Three weeks into the Major League Soccer season, and some things have been a bit surprising while others are just as expected. Here are the latest headlines following another full weekend of action.
Still Seattle’s West: Every year it seems like we find ways to analyze why the Sounders might fall off a little, and they just continue to shut people up. Jordan Morris is out this season, while Nicolas Lodeiro is just working his way back, but none of that seemingly matters. Seattle has scored eight goals in three games, tied for best in MLS, while Raul Ruidiaz is firing and the defense remains stingy. Brian Schmetzer’s tactics of switching between a back line of three or five at any given moment has been a tough code to crack for opposition. As much as things change around the club, the product remains elite. Shutting out the LA Galaxy 3-0 on Sunday was simply another reminder. “You can talk about any other team in the league, they’re still the standard,” said Galaxy head coach Greg Vanney after the loss. The standard indeed.
Seattle’s Raul Ruidiaz, right, and the Sounders are still the “standard” in MLS, according to Galaxy coach Greg Vanney. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
FC Cincinnati is just not good: The struggles in Cincy are well documented. It’s not just that the Orange and Blue are continuously giving up goals, it’s the sloppiness and how it happens. Saturday they legitimately gifted Orlando City the opener 33 seconds into the match with a pass back to the keeper that’s as bad as you’ll see. That’s not quite the way you want to respond to a 5-0 embarrassment against NYCFC a week prior. Even Brenner’s $13 million signing can’t cover up the holes cursing this team. They’ve allowed 10 goals through these first three weeks while only scoring two. 2020 was an abomination and this year seems to be unfolding along those same lines.
All aboard the Cade Cowell hype train: If you aren’t already familiar with the name, then consider this my gift to you. The 17-year-old San Jose homegrown has been the most exciting player so far this season. Last week he had an absolutely ridiculous assist, and followed it up by dancing around defenders in the box for a filthy goal minutes later in a 3-1 win over FC Dallas. Saturday the Earthquakes’ gem forward continued to show off his speed and class, tallying two more assists and another goal in a 4-1 rout of D.C. United. Head coach Matias Almeyda has praised the youngster for his talent, but more notably for his humbleness and approach. It also helps that Cowell is learning from the all-time leading scorer in MLS history Chris Wondolowski. The stock is rising quickly in North California.
New England actually seems legit: The opening schedule has been pretty easy for New England, but the Revs are showcasing clean, tactically sound soccer that’s proving last year’s trip to the Eastern Conference final was no fluke. All the pieces of a championship-caliber team are there: experienced coach, top-notch goalkeeper, solid defense and quality players up top. After Saturday’s 2-1 home win over Atlanta United, Bruce Arena called Carles Gil “one of the elite players in the league” and he’s spot-on in that assessment. It’s a different Revs side when Gil is healthy and commanding the offense — something they missed in a 2020 season riddled with injuries for the midfielder. The expectations are high in Foxboro and it seems more than justified for Arena’s squad, which is currently atop the Eastern Conference table.
What’s going on in Minnesota?: Speaking of expectations, the Loons were a team many tabbed to be among the best in MLS this season. They are light years away from that right now as the only team with zero points in the league. They’ve lost three consecutive losses to open the campaign for the first time in franchise history. Their biggest offseason acquisition, Roman Abila, got his first start of the season Saturday in a loss to Austin FC, and he produced an uneventful 58 minutes. Their most important player, Emanuel Reynoso, limped off the field early in the second half with a nagging calf injury. Defensively they’re unorganized, and the attack has been nonexistent. Coach Adrian Heath is admittedly hoping to catch a break somewhere that will spark some sort of change. “There’s no magic wand for this,” he said Saturday. There is, however, a theoretical panic button, and the urge to smash it isn’t going anywhere until they get in the win column.
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