for Real?
Only four teams have picked up maximum points from the first two match days, and Minnesota United are one of them. The Loons have done so in impressive fashion too, beating Portland and San Jose on the road, but even better for United is the performances in the final third. The attack was seen as a potential weakness in preseason, but instead has been the best in the league so far, with 8 tallies in two games. New Paraguayan striker Luis Amarilla has scored in both games, and is one of the 5 total goal scorers, as well. But questions remain for this team.
Minnesota has yet to play a quality opponent, in my opinion. San Jose strikes me as one of the more mediocre teams in the league, and although winning at the Earthquakes Stadium is nothing to disregard, it’s not something to boast about for the rest of the season, either. Portland, meanwhile, barely squeaked past Nashville at home, getting a one-nil result. It was a very, very, ugly game, and Portland had no shots from the 24th minute onwards. I lost two hours of my life that I’ll never get back watching that masterpiece of two teams parking the bus in one game. Anyway, Portland aren’t exactly world beaters, and have been surprisingly poor at home, with a 3W-3L-2T record in the last 10 home games home.
Should Minnesota start getting wins against better teams, I’ll be more inclined to believe in this team. But for now, they’re just benefactors of a mix between a somewhat easy schedule and some good, but not great, performances.
Sporting KC, Vancouver Earn Big Wins
Sporting Kansas City continue to look revived in 2020, and steamrolled Houston Dynamo 4-0 in its home opener. Although Houston is known to be substandard on the road, this was still an important win for Kansas and sends it into 1st in the West on goal differential. Newcomers Alan Pulido and Gadi Kinda yet again got on the scoresheet, and SKC dominated from the 1st minute onwards. Atlanta looks to have its work cut out for it next week, when we host Sporting in between Club America ties.
In a much less sexy fixture, the Vancouver Whitecaps picked up a shock 1-0 win against the LA Galaxy in Carson. LA struck 27 crosses, desperately hoping that Chicharito could outmaneuver 4 defenders and somehow score goals from mishit crosses. LA had just one shot on target and let’s just say that that strategy did not come off as planned. That gave Vancouver the opportunity to steal the three points, which it did via Tosaint Ricketts in the 74th minute. Despite the ugliness, it was a big win for Vancouver after losing it’s home opener 1-3, and the Canadians avoided as bad a start to the season as 2019, when it took seven games until a win.
The 1st legs of the quarterfinals in the Concacaf Champions League kick off this week. Four MLS sides remain in action: Montreal, Atlanta, NYCFC, and LAFC. Let’s take a look at those teams’ matchups.
First, the Montreal Impact host Honduran outfit CD Olimpia Tuesday at 8 ET. Olimpia, if you remember, knocked out the Seattle Sounders on penalties in the previous round, so Montreal will have their work cut out for them. Speaking of which, the Impact also came close to being eliminated by Deportivo Saprissa, but came through on away goals after 2-2 and 0-0 draws. It would be quite the surprise if either of these sides made it to the semifinals but one of them has to, and I think Montreal have enough talent to move on.
Up next is NYCFC. The Citizens host Tigers at Red Bull Arena on Wednesday (8 ET). Despite winning both legs by an aggregate score of 6-3 against Costa Rican AD San Carlos, City has started poorly in MLS, with two defeats and zero goals scored. NYCFC will need to revert to it’s form against San Carlos if it wants a chance against Tigres. Speaking of which, Tigres are down in 12th in the Clausura and needed a goal from its goalkeeper in stoppage time to avoid being knocked out by Salvadoran side Alianza in the prior round. In conclusion, neither of these sides are at its best, but in the end Tigres are a better side and will also have an actual home field advantage, rather than… well, just look for yourself.
The last quarterfinal is LAFC against Cruz Azul at the Banc of California Stadium on Thursday (10:30 ET). This is a game worth staying up for, to say the least. LA took on Club Leon in the Round of 16, and after losing the first leg 0-2, won the second 3-0. As you may think, scoring isn’t too much of a problem for Carlos Vela and Co, but defense is a worry heading into Thursday, especially considering the opponent. Cruz Azul is 1st in Liga MX and are leading the goal charts with 23 goals in 9 games. La Maquina finds itself in this stage after beating Portmore United 6-1 on aggregate. This should be a cracker of a matchup, and I’m going to be optimistic and say LAFC goes through.
Lots of soccer action this week, and let’s put aside our red and black glasses from Tuesday to Thursday and cheer on MLS teams in the CCL.