After we saw Austin FC open their new stadium last weekend and Columbus say goodbye to the Historic Crew Stadium, the pair met this week in MLS and played out a fairly uneventful draw. This game and that of NYCFC, Atlanta United plus more features in this weekly review. Are NYCFC on the march towards the Shield? Can the Crew retain MLS Cup? All that and more below…
Inter Miami vs Orlando City
The first game of this MLS weekend came on Friday night and it was a Florida derby, Inter Miami welcoming Oscar Pareja’s Orlando City to Fort Lauderdale. There was still no Pato for the Lions plus Chris Mueller started on the bench, Van der Water being in the XI instead along with Daryl Dike who scored a brace in that emphatic 5-0 win over San Jose in mid-week. Gregore and Ryan Shawcross were sent off in Inter Miami’s last game, a 1-0 loss at Audi Field to DC United, thus the pair were suspended for this one. Rodolfo Pizzaro and both Higuains only made the bench too so Phil Neville’s starting team was rather weak.
Brandon Austin denied Jay Chapman early on in strong fashion, the former standing in for Gallesse who is away at Copa America with Peru. Pareja’s men struggled to really get going in the first half, in general it was quite tame. Mueller had some good chances to score the opener but it was a substitute who broke the deadlock at the other end, Gonzalo Higuain being invited to shoot from distance and boy did he oblige! A long ball into Nani was very dangerous and the former Man United man found Mueller who wasn’t going to make the same mistake again, volleying the equalizer beyond McCarthy. With ten minutes left, Nani turned from provider into scorer, he cut in on his stronger foot and curled home nonchalantly from the edge of the box. The game was turned on it’s head and the woes of Neville are worsened by a fellow ex-Man United player.
Sporting Kansas City vs LAFC
It was a back five for LAFC at Children’s Mercy Park, Kim Moon-Hwan starting at right wing-back whilst Diego Rossi and Musovski led the line. This meant that Corey Baird and Vela joined Sisniega and Mark Anthony-Kaye on a very strong bench. On the other side, teen sensation Gianluca Busio started for SKC amidst increasingly loud transfer rumours linking him to Serie A, plus Kyrie Shelton was on the bench and Hernandez started in his place.
Kim looked very lively early on and he paired a smart cutback with a tidy finish to give Bob Bradley’s men the lead- a first MLS goal for the South Korean! Graham Zusi was subbed in for the injured Lindsay having just returned from one of his own. SKC didn’t offer a whole lot but a red card being awarded to Tristan Blackmon changed that, the LAFC defender pulled back Daniel Salloi on the edge of the box cynically, Busio then struck the bar with the resulting free-kick. Just moments later, Pulido pounced on weak defending and struck home the leveller, the Mexican’s sixth of the season. This goal drew Pulido level with Salloi as SKC’s top scorer but the man advantage paid off once again, Salloi curling home from an acute angle to complete a typical turnaround from his side and regain top spot in his side’s scoring charts. Pulido went off with a nasty looking injury as blood dripped through his sock whilst Vela off of the bench squandered a golden opportunity for an equalizer, neither of these factors could takeaway from a big three points for the team from Kansas though.
Atlanta United vs New York Red Bulls
Between Emerson Hyndman’s ACL tear and Josef Martinez being away with Venezuela at Copa America, Gabriel Heinze’s side are experiencing a rough patch in all departments at the moment. Atlanta were 2-0 up against the Union last weekend but a worldie from Glesnes completed a late comeback, making it back-to-back games that went from 2-0 to 2-2. Frankie Amaya and Fabio were on the Red Bulls bench whilst Caden Clark didn’t feature at all, the youngster has of course just been signed by sister club RB Leipzig.
Across their last two games, Klimala assisted Fabio in one and vice-versa in the other but they were unable to repeat this feat in any capacity. Guzan’s throwing was unique but equally effective, meanwhile injuries continue to plague Gerhard Struber. Reyes pulled a muscle and was replaced by Amaya, meaning a change of shape before Tom Edwards suffered a similar fate- the two centre-halfs being withdrawn which makes matters worse following the injury to key player Aaron Long. Atlanta put on some late pressure with Marcelino Moreno looking lively and Miles Robinson heading a Brooks Lennon corner onto the post, but besides that and Fabio coming close, it was a goalless draw that flattered to deceive really.
NYCFC vs DC United
NYCFC lost by one goal to the Revs in a thriller before beating Atlanta by the same deficit, Ismael Tajouri-Shradi netting the only goal of the game. The Libyan international started this one perhaps as a result, as did Maxi Moralez whilst new boys Talles Magno and Thiago Andrade were amongst the substitutes. On the other hand, DC have enjoyed back-to-back clean sheets; a 1-0 win over Inter Miami courtesy of Ola Kamara’s penalty plus a 0-0 draw with CF Montreal. NYCFC dominated DC in the first game of the season when the pair last met although they did end up losing that one, and this game followed a similar trend.
Moses Nyeman found young Nigel Robertha in space who then sizzled an effort beyond the reach of Sean Johnson, giving Hernan Losada’s a surprise lead in the early stages of this trip to Red Bull Arena. NYCFC continued to push and search for a way back into the game, a plethora of chances came through Moralez, Taty Castellanos and co but to no avail, DC going into the break ahead. Jesus Medina was replaced by Andrade but that still wasn’t the solution with Ronny Deila’s NYCFC failing to properly click. Even with their attacking talent it took eighty or so minutes for NYCFC to fashion chances good enough to beat Bill Hamid, Keaton Parks flicking on a Moralez corner and the post kissing it on it’s way into the goal. A DC corner nearly pegged the hosts back again but Johnson reacted quickly, then bowling the ball out and sending Andrade away. He beat his man for pace before cutting back and turning him inside and out again, the finish wasn’t too bad either! It was a marvellous conclusion for NYCFC and they showed they truly are a force to be reckoned with.
Austin FC vs Columbus Crew
The final game then is the battle of the new stadiums, the Crew saying goodbye to the Historic Crew Stadium last weekend with a 2-0 win whilst Austin FC’s new Q2 era got underway with a goalless draw. There was a standout pair of names on the pitch for Columbus lining up alongside each other in the form of Kevin Molino and Lucas Zelarayan. The two are great players but the former has been injured since joining from Minnesota United and so has been unable to get stuck in alongside the Argentinian. Despite this though, it was quite an uneventful game with the quality on the pitch not matching the tempo levels and intensity. Q2 Stadium was electric! It was notable that the turf was coming up quite a lot but the two played out a goalless draw nonetheless.
Player of the week-Thiago Andrade
Alvaro Medran was in consideration for the player of the week with the Spaniard contributing two assists to a 3-3 draw against the Union for his struggling Chicago Fire. I didn’t watch that game though so it would be hard to justify this, especially given the impact that Thiago Andrade made off the bench for NYCFC. The young Brazilian came off the bench last week and provided a goal and an assist against New England, a similar occurrence happening this time out. He wasn’t as electric but his run and play for the winning goal right at the death was something special, he turned the DC defender inside and out before powering home his second of the season. What a talent!