MLS Week 2 breakdown
Chicharito's rise, concern for RBNY and Minnesota, Cowell impresses and more
April 26, 2021
THE SECOND WEEK of the MLS season is in the books and before we turn our attention to the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals, here are some thoughts about what we saw from the past week.
Overall, it was a pretty good slate of games despite a lot of star power either injured, or not yet at 100%.
For neutral viewers and international viewers, the biggest story and game took place on Sunday’s only game in Carson – which we’ll start off with.
Chicharito’s hat trick downs RBNY
After a brutal season which he dubbed as the worst of his career, Chicharito said he came into 2021 more motivated than every before. So far, he’s living up to billing and playing with a renewed sense of purpose. He’s moving extremely well and is simply able to outwork his opponents for lose balls, duels, rebounds. you name it.
There was always the worry as to whether or not Chicharito would receive the required service he needed at the Galaxy. The truth is that, when he’s in form, he finds his own service.
On Sunday, the Galaxy were without Sebastian Lletget. In the offseason they lost Cristian Pavon. That’s a lot of missing talent from 2020. In one game, however, without those players Chicharito already matched his 2020 output. In a 3-2 win over the Red Bulls, Chicharito scored a hat trick and brought his goalscoring total up to five.
It’s great for the league. His revival in the opening games for the Galaxy dominated Mexican media outlets south of the border. Combined with MLS teams performing better in the CONCACAF Champions League (they haven’t won a CCL title but upsets against Liga MX teams are more common), you get the sense that the league is making inroads on this side of the Atlantic.
As for the Galaxy, the team’s defense is still very vulnerable but with Chicharito now in form, a return to the postseason is within reach.
Only two players in MLS history have scored five goals in a club's first two games of a season:— Major League Soccer (@MLS) April 26, 2021
1. Brian Ching, 2006
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As for the Red Bulls, the team sits dead last in the Eastern Conference as the only pointless team. The team hasn’t had a bad loss yet like Minnesota or Cincinnati, but it certainly is prone to some massive defensive let downs. In the attack, the team is not getting the production from attacking players during the run of play.
Offensively, the team has some reasons for hope. Dru Yearwood has still been out with an injury. Frankie Amaya only recently joined and looked solid in his brief club debut on Sunday. Cameron Harper also showed skills in his club debut off the bench against the Galaxy. The club is also awaiting the arrival of young Polish forward Patryk Klimala from Celtic.
Those are four players the Red Bulls have hopes for but there is a lot of inexperience amongst them, and the Red Bulls play a very different system than most teams. It is not a guarantee any player will thrive in this system (and it leads to the belief internally developed players will bear more fruit since they are used to this system) although Amaya looks built for this role.
The Red Bulls need to run the table on those new arrivals to really be a decent team in 2021.
The big problem right now is defensively. This team makes way too many mistakes. Chicharito is a great forward, but the Red Bulls flat out ignored him on the second goal. Aaron Long is stretched thin trying to cover too much ground. It begs the question why the team couldn’t make Tim Parker work there?
Cowell shines for San Jose
San Jose defeated FC Dallas 3-1 on Saturday and the best player in the game was Cade Cowell, 17, who had the best pass of the weekend when he assisted to Cristian Espinoza for the game’s second goal. Ten minutes later in the 59th minute, Cowell ran the Dallas defense ragged when he faked out two players before firing a low shot past Jimmy Mauer – who did what he could to keep Dallas in the game.
Here were his numbers and the goal.
Cade Cowell: raw # for San Jose in 3-1 win vs. FC Dallas— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) April 24, 2021
2 key passes
1/3 accurate crosses
0/1 long balls
4/13 duels won
1 clearance https://t.co/jzSs5tDBGE
The assist, however, showed a ton of class.
Cade Cowell is having himself a game. Check out this assist. The 17 year old has since score as well pic.twitter.com/X8BDzfyNqK— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) April 24, 2021
As for Cowell, he’s both talented and raw. He has an upside but it will be up to Matias Almeyda and San Jose to help him realize that. Most clubs will see the goal and the assist, but over 84 minutes he was just 8/11 in passing. He’s not shy, and that is good most of the time. He shoots a lot, he tries for ambitious plays with dribbling and passing. Will he combine more and work within the system? He's just 17 and its too soon for a talk about a move to Europe. For now, he's not yet an impact player, although he's making impressive strides.
As for Dallas, the team’s attacking imports are letting them down. Jader Obrian, Franco Jara, and Andres Ricaurte have shown very little. It wasn’t until Ricardo Pepi came in when FC Dallas scored their first goal of the season. His finish was easy but what was impressive was the backheel pass in the buildup.
Not a high-degree of difficulty, but Ricardo Pepi is now another 2003-born to get on the scoresheet so far very early this season. He joins Caden Clark and Cade Cowell (who scored & assisted in this game). The strong youth movement in this league continues pic.twitter.com/DTeHN1caJn— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) April 24, 2021
Atlanta trending up
In the two legs of the CONCACAF Champions League against Alajuelense and in the season opening 0-0 draw against Orlando, Atlanta United’s offense wasn’t clicking. Now in game four under manager Gabriel Heinze, things started to trend a bit upward.
The task ahead for Heinze is not easy. Frank de Boer was only part of the problem. The roster crumbled during his time there and the front office also has to take the blame. But Heinze has a chance to rebuild the team as there really wasn’t much worth holding on to under de Boer and the interim staff that followed.
The good news for de Boer is that he’s getting the most out of players like Emerson Hyndman, who is a good two-way midfielder. Ezequiel Barco scored an unbelievable goal in this one.
This goal was.. nice pic.twitter.com/3qlgKuGraI— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) April 25, 2021
Heinze’s team has only been scored upon once now in four total games. That stability gives the offense plenty of time to work on its issues. As Josef Martinez slowly gets back into form from his ACL tear, Atlanta is heading in the right direction.
Against Philadelphia in the Champions League quarterfinal, the team has a real chance to advance.
Higuain brothers sink Philly
After a Jamiro Monteiro goal put the Philadelphia Union up 1-0 on Inter Miami in the 54th minute, the Union became victims of the Higuain brothers.
First was Gonzalo Higuain who equalized in the 73rd minute while being assisted off a free kick delivered by his brother Federico. Then in the 83rd minute, it was Federico who found the winner.
For Miami, this was the headlines that they wanted. There has been so much negativity surrounding this team since before it even began playing and was trying to simply build a stadium. Last season was a mess and the team never was able to engage with fans.
This was a feel-good moment for Inter Miami but you wonder how lasting it will be. It’s an older team and a long season in the Florida heat is ahead of the players. It’ll be surprising if they are a contender for the playoffs but beating Philadelphia in Chester is not easy.
As for Philadelphia, they might have been caught looking ahead to the Champions League against Atlanta – which will be tough given Atlanta’s rise. Philadelphia is going to need a much better offensive effort to score against an Atlanta team that has conceded one goal in four games across all competitions in 2021.
Real Salt Lake is a team no one really picked to have much success in 2020 given its lack of talent, and lack of leadership from the top due to a team sale. Minnesota, meanwhile, was understandably picked to do really well (including by ASN) with the return of Emanuel Reynoso and the late arrivals of forwards Adrien Hunou and Ramon Abila.
But two games in, Minnesota has zero points, one goal scored, and six goals conceded. It’s early and the team will probably improve, but this has been the big talk throughout the league in the opening two weeks. Minnesota has been shredded by a short-handed Seattle team and then to Real Salt Lake at home.
As for Minnesota, the backline has been very poor – including Chase Gaspar and Jukka Raitala. The team also is getting beaten physically in the midfield. Hunou and Abila will help in the attack but they won’t address the weaknesses.
Of course, there was the incident after the game when Real Salt Lake’s David Ochoa punted the ball into Minnesota’s supporters’ section after the final whistle. This set off a skirmish that became a bigger deal than it should have been.
Adrian Heath on David Ochoa’s antics post-game on the team broadcast:— Jacob Schneider (@_jacobschneider) April 25, 2021
“He’s got some edge on him for a kid that’s... not that good.”
Minnesota’s Michael Boxall called Real Salt Lake and U.S U-20/23 goalkeeper David Ochoa a clown after the incident following the game. pic.twitter.com/sLm0pQeI08— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) April 25, 2021
The harsh words were more reflective of a Minnesota team that is frustrated and now speaking with a short fuse. Their own anger over their two performances is going to only ignite what should be a minor situation.
Adrian Heath has a lot to figure out in the weeks ahead. Yes, the arrivals should help but not in the areas that need it.
As for Ochoa, he has to be careful. Minnesota’s words were overdone, but they’re not necessarily wrong yet either. He has proven nothing yet at the professional level. This was ordinarily a forgettable early season game but the last thing he wants is to have opponents with more motivation to beat him.
Austin FC won its first ever game in downing Colorado 3-1. Austin hasn’t come into the league with a splash (like LAFC and Atlanta) but it is quietly competent. As for Colorado, they desperately need to get Kellyn Acosta back into the midfield to help defensively and physically. Acosta is playing out of position at left back to cover for the injured Sam Vines.
Montreal’s Mason Toye has scored two brilliant goals in the opening weeks of the season and that has helped the club earn four points from two games. On Saturday it was a 2-2 draw to Nashville. The Canadian teams have it tough this season with no home games and Montreal is handling it well. Toye, a New Jersey native, has started both games and has 31 touches combined in both games. He doesn’t get on the ball nearly enough. Montreal’s offense doesn’t seem to produce much.
This is a very nice goal from New Jersey’s Mason Toye. He’s off to a nice start this season pic.twitter.com/LeU0voO0fz— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) April 24, 2021
Whenever LAFC and Seattle meet, it is typically a marquee game for the league as the popularity for both teams is very high. The two teams met over the weekend it was far more subdued given that there was no Carlos Vela, Diego Rossi, Nicolas Lodeiro, and obviously Jordan Morris. This game finished 1-1 and was a game where Seattle should still be feeling pretty good about itself given the injuries. Prior to the season if Seattle was told it would have conceded just once to LAFC and Minnesota to open the season, it would have been pretty happy. Still, an older roster for Seattle is a concern.
Sporting Kansas City and Orlando played to a 1-1 draw on Friday night and Orlando was probably the luckier of the two to walk away from a point. Sporting Kansas City had control of this team but was done in by a dreadful mistake trying to play out of the back. Orlando has just one goal from two games. From the looks of it, they really are missing a strong and powerful center forward.